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Save Money and Make Money Being Single

Jasmine Birtles 13th Feb 2024 One Comment

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Did you know that single households (those living alone) are the second most common type of household in the UK, accounting for almost 1 in 3 (30%) UK households in 2022. That’s 8.3 million households all together.

One in three…who’d have thought?

Certainly if you go to the supermarket or try to book a holiday or read pretty much anything in the news, you’d think that the world is made up of couples and families only. But it seems increasingly that single is the way to go.

It’s amazing really as, on the whole, it’s a lot more expensive to be single. You have to shoulder the full burden of the bills, including rent or mortgage, and there’s often the insult of a ‘single supplement’ when you stay in a hotel.

So how do you save money, and even make it, when you’re a singleton? Here’s how…

How much it costs to be single

The boffins at the investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown have done some digging and found out the following facts about how much it can cost to be single rather than part of a couple:

  • Singles are forced to spend around a third more on housing per person than their couple counterparts – despite living in cheaper accommodation.
  • They also spend more per person on fixed costs like food and communications.
  • They spend around 16% less than each of the couple on household goods and services, 7% less on clothes and shoes and 5% less on recreation and culture.
  • They spend a third less on buying and running a car.

The HL Savings & Resilience Barometer found that putting a roof over their heads (rent, mortgage, council tax and bills) costs single people an average of £7,597 a year – whereas it costs couples £5,802 each (£11,604 combined). It leaves couples £1,795 better off on housing alone – despite living in more expensive accommodation.

Communication, including broadband and landlines as well as mobiles, hits singles harder, because in many cases they need the same products as a couple. They spend an average of £613 a year, whereas couples spend £486 each – £127 less.

Food costs single people £425 more a year – thanks to not being able to bulk buy or get through family packs before the food expires. A single person spends £2,085 and a couple spends £1,660 each

To make matters worse, they earn less to begin with. The average single person living on their own earns £23,153 a year after tax. A couple earns a combined average of £48,583. That’s not just more overall, it’s more each. It means these fixed costs are making a horrible dent in their finances every month, which leaves them far less financially resilient.

So a lot of unhappy news for singletons. How can you overcome these costs and get into saving and making money to put you on a par with coupled-up friends? Here are some ideas…

How to afford a home as a single person

Young people are finding it very difficult to get on to the housing ladder – particularly in cities – even if they are professional working couples. So single people, on a single income, clearly find it even harder.

However, all is not lost. Mortgage lenders nowadays are more flexible about the multiplier they use against your salary to work out how much they would like to lend you. For some people in certain professions that multiplier can be as high as seven times your salary.

However, even if you are offered seven times your salary (the usual is 4-5 times) that still might not be enough if you’re on a relatively low wage.

The other issue is that even when you do get the mortgage you have to pay the whole of the bills yourself. A couple would be able to split the cost.

The best thing, if possible, is to get a property with at least two bedrooms in so that you can rent out the spare one to help pay your mortgage and bills. However, in many cities it’s far too expensive even to get a one bed, so that’s not an option for many.

Living tips

The first thing to consider, if you are struggling to get onto the housing market is to see if you can move to a cheaper area. The difference in house prices is astonishing once you get out of the city and move to cheaper areas.

This heat map shows the difference in price across the country. Moving from London to Hull, for example, could save you hundreds of thousands of pounds.

It’s also worth trying to get onto housing association lists, although there’s huge competition for them. Find out how to get a home through a housing association here. 

There are some property construction companies that offer shared ownership programmes which may be worth looking at but make sure you have a lawyer scour their contracts and terms and conditions if you like the look of them. They can have nasty clauses in them. Look at our ideas for alternative ways to get your own home here.

Another option to consider is buying with a friend. It can work well if you get on and you know you can live together. Again,  though, you would need a lawyer to work on a watertight contract between you so that if one needs to sell you can do it without tears.

Bills and day-to-day saving as a singleton

One of the most dramatic differences is around car ownership. On average a couple will spend £6,107 a year buying and running a car. Clearly this includes those couples who run a car each. Singles, meanwhile, spend a third less per person – at £2,013. It means many of them are opting for cheaper models, driving less, or giving up on car ownership entirely.

Frankly, unless you need your car for work day-in, day-out, you’re better off joining a car club, if you live in the city, or just hiring a car here and there for big journeys. In fact, if you’re in the city, it’s generally cheaper not to have a car at all and take taxis here and there. That’s how expensive ti is to run a car nowadays.

Car use

If you’re in the country you’re likely to need a car, so here it’s best to go for a secondhand car and, if at all possible, get together with a friend, family member or neighbour to share use of the car. Come up with an amount to charge per day (maybe about £30-35, depending on the type of car you have) and agree that they will replace the petrol they use. Get them on your insurance, if they don’t have their own (they have to pay if there’s an extra cost) and then it’s up to you to arrange use of the car as and when they want it.

If you have your own car, consider including a parent as a second named driver on your car insurance. They can then use it in emergencies, and assuming they’re considered a low-risk driver, they could cut your premiums. We have some great money-saving car tips here.

Bills

If you are living on your own, the obvious way to get help with the bills is to rent out a room – or even move into your living room and rent out your bedroom if things are really tough. that way you have money coming in every month to help with the mortgage and you can get them to share the bills.

If you’re allowed to, another thing to consider is to Airbnb  your property any time you go away. It might just be for a week or two but it helps pay the bills.

Obviously, as with couples, it’s important to switch your bills when you can and cut down on your use of gas and electricity…but everyone knows that!

See this article for 51 ways to save money in your home.

Sharing and renting

As a single person in a single household your neighbours, friends and family members are your best resources for saving money. Sharing with them or renting from them will keep your costs down.

  • Share food with neighbours and friends. If you have extra, share it with them or get together for meals as a group more often. If you’re going to put the oven on it’s cheaper to cook for several than for one only.
  • Join Olio and TooGoodToGo to get cheap food at the end of the day from local cafes. Share what you get with neighbours as the amount you get is usually too much for one person (unless you have a freezer).

Day-to-day tips for savings as a single person

Make sure you get your Council Tax discount for singles. Single people get a 25% discount, which doesn’t seem like enough given there are half as many people living there, but it’s a start.

Instal a water meter. Usually if you have the same number of bedrooms as people (or more) you can save money, because otherwise water is priced by the size of the property. 

Make full use of the freezer. The answer to not having to pay extra for smaller food packets is to start meal prepping and freezing. Go for the yellow stickers at the supermarket and freeze what you can’t eat now.

Share subscriptions with a friend , neighbour or family member. Gyms and train companies offer couples discounts and railcards that aren’t just for couples. If you can share streaming services then do!

Going on holiday – how to avoid the single supplement

If you own your own home – or you have a friendly landlord – you can save a huge amount of money on holiday by sharing your space – swapping properties with friends abroad or in other parts of the country for a cheap ‘house swap’ holiday. You can join a house-swapping site to find people all over the world to swap with.

You can even make money on holiday if you sign up to become a house-sitter. Go and look after someone’s nice posh house, and their pets potentially, and while you’re there you could rent out your place on Airbnb and actually make money at it!

Traditional holiday offers for singles

More and more, tour operators are advertising zero fees for travelling alone or better still, offering money off deals for solo travellers. Some of these are only offered during off-peak periods, but many are now available all year round.
Don’t get conned into paying more for your trip than needed. Here are some top tips for saving money when travelling solo.

Jet2holidays

Jet2holidays offer a whole host of deals and holidays for those travelling alone. You can get a solo traveller discount of £30 when you use code SOLO30 at checkout. This includes Bed & Breakfast holidays, all-inclusive deals and adult-focused hotels. A Which? Recommended provider for solo holidays, you can enjoy the sun during a relaxing week in The Algarve, the bustling streets of Benidorm or the quaint villages and towns in Malta.

Cox & King

Cox & King offer a range of holidays for solo travellers. They understand that travelling solo – especially to an unfamiliar destination, can be daunting. 20% of guests on their guided tours are venturing alone. These tours include tours specifically designed for solo travellers to meet new people, as well as guided group tours for everyone. Fell safe and in good company with tours to luxury destinations such as Peru and Sri Lanka.

JustGo!

JustGo! also offer holidays for single travellers, who want to travel with fellow single travellers. They have a range of destinations across the UK and Europe – with no single supplement to pay for your stay. You can enjoy great value excursions, discovering a host of new and interesting places whilst getting to know the people around you. They are currently offering great deals for various Christmas markets – including Prague, Folkestone and Liverpool.

Hurtigruten Expeditions

If you’re after an adventure on the water, a cruise may be just for you.Hurtigruten Expeditionshave an incredible range of destinations from Scandinavia to the Galapagos, with no single supplement to pay. There are cruises in both warm and cold destinations – depending on your personal preference – from arctic wildlife adventures in Greenland to explorations in the stunning Cape Verde. You’ll be joined by an experienced expedition team and other like-minded individuals.Travelling solo doesn’t mean travelling alone!

Mercury Holidays

Mercury Holidayshave a fantastic range of solo holidays – where you can enjoy the space and luxury of a twin room, without having to shell out a single supplement.Holidays are popular and limited in space, however, there is a great range of glorious destinations to choose from. Bask in the beautiful blue seas in Cyprus and explore the rich history and archaeology of the Mediterranean island. You can also browse deals in Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Kenya and the UAE.

Just4One

Just4Onehas collated a huge list of companies that don’t charge to travel solo. It is jam-packed with businesses that offer different types of holidays, too. Choose from cruises, sailing holidays, adventure and special-interest holidays, package and all-inclusive deals, skiing, walking and escorted holidays, and even short breaks.

G Adventures

G Adventuresdon’t charge a single supplement. You can either bunk-up with another solo traveller or choose to have your own room. Around half of the groups at G Adventures are solo travellers – so you’ll be in good hands, surrounded by a plethora of interesting people. There is also a female-friendly solo travel option, helping women stay safe amongst a variety of cultures and locations. With a range of unforgettable countries to visit, including Vietnam and Ecuador, there’s bound to be something that tickles you fancy.

Get into house-swapping and couch-surfing

A great way for anyone to go on holiday for cheap – if they have a place they can offer to others – is to do house-swapping. With that you literally swap homes (sometimes holiday homes) and all you have to pay is your fare there and your food while you’re away. It’s a great way to have a cheap holiday if you don’t mind strangers in your home. Find out how to do it here.

Then there’s couch-surfing which is rather more raw, but some people have a great, cheap holiday in various places by staying in someone’s spare room or on their couch for a night or two. There’s a whole global network of people offering their couch in return for using someone else’s when they go abroad. Check it out at Couchsurfing.com.

Building a savings safety net and investing for your future

According to Hargreaves Lansdown, fewer singles hold enough emergency savings, fewer are able to buy a home of their own, fewer are on track with pension savings, and less cash left over at the end of the month.

Well that just will not do!

Everyone can and must set up a savings safety net for themselves and, even more important, a nest egg for the future.

Right now it is difficult for many people to save once they have paid their, ever-increasing, bills. However, it is possible for most of us…particularly if we can add in a money-earner on the side (something we are very good at at MoneyMagpie!).

Set up a savings safety net

It’s really important to put a bit of money away for a rainy day. Ideally everyone should have six months-worth of cash set aside ‘just in case’ – that’s enough money to pay your basic bills and keep yourself going  for six months just in case everything goes pear-shaped and you can’t earn money for whatever reason.

That’s a lot of money for money people so if you can aim for three months or even a months-worth that will be a good start.

See here for information on how to create a cash cushion and how ‘saving’ is different from ‘investing’ It might mean spending a few months not buying anything new and, ideally, earning some extra cash to put into the savings account – but it really is worth it. If you have a savings safety net you can sleep better and live more confidently because you know you will be covered if things go wrong financially and you won’t have to borrow money just to keep going.

Invest for your future

I know…it feels like all you’re being told here is to put more money and more money away for later.

And you’re right…but once you set up some regular payments, particularly if you set it up through your employer offering you a company pension, then after a while you find you don’t really notice the money going out each month.

The best thing to do is to start with the company pension – or if you’re freelance, set up your own Self-invested Personal Pension (see here how to do that) – putting as much as you can afford right now. Then, if you have a bit of extra cash, start add in payments into an ISA.

If you’re under 40 then definitely consider a Lifetime ISA as the government gives you a guaranteed 25% extra added in, and that’s before your investment makes money. Find out how to set up a LISA here.

If you don’t qualify for one of those then go for a stocks and shares ISA. Find out more about those here. They’re definitely the best way to invest for the future – after a pension – because stocks and shares tend to give you a better return over time than cash (savings).

Also, sign up for our fortnightly investing newsletter which will give you ideas as to how you can invest even small amounts of money to build up into a well-sized pot later on.

Take advantage of any tax breaks you can afford – from pensions to ISAs. The tax system is stacked against you when it comes to everything from the marriage allowance to the inheritance tax exemption for couples, so take advantage of everything you can.

How to make extra money as a singleton

If you happen to have a spare room, renting that out is a great way to make money when you are on your own. You even get a tax break if you rent it out. You can make up to £7,500 under the Rent-a-room scheme before you have to pay tax on it.

You could rent it through Airbnb for occasional guests or offer bed and breakfast to foreign students if you don’t like the idea of a full-time person in your home.

Then there are literally hundreds of ways that anyone can make money on the side, whether you are single or a couple. Have a look at the many, many ideas we have in our Make Money section. Several will work for you.

Financial advantages of being single

Going through all of the above you really wonder why anyone would want to be single, and certainly why more and more people seem to be choosing to be single.

But they are…at least, they might not be choosing it, but they are finding themselves single and are not keen on grabbing ‘just anyone’ to share bills with!

One of the main reasons why there are so many single households is that more and more people are realising that living on your own brings a LOT of freedom. You don’t have to tell anyone where you are or ask permission to go out. You can come and go as you please, eat what you like, have the music you like on at all times of the day and you have full ownership of the remote control!

Yes, the bills are higher, it’s harder to afford holidays and supermarkets like to pretend you don’t exist, but you don’t have someone else spending your money, getting you both into debt, having costly accidents or demanding that you both live beyond your means. You also have full control of  your savings and investments and you get to decide when and if you spend them.

Being married for a long time to someone supportive, loving and solvent, is a wonderful way to spend your life. If you can avoid divorce or separations then you will be personally and financially on a great path.

However, even the Hargreaves Lansdown research has found that you are much better of being a singleton than someone who has separated/divorced. It’s bad enough for your happiness and your heart to be married – or cohabiting with – the wrong person, but splitting up/divorcing is also bad for your finances, particularly for women who tend to do worst out of divorces than men.

So if you’re not happy being single, it’s still worth being cautious and using as much wisdom as you can muster when it comes to finding a life partner. They really need to be seen in that way: a life partner who will add to your joys not flatten your spirit. It’s great to be married to the right person. Just make sure that they are!

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Matthew
Matthew
1 month ago

Thanks for the tips

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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