LIVING FAMILY AFFAIRS: COST OF BEING HOME ALONE; on the Eve of the Final Series of Sex and the City, New Research Has Revealed We're a Growing Nation of Singletons -but What Impact Does Being Single Have on Your Purse? Lifestyle Editor ZOE CHAMBERLAIN Reports

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Byline: ZOE CHAMBERLAIN

IS being home alone your sanctuary? Or is cooking for one driving you crazy?Love it or loathe it, if you live by yourself then you're far from alone.

The number of single adult households in the UK will rise to 7.9 million by 2007, according to new research by Mintel.

Currently one in six people in the Midlands lives alone but that will rocket to almost one in three in four years' time.

So what effect does being single have on your purse?

Mortgage, rent and household bills are more expensive, of course, because there's no-one to share the cost.

Cooking for one is also less economical, you miss out on two-for-one cinema and restaurant deals and you even get stung by single room supplements while on holiday.

Just the lifestyle can also have a big financial impact.

Angela Hughes, consumer research manager at Mintel, says: 'Not surprisingly, people living alone spend far more per head on general housing costs than those couples.

'But they also spend significantly more on communication, alcohol, tobacco and eating out.

'Yet the disposable income available per person is generally higher in single households than for couples where only one person may be working and where, on average, expenditure exceeds income.'

This Friday sees the start of the final series of Sex And The City, the show which features the antics of single New Yorkers.

And just like Sarah Jessica Parker's character Carrie Bradshaw, British single girls are more likely to spend money on indulgences -with one in four admitting that they often buy useless things.

'Young single women who live on their own clearly enjoy shopping and spending,' adds Angela.

'Those whose income allow it are free to indulge their own impulses, buying things which give them pleasure -shoes, clothes, chocolate -in large quantities without having to account for themselves to disapproving male partners. 'Older women living alone may also gain emotional satisfaction from buying things for children and grandchildren.'

Around six in 10 singletons own, or are buying, a home compared to nearly three-quarters of those in larger households.

But only 59 per cent have a car compared to 85 per cent of couples.

Home is a sanctuary for many single women although they're less likely to have a video recorder, DVD player or widescreen television.

And so-called Bridget Joneses tend to be less house-proud than women in larger households. They generally spend an average of 81 minutes a day carrying out chores, compared to 129 minutes in couple households.

'People living alone seem to have more relaxed standards than those in larger households,' says Angela. 'Though, of course, this may be mainly because larger households tend to get dirtier than those with one person.'

Singletons are also more into entertaining -yet are less likely to eat takeaways. More than half enjoy eating out and some describe cooking for one as 'sad'.

Singles are twice as likely to spend their evenings in bars, cafes, pubs or clubs and, on average, attend more concerts, shows and art galleries than those in relationships. …