Expectation Vs. Reality: What It's Really Like Living On Your Own


Between college graduation and marriage, there are certain experiences that we just have to have.

We have to get our heart epically broken. We have to start contributing to our futures with 401Ks and IRAs. We have to travel the world.

But there’s no experience that will establish our independence more than living by ourselves. It’s not enough that we leave our parents’ nest; we have to kick the roommates to the curb too. We have to stand on our own two feet and pay our own way — rent, utilities, furniture, food and all.

We have a picture of what it’ll be like when we finally get that place of our own. But will the reality live up to our expectations?

Expectation: You’ll be hemorrhaging money on utilities.

Reality: You’re saving money because you spend more nights relaxing at home.

One of the toughest choices we make is deciding when it’s time to move into our own place.

Living with roommates theoretically means saving money. When you live alone, you’re paying rent/mortgage and utilities yourself instead of splitting the cost.

But when you live with one or more roommates, it's natural to get sick of each other and long for alone time outside of the apartment. You find yourself making plans every night of the week, just to save your relationship. In turn, those bills quickly pile up to the price of a studio apartment.

When you live alone, there’s no one at home to get sick of, ergo, less money spent on outside activities.

Expectation: Your apartment is going to be organized and clean without a roommate.

Reality: There’s no roommate to split the chores with.

The garbage can that's always filled to the brim. The crumbs that are always getting stuck to your feet. The hair that’s constantly clogging the drain. These are the annoyances you silently seethe about when you have a roommate.

But then you move into your own apartment. And within days, you notice the garbage already needs to be taken out, the floor needs a vacuum and the drain is backed up. It wasn't your roommate that was causing the mess; it was the natural accumulation of trash and dust that happens just by living.

And now you are the sole person responsible for cleaning up. Goodbye, lazy Sundays. You'll be used for solo scrubbing now.

Expectation: You won't be able to kick your Chinese takeout habit.

Reality: Cooking becomes your new favorite pastime.

When you lived with roommates, you all tacitly agreed to limit your kitchen usage. No one wanted to deal with the mountains of dishes that are a byproduct of cooking. Instead, you all became hooked on the Chinese food from around the block, swapping out one half-eaten carton of Sesame chicken for another every few days.

Yet a perk of living in your own apartment is having free reign over your kitchen. Once you're the master of that domain, it's way more enjoyable to cook. It won't be long before you're looking up recipes for roasted Brussels sprouts and offering to bake gingerbread cookies for your office.

As an added bonus, buying ingredients at a grocery store is much cheaper than ordering take out, thereby leaving more cash in your nest egg.

Expectation: You’ll be watching TV on the couch all hours of the night.

Reality: You’ll actually be asleep on the couch at 10 pm.

It’s just like when you moved out of your childhood home, except now, you really have no one to tell you no.

But, in reality, you’re going to fall asleep on your couch at 10 pm because, well, life is exhausting, and your couch is comfortable.

Expectation: Your apartment will resemble a luxurious magazine spread.

Reality: Your apartment is better described as thrift-shop fabulous.

When you picture your very own apartment, it looks like something out of a magazine: sumptuous leather couches, gleaming wood tables, state-of-the-art appliances.

Yet when you move into your first solo home, you realize that you don't actually need that level of luxury. According to Capital One's Millennial Mindset on Money Survey, more than a quarter of Millennials are looking to establish a solid nest egg. We know money is better served stashed away in savings than in buying furniture that'll probably wind up stained anyway.

Eschewing high-end stores, you'll instead become intimately familiar with flea markets and thrift shops. You strive for unique, shabby-chic decor, with photos adorning the walls. It will give your apartment a highly personalized vibe, which is exactly what you want when you first live on your own.

Expectation: You’re going to get up early and do yoga before work.

Reality: You still roll out of bed five minutes before you’re supposed to leave.

You have the best intentions. You don’t have to go to the gym after work anymore. You can wake up and do yoga anywhere you please, turning on as many lights as you want, taking a shower whenever you need.

Your abs are going to be toned from the convenience of your home. But all of the apartment space in the world doesn’t substitute for those extra hours of sleep.

You’re still going to be rushing to work with no workout.

At the end of the day, moving out on your own isn't going to be as easy-breezy as you've imagined it to be. But with some smart shifts in lifestyle, it's totally worth the unforgettable experience.