About 6 months ago (on April 15 2012), I arrived in Montreal alone, broke, and homeless.
Now I am living in my own house, I have friends and a social life, and I’m still broke.
Here is what I’ve learned this past half-year about the realities of leaving your parents’ house and living on your own for the first time.
Note: Most of this advice gears towards living with very little money. If you want a job, it will be even easier.
There is nothing more stress releasing and freedom providing than moving out of your oppressive parents’ house and living on your own. And when I say oppressive, I mean in that controlling and infuriating way that all parents seem to become as we grow into adults.
You don’t have to hear their opinions, or fight for your freedoms, or tell them to stop trying to control you, or deal with all that heavy and annoying stuff they do.
Food might be harder to get, and it might be colder in winter, and your bed might not be as comfy, but you mind will be free and you will be in complete control of your life.
This, to me, is the greatest advantage of moving out of your parents house and living on your own.
The bare necessities are simply shelter and food. I have no money, and yet these two things never run out for me.
In my case, my shelter first came from people I met at couchsurfer.com. These cool people will host you on their couches for a few days/weeks for free. Just make sure you make it clear that you have no money, as it is common to give your hosts some food or gifts in return.
Then a friend I’d found (I’ll tell you how to do this later), mentioned that he had a run down apartment he could give me rent-free for a while, in return for doing some chores and paying for the electricity I use. I still live in this apartment.
This exact case scenario may not happen to you, but it shows that finding a place to live is not that hard, even when you have no money.
And, of course, you can just keep moving between couchsurfer hosts until you find a place to stay. I lived for about 4 months solely on the couches of couchsurfers when I left home to backpack around Ontario.
For food, I have never run out and will never run out. That said, I do not get much choice in what I eat and so often eat foods that are not optimally healthy.
For a long time, a ‘friend’ of mine stole food. I’m not recommending you do this (and will accept no legal obligations), but a smart person can avoid getting noticed and can steal quite a large amount of food. Recently, my friend’s life-philosophies have changed so that this is now against their morals (thanks to Atlas Shrugged), and so they don’t steal anymore.
I have also been given food by friends. When people know that you are low on food & money, they will often help you out. From giving me their leftovers or the non-perishables they never eat, to actually taking me grocery shopping, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friends (and mother) for helping me out with my food.
I have also taken food that restaurants throw out. At the end of the day, fast-food restaurants will often have left over food that nobody ordered. Since this will not keep till tomorrow, it is thrown out. Doing this, I have found meat pies, pasta dishes, bread, whole pizzas, packaged and uneaten burgers. The best places to do this are pizza places and fast food restaurants.
And, of course, I have bought food when I have money. The best food, in my opinion, is eggs. They are nutritious, versatile, and very cheap. Bananas are also cheap.
For a long time, my bed was a horrible small spring mattress that dug into my back. This did not bother me, nor did it stop me from getting laid.
My house is very cold & I cannot afford heat. So I wear layers and close windows.
I cannot afford new shoes or clothing. So I wear them until they are totally worn out, and patch them up when I can.
My shower is small and smells weird. My walls are light pink. My toilet clogs often. My microwave is broken.
But these are all little things that won’t bug you if you’re okay with roughing it.
And, if you’re not, just get a job and most of these will be easily fixable.
Transportation is expensive, and staying home alone all the time is depressing. The solution: get a bike. I found a good one for $50, and a second was loaned to me by a friend.
With a bike in a city, you can get virtually anywhere within 45 minutes.
Here is the guaranteed formula for making new friends:
Get online and find groups built around some of your interests. These can be meetup.com groups, forums, local facebook groups, social networks, etc.
Then find out when they meet up, and go there.
You’ll have new friends almost immediately.
If you live alone and work alone, loneliness can really creep in on you. Coming home at the end of every day to silence can be depressing. It gets so bad that it can break you down and get in the way of your higher priorities (which it did to me).
The solution: make friends. And, if you work alone most of the time, reserve one or two days a week to just stop working and rest and socialize. It will save you from burning out.
When my house was a complete mess, it would weigh heavily on my mindset. Waking up in the morning to a mess is a horrible way to start a productive day.
And cleaning it is relatively easy. It usually takes me about 2 hours a week.
When you have a clean house, your mind feels lighter and you can focus and work better.
I have spent the last 6 months trying to make money online. Recently, one of my ventures has has it’s first (slightly) profitable month and is aimed at continuing an upward and exponential trend.
But, for most of those 6 months, I have made almost no money at all.
I refused to get a job on the principle that I wanted to devote all my effort to entrepreneurial work, but I have now relented and just begun hunting for a job.
So, making money is not easy. Not at all. I cannot give you a good recommendation about what to do about this, since I have not yet figured it out.
But living well without money is possible.
If you’re considering living alone, I highly recommend it. You will learn TONS every day, you will not run out of the bare necessities of life, you can enjoy it immensely, and, most importantly, you can handle it.
I think you'll find once you have steady income that managing to generate money through other endeavors becomes remarkably easier. When you're near broke and trying your hardest to scrounge up cash you tend not to focus on the big ideas that have the potential to generate real money in the longterm.
Hey Brett, I came to an alike conclusion a month ago.
If I don't have to spend time dumpster diving for most meals, I'll have more time to devote to work.
My solution: Negotiate a $300 monthly allowance from my grandmother, by showing her what I am working on and how that money will help me work more.
I highly suggest that people in my situation go for welfare or family support or something to keep the food coming in and so save time that can be devoted to building yourself.
Thanks for the advice Brett.
Wow, you make me feel lucky. I've recently graduated, so for the first time I'm living entirely from my own resources. It's not the first time I've lived away from home though -- four years of university, plus 18 months in total living and travelling around Asia, meant I was already pretty independent. But not relying on monthly money from parents is a big mindset shift.
Some differences between our situations:
- I'm doing a startup, too, but I've been freelancing on the side, which means money hasn't been so tight. My bank account has got perilously close to 0 at times, to be fair, but now I've got a small cushion of cash and a reliable income stream (now that I have some steady clients).
- Before I found my own place, I was living with co-founders and later a relative. Neither was ideal. I hated feeling like an unpaying guest. A family friend had an attic flat to let, and was happy to rent it out for cheap, so I'm sorted now.
- Two contradictory thoughts: you can survive, and be happy, on a very low income. But you can always spend disposable income on increasing your happiness. Reading your situation, I'm grateful I have disposable income for Starbucks/eating out/nightlife/etc.
- On the flipside, you have a better social life than me. This is mostly as I work fairly long hours on the startup/freelancing and so I'm lazy about finding social events. On the other hand, I like coming home to an empty flat. It's relaxing.
Thanks for commenting man, it means a lot.
> Wow, you make me feel lucky.
I don't think luck has much to do with it. I chose not to get a job and have no disposable income, knowing full well the issues that would come with it.
And, for freelancing, I simply didn't put enough effort into it to earn any real income (I had done it once before and made a few hundred per month, but this time around I simply didn't put enough effort into learning or contacting leads).
You did put in the effort though, so you earned your comfort, in my opinion. Enjoy it :)
>Two contradictory thoughts: you can survive, and be happy, on a very low income. But you can always spend disposable income on increasing your happiness. Reading your situation, I'm grateful I have disposable income for Starbucks/eating out/nightlife/etc.
Agreed. Happiness can be had without money, but it can definitely be increased with money. Not being able to buy a meal out or take the subway on a rainy day can be seriously inconvenient and annoying. There have been many days where I forgot to pack food or had none to pack, and simply had to resign myself to working hungry all day.
> On the flipside, you have a better social life than me. This is mostly as I work fairly long hours on the startup/freelancing and so I'm lazy about finding social events. On the other hand, I like coming home to an empty flat. It's relaxing.
Actually, you can easily increase your social life without missing any work.
See, I spend most of my day working. I've even been working the last two weekends instead of taking time off. But, I work in a cafe for entrepreneurs (more of a frat house really, known as the Notman House), so I socialize with cool people as a default.
If you get in touch with a few entrepreneurs in town and ask them where the entrepreneurs hang out, you'll probably find a cafe or two to work in.
Cheers Isaac, keep hustling on your startup.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...
Being an anarchist, anything regarding auto-sufficiency is of a huge interest to me. The thought alone that I am so dependent on other peoples knowledge (most of these commercialised through companies) is dwarfing to me. Most of my friends wouldn't even know how to grow a tomato, let alone change a door knob or fix a broken toilet. In the recent years, I have tried to combat that notion. We are more powerful and capable, than we ever give ourselves credit for.
That's why I'm fascinated with learing life skills, learning how to grow my own food, build my own house and repair my own clothes, tools and electronics. I am also intrigued by ideas about living without money, off the grid and minimalist life style. That is how Build a House made it to my bucket list.
Said jokingly, how can I call myslef a man, if don't even know how to build a house? Well, now I do, and it was one of the most empowering experriences of my entire life! We were a bunch of people, with no skills or training, whatsoever, who set out to build this house in the mountains of Mexico. We leveled the ground, dug the wholes for the poles, filled cement bags with clay and dirt and build up the buttoms of the walls. Putting up the skeleton of the house took a lot of hands and a lot of work, but the results were breathtaking. One of the climaxes for me, were when me and two friends put in the floor on the first floor, the floor I would be sleeping on for the rest of my stay. Nothing quite beats sleeping on a floor you made yourself, under a roof you helped build and put up (with the moon and the stars visible through the windows.
We made the house with primitive tools and primitive means, often we would have to chop down a nearby tree, when we needed timber. My soft academic hands filled with blisters, but hardened over time. Every strike with a hammer to a nail, improved my precision and understanding of how the nail can make or break the wood. I had experience with axe work, but my skills vastly improved, as I had to make floor boards fit, fortify angles or cut firewood for the meals (all cooked over open fire).