After years of planning, hoping and wishing that this day would come, I wasn’t ready. Yes, leaving the nest is indeed a big adjustment. I ran out of groceries mid-month, I called home for a little help, I left dirty dishes until I ran out of clean teaspoons to use, and although I tried to copy how my parents ran their household, my wallet was much smaller than theirs. There is no manual for how to get by on one’s own. And this birdy clearly wasn’t ready.

My definition of a “comfortable life” has changed. Ready cut vegetables became a distant dream and out-of-the-box furniture was substituted for state-of-the-art second-hand, thrift stores proving to be a blessing. Finding an antique lamp that just needs polishing, old school books to fill a mini book shelf and old-school couches gave my place a homely feel.

In my first 2 months of trial and error, I shifted between proving independence to my inner-self and asking my parents back home for some cash to get through. But my (and other people’s) experiences have helped me produce a short Survival Guide for Newly-Independent Individuals.

Finding a New Nest
Prior to leaving the nest, I needed to know where my new home was going to be situated. Property viewings were a very important step that had to be done as soon as possible. It mostly contained choosing places which would fit the size of my wallet and were within walking/driving distance to my workplace.

Sharing can be a good idea, depending on your budget. It becomes very helpful to split household expenses, which in the long run could help me save money.

Also: the lease agreement. The number of pages can vary from 2 to 15, and yes, the fine print is important. This document provides the rules and regulations – whether you can punch a hole in the wall, paint them or smoke inside the house. You don’t want to be penalised for something just because you failed to read.

Nest Payments
Not the rent, but the municipal payments. What? How? Where? Another thing that my parents did that I’ve never bothered with. Electricity payments forced me to be eco-friendly, but only after they hurt my wallet. I now switch off the geyser during the day, turn off the plugs of unused appliances and switch off outside night lights during the day. These started off as chores but ended up becoming worthwhile habits that save money.

Flocking Around
Mom, dad and siblings are no longer there to drive me around, which means no free rides. If you have your own car, convenience is your best friend, but that it comes at a cost – petrol expenses are no joke. There are alternatives. Taking public transport – taxi, train, bus, Uber – the options are endless. Either way, if you’re consistent, these amounts can stay relatively fixed, allowing you to plan ahead and save money.

Bird Food
Grocery shopping is a constant battle between your desire to make home-made gourmet dishes and saving as much money as you can for other needs. What I do is try to buy similar groceries every month so the expense is consistent. I also try to reduce those unplanned trips to the mall which were initially for bread but instead ended up with me buying 2 pairs of shoes, a goldfish and a gift for my cousin’s neighbour.

Many grocery stores have small recipe books that one may try at home for different kinds of budgets, ranging from about R80-R150 dinner for two people. And I also use last night’s dinner as lunch for the next day, sometimes adding variation to the meal.

Other Birds of the Feather
Leaving the nest is a stage that everyone goes through. Here’s what some of my friends at 22seven had to say about their experiences:

“I pay myself first. I put money into savings sooner rather than later.”
“I limit my take-outs to never. Well I try…”
“I PLAN PLAN PLAN my meals BEFORE the week starts”
“I eat at home, I shop around for specials so I don’t buy from one store, and to save on drinks when going out I always point people at the opposite direction and snatch their drinks. That always seems to work.”

Any experiences or ideas of your own? We’d love to hear them.