Cost of living in London – An expat’s guide
The cost of living in London… Well, isn’t this a slightly terrifying title for a post.
I’ve probably been, subconsciously, putting off writing this post because I’m too scared to work out the details of how much it’s actually been costing me to live in London for the last 5 years! But, nevertheless, here we go.
It’s no secret that London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. It’s also no secret that it’s one of the most exciting, vibrant, diverse places too – which is why so many of us suck it up and find ways to make it work.
But how expensive is it to live in London, really?
I’m not going to break it down grocery-by-grocery or we’ll be here all day (and that’s what the Tesco website’s for), but I will give you some numbers based on average costs, to give you an idea of what you’ll need to earn, or save, if you’re planning to live in London.
**These are estimates only, based on how much you can generally expect to pay
Central area, furnished flats
- 1 bedroom flat – £1608 per month*
- Renting a room in a share house – £748 per month*
(*Source: SpareRoom Rental Report 2017)
Check out my guide to house hunting for more details.
I also came across this interactive map which breaks down the average weekly cost of rent in individual London boroughs.
- Mobile phone – £10 – £40 p/month. I use GiffGaff who I can personally recommend – I pay about £15 per month with free EU roaming, 5GB of data, 1,000 call minutes and unlimited texts
- Utilities (internet, gas, electricity…) – expect to pay £100 pp, p/m in a share house of 3-4 people; or £150 pp p/m in a house of 2 people
- Council tax – £104 p/month for a Band D flat in Tower Hamlets. Click here to find out which council tax Band your house is in
- Gym – £30 – £90 p/month, depending on how fancy you want to get (check out my guide to London gyms for more details)
- Cleaner – £12 hourly rate average
- Public Transport – £33 Weekly cost if you’re travelling every day during peak hours (see TFL’s price breakdown here)
- Bike – £250 for a decent set of wheels to get you around town. Check out Hackney Cycles for inspo
- National train lines – £30 – £150 depending where in the UK you go and which train line you travel with. Virgin Trains are typically one of the fastest but also the most expensive
- Eurostar – £69 – £150 return to Paris. Book in advance for a £69 return ticket.
- Getting to the airport – £20 on average. Heathrow is cheapest (£6 on the Piccadilly line) while Stansted Express sets you back £28 for a return ticket. Check out my guide to London’s airports for details
An important thing to note is that meat is typically quite expensive in London, especially when I compare it to Aussie prices. If you eat a lot of meat, you end up spending at least twice as much as a veggie (another great excuse to cut down your meat consumption)
- Bread – £1 Hovis sliced wholemeal loaf
- Milk – £0.93 for 1L
- Chicken Breast – £5.77 for 2 Tesco organic breast fillets, 350g
- Mince Beef – £4.50 for 500g of Tesco Organic Steak Mince
- Lunch – Expect to spend about £5 on a lunch time salad from somewhere like Pret, Pod or EAT
- Combo meal at a fast food restaurant – £5.99
- Cold & Flu medicine – £3.50
- Paracetamol / Ibuprofen – £0.50 for a pack of 16 (no name brand, e.g. Boots, Tesco)
- Toilet paper – £3.50 for 9 rolls
- Tampons – £2.85 for box of 32
- Shampoo – £2.50 – £5 for popular brands like Pantene, Tresemme, L’oreal, etc.
- Deodorant – £2.50 Nivea Invisible 250mL aerosol
- Wine – £7 – £10 p/bottle
- Spirits – £13 – £20 p/bottle
On average, I spend about £5 – £8 on ingredients for a veggie meal for 2 from Sainsburys. This obviously varies from person to person, based on taste and ingredients, but it’s definitely possible to feed yourself on much more, and much less than that.
Hmm… how long is a piece of string?! This one is very dependent on, well, mostly how much you like to eat and booze, really. That tends to be where money goes the fastest. As a general summary, you can expect the following:
- Cinema tickets – £10 – £20
- Theatre tickets – £40 – £100 (Here’s a post on finding the best deals)
- Drink at the pub – £4 average for a pint of beer, £5 house wine (small) or mixer (single shot)
- Cocktails – £10 – £18
- Dinner – anywhere from £15 – £30pp is standard, without drinks
- Brunch – £15 – £20pp including coffee (Check out my favourite brunch spots here)
- Museums – freeeeeee 👍 (well not all, but lots are free)
Setting up on Arrival
Set up costs depend on a lot of things – where you’re coming from, where you’ll be staying and what you’ve brought with you… for starters.
If you’re moving to London and need some help setting up – you should consider signing up for a Kickstarter package – it takes all the admin out so you can focus on settling into your new city. Packages start at £35 – see details below (ad)
And of course my Moving to London eBook has a full breakdown of what costs you can expect when you first arrive in London, and how best to budget for them.
That’s a brief summary of the cost of living in London. Anything missing from the list? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to help.