Single People: It’s Your Money. Here’s What to Do With It
It’s all on you.
When you’re single, you don’t have a spouse helping you pay bills or a partner nagging you to spend less and save more.
How much money you make and what you do with that cash is up to you alone … and only you deal with the repercussions of your financial mistakes.
To live your best life as captain of your own ship, you’ve got to commit to making the right choices. Here are 11 financial tips for singles to heed.
1. Build an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is your safety net when something goes wrong. It’s especially important to have a robust emergency fund as a single person because you don’t have someone else’s savings or salary to tap into if your car breaks down or you get laid off from your job.
The common recommendation for an emergency fund is to have three-to-six months worth of expenses saved, but if you’re starting from scratch, develop a smaller-scale goal and work your way up to that amount. This guide on how to start an emergency fund can help.
Prioritize your savings by paying yourself first. Setting money aside in a savings account when you get paid. By not letting it sit in your checking account, you’re less likely to spend that cash.
2. Save for Retirement
The downside of being single: You don’t have a partner helping you add to your retirement accounts. The upside: You only need enough savings to support one person in retirement, not two.
Regardless of your relationship status, contributing to a 401(k) or IRA early and often can help you build a comfortable nest egg for your golden years. We break down how to save money for retirement at various stages of life.
3. Create a Budget
When your money isn’t merged with a significant other, you don’t have to worry about anyone questioning your spending decisions. Want to drop $300 on a pair of new shoes? Who’s going to tell you no?
But just because you don’t have to answer to anyone doesn’t mean it’s okay to spend without a plan. That’s where having a budget comes in. Your budget will show you if you have enough funds to buy those pricey shoes or if that purchase would derail paying the bills on time.
If you’re among the many, many Americans who aren’t in the practice of budgeting, check out these tips on how to budget as a beginner. While you’re establishing your various budget categories and spending limits, make sure to include room for a little fun money. It’s hard to stick to a budget that’s too restrictive and leaves you feeling deprived.
4. Stop Being Loyal to Service Providers
You’re a free agent when it comes to dating whoever you want. Applying a similar mindset when it comes to service providers — like your cell phone company or car insurance provider — can help you save money.
You don’t have to stay tied down to who you’re with today. Check rates and offers from competing service providers to see if you can get similar service for less. If you’re under contract with your current provider, ask the competition if they’ll pay the fee for you to jump ship.
Another option: If you’re satisfied with, say, your internet service but find another company is offering lower rates, use that as leverage to negotiate a better price with your provider. Some companies will meet a competitor’s rate to avoid losing a good customer.
5. Vet Potential Roommates Carefully
Taking on a roommate can be a great way to reduce housing expenses. But if your roommate ends up being a bum who’s always late with the rent, you’re in for a heap of trouble.
Save yourself the headache and do your due diligence ahead of time by asking these screening questions for potential roommates.
If you want the social and financial benefits of roommates without being on the hook if they’re short on rent, consider getting an individual room in a coliving space, like this woman did.
6. Embrace Meal Planning
When you just have to worry about feeding yourself, it’s oh so convenient to order something on Grubhub or UberEats and call it a night. But do that multiple times a week and the expenses add up quick.
Cooking at home is a more economical solution. When you meal prep, you can save time and money.
Cook multiple servings of staples like chicken, rice or potatoes and wash and chop veggies in advance so you can quickly pull meals together throughout the week. Avoid prepping too far in advance, though, so your food doesn’t spoil.
Meal planning also works for snacks too. Buy a bulk bag of your favorite munchies and divvy it into individual portions instead of spending more on a bunch of snack-size packages.
7. Be Mindful of Lifestyle Inflation
When you get a big raise or unexpected windfall of cash, it might be tempting to go into treat-yourself mode. A new wardrobe. The latest iPhone. Weekly spa treatments.
But you shouldn’t give into lifestyle inflation without being prudent and addressing things like debt and saving for retirement.
Does that mean you have to keep that ratty futon from college instead of buying a real couch because you’re still paying back student loans? Not exactly. It just means budget your extra money so you increase your student loan payments and have cash for that furniture upgrade.
8. Get an Accountability Partner for Debt Payoff Motivation
Paying down debt can be a tedious process. It can help to have someone on your side, keeping you encouraged and steering you back on course when you struggle.
An accountability partner does just that. Choose a friend or family member you can confide in about your goals and challenges. Your accountability buddy should be someone who’s not afraid to give you tough love when you need it but who’ll also be your cheerleader throughout your debt payoff process.
9. Have Multiple Sources of Income
Losing your job or having your boss cut your hours can be financially devastating when you’re single. Having additional streams of income can ensure you still have money coming in if something happens to your main job.
Consider picking up a side hustle, getting a second job or starting an entrepreneurial pursuit.
Though you’ll boost your bank account, it requires a bit of juggling to manage more than one job. This woman shares her advice on balancing a side gig with full-time work.
10. Consider if You Need Life Insurance
Being single you might think, why would I need life insurance? To be honest, paying into a life insurance policy may not be a priority for you.
But if you have kids or have a loan that someone co-signed, getting a life insurance policy is a smart choice. You might also consider getting a policy if you’re a business owner or want to leave something behind for your loved ones.
Here’s a run down of the types of life insurance and the best life insurance companies on the market.
11. Don’t Try to Keep Up With the Joneses
…Especially if they live in two-income households with more disposable income than you.
“Bachelor in Paradise” alum Derek Peth told The Penny Hoarder that it’s important to be upfront with your friends about your financial limitations. Instead of accepting every invite to brunch or to the bar, be transparent about your need to live within your means.
The same premise applies to dating. Don’t overspend at Ruth’s Chris or Benihana when your budget is really on the Applebee’s or Panda Express level.
You don’t have to sacrifice your social life just because you’re trying to be financially responsible. This list of 100 free things to do has ideas on how to have fun without spending any money.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.