This post originally appeared on Levo League.
Living alone when you’re fresh out of college may seem impossible with that entry-level salary and the influx of new bills of adulthood, but plenty of recent graduates are hacking a way their way to independence. After all, having a space to walk around in your skivvies, free of roommate drama and friends pillaging your leftovers is priceless.
So how do these Millennials do it? That’s where Levo comes in. We asked readers from New York City to Nashville who make less than $40,000 a year to tell us how they stretch their hard-earned dollars to afford a solo sanctuary that they can call home. Read on to move into some square footage of your own:
Brooklyn, N.Y. “I was an NBC Universal Page when I moved to New York City. I don’t like sharing my personal space, so living alone was the perfect option for me. To save money, I chose not to live in Manhattan and found my Bedford Stuyvesant studio on Craigslist. During the first few months of living in Brooklyn, I had to be frugal with my spending. Don’t be afraid of paid overtime to help stretch your funds. Not only will you make extra money, but you can also get further ahead in your career by showing your enthusiasm to work. Once your bills are paid, look for free parties and happy hours for socializing.” —Keith, 25, music programming
Knoxville, Tenn. “After I graduated from college, I moved into my own apartment in Knoxville, Tenn. and started a job in the fashion industry. One tip that helped me maintain my finances is the envelope trick. Put all your money in designated envelopes in order to stay on time with your bills. Also, take measures to save money by cutting off utilities when you leave your home for long periods of time. Adjust your thermostat, remove all your plugs, and turn off the lights to make sure you’re saving where you can.” —Courtney, 26, social media optimization specialist and fashion blogger
Washington, D.C. “I saw leaving my parents’ home as a chance to establish complete independence. It felt surreal to get my keys in-hand to my very own apartment. My advice would be to have friends over and split the cost for wine, rather than going out all the time. I stick strictly with happy hours for spur-of-the moment hangouts and plan more costly hangouts in advance. I wish someone would have told me how quickly money spends on “wants.” Clothes, makeup and Starbucks that aren’t living expenses added up for me almost faster than I could count. Be mindful of overspending on these things. Even though it will be difficult, I suggest living alone as an experiment in maturity. As soon as you can, seek opportunities for promotion at your current job or look for new ones. After I got my feet wet with this first experience, I was able to calculate my ideal salary that would allow me to live comfortably. When I landed my next job, I was able to increase my salary by about $15,000, which made a huge difference.” —Crystal, 25, media strategist
Los Angeles “I was an editorial assistant when I lived alone in North Hollywood in Los Angeles. I loved living alone because roommates were too much drama. Living alone was a bit lonely at times, but now that I live in New York City with a roommate, I wish someone would have told me to enjoy my freedom. My best advice is to figure out where your money goes and figure out how to cut cost in that area. In Los Angeles, gas was the most expensive part of my spending. To save money, I took the bus and carpooled as much as possible.” —Mary, 31, marketing associate
Atlanta “I am an only child so I don’t live well with other people. I took on three jobs as I entered my graduate school program in Atlanta. To keep up with my bills, I set up automatic payments to ensure my bills were paid on time. My mother has always taught me to make sure I save at least three months worth of expenses for back up just incase I ever lose my job or had an emergency. Make sure to have a savings to survive a couple months without falling in a hole.” —Jasmine, 25, paraprofessional
Brooklyn, N.Y. “When deciding to live alone, start off with as little debt as possible. You are going to need a lot of credit for emergencies, so credit card debt will not work. If you are looking for additional funds to have for socializing, try working a part-time job or start a side hustle monetizing one of your passions.” —Andrew, 26, audiovisual technician
Atlanta “Living alone is such a liberating experience! I did the roommate thing throughout college, so this was my chance to step out and have a place of my own. I’d say one of the biggest things I sacrificed was eating out all the time. I had to cook more, which saved me a lot of money. As a result of me cooking, I brought my lunch to work as well as my coffee. I also didn’t go shopping as much and when I did, I looked for deals. I’d treat myself every now and then, but I made sure it was within my budget before I swiped my card.” —Kandra, 26, mortgage loan coordinator
Nashville “I live alone in Nashville, Tenn. but as the growing popularity of Music City brings more Millennials to the city the more rent increases every year. One thing that helps me is having tangible money to spend. I can see and count it, which keeps me within my budget instead of over swiping my card. I also used Pinterest to find cheap ways to make cleaning products and other home goods, and I thrift to save money on clothes.” —Terranise, 25, support coach
New York City “I am a recent graduate who lives alone because I had no choice. My parents live on the west coast and I moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone. My advice is to learn to say no to going out sometimes. Going out for dinners and drinks is by far the biggest part of my budget and that will drain your bank account really fast. Also, if you’re in a position where your parents can help you out, be open and honest with them about your needs and their expectations from you.” —Taryn, 23, publicity/production page
Berkeley, Calif. “I moved to Berkeley for my graduate program and worked several jobs for income. I used my fellowship and stipend to help with the cost of a studio not far from the school, where I could take the bus using the student pass or bike to class. My best is advice is not to be afraid to adapt to a new lifestyle. The biggest thing is that you are in charge of everything and it’s up to you to find out where your money is coming from and how you spend it. Mint.com helped me keep track of how I was spending my money each month. It’s like an online checkbook and you put in your budget and how much you want to spend in different categories.” —Spencer, 25, editorial assistant
Tampa, Fla. “Don’t let your salary limit you from truly living how you want to. Invest your money in things that are going to benefit you. I love kickboxing, so one of my bills is for a boxing gym membership. Although it’s an extra bill, I’m investing in living an active lifestyle. I make sure I have a social life and I refuse to let my salary define my lifestyle. However, there is nothing wrong with having discipline in your spending. Take advantage of Groupon deals, coupons and ways to cut costs online. It really helps!” —Alexandria, 25, member relations associate
RELATED: The Budget-Happiness Balance
Chicago “I wish someone would have told me the joys of living alone. I was excited to have a studio in the city, but my public relations fellowship made it challenging. In order to balance my finances and social life, I limited what I agreed to do with friends, and I only went for drinks and meals places that had special food and drink deals on certain days.” —Stacia, 27, marketing communications associate.