3 Financial Challenges of Being Single — and How to Cope With Them

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Woman sitting on sofa holding cash and using a calculator.

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It’s hard being single from a financial standpoint — but there are ways to improve your outlook.


Key points

  • People who are single often struggle to build wealth more so than couples.
  • Being single doesn’t have to doom you to a lifetime of financial uncertainty.
  • If you can keep your housing costs at a reasonable level and watch your utility usage, being single will be easier on your wallet.

There are definite benefits to being single. For one thing, you get to live life on your own terms without having to take someone else’s feelings or preferences into account. And you can spend your free time doing the things you want to do rather than feeling obligated to accompany a partner to a company outing or college reunion (which, let’s face it, probably isn’t a lot of fun).

But while being single has its perks, financially, it can be really tough. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Sociology years back found that married people experience 77% more net worth gains per person than singles. Here are a few challenges you might face if you’re single — and how to manage them.

1. There’s no one to split the rent or mortgage with

Housing is the typical American’s largest monthly expense. But if you’re single, your rent or mortgage payment is on you to cover alone. Couples clearly have an advantage in this regard, because while it doesn’t cost extra for two people to live in a home versus one, having two paychecks could make that expense easier to manage.

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That said, if you’re careful to not take on housing costs that are too high, that doesn’t have to be an issue. As a general rule, you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your take-home pay on housing. For a home you own, that 30% should include your property taxes, insurance costs, and other predictable monthly expenses. Stick to that limit, and you may find that your home is easy enough to afford, even if you’re paying for it on your own.

2. Utility costs are all on you

When you share a living space with someone else, it might cost a little more money in terms of utilities compared to being single. But those extra costs are likely to be incremental, which means you lose out financially having to cover those expenses solo.

However, if you’re careful about budgeting, you may find that your utility bills aren’t such a burden. And you can also take steps to spend less on utilities by being vigilant about turning off lights and appliances and limiting the time you spend in the shower.

3. You might have to spend more just to function

If you work full-time and you don’t have anyone to split the cooking or cleaning with, you may find that you need to outsource those tasks frequently, thereby adding to your bills. But if you get organized, you may find that those items are easier to tackle.

Before you resign yourself to having to pay a cleaning service twice a month or order takeout three times a week, bust out your calendar and start playing around with your schedule. You may find that by assigning yourself time to handle those tasks, they end up getting done.

There’s no question that from a financial perspective, being single can be difficult. But if that’s the boat you’re in, whether by choice or otherwise, there are steps you can take to avoid money-related worries.

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