The Childfree life certainly comes with many advantages. One of the biggest for me personally is the ability to live in a way that benefits me, without regard for children's needs. If I had kids, I would have to consider not only the physical location of where I live (I hear that school districts are a thing that parents worry about a lot), but also who I live with. Parenting is often easier if you live with other adults who can help you with child-rearing duties. Since I don't have kids, and I no longer have the desire to live with other adults anyway, I've been living alone since mid-2020.
Living alone is certainly not cheap, in either time or money. And that's especially true these days, as inflation has all of us paying more for goods and services. I currently rent, so I do spend less time and money on home maintenance than I would if I owned my home, but I still have to cover rent and utility costs on my own. As a result, I've found ways to manage both direct housing expenses as well as other bills. Read on for some helpful tips and tricks to plan for and manage the expenses of solo living.
1. Don't rent/buy more home than you can handle
I am absolutely not telling you that as a solo childfree person, you must rent a cheap studio apartment, or buy a tiny house. It's important to consider more than just your monetary costs in picking the right place to live, though. Consider how much work you're going to be able to put into cleaning and upkeep. Remember, if you live alone, all those chores will fall on you, and you'll either have to do them yourself or hire them out – which costs money.
2. Don't forget to budget for occasional expenses
It's fairly straightforward to include monthly expenses in your budget, but what about bills that come up predictably but infrequently? In my case, it's my water bill that comes quarterly, and it's a big enough expense that I really do have to plan for it when I make my bill calendar. So watch out for bills that you know are coming, but aren't monthly. Depending on your situation, this could include your property taxes, trash collection, or other infrequent bills. Consider using a sinking fund as a place to put money aside for these expenses.
3. Watch your utility costs
If you live in an area with a more extreme climate, you're likely used to seeing fluctuations in your utility bills as a result. I live in an area that gets long, cold, snowy winters, and my heating costs in particular can be high. Since I rent, I have no control over the insulation here, nor can I replace the windows (which would be the first thing I'd do if I bought a place with such old and leaky windows). And since I live alone, I'm also on my own for the bills. With this in mind, I compensate by doing the following:
- Sealing windows with plastic: You can buy kits with plastic already cut to fit windows, along with double-sided tape, from Amazon or a hardware store. When the wind blows and I can hear it rattling against the plastic, I can also hear the money I'm saving by keeping my precious heat INSIDE.
- Keeping the furnace set low: I work from home, but before I did, I set my programmable thermostat to lower the temperature when I was away at work during the day. Now I keep it set at a steady low temperature.
- Relying on blankets and space heaters: I'd rather wear a sweater and add a second blanket to the bed on cold nights than pay more for heating. Electric space heaters are also useful because you can keep your thermostat lower and just heat the room you're in. And electricity tends to be cheaper than natural gas or fuel oil.
- Switching to budget billing: If your utility company offers this, I recommend signing up. They evaluate your usage over the course of a year, and generate an average cost that you'll pay per month. This way, you know what your bill will be every month. A caveat: resist the urge to crank up the heat, as your utility company will likely reevaluate your usage every few months, and could raise your monthly rate if you start using more energy.
4. Rely on an emergency fund for unplanned costs
Having an emergency fund is a vital money move, and it is especially important if you live alone and don't have another source of income to tap if an unexpected expense comes up. If you own your home, and your hot water heater goes out, having that pot of money available to pay for repairs or a replacement can keep you from going into debt.
5. Accept help when you can
This is very easy advice for me to give, but is less easy for me to accept (some say I have a problem with being a little too independent sometimes). But if you have people in your life (such as friends, family, or chosen family) who are willing to help you with home maintenance tasks, let them. This could be helping with painting, yard work, or changing furnace filters, or installing/removing window air conditioning units. Having some free help around the house occasionally is a great thing.
As the cost of living rises and we all pay more for our everyday expenses, it's important to keep your housing and utility costs top of mind, especially if you live that solo Childfree life.