The post that tries to find some financial upside to being single. It’s a Valentine’s special!
I remember once seeing online a series of sketches by an artist that was entitled something along the lines of “The Joys of Being Single”. It depicted a woman in various semi-seductive positions, draping herself over her furniture in a lacy camisole and knickers as she cooked dinner or read a book. “What bollocks” I thought. The joy of being single is more about being slumped on the sofa in front of the TV, watching a poor-quality horror film as crisp residue gathers in the folds of your dressing gown and your unkempt hair parts in a manner that makes you look a bit like King Charles I (or is that just me?).
Whichever resonates more with you, the lifestyle pluses of being single are easy to pinpoint: You can generally travel when and where you want, be as slovenly as you want, socialise only according to your own calendar (although I’m sure many people in couples will happily attest to the fact that this isn’t just a lifestyle you can enjoy whilst single).
What is harder to establish are the financial benefits of being single. So many costs are literally doubled (e.g. rent or mortgage) whilst others (such as the grocery bill) are more expensive when you can’t bulk buy for two (check out the 7 Worst Things About Living Alone).
But here are the financial pros of being single I’ve managed to come up with…
Go Your Own Way
There’s no having to justify a splurge or a cutback if you’re single. If you decide you want to say “to hell” with the budget for a particular month and treat yourself to a massage, a holiday or just getting Ubers everywhere in the crappy weather, you can. You don’t have to account to anyone else. On the other hand, if you don’t want to go to that friend’s expensive wedding abroad you can make your excuses and it’s entirely your own decision, with no compromise with, or resentment of, anyone else.
It is for this reason that if I ever do end up in a long term relationship we are keeping our finances separate. I know some couple who only use joint bank accounts, which really wouldn’t suit me.
This idea of treading your own path doesn’t just apply to short-term spending decisions. It also applies to your longer term goals and aspirations.
A recurring theme amongst people that want to commit to financial independence/retiring early is that their husband/wife/partner isn’t necessarily on board. Between my parents, for example, my dad would happily retire now whilst my mum is adamant they need to keep working a few more years to fund a more luxurious lifestyle in retirement. Luckily they have (I think) come to a compromise.
But there are no such problems if you are single. If you want to retire at 40, even if it means a frugal existence, you can. If you want to keep working to pursue “Fat FIRE”, you can. There are no arguments (except maybe in your own head) about how to arrange your finances, what to invest in and when to cut the employment cord.
A bleak one here that no one in a happy relationship wants to contemplate. But if, as a couple, you completely intertwine your finances, it can become bloody difficult to disentangle in the future. I’m sure there are lots of couples out there who, if they were brutally honest, would admit that if they did decide they didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore, they would still feel they had to stay together to avoid seriously screwing up their finances.
And if a couple does decide to go ahead and split up/divorce, then you have the messy financial fall out. I’m not planning to get into the thorny debate here about how different contributions to a marriage should be financially valued. What I can say, from my own perspective, is that having studied equity and trust law at law school, I take a cold, mistrustful approach to financial affairs. I often say that I wouldn’t want a (theoretical) partner to pay anything towards my (currently theoretical) mortgage as I wouldn’t want them to “get their grubby little hands on my property”. When I said this to a colleague they politely pointed out that if that’s the way I feel then it’s probably not the right relationship for me!
They are, of course, right. But I think that even if I end up in a long term relationship I’ll either continue to pay off my own mortgage by myself, or we’d have to move somewhere bigger where we contribute equally to the equity.
I do appreciate that that sounds money-obsessed and unsentimental. I also appreciate that people will tell me that if I meet the right person I wouldn’t care about that financial stuff as I’d be happy to see all assets as “our” assets. Maybe so (although they really shouldn’t underestimate my off-the-chart cynicism). But the point is, in the spirit of this post, as long as I’m single it’s not something I have to think or worry about. Everything I work for is mine and mine alone, and I can easily plan around that.
There are fewer weddings (I ran out of appropriate Fleetwood Mac references)
I used to think that single folk had it worse when it came to weddings. I remember a conversation on the way to a friend’s wedding with a couple, who asked how much I’d decided to give as a gift (the couple had only asked for cash, so it really put people on the spot as to gift value).
“£50”, I said.
“Same”, they said.
Except that what they meant was that they had actually given £50 between two of them. So it really wasn’t the same at all. It was half. Not that I judge people by the financial value of the gifts they give, of course, but I used to get annoyed with the expectation (however unspoken) that coupling up doesn’t come with a consequent doubling up in terms of gifts. You are just one unit when it comes to buying present. So this seems like another shitty downside to being single.
But then I changed my mind. I have a relatively small circle of friends. Thus I haven’t really been to many weddings, despite the last five years having been prime wedding age. When you’re in a couple it can double the amount of weddings you’re expected to attend (depending on how many completely mutual friends you have) so it’s not surprising couples don’t double up on the gift value. And some costs (such as travel) can’t be split in half. Imagine if I end up with some gregarious bastard who gets invited to loads of weddings. Then I might have to spend my summers traipsing around the country (or globe) to the weddings of people I barely know. Perish the thought.
Children…or lack thereof
Ok, so this one clearly doesn’t live up to total scrutiny. There are lots of couples who choose not to have children (Mr and Mrs Young FI Guy have blogged about this). On the flip side, there are single people who do have children. And there are single people without children who would give anything (financial or otherwise) to have them.
So this is really just a personal one for me. Even if I do end up in a long term relationship (I’m using that phrase a lot in this post…) I’m fairly sure I don’t want children. And whilst I’m single it is not a conversation I have to have with anyone or something that factors in to my life plans.
25% off your council tax
Admittedly this isn’t really a “perk” as you’re still paying more than if you split council tax as a couple. It’s also very UK-centric. But don’t forget that if you are a single person household you get 25% off your council tax bill, but you need to claim it.
So those are the things I’ve come up with. Anyone else think of any other financial benefits to being single?