Average Living Expenses for a Single Person

Full article 14 min read
Living Expenses

Find out how much you’ll need to budget for living on your own.

Living on your own in the United States can seem like an intimidating move, but, as a matter of fact, it isn’t impossible, and neither is it as scary as it seems. The key to living comfortably as a single person anywhere in the country is consistency, discipline, and stability in income. These three points are achievable, with a bit of planning and a lot of practice. Nobody gets it right from the start, so expect some missteps along the way. The most important thing you need to get a hold of is how you spend your money daily, monthly, and yearly. To better understand how much money you would need to earn to exist, you first need to know how much it costs to live by yourself.


Budget Planning

When you begin planning a budget either for the month or for the year, there are several things you need to take into account. You will have to decide how to spread your income over different expenditures and which area requires greater priority. Is food a significant expense, or is a lifestyle more important? Do you have a car that requires regular maintenance and a steady flow of gas? Is the neighborhood you live in very expensive in rentals? These questions are some of the few you will have to ask yourself while distributing your income. This will also help you determine how much money you need to earn in a month so that you live comfortably and have a little extra as well to splurge on yourself now and then.

Housing: You certainly need to consider housing because you’ll need a roof over your head, wherever you are. Let us assume that you are living by yourself in a rental. The expenses surrounding this rental will include rent, rental deposit, electricity and utility bills, internet, regular maintenance costs, laundry, housekeeping (if any), and monthly repairs. According to the US Department of Labor, you can expect approximately 36% of your monthly budget dedicated to housing. In general, according to government-generated figures, the average household (whether a family or an individual person) spends approximately $1725 per month on housing, including rent or mortgage, maintenance and insurance fees, and property taxes as and where applicable. If you are a single person, you can easily reduce your monthly expenses on housing compared to families. This also depends on where you live. If you want to live in New York City, in the heart of Manhattan, a single room would cost about $1500 a month, whereas an apartment in North Carolina would cost you about $700.

Transportation: Depending on what kind of transport you use regularly, your monthly transportation costs will vary. If you have a car of your own, you would have to factor in car maintenance and cleaning, oil changes, repairs, gas consumption, and parking charges (depending on where you live). The average monthly expenditure on gas and fuel charges comes to about $176, while monthly car insurance payments average at about $119.If you are using public transport, you’ll have to find out the common modes of public transport (the frequency of metros, buses, and taxis) and what is most convenient in the area you live. US transportation costs tend to be the second biggest expenditure in a monthly budget. You can expect a total monthly average expenditure of around $800 for transportation (irrespective of private or public modes of transport).

Healthcare: While there are some standard costs you can include in your monthly budget for healthcare, like health insurance, it is important to note that healthcare can also vary from person to person about personal ailments and genetic diseases. Depending on your personal needs, you will have to calculate how much to put aside for healthcare. The cost of healthcare will also vary depending on which part of the country you live in. Healthcare costs might be higher in states like California versus Ohio. It would help if you also thought about any emergencies in the month and set aside some money for emergency care. The average cost (including the cheapest possible low-tier insurance plan) for health care of a single person in New York City amounts to $425, whereas that of someone living in Idaho would be about $340.


Food: Needless to say, food is an integral part of our daily existence and requires a respectable amount of attention during budget planning. This not only entails all the times you eat out or have drinks with your friends, but also the groceries you buy for cooking at home, your breakfast cereals and milk, bread and cheese, and all the other food items you like to snack on. While the monthly food budget can vary from person to person, primarily based on their age, lifestyle, ailments, or eating habits, the average monthly expenditure on food for a single person comes to about $370. Of this amount, $198 goes towards groceries and supplies, while $172 is spent on eating out. But the monthly food budget can range from $200 to $700, depending on the individual’s habits and eating patterns. You can find ways to adjust this budget by cutting corners, like eating out less, buying only what you need for home cooking, cutting down on fast food and junk food, and following a healthy and strict diet.

Cell Phone: It is nearly impossible to stay connected socially or professionally without a cell phone in today’s world. We need it for work, family and friends, medical emergencies, and even book tickets to travel. When buying a cell phone, you have to think of the network you are choosing, what data plan you’ll need, and whether or not you require roaming networks as well, depending on how much you use the phone while traveling. The average monthly wireless fees range between $35 and $140 for a family plan. But if you are on your own and you cannot afford a fancy network coverage plan, then you can go as low as $10 per month for basic cell phone service (without any data).

Utilities: Utility bills are always on the higher side if you’ve just bought a house, but they are just as important when you are renting. Utility costs involve a lot of different things, such as the size of your home or apartment, how insulated it is, how much you set your thermostat at, and the weather conditions, depending on which part of the country you are in. For instance, if you were living on your own in Hawaii, the average electricity expenditure would amount to approximately $150, while natural gas consumption would bill at $224. But if you are a resident of New Mexico, the same would cost you about $50 and $80, respectively.

Clothing: While we all need clothing for everyday life, a considerable amount of money is spent every month on clothing (fashion or daily wear). The purchases include everything from underwear to exercise gear to footwear to formalwear and the latest trends and accessories. The monthly expenses on clothing vary from age group to age group and income range. The average monthly expenditure for a single person between ages 25 and 34 amounts to about $160, while the same for the 35 to 44 age bracket comes to $210.

Fitness: You need to take your fitness and health regimes seriously, as well, and not treat them like trends you follow. If you want to survive on your own, you will have to make provisions for fitness to have the stamina to support yourself in the long term. Your fitness budget doesn’t just include a gym membership or a pair of running shoes but also everything that keeps you healthy and sane. If this includes therapeutic and recreational classes, workshops, counseling sessions, or renting a studio for group workouts, consider these activities a part of your fitness budget. While the bills can run high in this department, you can also make a lot of cuts here because you can lead a healthy and active lifestyle for a lot less than you think. If you are a regular gym-goer, then the average monthly cost of a gym membership would be $58. But if you’re not regular, the yearly $696 that you’ll be paying isn’t worth the investment. You would instead go for a jog in the nearby park for free.


Understanding Your Monthly Budget

The average monthly cost of living alone in the United States ranges from $3000 to $5500, depending on the individual’s personal spending habits. Now, this can be over budget for you, so the question isn’t how much you earn, but how you can live with less money. This would involve a lot of frugal spending, finding deals and discounts that help you save, and living within your means after keeping some money aside for savings. The 50-20-30 rule can do wonders. This means, out of your income, you should keep 50% aside for essential monthly expenses, 20% to be saved, and 30% for any other costs you have. If you cut corners, plan wisely and live mindfully on a shoestring budget, you can easily live alone with a monthly expenditure of about $2000. It does help if you live in a state that isn’t as metropolitan and busy as New York or California.


Living alone can be the scariest chapter of your life, but the greatest one, too. It is an adventure that involves self-discovery, being independent, exploring different areas and activities, and coming in contact with all kinds of people and cultures. Not only do you have the freedom to live as you like, but you also shoulder the responsibility that comes along with it. Learning how to spend your money significantly impacts your life and can distinguish between loving living alone and dreading it.


Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the 50-30-20 budget rule?

The 50-20-30 budget rule is a technique used to manage money. When you receive your paycheck, you must divide it into three sections. The first section would be 50% of your income, allotted to essential expenses. The second section would be 20% of your income, which is meant to be saved. And finally, the third section, 30% is for anything else you want to spend on. With this technique, you can spend wisely, live comfortably, and save enough money for the future.

Is it worth living alone?

Living alone at least once in your life is a very important experience. When you live alone, it might feel like an impossible challenge to meet every expectation you have of yourself. While it may seem very intimidating to live by yourself, it is an excellent opportunity to explore yourself, find out what you like and dislike, understand what comforts and activities you truly enjoy, and, finally, gauge how you spend your income on different things.

How much should you save from each paycheck?

If you follow the 50-20-30 money management technique, you should take 20% of your monthly income and put it directly into savings. This has been proven to be helpful in long-term savings and accountable spending.

How much does it cost for one person to live per month?

The average monthly living cost for a single person amounts to about $3190, and the yearly cost of $38,300.

How much do you need to live alone?

If you want to live well on a monthly basis, keeping in mind you earn a decent enough salary, you should allot about $2000 from your income for monthly living expenditures. If you can live frugally and save money every month, chances are you can live comfortably within this budget.

See also: Top Rated Moving Companies in the U.S.

Written by

Alex Sherr is the founder of My Long Distance Movers, a blog that provides moving information and resources for people who are relocating. He has more than two decades of experience in the moving and relocation industry, and he is passionate about helping people relocate smoothly and efficiently. When he's not writing or blogging, Alex enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.