8 Ways People Living Alone Are Tackling The Rising Costs of Living
This month my energy bill came in at £186 (~$228) – this time last year, I spent £95 (~$116) for the same month. I’m by no means unique – across the world, rising costs of living are impossible to ignore as household budgets become more and more squeezed.
For solo people, rising costs of living have a disproportionate impact on household finances. Being dependent on only one income, soloists are more vulnerable to financial shocks at the best of times. And a recent report by Hargreaves Lansdown showed that in the UK, a single person living alone typically spends £860 ($1055) a month more than a couple in the first place.
Before Christmas, I put out a call to our online communities, asking how people living alone are managing rising costs of living. As always, the community were already on the case! Some of the ideas that came back are ones which everyone would benefit from, no matter their living arrangements. Others are particularly useful for those living solo. Here are some of the main ideas.
Some new homes are build with controls that allow for different areas of the home to be heated seperately (my newbuild house has two sets of controls – upstairs and downstairs). Even where the heating for an entire home is managed via a single control panel, modern radiators have control valves which allow the heating in certain rooms to be turned up or down, or even switched off altogether. Small electric heaters (and open / gas fires in older homes) can be used to further heat particular rooms. ‘Zoning’ means choosing one or two areas of your home, and focusing on getting these as warm as possible, rather than trying to heat everywhere equally.
This can work better when you live alone than in a household where everyone is in a different room of the house. Choose your ‘zone,’ then switch off the radiators / heating in every other room. Use draught excluders, and heavy fabric over doors / curtains to make sure the heat doesn’t escape, and make sure you warm yourself up too – think jumpers, hot water bottles, blankets – to reduce the amount of mains heating you need to use. You can change the ‘zone’ as needed by going through the same steps again – for example, when you’re moving from the main living area to your bedroom.
Lighting and appliances
Clearly, there are other measures you can take to reduce the amount of energy your household uses. Some of the ideas that came up several times included:
Replace normal bulbs with LEDs, which last a lot longer, and use motion sensor lights where you can. LED fairy lights lovely and are incredibly economical to run!
Turn off all lights and appliances at the switch – except for anything needed for security – when not in use. Don’t leave anything on standby.
Switch from an oven to an air fryer if you are only cooking for one!
Fill a mug with water, then pour it into the kettle to boil so that you only use the exact amount of energy needed to make one cup of tea or coffee.
Wash clothes at a lower temperature, unless they are particularly dirty
Turn down the ‘flow temperature’ of your boiler (you can read more here)
Food buying / cooking
Food bills make up a significant part of everyday spending, so it’s only natural that we are all looking for ways to reduce our costs in this area.
Top tips from our community include:
Never shop when you’re hungry
Shop in person rather than online – it’s easier to add things to an online basket than it is a real one
Buy only what you can carry on foot / in a basket rather than a trolley (i.e.: make it physically harder for yourself so that you are more discerning about what you pick up!)
Switch to own-brand rather than branded goods
Find out what time your local supermarket/s discount goods, and aim to shop around that time
Set a spend limit per week, and stick to it – aim to go shopping with a friend if you need some accountability
A solo living favourite, batch cooking – making several days’ worth of food in one go, and freezing what you don’t immediately need.
Many solo people are actively looking at ways to bring in a bit more cash to offset against rising costs of living – and are getting creative in how they do it. I’ve heard of solos negotiating for a raise at work, and taking on extra hours in their day job. I’ve also spoken to solos who are taking on second jobs – from monetising art and craftwork previously done for fun (e.g.: using Etsy), picking up work as an Uber driver or delivery driver, virtual assistant and ad hoc consulting work online, tutoring, dog walking, house sitting, babysitting, coaching and nail art.
Charity / thrift shopping
It turns out that solos love websites such as Vinted, Ebay and Facebook marketplace, and there’s no more fun way to spend an afternoon than browsing the local used good shops. It’s not just about buying – everyone has bits and pieces lying around that they don’t need, and selling them online can be a handy way to bring in a bit of extra cash.
Some soloists are making more dramatic changes to their living arrangements in order to reduce costs. For some, it’s renting out a room on a short term (e.g.: Airbnb) or longer term basis (i.e.: to a live-in tenant) to bring in more income. For others, it’s reconsidering their solo living arrangements entirely. That could mean moving in with a friend or relative, or becoming a tenant in someone else’s home. For those not prepared to give up solo living, location is key – selling up and moving to a cheaper location can reduce costs substantially over the long term. Downsizing (moving to a property with fewer bedrooms) can also be a way to reduce mortgage or rental costs, and / or to free up equity.
When we live alone, our social lives revolve around the connections that exist outside of our home. We know that singles on average spend more of their disposable income on eating out and entertainment than those in couples, and maintaining our friendships is crucial for a happy, healthy, successful solo life. Again, solos are getting creative in keeping costs down while still finding ways to have an active social life. We’ve heard of housemates posing as couples to take advantage of discounted memberships at the gym. Home cinema nights (using a large sheet and a projector), games nights (in person and online), ‘one-on-one-off drinking’ (alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks), and replacing evening with daytime socialising.
Use the ‘need / love’ rule for spending
I love this one – a really simple rule for spending that helps get our tendency to impulse buy under control. The rule is this. You should only buy something if you need it or if you love it (love meaning – something that will bring lasting joy). If it’s something you only like (where ‘like’ means short term joy, i.e.: you will have forgotten about it in six months) or want (i.e.: instant gratification – you won’t be interested a couple of days later), then you don’t buy it! The way to put the rule into practice is simply to ask – before you buy absolutely anything at all – do I need it? Do I love it? Do I like it? Do I want it? Sometimes just the act of stopping to ask these questions can make you reconsider and avoid imprudent purchases.
If you have other ideas on how to manage rising costs of living, we’d love to hear from you – why not use the comments below to share these with others living alone?
If you’d like to write for the Living Well Alone Project, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you’d like to write about.
Hannah Carmichael is the co-founder of the Living Well Alone Project.