Pie Charts, The Inequality Of Singledom And NY Resolutions

My New Year resolution for 2022 is to get out more, preferably hiking in the countryside around where I live or venturing further afield on genealogical explorations. I find it very easy to become set in my ways. I am quite lazy and comfortable hiding away, getting on with work. The pandemic and the realisation of how vulnerable you are as a woman out alone have also put me off the outside world for the most part. Petrol price rises have been the icing on the cake. Keeping bills in check has been incredibly important this last year, but it really shouldn’t be dictating my life as much as I feel it has done, although I probably should be blaming coronavirus for the last two years.

I have rules for going out. Nowhere that involves pay and display car parking and it needs to be possible in a day. I know I need to spread my net wider and keep off the tourist trails to achieve some of this. I am well versed with the Reddish and Longdendale paths, although it’s been a couple of years now since I was out on the Pennines. I like to see new places and I am curious about going further into the Peak National Park and the Yorkshire Dales at its southern end. I have found a hiking app that will help with tried and tested routes.  I also want to do more research into the places where my ancestors lived and died. In January 2019 I spent a couple of days on the Scottish Borders researching my Cumberland and Border family histories, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The end of the year means a rounding up of spreadsheets to see how I did financially, and I like to turn them into a piechart which simplifies the data and gives me something to aim for in the new year. Like most years, and for most people, rent is the glaring anomaly. I am single. I live alone. Every bill is on my shoulders, and very few of them are halved by living alone. Whilst many complain about the imbalance of costs for single people, I consider it a worthy sacrifice and it allows me to stay in control of other expenses.

I know there have been discussions in the media about 50% reductions on council tax or reduced rents for single people, but isn’t it all relative? My rent in 2021 worked out at 48% of my outgoings, but my income is very low and that’s no one’s fault but mine. Income and outgoings are relative to your job and the region in which you live. Is it my landlord’s fault that I don’t earn more? My rent isn’t exactly high. I don’t work in a job where I am competing with men. I made my own job. But figures out recently demonstrate that if you are in a work place, your earnings might not be comparable to everyone elses:

‘Data released today by the Women’s Budget Group (WBG), and shared with HuffPost UK, shows men’s median earnings were £31,813 in 2020, while women’s median earnings were £20,512. This means average private rents in England swallow 43% of women’s median earnings, but only 28% of men’s.

“Anything over 30% of income is classed as unaffordable,” explains director Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson. “The combination of women’s lower pay per hour, and lower working hours, leads to a significant gender earnings gap.”’ (Source)

I am also in control of other expensive bills such as utilities and food which would be so much higher if I wasn’t single. I think my charts also demonstrate how important benefits are to low income households. They are an essential lifeline and certainly for me it would disappear if I was living with someone, thus taking away much of my financial independence. Working tax credits covered all my basic living essentials aside from rent last year including food, gas, electric, water and council tax.

Here is a summing up of my income and outgoings for 2021in percentages. My income averaged £800 gross per month in 2021 which is the highest it’s been for several years (in 2019 it dropped to just £611). I now have multiple income streams but some of those amounts are very incremental and almost all of them are unreliable. It requires a lot of cutting back on outgoings to ensure that they make a difference and keep being worth the effort. Even so, I am still over £200 a month short income wise on average, so that’s quite a lot to work on in 2022 and something to aim for:

The last three years have been about surviving. I have gone through several changes which have had huge impacts on my finances and that’s not even taking the pandemic into account. I hope 2022 will be a year to build on things incrementally, but there are many challenges ahead for all of us. Laying it all out like this helps me see the gaps and where I need to work harder. Onwards and upwards.

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