Paying the bills is one of those things you have to do all by yourself when you live alone. You have to manage your money well enough that you can afford to pay the bills, and you have to manage your life well enough that you remember to pay them.
Money has always been a subject that induces a degree of panic in me. Quite possibly this is due to my parents’, and in particular my mother’s, lasting trauma from experiencing the Great Depression as a child. Money was seen both as a form of security but also as a terribly fickle and untrustworthy adversary who could ruin your life. Thinking about it now, money had all the power over us and we were its slaves. This isn’t a good relationship to have with money.
Unsurprisingly, I’m no money expert. But the one valuable lesson they taught me, which forms the backbone and quite possibly sum total of my money philosophy, is
Live within your means
You can’t go too far wrong if that’s your one non negotiable rule. I’m surprised at how often it shows up in one form or another on personal finance blogs. And how routinely it is ignored, leading people into stressful and sometimes dire situations.
Everyone’s tolerance for debt and financial risk and uncertainty is different. I’m highly risk averse. But whatever your risk profile, knowing your numbers is necessary if you’re going to survive on your own dollar.
It is more expensive to live alone for the simple and obvious reason that you alone must bear the full cost of fixed costs. Things like insurance and rates don’t distinguish based on how many people share a property. I, however, consider these the price I’m prepared to pay for living in peace and quiet.
Living within my means to me is living within my money comfort zone regardless of what others consider to be my means. I get stressed by debt, so I bought a house I felt I could afford, in spite of the bank telling me they’d happily loan me twice what I asked for.
Almost all other expenses however are more directly a result of how I choose to live. For example, I choose to buy a large flat white every work day because it’s a ritual that gives me pleasure. I know I could save if I didn’t but I’m not buying just a coffee, I’m buying an experience albeit a brief one, and to me it’s worth it.
In terms of actually paying my bills, I’m fortunate to live in an age and a country where this could hardly be easier. Direct debit and my banking app take care of it. I have forced myself to establish a routine for paying bills because late fees and reminder notices wind me up.
I’m in a privileged position I know, because I earn comfortably more than I live on. Of course I could choose to live a lot more expensively and put that to the test, but the point is I am in a situation where money is not a barrier to my solitude, nor is it a source of stress. And I think this is important when living alone. There’s no one to bail you out or back you up, so you really do have to come to terms with money if you’re going to make it work. In spite of the anxiety that thinking about money induces in me, I’ve come to accept that it’s something I need to understand and take control of in order to continue to live alone.