It’s not exactly a revelation that living on your own is more expensive, but new figures show that those among us who are ‘self-partnered’ are paying £860 a month more than people who are bae-d up.
Hargreaves Lansdown, a financial services provider, calculated that paying alone for everything from rent, tax and household bills to commuting and gym memberships, is leaving single people with significantly less savings and financial resilience than couples.
On average, single people are paying £1,851 a month on basic expenses like bills, whereas those who live with a partner are paying £991 – meaning living alone is costing around £860 extra each month. That’s not all; Hargreaves Lansdown also found that single folks are less likely to have ‘adequate emergency savings’ than couples, meaning only 53% of singletons are financially cushioned to foot the bill of say, a broken boiler or failed MOT, compared with 79% of couples. The report also noted that saving may be even more difficult for single parents – with three-quarters suffering poor or very poor financial resilience.
It’s no surprise then, that over two thirds of first-time homeowners are purchasing jointly, compared to just 43% in 2014. While some of those may be people buying with friends or siblings (a move that’s becoming increasingly common thanks to the rising cost of housing), most will be romantic couples.
Although the report does not offer a breakdown by gender, single women may be facing a steeper ‘single penalty’ than uncoupled men. According to the government's 2022 gender pay gap report, women still earn an average of 5.45% less than men an hour. So, single women are facing a higher cost of living coupled with less earning power – something that may be balanced out for women in relationships with men.
But that’s just women in general – marginalised women tend have even less earning power than men. For example, Caribbean women in the UK earn as little as 70p for every £1 earned by white British men, according to PwC.
For some people, finding a partner isn’t enough to relieve the ‘single tax’ though. Many disabled people are forced to stay legally single (unmarried and not cohabiting), even if they’re coupled up. If not, they may no longer be eligible for disability benefits, leaving them either worse off or reliant on a partner for financial support.
On top of that, several charities have already pointed out how the cost-of-living crisis may trap women in abusive relationships that they can’t afford to leave. “The threat of financial destitution or homelessness have long been known to be barriers to leaving an abusive relationship,” explains SafeLives, a UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse. “The cost-of-living crisis is only exacerbating this issue.”
Thankfully, there is some support available for single folks to help alleviate the financial burden; if you’re living alone, you can apply for a 25% discount on your council tax. But it’s not enough.
If you're struggling with your bills, you can speak to a number of charities - including Turn2us and the Independent Food Aid Network – set up to help those during the cost-of-living crisis, as well as debt-management charities like Step Change.
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