With more people living alone today, is the cost of living higher for solo households compared to shared households and are brands paying enough attention to the importance of the solo pound?
More people are living alone these days than ever before. The most recent statistics show that solo living is once more on the rise in the UK – after a downturn in the previous decade. In 2017 the Office for National Statistics reported 7.7 million Britons live alone. The majority are aged 25 to 65 and we’re generally fully employed. Many of us living alone will have plans for a family or are now living solo after having children. Although increasingly frequently, there are those of us living alone with no plans for a family at all – there are tangible links between the solo living trend and living childfree.
Some explain the rise in solo households as not only due to increased economic and emotional stability but also to improved communications. When you have the internet at your fingertips, living alone does not necessarily mean being alone. Some psychologists are beginning to understand that loneliness can be experienced even when in a relationship. Loneliness is increasingly attributed to feeling a lack of connection regardless of relationship status and when times of solitude can be a step on the road towards self-actualisation.
For many of us, however, the financial costs of living alone can sometimes contribute additional pressure to a lifestyle already packed with a stressful job, demanding relatives and a busy social life. It can be daunting to face the entire range of costs involved in renting a home or paying a mortgage, including council tax, utilities, internet or phone, TV licence, parking and commuter transport.
Couples and families can get tax breaks, family discounts and allowances not available to solo living households, suggesting that in many cases, people who live on their own are a frequently overlooked policy making and consumer group.
How many times have you attempted to book a holiday and been advised that there’s a ‘single person supplement’? That the cost of accommodation might be more expensive for one person than for two? Yet given the increasing trend of solo travel, the travel industry has seen a surge in companies who specialise in catering to solo travellers. They are mindful of how a solo holidaymaker’s requirements can differ from those travelling with friends and family. Solo travel specialists address the single supplement by offering shared room accommodation with fellow travellers on the trip or alternatively offer a private room but very often, with a cost supplement.
Coupled with offering a wide variety of thoughtfully designed itineraries and tour options, solo travellers are more easily able to plan their dream getaway. Solo travel tour specialists provide time-saving convenience and help to the solo traveller who does not want to holiday alone. Opting for a group tour can save you valuable planning time and offer experiences within an itinerary difficult to find and organise if travelling alone. If you’re looking for solo holiday options, why not sign up to our newsletter for an exclusive download of Solo Living’s A-Z of Solo Travel Tour Operators?
However, although the travel industry has been relatively quick in adapting to the solo living trend, there are other sectors which have a long way to go in terms of fair pricing and options for solos. Not too long ago, the Guardian pointed out other instances including theatre, cinema and aeroplane tickets, as not so frequently recognised examples.
The article details real-life instances of people facing price discrimination because they are solo. Actor Matthew Field was refused a ticket to a play because all the remaining tickets were in pairs, and he was only looking to purchase one. Perhaps even more shocking is the example of car insurance: the Guardian found that a comprehensive policy for a one woman would cost an average of £841 per year, and yet if a said woman were to add on a spouse, it would only be £406 on average per year.
The minute you have another individual contributing to household expenses, the costs of your food, fuel, entertainment and transport are going to go down. Gym or sports club membership might add to the costs of a solo life, and subscriptions to online libraries, websites or entertainment networks must all be paid out from one income.
Group or family memberships of many clubs and institutions are per head cheaper, while bulk buying of food and home cooking cost proportionally less, as do laundry and fuel bills when they can be shared. Couples can also share not only car insurance rates, as was mentioned, but the use of a car and other car-related expenditure too. Almost all hotels will offer friends and family discount and other services, with ferries and planes, keen to benefit the family and friends traveller.
But there are signs of other more logical offers better suited to the solo dweller which can apply to family orientated activities, but only if purchasing as a group. Increasingly many stores and services offer better deals if you are connected and willing to direct friends towards their product or service. We’ve witnessed a rise in customer community-based promotions and reward programmes like those offered by giffgaff. Yet there still seems to be a gap in offers catering directly to solo households.
That said, for the past ten years, Chinese businesses have been marketing directly to solos by offering special sales and discounts on 11th November every year. Similar to the Black Friday or Cyber Monday events, the nationally recognised Singles’ Day began in the ‘90s at Nanjing University as an anti-Valentine’s Day – a day for students to celebrate being single.
In 2009, the e-commerce site Alibaba started its Singles’ Day (now often known colloquially as Double Eleven, as it takes place on the 11th day of the 11th month) offering promotions and encouraging solos to buy themselves gifts. In the ten years since, Singles’ Day has become a worldwide phenomenon – breaking records for most one day online sales and surpassing Cyber Monday sales considerably. And it’s only getting bigger – in 2018, sales were 27% higher than in 2017, as e-commerce took in $30.8 billion in sales worldwide
This demonstrates that just as there has been a rise in solo living, so too has there been a rise in the power of the ‘solo pound’. If brands take the time to understand this increasingly important demographic and market to it accordingly, companies will reap the benefits. As it stands, we’re not quite there and there is still much that can be done to reach out to the solo living market.
That’s one of the reasons why we are here. Solo Living endeavours to navigate our way around the cost of living for solo households and the impact it has on our daily lives. We want to get to grips with the issue by exploring and discussing how the dilemmas in the marketplace might be and are already being addressed. With your support, we like to think the future is bright!