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What Not to Do When You Live Alone

You're living alone for the first time, congratulations! Living on your own and learning to take care of yourself is a big step toward adulthood, but having your own space means you're responsible for everything, including the financial side of things. Take it from me; I've been living on my own for the last six years and I'm here to help save you some money and time by sharing these five mistakes to avoid when living on your own for the first time. Don't forget to save some cash before moving out. Living on your own is an exciting adventure, and an expensive one. While there isn't really a perfect way to prepare financially, saving money in advance versus using a credit card is one of the smartest things you can do. If you aren't financially able to put down a security deposit and still have some cash left over for groceries, then you may want to live at home for a little longer while you save. Or, consider getting a roommate to reduce your expenses. Don't forget about all the things your new place is going to need, like toilet paper and somewhere to sit. Obviously the more you can save the better, but you don't need a million bucks to strike out on your own. Don't spend too much money decorating your first place. You can find used furniture at thrift stores, repurpose old furniture or buy inexpensive items like a card table to serve as a dining room table. Investing in fancy furniture may not be the best bet for your first apartment, and you never know where you might be in the next five years, so stick with what you can afford for now. Don't leave the lights on or the water running. There's a reason your parents wanted you to turn off the lights in a room you're not in and shut off the water while you're brushing your teeth -- they were paying the bills and the more energy and services you use, the more that bill is going to be. Now that you're on your own, it's your name on the bill and your responsibility to pay it. Basically, don't waste your resources by leaving lights on or taking hour long showers. When you get your first bill you'll know why. You can find other energy saving tips at energy.gov. Don't eat out too often. Let's say you go out and eat a burger and fries for dinner and it costs $8. If you went to a grocery store instead and bought a package of burger patties for $3.49, a bag of frozen French fries for $2.99 and hamburger buns for $1.19, your total would come to $7.67. Not only have you saved a few cents, but now if you can have several meals for a fraction of the cost. Sure, eating out is faster, tastier at times and much more fun, but eating out regularly will drain your income. Once you start realizing the amount of money that your morning latte and daily lunch dates cost, you'll start brown-bagging your lunches and making coffee at home instead. Don't get lazy tracking your income. We all wish our wallets were bottomless pits of cash, but that isn't the case. The unfortunate reality is that most of our incomes are limited and that there are necessities that need to be paid for. If you spend money without tracking where it's going, you're going to wake up one day wondering what happened to all your cash. You don't even need a fancy program or spreadsheet. Just take a sheet of paper, write down your monthly bills and how much they cost, assign a dollar amount for things like entertainment (movies, festivals, bar nights, etc.), groceries, etc., and then don't spend any more money than what you have on that sheet of paper. When you make a payment write it down and when you purchase something not on your list, write that down, too. At the end of the month, you'll know exactly where your money was spent. Avoiding these five mistakes will keep you and your wallet happy when you finally find a place that's all your own.