8 things to remember when living alone for the first time

PHOTO: The Straits Times

This January, it's all about welcoming everything new with a bang. Preen is looking at the changing tides and how they sweep over us to reveal better stories and bigger adventures.

In our adult lives, it is inevitable that a day will come when one must move away from home. Though in our Filipino culture it is not the norm to live separately from our parents once we turn 18, there are really times when we've got to live on our own. Most of the time, the demands of work and the need to cut down on travel time have made many of us condo dwellers and apartment settlers. Others even find themselves in foreign lands for work or further studies, forced to live life independently.

Last year, I chose to live two cities away from my mother together with some friends of mine. It was exciting and quite a bold statement since I had barely graduated from college that time. I was eager to begin a life that didn't abide by my mother's ridiculously early bedtime and other eccentricities my sister had. The excitement, however, was soon replaced with somber realizations that life on your own is a big turnaround from the days you used to lead.

If you're thinking about being on your own or are in the middle of figuring how life works outside your parents home, here are some tips that might help you out.

1. Prepare a budget

One issue I always faced when I lived in a condominium unit is the rent. Unless you're fortunate enough to have a pad you don't have to pay for, you've always got to set aside money for your rent first and foremost.

It'll take away a big chunk of your money but it will straighten out how you'll survive till your next paycheck. After that, you need to account for other expenses, like utilities, food, transportation, etc. List all of these down and project an average amount you'll need. Stick to that projected amount.

Aside from this, always keep a list of expenses. You'll then easily spot what you've splurged on and what you can save up on to give you more money for other needs.

2. Learn how to cook

Sure, buying food every night is the stuff of your childhood dreams. However, it won't help you out in the long run. Once you've got your own digs, try to get an induction cooker so you can cook your meals. Relying on restaurants and delivery services will encourage unhealthy eating habits and will severely cut into your budget, which will cause bigger problems.

3. Have a good relationship with your landlord

You don't have to make your landlord your best friend, and of course, be wary because there are some terrible ones out there. But your relationship with your landlord is fairly simple: It's all about when you'll pay the rent.

So before moving in, make sure you have a clear deal with your landlord. Have a contract typed up if you have to (and most landlords and living spaces usually require you to have one; be wary if you don't) which clearly states the amount you will be paying and when will you be doing so. Fulfill your end of the contract always and you should be fine. If you feel you can't make it on a certain date, it's best to tell your landlord beforehand and give an alternate date on when you'll be paying your dues.

Having this attitude will help you out since your landlord can usually help you settle your utility bills and other concerns in your place. It'll show that you care about the unit as much as he or she does and that you respect the space he or she owns even if you paid for your right to be there.

4. If living with roommates, create weekly bathroom and chores schedule

No matter how well you get along with your roommates, you will fight about chores and whose turn it is for the bathroom duties. If you find yourself sharing a space with friends or strangers, try to come up with a written agreement on who does what at a specific time and who's turn it is to take out the trash. Stick the agreement on the fridge or on the bathroom door. It's a simple preventive step to avoid shouting matches later on, trust me.

5. Learn how to do laundry efficiently

I have to admit I turned to a laundry service when I needed clean clothes when I moved out. However, in other countries that kind of service might cost a pretty penny. A friend of mine who lived in Japan offered up some unique advice when it comes to laundry, "Do it twice a week. Doing it in one batch will take too long and it won't dry properly." She also told me to separate clothes in laundry bags so socks don't go missing and you won't accidentally mix in a red shirt in your all-white batch.

6. Always secure your windows

In high-rise condominiums, it's good to have extra security for your windows. Have locks inside and outside the windows. Although security guards are in your building to make sure no suspicious individuals enter, don't forget that some people can be crafty. One time, my friend's boyfriend lost his laptop when neighbouring construction workers entered his room through the window. So don't get cocky just because you live high up.

7. Ask your security guard to refer you to carpentry and plumbing services

Calling your home for your trusted handyman (or your dad or older brother) when you've broken the faucet and while water is spewing everywhere isn't your best option. In these cases, have the security guard, landlord, or reception office of your place send over someone who can help.

Having another person witness and talk to the person who will help you out in this situation will also prevent any untoward incidents or the chances of you getting cheated. (Some utility men overprice their services when you live alone.)

In cases you can't really contact your landlord for such issues or that your place doesn't have a direct administration, ask for the referral before any emergency happens from your local authorities like the police in your area.

8. Don't forget to visit your first home

You may think you're happy where you are now but don't forget that the people back in your first home will miss you. Go home at least for a weekend or a special occasion when you can. Just because you're on your own doesn't mean you're too good for a home-cooked meal or for a night in with your parents.

Besides, being responsible enough to find time for those you've left behind really shows you've got #adulting right.