Living on your own, especially if it’s for the first time, can feel like winning the lottery — until you realize the amount of budgeting that come with it. Rent, utilities, food and other monthly expenses can easily take away the fun of independence right out of your wallet. If you follow these tips to budget smart, you can get the most out of your apartment — before it gets the most out of you:
Find a Roommate
Roommates are, by far, one of the best ways to save money. You can split big costs, like rent and utilities, right down the middle and team up on smaller costs such as food by grocery shopping and cooking meals together. Trends show that more and more millennials have roommates with 32% of Americans having a roommate in 2012. Living with a roommate beyond college is quite common. While finding and living with a roommate requires some work and that you set some ground rules, the savings can be substantial.
Stay on a Middle Floor
A middle floor apartment may be a little noisier, but will keep you warmer in winter and cooler in the summer and save on your electric bill.
Switch to “Off”
Shut off lights, electronics and the thermostat when you’re out during the day to save on your energy bill. Invest in a power strip for your electronics so you can switch everything off at once and not worry about them using electricity just for being plugged in.
Do Chores at Night
Some utility companies charge higher rates during the daytime, when energy usage is at its peak. This leaves evenings as non-peak hours, which means it’s the cheapest time to wash your clothes, run your dishwasher and charge your electronics.
Change the Lighting
Use energy-saving, fluorescent light bulbs to reduce energy costs. The bulbs last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs and use roughly 75 percent less energy. Also, if you have a lot of windows, make use of natural sunlight during the day to conserve more energy.
Buy in Bulk
Buy your favorite or most used items in bulk for bigger savings, but don’t go crazy buying everything in bulk. This goes for toilet paper, paper towels, dish detergent, toothpaste, pasta, trash bags, soap, rice, light bulbs and other everyday items. Try not to purchase bulk amounts of perishable goods unless you’re going to use it immediately. You can also try splitting the cost of bulk buys with a friend or roommate for extra savings.
Invest in Digital Couponing
Your local grocery store and sites like Groupon and RetailMeNot can offer an assortment of great weekly deals on your favorite entertainment, recreation, clothes, food and more. Downloading coupon apps to your phone will ensure that you have your discounts in the palm of your hand at all times.
Once you set a reasonable budget, push yourself to live within your means and start a savings account with the extra money. By saving, you’ll be ready for any financial surprises and special opportunities that come your way.