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11 rules for living alone

November 07, 2005

Are you splurging all your hard-earned cash on fancy restaurants, partying and shopping sprees?

No doubt, retail therapy provides temporary relief from your umpteen bouts of loneliness and stressful phases.

But what about those rainy days when you suddenly feel broke and have to start counting your pennies to tide you by?

For all you singletons surviving away from family, Get Ahead readers recommend some simple commandants to help you thrive in your new city of residence.

It was November 2000. At last, I was on my way to Mumbai from Pune to live on my own, away from parental security and an assured lifestyle.

Before I reached Mumbai, I had known of a couple of guys who were living alone and would go broke in the second week itself. So I had a pocket diary with me -- a habit I still have -- in which I wrote all my expenses, including paan (a post-Friday lunch treat) or biscuits or vada pav.

Ridiculous as it may sound, it helped me realise these so-called miscellaneous expenses amounted to 25 percent of my total expenses. Besides, it was unhealthy to boot. In came the dabba (tiffin) service and a change in my dietary consumption.

Now, not only was I eating nutritious food, I was also saving a lot. Mumbai offers you a varied choice -- near vada pav stalls, you will find fruit plate vendor with chaas.


  1. Avoid autos and cabs, try and use the bus (they are fast and cheap).
  2. Go to movies after having your regular meal. Don't try and impress a girl by buying snacks at a theatre -- they cost 20 % more
  3. When it comes to your cellphone, talk more if you have an incoming call. Use night packages to the hilt.
  4. If you are staying with roommates, take the initiative and budget monthly expenses. Take everyone's contribution as soon as everyone's salary is credited.
  5. Bargain, bargain, bargain…We bought 17" Aiwa TV after pitting one shopkeeper against the other.
  6. It pays to keep the bai (maid) happy; bais are hard to find and charge a premium if they have to work for bachelors. Talk politely and praise her for her good work. Share your good food with her (I learnt this from mom). Not only will she spread the good word about you in your society; she will also wash extra clothes without a fuss. My bai voluntarily cleaned my new flat and refused to take money for it because she liked the way I treated her.
  7. Maintain an expenses dairy. Analyse it every month and learn from your expenses.
  8. Show the diary to your parents/ siblings; they might have a word of advice. My sister suggested I buy a big bottle of washing powder instead of sachets. Not only was it more cost friendly, I also got a bucket for free.


  1. You will find that you spend 10-20 percent more in the first fortnight than you do in the second. For example, if you go for a movie in the first fortnight, you will go by cab and spend on sandwiches, samosas and ice cream. If you are seeing a movie towards the end of the month, you will probably just have your travel and ticket costs.
  2. Avoid malls unless there is a sale. Also, look for factory outlets. You will save a lot. One of my roomates shopped at the Pantaloon factory outlet while the other preferred Shoppers Stop and saved quite a bit.
  3. Pretend you don't have a credit card till the 20th of the month unless you are the kind who is thrifty with money. If you fall in the thrifty category, do use your card and earn reward points.
  4. Make sure you do not end up spending unnecessarily with your friends.
  5. Be careful about whom you lend to. One of my roommates was in the film industry and used to borrow a lot of money -- not because he was struggling, which he was, but for his drinks, cigarettes, etc. Within two years, he owed my other two roommates a lot of money. Now, they crib about their absconding friend.

- Sachin Katariya, 29, part of the marketing team at an IT firm, lived in Mumbai from November 2000 to January 2004.

I started living alone when I came to Mumbai to join work.

The most immediate problem was to find a house. I found a pretty good one in Andheri, though slightly expensive, with the caveat that I had to find other roommates also. That proved slightly hard and caused some friction with the landlord.

Fortunately, another friend found the place nice and decided to move in. We did not have access to the landlord's kitchen, except for water and morning tea. We did have an a/c that we were frightened to switch on because of the electricity bill we might have had to pay.

Since breakfast and lunch were in the office, food was not such a big problem. However, it did lead to a lot of added kilos around the waist.

Rule # 1 - Search for a nice old aunty who cooks food at her home and is willing to send it to you for a fee. At least the oil will be fresh every time she uses it.

Later on, I moved in with some other friends who had an entire flat and a kitchen. It's just amazing what hot fresh food does to you.

Rule # 2 - Transportation is not a problem in Mumbai.

Weekends were spent going to Churchgate to catch movies, shopping and ogling at the women. After all, we were all single guys in this big city. The roadside book vendors were a great help with cheap, returnable books.

Rule # 3 - Learn to bargain hard when buying anything, except food, on the street.

Rule # 4 - Learn to read books as a way to kill time, especially on weekends where you don't have too much money to spend :-).

Rule # 5 - In case books are too boring, buy a TV. A radio isn't good enough as it still leaves your mind wandering. TV hooks you up completely. A TV is also a good means of making friends with people who stay over as they don't have a TV at their place :-).
Rule # 6 - Find a maid who can cook and clean. Make sure she's trustworthy enough to give the home keys to so that she can work even in your absence.

Rule # 7 - Learn to make basic food: Maggi, bread toast, MTR ready-to-eat, etc. Comes in handy when the maid takes a day off.

Rule # 8 - Keep menu cards and phone numbers of all the nearby shops that will deliver to your place: grocery shops, restaurants, chemist, wine shop, etc.

Rule # 9 - Sometimes, my parents would start feeling pretty bad about leaving me alone. In such situations, allay their fears lest they might force you to go back.

Rule # 10 - Never cry while talking to your parents. Smile even if eating burnt toast and raw onions. Why give them so much trouble?

Rule # 11 - Most important, never forget your responsibilities towards your family, current or future.

Be clear on how you want to use your money. If you need to save for your family, be disciplined about it.

- Apoorva Tiwari, Mumbai

I have been living alone in Mohali (10 kms from Chandigarh) for the last two years; it has been a learning and growing experience for me!

I managed to find a nice, comfortable one room-kitchen for myself in one of the huge mansions commonly known as kothis here.

Wanting to live on my own and fend for myself was one of the dreams I had nurtured right from childhood and this was indeed a dream come true. But the transition from living in a fast moving, cosmopolitan city like Mumbai for 23 years and suddenly moving to a quiet, solitary locale like Mohali was indeed different.

I have taken to cleaning and cooking since I have been to myself but, yes, it is advisable to find a bai so you can outsource cleaning activities. It is also necessary to clear issues about friends and frequent visitors with the landlord even before you move in, so there are no queries raised later.

I have now adapted myself completely to this place; in Mumbai, for example, I ventured out of home whenever I wanted to but here it's a clear no-no to step out of home after seven in the evening.

I have understood that living alone reveals latent details about one's self; I have discovered so many things about myself which I would have never known otherwise.

Hence, all you out there wanting to take on this world on your own, please go ahead; it is the right mover after all!

- Anusha Raju, 25, software engineer, Mohali

I've been living in Glasgow, UK for the last three years as a student. Having grown up in a joint family and never been away from them, it's been tough to get accustomed to the solitary life here.

Three years on I still miss my family; sometimes, I even feel like returning back for good.

But, apart from missing my family and friends, I've got to grips with most aspects of a solitary life, if not all.

My advice to anyone living alone, or planning to live alone in the future, is not to accumulate work. Be it washing the dishes or doing the laundry, it's a lot easier when it's only a single plate and cup to be washed rather than a pile of dishes in the sink.

Considering the importance of paying bills on time, it is worthwhile to invest in a little notice board on which you can stick bills.

Bachelors… you don't necessarily have to keep your room disorganised.

There are times when loneliness strikes in and makes one feel depressed. I've found the gym to be good place to be in when feeling lonely; I meet a lot of fellow students in a relaxing mood and that cheers me up a bit. An occasional get-together with friends, a game of squash or badminton is another good way to avoid feeling lonely.

The worst situation is not being able to sleep at nights due to loneliness. The best way to cope with this situation is to have a heavy workout at the gym so that, when you reach home, you fall asleep even before you hit the bed.

- Mohammed Usman, 25, PhD research student, Glasgow, UK

I moved to Mumbai in 2003. I was coming direct from a hostel, so the biggest culture shock was suddenly NOT living with 200 like-minded people. Surprisingly, it was not as bad as I expected it to be.

I moved into a shared accommodation with some guys in a software company. We would always eat together from our dabbas, have early morning chai at the corner stall, steal each other's music, movies...

I have a naturally high tolerance to messiness, so I would just relax till someone got fed up with the disorder and cleaned up.

The worst bit was finally washing your own clothes, since nobody'll do THAT for you.

But... it's been fun. Gradually saving up and slowly buying all those things that make life worth living like a TV, CVD player, music system, washing machine... moving in with other friends in other flats...

The best part? Definitely the feeling -- and ability -- to just take off any Friday night, sometimes partying, sometimes trekking over the weekend in the Sahyadris, sometimes raiding the neighbourhood VCD guy and doing marathon movie sessions, sometimes just crashing at someone's place and sleeping the whole day with pizza breaks...  A sense of complete, no-need-to-answer-to-anyone freedom to do what you want.

As long as you took care of the rest of the week, on weekends you were the king of the world. I made sure I never, ever carried work home or worked extra on a Saturday. It's just not worth it.

- Ashish Tewari, account manager, Starcom IP, Mumbai



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Number of User Comments: 8

Sub: WHAT???

How unsuccesful or underpaid are you for you to live like this? This is worse than probably how my driver lives! Lord have mercy on ...

Posted by Rohit Wadhwaney

Sub: ya its bit difficult to stay away from home.

ya it was difficult for me in the beginning to stay thousands of kilometers away from. But eventually I learnt it. I started staying away ...

Posted by Shikha Sood

Sub: my mantra of living alone

I moved from my parental house to guwahati for joining my new job in 2002. Here are my mantras for living alone and happily: Rule ...

Posted by shaswat boruah

Sub: living alone

hi, i lived past 16 years away from home, (now i am 27 yr old) never felt alone. may be the soceity which i may ...

Posted by praveen r

Sub: regarding living alone.

what ever the thing r written is true and fact in the present life which we r living but would like to avoid the same ...

Posted by rashmindave


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