Having spent almost an equal amount of my 20’s in long-term relationships as out of them, I have a pretty balanced perspective of couples vs. singles finances. I can definitely know which one caused my wallet the most pain: being single.
Before we continue, I want to point out that it is obviously more expensive to be in a relationship if you have to financially support someone else. You can read my thoughts on the matter in this post: A Spouse is Not An Alternative Income Stream, but the short version is: don’t do it.
Being in a relationship doesn’t change the cost of your basic needs.
There is a basic fixed amount required to keep a human being alive. One single person eats enough food for one person. One coupled-up person eats enough food for one person.
The person in a relationship doesn’t go on a weird diet as a result of being madly in love that magically cuts their grocery bill in half, they still need the same amount to survive. Likewise, they’ll still require the same amount of clothes, shampoo, and so on.
That said, you get to enjoy a lot of cost-saving in a relationship because you bundle purchases to reduce costs. It has been my experience that the grocery store is notoriously unfriendly to single people, always selling food in portions of 2 or 4 for families.
As a result, you either pay a singles premium for one-person portions as a single person, or you end up with a lot of food waste.
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In a relationship, you’ll find a lot more efficiency with your purchases. For example, a couple can rent a one-bedroom apartment just as easily as a single-person can, but at a much lower per-person cost.
Likewise, a single person might need a car, but a couple might also only need one car between them, effectively splitting the cost of vehicle ownership.
Double incomes equal double spending power
There are some financial perks of being in a long-term relationship and sharing space with one another human being, and one of those is the serious buying power that comes with a two-person household.
Two incomes buy more than one, no matter how you slice it, but this is even more powerful when costs like housing, cable, and food are shared.
It’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to out-earn the other, which further increases the spending power of a couple compared to a single person. If someone is making $50,000 per year but they shack-up with someone making $100,000, they’ll enjoy a significant lifestyle boost even if money never changes hands.
High-earners often bring high-spending to a relationship, and the lower-earning counterpart in the couple gets to enjoy all the perks without putting any strain on their own wallet! Of course, an imbalanced relationship in terms of spending can go wrong very, very fast.
Don’t marry a money moron.
Many people think being in a relationship means arguing about where the money should go. While I think everyone has their own saving style (or lack thereof), I want to assume that if you’re going to go to the trouble of building a life with another person, you will select a spouse with the same financial values as you.
One time I dumped a guy for being totally blasé about his $50,000 debt. Don’t marry people that are going to put your financial future at risk. I know, it feels mean and makes you feel like you’re not “loving them for who they are” but guess what:
How people spend their money is who they are.
If you hate it, it’s basically the same for hating them for not brushing their teeth or always kicking puppies. DON’T MARRY PEOPLE YOU WON’T BE HAPPY WITH LONG-TERM.
Just go on a few dates then get really busy and quietly stop texting them back. Find a partner that wants the lifestyle and financial security you do. This won’t eliminate all arguments about money, but it will dramatically decrease their frequency. In almost all incidences, it is more expensive to be single, but there is one exception: when you marry someone bad with money.
Single people date way harder than married people, and dating is expensive.
Married people need fancy dinners but single people are hardly satisfied with Taco Bell. They go out and date, and that comes with a high price tag. When it comes to dating, it is way more expensive to be single than in a relationship.
Dating is the act of hemorrhaging money for the small chance that a human being you can tolerate for more than 30 minutes will also find you moderately attractive and interesting enough to spend time with.
Spending in dating can approach a level that can only be adequately described as financial carnage as people do any of the following:
- Buying 3 glasses of wine/beer instead of the one you intended to drink because conversation is going so well you just can’t stop talking to them (enjoy it, because they’re never going to call you again)
- Going out for coffee 4-5 times/ week because coffee dates are so non-committal and casual which is awesome, but then you buy a latte because it’s kind of a “special” coffee run isn’t it, and all of a sudden you’re giving Starbucks $100/mo.
- Paying for dinner for two. It doesn’t matter if your the girl or the guy or anything in the middle, sometimes you’ll be treated but other times you’re doing the treating. God help you if they pick an expensive restaurant and it’s your turn to shell out.
- Splurging on a new outfit or day at the spa because you’re still in the trying-to-impress-them phase which really means you still don’t want them to know you wear faded flannel pyjamas and ratty t-shirts during 90% of your downtime. No, when dating you are a new person entirely, one that gets manicures and wears designer denim.
- Going to movies, concerts, or plays because you’re trying to “like what they like” and you just hope it’s not something with an exorbitant price-tag. You are doubly effed if it requires lessons in preparation, which is why I just avoid men that are really into golf.
But that’s just in the short term. What about long term?
It is more expensive to buy a home, raise children and save for retirement as a single person
The average cost to raise a child in Canada is almost $250,000. This means a couple will spend $250,000 to raise a child, at a cost of about $125,000 per person. It also means a single person will spend $250,000 to raise a child.
Maybe someday society will say, “oh you’re a single parent? 50% off everything!” but today is not that day. As a result, single people who want to have children have to take on more financial strain than a couple sharing the child-rearing burden.
Additionally, single people need to save more for retirement than people in relationships. Don’t believe me? The numbers are here. Much like I don’t believe in treating your spouse as an alternative income stream, I don’t think marriage is a good retirement plan!
However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with serious financial perks. A second household income lets you take advantage of tax breaks, particularly when moving money to your spouse’s retirement accounts, which lets you keep more money in your pocket. When it comes to child-rearing and retirement savings, it’s definitely more expensive to be single.
According to this article being a single woman will cost you over one million dollars more than your married counterparts. There is very, very little that’s cheap about being single. The real payoffs is not having to share your cereal or bedcovers, and getting to pick the movie on Netflix every time, but I’m not sure if that’s really worth one million dollars.
Getting married can be a major money mistake, particularly if you get divorced
The average wedding in Canada costs over $32,000 — a bill single people don’t have to bother with. Additionally, more than 50% of couples are throw divorce into the mix for another few thousand dollars.
Divorce is one of the most costly financial setbacks a person can experience in their lifetime, and it can negatively impact their wealth accumulation for the rest of their lifetime. In other words, what might be most expensive is being single, then in a relationship, and then single again!
But if you get it right, a healthy and happy marriage will bring you more than bliss, it’ll keep cash in the bank. Married people can save big time on housing costs, insurance, taxes, and child-rearing.
So what does it all mean?
It means that regardless of your relationship status, you have to manage your money responsibly.
If you want to be single, be single and be a little bummed that you’re going to pay full-price for some things marrieds get at a serious discount. If you want to be married, be smart about it and choose a partner that shares the same financial goals as you.
No matter the situation, make sure you pay off debt, save for retirement, and work hard to maximize what you earn over your working lifetime.
Money can’t buy love, but it can buy everything else — and that’s really important so try to get as much of it as you possibly can.