How Should I Budget for London?
How Much is A Flat in London?
Prices in London vary a lot depending if you want to share, prefer to live in the centre or would like to have a garden. We have put together a few examples of which are the prices you are likely to pay for a room, flat or studio in London.
Some prices you may want to know
It’s fair to say that within the boundaries of zone 1-2 in London, you will pay upwards of £700 a month for a room, or £1,700 a month for a one bedroom flat, on average - with studios at about £1,250. As you go further out of London and into the more suburban zones of 3-9. the prices may go down. For instance, in Southgate (Zone 4) you can find a one bedroom to rent for a little over £1,000.
Distance and travel time
The further out you go, the more money you will save on your accommodation. However, the further out you are - the more expensive your travel will be! Finding the right balance is up to the individual - while many people live outside of Central London to save money on housing, you might find the daily commute costly and stressful. For some it’s worth the extra expense of living in Central London to avoid public transportation and to get home sooner.
There’s commuting and then there’s commuting
London is a very large city in European standards, so it is important not to forget how crucial distance and travelling will be in your everyday life here (from 15 minutes to 2.15 minutes, really). When choosing your accommodation, make sure to check which is the nearest Tube (Underground) station, whether it’s more than a 10 minute walk from your prospective flat/house, how would you get to your workplace from that station, how many minutes and how many changes between Tube lines, and then which is the nearest station to your workplace. Google Earth and TFL.gov.uk will be very helpful at determining this - because a costly train ride on a daily basis can make even a friendly-priced flat not worth it to pick!
Make sure to always check how many bathrooms there are in the flat you’re interested in renting: mornings can be busy, and if there are 4 people trying to wash their hair at the same time every morning, you might end up being frequently late!
The ‘British Home’ is a thing
There are certain things in British flats that are typical of here and might be totally different from what you’re used to: e.g. separate hot and cold taps but no plug sockets in the bathroom, slider windows, wall to wall carpeting, just to name a few. It might also surprise you that in most flat shares there won’t be a separate living room. Believe it or not, all this can actually be quite funny - see this video.
On FlatClub you can find fair priced accommodation in great areas of the city - for instance, a flat for 2 for less than £2000 a months.
Cost of Travel in London
The average transportation costs for a person working in the city of London can be easily tracked - a 7 day travelcard which lasts for an entire week, to travel all zones in London, costs over £80 a week, making the average cost (if you live within the zones of London) £320 a month in transportation, if you’re using the Underground. However, most of us only travel around zones 1 and 2, bringing the monthly cost down to around £120 with a travel card. You can save money by making use of buses - this can bring your cost down to about £80 a month using public transport, however it is less reliable in terms of getting you to work on time!
Driving in London isn’t really advisable in terms of saving money - petrol prices in London are 3x the current price in the USA. Add on to that road tax for driving in the city, generally more expensive vehicles, and insurance - we can’t recommend driving in London due to cost.
London is, however, a very pedestrian friendly city, and is becoming more cycle friendly. The program Santander Cycle Hire, otherwise known as Boris bikes is a cheap, good-for-the-planet way to get around London. There are 700 bike docking stations around the city that you can drop off or pick up a rented bike. Access to the bikes cost £2 for 24 hours with the first 30 minutes of riding being free and £2 extra for every half hour after that.
Average Food Costs in London
Have you heard of the Big Mac index? While the actual economic usage of the Big Mac index is a bit more complicated & involves overvalued exchange rates, you can still use this chart as an easy way to compare the cost of food between cities. For reference, a Big Mac meal in London will cost about £5, and in San Francisco it would be about £4 - in Chengdu, just about £3. It stands to reason then that out of those 3 cities, London is the most expensive for food. This isn’t an infallible measurement, however! Just a fun one.
For example, the average price of a loaf of bread is lower in London than it is in San Francisco. London is a lot like other major cities - there are cheap meals to be had wherever you go, but it’s easy to spend too much in London due to the amount of great options. Grocery store prices are comparable to other major cities in the United States. The only exception is that red meat is more expensive than in American cities - but it’s a good idea to cut down on that kind of thing, anyway. Going out to eat in London is roughly the same cost as comparable restaurants in other cities across the world - £25 a head for a mid-range meal out with one drink is a good estimate.
Internet & Phone Costs in London
London is a wired up city - while other areas of Europe may boast speedier broadband, London is no slouch especially compared to the USA. Not only can you get fast speeds including fibre-optic in some areas of the city, you can also find a cell signal easily. With a 3G enabled phone, you’ll very rarely find yourself in a ‘dead zone’, unless you’re underground.
Not only is it easy to get a speedy connection, it will cost you less in London than in the USA. The average broadband price in London is about £25, versus San Francisco where a broadband connection costs £61. While the USA has options that are cheaper, a broadband connection with a fast speed & no usage cap is about that price in both cities.
Purchasing a phone for temporary use in London is also a far bit easier & cheaper than elsewhere in the world. We’ve written a blog about pay as you go phone options in the UK (PAYG in the UK), so take a browse through there to see what sort of deals you can get for a temporary phone while you get settled in.
Cost of Entertainment in London
The cost of entertainment in London varies, of course, depending on your taste. A cinema ticket in a chain theatre is more expensive than in other European cities but not far off from US ticket prices, so around £12 per person. There are cheaper options - one is to become a member of the Prince Charles Cinema, for £10 annually you get discounted cinema tickets: from £4 to £8. If you’re a big movie buff, it’s a great value.
One of the benefits of London versus other cities in terms of entertainment costs, is that museums are almost all generally free. While some exhibits require payment, general entry into London’s top museums is free. Parks are well maintained and free to enter.
The theatre & seeing live performances is another entertainment source in London - tickets can be relatively expensive at about £80, but you can find cheaper tickets at discount websites like LastMinute - sometimes under £20 for a ticket.
Generally a lot of people in London go to the pub as a way to unwind & entertain themselves - with a single pint at a local London pub running about £4.50, it can be a cheap way to spend time with friends and co-workers.
There are so many things that go on in London every day that it’s hard to keep track of - that’s where a service like The Londonist comes in. Sign up and receive email updates every day about things that are going on in the city, some of which are free.