Updated on 01.05.15

How to Save Money When You’re Single

Crock pot slow cooker

Crock pots are great, but they’re not the only way for singles to save money. Photo: Janine

If you’re single and haven’t been told to buy a crock pot, consider yourself lucky. It’s probably a sign that you’re doing a fine job making ends meet and saving money for retirement.

Buying a slow cooker is probably one of the more popular refrains when it comes to frugal living tips for singles. And with good reason: Those with a crock pot spend far less money dining out, right? Put some food in the pot before you head to work each morning and, voila, when you come home, dinner is served, and there’s enough left over for the next day, too.

All of this is important because single people who lived alone in 2013 spent, on average, $3,654 on food, more than 40% of which was for dining out, according to the federal government’s Consumer Expenditure Survey. By contrast, a family of four only spent about $2,400 per person.

So there’s clearly some room for cutting back among singles when it comes to food expenditures and eating habits. But there’s savings to be had in other areas as well among this segment of the population, according to various financial experts.

In a world bursting with new technology and new offerings in the sharing economy, what are some of the latest ideas to help singles spend less or offset living costs? As we embark upon 2015, perhaps start thinking outside the box a little when it comes to cutting costs. Here are a few ideas:

Offset Car Costs with Peer-to-Peer Services

If you haven’t heard of peer-to-peer services such as Lyft, Uber, or Taskrabbit, it’s time to get up to speed because they can help offset your car costs. And with the average cost of operating a car hovering around $9,000 annually, according to auto club AAA, this is one area you can definitely recoup a bit of money.

Let’s start with Taskrabbit, which is in 19 cities and counting. This peer-to-peer service allows you to run errands for people in your community who need help. Taskers, as they’re called, do shopping, make deliveries, and many other things.

On his way back from a friend’s house, the airport, or grocery shopping, business writer and Internet analyst Brad Hines says he will occasionally go “on duty” and do an errand for Taskrabbit, turning the trip into a profitable one.

You can, too. Especially if you’re single and don’t have family obligations requiring you to rush home.

Lyft, meanwhile, is a ride-sharing service that matches drivers with passengers who request rides through a smartphone app. The company pays drivers up to $35 an hour. That extra income is taxed, but miles you drive while on duty are tax deductible. This year’s government rate is 56 cents a mile.

Ride-sharing app Uber operates in a similar way; learn how to make money driving for Uber here.

Finally, what about giving up your car altogether? If you’re able to walk, bike, or take public transit to work and other essential destinations, you might only need a car for weekend trips or for the occasional big shopping run. Consider whether using a car-sharing service such as ZipCar could save you money.

Entertainment

It’s never been easier to say goodbye to expensive cable television providers, what with Amazon Prime, Netflix, Roku, and more.

As a single person who may spend little time at home, why pay more than $100 every month for cable television you barely watch? Instead, sign up for an Amazon Prime or Netflix account and watch videos and movies for free.

Or buy a Roku, a small black box that connects to your television, allowing you to stream TV shows and movies, even Netflix and Blockbuster on Demand. Many people are unaware of just how much content is available via Roku, which involves a one-time cost of about $78 (a lot cheaper than spending upwards of $1,200 annually on cable).

I bought a Roku months ago after canceling my cable and haven’t paid a bill to watch television or movies since. It’s amazing how good that feels each month.

Offset Mortgage or Rental Costs

If your home or apartment has extra space, why not make money from it to offset your mortgage or rent?

Airbnb is probably one of the safest and most popular approaches to doing this. Started in 2008, Airbnb is a website where people can list extra rooms or entire homes for rent. There’s no charge to post rentals on the site, which now has more than 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities throughout 192 countries.

Texas-based financial advisor Katie Brewer, who specializes in working with Gen X and Gen Y, will often ask such clients: If you have a three-bedroom house, what’s worth more to you — having all that space to yourself all the time, or extra money to pay the mortgage or rent? Read more about making money as an Airbnb host here.

Discounted Dining Out via Living Social or Groupon

Back to the subject of singles and food expenses: Cooking a meal for just you or eating alone isn’t always fun. So if you’re going to dine out, take advantage of restaurants that offer specials on certain nights and, more importantly, consider signing up for websites like Groupon and Living Social. Both regularly provide discounted dining opportunities.

An added bonus: Both sites also provide discounts on a ton of activities that can make for great dates, says Kevin Maher, a community outreach coordinator with Debthelper.com, a nonprofit debt and credit counseling service. 

Own Less Stuff and Make Money From What You Do Own

Do you have a snowboard you don’t use much anymore? Or perhaps a great road bike that you rarely ride? The latest chapter in the peer-to-peer economy involves renting out your household items that perhaps you don’t use every day.

There are now websites, such as Zilok, that function as middlemen, allowing you to make money renting out such items.

The flip side of this trend is the ability to save money by renting items that you might normally spend money buying. Everything from ladders to espresso machines is available on Zilok, so the next time you have the urge to run to the store and buy something — particularly something you wouldn’t use every day — consider renting it instead.

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