The Definitive Guide to Living on Your Own

When I began researching this post, I was flabbergasted to find articles that explained the perks of living alone—like they didn’t speak for themselves.

I’ve been living alone for a while now, and I can’t imagine any other way (aside from when I hopefully find “the one” someday and settle down, although living separately is becoming the new normal).

In fact, in the U.S. alone, 28 percent of all households are solo dwellers.

“Worldwide, more people are living alone than at any other time in history. Living alone appears to be tied to a market economy (people move around in the pursuit of better jobs), the welfare state (growing old is no longer a sentence to poverty without children to support you) and the women’s movement (there is less need to be dependent upon men for support).”

life milestones ranked in order of priority by single women, bar graph And according to CNBC, single women’s no. 1 priority is living on their own.

Again, I don’t find this all that surprising because living on your own is freakin’ awesome. In case you still need convincing, here are all the reasons why.

Why Living Alone is Awesome

living alone pie chart

Illustration by A Cup of Jo


You’re the queen of your own castle.

And who makes the rules in the castle?! The queen, that’s who!

Living alone means you control the volume of the TV, Spotify, and your own damn voice.

No more listening to your roommate’s sorority sisters crying about stupid boys into the wee hours of the morning, and no more compromising to meet the needs of another person.

A Huffington Post reader puts it perfectly:

“Living alone means I can be the master of my zen at all times. If I want calm and quiet, I can have it. If I want to have an impromptu solo dance party in my kitchen to Salt-N-Pepa, no problem. If I want to sleep in until 10 a.m. on Sunday, or get up early and do yoga, I do. If I want to leave my dirty dishes in the sink, I can. If I want to spend three unadulterated, uninterrupted hours cleaning my baseboards, I can do that too. If I want to just sit and read my book with my dogs curled up at my feet, I will. Living alone to me means I have the freedom to cultivate a home environment that nourishes my soul.”

And so does another:

“I miss living alone all the time! I’ve spent the last five years living with my boyfriend in a small San Francisco apartment. I can work with people all day long and be successful in my career, but I need to recharge at night. Not only is there someone else there when I get home who I must find energy to engage with, there are compromises! So many compromises! Like we have to have a full actual dinner. I could eat cereal for dinner. I can no longer decide that maybe it is one of those days I just want to come home, put PJs on and fall asleep at 7 p.m. on the couch. Even when I try, I’m woken up to go to bed. The nerve!”

The other pro about living alone? You can decorate however YOU want.

Can you say “winning”?!


You become your true self.

I adopted a lot of bad habits from a former roommate, and it turns out I’m not an anomaly.

“According to this study, living with someone who engages in risky behaviors has slipover effects, and an anxious roommate can make you more on edge while a happy roommate won’t necessarily have a positive influence on your mood.”

We’re so caught up with our friends and what they think of us that we never get the chance to think about what WE actually want.

Up until around 23, I was still friends with the girls I hung out with in high school. It wasn’t until I moved in by myself that I had a lot of time to reflect on those relationships, and I realized they just weren’t that good.

The girls were mean and catty, and I didn’t want to be like that anymore. I also discovered I liked staying home on Fridays instead of partying all night.

I learned what my true interests and passions were, which helped me accelerate my career, while my old friends were (are) still bartending.

If I hadn’t lived by myself, I’m not sure I would’ve found myself [as quickly as I did].

Another Huffington Post reader encompasses my thoughts on this:

“There is no better way to learn about yourself, but it takes courage—no one to ‘distract’ you from building your own life, make decisions for you or fix the things you don’t want to deal with. After a while, you find out that you’re really the only person you ever need, and life’s craziness doesn’t seem as scary after that.”

Research reports I’m right on this one.

“Living alone allows us to do what we want, when we want, on our own terms. It liberates us from the constraints of a domestic partner’s needs and demands and permits us to focus on ourselves. After all, living alone serves a purpose: it helps us pursue sacred modern values—individual freedom, personal control and self-realization—that carry us from adolescence to our final days.”


You’re more social.

Most solo dwellers are surprisingly social, according to research.

“People who live alone compensate by becoming more socially active than those who live with others and that cities with high numbers of singletons enjoy a thriving public culture.”


Your productivity increases.

Single women’s No. 2 priority? Progressing in their careers.

There’s no faster way to accelerate in your career than by living by yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, you can easily slip into your roomies’ negative behaviors—like partying every night instead of getting your work done, which all adds up to slacking off at work.

And slacking off at work is NOT how you get ahead.

When you fly solo, your time is solely yours. I feel like living with a roommate is like working in an open office; you’re setting yourself up to be constantly interrupted.

There’s always at least one person whose texts you can’t ignore because you live with them. They can knock on your door whenever they want, and you’re forced to answer or be stuck with anxiety from worrying about not answering.



You become independent.

One of the best things you can do for yourself—maybe even the best thing you can do for yourself—is become independent. And living alone will allow you to do just that.

Take it from another Huffington Post reader:

“Most of my life has been living in a state of making sure everyone around me was OK, and living alone has taught me how to make sure that I’m also OK. As a 24-year-old, I’ve learned that I have actively avoided relationships out of fear of feeling stuck and out of a fear of dependence. I feared finding myself in a long-term toxic relationship where I felt as if I couldn’t leave. Now that I’ve lived alone and know that I can do it and enjoy doing it, living alone is now ALWAYS an option for me. I don’t need to fear dependency, because I now understand independence and can be open to partnership.”

Feeling a little more excited about living on your own now? I hope so. To wrap things up, here are some tips for doing it right.

Tips for Living on Your Own

Plan your budget before you go solo.

chart: cost of one or two bedroom apartment in various cities, plus savings percentage It’s definitely more expensive to live alone. Just look at the above chart from, which shows it can be up to 44 percent more expensive for a one-bedroom than a two-bedroom where the cost is shared.

Before you move out, do your research. How much do one bedrooms cost in your desired area?

Experts suggest spending no more than 25 to 30 percent of your net income.

You’ll also want to consider utilities such as electricity, cable, Internet (~$80/month), and groceries.

And don’t forget you’ll likely need a security deposit, plus first and last month’s rent.

The good news is, you can usually negotiate this stuff. Here’s a great article on how to do that, and here’s one more.

Last and certainly most exciting, you’ll need furniture and things, like dishes and utensils, unless you want to live off plastic forks and knives (Hey, I’ve done it!).

Look on Craigslist or OfferUp for deals on furniture as well as Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Homegoods.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a good way to think about your monthly budget is the 50-20-30 rule.

the 50/20/30 budget breakdown

  • 50 percent of your income goes to essentials (the absolute necessities in your life).
  • 20 percent of your income goes to savings (savings plans, debt payments, and rainy-day funds—things you should add to, but which wouldn’t endanger your life or leave you homeless if you didn’t).
  • 30 percent of your income goes to personal (unnecessary expenses that enhance your lifestyle).


Be creative with your space.

Since you’ll be living on a budget, at least at first, it wouldn’t be crazy to live in a studio, especially if you’re in a big city like Manhattan.

Because things could be cramped, you’ll need to be creative with your space.

Here are some ideas for small [studio] apartments.

1. Divide your space into separate areas.

Get a large bookshelf or hang a large painting with transparent hooks from the ceiling to create the illusion of separate living areas.

Here’s a few examples of bookshelf dividers.

using bookshelf dividers to create privacy in small space

bookshelf divider used to create makeshift bedroom

You could also use curtains for the same illusion.

For example, you could hang curtains in front of your desk.

curtains to hide desk when not using it

Or you could use curtains to hide your bed, and make it your own private bed nook.

curtains to separate bed from rest of apartment

2. Utilize wall space.

Get creative with your wall space, by hanging hooks for jewelry or keys

creative hook for jewelry or keys Or hang some classic wall shelves to make your space appear bigger than it is.

wire frame with shelves

3. Get transparent furniture.

Transparent furniture will make your space seem bigger, if it blends with your surroundings.

example of clear glass coffee table

transparent shelves

4. Hide storage areas.

wall art that is actually hidden storage The quote photo in the picture above is actually more than wall art—it’s storage too.

And check out how this bed hides clothes…

storage bed

5. Use big furniture.

Don’t necessarily shy away from big furniture. Though you might feel like you have to go small because you have a small studio, a lot of small furniture sprinkled around might make your studio feel cluttered and too busy. Whereas a few smart, larger pieces could make your studio feel even bigger and airier. (source)

6. Mirrors add depth.

Urban Outfitters has a ton of really cool mirrors, which will help add depth to your space.

round wall mirror Want more creative living ideas, check out this Buzzfeed post and this Brit+Co article.


Make sure you feel safe.

To this day, I’m still scared when I hear horror stories, but I’m a lot better than I when I first started living alone. Here’s some tips and tricks for scaredy cats like me.

  • Get a night light. I leave a light on every night when I go to sleep. In fact, I can’t sleep without it.
  • Live in a condo or an apartment complex. Usually condos have guards at the front. Mine does, which makes me feel a lot more secure.
  • Get secure locks. You could get a deadbolt lock or door chain in addition to your regular door locks.
  • Get a dog. I got a little dog, and his ears perk right up whenever there’s a noise. I love it.
  • Have an emergency contact. Keep your phone close by, and make sure you have someone you can call in the case of an emergency.


Be a good neighbor.

You never know when you’ll need your neighbor, so be nice and don’t be that loud jerk who everyone wants to call the cops on.

Not only can neighbors look out for you, but they can also watch your apartment while you’re away.

Don’t be shy about asking for people’s names and phone numbers when possible.

Meet neighbors by hanging out in the community areas—pool, gym, etc.—or, if you have a dog, walk him around the area at times when a lot of people are out and about.


Be social.

Commit to getting out of your place or hosting small get-togethers to avoid feeling lonely.

One girl went so far as to color code a Google “activity” calendar to ensure just this.

“I created a Google calendar with different colors for each category,” says Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making A Life Of One’s Own. “I used blue for alone time, purple for social, green for work, and yellow for travel, so I could visually keep track of how I spent my days and nights and manage myself better. I came to find that two nights out during the workweek—dinner with a friend, usually—and three at home puttering or reading kept me sane and within my budget.”

If you’re lacking ideas, here are a few:

  • Join a gym or attend workout or yoga/pilates classes.
  • Join clubs or recreational teams.
  • Consider Greek life, if you’re in school.
  • Make friends with your colleagues.
  • Eat dinner by yourself at the bar instead of a table.
  • Use dating apps like Hinge (much classier than Tinder).

It’s important to diversify your friends and make sure you have lots because, all of a sudden, you’ll wake up and just about everyone will be married and having kids. Trust me, I’m stuck in this exact scenario now!

Enjoy living alone

Living alone is a really special time that you shouldn’t take for granted.

Someday you could meet someone, fall in love, and end up moving in with your dreamboat, so milk this special time for all it’s worth.

Forget to put pants on, leave dirty dishes on your nightstand for days, and most of all, enjoy the solitude, because before you know it, it’ll be gone.