Saving Money as a Single? Research Says: 'First, Take Care of Yourself'

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


If you’re trying to save money as a single, you may want to visit your doctor.


That’s not meant to sound ominous, I promise. See, statistically, there’s actually not much difference between saving money as a single and saving money as a family. An American study in 2011 and an Australian study in 2004 both found that, outside of housing (wherein a single income is a distinct disadvantage), singles and families ultimately spend roughly the same percentage of their income on the same areas – clothes, food, entertainment et cetera.

This means that many of the strategies employed by families looking to save money can also be employed by singles looking to save money. You can still save money on your groceries as a single, for example, by buying your fruit and vegetables directly from farmers via outlets like Aussie Farmers Direct or your local farmers markets. If you’re living on your own, you can still shave 10% off your electricity bill by switching off your electrical devices at the wall (instead of leaving them on standby)

However, there’s a key difference between singles and couples that makes saving money more difficult for singles – health. If you’re single (divorced, widowed or unattached), multiple studies suggest you’re more likely to fall ill than someone in a relationship. There are a number of theories as to why this is the case but, generally, people fall back on what’s referred to as the Marriage Protection Hypothesis – which says that, by having someone around more often, you’re less likely to do stupid things or avoid going to the doctor when you get sick.

Surprisingly, you can use this information to save money. See, your physically wellbeing influences you in a lot of ways you probably wouldn’t expect. Specifically, it has a huge impact on your psychological wellbeing. Increased physical fitness has been linked to increased brain size, for example. And, according to behavioural scientist Dr Peter Collett, our psychological wellbeing has a direct impact on our ability to save effectively. In fact, a joint university study conducted in 2007 found we’re willing to spend up to 300% more on an item if we’re sad when we’re buying it.

(If it sounds outlandish, you need only consider advice like ‘don’t shop when you’re hungry’. While long touted as common sense for saving money on your groceries, science has since found that hunger actually has a big impact on the decision-making and risk-taking centres in your brain.)

So, if you’re saving money as a single, you may want to visit your doctor. For an extreme example, I was single for six years. While I was aware of plenty of good strategies for saving money on groceries and electricity, I couldn’t bring myself to follow them on a regular basis. Eventually, I discovered I had a form of depression – which greatly inhibits things like self-discipline and motivation. When I started getting treatment for depression, I started saving more money.

Of course, you may not have anything like depression. Like I said, it’s an extreme example. But, if you’re a single person and you’re having trouble sticking to a saving plan, you might benefit from a visit to your doctor. Or, just putting a bit more of a focus on health. Even something as simple as a daily walk can help strengthen bones, lose weight and improve your heart.

And, as we’ve covered, all of that can very much help you build a better bank account.