Budgeting

Why Being Single Could Cost More Than Being Married

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Ryan Ong

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If you’re single, you’re missing out on love, warmth, and all those other sunshine-y things. You could end up a depressed, perpetually drunk sociopath, and find yourself editing finance blogs or something. There was also some other problem I forget…Oh yes, apparently, being single can make you spend more money. For practical and psychological reasons:

Why Do Singles Tend to Spend More Money?

A quick clarification: This article refers to single men or women, as compared to married couples. It does not factor in married couples with children (who definitely spend the most) and single parents. Also, do we really need to go into the pitfalls of shotgun marriages? I hope not. This is definitely not an article on how getting married is the solution to saving more money than you are now if you are single.

The details are also based on the spending of middle-income Singaporeans (earning between $3,500 to $5,000 per month). Extremely high or low income earners have different habits, and this article may not reflect on them.

Anyways, I talked to financial advisor Ron (not his real name) on how singles spend:

From our last survey (2007 – Ed.), we were shown that singles spend more than married couples without children, per year. The finding was quite consistent. We can attribute this to a number of different causes.

Most married couples intend to have children, so their spending priorities take a sharp U-Turn. They become more conservative, and encourage each other into being more conservative. Singles lack the same kind of pressure. Then of course, there’s the issue of housing, and certain lifestyle issues.”

Some main causes are:

  • Higher housing cost 
  • Retail targeting
  • More socializing
  • Saving practices

 

1. Higher Housing Cost

 

HDB flats
My residence is even closer to the train. I sleep on it.

 

There are restrictions on buying HDB flats. In particular, unmarried persons (not widows or orphans) must be 35 years or older to get a HDB flat.

So singles are left with two options: Live with parents, or go out and rent till the age of 35. Those who choose the latter get fiscally abused:

Singapore is one of the most expensive cities when it comes to renting,” Ron says, “Renting a shoebox can cost more than $4,000 a month, and renting a single room can be $600 to $800 a month.

Young singles who want to stay in their own place will generally have higher overheads, when it comes to housing, than a couple paying a HDB loan. And of course, most of us cannot buy a house on single income, we have to rent.

As you know, money spent on rental has no returns, it is just lost. So if someone stays single and keeps renting, over the course of several years, he or she would spend far more than a married couple on housing.”

 

2. Retail Targeting

 

Aquarium in mall
Decor? That tank is for the people who just checked their credit card bill.

 

When it comes to spending habits, young singles demonstrate as much restraint as a ferret on crack. I spoke to senior marketing manager Colin Siew, who explains why singles are more prone to spending:

They spend more because more businesses, from F&B to fashion, are targeted at young singles. There’s strong encouragement for them to spend, whereas comparatively fewer companies target demographics like married couples.

And why’s that?

“Married couples have a layered DMP (Decision Making Process – Ed.). A purchase is often discussed by both partners, which makes impulse buying and big-ticket purchases less likely. Marketers and sales people don’t like that.

See if you’re single, you can decide to skip lunch this month and buy an Xbox. If you’re married, and you tell your wife you’re both skipping lunch this month, she’ll kill you.

The end result is that there are more products targeted at young singles, and more stores and services that cater to them. Young singles meet with more temptation than any other demographic.”

So there you go: For singles, a walk in a mall is like an alcoholic locked in the Heineken factory. There’s only so much willpower a person can have.

 

3. More Socializing

 

Guitar by the campfire
That’s not the ocean, it’s our sweat. Campfires suck in the tropics.

 

Singles are actively engaged in the process of not being single. That means parties, dates, BBQs, all that sort of thing. And thanks to Singapore’s high cost of living, that’s all expensive.

It’s not just that singles go out more often,” says Colin, “They spend more on the occasions when they go out. I speculate it’s because singles go out for long stretches, which causes them to spend more. When they meet friends, they’re more likely to hang out from morning till night.”

Colin claims that, based on regional market research (not just Singapore), singles between 20 to 25 years of age spent around $300 to $500 more per month.

I spoke to a recently married couple, who declined to be named. The wife said she spent “About $200 less per month. My spending changed as soon as we moved in together.”

“Partly it’s because of shock. We’re suddenly hit by loans, utility bills, and things that were previously paid for by our parents. So after being caught off-guard the first time, we spend more carefully.”

Her husband added that:

When you’re married, you tend to be…I don’t know, less energetic? Your friends ask if you want to hang out, and you just don’t for some reason. There’s always something to be done at home. I used to live from pay day to pay day. But ever since I got married, I’ve never ended a month without saving a few hundred dollars.”

Ron was more blunt: “Once you’re married you stop spending on your looks. You don’t want a nice car or nice clothes because there are no women to impress. So you save more.”

Which leads me to…

 

4. Credit Card Use

 

Credit card
So is the payment part optional, or…?

 

Are you single? Want to cure your credit card addiction? Well, all you have to do is get married (Or follow us on Facebook, we’ll tell you how to handle credit card debt).

According to debt counsellor Richard Tay, singles are more likely to overuse credit cards than married persons. This also relates to the point about marketers targeting them.

Singles are more likely to allow rollover debt on their credit cards, ” Richard says, “Compared to married card holders. Married couples tend to be more conscious of their spending, because they’re aware that their debt impacts more than one person. 

They also feel the necessity of things like education loans (for their children – Ed.), housing loans, and so forth; so they are more careful about their credit rating.

But to most singles, such things are not immediate realities. How many singles are thinking of their future son or daughter’s university education?”

Richard adds that, due to credit card interest, many people “waste about $200+ a year paying off accrued interest and late fees. More of them are singles than married persons.”

 

Do you spend more as a single? Comment and let us know!

Image Credits:
quinn.anyayeowatzup, Flying CloudlowjumpingfrogWonderlane

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.