For many people, moving into their own place for the first time comes with a feeling that they’ve “made it.” (No roommates! Yes!) But making it doesn’t come cheap. The national median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,220, according to a 2020 report by online rental listing service Zumper. Of course, that number will vary depending on where you choose to live. In San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., the median rent for a one-bedroom is a whopping $3,520. And living outside urban areas doesn’t guarantee financial relief: Small cities have seen some of the largest rent increases in the U.S. in recent years. 

Thanks to rising rents, there’s often precious little left over for other life goals. In fact, 53%of individuals say that at the end of each month, they’re left with little to no funds, according to a new survey of more than 3,000 adults from Thrive Global and Discover. Even with roommates to share the burden with, forking over a huge chunk of your paycheck for rent can be a significant source of stress. And this money stress can have a significant impact on both our emotional and physical well-being. Research shows prolonged stress can weaken the immune system and increase risk factors for everything from heart disease to diabetes. 

So when Allyson, a freelance video host who had just turned 30, decided that she was ready to live alone in New York City (median one-bedroom rentals: $3,000), she knew that the financial decisions she was about to make had implications for her overall well-being — not just her bank account. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, Allyson took a cue from the latest brain science: Rather than bite off more than she could chew, she started with Microsteps, which are small, science-backed actions you can start taking immediately to build habits that significantly improve every area of your life, including your finances. 

To help get a sense of her odds of being approved for a lease, Allyson used Discover’s Credit Scorecard to access her FICO® Credit Score for free. (90% of top lenders use FICO® credit scores.) Landlords and property managers use your credit score as a tool to size up how good you will be at handling payments and determine your eligibility. Once you’re aware of your score, you’ll be more prepared to answer questions about it with ease — which will go a long way toward making the apartment search less stressful. 

Determined to be mindful of her spending habits as she planned for her new home, Allyson also took a close look at where her money was going — which is the first step to take before you actually cut back on your budget. This simple Microstep, in fact, can be a game-changer for achieving your financial goals. 

Ultimately, Allyson was able to get “a really great space for something I could afford and feel comfortable with.” In her new apartment, Allyson doesn’t have the stress of living paycheck to paycheck — a reality for 78% of American workers, according to Gallagher’s 2019 Organizational Wellbeing & Talent Insights Report. She used her Discover card to make a few smart investments, such as blinds and lamps, that ultimately made her new place feel like home. What’s more, by using her Discover card to pay for those items, Allyson automatically earned cashback that she could use toward paying down her bill.   

To learn more about the Microsteps that helped Allyson afford to live alone for the first time, watch the full video above. 

Discover makes it quick, easy, and best of all free, to check your credit score. Learn more at Limitations apply.

FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.