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Last Updated on June 29, 2021 by Ella
It’s no secret that the cost of living in London is high.
It’s so freaking expensive.
Every year, thousands upon thousands of people move to the city. Whether they’re in London to progress their career, get a taste of big city living, or just for a change of pace, London attracts people from all over the world.
Every potential Londoner has one question on their mind though: How much money will I need to live in London?
I moved to London from Leeds, back in September 2019, and I really struggled to work out how much living in London would cost me before I got here. For this reason, after living here for 18 months, I have put together this guide to how much living in London really costs.
This is your no-BS, completely honest guide to how much you’ll need to live in London each month!
Things to Consider Before You Move to London
If you already have a job lined up before you move to London, this will help massively.
If you already know your salary, you’ll have a clear idea of how much you can afford to spend each month. This makes creating your monthly living in London budget so much easier!
If you’re moving to London without a job, it can be tricky knowing whether or not you’ll be able to afford to live in London before you arrive. You’ll need some savings to tide you over.
To be on the safe side, I recommend finding the lowest realistic salary someone in your industry in London would get paid and use that as a starting point. If it turns out you get paid more once you land a job, great! But this approach means you won’t end up committed to paying rent on a place to later realise you can’t afford it.
It’s hard to say what the right amount you’ll need in savings before you move to London without a job is. As a bare minimum, you should arrive with 6 months’ rent saved up. This will allow you to pay a deposit for a flat (1 months’ rent), cover 3 months of rent whilst you find a job, and use the amount equal to two months’ rent to cover your living costs.
I was extremely fortunate to be able to transfer to London with the company I worked at in Leeds, which made everything so much easier for me. I’m also extremely lucky that my job is well paid, and I don’t have any dependents to support financially.
Everybody’s situation is different, so although I’ll make recommendations in this post, at the end of the day, I recognise that I have been very fortunate. I don’t want to sugar coat how expensive the cost of living in London is, though.
I have lived in terrible, freezing, falling-apart houses, and unless you have no other choice, that’s no way to live just to save a couple of £££. So this post is more “how much it costs to live in London comfortably” rather than just getting by.
How Much Does Rent Cost in London?
Rent will undoubtedly be your biggest monthly expense when living in London. It’s reaaallly overpriced, and London has a huge affordable housing shortage. In fact, some of the properties available to rent in London are so bad that VICE runs a hilarious column called London Rental Opportunity Of The Week, showcasing the latest nightmare properties.
There are loads of factors to consider when working out how much you’ll need to pay on rent every month in London, so let’s get started:
Which Zone Can I afford to live in?
London is split into zones for public transport, but the zones are also used to describe how close you live to the city centre. For example, Zone 1 is central London and the best place to live to be close to all the action. Then it goes Zone 2, 3, 4, etc… The zones go all the way to zone 9, but by that point you’re absolutely not in London any more!
If you want to actually live in London, and experience all it has to offer, you should find a place in either Zones 1, 2 or 3. Zones 1 or 2 are prime areas for living in London, and renting there will cost more, but it means your commute to work will be cheaper, and you’ll be closer to everything. In Zone 3 you’ll get cheaper rent than in Zones 1 and 2, and you’ll still be within a short commute of central London.
This is just a general guide, though. Some notoriously fancy areas, such as Hampstead, are in Zone 3 but still super expensive, so that’s something to bear in mind.
A good rule of thumb is if you can’t afford the rent in a certain area go a zone further out.
There’s nothing wrong with living in Zone 5 if that’s all you can afford, but you will be quite far away from all the action and will spend a lot of your time on buses and trains.
Living Alone vs Flatsharing
Unless you’ve landed a job with some serious moolah (and if so, go you!) you’re gonna be sharing a house with flatmates.
Yeah – even if you’re 40.
The only exception to this is if you have a partner and you both have fairly well-paying jobs. If this is the case, you’ll be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in a decent area between you.
So, the amount of rent you’ll pay in London depends on a few things, like:
- Which zone your flat is in
- How recently the flat was renovated
- How many flatmates you’re sharing with
- Whether or not your flat has a living room
How Much Does it Cost to Live Alone in London?
For a one-bedroom flat in decent shape in Zones 1 or 2 (not including bills) expect to pay around £1,600+ per month. And yes, that’s before bills.
Yikes! In Zone 3 you’re looking at around £1,200+ per month.
For a studio in Zones 1-2 it costs around £1,000 a month.
Like any big city, London has its fair share of hovels. If you’re desperate to live alone in a central area you’ll probably manage to find a (really, really bleak) studio for around £600 a month, but it’d be the equivalent to living in a shack, and it would be much better to just live further out and get a nicer place.
Flatsharing in London
If you’re looking to flatshare whilst living in London, the cost varies a lot depending on what state of repair the flat is in and whether or not it has a living room. It’s super common for landlords in London to turn the ‘living room’ space into an extra bedroom so they can charge more rent. If you have a living room it’s somewhat of a luxury!
For a double room in a nice 4-person flatshare in Zones 1 or 2, you’re looking at around £800 per month before bills. This will get you a room in a well-located property which is in fairly good shape, and potentially with a living room.
Of course, there are ways to make this cheaper. When I first moved to London I stayed in a 3-person flatshare with no living room for £680 per month. This is SUPER cheap for Zone 2 in London.
The thing is though, it was this cheap because the property was in really bad shape. Our bathroom had pretty much no ventilation so the walls were covered in black mould, and all the windows were single-glazed (didn’t even realise that was still a thing…). I spent 6 months wearing mittens indoors. It was that cold!
Because the house was so bad at keeping in heat, and the electricity we used was from a top-up meter which is really overpriced (I thought these died out in the 90s) we spent a TON on energy over winter.
Like, we spent £190 on electricity between the three of us in one month…
So moral of the story is: if the rent is cheap, check how much the bills are!
Summary of average rents in central London:
- Zones 1-2 rent for a 1 bedroom flat: around £1,600 per month
- Zone 3 rent for a 1 bedroom flat: £1,200
- Zones 1-2 rent for a flatshare: around £800 per month
- Zone 3 rent for a flatshare: around £700 per month
Cost of Bills and Utilities in London
The cost of bills and utilities in London is hard to give an accurate estimate for because they vary so much!
The first bill you’ll have to pay in London is council tax, which varies depending on where you live. Your council tax band is calculated based on the value of the property you live in, which London Borough you live in, and more.
The easiest way to work out how much your council tax in London will cost is to ask the landlord or current tenants. You can also check using the property’s postcode here.
It’s so hard to give an indication of how much council tax you’ll pay in London. In some rental agreements your council tax may even be included in your rent so double check this! It is more common that you’ll have to pay this yourself, though.
I paid £29 per month when I lived in a 3-bed flatshare in Zone 2 of East London. As I said, the rates vary massively from area to area, so take this with a pinch of salt.
It’s also important to remember that if you’re going to live by yourself you’ll be responsible for paying the whole of the council tax bill by yourself! I’d budget around £90 per month for this, but that’s just a ballpark figure and it’s worth checking.
Utilities include water, gas, electricity and WiFi. If you have a TV, you’ll also have to pay a TV licence fee. Sometimes, the Landlord will choose the provider of your utilities, and other times it’s up to you.
The cost of WiFi in London depends on which provider you choose. It will typically cost between £20 and £40 per month per household. If you’re sharing with flatmates that makes it pretty affordable!
Water, gas and electricity all vary a lot depending on how much you use (and how energy efficient your house is). Some old houses seem to drink electricity like there’s no tomorrow and will cost you a fortune in bills. I’m looking at you, my old house!
If you can, check with your landlord that your bills can be paid online – if there’s a pre-paid meter in the house for your electricity it’s ALWAYS gonna cost more.
Whilst living in my old flatshare I paid around £100 a month for WiFi, water, electricity and gas. In winter, this would almost DOUBLE though! Don’t forget to check the energy efficiency rating of your house before you move in…
If you’re living and renting a place alone, I’d budget around £40 per month for electricity, £35 for gas, £30 for WiFi and £35 for water – taking you to around £140 per month for utilities in London.
If the Landlord provides a TV in the living room, they may have already paid for the TV licence, in which case you’re good to go!
If your landlord hasn’t already paid the TV licence fee, you’ll have to pay an annual fee of £157.50. This will allow you to legally watch TV in your property. TV Licencing fees are so bizarre to me, but rules are rules.
Cost of Groceries in London
A huge relief for me on arriving in London was realising grocery stores and supermarkets cost the same as everywhere else in the UK.
Yes, that’s right – you can get a £3 Tesco meal deal whether you’re in London or Liverpool!
For this reason, the price of groceries is very reasonable in London as long as you stick to the big established supermarket brands. If you need to stop by an off-licence it’s much more expensive.
I live with my boyfriend, Rob, and as we’re currently working from home we get takeaway once a week and cook all of our other meals. Our grocery bill, which includes loads of fresh fruit, veggies, Quorn, fish, soup, and everything else you could need, normally comes in at £40 a week between us, so £20 each. Talk about good value!
An easy trap to fall into with groceries in London (if you’re not working from home) is to do loads of little shops based on what you’ll eat that day, or buying lunch at work.
When Rob and I were in the office we used to do this ALL the time. That meant we’d end up at expensive grocery shops on our way back from work rather than cheap supermarkets. I highly recommend buying your groceries in bulk once a week because all those small shopping trips really add up!
In London, the cheapest grocery stores are Asda and Tesco. Sainsbury’s and Co-op are slightly more expensive, and Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s are the most expensive (but the best quality).
My estimated monthly cost of groceries whilst living in London is £80 per month per person. This can be a lot cheaper though (you could probably do it for £40 each if you need to).
Cost of Transport in London
One thing you absolutely will not need in London is a car, which saves you money straight away! Our public transport system is comprehensive, and driving in London is notoriously slow and complicated.
Depending on how far away you live from work, you may need a monthly (or annual) travel pass for public transport. This is another factor to consider when choosing where to live. A flat in Zone 3 may be cheaper, but if you’re spending an extra £150 a month on transport, it could be cheaper overall to get a flat in Zone 1 and walk to work.
If you don’t need to use public transport for work, you probably won’t need to buy a London travelcard. If you can’t walk to work though, this is an extra substantial expense to add to your monthly budget.
A monthly travelcard covering Zones 1-2 costs £138.70 per month. For one covering Zones 1-3 you’re looking at £162.90! Per month!!
You can also buy your travelcards annually, which gets you 2 months free.
If you don’t need to use public transport every day, and instead just use public transport for socialising and at the weekends, I recommend budgeting £30-45 per month for this.
Hopping on a bus in London costs you £1.50, and an off-peak single tube journey costs £2.40.
Cost of Entertainment in London
Entertainment is another category which can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. Every person’s budget for entertainment in London will be completely different.
Instead, I thought it would be best to talk through how much some common leisure activities in London cost so you can plan your own monthly budget.
Gyms & Sport
Something I bet you’ll have never heard about is just how expensive gyms are in London!
Don’t get me wrong – if all you want to do is lift weights and go on the treadmill, you’ll still find a budget gym. But if you want a gym with classes and a swimming pool, you better be earning a lot of money!
If you work in the City of London and want to work out close to the office gyms are much more expensive.
Probably the cheapest gym chain in London is PureGym, which I have been a member of before. Their branches in central London cost around £35 per month, which is amazing for London!
For more of a full-service gym in the city centre, though, you’re gonna cringe when you hear this – memberships start at around £110 per month.
Yup, you heard that right.
I put off doing any classes for ages because I just couldn’t justify spending that much money!
Almost all sports in London are expensive. Joining an outdoor netball league for 8 weeks will cost you £65. A yoga or dance class will cost at least £15 per session.
I have a workaround, though.
About 4 months into living in London I discovered ClassPass, which changed everything for me! Suddenly, I could join all those expensive gym classes I had been putting off!
You pay £65 for 50 credits per month in London (although there are options for less or more credits). With these credits, you can book gym classes, gym time, or a swim session. I can usually do 2 classes per week with my 50 credits.
What’s so amazing about ClassPass is that the classes are SO much cheaper than if you’d just booked them directly. For example, my regular boxing gym charges £15 per class. But on ClassPass? It costs between 4 and 8 credits. That works out costing between £5.20 and £10.40! Score!
Cost of Going Out in London
There’s no doubt about it, drinking and going out in London is expensive. Especially compared to the rest of the UK!
It really does depend on how you do it though. A pint of beer in the City of London or in Zone 1 will cost around £6.20, but head out to Peckham and you’ll easily get a pint of beer for £4.50. It’s all about going out in cheaper areas of London to save money.
If you drink wine and cocktails it’ll cost much more than drinking beer (£12 for a cocktail, on average). London turns us all into beer drinkers!
Eating out in London is also pricey, but you just have to do it because, despite the cost, it’s one of the best things about living in London! It’s really difficult putting a price on this since it totally depends on which restaurants you go to. On average, Rob and I spend £40 each for a meal at a restaurant with drinks.
There’s a huge range of takeaway food options in London, and you can eat food from anywhere in the world! It’s always cheaper than eating at a restaurant, and you can usually get restaurant food delivered to your door.
If you’re ordering for one, just like anywhere else in the world, it’ll cost more since you’ll have to front the whole of the delivery and service fees yourself. These can sometimes be quite expensive! For this reason, a takeaway for one will usually come in at around £15-20. If you’re ordering for two it’ll be slightly cheaper.
Cost of Sightseeing in London
It’s super easy to forget to go sightseeing when you live in London. I know that life can get in the way, but it’s really important to. You gotta make the most of living in one of the best cities in the world!
Luckily, there are soooo many free attractions in London so you won’t have to spend too much per month on this. From the Big Ben and Buckingham Palace to the Natural History Museum and Hyde Park, if you’re on a budget you can get away with not setting aside any money for sightseeing!
If you want to see certain iconic attractions, such as the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, you will have to pay though. For a mixture of free and paid attractions, I recommend budgeting £20 a month for touristy sightseeing.
Looking for some London sightseeing ideas? Check out my other posts:
• Day Trip From London To Hampton Court Palace
• Visitors Guide to the Charles Dickens House in London
• I Visited London’s Weirdest Tourist Attraction So You Don’t Have To
The Total Cost of Living in London per Month
Phew, that was a lot of information!
In case you’re struggling to remember, here’s a recap of the cost of living in London per month:
- A one-bedroom flat in decent shape in Zones 1 or 2 (not including bills): £1,600+ per month.
- A one-bedroom flat in decent shape in Zone 3 (not including bills): £1,200+ per month.
- One bedroom in a decent flatshare in Zones 1 or 2 (not including bills): £800 per month.
- One bedroom in a decent flatshare in Zone 3 (not including bills): around £700 per month
- WiFi per month: £20-40 (split between the number of housemates)
- Council tax: £30 each for a flatshare, £90 if you live alone
- Electricity: £40 if you live alone, if you share it’ll be more like £60 split between you.
- Water: £35 per house (usually this is a flat rate regardless of how much you use)
- Gas: £35 per house (depends on use)
- TV Licence Fee: £157.50 per house per year.
- £20 per person per week.
- £162.90 for a Zone 1-3 monthly travel pass
- £1.50 per bus journey
- £2.40 per off-peak tube journey (Zones 1-2)
- If you don’t need a travel pass, budget around £30-45 per month for transportation
- £35 for a basic gym membership
- £110+ for a full-service gym membership
- £65 for Class Pass
- £40 per person for a meal with drinks in a restaurant
- £10-12 for a cocktail at a standard bar
- £4.50-6.50 for a pint of beer depending on which area you’re in
- £15-20 per person for takeaway food
- Most attractions are free
- £20 per month should cover a mixture of a few paid and a few free attractions
As you can see, the cost of living in London per month varies massively depending on so many different things! For this reason, it’s impossible for me to say how much living in London will cost you.
How Much Do I Spend Living in London?
In an average month, I’d say I spend around £1,400 per month, which allows me to live comfortably in a flat with my boyfriend, go out for meals, concerts and drinks, do plenty of sport and see some tourist attractions.
London is a city so big that you can probably find somewhere to live on any budget. I really do recommend trying to come here with enough money to live comfortably though. London is absolutely NO fun if you’re always broke, constantly worried about money and can’t enjoy any of the benefits to living here!
I hope this post helped you get a better understanding of the cost of living in London. I absolutely adore living here and it’s so exciting that you’re considering the move, too!
Feel free to drop any questions you have in the comments!