Cost of living single: people not in relationships unfairly penalised by costs like council tax and food

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NationalWorld journalist Rochelle Barrand finds that she pays more to run her home alone than couples and families

I’ll be the first to admit I never wanted to live alone, but life doesn’t always turn out the way you thought and 18 months ago, I bought my first home and prepared myself to live on my own for the first time. Living alone presents various challenges - there’s nobody to help with the chores and nobody to help prepare a meal if it’s been a long day. But there’s also rewards - you can decide what’s on TV and decorate exactly to your taste.

One thing that’s been brought into sharp focus though, particularly due to the cost of living crisis, is the price of living alone - and I believe people who live alone, or are the only person paying bills in a home, face a greater financial burden than those who live in a couple or a group where there’s more than one income coming in.

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Like other single homeowners, I receive a 25% discount on my council bill - but that doesn’t go far enough and it should be 50%. At a minimum, if there are two adults living in a home (unless someone is classed as “disregarded” by the government), the full council tax must be paid and yet if you live alone you only get the bill reduced by a quarter. Surely, it should be half? I might be paying less overall for my council tax than the couple who live down the street in an identical house, but I’m still paying 25% more than each of those individuals. That’s just not right, or fair.

Everyone is feeling the stress of rising bills, like council tax and food, but NationalWorld journalist Rochelle Barrand believes that single people are being hit the hardest.Everyone is feeling the stress of rising bills, like council tax and food, but NationalWorld journalist Rochelle Barrand believes that single people are being hit the hardest.
Everyone is feeling the stress of rising bills, like council tax and food, but NationalWorld journalist Rochelle Barrand believes that single people are being hit the hardest. | NationalWorld/ Kim Mogg

Then, there’s all the other bills. Like many, I keep a close eye on my smart meter daily. I do what I can to keep my usage down - I cook my meals in my airfryer and use my electric blanket to keep warm rather than automatically turning the heating on - but I still panic when I see the numbers on the little device rise. I know everybody is worried about the cost of gas and electricity, but the fear is more acute when there’s only your wage to pay the final bill.

I am on a water meter, which means I pay for the amount of water I use rather than a fixed price. My monthly water bill is, therefore, lower because I use less water than a couple or a family. Think of the difference in the number of showers taken and hot drinks made - but again, there have been times when I still paid more than an individual who shares the fixed price bill with at least one other person.

The cost of supermarket shopping can also be higher for me. This is because the cheaper items or deals tend to come when buying larger quantities of food. For example, it can cost less overall to buy a large bag of carrots than buying loose carrots per kilo, and there are also often deals on apples such as buying two bags of six apples for £2 - or you can buy one for £1.25. These bulk buy deals aren’t an option for me - at least not on fresh foods - because some of it would perish before I got a chance to eat it. So, I have no choice but to choose the single, more expensive options.

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I understand that I chose to buy my own home, but people who rent are also facing huge increases in bills, whether they directly pay bills or not. So either way everyone is having to pay out more money - and single people, who often don’t choose to be alone, are being penalised.

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