Average Cost of Living in London: What’s the Real Price? 3 Honest Charts

We all know the lore about the average cost of living in London: it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world, rent will bleed you dry, step out your door in London and you automatically spend £20, etc. 

But what do those crazy high numbers actually look like? What’s the cost of living in London per month, and can you really afford it?

If you’re thinking of moving to London, the very best thing you can do is look at your finances honestly and in detail. 

average cost of living in london per month - how much is rent? Image of a row of terraced homes in north london

How Much Does it Cost to Live in London?

The real cost of living in London per month all depends on who you are and what your life is like.

If you’re moving here for a job, what will your new salary be vs your current salary? How will your housing costs differ? What about transportation, healthcare, food?

Your daily life might change dramatically, so your cost of living will, too. The average cost of living in London is very different to where you live now; I guarantee it. 

Before you make the decision to move to London, it’s important to understand the average cost of living in London per month.

In this post, I’m breaking down the average cost to live in London using three simple charts that outline all of the monthly costs for different types of households. 

Ready? Let’s look at the London cost of living per month, and what your new annual, monthly, and daily expenses will look like if you move here.

Average Cost of Living in London: Rent

How much does it cost to live in London? That depends on your rent!

The single biggest factor in the cost of living in London per month is what your rent price is. This will not only determine your cost of living, but the rest of your budget.

So how much does it cost to live in London? That depends on where you live and how you live. Rent will be your single biggest expense, so it’s important to understand how rents vary across the city. 

chart: average rent prices in each London transport zone 1-6 for a single room, studio, 2 bed, 2 bed and 3 bed with prices for each.

The easiest way to look at average rent is by zone. London is divided into transport zones. Zone 1 is closest to the city centre and most expensive, and Zone 6 is farthest out (there are more than 6 zones but I’m keeping it concise). Zones 1 and 2 are the most expensive. 

Transport costs will vary by zone. For example, taking the tube from Zone 5 to Zone 1 will cost you £5.60 at peak times. But taking the tube from zone 2 to zone 1 will only cost £3.40 at peak times. Your cost of living in London per month will largely be determined by how far from the city centre you are.

There of course are travel card options and fare caps, but generally, you can expect to pay more for transport the further out of the city you live. Use TFL’s Fare Finder here to calculate costs.

Average Cost of Living in London: Rent Variables 

image of the underground entrance to Bank station in central london

The cost of living in London per month for rent is hugely variable: prices can vary greatly depending on the neighbourhood and proximity to public transportation. It’s also worth considering alternative options such as flat-sharing, which can help reduce costs. 

But before you fall in love with a flat, you need to consider the additional costs of living there.

The most important factors to consider for where to rent are: 

  • Location and associated transport costs 
  • Utilities : are they included? 
  • Council Taxes: these are based on the assessed value of the home. Some boroughs are more expensive than others. 
  • Energy efficiency: Most old London homes are terribly inefficient. You may pay much more for heating in the winter than you’d expect.  

Average Cost of Living in London: Monthly Expenses

Now that you’ve considered the cost of rent, it’s time to consider everything else in your budget. In this chart below, I’ve gathered averages for monthly expenses for different types of renters and families. 

How much does it cost to live in London? It depends on who you are and where you live.

chart: average monthly expenses in london for rent, food, transport, utilities, phone, and council tax for single, couples, family of 3 and family of 4. average prices per month for each category

Here are the major monthly expenses to consider for the average cost of living in London. Keep in mind that this chart is just averages: some people will pay more or pay less.

The cost of living in London per month will also vary by season. In the winter, for example, your utility bill might double for heating.

If you live in Zone 1, your transport costs will be smaller than if you live in Zone 6. You may need to budget more for winter and less for summer.

There are also plenty of ways to save on these monthly expenses, so they’re not set in stone. You can get a phone plan with less data that’s cheaper. You can cook at home more and eat out less. It’s all about your lifestyle and what you can put up with on a daily basis.

But here’s the most important takeaway from this chart: if you cannot afford the total at the bottom for your category, it’s worth reconsidering your move to London. Look at your finances and future finances with a realistic lens.

The sticker shock of London will shock you, and it’s best to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. The bright side for Americans? There aren’t big unforeseen medical costs due to nationalized healthcare. But other emergencies might arise, so you always need to have a slush fund.

Average Cost of Living in London: Groceries & Food

Behind rent and monthly bills, food is another essential expense and can make up a large portion of your budget. According to data from Numbeo, the average monthly cost of food for a single person in London is approximately £350 ($454 USD) per month. That includes groceries, restaurants, and takeaways. 

It’s a lot, for sure! And the numbers only go up as you feed more people in your family. But there’s one piece of good news about the cost of living in London per month: groceries. Groceries, I’ve found, are generally cheaper in the UK vs America and the rest of the world (of course it depends on where you’re coming from).

Here’s an example from part of my weekly shop on Ocado (a grocery delivery service) to give you an idea of what things cost. 

grocery cart chart for grocery prices in London: prices of apples, lettuce, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, yogurt, juice, soup, pasta, rice and bread. prices for each converted into USD along with the price in pounds.

In America, I’d spend at least $5 on apples, double on milk, and at least triple for bread. But I came from an already expensive city (Seattle).

Your cost of living in London per month for groceries will be determined by how much you cook, how many people you’re feeding, and where you shop. There are everything from super budget-friendly markets to high end grocers in London and the UK.

One important thing to note is that serving sizes and container sizes are smaller in the UK and Europe. With milk, for instance, the portion pictured above is 4L, which is equal to a US half gallon. It’s usually the biggest milk you can find in most supermarkets.

So if you always buy in big portions, consider the price per litre or per kilogram when calculating grocery costs.

Average Cost of Living in London: Daily Expenses

Now that we’ve examined the average cost of living in London for rent and monthly expenses, it’s time to talk about everything else. Here are examples of what regular daily purchases might look like.

chart: average daily living expenses in london for food, entertainment and other (like clothing and travel). Prices listed in GBP.

You’ll notice some of these prices are exorbitant. A pair of Levi’s for $100? It’s crazy. But some are not so bad and pretty comparable to what you’d pay in your home country.

A film ticket in the US is pretty much the same price as in London (£9 = 11.50 USD). A latte for £3.48 is pretty much the same as your daily $5 Starbucks.

The biggest takeaway here is: what do you want your London life to look like? Are you moving to London to experience all the best restaurants, clubs, activities, and culture? Factor that into your budget.

Are you moving here for easy access to travel the rest of Europe? Factor it into your budget.

Your expenses in London will be very different than if you’re coming from a place where there’s not much to see and do.

You may spend a lot more time out of your house and out in the world. And the world – especially in London – is costly.

The Average Cost of Living in London: Final Thoughts

How much does it cost to live in London? It all depends. But hopefully with my charts about the cost of living in London per month, you have a better idea of how much money you’ll need to live here comfortably.

The last thing I want is for you to move here and find out that it’s just too expensive; I don’t want you to be miserable and always be hustling for rent.

London is such an enjoyable city, if you can afford it. Take a realistic look at your finances, study the average cost of living in London thoroughly, and plan your budget carefully.

You can do this, if you plan carefully and realistically. And remember, however much money you have in London, you live in the best city in the world, and you are very lucky!

More on Moving to London: 

Living in Australia vs UK: What 11 Aussie Expats Want You to Know

Pros and Cons of Living in London: Is it right for you? 

The Best Areas to Live in London for Singles, Couples and Families

Tips for finding Short Term Rentals in London 

Moving to London Checklist

First time Renting in London: How to and tips

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