Tips for Living on Your Own for the First Time


It was an evening in the beginning of summer when the dreaded words came, “Sam, you have until the end of the month to move out.” I knew that sentence was inevitable, but I thought I would have had more time. I was 19-years old and living at my parents’ lake house that was only 45 minutes away from my new job. A wave of panic, frustration, and urgency swept over me faster than I could have even imagined. The thought of finding somewhere to live in a town I had only known for a month was excruciatingly overwhelming. And to top it all off, I was looking for a place to stay in one of Michigan’s most expensive places to live (while only making a beginning manager’s salary).

This is how I survived my first “oh shit, I’m an adult” moment + my tips for making your first big move out of your parents (or college dorm room) simpler.

1 | Don’t be afraid to rent a room.

Finding a place to live that I could afford on my own was the hardest part. No more than 30% of your monthly income should be spent on housing. Band together with some buds you could stand living with or check your local newspaper and bulletin boards for anyone looking for a roommate. Just make sure you always go with your gut and meet up with your potential roommates before agreeing to anything. I saved hundreds of dollars by living in someone’s extra bedroom before I moved into a house of my own.

2 | Prepare your own meals.

I know this is terrifying for those of you not familiar with a kitchen. But you can save $200+ a month by brown bagging your lunches to work and whipping up your own dinners. Zipping through the drive-thru and ordering in adds up quickly. When you’re starting out on your own, every penny counts. Sit down with yourself and plan your menu for the upcoming week to make your trip to grocery store a breeze. I highly recommend grocers such as Aldi that have affordable produce and snacks.

3 | Shop around and compare prices.

When setting up my cable and internet provider, I searched the web and made phone calls to see who had the best bang for my buck. But beware of the fine print! I came across so many ads where the fine print said something along the lines of “intro price only for 12 months of service.” And after that intro period, they jacked up the monthly price. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and see what service is loved by others in your area.

4 | Research your potential utility cost.

This is an expense that often gets forgotten when finding a place to live for the first time. Although your rent is only $650, your utilities could tack on another $200-$400 if your new place doesn’t include them (most don’t). Do your research and find out an estimate of what your cost will be. Ask your potential landlord who the current provider for each utility is. This way you can call the utility company to give you an average from the last year based on the previous tenants (just make sure you know the address before you call). Of course, your living situation and habits could be different than who was there previous, but at least you will have an idea of what your wallet will be facing. 

5 | Plan your paychecks.

I’m going to bust out the big scary ‘B’ word. Budget. Knowing roughly what my income was going to be and what my expenses were each month was critical to keeping my head above water. Choose a day before each pay period to have a money date with yourself. Grab your favorite beverage, limit your distractions, and lay out what needs to be paid and when. Then either schedule your payments online or set yourself a reminder for payday to be sure nothing gets forgotten and no extra late fees are added on.

They don’t teach you these things in school, so figuring them out when you’re already out on your own can be overwhelming. The most important reminder I can I give you is this: take a deep breath, make a list of everything you know you need to do, and focus on each of those things one at a time.

If your head is still spinning and you would like some extra resources, don’t worry I got your back! Check out the Financial Adulting Fast Track here.