Many people who come onto this blog are expats or people perhaps interested in living, working or studying in the UK. I am going to try to do a breakdown of how much it typically costs to live and work in the UK. Please keep in mind that things vary tremendously based on where in the country you live, but I will put prices for the three places I've lived. This budget is based on 1 student and/or a couple, meaning anything I mention is suitable for you if you're a student looking to move to the UK. This is all my personal experience, however, so you may be able to spend more or less depending on your spending habits.
I have covered half of this in my video on my channel here.
In villages and even further north, things can be even cheaper, whereas bigger cities (like Bath, Bristol and Brighton) can be much more expensive.
1. Housing- Room Share
The first place I lived in the UK was in a shared house in Leicester's city centre. I paid £350 ($542 USD) per month, all bills included, for a bedroom of my own and sharing bathroom and kitchen.
I then moved to Milton Keynes where I live with my boyfriend in a shared house. We pay £500 ($774 USD) between us for one bedroom with a shared bathroom and kitchen, again all bills included. However, £500 for a room is pretty standard as you get closer to London.
If you live in London in an outer borough, you can expect to pay £500 ($774 USD) up to £1000 ($1550 USD) (in central London or a fancy borough)
2. Housing- Entire Apartment
We have yet to have an entire apartment to ourselves, however these are the going rates in the same areas for a 1 bedroom:
Leicester (city centre)- £400 ($619) to £800 ($1239)--May or may not include bills
Milton Keynes area- £625 ($968) to £1450 ($2,226)--May or may not include bills
London (this can vary tremendously--but I will give you a minimum):
Outer borough but still close enough to ride the tube into the city relatively quickly: £1000 ($1550) to £1800 ($2789)
Central London (Zones 1 & 2)- £1100 ($1704) to as expensive as you can imagine!
It really depends on what you use. Utilities are more in the winter. Because all bills are included in our rent, we really don't see how much is spent on cable and Internet. However, we know that it costs usually about £20-£25 per month for heat and gas for a 5 bedroom house in the summer months and can be up to £150-£200 in the winter months.
Food can vary tremendously based on where you shop, but not typically by location. I would say personally, I spend about £150 ($232) a month on food but if you're better at planning than I am, you're probably more likely to spend less. You can also get items like fruits and vegetables that are about to go off at a big discount and these usually go on sale late at night/right before the store closes.
As far as eating out, fast food prices remain quite cheap. If I go to McDonald's, I can usually get a meal for under £2.50 ($4) (medium fries, burger and Diet Coke), but I don't have a huge appetite.
In general, eating out is far more expensive than in the US. If you're someone like me who doesn't have a huge appetite, you can still expect to spend around £15-£20 on a meal out ($23-$32) at a popular chain/casual non fast food restaurant. If you have a bigger appetite or want something a little more fancy, you'll be spending more.
5. Phone Bill
This seems to be similar regardless. I pay £50 ($77) for an unlimited phone and data plan for my iPhone 5c, but I paid no money down for the phone initially.
This also varies depending on location. In Leicester, there is no real need to use buses or other transport on a daily basis. You may find yourself using something here and there, but not very often.
Milton Keynes is an exceptional city in that it is built for cars. Most people here have a car to get around and rarely do people take buses.
London a monthly tube ticket (for 9-5 workers) for zones 1-5 (most of the zones on the tube) will run you about £225 ($348) per month. A single tube ticket can cost from £2.30 ($3.50) to £6.90 ($11) depending on how far you are going. This is one way.
Train fares into London or into other cities vary depending on the time of day.
From Milton Keynes, I pay £28 ($43) with a 30% off rail card (so the price is 30% for people ineligible for this card) to get a round trip ticket to central London and access to Zones 1-6 on the tube during work hours. If you go after 9:30AM, your ticket is reduced to £13.55 ($21).
From Leicester, you will pay £103 ($160) per roundtrip ticket with a travelcard and railcard discount during the workday, £44 ($68) without a travelcard on an advanced specific train without access to the tube. Going during off-peak times (or after 9:30AM) are £38 ($60) with a discount railcard and without access to the tube (you will have to pay your tube fare separately).
Going any other place in the UK requires planning ahead and carefully. If you plan ahead, you can get on specific trains for very cheap (such as tickets from Leicester to London for £8). However, if you leave it until the day of, unless it is a set price (such as from MK to London or peak ticket times from Leicester ton London), you're going to be paying up to several times more.
8. Misc and Entertainment
Movie tickets in London-regular 2D - Adult- £14.50 during "peak" times, ($25) or £10.55 for a student during "peak" times ($16.25).
Movie tickets outside of London in 2D- Adult- £7.25 ($11.25), £5.25 for students ($8.20)
Price of clothing- Depends on where you shop. You can go here to view H&M's range in the UK. There are, however, stores like Primark which offer extremely cheap and trendy clothing and you can often buy entire outfits for £15-£20 ($23-$40).
Cars- Cars are surprisingly cheap here in the UK. You can get a running used car for as little as £500 ($774), but it may have a lot of miles on it and/or other problems. A good used car will run you about £2000 ($3100) and a new car, around £8000 ($13,000). Each year, cars in the UK are required to be serviced with what is known as an MOT to ensure it is driveable. The cost for this is minimal, but it may mean you have extra repairs you'll have to pay for to make your car suitable for driving.
You will also have to pay insurance, which depends on your age, gender and driving history. As a foreign female, I would be expected to pay around £750 per year ($1162). Citizens of the UK/EU and New Zealand/Australia who are my age will typically pay a lot less. Young male drivers can be expected to pay even more.
Health Insurance- FREE! (Well, not totally.) As an EU/UK national, the NHS (National Health Service) is free. Recently, they have introduced a bill requiring foreigners on visas to pay extra for the NHS. This fee is £150 ($232) per year for students and £200 ($309) per year for non-students. This is payable when you renew your visa. You will pay this every year until you can become a national, which is living here 5 years as a non-student (spouse, worker visa, partner, etc.).
Medicine is £8.25 ($12.17) per script across the board, unless you are in the hospital, then it is usually given for free. You can also buy a prepaid card for £100 ($154) that will cover all of your prescriptions for a year. This is useful if you're on a lot of medicine, like me, and will save you quite a bit. Any medication comes under this.
If you want private health insurance, you pay anywhere from £30 ($46)-£150 ($240) a month (I pay £50--or $77). Private health insurance can come with your job as well depending, and you won't have to pay for that. If you pay out of pocket for private insurance, prior conditions are not covered, but they are if you go through your job or your spouse's job. What is included depends on how comprehensive your plan is. You may ask why people choose private health insurance and there are lots of reasons--many feel they get better care, the facilities are often cleaner, you will almost always get a single room in a hospital with television and Internet and appointments to specialists do not require much, if any, waiting.
Sometimes, when the NHS is having trouble dealing with its flow of patients, NHS patients will be treated for free at a private clinic. You can also mix and match your services between the NHS and private clinics and hospitals.
I have one shih tzu, so I thought this would be a useful little section for other pet parents.
I buy Eugene pretty high quality food that costs around £30 a month ($46). He also has health insurance for accidents at the cost of £14 per month ($22).
His flea and tick prevention is £25 every three months ($39) and he gets groomed about once every 4 months to the tune of £35 a visit ($54). When his skin gets particularly bad, he'll go on a trip to the vet for about £50 and come back with all of his medication ($75-$80).
If your pet has an emergency, most practices will treat them regardless of your ability to pay.
Do you have any other questions about the cost of living in the UK? I will try to answer them!