‘I feel powerless’: How the cost of living crisis will disproportionately impact single women
“Even before the cost of living crisis, my bills have consistently been way too expensive and unaffordable,” Carly tells GLAMOUR. “Now, there’s additional pressure on top of that with council tax and energy bills rising.”
Single parents will face the brunt of the looming crisis. Victoria Benson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, the charity for single-parent families, said: “Being a single parent means you only have one household income and it has to cover lots of fixed costs that couples can share, such as housing and heating, both of which take up big chunks of anyone’s budget.
“Once childcare and other essentials are paid for, there’s not much money left, which means single-parent families often experience poverty or live with problem debt.”
Losing the £20 Universal Credit increase and an £80 stipend for working from home has left Carly under even more financial strain. This means that her disposable income is minimal after paying off debt and putting a little aside for savings.
“I feel like it’s inevitable that I will go into debt [when my bills go up],” she says. “When I run out of money towards the end of the month, I rely on my credit cards, especially for big expenditures like the food shop and bills – and I feel like I’m starting to run out earlier and earlier.”
Understandably, the uncertainty is impacting Carly’s mental health. “It’s the anxiety of not knowing how the increasing costs will impact me,” she says. “I don’t have the potential to do much else. I’m just trying to balance everything while prioritising Ezra and me…and the juggle of it all is exhausting.”
According to an analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, low-income individuals who live alone will spend the most on gas and electricity bills (33% of their income after housing costs).
Single women, in particular, will feel the consequences. “As on average women earn less than men, single women are more likely to struggle to cover the cost of living on a single salary,” Dr Sara Reis, deputy director of the Women’s Budget Group (WBG), tells GLAMOUR. “Housing costs are a particularly illustrative example: WBG research has found that no region in England is affordable for women renting independently, whereas men on an average salary can afford every region except London.”
Ebby, 28, lives in a shared house in Manchester. After recently getting a full-time job, she was excited to finally move out and get a place on her own, but the rising cost of living means she’ll have to hold off.
“I was really looking forward to moving to my own flat this year but, because of rising housing and energy costs, a flat will cost me more than half of my salary,” she tells GLAMOUR. “It looks like I’ll be stuck in shared accommodation until I can find someone to share a flat and bills with. I’m getting really stressed and anxious because I don’t feel safe in my home anymore [due to problems with a housemate].”
The ‘Single’s Tax’ refers to the higher cost of living placed on people who can’t share bills or other expenses. “There are economies of scale in household expenses: the expenses of a couple household, like bills and rent/mortgage payments, are typically less than the expenses of two single people living on their own,” says Reis. “There is usually also a higher degree of financial security for a woman in a couple that loses her job in that if her partner has an income, they might be able to get by.”