Friday, November 02, 2007

Rule #18: Alone and Together

I recently wrote about getting back into good habits, such as cooking at home and bringing lunch to work. I also went to the gym, read several books, and caught up on a couple months' worth of New Yorker magazines. I even took out my recycling, cleaned the house and did laundry-- so what happened? Did I suddenly run out to a phone booth and turn into Princess Awesome? No. What happened was that I spent a week being totally anti-social.

I know some people might have a hard time with this, but for me, it happened to be fairly easy-- a significant other thousands of miles away, as well as my other friends being busy or away (or I was just ignoring them). And I don't have kids, obviously. So I just spent some quality time alone, and realized this should be another one of my financial rules:

  • Be Anti-Social
The great thing about living alone is that it gives you more time, and time is money! If you spend a lot of time alone, you're more likely to cook meals at home rather than going to restaurants. You'll also probably have lower entertainment costs. Some people don't mind eating in restaurants alone and going to movies, theater, etc. alone-- I myself have done these things, but when it comes down to it, I don't really like to and I'd rather just stay home. Being alone in public always seems a little weird-- being in a long-distance relationship really made me very aware of how most people like to do things as couples or with friends-- if you're eating alone in a restaurant, chances are you're the only person doing it. Even if you're on a business trip and in a hotel restaurant, it can seem very uncomfortable to eat alone. And most people probably choose to avoid that by ordering room service! Which brings me to the flip side of this rule:

  • Be Social
Ordering room service for one is a lot more expensive than sitting in a hotel restaurant, where perhaps you'll meet others. And you never know, perhaps that could turn into some kind of career networking that could lead to money-making opportunities in the future!
Doing things with other people also allows you to spread out costs-- it may not be exactly true that two can eat as cheaply as one, but it's certainly easier to buy groceries for two, and to buy other items in bulk at lower unit prices. And you can order wine by the bottle instead of by the glass!
Traveling is another area where it definitely saves you money not to be by yourself. Most hotel rooms are designed to hold two people, and are priced accordingly. And how many times have you seen a really cheap price for a packaged trip where the small print always notes that the price is per-person based on double occupancy, and that the "single supplement" will double the cost of the trip?
Around the house, there are many ways you might save money by living with someone else rather than alone. First of all, studio and one-bedroom apartments tend to cost more than half what a two-bedroom costs, so having a roommate can save you money on rent. Then there are tasks like cooking, cleaning, and repairs. For people who live alone, doing all these things can start to seem burdensome and you're more likely to want to pay someone else to do them for you. But if you can share the housekeeping with someone else, it won't seem like as much work, and you're more likely to continue to do it yourself. In the case of repairs, it may even be unsafe to do things yourself without help-- if you fall off a ladder or something, the medical bills could end up costing you way more than hiring a handyman would have!

So, alone or together? Social or anti-social? Hermit or party animal? Once again, completely conflicting advice, but I do think it's possible to find a balance between these two extremes. One solution might be to find a partner who travels a lot!


Anonymous said...

I find that living alone actually causes me to go out for meals more, for the social aspect of it. I have had roommates for the last number of years, and only got my own place a few months ago. I find myself asking people to go out for dinner a lot more because I enjoy the company, and my apartment is way too quiet at night when it's just me.

In my experience, living alone is MUCH more expensive than having a roommate... although, in some cases, it's worth the financial burden!

Adrienne said...

Anti-social is defintely cheaper. I eat in more (cheaper). Plus I do what I want and can be embarassingly cheap when I want to. Whenever I go out and "split costs" it has ALWAYS ended up costing me more...without fail.

Sharing may have it's ups financially but isn't worth the hassle of accomodating other's habits. Plus...twice as much electricity, water, etc.

The only exception is my being a woman and following the rules of ettiquite which insist that the man least at first.

Anonymous said...

I definitely get a lot more stuff done when I'm alone, more cooking, cleaning, organizing, practicing, learning, everything except socializing.

Apparently I like socializing a lot more so now I get in plenty of talking, snuggling, and following recommendations (in books, movies, lessons, etc.). Life is more fun, but I'm stressed more, bigger, and can't have parties because my house is too messy.

I know the solution to my problem, actually: Say more often to the boyfriend, "Let's clean this." Make the stuff we have to do sociable.

Anonymous said...

Madame X,

I have a question: I attended a long weekend event in which friends (a couple) and I split a rental car. When it came time to pay, the friends split the bill in two then paid their half. Other people told me the fair thing would have been to split the bill three ways (similar to when you go out to eat with a couple, you don't pay for half the meal but a third.) What do you think--should I have said something?

This post made me think of this situation, as renting a car with others is still cheaper than renting alone.

VixenOnABudget said...

As you pointed out, a healthy balance of the two is the way to go.

Escape Brooklyn said...

I figured it out! The ideal solution is just to live with your significant other. Then, you can do the cheap anti-social stuff like lounging in your apartment watching Netflix all weekend, but also feel like you're being social because you're doing it *with* someone else! ;)

Anonymous said...

For traveling, I save tons of money and meet new friends in the process by being a member of the Couchsurfing Project. This is a non-profit organization that promotes international friendship and understanding through hosting and "surfing" with others. I have stayed for free in Hawaii, Slovenia, Russia, China, Sweden and Australia. I even met my boyfriend through a local Couchsurfing meeting and we are about to stay for free on Maui for a week! It is free to join and participate, but I always bring my host a small gift and either bring my own groceries or offer to cook meals, take my host out for drinks, clean up their place, etc. When I am able I host people in my home too and have met lots of great people from all over the world! I am a grad student and teacher and there is no way I could afford to pay for hotels, so Couchsurfing is a godsend (and wayyyyy more fun!)