How single people are penalised financially

Empty pocketNew research suggests single women pay a massive £435 more for their car insurance than married women. Being single, it seems, is a risky business. But as well as high risk, it can be expensive too.

The research* found married women paid an average of £406 for their car insurance in the last quarter of 2012, compared with £841 paid by single females.
Single women have long paid more for their car insurance than their married counterparts. Apparently the footloose and fancy free are deemed less "stable" by insurers than those who are coupled up.

It's bonkers when you think about it. After all it's no longer legal to base insurance premiums on gender, yet pricing depending on someone's marital status is still allowed? Secondly, it suggests that single people could become safer drivers overnight just by getting hitched.

But it's not just insurers that give single people a raw deal.

Most package holidays advertise a price based on two people sharing a room and you'll be charged a single supplement if you travel alone.

Hotels argue that the cost of cleaning a room and other services is the same regardless of how many people stay in it.

If you choose to travel alone you're pretty much ruled out of the traditional "week in Spain" type package holiday. But the good news is there are plenty of other, much more exciting, options.

Most adventure travel companies encourage solo travellers and pair them up with someone of the same gender to share accommodation with. So if travelling round Mexico or climbing mountains in Morocco is your bag, you'll find some like-minded people to do it with. Or if you fancy a resort-based holiday, Mark Warner caters well for single people with single or shared rooms and plenty of social activities.

Best of all, if you're single there's no one to persuade you to spend your hard-earned cash and limited annual leave entitlement on a dull golf holiday: money permitting, the world is your oyster.

The trials of being a first-time buyer these days are well documented, but getting that vital first step on the ladder can be even more difficult if you are doing it alone.

If you don't have a partner with whom you can share the cost of a deposit and mortgage, buying a property can seem nothing but a distant dream.

One option is to get a joint mortgage with a friend but you'll need to decide what you'll do further down the track if one of you wants to live with a partner.

If you do manage to buy alone, then the advantages are obvious: total independence. Unlike couples who might find property ownership makes a messy break-up ten-times harder, you won't have to move house just because you don't like your boyfriend anymore.

And if you're desperate, or just fancy the company, you can take advantage of the Government's Rent-a-Room scheme if you have a spare bedroom.

Household bills
Council tax bills are supposedly calculated based on two adults living at an address. However, the single person's discount for living alone is only 25%.

To qualify for this discount you need to sign a form available from your local council to say that you live alone.

There's no discount at all on other bills such as gas, electricity, water, phone and broadband and these bills can be expensive for the lone dweller.

As far as your water supply goes, you might not have a choice of supplier, but it can be a good idea to get a water meter installed. Generally this is a good idea if your property has more bedrooms than inhabitants.

As if being single wasn't expensive enough, singletons are rarely mentioned by politicians or newspapers.

We're always hearing about "hard-working families" and "families hit by the recession" as if single people don't go to work or are unaffected by economic conditions.

And while there are tax breaks for families, there's no such help for people who pay the mortgage and bills on their own rather than splitting the very same costs with someone else.

While a change in policies might be asking too much, just an acknowledgement that not everyone lives in a family unit might be a start.
* from Watson

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How single people are penalised financially

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the

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