Cost of Living in London 2020 (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 benchmark 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.

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Cost of Housing in London

Hamptons International just released a survey stating that the average 21-29-year-old spent 34% of their pre-tax income on renting a room this year. Brighton and London is the highest ratio of rent out people’s salary.

According to the survey the average Londoner rented a room for £728 which is up 2.8% from last year.

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! It does align with the survey results and what I know my friends spend on rent.

I have a different living arrangement with my boyfriend which doesn’t reflect the true cost of the 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 March 2020 in London was £1,673 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 released this document on the 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. 

Psst. Don’t forget to read my guide on How to Find a Flat in London where I cover everything you need to know.

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    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 £113.75 per month for utilities, including internet and mobile phone charges. The total cost for the household is £311.26.

    The figures below are based on what I paid in 2018 to 2020. Of course, prices go up with inflation and vary with how many people you live with. I also pay a tone of money on the 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. 

    2018 Costs

    • £31.21
    • £ 30.74
    • £30.38
    • £41.23 – Fiber only
    Council Tax
    • £130.30
    TV License
    • £150.50 (yearly)
    Mobile Phone
    • £50 (phone & sim contract)

    Monthly Household total cost: £276.40
    With phone bill: £326.40

    2019 Costs with Survey Results

    • £32.70
    • Survey result between 20 to 50
    • £38.06
    • Survey result between 20 to 40
    • £36.21
    • Survey result between 20 to 50
    • £49 – pay for fancy internet
    • Most people paid between 20 to 30
    Council tax
    • £137.00 – depends on the borough, this will change and if you live by yourself you get a 25% discount.
    • Survey result between 40 to above 80
    TV License
    • This is a yearly fee of £150.50
    Mobile Phone
    • I currently have a plan that only costs £10

    Monthly Household total cost: £310.51
    With phone bill: £320.51

    2020 Costs

    • £33.46
    • £ 38.06
    • £36.21
    • £49 – Fibre with TV
    Council Tax
    • £141.41
    TV License
    • £157.50 (yearly)
    Mobile Phone
    • £10 (sim contract)

    Monthly Household total cost: £311.26
    With phone bill: £321.26

    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 MarketGo 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.

    Instead of buying a travel card I opt for paying as you go. I work from home two days a week and don’t always use transport on the weekend. I roughly spend about £120 to 150 on travel around London.

    One of the more popular choices is getting a weekly or monthly travel card. This does really help with budgeting as you can just top up your oyster on payday and not have to worry about travel until your next pay.

    Monthly Travelcards 2020
    Zones 1–2£138.70
    Zones 1–3£162.90
    Zones 1–4£199.30
    Zones 1–5£237.00
    Zones 1–6£253.50
    Zones 1–7£275.80
    Zones 1–8£325.70
    Zones 1–9£361.40

    Just to note: Weekly travel cards will charge you more admin fees. The longer you buy a travel card the cheaper it is. You can also get a yearly travel card which can save you £300 per year and comes with an Annual Gold Card. The Gold Card gives you 1/3 off certain National Rail Routes.

    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, the area you live and other factors.

    Psst… If you are thinking about getting a car in London here are things to consider.

    Tip: Considering buying a Railcard as you can save a 1/3 off rail fares. This is great if you plan on weekend trips around the UK, heading to the airport and much more. Make sure you read the terms and conditions before purchasing.

    How much do Groceries cost?

    Grocery stores like Lidl, Aldi and Iceland will be the 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 household around £60 to £70 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 £20 to £23.33.

    All my meals included both a lunch and dinner portion – this is where most of my costs savings come in as I am not spending all my money on fancy lunches in the city of London.

    However, this has gone up since we have all been at home. I now spend about £100 a week for the 3 of us but as we aren’t going out my entertainment budget has decreased.

    My survey results in 2019 showed that people spent around £30 to £40 on food a week.

    Beauty Products

    When I originally wrote this article I didn’t include the beauty products and boy do these add up! Here is a rough spending list:

    • £7.50 Lush Shampoo
    • £19.95 475g Lush conditioner
    • £8.50 100g Lush facewash
    • £8.50 150g Lush face scrub
    • £17.50 500g Lush body wash
    • £11.50 Lush Toner
    • £2.00 Simple moisturiser
    • £30 MAC Primer
    • £28 MAC Foundation
    • £21.50 Benefit Eyebrows
    • £22 Benefit Mascara
    • Not including my obsession with lipstick and I tend to not replace my blushes that often.

    Overall I spend about £177.28 every 4 months which equates to £44.32 per month.


    This is where all the spare cash can go! Most people I surveyed spent between £60 to £100 a week on entertainment (eating out, activities, events etc.). There were a few that were savvy and spent between £40 to £60.

    For me, it really depends on the week and what I am doing. I generally allow myself a £200 to £250 spending budget a week depending on what I am doing. I could save money in this area but I do pay for a lot of items that I need to run this website and give you all the information you need when out and about in London.

    How much does a meal cost in London?

    Incredible Waffles at Duck and Waffle
    I just had a show a picture of the waffles at Duck and Waffle. Not only are they pretty but they are so tasty!!!

    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 the money goes the fastest.

    Here is a rough guide to what to expect:

    • Brunch will be around £15 to £20 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. If you really love craft beer make sure you check out the Bermondsey Beer Mile.
    • 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 truely the way to experience London like a local. It’s a great way of 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 (find out the local tips with this video), 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.

    Find out all the tips on how to book London attractions and how to save money with this article.

    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

    6 thoughts on “Cost of Living in London 2020 (by an Expat)”

    1. Thank you for sharing such detailed information. They seem realistic and actually doable (after hearing tons of horror stories on how London is exceedingly expensive). I’ll be subscribing to your blog!

    2. It all depends on your wage and where you want to live but it is doable. Finding a house is probably the most stressful part about the initial move to London, once you get over that it’s generally smooth sailing from there.

    3. So…How does the real person live there? Those that only make working mans wages? Say 12-15 dollars an hour perhaps and the govm’t take 30% of that. And health ins another 10% or so??

    4. I am a real person and this is my cost of living that I have been breaking down, plus those who I surveyed in 2019. I’ve had a range of salaries in London and made it work, including sharing a room with a friend to save on money when I was struggling and so on.

      At the end of the day, it depends on what you want as a lifestyle. If you want to live in London and you earn minimum wage, it will be tough but people do make it work because they want to live here. It is one of the most expensive cities in the world so if your goal is to save money or have a wider spending range then another UK city might work better. Then visit London when you can.

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