Young, broke and alone: Can you really afford to be single?
The estimated cost of life as a lone ranger versus a loved-up couple.
Published 22/07/2014 | 02:30
Can you afford to stay single? That’s the politically incorrect question posed by new research, which found that being on your tod costs €2,279 more a year than being in a relationship.
Rent, household bills and tax are just some of the expenses bumping up the cost of living for lone rangers, according to the study. And while the average couple has savings of around €7,488 to fall back on, most singletons have just €2,496 stuffed in the mattress.
“Life is definitely cheaper for couples,” says Dave Quinn of Investwise.ie, an independent financial service based in Dublin.
“The main reason is that you can split bills in half, without actually using that much extra gas or electricity.”
“In my experience, couples are also much more disciplined with their finances than single people,” he adds.
“When you’re married, suddenly you’re accountable to your other half for your spending, so you’re less likely to go buy that iPad or pair of designer shoes” — à la Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, who spent so much on Manolo Blahnik’s, she had to borrow money from her ex.
Figures show that there are currently around 1.5 million singletons in Ireland.
But it’s the 39pc of unattached women who are likely to feel the pinch most, says the author of Sheconomics, Professor Karen Pine: “Everyone’s worried about money, but some single women feel particularly vulnerable.
“They have nobody to share their concerns with and no one as a safety net if they fall on hard times.
“Cash-strapped single men feel they have options and greater confidence in their potential to make money in the future,” she adds, “whereas women often feel stuck and unmotivated.”
“In a post-feminist world, it’s embarrassing for single women to admit they wish someone would come along and ease, or share, the financial burden.”
With people living longer and getting hitched later, it’s predicted that this generation will spend 50pc longer flying solo than their parents.
That’s 15 years of forking out on single hotel supplements, while simultaneously unable to avail of meal deals or discounted gym membership often offered to twosomes.
“Unfortunately, the single person is going to have to work that little bit harder to get value,” admits Dave Quinn.
“The good news is that there are lots of [financial] products out there targeted at singletons, especially single women.”
Ireland’s Money Doctor, John Lowe, has this advice: “Start by keeping a spreadsheet of your spending for three months to find out exactly where your money is disappearing to, and how you can tighten your belt.
“Prioritise clearing your debts, as they will only dig you into a deeper financial hole the longer you leave them.
“One way to do this is to cancel any unnecessary direct debits such as unused gym membership,” adds financial advisor and author, Lowe, of moneydoctor.ie.
“Meanwhile, squirrel away as much as you can each month — even €100 will make all the difference.
“Seeking professional financial advice, or even just reading the financial pages, will also help you take better control of your purse strings so you’re not relying on a man to do it for you.”
Couples may have more money, but as we know, money can’t buy you love.
“Arguments over money contribute to three-quarters of divorces, so taking your financial baggage into a relationship is not a good idea,” says psychologist Pine.
“Yes, finances are an important aspect, but what if you marry a rich man and then he loses all his money?
“It’s best to be economically independent, so you’re empowered to choose a man you love,” she adds.
“Emotional and financial well-being are linked, but when it comes to relationships, love has to come first.”
Do couples really get a better deal?
YES: Katie Higgins (24) from Cork:
“Since my last relationship ended two years ago, I’ve noticed that couples definitely get the better end of the deal. When you’re in a relationship, the cost of everything, from your rent to groceries, is instantly halved. Couples often get discounts on things like holidays and car insurance, but we lone rangers are forced to pay full whack.
As an independent woman, I don’t expect any man to pay my way, and prefer to split the bill on dates. If anything, being single drives me to work harder to ensure that I am financially secure in the future. For instance, I’ve just opened my own beauty room, Ritzy, in Hedkandi at Victor Franks in Cork, and also work as a model for V Plus Model Agency. At the moment, I’m so busy getting my business off the ground that I’m happy to stay single. Although, if the right person came along, my single status could soon change!
When it comes to money, there are some advantages to being single. Unlike some girls who have to smuggle shopping bags past their other half, I can treat myself to a new handbag or shoes. But it still annoys me that I have to pay extra for things like hotel rooms just because I’m single. Deep down, I think most women would like a man who is financially stable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a millionaire – but I wouldn’t like to have to subsidise the man in my life either.”
NO: Elaine Edwards (34) from Laois:
“Before my husband Tony and I started a family, I would have probably agreed that life as a couple is cheaper. Along with the tax breaks affordeds to you as a married couple, you can buy your groceries in bulk and get a reduced rate on some insurance policies. Since having our two daughters Hannah(6) and Mia (4), however, our household income has fallen and costs have risen, so there’s less available per person.
When you’re married with children, one person often has to sacrifice their career ambitions to look after the kids. In the current economic climate, this can lead to conflict between couples. For instance, the breadwinner may resent working all week only to be told by their partner how the money needs to be spent; while the person who stays at home may resent not having their ‘own’ money, even though their contribution to the running of the household is just as valuable.
I set up my own company, Sweets & Treats Galore, five months ago. With no funding and everything from stock to advertising coming out of our own pockets, it’s definitely been a struggle.
As a family, it’s forced us to examine our priorities: healthy food or the cheaper option; going on holiday or paying the bills.
Sure, singletons may have to pay a little more on the occasional item – if you ask me though, it’s a small price to pay to avoid such dilemmas.”