Home Ownership

Single living: Tips and considerations

Living alone, especially if you are new to it, can come with challenging feelings of isolation. Here are tips for making the single life work for you
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Coming home to an empty house, and the ensuing peace and solitude, sounds like a dream to some people. To others, the quietness of single living can rapidly turn into feelings of anxiety or restlessness. While in some cases, whole families comprising different generations will live together under one roof and even separated couples will remain living together for convenience or for financial reasons, there are people who, by choice or by default, find themselves living alone.

Fortunately, living alone can be affordable and rewarding — with just a little planning and organization. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of living by yourself.

Best places to live alone

Your housing options are more-or-less the same while living alone as they would be if you were living with roommates. You can opt to live in a house, townhouse or apartment. However, if you are looking to purchase instead of rent, you’ll need to take a harder look at your budget and your credit to know exactly what the marketplace has to offer you.

For instance, if you have only ever lived with others, you may be familiar with budgeting for utilities, groceries and monthly rent or mortgage payments. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can help give you an idea of what you can buy but you’ll definitely want to revisit your needs and habits when it comes to utilities and unfixed, elective expenses, which lender ratios don’t take into consideration when approving you for a mortgage.

Likewise, you may be used to living in larger spaces simply because you had other people living with you. Going it alone may mean you don’t need as much space, although single living doesn’t mean you won’t be social. Perhaps instead of multiple bedrooms or expansive closet space, your housing search should focus on great multi-purpose rooms. Take a look below at what each housing option offers to those looking to live solo.

House vs. rented apartment

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Buying a detached house offers the ultimate in freedom: no sharing walls and by owning your own property you get to make all the decisions. Owning a house also usually means more space and flexibility for decor, entertainment options, and better accommodations for a pet. However, owning your own house means it will be just you paying the monthly mortgage payment and just you paying for emergency or unexpected repairs. If your finances can’t handle a mortgage payment and all the other costs that come with owning a house, you may want to look at other types of property.

Living alone in an apartment usually has one distinct advantage over a house: The monthly cost. On a month-to-month and in the short-term, an apartment can cost much less than a house, and if you are planning to live alone, this can alleviate some financial stress. However, for the decrease in price, you may have to sacrifice a bit of privacy since your unit will be just one of many in the building and you’ll be sharing walls with other tenants. On the upside, close proximity to your neighbours comes with its own benefits, as it opens up the door to making new friends.

House vs. condo

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Depending on your job and lifestyle, it might be fitting to move to a popular urban area in your city. However, buying a house in these areas can be incredibly expensive. In this case, it may be more financial realistic to consider buying a condo.

Typically, developers will only build a condominium complex in popular areas of a city or neighbourhoods well-serviced by transportation hubs. This means owning a condo can put you right in the heart of many social activities. Better still, your condo building may have common areas where you can meet your neighbours and develop lasting friendships. Although a condo may be cheaper (cheaper purchase price, means cheaper monthly debt payments), you will have to factor in maintenance fees. Just remember, these maintenance fees would be paid whether you lived in a condo or your own home. The difference is that in a condo, your association is responsible for the upkeep and repairs required to maintain the building — work and costs you’d have to do by yourself if you opted to buy a home.

Condo vs. townhouse

Toronto townhouses Spadina Road
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Townhomes are similar to condos — you own the unit but share ownership of the land and common areas. Like condos, you will pay maintenance fees that are based on the size of your townhouse square footage (the larger the unit, the higher the proportion of maintenance fees). Like condos, townhouses have many different configurations. This means you could be sharing one wall or floor, or many. The benefit with a townhouse is that you will typically have your own outdoor space that may include a larger deck or patio than the comparable balconies offered with condo units.

However, townhouses do cost more than condos, but less than single-family homes. The differences between a townhouse and a condo should be carefully thought out when planning to live alone, as the final impact will be felt on your bank account.

Staying ahead of chores

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When living alone, it will help your general sense of self, as well as your overall well being, to keep the house clean. This means that you’ll want to stay on top of your chores, as you’ll be the only one to vacuum the living room, wash the dishes and take the trash out. Keeping track of the various tasks you need to do around the house can be a chore within itself, but it’s well worth it to keep an organized cleaning schedule.

Making a schedule

Making a schedule for your chores will help you keep track of everything that needs to be done while saving you time. It will help you know exactly what needs to be done and when. Separating your chores into manageable tasks — what you need to do daily, weekly, annually — can help you keep your house nice and tidy while contributing to the overall preventative maintenance on your living space.

Saving money while living on your own

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Just because you pay your rent or mortgage by yourself doesn’t mean you have to live paycheque-to-paycheque. Learning how to cook is just one of the many ways you can save some money to be able to live comfortably alone. Additionally, consider some of the following ways to help budget your money so that you can feel more financially secure.

Buy second-hand

Second-hand stores are perfect for furnishing your house at a reasonable price. Visit your local thrift store, instead of a retail store, for items such as sofas, chairs, tables and just about anything for a pleasant living environment at a significantly lower price. Additionally, check out Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for people looking to get rid of things you could use in your home. Many times, these items go for free.

Budgeting for one

Since you are living alone, you can dramatically impact your budget with how and what you buy for groceries. Experts know, you’ll spend a lot less on groceries if you go shopping with a list. When grocery shopping, put only what you need on your shopping list. Instead of purchasing a family sized item and potentially letting some of it go to waste, try buying smaller portions to save on money. Pay attention to your budgeting on a monthly basis to see where you are overspending, and then work to scale back in those areas.

Can you afford your mortgage?

What if your life circumstances change? When you bought your home, you could afford the monthly payments but now, with employment changes, you’re struggling. If this happens to you, consider alternative housing options to see if a different type of property would be a more affordable choice, but allow you to keep your independence. Don’t forget to really focus on spending more than you earn. In many cases, you’ll find that you can save money by eating out less, buying second-hand, or getting rid of unnecessary monthly expenses, like that gym membership you never used. If you’ve done this and still struggle, consider the big decision: Should you get a roommate? While you may have to give up your ideal of living alone, it may be only temporary and it could help you keep the single largest, hard-earned asset: your home.

Finding a roommate

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If all else fails, whether due to financial stress, loneliness, or any number of other factors, you can always enlist a roommate to help you keep your home. You’ll have to carefully consider whether or not having a roommate is worth sacrificing some of your control and freedom. In many cases, you’ll have to lay down some ground rules for living amicably with a roommate, but if done correctly, this change can be a positive and rewarding experience.

Romana King
Romana King

Romana is an award-winning personal finance writer with an expertise in real estate. She is obsessed with the property marketplace and is the current Director of Content at Zolo.

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