It doesn’t pay to be single in a cost-of-living crisis

It’s more expensive to live alone (Yui Mok/ PA) (PA Wire)
It’s more expensive to live alone (Yui Mok/ PA) (PA Wire)

The dating term “cuffing season” must have passed me by when it was shortlisted as the word of the year by Collins Dictionary in 2017.

When I had to look it up last month, the Standard was able to enlighten me, explaining that “cuffing season is the period of time in which people begin to look for someone with whom they can spend the winter months.”

The topic had just come up at my firm,, where a keen-eyed member of our team had encountered a Hinge profile that read: “Looking for someone with a fixed rate energy tariff to keep me warm this winter.” Funny.

Or not, as it turns out, for the eight million people who currently live alone in the UK.

Even though this winter hasn’t been as severe as some feared, and even with the government support (£5 billion was spent last month on the energy price guarantee capping annual bills, with a further £1.9 billion paid out for support payments), there’s still eight million people who have to bear the financial burden of paying for everything on their own.

Single people don’t need to be told that living alone is expensive. They might get to sleep in the starfish position, but it costs roughly the same to heat a one-bedroom flat whether you’re sharing it or not. Bills like broadband and TV are set regardless of how many people live in a home. And home insurance isn’t any cheaper, despite there being fewer people in the house to break things. The only real discount you get for living alone is a 25 per cent discount on council tax.

When you crunch the numbers, a single person spends an average of £1,851 on monthly bills, compared to £991 each if they were living with a partner. In other words, being single costs an extra £860 each month.

As inflation continues to bite, not being able to split these costs with a partner can put tremendous financial pressure on people. Unsurprisingly, the ONS reported that people living alone feel less financially secure than couples without children, and many said they had no money left at the end of the month – finding that people who live alone spent an average of 92 per cent of their disposable income, compared with two-adult households that spent only 83 per cent of it.

People living alone are also more likely to be renting. With the average first home in London costing £518,900 in 2022 (more than 12 times the average London salary), a single person would need to fork out nearly £52,000 if they wanted to put down a 10 per cent deposit on such a property.

Valentine’s Day is, apparently, the nominal end of cuffing season. But in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis and with record inflation, wage stagnation, job instability, rising rents, plus some nasty mid-contract price increases due this spring, those who did shack up for the winter might think twice about renewing their singledom.

And for those who are looking for love (ahem, someone to go halves with) Valentine’s Day might be the big moment to make your feelings clear with a really grand romantic gesture. But that’s going to cost you, too, isn’t it? If you really wanted to impress a potential partner – an outfit, transport, a meal and drinks, and a trip to the cinema, say – you’d be £300 out of pocket. This time last year the same date would have cost at least £30 less.

But if you’re still struggling to find someone to go Dutch with, just remember that we’re in the biggest cost-of-loving crisis for a decade, too. So it’s not you, it’s inflation.