Can you afford to stay single?

Unshackled by the bonds of marriage, you might feel free to do as you please. But beware: you pay a huge price in tax

Illustration: Dearbhla Kelly/Irish Times Premedia.

Illustration: Dearbhla Kelly/Irish Times Premedia.

Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 01:00

Staying single may be your life’s philosophy. Or perhaps it has been thrust on you and is something you struggle with. Or maybe it’s just a transient state before you couple up. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to avoid the fact that being single is going to cost you. And you may be surprised to learn just how much.

It’s an obvious assertion to make that, if you are single, life is going to be more expensive, even if you don’t have children. A UK survey recently put the extra costs of living alone at about €4,000 a year. After all, there’s just one person to pay the broadband bill, one person to pay the property tax, one person to bring home the milk and bread. And, although only one person is consuming these goods and services, standing charges built into so many services – about €100 a year for gas, for example – can put you at a disadvantage if you live alone.

And what about the stream-of-life events that married people enjoy? If you’re single, once you’ve worn your cap and gown at graduation, few occasions celebrate you. Your married school friend or colleague, on the other hand, are likely to have benefited to the tune of about €1,500 from your munificence: €100 for an engagement present and party; €300 for a hen or stag weekend; up to €1,000 for a wedding present, outfit and wedding itself; €30 for a baby shower; and €30 again for a present for the newborn.

Remember that episode of Sex and the City when the shoe-loving singleton Carrie Bradshaw, despairing of having repeatedly to fork out large sums of money to celebrate her married friends’ lives, delivered a note to a particularly smug married friend asking her to also contribute to the friendship?

“I’m getting married. To myself. I’m registered at Manolo Blahnik,” she wrote.

And being single will also cost you in less obvious ways you might not have considered. Think about car insurance. Insurance companies can no longer offer prices based on your sex, thanks to the EU gender directive, but they still can do so based on your marital status. According to Chill.ie, for example, the cost of insuring a single person to drive a Volkswagen Golf is about €545 a year. Add a spouse to that policy and it drops to €504. Add an unrelated female to the policy, however, and it jumps up to €581. So, yes, insurance companies deem you to be more of a risk if you’re single.

And what about mortgage protection when you buy a house? About 40 per cent of mortgages being approved by Bank of Ireland are going to single people, for example, and for each of these loans the bank will make you pay a couple of hundred euro every year for mortgage-protection insurance, to reduce its risk in the event that you die. But do you need such protection when you don’t have a family to inherit it?

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