Single and paying for it – the cost of living alone in the UK in 2024

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Solo living has plenty of plus points – you get to watch what you want, eat whatever takes your fancy, and decorate your place in your own style.

And, ironically, if you live by yourself, you’re far from alone.

One in three households in the UK are single occupancy, making them the second most common type after one-family homes. In Scotland, the proportion is even higher at 36% of households, and they account for 30% of households in both England and Wales.

However, living alone can come with a hefty price tag – a singles tax.

You’re responsible for all household expenses – some of which, like a pet, streaming services, and broadband, cost the same no matter how many people live in the property. You may also feel the pressure to go out and socialise more to avoid loneliness.

Of course, not everyone who lives alone is single but many are, and if you’re currently looking for love, you may well have the added cost of dating too.

 

What is the singles tax?

While there is no official singles tax, this informal term is given to the premium you pay for products and services because you don’t have anyone to share the costs with.

Budgets have been squeezed even more in recent years by soaring energy and food costs, forcing some people to rely on credit to pay for the essentials. The cost of living crisis may have pushed you into debt, or compounded any debts you already have, either as an individual, or joint debts from a previous relationship.

Now, UK Debt Expert research has laid bare the extent of the problem, highlighting which parts of the UK are being hit hardest. We found that being single could mean you fork out, on average, more than £10,000 per year extra compared to homes with two or more adults.

Key findings:

  • The average singles tax is £10,402 per year if you rent with a pet, and £9,289 without one.
  • In London, it’s more than double the national average at £21,215, with living and lifestyle costs as a single person.
  • St Helens, in Merseyside, could be the cheapest option for single people, with a singles tax of £6,815 – the lowest of all the cities.

 

The data collected looks into both regional living costs (rent and bills) and lifestyle costs as a single person; including the cost of a pet, wedding attendance, car insurance, streaming services, Christmas, holidays, and takeaways, annually.

 

The top 20 cities with the highest singles tax

City Annual singles tax, for renters (living costs) Annual singles tax, for renters (living & lifestyle costs)
London £18,647 £21,215
Cambridge £16,420 £18,793
Oxford £12,723 £15,128
St Albans £11,729 £14,218
Brighton £10,883 £13,259
Newport £10,833 £13,194
Edinburgh £10,819 £13,169
Slough £10,704 £13,193
Crawley £10,652 £13,027
Woking £10,340 £12,829
Watford £10,326 £12,815
Basingstoke £10,239 £12,643
Milton Keynes £10,079 £12,453
Hemel Hempstead £10,017 £12,506
Bristol £9,948 £12,273
Bath £9,853 £12,178
Manchester £9,849 £12,323
Salford £9,633 £12,034
Reading £9,458 £11,833
Basildon £9,223 £11,597

Unsurprisingly, London has the highest singles tax for renters at more than £21,000 per year on living and lifestyle costs. As much as £16,254 would go on renting a one-bedroom flat in the capital, and an extra £1,851.78 on utility bills. Owning a dog could set you back another £918 per year and a cat would cost you an extra £679. You’d also pay more for running a vehicle, since adding a partner on to your car insurance plan would mean a £402 reduction for the year.

Next on the list is Cambridge with an average added expense of £18,793 per year. Most of your singles tax here would be spent on the essentials including rent (£14,208), utilities (£1,406.64), council tax (£642.28) and broadband (£162.90).

Oxford ranked third as the city with the highest singles tax, at £15,128. If you were looking to rent out a one-bed flat by yourself, you would be paying on average an extra £10,128 per year, which works out to £844 per month. With a 25% discount, a single person could be forking out an extra £704.59 annually on council tax – which is higher than both London and Cambridge.

Other cities with high singles tax include St Albans and Brighton, at £14,218 and £13,259 respectively. Rent in St Albans could set a single person back an extra £9,408 per year, and in Brighton it would be £8,352 annually. Similarly, a pet dog would set a single person back an extra £76.5 per month in both cities.

 

The top 20 cities with the lowest singles tax

Our research also revealed the top 20 cities with the lowest singles tax, which could be handy for those in search of a new location.

The most affordable location for singles is St Helens where the extra cost for living on your own is £4,414 per year on rent and bills, £6,815 with lifestyle costs added in. This is 68% lower than in London.

Huddersfield ranked as second most affordable with an average singles tax of £7,554 per year, followed by Doncaster where single people could pay an extra £7,630 per year on living and lifestyle costs.

 

City Annual singles tax, for renters (living costs) Annual singles tax, for renters (living & lifestyle costs)
St Helens £4,414 £6,815
Huddersfield £5,106 £7,554
Doncaster £5,182 £7,630
Grimsby £5,291 £7,669
Darlington £5,371 £7,749
Hartlepool £5,448 £7,827
Middlesbrough £5,529 £7,907
Sunderland £5,669 £8,047
Gillingham £5,753 £8,131
Northampton £5,775 £8,187
Chesterfield £5,812 £8,224
Belfast £5,843 £8,272
Kingston upon Hull £5,848 £8,221
Bradford £5,910 £8,358
Blackpool £5,925 £8,303
Wigan £5,997 £8,472
Rotherham £6,106 £8,554
Aberdeen £6,113 £8,463
Nuneaton £6,117 £8,529
Dundee £6,132 £8,482

Five budgeting tips if you’re living alone

 Even in the cheapest parts of the UK, budgeting by yourself is never easy especially if you’re facing serious financial difficulties. The below tips are designed to get you started – but it’s important to seek support if you’re really struggling.

 

1. Write it down

With contactless payments and the temptation of online shopping, your money could be flying out of your account with no way to track it. This is why it’s important to closely monitor your income and outgoings, using a budgeting app or a spreadsheet. It will highlight areas where you could potentially cut back, and ensure that all essentials are paid for first.

 

2. Ditch the takeaways

Ordering a takeaway is tempting, especially when you’ve had a long day at work and you can’t face cooking or washing up. But our research shows that a single person can spend around £60 more on takeaways per year.

Setting aside time at the weekend to batch cook meals in advance means that you always have something tasty to eat when you’ve been out, and can help prevent food waste. It’s also worth stocking up the freezer with pizzas and other easy-to-prepare food so you avoid temptation.

 

3. Maximise discounts

Always make sure you’re getting your 25% council tax reduction, and consider a water meter if your usage is low. It’s also worth looking out for travel companies that specialise in solo travel to avoid a single supplement, which can cost singles around £462 more on average for a package holiday, according to our research.

 

4. Share the load

Organise a night in with a friend each week, and take it in turns to cook, or provide the nibbles and drinks to cut down on food bills. It’s also a chance to catch up on shows on streaming services your friend has but you don’t (and vice versa), helping to keep subscription costs down. And, of course, good friends can share pet care to cut the cost if either of you go away.

 

5. Ask for help

Never be afraid to seek professional support to get on top of your debts, and avoid them spiralling out of control. Our own professional advisors help people on a daily basis advising on the best debt solutions to help people regain control of their finances. Find out more here.

 

Methodology

We used financial data from a number of sources to find out how much extra single person households were paying on average compared to couples who cohabit.

The data in the study includes core expenses like rent, council tax (with a 25% discount), utility bills and broadband. It also includes lifestyle expenses such as owning a pet, attending a wedding, car insurance, streaming services, Christmas, takeaways and package holidays.

 

 

 

Maxine McCreadie

Maxine McCreadie

Author/Debt Expert

Maxine McCreadie, prominent personal finance writer featured in Vogue and Yahoo News, delivers practical guidance, simplifying money management and championing financial literacy.

How we reviewed this article:

HISTORY

Our debt experts continually monitor the personal finance and debt industry, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

February 8 2024

Written by
Maxine McCreadie

Edited by
Ben McCormack

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