Can two live cheaper than one?

Date posted: June 21, 2011

Besides friendship and maybe love, one reason typically given for two people to share living expenses is that it’s cheaper on a per person basis. But, says N.C. State University economist Mike Walden, the data don’t necessarily support this assumption.

“We have a brand new study from the U.S. Commerce Department that looked at living expenses of singles and married couples all in the ages of 21 to 29. And the interesting result is they found, on a per person basis, expenses were almost exactly the same. So, that goes against the idea that two can live cheaper than one.

“But there’s a big but here. The difference is really by category of spending. For example, they did find lower per-person spending for the married couples for expenses on food, housing, clothing and education. So, that goes along with the idea.

“So, interestingly they found higher expenses per person for the married couple compared to the singles for transportation, health care, entertainment and insurance.

“And when you average it all together, again, it comes out to the same per-person expenditures for both.

“Now the higher transportation cost for the married couple may result from issues related to coordinating travel. The higher entertainment expenses for couples may be that they have to have someone else in order to enjoy having fun. And insurance probably is higher for a married couple because, indeed, they are married.

“So, if two people are planning to get together to save money, they should be aware that they may save money on some things but not on everything.”

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