Cost of Living in London (by an Expat)

Cost of Living in London

Thought about moving to London? You have probably seen all the articles about how expensive London is as a city to live in. 

I tested some of the calculators that are available online to see how good they are at estimating the cost of living in my home city London. Unfortunately, I found the cost of living calculators were not particularity good at reflecting the costs. So how expensive is it to live in London?

Most guides on the internet will be based on the city averages which is a good bench mark however in this article I will breakdown what the average cost of living in London based on my costs over the last few years and some other cost factors to consider.

Cost of Housing in London

My time in London has been spent either living in a shared house or living at my boyfriends flat. When I was renting from 2013 to 2016 I paid from £650 to £740 for a double room in zone 2 living with 3 other people and these prices are not including utilities!

I have a different living arrangement with my boyfriend which doesn’t reflect the true cost of rental price of the apartment we live in. This is due to the fact that he owns it and we also live with my sister. However, if it was on the market as a rental it would rent out between £1,600 to £1,700 for a two bedroom flat in zone 3. This is near enough the average rental price in London, according to, the average rental value for new tenancies in August 2018 in London was £1,615 a month.

There are lots of handy websites which will give you the latest area costs. Using maps like the London Mayor website heat map will help guide you with the prices for areas in London.

Spareroom will help provide prices on rooms, especially those looking to keep costs down and live with other people. They also have a heat map for an average of room prices across London. They now also have a handy tool for helping you find where to live, try it out and let me know in the comments how it goes! If you are a couple expect to pay more for a room than a single person but split between the two of you it will be cheaper.

Other websites you can use are Zoopla and Rightmove will help with renting or buying houses. 

What’s the monthly living expense in London?

Defining monthly living expenses without rent is a lot easier. The biggest variable will be council tax as this will be borough specific.

Monthly Price for Utilities in London

Currently my average monthly living expense in London are £188.12 per month for utilities, including internet and mobile-phone charges. The figures below are based on what I paid in May 2017 and now in April 2018. Of course, prices go up with inflation and vary with how many people you live with. I also pay a tone of money on internet but I had problems with other providers and need to be able to work from home, anyway, I won’t bore you with my internet stories. 

May 2015 Cost – Clapham – 4-person householdApril 2018 – Crystal Palace – 3-person household
Water £47.51
Gas & Electricity £74
Wifi & Sky TV £38
Council Tax £123.87
TV License £145.50 (yearly)
Mobile Phone £30 (sim only contract)
Water £31.21
Electricity £ 30.74
Gas £30.38
Wifi £41.23 – Fiber only
Council Tax £130.30
TV License £150.50 (yearly)
Mobile Phone £50 (phone & sim contract)

For Electricity, Gas, Wi-Fi and mobile phone you can choose your own providers.

These are the big suppliers for electricity and gas in London E. ON, British Gas, EDF Energy, npower, Scottish Power and SSE. Although there are more than 20 suppliers providing electricity and gas. Using websites like Money Super Market, Go Compare or U-Switch will help you narrow which provider you should choose.

For water you will need to sign-up to Thames Water as they are the only supplier of water in London so no choices here. 

For more information about London Council Tax can be found on the councils website

What’s the Monthly Transport Cost in London

To London Underground

The most popular way to get around London is using public transport by either using an Oyster Card or contactless. Having a travel card will allow you to travel freely using multiple modes of transport, bus, tube and national rail.

The price for a Monthly Travelcard in 2018 is:

Zones 1–2            £131.00
Zones 1–3            £153.60
Zones 1–4            £188.20
Zones 1–5            £223.30
Zones 1–6            £239.30
Zones 1–7            £260.00
Zones 1–8            £307.20
Zones 1–9            £340.70

Just to note: you can buy weekly travel cards but you will be charged more admin fees. The longer you buy a travel card the cheaper it is with a yearly saving you around £300 per year.

Having a car in London you need to consider road tax, parking permits, MOTs and fuel. My boyfriend has a Ford KA (small two-door hatchback) and pays about £150 for road tax, insurance around £350 and a MOT a year is around £60. This is a very general indication as prices will vary. For example; on insurance depending if you have a garage, keep the car on the street, area you live and other factors.

How much do Groceries cost?

Grocery stores like Lidl, Aldi and Iceland will be cheapest places to buy groceries from. Mid-range stores are Tesco and Sainsbury. The high-end stores are Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. My weekly food shops for a vegetarian house hold is between £40 to £60 with household products (i.e. cleaning products and toilet paper). I do however split this with 2 other people and make the weekly cost per person £13.33 to £20.

As I mainly shop at Tesco’s, I have based the groceries listed below on their prices.

Hovis Original 7 Seeds Bread – £1.40
British Whole Milk 1.13L, 2 Pints – £0.80
Medium Free-Range Eggs 6 Pack – £0.89
Alpro Oat Longlife Milk Alternative 1 Litre £1.40

Brown Onions 1Kg – £0.75
Broccoli 350G – £0.55
Sweet Peppers 500G £1.29
Ready to Eat Large Avocados Each £1.10
Mushrooms 300G £0.95
Charlotte Potatoes 1Kg £1.00
Redmere Farms Sweet Potato 1Kg £1.00
Cauliflower £1.00

British Traditional Pork Sausages 400G £2.50
Beef Sirloin Steak 195G £2.83
Chicken Breast Portions 650G £4.00
2 Boneless Salmon Fillets 260G £4.25

Tesco offers a Delivery Saver plan for £6.99 a month if you spend over £40 per shop. When you don’t have a car it is very handy to get all your groceries deliver to your door.

How much does a meal cost in London?

Breakfast at Duck and Waffle

Meals can range in price depending on how much you like to eat or drink and whether it is a cheap eats place or Micheline star restaurant in Mayfair. Eating out tends to be where money goes the fastest. Here is a rough guide to what to expect:

Brunch will be around £15 to £20pp including coffee.
Bottomless Brunch will be around £35 to £50.
Lunch will be around £10 to £20 at a restaurant or Café.
Dinner can be from £15 to £50.

If you are just picking up a quick bit during your lunch break at work then you can get a cheap Tesco meal deal for £3 or something a bit fancier like Pilpel (falafel) or Barburrito will be around £6.

How much does Alcohol cost in London?

Drinks out in London

Just like meals, alcohol will range depending on where you decide to go out. To make a night out cheaper make sure you make the most of the happy hours or drink beforehand. Alternatively, you can find some BYO (bring your own booze) restaurants as well like Tayyab’s but they aren’t as common in London. Here is a rough guide to what to expect:

A bottle of average wine in a restaurant will be between £12 to £25.

A beer in a restaurant will be between £4.00 and £6.00 for a pint. Craft beer will be more expensive than your general lager.

Cocktails will be around £8 – £18 depending on where you head out to. As mentioned above bars in London will offer happy hour for example you can get 2 for1 at Be at One for £8-9 or All Bar One half price cocktails for £4.50.

Our favourite store wine is a Toro Loco from Aldi for £3.89. Otherwise around £6 to £8 will get you a good wine in Sainsbury and Tesco. Places like Marks & Spencer will cost upwards of £8.

Craft Beer at a grocery store is around £1.50 to £3 per bottle or can.

Drinking alcohol in parks and on the street, is allowed in London. When the sun comes out or the temperature goes up you will see Londoners flocking the park with picnics and drinks. It’s a great way having a cheap night out with friends or family.

Cost for Activities in London

View from One New Change St Pauls

London has a great range of free and paid activities which is perfect as you will always have something available to do no matter what your budget is. Here is a rough guide to what to expect:

Cinema tickets – £10 to £20 per person. The cinema is not a place I visit very often and tend to stick to Netflix with some wine at home. If you are a movie lover you can get monthly passes for £17.90 making it cheaper to see movies.

Theatre tickets – £20 to £100 per person. There are some good deals around for Theatre tickets especially if you are not phased where you sit. I have previously scored tickets for £17 to see Wicked and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you are happy to stand for 3 hours you can get £5 tickets to the Globe.

Museums – mostly free! well at least all my favourite museums are! Here are 9 museums you must visit.

Sight Seeing – Free to £30 per person plus travel. For example, Sky Gardens is free but requires you to book, whereas the London Eye would be from £23. Exploring Windsor Castle would require you to buy train and attraction tickets making the day more like £40 to £50 without food included.

In conclusion, as a singleton living in London with 4 other people will cost around £1,200 a month (rent, utilities, travel and food). 

More Living in the UK Articles

Cost of Living in London
Thought about moving to London? You have probably seen all the articles about how expensive London is as a city to live in. So how expensive is it to live in London? I will break down what the average cost of living in London based on what I have paid over the last few years and some other tips. #London #movingtolondon

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