'How I’ve learnt to love single & renting life’

Can you describe a bit about you and your life in London Fields?

I'm a 29 year old single female, working full time in the charity sector and also studying part time in the evenings for an undergraduate degree. I've lived in London since I was 19 and have been in my current flat for over 4 years. I’m very happily renting in London Fields - it’s unlikely to be forever so I'm making sure to enjoy this chapter of my life whilst it lasts!

What is your current living arrangement?

I live in London Fields in a split level flat with 3 other people - the bedrooms are downstairs, and upstairs we have a big living space and a roof terrace. I pay £650 per month plus bills for a room with enough space for a desk and a nice armchair. There is absolutely no way I would ever be able to afford to buy my own place here unless I won the lottery (which I don't enter) or commit some kind of bank heist.

What is the best thing about your living arrangement?

So many things! We're right in the thick of it, and everything I could possibly ever want (cinema, yoga classes, cocktail bars, endless varieties of restaurants) or need (DIY shop, dentist, GP, post office, bike mechanic) is within a 10 min walk. I've been known to go for a swim at the lido and wander home in my swimsuit and towel because it's so close. I also love to go stand up paddleboarding on the canal with friends, particularly when we end up at a hip canalside bar in Hackney Wick on a sunny evening. Cycling is also incredibly important to me, and this location not only allows me to get around easily but also to bring my bike up in the lift and store it inside my flat for extra security. Most importantly, I love the family vibe that I've built with my flatmates, who’ve all come and gone via SpareRoom over the time I've been here.

What are the downsides of your living arrangement?

London Fields has become a bit of a victim of its own success and has been dubbed the new Clapham, which makes me want to vom. Also, our landlord has a fairly abstract interpretation of urgency when it comes to repairs, but I'm glad that I don't have to pay for them when they do eventually happen. Lastly, I’d point out that it’s difficult to get any time to yourself in a shared flat - which mostly doesn’t bother me unless I’ve got a hot date!

Have your financial priorities or perspectives changed since you started living in London?

I used to be a freelance TV producer, so I mean it when I say that my financial priority was simply survival. Despite working hard and putting in long hours, being a freelancer meant constantly having to chase people for money and experiencing endless job insecurity. I used to lie awake at night worrying about being able to make my monthly rent payment and resenting the precariousness and uncertainty of it all. Nowadays, I’m incredibly lucky to have a secure job which allows me to plan for the future and to study for my degree in the evenings. I’ll graduate next year and I’m really excited about all of the opportunities on the horizon. I’m all about making the most of it in terms of both lifestyle and financial priorities - I’m able to strike an amazing balance between saving and living a really nice life, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

How do you feel emotionally about your living situation?

Despite my best efforts (involving some epic stand up paddleboarding dates) I've been single the whole time I've lived in London, and I'm also an anxious person who absolutely hates uncertainty. Both of these factors combined make me squirm because I’m unable to predict if I'll meet someone who could go halves on buying a place together. However, it's not lost on me how lucky I am to be able to randomly decide on a Tuesday morning to go and see a world class West End musical the same day, or to cycle to uni in 20 mins (whoosh!) or to be able to wander out of my flat and get an unusual flavour of Fanta at a Turkish supermarket at 11pm on a Sunday. When I'm old and boring, I know for certain that I'll look back on this period of time in my life and miss it for these reasons and more.

Have you been able to save money while renting?

The (relatively) low cost of my rent and the fact that I get to split the household bills 4 ways means that I've actually been able to save up a fairly decent deposit whilst living here. Being able to share stuff with my flatmates (within reason) helps save money on buying items like kitchen gadgets, bike repair tools and camping gear too. Despite having a deposit ready to go, I just can't borrow enough by myself on the salary that I'm on, at least not without moving very far away from my job, uni, friends and the independent lifestyle that I’ve described, and at the moment these things are more important to me than owning a home.

Tell me more about dating and how that plays into buying?

I am a big planner when it comes to money. I have a huge spreadsheet with all of the account balances on it and keep a close eye on my income and outgoings. Despite this, my salary as a single person is not enough for me to get a mortgage, which means that meeting someone and buying using two salaries combined would be the most simple and direct solution. But frustratingly this isn’t something I can control! I do have loads of fun whilst dating, but each time something doesn’t work out with someone I like, there’s an element of housing anxiety mixed in with the usual emotions. On the flipside, the idea of being tied into a mortgage with someone who turns out to be a dickhead is equally as terrifying.

What are your thoughts on potentially moving away to afford a home?

I moved to London when I was 19 years old with not a lot of money and even fewer friends, and in the 10 years since, I’ve discovered such an amazing community that I’m really reluctant to leave. I’ve met people from all walks of life, volunteered for some great causes and learned so much about myself and the world around me in the process. I’m lucky to have a wide variety of interests and hobbies, so I probably could find some like minded people elsewhere, but starting from scratch would take an amount of effort that I’m not quite ready to commit to yet. I want to enjoy what I have here for a little bit longer. I’m not currently prepared to move miles away to afford a home because it wouldn’t have the people in and around it who mean so much to me.

Do you feel that you’ve made peace with not buying?

I’m not sure I have a positive answer for this one sorry - I mean it when I say that I love my current situation, but not having access to the later life security that owning a home provides pisses me off in a very significant way.

Do you have any specific dreams or desires for your living situation?

The dream is to have a kitchen all to myself! Only having half a cupboard for all my ingredients and other cooking paraphernalia is not enough space and it drives me a bit wild. I’d also like to have some chickens and maybe grow my own vegetables, and to have a spare room so that I can have guests come and stay with greater ease. Finally, if we’re going really big on the dreams, I’d like to live somewhere where I can own a piano at some point - my family had one which was over 100 years old, but my parents got rid of it when they moved house a couple of years ago and I’m absolutely gutted (perhaps should have practised more/less often?)