Single people slashing spend to make ends meet

24th October 2023

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 according to research by Hargreaves Lansdown.

The research found that individuals have to cut costs wherever they can, so 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.

Even this leaves them worse off, with fewer holding enough emergency savings, fewer able to buy a home of their own, fewer on track with pension savings, and less cash left over at the end of the month.

Sarah Coles, Head of Personal Finance at Hargreaves Lansdown said “The cost of being single takes a horrible toll. On paper they have to spend hundreds of pounds more a month to sustain the same lifestyle as a couple, but in reality, the cash just isn’t available. Their fixed costs alone wipe out far more of their income, so they’re forced to make horrible cuts elsewhere, and are still struggling. It’s horribly unfair, but there are a few things you can do.”

“The research also 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. As a result, they’re forced to cut back on all the nicer things in life. They spend an average of £552 on clothes, while couples spend £591 each. They spend £333 on household goods and services, while couples splash out £395 each. They spend £1,530 on recreation and culture – which includes everything from going out socialising to staying in and watching Netflix. Their coupled-up counterparts meanwhile spend £1,607 each – despite having company on tap.”

“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. And still this leaves them short. A single person living on their own has an average of £117 at the end of the month – after normal expenses, much less than half of the £372 a couple has left over.”

“It means they have less to put aside in savings, which is why fewer of them have at least three months’ worth of expenses put aside as emergency savings (52% compared to 79% of couples). They find it much more difficult to save for a property – not least because they’re having to cover the cost of the deposit alone. It’s one reason why singles are less than half as likely to be homeowners as couples (17% compared to 45%). And it takes a toll over the long term too, with less than a third (32%) on track with their pension savings, compared to almost half of couples (48%).”