I may be poorer by a thousand dollars every month, but it’s worth it in exchange for individual growth and freedom.
My name is Kez, and I’m currently 26. In February 2020, when I was 24, I moved out of my parents’ house two months right before the circuit breaker period. I’m currently staying in a rented apartment with three other housemates, one from the Netherlands and two from Slovakia.
Why I decided to move out of my parents’ house
I decided to rent a place because I had lived in a dorm for my entire university life and coming home to live with my parents was not something I thought I could get used to in the foreseeable future.
Additionally, both my siblings had already moved out of the house, and I was the only one left. So after quite a bit of consideration, I felt that I had to move out as well in order to have some sense of individual growth and development. As I also don’t have any plans to get a BTO anytime soon, I figured that renting a home was the best thing I could do for myself.
I convinced my parents to let me move out by giving them a Powerpoint presentation over dinner. I took them through my plans and explained why and how I was going to move out. They eventually came around because they realised that I was trying to strike out on my own and not because I could not stand them.
How much I pay for rent each month
My monthly rent comes up to just shy of a thousand dollars a month, including utilities and wi-fi. The bill varies each month though — sometimes they soar because some of us are still maintaining a work-from-home arrangement with our jobs.
The unexpected costs of moving out
Things around the house will break down unexpectedly and sometimes, it happens all at once. You have things like your electronics, an aircon that needs repair, or a stove that runs out of gas (which is not provided by the landlord).
When you’re living at home with your parents, you could come home one day and there’s a brand new sofa for you to lounge on because they just decided to get it. On the flip side, with housemates, we have to collectively decide if there is a need for a new couch, or who gets to go on an IKEA run to replace the pots or curtains. Because you are part of the household, these are also additional costs that you have to bear.
It’s the little things that really add up. The unexpected expenses will hit you out of nowhere, which is why I always have a stash of emergency funds to accommodate these incidents.
Budget allocation and how I afford living on my own
It’s all about being disciplined with my spending. Here’s how I budget myself each month:
- Rent – 20%
- Groceries – 15%
- Recreational activities – 20%
- Insurance and investments – 35%
- Savings – 10%
After rent, I’d usually allocate about 15% of the remainder for groceries. Because I don’t buy meat at all, it really helps me stick to my budget. I only have meat when I dine outside occasionally with friends.
I’d also set aside 20% for recreational activities. Because of COVID-19, I tend to go out less these days and prefer to order take-away drinks and food and hang out at home with my friends. That way, we all can save on private hire transport fees, GST and service charges.
35% of my monthly income is used to pay for my insurance, and the rest goes into my investments, mainly cryptocurrency that I’ve done research on and dollar-cost averaging over the months.
I save whatever that is left over for my emergency funds, which is around 10%.
How I save money while living outside
I try to be realistic about my living habits. First, I cut down on GrabFood and went out less with friends. Then, I started having home-cooked meals at least 15 times a week. I also bought food in bulk, and — partly for lifestyle reasons — cut out meat from my diet, which makes my meals cheaper in the long run.
I don’t buy anything online unless something is broken or when I want to treat myself — this happens once every three months and whenever I do, I’d limit myself to a $100 purchase.
How I supplement my income to pay off rent
As a freelance video producer, gigging is my main job so I just work very hard and rarely take breaks. Thankfully, I do not face late payments (because I charge my clients a penalty for those) and I genuinely enjoy the work that I do, so I’m really blessed in that sense. Renting out has become more of a motivator for me to work hard and earn more income, so whenever I have the time, I would take on more gigs to at least cover my rent.
Finding work during COVID-19 as a freelancer is tough, especially with rent to pay. During times when I couldn’t find production-related work, I gave online tuition to kids. I was fortunate enough to not have cash flow problems with that as well, as their parents usually pay on time.
Dealing with problematic housemates
I had a housemate previously who was very entitled and selfish. It was pretty tough considering that I had to share a bathroom with her and she needed the bathroom to be scrubbed and washed with every use.
There will be difficult people to deal with but you need to remember that certain housemates are not your friends — in order to cohabit with them, it’s better to keep common areas as clean as you can and just avoid them if necessary.
Pros and cons of moving out compared to staying at home
I tried both living alone and with housemates. With the former it gets very lonely, especially during the circuit breaker period. I didn’t have physical interaction with anyone for two whole months and that was quite an experience.
With the latter, I think what people don’t realise is that when you move out and have housemates, it’s like having a second family. Then comes the additional challenge of having to navigate around the nuances of their personalities and moods. We all get along very well with each other at this point, but it does take consistent work to build relationships.
The advantage of moving out would be the freedom you get. I think many of us have the issue of being under our parents’ jurisdiction and that can really infantilise any young adult regardless of their relationship with their parents.
I think it’s about the way you set your own rhythm in life — you get to expand your mind and priorities the minute you realise that your life is about your job and the relationships you have. You start to discover parts of yourself that wouldn’t have surfaced in a sheltered environment, and really come into your own as a young adult.
I have also made way more friends from living outside than I did staying with my parents. It’s really an avenue to meet new people who are completely different from your usual friend group. Basically, I’ve just become a better person in general.
What to look out for when renting a house
- Proximity to bus stop and MRT station
- Proximity to roads (noise at night)
- How much sunlight enters your room in the morning
- Is wi-fi provided or do the housemates have a common wi-fi system (since not all houses have it)?
- Are plumbing issues (test the water pressure in the shower and the toilet)?
- Is the cost still within your budget after miscellaneous essentials and utilities are paid for on top of the basic rental amount?
- Are they around the same age as you? (I personally wouldn’t advise flat-sharing with anyone more than 10 years your senior, as they’re in a different phase of life and their living habits can be different, which may result in clashes)
- General cleanliness of the house (are you able to live with that standard of hygiene?)
- What is the cleaning roster like (if you engage outside help, then it’s an extra cost for you every month) and what are some other house rules?
Negotiation tips for rent
Make sure everything is in place and in working order before moving in. You can be blamed and be made to pay if they find any fault in the house after you’ve moved in, so be sure to raise any initial concern with the landlord.
Also, try to negotiate for at least $100 to $150 less before signing away your life (just kidding) instead of accepting the proposed price. If they insist that the rent is fixed, give it a few days before coming back to them and present them with other options if you find a better deal elsewhere.
One mistake I made in the process
Check the contract before signing and make sure you won’t have to pay thousands of dollars in penalty should you choose not to continue with the lease due to any reason. It is in your best interest to make amendments to the contract and send it back to the landlord for review.
That happened to me at the first house I lived in. The contract had some clauses that were unfavourable towards me if I wanted to move out earlier than the agreed date. The landlord eventually came around to an agreement of a two-month rent penalty for early termination.
What I realised about myself when I moved out
I realised that I had the capacity to compartmentalise very well. Things like cleaning the house and doing laundry after a 14-hour shoot don’t seem daunting anymore once you have acclimated to a certain level of hygiene. Procrastination will really be your downfall if you don’t just move your butt to pick up that sock from under your bed. If you don’t do it, no one will.
I made the right decision to move out in my 20s and I absolutely did not regret it
I think everyone should try it for at least a year. The independence you get is unlike living on campus or going on a six-month exchange programme. It really throws you into the thick of reality and you have to work it out from there, but I promise that you’ll come out as a better individual.
I feel that being in your 20’s is a good age to move out of your parents’ house, and it will be a good experience, once you move beyond the sadness and regret.
Tips for millennials looking to move out
- Start looking once you’ve decided to move out and give yourself at least six months to a year to find a place you like.
- Remember to look at the practicality of moving out instead of the novelty of it. If you think you might get a BTO with your partner in the coming years and/or need to save up for your studies, moving out might not be the most financially viable option for you.
- However, mental health is just as important and if moving out of the family home will cause you less agony than paying rent every month, I totally encourage you to take the leap of faith!
3 financial lessons I learnt through this experience
- Delete the online shopping apps on your phone. Those monthly sales are the greatest thieves of your wallet.
- Expect the unexpected. Like I mentioned before, life will throw you curveballs and money is often (though not always) the key to get you out of a difficult living situation quickly so make sure you have the means to.
- As much as possible, don’t take private hire transport. It’s a convenient but financially draining downward spiral. It should be a luxury afforded once in a while, but not an everyday option.
As told to Kendra Tan
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By Kendra Tan
Avid promo code hunter and haggler. Kendra doesn’t like paying full price for anything. She’s the best person to bring along if you’re travelling on a budget.