How much does it cost to live in the UK?
This is a common question we get in the subreddit, from people moving out from their parents' place for the first time, leaving a shared housing situation or a cohabitating relationship, or coming to the UK from abroad.
There is no single example budget we can provide, as pretty much every cost depends on your circumstances and preferences. But with a bit of research you should be able to create a robust draft budget.
This will obviously depend on your desired location, property size, and whether you live alone or share with others. Use these sites to search current rental ads and work out how much you might need to pay:
- spareroom.co.uk for room lettings and short-term sublets
- rightmove.co.uk for flats/houses
- zoopla.co.uk for flats/houses
If you plan to buy your home, you will of course need to know how much your mortgage payments will be (bearing in mind rates can also change over time). You will need to allow some extra room in your budget for maintenance and repairs. Leasehold properties will usually have additional ground rent and/or service charges (or factor fees in Scotland).
Don't forget any moving costs if applicable.
Each property listing should tell you the 'council tax band', and the prices for each band will be published on the council's website. They're easy to google (e.g. 'Birmingham council tax') and can also be found at gov.uk.
There are some discounts and exemptions:
- Full time students don't pay council tax.
- If you live alone, or only with people who don't pay council tax, you can get a 25% discount on your council tax.
- If you have a low income or receive benefits, you may be eligible for a reduction on your council tax.
This is an extremely variable cost as it depends on the size and location of the property, its insulation, heating system, and your own habits and preferences. Energy prices also fluctuate.
The best way to learn about energy costs for a flat or house is from the people currently living there. Rental ads should also have an 'EPC rating' which will give some indication of how energy efficient the property is, with A being the best rating and G being the worst, which you can compare to average bills for similarly sized properties.
If you're well and truly stuck, an extremely rough guide:
|Description of property||Approximate annual energy usage||Approximate annual cost at Jan 2023 rates||Approximate monthly cost at Jan 2023 rates|
|1-2 bed flat with no gas supply |
This will usually have electric storage heaters and hot water cylinder
|6,000kWh electricity||£2200 (electricity)||£180|
|2 bed flat with gas central heating|
Gas used for central heating, electric showers
|2,900kWh electricity, 9,000kwh gas||£2000 |
(£1100 electricity, £900 gas)
|Terraced 2-3 bed house |
Gas used for central heating and hot water
(£1350 electricity, £1350 gas)
|Detached 4-5 bed house||4,000kwh electricity,|
(£1500 electricity, £1900 gas)
Your specific property may be wildly different from the above, so allow some extra leeway when planning just in case.
Food costs depend on your habits and preferences – a lot of factors contribute to your monthly total.
As a rough guide, if you live alone, you are likely to need to spend a minimum of £200/month on your groceries. To consistently stay much below this could be possible, but would take some real frugal efforts in your shopping and cooking. Don't forget you will often need to include some non-food items in your grocery shops, such as toilet roll, detergents, lightbulbs and so on.
From around £200/month, if you usually prepare your own meals you will be able to comfortably shop at most supermarkets, and regularly purchase a good variety of ingredients, including meat/fish/cheese as staples.
If you often buy prepared food such as Meal Deals and ready meals, you will need to allow some extra budget for this. Similarly if you want to regularly shop at the more expensive supermarkets or buy from premium ranges. And finally you should consider whether you'll be buying alcohol often as this can definitely get expensive.
Sharing food costs and cooking duties with a partner or housemate will make budgets of under £200/month per person significantly easier to achieve – although of course this depends on their shopping and cooking habits as well!
Restaurants and takeaways are the most expensive option out there, and worth budgeting for separately.
Prices vary by area and by plan – comparison sites will show you available deals for your postcode. Expect the minimum to be around £20/month, and you may need to pay more than this for internet speedy enough to work from home, or to play games that require a fast connection.
If you will have multiple people using the internet you will also likely need to pay a bit more for sufficient bandwidth (but hopefully you'll be sharing the bill as well).
If you're claiming Universal Credit or other benefits, you may be able to get your internet via a 'social tariff' with reduced rates.
If you already own a handset, you can easily find 'SIM only' deals with ample calls and data for around £10/month.
If you get a contract that includes a new handset, the cost will depend on the price of the phone and how long the contract is for. Monthly cost will be somewhere in the region of £20-£80/month for 24 months, and there may be an additional upfront cost from £0-£200.
If you're trying to save on monthly costs, buying a cheap handset yourself is the way to go (especially second hand – or you may even have a friend with a spare).
Bills vary somewhat between regional providers. A minimum water bill for a 1-2 person household would be around £20 per month, and for a larger household it could be as much as £60.
If you have a meter, how much you pay will be based on usage, so you can reduce your bill by reducing the amount used. If you don't have a meter, the amount of water used is irrelevant.
In Scotland water is generally not metered, and will be included in your council tax bill.
If you own your own home, you will need to have buildings insurance.
Contents insurance is not mandatory, but a very good idea to have even if you don't consider any of your belongings particularly valuable, as it not only protects you in the case of problems like theft or fire, but can also cover you in the event of a legal dispute such as a personal injury case or employment dispute.
Depending on what you need to insure and what options you select, expect this to cost from £60 a year upwards.
If you plan to commute to work by public transport (or make other public transport trips regularly), check the prices of individual trips, season tickets, and whether any railcards or other discounts might be available for you.
Car ownership costs are too variable to detail specifically here, however the following expenses must be considered on top of the cost of the vehicle itself:
- Insurance – see MoneySavingExpert's page on car insurance
- Maintenance – MOTs, tyres, brakes, unexpected mechanical failures
- Consumables and cleanliness – screen wash, car washing equipment or fees
- Vehicle excise duty (sometimes known as 'road tax')
If you don't need to use a car regularly (e.g. for a daily commute), it's worth calculating if it might be cheaper to pay for membership of a car hire club (like zipcar, cowheels, hiyacar) or taking taxis when a vehicle is required. Car ownership and maintenance can be very expensive, even for a cheaper vehicle, and you can usually make a substantial number of taxi journeys per annum before exceeding the cost of owning a vehicle yourself.
General spending categories
No one can survive on bills alone! If you're drawing up a budget for the first time and don't have existing spending records to go on, it's easy to underestimate general 'life' costs. Some possible categories to consider are:
- Household items, homeware, tools
- Devices such as tablets, consoles, accessories
- Entertainment such as games, netflix, books
- Events such as gigs, cinema, theatre
- Takeaways and meals out
- Drinks and nights out
- Clothes, toiletries, makeup
- Personal care such as haircuts
- Medical expenses such as dentists, prescriptions
- Travel to see friends and family
And of course don't underestimate the impact of infrequent large expenses, such as:
- Repairs/maintenance of your home or vehicle
- Furniture, appliances
- Birthdays and Christmas
See our goals page for more thoughts on how to incorporate these larger expenses into your budget.
Recording your spend against budget
See our budgeting page for more information on how to do this.