Why living life as a single person can come at a high cost to your finances - Sarah Coles

Next week sees the biggest one-day sales event of the year, Singles Day.

It’s the one day when it technically pays not to have a partner, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the other 364 days a year when you pay more than couples for almost everything.

You’d be forgiven for never having heard of Singles Day, largely because it’s only really celebrated in China. It comes from the fact that the day itself is November 11, because the numerals 11/11 look a like a bare stick, which is Chinese slang for someone who has never married (and so not added branches to their part of the family tree).

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Singles day falls on November 11.

It started in the 1990s with events for single people, and in 2009 Alibaba turned it into a day of deals for single people to treat themselves. It quickly grew into the largest sales event on the planet.

Beyond Singles Day, bargains for single people are few and far between. The 7.9 million people who live alone in the UK automatically pay more per person than someone in a couple for all sorts of essentials.

Figures from 2020 show that retired households with two adults receiving more than the state pension spent an average of £53 a week on housing costs including heat and power (£26.50 each), while those with one adult spent £46.40. Even where there are discounts for single people, it’s not enough to offset the extra cost. Council tax, for example, is only cut by 25 per cent if there’s only one person in the property.

Then there are the deals for couples and the single supplements that mean everything from hotel rooms to gym memberships come at a premium for single people. Meanwhile, anything with an admin fee built into the price means that buying two tickets is cheaper per person than buying one.

Single life can be costly.

And, of course, big expenses like buying a house are far easier to tackle if there are two of you saving, possibly taking advantage of a Lifetime ISA each, and sharing mortgage payments.

As a couple you may require exactly as many bedrooms as a single person, but it’s twice as easy to afford it.

And while it’s hard enough to stretch your budget if you’re single at a young age, when you suddenly become single out of the blue, either through divorce or death, it can throw you off track entirely. It means that when we consider retirement, we need to plan for the period of time when at least 50 per cent of us will be on our own.

You need to think about how pensions are held between you and your partner, and the rules for each when you die. If you have a defined benefit pension, make sure you have nominated your partner as a beneficiary when you die, and that you know what they would be entitled to.

If you have a defined contribution pension and are drawing the money down, they will be able to inherit it. If you’ve used it to buy an annuity, it depends on the kind of annuity you’ve chosen. If you have a guaranteed period, it will pay out for the rest of this period; if you have value protection and you’re within the protected time it will pay a lump sum; and if you have an annuity that provides for a dependent or a nominee, it will pay out to them. All other annuities will die with you.

Living on your own will always tends to be more expensive than living with a partner, but if you plan ahead for it, it will make it much easier to make ends meet. Who knows, you might even have enough spare cash to treat yourself on Singles Day.