There have been a lot of questions from singles on how to save money. Dollar stretching for singles is both the same and different. Creating a budget follows the same rules whether you are single or part of a couple. Financial investments generally follow the same rules--if you intend to be single the rest of your life there will be differences later, but in the beginning the principles are the same. The ways to accumulate an economical wardrobe are the same. Perhaps as a single you have been looking at how hard it is to stretch your dollar--after all, you can't use up a 50-lb sack of flour by yourself. Now look again. You have a distinct advantage in trying to save, spend wisely and live frugally--you are single! You do not have to negotiate the priorities of budget items, you can turn the heat down and not have your partner turn it up. You have sole control over your income. You don't have to deal with a partner who either doesn't believe in saving, or insists on his favorite non-generic brand of this or that. You have more flexibility and freedom to become just as frugal as you want, and cut back just as much as you want, than someone who is not single. You can be on the fast track in creating a sensible dollar-saving lifestyle.
Having "done that and been there" for many years, I believe that singles have specific areas where they tend to spend too much money. The top two categories are recreation and food. While we can't explore them completely here, let's start with one little change that can add up to big dollars. Bring your lunch. I constantly see singles who are complaining about making ends meet while they go out and eat fast food daily. Maybe you would like to reserve one day a week, maybe Fridays, for lunch out with the girls or guys, but if you take your lunch four days a week you will still save a tremendous amount. Taking your lunch does not mean buying potato salad and salami at the deli. Nor does it mean you have to eat the same thing daily. If you already cook, you can take leftovers in a cooler bag and microwave them at work. Otherwise, pick up a couple of cans of tuna--not the tiny one-serving can as they are more expensive. One can should serve two days. Alternate with some egg salad. Or don't have a sandwich. Yogurt or cheese and crackers and some fruit should do it. Lunch can be anything you want it to be. You can't eat a loaf of bread before it gets stale. Buy the loaf and freeze it. Take out two or four slices at a time and put the rest back in the freezer. Buy some drinks at the supermarket or put juice in a thermos, or use plain old free water. The cost of a can of soda is a total waste.
If you live in a moderate climate, take your lunch outside and sit at a bench or on the grass. Someone else in your group may just be waiting to opt out of the franchise lunches and bring lunch from home too. Or read a book. Check out "The Tightwad Gazette" from the library and go through it. Think about where you really want to be, and what your goals are. I think you will find that a homemade lunch and a bit of time out from the world will do you a lot more good economically and psychologically than the frantic runs for fast food.
Ferne Cherne is a former college administrator and psychologist who now writes and lives the simple life in the Sierras.
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