As with most popular expat destinations, the cost of living in the UK will largely depend on where you live and what sort of lifestyle you have.
As with many countries, paying for somewhere to live can turn out to be a significant monthly outgoing, particularly if you relocate to one of the major cities or a particularly up-market area. However, for savvy expats, a wide range of affordable rental options are available; particularly if you don’t need to be near a city centre.
Rental prices in London vary from around £600 a month for a one bed flat to £4,000 a month for a two bedroom house or flat in a sought-after location. Edinburgh is considerably cheaper than London and there are several locations outside the main UK cities where your money will go further.
Alternatively, you could consider renting a room in a house that’s shared with others, which is a very cost-effective solution if you have to live in a more expensive region.
Most landlords will expect about six weeks’ worth of rent as a deposit. This should be returned to you at the end of your tenancy, providing you haven’t damaged anything. Many landlords also work through an estate agent, which may result in various extra fees for credit checks and admin.
As a tenant in a rented property, you’ll almost certainly be liable for your own gas, electricity, water,phone, internet and council tax bills. It’s rare to find properties that include these extras within the monthly rent and the extra costs can soon add up.
You should expect to pay, on average, around £100 a month for water and electricity. Heating is essential in winter and may cost you £50 or more a month. You should also make allowance for council tax, which will cost you at least £80 a month, depending on the value of the properties in your neighbourhood. Other monthly outgoings to factor into your budget include landline telephone, internet and digital/cable TV. Although, if you shop around a little then it’s possible to find some reasonably priced package deals.
Bear in mind that if you’ve lived in the UK for more than 183 days you’ll have to pay tax on your income. The rates vary from 20% to 50%, depending on how much you earn in a year. Most expats are assigned a temporary insurance number (emergency tax) until their tax level has been established. Make sure you get in touch with the local tax office as soon as possible; otherwise you may find yourself paying a higher rate on your earnings.
The average expat is likely to spend around £40 to £60 per week on groceries. Of course, this will vary according to where you shop and what sort of produce you buy. The UK imports a lot of its clothing and electrical goods and subsequently these items can also be fairly pricey. Cars are affordable and can also be bought on monthly part-payment schemes; however, petrol prices in the UK are amongst the highest in the world so actually running the car may cancel out any saving you’ve made.
Emergency healthcare is free for expats at all National Health Service hospitals. However, waiting times can be long and you’ll still need to pay for dental care. Private healthcare is costly but tends to have shorter waiting lists and a more individual level of care.
How you spend your free time can have a big impact on your finances as going out to eat or drink is quite expensive. A pint of beer may set you back as much as £4.00, while eating out at a restaurant can often cost upwards of £20 per head. Even a single ticket for the cinema is likely to be between £8 and £15.