Cost of living in London
If you take a look at any expat forum or Quora board about Britain (as this writer will often do when researching his blogs!) you'll often see the question 'Is it expensive to live in the UK?' - the answer is, depends on where you live!
London has a reputation as being one of the most expensive cities in the world - but this doesn't mean you're going to be priced out of living here or eating cold baked beans out of the tin to afford a nice flat. You just need a bit of knowledge - about how much you're earning and where you'd like to live (we've got a great guide if you're not sure), then you can start to work out what it costs to live in London, particularly for you.
Luckily, you don't have to do much research into average utility bill costs or what the hell council tax is, because we've done it for you. Check out our calculator below to see what you'll have left to spend after your living costs, then there's some advice below the calculator on how to make every penny count.
So, now you know how much you've got to play with, how can you squeeze every penny out of your wages? Luckily, Londoners have a few tricks up their sleeves for making their money go a little further when living in the capital.
Rent & Bills
It will come as no surprise that the biggest expense for Londoners is their domestic outgoings. A recent report by The London Intelligence showed that we are spending almost a third of our income on rent. Obviously, how much rent you are shelling out each month will depend on which borough you decide to call home. For example, in Bexley you may only pay £408 for a room in a 4 bedroom house, whereas the same scenario could put you back over £3000 if you wanted to live in Chelsea.
Rents have been steadily increasing in the capital for a long time. As landlords have the power to increase the rent once a year when your tenancy is renewed, you need to be aware that the price you’re paying now may not be what you’re asked to pay at a later date.
Add on top of this council tax, gas and electric, water and broadband and your monthly bills can soon add up. Thanks to inflation these costs are always rising, so living costs in the UK always follow suit - and that’s even before you’ve included all those non-essential (but let's face it, pretty essential) add ons such as Netflix and a cleaner.
Not only can these hidden costs hit you when you least expect it, but they can also be a real hassle to organise, especially when living in a shared house.
With Lyvly, all bills are organised centrally, so you don’t have to worry about any of that. The flat rate of our rooms, which starts at £1000 pcm, is inclusive of all bills, so you can budget effectively and know everything is covered, with no unexpected payments popping up.
London has one of the best public transport systems in the world - when the Northern line is playing ball at least. But efficiency comes at a price and it can take a considerable chunk out of your disposable income, especially if you’re living in the outskirts of the city.
If you’re going to be using the tube or buses to commute every day, most Londoners find the more cost effective way of paying for travel is to get a monthly travel card on their Oyster card. The prices for these ranges from £134.80 a month for Zone 1-2 to £246.60 for Zones 1-6.
The great news is, Lyvly considers your place of work and budget when matching you to a room - so when you join our community you know you’ll be in the best place to give you a speedy and affordable commute. If you’re going to be a less consistent traveller, you can also use your contactless debit card to pay for tube journeys.
These transactions will always cap you at the price of a 7 day travel card for each week, so you are still getting a cost effective deal.
If you’re looking to save even more money on your commute, you could think about cycling to work. Whilst the idea of cycling in a big city may feel a little daunting, with London’s cycle super highways, it’s never been safer or faster to traverse the capital by bike. There are currently two main cycling routes that go through London, connecting Clapham and Elephant & Castle with the City and taking you straight from Greenwich to the West End.
Lyvly's homes are located in neighbourhoods across London, so we can help to reduce your commute time and costs. Check out our guide on where to live in London and see where could suit you and save you money.
Wellness and working out are having a real moment in the spotlight at the minute. In a recent Time Out survey, they found that Londoners are more likely to exercise than do anything cultural. Whilst investing in a healthy lifestyle is a great move, it can also be a huge financial burden. Gym memberships in London can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re looking for somewhere pretty plush. Popular gyms such as Gymbox and Third Space can cost anything from £70 a month up to £155, and celeb fitness hang outs like Equinox can set you back a staggering £215 a month.
However, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a cost-effective, yet still impactful, fitness routine. No frills gyms like Pure Gym cost around £15 a month and have locations all over the city. If you’re a casual class goer rather than a dedicated gym bunny, memberships like Class Pass offering flexibility and budget friendly fitness solutions. For as little as £15 a month you can access some of the most exclusive classes in London, and your credits can roll over month by month if you start slacking.
London is also home to the cheapest gym of all - the great outdoors! Running is incredibly popular in the capital - and doesn’t cost a thing. Apps like Map My Run have lots of pre-suggested running routes, which are great if you are new to the city and still trying to get your bearings.
A lot of modern apartment buildings, including some of Lyvly's homes, actually have gyms built in, available to residents. You may also be lucky enough to find co-working spaces or cinema rooms included in your building. No more trips to the cinema or renting a desk if you're an entrepreneur!
Millennials are often mocked for spending their hard earned money on avocado on toast and having nothing left to put in savings. Whilst this stereotype is a little unfair, there might actually be some truth in it, especially in London. Eating out is a favourite past time of Londoners - but also one of the most expensive.
Paying over £15 for breakfast and a coffee is a totally normal occurrence and a Sunday roast with a glass of wine could easily set you back upwards of £30 once you take in to account service charge (and the inevitable dessert you’ll end up ordering despite promising yourself you wouldn’t).
Even when we’re not leaving the house it’s very easy to make a dent in our bank account for great food. With companies like Deliveroo tempting us with the fare of some of London’s best restaurants, it’s easy to spend just as much as a night in as you would on a night out.
Luckily, Londoners have a couple of tricks up their sleeve when it comes to saving money on eating out. Tastecard is a brilliant discount card for those that love eating out. The card costs £30 a year, but can get you up to 50% at hundreds of London restaurants, from big chains like Pizza Express to independent bistros and fancy hotel dining.
Signing up for foodie newsletters such as Hot Dinners is also a great idea if you want to experience the best of London’s gastronomic scene but for a lower price. They’re the first to let you know about new restaurants opening and have weekly offers of up to half price at some of London’s most fabulous restaurants.
To save even more money on food - grab your housemates and have a night in cooking! Lyvly kitchens are stocked with enough equipment to help you create a Masterchef worthy dish to entertain your mates.
Everyone knows that the true sign of a city’s economic landscape is the cost of a pint - and London’s beer is notorious for a price point that makes Northerners wince. The current average cost of a pint in the capital £5.19, making it one of the most expensive places to booze in Europe.
However, the Londonist recently released a special tube map detailing the cheapest pints you can find near each Tube station, which is an essential download for any new Londoner. You can also counteract alcohol inflation by seeking out one of the cities many happy hours that occur almost daily.
One of the best we’ve found for a cheap night out is Simmons Bar - where you can get your hands on £2.50 gin and tonics and bottles of beer until 9pm every week night. With locations all over London, you’re never too far away from a wallet friendly watering hole.
Obviously boozing isn’t the only way to socialise in the capital - and there are other ways of saving money on your free time fun aside from just happy hours. Cinema tickets can be irritatingly expensive, but there are a few sneaky ways to score discounted tickets, including through Compare the Market and Vodafone.
For real film buffs, independent cinemas like the Rio, Richmix and Curzon give great discounts to members. If you really want to make the most of all of London’s attractions, it might be worth investing in a London Pass - which gets you great discounts on things like theatre tickets and the London Eye.
For those really pinching the pennies, London also plays host to a wide array of free activities that can keep you entertained without breaking the bank. Most of the incredible museums here are free to enter and there are always festivals, markets and other free experiences popping up all over the city - especially in Summer. Time Out is the oracle of free things to do in London, and they have a regular feature on the subject updated weekly which we’d definitely recommend bookmarking.
Managing your money
No matter how many discount codes and freebie sites you sign up for, when living in London it’s always important to manage your finances responsibly. It can be difficult to do, especially when the temptation of another night out or theatre trip is always waiting round the corner in this vibrant city.
Luckily there are lots of new apps that can help keep you on track. Banks-come-apps like Monzo and Tandem are a great way to manage your outgoings and help you put money in to saving pots - and with regular notifications in the palm of your hand you can’t help but stay on top of your finances.
If you’re trying to really think ahead of time, investing your money is a great idea and with companies like Moneybox, its never been simpler to start building your portfolio.
One of the easiest ways to streamline your finances is to join a community, like Lyvly, that manages all the domestic bills for you in one place - so you only have one direct debit going out each month.
Systems like this mean less confusion, less stress and less awkward conversations between housemates about who owes what for the gas bill. For the few things that Lyvly doesn't manage, Acasa is a great app for keeping track of debts between you and your mates - be it that hungover pizza or your share of a group holiday.
London's not cheap, but wages in the city do reflect that it's more expensive than the rest of the country. It can be easy to get to the 15th and wonder where all your money's gone, but with a little planning (and having a little play around with our calculator) you can make it work and have an incredible time in one of the world's best cities.
Lyvly makes this a whole lot easier for you, rolling your rent, bills and admin costs into one monthly payment - no surprise expenses or unexpected costs. If you want to find out more about what we do, just check out what we have to offer, it's great if you're new to London or just want to make your life a little more straight forward.