Well Well Well

Is Seattle Ready to Actually Embrace Single People?

In the face of the singles tax, let us eat cake.

By Haley Shapley April 11, 2024

Tax season is here again, and well, it’s not my favorite time of year. For one, the last time I did my taxes, I was riding a ferry and it ran aground, so I’m hesitant to start them for fear of what this year could bring. But also, it’s a reminder of how not-advantageous it can be to be single, at least in financial terms.

To live comfortably in Seattle as a single person requires a salary of $119,392, according to a recent analysis from SmartAsset. That’s assuming you follow the 50/30/20 budget, with 50 percent of your salary going toward needs (housing, groceries, transportation), 30 percent going toward wants, and 20 percent going toward savings and investing.

There’s something called the “singles tax” for living alone. In Seattle, that’s $10,825. When you’re not splitting your mortgage, Costco runs, and streaming subscriptions with someone, costs add up. Plus, there are all kinds of discounts for being partnered. One gym I like in the city charges $205 a month—or $320 if you’re a couple. This is a great deal for those living with a significant other, but the single members are likely to be more in need of that $540 annual savings.

As someone who recently celebrated a milestone birthday, unmarried and child-free, I’m also reminded of the traditional norms our ideas of success are rooted in. The surest way to get a lot of likes on Facebook is to announce an engagement or a baby. Job promotions, graduate degrees, and personal achievements will get you some thumbs-ups, but at least in my circles, not in nearly the same numbers.

I get it, because I love a photo of a squishy newborn just as much as the next person. But there are lots of other things I love, too. And there are so many more accomplishments that deserve our collective kudos. My predictions in my elementary school yearbook were that I’d grow up, get married, and have two kids in my 20s. I was going to name them Katelyn and Gabby. I remember thinking that was the only option—it was sometime in junior high when I realized I could choose a different path. And so far, I have. (Not everything’s changed, though. I also said in the yearbook that my favorite song was Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby,” and that’s still an absolute banger.)

To be clear, it’s important to have systems in place for families and couples. But amid all that, let us remember that there are lots of valid life choices, and prioritizing the ideal of coupledom and all the societal benefits it brings, monetary and otherwise, can have its drawbacks. I can’t level the financial playing field for singles. I can’t reduce the “single shaming” that people often face. But something I can do? Embrace one of the rituals of American life typically reserved for couples.

So, for my milestone birthday, I hosted a wedding cake tasting. I went to two wedding cake bakeries in Seattle—Honey Crumb Cake Studio and Lady Grey Cake Design—and ordered three tastings for a total of 12 types of cake.

I have a fulfilling career, I like where I live, and am happily dating someone (and contrary to popular belief, I’m just as content when I’m not). But for all the bridal showers, baby showers, engagement parties, bachelorette parties, weddings, and other shindigs I have attended, I have never gotten to pick out a really fancy, really expensive cake for a sizable soiree focused on celebrating me. And the thing is, I love cake. It’s probably my favorite dessert, and that’s saying a lot given how much I enjoy cookies. So I decided, wedding or not, it was time to focus on my well-being and make my cake dreams come true.

Half my family thought I was a weirdo for doing this, and my mom called approximately 20 times beforehand to lament that there would not be enough dessert for everyone, since we’d just be having tiny bites. (Spoiler alert: there was plenty of cake to go around.) But it ended up being a blast. Plus, the different cakes gave us something to talk about as we all dissected the flavor profiles and debated our favorites.

(Our top three were the Strawberry Fields from Honey Crumb, the Caramelized Bourbon Peaches from Lady Grey—my favorite—and the Maple Blueberry from Lady Grey.) 

The only downside to the wedding cake tasting approach is that—bringing it full circle—it was not budget-friendly compared to just buying a regular cake. And, of course, I paid for it all myself because I am, in fact, unmarried. But hey, my taxes aren’t due quite yet, so that’s future Haley’s problem. And because I’m not getting married, I don’t need to go and actually purchase the wedding cake now. So really, I’ve saved money. #girlmath

Thank you, singledom, for paying off—and being a perfectly valid choice, no matter my age.

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