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The High Cost of Being Single

Written by Nickel - 35 Comments

The High Cost of Being SingleTwo can live as cheaply as one. We’ve heard this for years, but is it really true? Perhaps not, but there are definitely cost savings to be found when combining two households into one.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk a bit about an article on the costs associated with being single that I recently ran across in The Daily Telegraph. Because this is a UK publication, some of the finer details may not apply to life in the United States, but it was interesting nonetheless.

According to a survey by uSwitch, the average annual premium for being single works out to nearly $7400 (I converted to USD). This added cost is a byproduct of “having to carry the full burden of a mortgage, holiday [hotels, cruises, etc.] costs, insurance premiums and utility bills.”

When summed over your post-college years through the current average life expectancy in the United States (ages 22-78) this works out to $414,120. By that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because it ignores the effects of increasing costs over time, as well as compounding investment returns.

No matter how you slice it, it appears that there’s an added cost to living single. The article goes on to argue that, as people marry later and live longer, homebuilders need to focus on building small homes, hotel companies should consider charging per person, and so on.

So… What do you think?

Is there really a significant financial advantage to doubling up? Or are there instances where staying single is cheaper? (Divorce and the “marriage penalty” come to mind.) Do you have any tips for saving money when living on your own?

Published on July 23rd, 2010 - 35 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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35 Responses to “The High Cost of Being Single”

  1. 1
    Anthony Says:

    Splitting the energy bill, mortgage, cable bill, insurance, etc. makes marriage a financially smart thing to do.

    Unfortunately (from a financial perspective), marriage also leads to things like children, bigger houses, newer and bigger cars.

  2. 2
    Nickel Says:

    Anthony: While a marriage may well lead to a bigger house, there’s no reason that bigger house has to cost more than two smaller houses. As for cars, I’m not sure why “newer” would be necessarily be the case, but I do see the point when it comes to bigger (if you have kids).

  3. 3
    Courtney Says:

    Anthony, everything you list except insurance can be split between two non-married people. It’s the financially smart thing to do regardless of if you’re married or single. Aside from the high cost of insurance, the only other thing I could think of was not being able to share the costs of gifts (e.g. you go to a friend’s wedding, Bob and Mary give a gift from ‘The Smiths’ but it’s a little strange to give a gift from ‘John Doe and Joe Roe.’)

  4. 4
    Money Obedience Says:

    Studies have shown that the combined net worth of two former spouses takes a tremendous hit after the couple divorces. This must mean that it was financially much easier to maintain one household.

  5. 5
    RS Says:

    @Courtney, I disagree about it being strange to share the cost of gifts for weddings. Friends often chip in for a big gift together, recently got a surround sound system for a newlywed with 5 other people. Another one of my newlywed friends were in grad school in two different states, so my best friend and I went in together to get the cost of a round trip ticket.

    Maybe I am not part of the norm, but I’ve seen this at every wedding I’ve been to, since I hit the wedding years..

  6. 6
    The Head Hunter Says:

    Yeah, marriage makes great financial sense until the divorce…

    I’m staying single. You get all the same benefits of marriage if you just shack up & split the bills. That way, when it becomes unbearable, you just drop the dead weight.

    I don’t let anyone live with me, I can afford to be single. My happiness & sanity is worth the $7400 a year.

  7. 7
    Cognoramus Says:

    I’m married but it definitely hasn’t saved me money being a single-income family. Now, I’ve got all the bills I had when I was single, plus the cost of my wife’s gas, car insurance, food, clothing, etc.

    Living on one income is a decision we made willingly, but it’s definitely a situation that’s common enough to consider among married households.

    Besides that, when I was single, I was fine living in a little trailer for $400 a month in a shady neighborhood. Now that I’ve got a family, I’m not willing to subject them to that standard of living. As a result, my housing cost has doubled to an $800-a-month mortgage note.

  8. 8
    Leigh Says:

    Now that I’m back to living single after 6 years, I’d say how cheap or expensive marriage is depends greatly on who you marry. Yes, I now pay the full rent and utilities, but food and entertainment went down dramatically. Better still, I don’t have anyone helping me spend my money and making priorities for me.

    When you live a simple, frugal life, odds are marriage will cost you money. If you’re more the average American, you’re probably better off with a two income household.

  9. 9
    Hope to Prosper Says:

    I’m with Cognoramus. Supporting a family of four on my income is definitely not cheaper then being single. In fact, I was broke for years after getting married and having kids. I could live by myself for a fraction of what it costs to have a family.

    But, getting married is a personal decision, not a financlial one. I had a friend who got married in December for the tax break. He is now on his fourth marriage. If you are thinking about money instead of love, stay single. It’s way cheaper than divorce.

  10. 10
    Ryan Says:

    Being married and being the only one in the family earning money is way worst financially than being single.
    Being married and not working is really great financially, selfishly speaking.
    Joining two working people in a marriage may be better financially, but it’s a very very bad decision if it’s based [mostly] on finances.

  11. 11
    Thomas Says:

    As someone already noted – getting married for money is not a good reason. Being single, in this story, ignores how you can couch crash, have 5 roommates, live in your truck, etc.

    For me, it’s hard to say whether being married costs more, because you also have to consider where you are in life. In my low 20s, I was extremely happy eating Wendy’s $.99 meals and drinking Busch Light. Now, I’d much rather cook a nice steak and have a Guinness with it. Is that because I’m married? Doubtful.

    Hey Nickel, currently there is no marriage penalty as that was removed through the Bush tax cuts. However, if the current Congress and President choose not to extend, then the penalty will come back in 2011.

  12. 12
    John Says:

    In most cases a roommate will offer nearly as much savings as being married or “shacking up.” The institute of marriage was founded on many good principals. Financial being one of them, but by no means the most important.

    “Because you can” may have more to do with the more expensive items owned by married couples than actual requirements. It is generally considered financially and developmentally irresponsible to raise children without a partner involved. I drive a regular cab S10 pickup. If I had kids it would be difficult to justify a 2-seater pickup for my daily driver, even if my wife had a spacious car. How many people do you know that have 2 or more empty bedrooms in their house in case of “future expansion.” How much junk can they fit in that space that should be sold, recycled, or thrown out, and will be if the family expansion ever takes place.

  13. 13
    H Lee D Says:

    I am very conscientious about my water and electricity usage. I don’t eat out all that often on my own. My husband is the opposite. He also likes the house cooler in the summer (in Phoenix). I don’t think that us living together is saving me money at all.

  14. 14
    Dan Says:

    I’m tired of all the folks who post comments here, just so that they can try and attract people to their own money-themed blogs.

  15. 15
    Red Man Says:

    As the Apostle Paul indicates in the Bible………..

    “You young people that are married, stay married and

    prosper. For all you young single people that have

    never married, do not get married”——55 yrs. old,

    $$$$$$$$in the bank, never got married, retired!

    Looking for a rich Cougar to travel with—–Life is

    Good!

  16. 16
    holyfung Says:

    roommates save just as much, but you’ll usually be renting a place with them. so it doesn’t solve your problems.

  17. 17
    holyfung Says:

    also, you may lose money if you are male, because there is still a large gender wage gap.

  18. 18
    David Says:

    Marriage leads to kids and over half of all marriages end in divorce. Michael Jordan lost over $150 million dollars to his wife in the divorce. If you have a $200,000 house then you will lose half of it to your wife.

  19. 19
    asrai Says:

    @David You don’t “lose” half to your wife. You both get half which becuase you were equal partners in the relationship is fair.

    Jordan’s wife spent many years supporting him, raising his children and generally doing things a wife does. He was paid an obscence amount of money to play a game. He didn’t deserve the money as much as she didn’t so I don’t feel sorry for him.

    It’s damn expensive to live in general. If you are frugal and you don’t marry a frugal person you may grow to resent the other person for spending the money you wish to be saving. children are expensive.

    But if you have the right partner, work your butt of to make a go of it and love your children, then the rewards are priceless. You have to decide what you can live with.

  20. 20
    Jslugger Says:

    I think it is a load of hogwash that being married saves more money.

    First of all you have the guy forking out the money for an engagement ring, then u have the cost of that once in a lifetime wedding and honeymoon. Usually after people et married they get NEW furniture and upgrade their living conditions.

    Single people have the choice of making instant money saving decisions without COMPROMISE. Electric bill gets too high, u suffer and turn off the AC or hang out at a friends place. Food bill gets too high, u suck it up and eat ramen noodles and canned tuna for a couple of weeks. Laundry bill gets too high; wear the same shirt a couple of times and let the pile of dirty clothes grow.
    Can’t afford to spend too much on vacation; u cut out hotels and stay at hostels and wash your underwear in a sink. Try doing that with a wife.

    Being married is definitely more expensive because compromise to satisfy all parties is expensive.

  21. 21
    Jslugger Says:

    The best financial benefit to being married is the safety net of another income

  22. 22
    H Lee D Says:

    @Jslugger: I’m not a big fan of the assertion that women automatically spend more/are less frugal. Thanks. Otherwise, I agree with your comment.

  23. 23
    holyfung Says:

    while women may not automatically spend more, they almost always do relative to the income they bring in. a male and a female of equal skill/talent/education will see the man significantly outearn the woman.

    as for divorce, the percentage of marriages that last are still the majority (though that may change soon). but people also remarry. in any case, roommates don’t seem to solve the single housing problem.

  24. 24
    holyfung Says:

    on the other side of the argument, few have mentioned the opportunity cost of marriage (i.e. time spent doing financially useless things, like the intrinsic obligation to spend time together)

  25. 25
    Jslugger Says:

    H Lee D Says:
    July 25th, 2010 at 8:52 pm
    @Jslugger: I’m not a big fan of the assertion that women automatically spend more/are less frugal. Thanks. Otherwise, I agree with your comment.

    ++++++

    I think women do spend more. They spend more on toiletries, hair salons, clothing, shoes, feminine hygiene products, cosmetics, perfume, manicures, doctors visits, skin care, etc, etc, etc.

    Also generally speaking from a safety standpoint single women will spend more for housing in better neighborhoods vs a male that will live in a high risk area to save money.

    Men are basically less maintenance and low cost by nature. We can wear the same pair of jeans, shoes and tshirt everyday and see a doctor once every 10yrs

  26. 26
    document verification Says:

    Hahaha… really a thought provoking article…

  27. 27
    kev Says:

    My wife and I have been married for a year now and it has been great in every way – even financially. I think this is mostly true b/c we didn’t use our marriage as an excuse to bloat our lifestyles. We both owned homes in the same neighborhood before we were married – similar sized homes, similar sized mortgages, similar utility costs, etc. When we got married, we kept her house and rented mine out. We cut our bills in half and have two incomes to pay them with. The savings has allowed us to completely eliminate our non-mortgage debt and save like crazy. If we were to divorce right now and split everything 50-50, we both would still be better off than we were prior to getting married. Surprising… considering it has only been one year. The safety net that a two income family provides is also a huge stress reliever. Either one of us can pay all the bills, so the potential loss of income isn’t quite as scary as it once was. The key for us was that we are both on the same page when it comes to our financial goals, so we reap all the benefits that come with two incomes and sharing the cost of living.

  28. 28
    The Head Hunter Says:

    @Red Man -> If you’ve got the $$$, why settle for a cougar? Get a Kitten ;-)

    @kev -> Glad the FIRST year worked out for you. 1 year is a long time to be married, those Newlywed years are the hardest, ha ha.

  29. 29
    EmptyTippy Says:

    Hmph interesting I think the biggest benefit of marriage is the shared cost and the wealth you can accumulate if its a two income house. Be that also depends if the couple decides to live practically and save the excess I guess.

  30. 30
    Benjamin Bankruptcy Says:

    I don’t think it’s cheaper to life as two. I think the extra cost associated with being single is because you live by yourself. If you lived with room mates the cost would be the same as a married person perhaps cheaper.

  31. 31
    holyfung Says:

    but again, you don’t buy houses with roommates. you rent, and therefore you’ll still be trapped someday.

  32. 32
    threadbndr Says:

    Holyfung, what about owning a house and taking in a lodger? I was thinking about doing that at one point, but decided that a smaller house alone was a better decision for me.

  33. 33
    holyfung Says:

    That could work, albeit with more instability. If you’re high-income though, you likely won’t find too many comparably wealthy lodgers, while rich people tend to marry other rich people.

  34. 34
    Financial Reforms Says:

    Marriage, I believe, will not save your neck in terms of money. The reason is simple. When you are single you are game for whatever is cheaper. After change in status you look for whatever is better. Moreover, your perception of frugality and your wife’s perception of frugality may not be the same which can be troublesome.

  35. 35
    Baldy locks Says:

    When i was single i lived like a KING, when i got married i lost almost everything, my health, my wealth, even my hair! marriage isn’t something to do flippantly. But necessity is the mother of all invention, so marriage has made me a resourceful man and for that, i am grateful. Plus all these single people just end up jerking off and getting depressed, loading up their little houses with trinkets (big tv, gadgets etc) trying to fill the hole that only another human-being can fill. They are often lonely, boring, introverted, conceited, self indulgent, miserable, stuck up, basically sad, sad people…not all of them are, but most of them are, Right im going take off before all the single people try to take me out.

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