How Much Does It Cost To Live Alone?

Having a place of your own is the best--and I mean, THE BEST--but it's going to cost you.
by Dyan O. Zarzuela
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I got my very first piece of advice about living alone from a TV show. It was 2010, I was 21, and How to Make It in America was on HBO. One guy was looking at places that were way above his budget, and his friend was trying to make him see the light. “Your rent should be a third of what you make,” I think was what he said. Three years later, I had that piece of advice stuck in my head as I signed the lease for a studio near my office. It just makes sense because there’s a bunch of other stuff to spend on like Wi-Fi and groceries and nights out. So let’s break it down—here’s your hierarchy of needs (Thanks, Maslow!) on your first month of living alone.

1. Rent.
Decent studio units go from P8,000 (You just have to know where to look and who to ask!) to P25,000+ (for the ballin’ kind). You’ll typically have to shell out three months’ worth of rent (first month, last month, and security deposit) plus association dues (P1,000 to P6,000+). Ask if your unit is just for rent or if you have the option to rent to own—it might cost you extra, but it might be better in the long run.

You might want to rent a cheaper unit that’s farther from your place of work, but Mikko, a 31-year-old craftepreneur whose first unit was P25,000 a month back in 2011, says she chose the convenience of being able to walk to and from work. “That way, I also don’t waste too much time on the commute.”

2. Furniture and appliances.
You’ll be tempted to fill up your space with shiny new things as soon as you move in, especially if it’s a bare unit. Try to shop at your parents’ home first because even with a truckload of adopted stuff, you’ll spend 25k to 60k on furniture, appliances, and the moving van/crew. Strapped for cash? These are your top priorities: refrigerator, mattress, electric fan, and microwave and/or stove. Your laptop can double as your TV.

3. Utilities.
This includes your electricity (P500 to P2,500+ a month), water (P250 to P400 a month), and gas (a first timer’s P2,000+ tank will last for months). If you don’t plan on getting a washing machine—which might be cheaper for people who live alone—add your laundry expenses to this part.

4. Internet and/or cable.
Who needs food when you have Wi-Fi? Kidding, your subscription comes before food only because it takes more time and effort to settle on your first month. Considering the package you want, the installation fee, and other charges, expect to shell out P2000 to P10,000+.

5. Food.
This includes going to the grocery (P3,000 to P4,500+ a month; you’d be surprised by how much toiletries cost) and eating out (P2,000 to P5,000 a month plus more for booze). “Sometimes it’s cheaper to eat out than cook for one,” Mikko says. “It shouldn’t become a habit, though!”

6. Transpo.
Commuting fare is around P2,000 to P3,000 a month. Double the amount or more for car owners because you have gas, parking, and maintenance expenses to factor in.

7. Wants.
There’s little room for splurging on your first few months because you’re still paying for those zero-interest charges and a bajillion other things. “When I say I don’t have money, I mean I don’t have money to spend,” says Jean, a 25-year-old freelance writer, editor, and tutor. “Don’t ever let yourself run out of cash because you never know when you’ll need your emergency fund. Live within your means, but don't deprive yourself.”

So there you have it. No two budget Excel files are the same, though, so track your expenses meticulously, especially in the first few months. “You will quickly differentiate what is wasteful from what is essential,” Mikko says. Just remember that it’s okay to reward yourself once in a while because as Jean says, “Deprivation can result in more outrageous splurging!”

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