Expat lifeThe UK

Moving to London – How Much Money Do You Need For a Living?

posted by Liza 24th October 2017 8 Comments
moving to London - how much money do you need in London? How expensive is life in London?

Are you moving to London or just considering this opportunity? Wondering, whether it’s possible to survive there with your future salary and curious how much money you need to live in London comfortably? Well, in this post, I’ll try to answer all these questions: how much do you need to live in London? How expensive is rent in London? How high are the costs in London? How much can you make in London and finally, salary needed to live in London?

My Story of moving to London

I fell in love with London on the 31st of July 2011. Almost 6 years later, we moved to London to settle down.

I quit my job in St. Petersburg, Russia in November 2016, and after a wonderful wedding in Mexico and a short wait for my EEA Family permit visa, I moved back to beautiful Edinburgh, Scotland. Why back? Well, I studied there for a year in 2014-2015. I wrote a couple of posts about living in Scotland – even though I loved the country with all my heart, I hated the living conditions there: old mouldy non-refurbished houses with single-glazed windows and never-ending chill at home. It was really cold at home, always. And it wasn’t warm outside at all, as you can imagine.

beautiful Scotland but moving to London

I also couldn’t find a job in Edinburgh – there were 3 positions in the entire city, which I could apply for and around 300 graduates in Marketing every year. All competing for these 3 positions. In London, everything was different – plenty of new buildings, lots of jobs (and I’m being very picky here). That was our main reason for moving to London (apart from a better climate).

Jobs in London

There are so many jobs in London right now, however, I don’t know if it’s going to change with Brexit. Hopefully not. The salaries in the city range a lot. If you’re an intern or assistant – expect to earn everything from the minimum salary (around 12000 pounds a year depending on your age) to 18K a year.

Junior or executive roles usually start at 18K and finish at 30-32K depending on your experience. Managerial roles start at 28-35K and God knows where they finish, but as a talented marketing manager with 5 years of experience, you can make around 40-50K a year. Software developers always have higher salaries, so with 2-3 years of experience as a backend developer, you can get a salary of 40-55K a year. I can’t tell you much about other positions, but there’s Adzuna and Glassdoor that can help you find out, how much money could you make if you’re moving to London and haven’t found a job yet.

Cost of living in London

You can live in London with a very little amount of money, however, what a life will it be. So rather than focusing on how much money do you need to SURVIVE in London, I’ll tell how much do you need for a comfortable life in London.

Moving to London - prices in London

Salary needed to live in London in 2018:

Of course, salary needed to live in London in 2018 depends on your style of life. I know people, who manage to have a decent lifestyle with a minimum wage and a bit of work on the side, but if you want to be able to rent your own flat (even studio), buy food in Waitrose, pay for your transport  and go out with your friends from time to time, you’d need at least £1800 a month. That would be around £26-27K a year. More about how much do you need to earn to live in London you can find below.

Rent prices in London

If you want to live in a nice neighbourhood in a very well connected location (that would be zones 1 and 2 of London), prepare to pay around £1200 for a studio and £1500-1900 for a 1-bedroom flat. A 2-bedroom flat would be £1800-3000 depending on the location and the building. You can find cheaper flats in very nice neighbourhoods like South Kensington or Hampstead only in case the building isn’t that nice at all. Or you can find a fabulous flat for £1600, but it would be a bit far away from the metro or train. In London, you will always need to compromise. You can always share will other people and that would be way cheaper.

For example, we live in a fabulous building with a concierge, gym, 5 minutes walking from the metro, in the ZONE 1 (!), but the neighbourhood isn’t nice. It’s not dangerous, but it’s just not nice at all. It’s not a place where you would go for a nice walk or chill in a local brunch place (because there are none). Instead, it’s full of cheap shops, poundlands, betties and Caribbean takeaways. You can read more about it in my post about Elephant & Castle.

In addition to the rent prices, you will need to pay the council tax (around 80-180 pounds a month), water, gas, electricity, phone, Internet and TV which would end up being 150-200 pounds a month.

rent prices in London

Food prices in London

For a family of 2, we usually spend around £70 per week in supermarkets (shopping at Tesco and Sainsbury’s), which ends up being £300 a month on just food. Then, there are lunches in the office, £5-8 per lunch – around £150 per month per person and, of course, going out. We don’t go to expensive places, usually having a dinner at Pho or Pizza Express, but even then we don’t spend less than £35 per dinner (and that without alcohol). In more expensive places like some French restaurants or simply posh places, the dinner for two will start from £70.

Other costs in London

Transport in London is crazy. For a transport card for Zones 1-2 you would need to pay around £125 a month. That sum increases depending on your zone!

Sometimes you want to go to a cinema and that’s something crazily expensive in London. Cinema tickets start from £11-13 per person and on the weekend they can be sometimes £20 per person. That’s why we are paying Limitless by Odeon – £20 pounds a month per person – and unlimited visits to all Odeon cinemas are yours (3D and IMAX excluded, you need to pay 3-4 pounds extra for that).

If you’re a gym rat, depending on the gym, you would pay from £25 to £100 pounds a month.

London life price

Theatre prices in London are okay, you can see some plays for as low as £15, but if you want to go to a popular performance, be ready to pay £50-70. Opera and ballet are way more expensive than that (which is so sad for me, because I’m used to cheap ballet performances in St. Petersburg, Russia!).

Nightlife in London is also very expensive – a cocktail in a nice place would be around £8-13.

There’re of course, other spendings in London, such as clothes, travelling and so on, that totally depends on your preferences and remaining budget.

Summary of moving to London – how much money do you need in London

To summarise, for a comfortable life in London for 1 person, you would need a salary of at least 40K a year (that’s a salary to live comfortably in London for 1 person). That is, after taxes, around £2500 a month. You can either share a flat with someone paying up to £1000 a month or rent a nice centric studio, paying £1400 with all the taxes & bills included. You will pay for a transport card for zones 1-2, lunches at work, groceries and you would be left with £600-700 per month for travelling, savings, shopping, going out and so on.

For two people, everybody needs to earn at least 30K, so you would be left with the household income of £4000, which would cover the flat (£1800-1900), transport, lunches, groceries and you would be left with £1500 to spend on entertainment, going out, saving and travelling.

Still moving to London? Just joking. Everything is possible, you just need to find a good job and all the dreams will come true. In the meantime, would you like to know how to travel the world without spending much money? Read this article.

moving to London - how much money do you need in London? How expensive is life in London?moving to London - how much money do you need in London? How expensive is life in London?

Check this out


Luciano 25th October 2017 at 7:52 am

I loved reading this article, as I usually do with all cost of living articles. I knew that rent prices were high there, but it always comes as a blow to look at those numbers 🙂 However, overall, I thought that the total cost of living was a bit higher than what it appears to be and that’s a pleasant surprise.

But is it easy to find a job that would allow you to live comfortably or is it getting more and more of a struggle to do so?

Liza 25th October 2017 at 5:41 pm

It’s not so hard – there are many well-paid jobs in the city, however, finding something you would like doing in a company you like is already way harder, to be honest.

Shibani 28th October 2017 at 7:17 am

I like London, but it’s crazily expensive..especially the flat rent!! Gosh not sure if I can ever plan to the city 😀
Well detailed article, pinning it in case I get around and move there 🙂

Jeanette 2nd November 2017 at 4:53 pm

Definitely open your mind to living further out than Zone 1 or 2. There are lots of options that cost less and are well connected so you aren’t at a massive loss transport wise. We lived in several places in London but transport times generally evened out. Further out we got direct overland trains to commute which were quicker into central stations than the underground since they generally didn’t stop more than once. Another benefit to living further out is finding areas that are like small towns and therefore easier for the practical everyday stuff like shopping. Where we used to live in Zone 5 a 2 bed flat close to the station and with a travelcard for two people would be around £1500- £1600 altogether so as a couple you can get away with earning a bit less and commute times were manageable. I preferred it to living more centrally as it was actually better quality of life overall and it was still easy to dip into central London activities as we wanted.

Mike from TravelAndDestinations 16th January 2018 at 10:52 am

London is crazy expensive for sure. My “ROOM” used to cost me around £550 a month with shared facilities and 30 minute commute to the center. The place I’m in Vienna costs €800 for an “entire apartment” and 15 minutes from the center.

Also the subway is crazy expensive in London and pretty much eats your money.

I’d say if you’re thinking of moving to London makes sure you’re getting a salary of at least 20k or more.

Liza 22nd January 2018 at 10:13 pm

Oh you had a great deal! 550 pounds for a room is a really decent price.. I would say anything above 35K would be fine for living in London)

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