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I work 3 jobs so I can live alone and pay £1,550 rent

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Michele can’t imagine living in a houseshare ever again (Picture: Michele Theil)

Wandering from room to room, seeing all the empty shelves and drawers, I felt sad. 

My long-term boyfriend and I had broken up in July 2023 and though he’d moved out immediately, it took him two months to remove all of his stuff from our shared flat.

Now, here I was, living alone for the first time in my life.

Friends had rallied to help me expand into the space and make it feel like home again, but they’d also peppered me with questions about whether I’d considered looking for a new place to live.

The truth was, there had been a moment when I’d thought about moving out of the flat and finding somewhere more affordable to live, such as a houseshare.

But a quick look on Rightmove showed me that all the properties available at the time were significantly smaller than my current flat and not actually that much cheaper.

So, against my friends’ advice and in the face of their concern for my financial situation, I’d decided to stay put. Even if it meant working three jobs.

And despite the fact that my rent and bills make up about 70% of my overall income, I don’t regret that decision for a moment.

Her rent and bills make 70% of her income (Picture: Michele Theil)

I love living alone. I get to do what I want, when I want. And I will gladly work three jobs in order to do that for the rest of my life if I have to.

My ex and I had moved from London to Hertfordshire in December 2022 with a view to ‘settling down’. We liked that it was cheaper than the big smoke – but close enough that we could still easily commute to our jobs – and because we had friends in the area. 

Admittedly, I didn’t like our flat when we first went to view it because of the way the previous tenants had decorated and styled their furniture around the slanted loft ceilings which made the flat seem smaller and less homey than it was. Luckily, he made me realise I was seeing it as it was, rather than what it could be.

It had two bedrooms, which was important to us so we could have that extra space, an open-plan kitchen and living room, and a spacious bathroom.

Plus, it was situated right next to the high street – with Tesco, the local pub, or a cafe within a five minutes walk and the station only 10 minutes away – and came with a free parking space for my car.

Frankly, it was pretty perfect. And after our offer on the flat was accepted, I realised that there was a lot I could do to make it feel like home. 

As soon as we were in my then-boyfriend generally let me have free reign of the decorative side of things.

Her home is her solace (Picture: Michele Theil)

I started hanging pictures and artwork on every wall – just like my house had when I was growing up – and I filled the space with trinkets, postcards and colour, memories of travels and fun experiences with the people I love.

His only real contribution was insisting that his PS4 had to be in the living room accompanied by a ridiculous gaming chair. It simply did not match anything else in the flat, but it was his place too and I didn’t want it to feel like he was a guest rather than a permanent resident. 

Of course, when we broke up, that all changed.

It was anything but amicable and I told him that he couldn’t come back to the flat.

He did fight that decision at first and though I felt bad about essentially forcing him out of our home, as I am estranged from my mum and my dad passed away six years ago, the reality was that I needed the place more. 

Living alone was strange at first.

I missed having someone there to talk to when I got home from work or to share the chores with, and it felt odd just being accountable only to myself. I could walk around naked if I wanted, leave the dishes for days, throw clothes on the floor and the only person that would be bothered would be me. 

I also wasn’t quite ready in those emotional first few months to confront my feelings about the break up. 

Michele’s break up with her boyfriend made her more sociable (Picture: Michele Theil)

Sure, I’d made a conscious effort to take down all the photos of us and the things that reminded me of him, but seeing the empty spaces that were left behind was a constant, painful reminder of what had happened between us. 

After a while though, I realised how amazing it was to live alone. To not be accountable to anyone is a level of freedom that I’d never experienced before, and it was incredible.

I could finally live my life how I wanted. I could go out more – something that I couldn’t do much of when I was with my ex – and when I did, I didn’t have to be home at a certain time.

There was no need to keep the sink clear for fear of how angry someone would get that I hadn’t washed the dishes immediately after using them either, or to make sure I wasn’t encroaching on another person’s space. 

I was even able to come to terms with having ADHD, and how my executive dysfunction means that certain household chores and activities are harder for me to do than others. 

There’s a popular trend on the internet that suggests women tend to ‘glow up’ after a break-up, become happier and have more confidence than when they were dating someone that they weren’t compatible with. And finally, I understood it.

She can walk around naked if she wants (Picture: Michele Theil)

Though breaking up with someone is never nice – and I still think about him and our relationship at times – I managed to make a life for myself without him that was filled with joy. 

A friend once said to me that after the breakup, my personality changed significantly – it was like seeing clouds part and the sun come out.

The only issue really was money.

About five months after my ex moved out, I had to renew my tenancy or give notice that I would be moving out. 

After looking for other places to live, both alone and with roommates, I decided it was just too difficult to condense all my stuff into a significantly smaller space while not seeing a huge reduction in my expenses. 

Plus, it’s also just a lovely place to live and I didn’t want to try to once again make a place feel like home. This was my home, and I wasn’t going anywhere.

So, despite my landlord choosing to increase my rent by £75 per month, I opted to foot the full £1,550 bill alone for at least another year. 

Experts say you should expect to spend only 30 to 40% of your income on rent and bills – mine makes up 70%. 

Michele loves her home (Picture: Michele Theil)

And yes, in order to afford this (and pay off my debt) I work three jobs – as a press officer for a charity through Monday to Friday, at the local pub on weekends, and as a freelance journalist whenever I can.

It also means that sudden and big expenses, such as fixing my car when it failed its MOT and therapy sessions, go on my credit cards, which isn’t the best idea.

Not to mention that I’ve had to say no to going out with friends or going to concerts or only budgeting for one drink with a friend rather than two bottles. 

For a lot of people, this is an exorbitant amount of money and effort just to live somewhere alone. But the thought of living in shared accommodation again – sharing two bathrooms between six people and paying £800 for one bedroom – just doesn’t seem worth it to me.

I would never suggest people get into debt just to live on their own, especially during a cost of living crisis. And don’t get me wrong, the single tax – whereby people who are single end up paying significantly more than if they were splitting costs with a partner – is alive and well. 

Research even found that on average, single people are spending £860 a month more than their coupled-up counterparts.

But for me, living alone is undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done. 

Overall, my rent is still cheaper than what you’d pay for a two-bedroom flat in London, and I am much happier living alone and having that independence. 

I feel free to be who I am, without feeling insecure about it, and do things that make me happy rather than doing things for another person. Despite the crushing debt – which I am trying to whittle down surely but slowly – living alone is worth it.

Personally, I believe everyone should live alone at least once in their lives because you learn a lot about yourself. So, if you can afford it, then I implore you to try it because I’d never give it up for the world.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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