Any relationship comes with perks and pitfalls. But data out of the UK this month revealed it costs £860 (around A$1,500) more a month to be single, begging the question: is living alone really worth £10,000 (A$17,000) a year and what does it get you?
Living in a share house, I am starting to get an itch to rent on my own. And while the biggest barrier to doing so is undoubtedly the rising cost of rent, it is also the cost of being alone.
I am such a romantic at heart that it would be impossible to suggest I want a relationship purely for financial gain, much as I’d also like someone to pay for half a dog (and get up half the nights required for puppy toilet training). But a partner does come with financial flexibility. Pool your incomes to rent a one-bedroom apartment and slash your rent in half (there’s the aforementioned £10,000 you could save), or rent a two-bedroom place and have a home office to fight over.
Such hopes and dreams aside, share houses can be great. They are a chance to make serendipitous connections during your formative years and live in places you may not otherwise. They are also economical. But when you’re done, you’re done, and as friends move in or out with their partners in their mid to late 20s, it is a stark reminder that being single is so often not a choice, and it brings with it a waiting game.
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I am lucky to have a housemate who was friend first and housemate second. We have those quintessential late-night chats in the kitchen and occasionally watch trashy TV together. We know the things you only know about people you live with, enough that one day I got a text on my way home from work to say “Kitchen, chaos. Cabbage, everywhere … Sorry, I left in a rush.” I laughed, but she was right about me. I can only hope that a future partner can be just as in tune with the perils of pitting me against a messy kitchen after a long day.
But we are different people at different stages of life, and one day we will part ways. When that time comes and I’m faced with the prospect of having to change my living situation, I will choose financial sacrifice. I hope to be able to shoulder the cost of an entire apartment on my own, and with no longstanding boyfriend waiting in the wings to pay half, I won’t be happy about it, but I will be ready.
None of my housemates have been nightmares. I have made some lifelong friends. But I enjoy having the house to myself too much to share with strangers again. The wish to own a home and put nails in the walls one day aside, my bookshelves are spilling over. I want to clear the cupboards of all the crockery I don’t like and reassess the slight humble jumble of furniture that has followed me around since I moved out of home. But until I am committing to just me, myself and I (or me, myself and my other half) in my four walls, it doesn’t seem worth doing.
Apart from a mushroom that grew from the cornice of my ceiling one winter, I am very lucky to have escaped the damp, mouldy rental crisis in Australia and the world. The cost of living crisis only amplifies the amount of money we spend on rent, and is unlikely to fade away like a rogue fungus. It is a global problem quickly destroying the rule of thumb that you should spend no more than 30% of your income on rent. Dating too may be on tenterhooks, with the rejection of dating apps increasing, potentially leaving more singletons in awe of the money they could be saving.
I do love my little apartment by the beach. It has picture rails, old wooden windows that look out on trees and an art deco front door. It also has an intercom that doesn’t work, a gas port that leads to nothing and a child that screams every night before bed downstairs. One day, when I stumble across the perfect man to come home to and all that jazz, I’ll let the perks and pitfalls play out. In the meantime, to my landlords, thank you for not raising the rent. Singles everywhere need more people like you.
Maddie Thomas is an editorial assistant at Guardian Australia