You can achieve financial freedom

Many single people struggle with money and worry about the future. We offer some advice and ask other singles for their tips for taking control of your finances - by Catherine Francis

 

“After being made redundant, I worry about my finances. I rent on my own in an expensive city, and it’s hard to keep on top of the bills.”

“I’ve had to cut my hours at work due to ill health – I’m on my own and I barely get by.”

“A lot of us singles have no one to turn to for financial support if we’re unable to generate sufficient income.”

 

In these times of austerity and economic depression, money is a daily concern for many of us, whether we’re single or married. However, economic research shows that, on average, single people are financially less well off than their married counterparts. Married couples often have two incomes and are able to share living costs – as the saying goes, “Two can live as cheaply as one”. Singles often have no financial back-up in the event of redundancy or illness, so may be more likely to get into debt.

Married people can pool their assets – for example, when getting on the property ladder. It takes a single person an average of 10 years longer to raise the deposit for a mortgage than a married person. There are also financial advantages given to married couples in the UK, which singles are obviously excluded from. The website www.moneysavingexpert.com reports that married couples can reduce their income tax, pay less capital gains tax, get a double mortgage and take advantage of the new Marriage Allowance.

You may be aware of studies showing that married people live longer, healthier lives. However, this is actually due to the financial benefits of marriage. Once the financial factor is taken into account in the statistical analysis, the positive effects of marriage on health and longevity vanish.

However, being single doesn’t have to stop you achieving your financial goals. Liz Lugt, speaker, trainer and chartered accountant, is the creator of the Money Management Made Easy course and Roadmap To Financial Freedom course and ebook. Liz says: “Good money management principles transcend marital status. I challenge single Christians to use this time to get out of debt, become good stewards and learn to live within a budget. It’s wrong to think things will change when you get married – one of the major causes of marital failure is money pressures. Your spouse may come with a huge student loan, children arrive and someone must stop working to look after them, illness occurs and jobs are lost.

“It’s also a false belief that single Christians should put off buying a home or starting a business until they’re married. I encourage singles not to let money hold them back – you can do so much more with your money if you use the right tools.”

If you’re struggling with money, or are concerned about your financial future, here are some ways you can take control.

 

‘Take a money management course’

Finances can seem like a mysterious and confusing world. However, we can all learn basic skills for managing our money better. There are several Christian organisations that offer home study courses, online guides and in-person courses to help you understand everyday money management. These include:

Crosslight Advice (www.crosslightadvice.org/resources)

Liz Lugt (www.yourmoneyroadmap.com)

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) (www.capuk.org)

The Money Course (www.themoneycourse.org)

C3 Church in Cambridge (http://www.thec3.uk/Articles/438555/Money_Matters_Course.aspx)

CAP and The Money Course also offers resources for courses that can be run in churches. There are bound to be others in your congregation who’d like to learn more about money management, so you could talk to your minister about running a course.

There are a number of books (Christian and non-Christian) that can help you take control of your money. These include: The Money Secret by Rob Parsons (Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99); The Money Diet by Martin Lewis (Vermilion, £7.99); and Your Money Or Your Life by Alvin Hall (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99).

The independent Money Advice Service set up by the UK government also offers guides and tools for managing your money (www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk)

“The CAP money course is brilliant for helping you learn how to get on top of your finances before you get into trouble. They also do one for students going off to uni – my kids did it and it really helped them.”

“Liz Lugt’s Money Management Made Easy course was recommended to me by my church when the world markets crashed about eight years ago. It changed my life. I now have a small nest egg of investments and I’m far better at living within my means.”

 

‘Prioritise getting out of debt’

Being in debt can be extremely stressful and scary. It can start as simply as taking out some store cards or adding too much to a credit card. Over time, you may struggle to afford the monthly payments, or your income may drop, and you take out new loans to cover old ones. At best, it means wasting money on interest that you could save for your future; at worst, it leads to bailiffs, bankruptcy and losing your home. Many people become so scared they stop opening letters from creditors and have no idea of the extent of their debts.

If you’re struggling, you’re not alone – the average UK household is £12,887 in debt (not including mortgages). However, there are good approaches to clearing debt. These include paying off loans in the most advantageous order (known as snowballing) and consolidating debts into lower-interest schemes.

Debt counselling services can help you. CAP (www.capuk.org) and Crosslight Advice (www.crosslightadvice.org/resources) offer debt counselling, as does Citizens Advice (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/help-with-debt/get-help-with-your-debts/get-help-with-your-debts/). There may also be local debt counselling services in your area. You can get helpful information from the Debt Advice Foundation (www.debtadvicefoundation.org) and National Debtline (www.mymoneysteps.org).

“CAP is an amazing charity that helps with debts and budgeting. It can stop the debtors coming to your door.”

“Make an appointment at Citizens Advice – they’ll go through your finances with you and help you make a plan to clear your debts.”

“Get rid of all credit cards and pay off what you have. Arrange things in order of importance, cut out non-essentials and be thrifty when shopping – you’ll be surprised how little you can live on.”

 

‘Reduce your outgoings’

Many of us pay far more than we need to for everyday goods and services, so finding ways to reduce your outgoings is a vital part of money management. Each time you pay a bill or buy something, consider how you could reduce the amount. Are you on the lowest tariffs for utility bills? Could you shop around for cheaper insurance? How about reducing your shopping bills by going to a cheaper supermarket or switching to own-brand products?

Many two-for-one offers are open to anyone, not just married couples. If you’re with a friend, you can get a third off travel costs with Two Together railcards, use Meerkat Movies two-for-one cinema tickets, get two-for-one vouchers for restaurants and tourist attractions, and take advantage of Groupon deals. Websites such as www.moneysavingexpert.com and www.skintdad.co.uk are helpful for discovering money-saving tips and deals – but remember, it’s only a saving if you’d buy it anyway.

“After my husband left, I called my utility companies and negotiated lower payments because I now live alone. I get a single person discount on water rates, council tax and even my household insurance was cheaper when I changed my excess. It helped me survive.”

“Set up a spreadsheet and plan your spending. Don’t have a car – share lifts or get a bike. Never take out a credit card. Do holiday house swaps.”

“Have a chat with your bank. It’s surprising how much money people pay due to ignorance – too much for home or contents insurance, mortgages where the fixed rate has expired, and so on. Get informed.”

“After separating from my husband, I noticed how much the world is geared towards couples and families – food often comes in packs of two or four. I’ve wasted a lot of food and money trying to readjust to shopping for one. The answer is to cook in batches and freeze.”

 

‘Look for extra income streams’

If you’re underpaid at work, you have nothing to lose by asking for a raise – or starting the search for a better paid job. In the meanwhile, consider extra ways of making money. Could you get an additional evening/weekend job for a while? Or start a small side business, such as cleaning, gardening, private coaching or an eBay shop?

Talking of eBay (www.ebay.co.uk), most households have hundreds or even thousands of pounds worth of unwanted clutter – clothes, memorabilia, furniture, DVDs… almost anything will sell, so why not start clearing space and making some cash?

If you have a spare room, you could consider renting it to a lodger (try www.christianflatshare.org) or through Airbnb (www.airbnb.co.uk), or renting out a parking space or garage (try www.yourparkingspace.co.uk). The income from a lodger is tax-free up to £7,500 a year.

“I rent out my spare room through Airbnb and, now I have several trusted regular guests, it’s low-stress and gives me an extra income stream. It’s reassuring as I’m freelance and work can be unpredictable.”

“Get a lodger if you have a spare room – it’s great for helping with bills but don’t forget to declare it to your household insurer.”

 

‘Make your money work for you – and plan for the future’

Now is not a great time for savings and investments, as interest rates are low, but it’s still worth shopping around for the best deals and building up a nest egg for the future. A website such as www.which.com/money/investing is a good place to start gathering information on savings, ISAs, stocks and shares, and investment trusts. Consider a Help To Buy ISA if you’re hoping to buy your first property in the next few years, as the Government adds a 25% bonus to your interest.

It’s never too early to think about a pension if you want a comfortable retirement. https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/categories/pension-basics is a helpful starting point. The new Lifetime ISA could help under-40s start saving for later life, with a 25% bonus from the Government when you get to 50. It’s also important to make sure you’re up to date on National Insurance payments, which provide your state pension.

An independent financial advisor can help you design a savings, investment and pension plan to best suit your needs. You can find one through www.unbiased.co.uk or www.vouchedfor.co.uk.

“If you’re saving for a mortgage, lodge at home with parents for as long as you can and save up.”

“Married people aren’t always better off! We have five kids, so we’re a family of seven getting by on one income. My advice for anyone single is save, save, save! Look forward to whatever your goal is, plan ahead for that deposit, and don’t get into debt.”

“Find a reputable solicitor and make a will. If you don’t, the law lays down who will get your money if you die unexpectedly, and it may not be what you’d like. Review it periodically and remember that, should you marry, your will is no longer valid so you’ll need to make a new one.”

 

‘Don’t be ashamed – and practise contentment’

People who get into money troubles often feel great shame. Crosslight Advice reports that this can lead to people becoming “depressed”, “isolated”, “very nearly suicidal” and “lonely in the whole experience”. Liz Lugt adds: “My overall impression is not that singles worry more, but that they carry this worry alone. They can feel isolated, ashamed and unable to seek help.”

Acknowledging your situation takes courage, but remember, you’re not alone – many people find themselves struggling. Reach out for help and advice, and you’re taking the first step towards financial freedom.

It’s also natural to struggle with disappointment, feel let down by God, and envy what others have. One of the respondents in our survey of single Christians admitted: “I visit married members of my church and I’m jealous of their big houses, which I could never afford.” Taking steps to improve your situation doesn’t mean you can’t also reach out to God for help in being content with what you have. There will always be someone with more but we can still be grateful for what we have, mindful of those with less, and generous in sharing our resources. As believers, we are rich in many things more valuable than money.

“After my marriage ended and I stopped working to become a full-time dad to my daughter, I had a massive reduction in my income. I have much less now but I’m honestly much happier.”

“I may not have much compared to those around me, but I’ve got a roof over my head and I don’t go hungry, so I’m better off than most people in the world. I’m grateful for the blessings God has given me.”

 

With thanks to: Andrew, Anita, Caroline, Charlotte, Dorothy, Genevieve, Geoffrey, Graham, Hayley, Kathryn, Lisa, Meg, Philip, Rachel, Ruth, Vanessa and Victoria.

Disclaimer: Singlefriendlychurch.com is unable to endorse the products and services mentioned in this article, so please research them well before you decide what is appropriate for your needs.

 

NOTES

Church leaders: we have a page with advice and resources to help you support and assist people in your congregation who are struggling with money problems.

We have a separate article giving some links to websites and a book that might help thinking through with whom you invest and borrow - the faith and ethics associated with financial matters.