When we ask people what they like least about living alone, higher costs came out as one of the top issues. The others were loneliness, struggles with household maintenance, and worries about getting sick, just in case you were wondering.
When you live alone, you bear the costs of running a whole household – including the mortgage or rent, bills, insurance, and council tax (see why a healthy relationship with money matters when you live alone). Assuming you split things evenly, these costs can literally be halved the second you move in with someone else.
There are also financial penalties associated with living a solo lifestyle, making everyday life more expensive. From gym and leisure centre memberships where couples and families may be offered a discount, to single supplements on holidays, to the mark-up on smaller-sized portions, cartons and containers in supermarkets, those living alone pay more per person to exercise, travel and even to get in basic supplies!
These additional costs affect people in different ways.
In some cases, the additional costs of living alone are simply the price of the freedom of being able to live entirely in your own way. For some people, being able to afford your own place is already a sign that you have a healthy income. The extra costs – while they may irritate – don’t particularly affect your quality of life.
Some people who live alone feel the additional costs as a result of socialising with those who live with others, yet are on similar incomes. In other words, living alone may objectively be affordable, but having less disposable income every month makes us feel like the ‘poorer party.’
For others, the choice to live alone – with the additional costs that entails – means facing real financial hardship. For this group, there is a very real trade-off to be made between having your own space, and having a more financially comfortable life.
It’s hard to see how the costs of living alone can be reduced. Apart from the small number of instances where solos benefit (for example the 25% reduction in council tax for those living alone in England), it seems unlikely. When customer numbers are everything, businesses will inevitably incentivise the ‘easy to reach’ members of an existing customer’s circle – or encourage the upsized purchase – by lowering the per person cost of a product or service. And mortgage, rent, costs of running a car, insurance and utilities will stay per unit no matter how many people are living in a property.
So do we have to simply accept that living alone comes with higher costs – a fair price to pay for the luxury of one’s own space – and to get on with making the most of the many freedoms that come with a solo lifestyle?
To a certain extent, the answer seems to be yes – there are certain fixed costs, after all. Slowly but surely though, something else is changing. As the number of solos worldwide grows, we are becoming an increasingly powerful economic and political force.
The other option, as many of us are starting to do, is to use that power to push for change. The more we choose to spend our money with companies that prioritise solo customers’ experiences and implement fair pricing policies, the more the market will respond to our preferences. And the more we write to our politicians campaigning for fairer treatement in terms of taxation, the louder our voice will be.
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