First Person: With some planning, living on your own can be great

Being a teenager living at home with my parents in Atlantic Canada, they took care of most expenses, meals and other upkeep around the house. My main priorities were schoolwork, a part-time job and spending time with friends. However, when I began living on my own last year I was in for a rude awakening […]
Photo: Kate Playfair
Living solo really does take dedication to learning the ropes of budgeting and time management.

Being a teenager living at home with my parents in Atlantic Canada, they took care of most expenses, meals and other upkeep around the house. My main priorities were schoolwork, a part-time job and spending time with friends. However, when I began living on my own last year I was in for a rude awakening in the adult world.

Venturing out into the world on my own was something I’ve always looked forward to without the realization of what it really takes to be independent.

My first year living alone took a lot of adjusting. I spent my money on random things thinking “10 bucks on lunch is nothing,” which became a regular expense that quickly drained my bank account.

Now that it is my second year living alone, I’ve taken everything I learned last year and created a lifestyle that will keep me afloat and less stressed.

It really does take dedication to learning the ropes of budgeting and time management. I spent a lot of my summer listening to podcasts on making and saving money reading on ways to improve my lifestyle and researching ways I can organize my life in a healthy and successful way overall.

The first thing I did before starting school was buy a new weekly planner and a dry-erase calendar to put above my desk. These may not seem like necessities to some people but for me, it is easier when it comes to organization and time management. I write down everything I need to do and my goals for the day, week and month.

I started by checking my school schedule in advance and made assignments and classes the foundation of my day. I wrote down all my assignments and due dates for the month as well as continuing to keep a weekly and daily homework list. I use an iPad app called “Goodnotes” to personalize my daily task lists, making them visually appealing and enjoyable to refer to.

My goal for this school year is to become a better student as well as continue working toward becoming the best version of myself. I want to succeed in my classes, but I also want to enjoy my life and not feel too much pressure.

Ahmed Elbadri, a student success specialist for the School of Media and Design said the best way to create a new habit is being realistic. “Don’t lie to yourself,” he said. “You can plan to get up, go to the gym and finish all your homework by 12 p.m., but if that’s not something you do everyday why do it this one special occasion?”

I take that into consideration when making my daily to-do list. I don’t try to get everything done in one day, but give myself time to adjust to a new routine.

The biggest burden for me to tackle was saving money. Budgeting and saving are difficult tasks for someone like me who loves shopping.

I worked full-time all summer painting fire hydrants for my hometown city, Dieppe N.B., and hosting at St. Louis Bar and Grill. I opened a savings account to prepare for my expenses when school started.

Now I continue to organize my expenses through a weekly budget list, and I got a binder to help track my spending and savings. Now that I have more to include in that list, I divide it evenly and still make sure to have a little extra to put in my savings.

I started applying for part-time jobs before moving to Ottawa and made sure to clarify the date I would be willing to start work. I gave myself about two weeks to re-adjust to my school schedule and get back in the groove of living alone.

Student loans and bursaries are resources I highly recommend looking into as a student. There is also an endless number of scholarships to apply for and some you may not have known that you qualify for.

Taking care of my living environment has also become very crucial to me. I realized that having a clean room takes so much stress off my shoulders and helps me focus when doing schoolwork. Every night before bed I do a 10-minute clean up in my room, whether that’s cleaning up my desk area or putting away the clothes I threw on the floor while trying to find the perfect outfit that morning.

I decided Sundays would be my “reset day” – a day to create a clean slate for the upcoming week. This is the day that I do laundry and any other chores that I’ve neglected.

Chores don’t just magically disappear when you move out, however, there is no one constantly reminding you to take your dishes to the kitchen and to do your laundry.

On Sundays, I also create a meal plan for the week. There’s no need for me to be having five course meals but I do make easy recipes with ingredients I can re-use. I did my research and created a cookbook with meals that I knew I would enjoy and not feel reluctant to make.

I got an optimum points card as there is a Loblaws within walking distance from my house. I check for weekly deals on the app and use and collect points when I can which has helped me with saving and cutting down on eating out.

Creating time for my interests in my busy schedule has helped me tremendously with feeling happy and more energized. Sometimes I set timers to remind myself to take a break from doing schoolwork.

At first, I felt stupid scheduling in “read” or “dance,” but I still put those hobbies into my schedule at times I know I should take a break from assignments to keep myself from feeling burnt out.

I also try and get outside and do something active whether that’s going for a walk while listening to music or a podcast or going to the gym. I always feel accomplished and clear-minded after some physical activity and fresh air.

The people that I spend time with play a huge role in my mental well-being. I am so grateful to have friends who inspire me and keep a smile on my face even through the hardest days. I make it a priority to spend time with people who I value and help me feel like I am living my best life.

The best thing I can do for myself is not compare myself to anyone else, I remind myself that everyone has their own journey and background. Learning to find motivation throughout my day has helped me accomplish my goals and continues to guide me toward the fulfilling lifestyle that I deserve.

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