Moving to London – What is the cost of living in London?

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Are you moving to London or just considering this opportunity? Wondering, what is the salary needed to live in London in 2021 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, the salary needed to live in London in 2021?

This post was updated in July 2021, so don’t worry, all the information is really fresh. 

Intro: My short story about 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 for a while (who knows, where I will be living in 3, 5 or 10 years?).

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 Edinburgh, Scotland. Why back? Well, I studied there at the University of Edinburgh 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 didn’t enjoy my living conditions there. It was really cold at home, always. No matter how many heaters I had on. We couldn’t change our flat for a better one since I couldn’t find a Marketing job in Edinburgh and my husband had to pay for everything. I thought Edinburgh was tough. But London isn’t precisely easier to handle.

Moving to London – logistics and more

Moving to London is actually a huge separate topic and I have written a separate post about how to prepare to move to London and what do you need to do upon arrival (if you’re moving from abroad or equally if you’re moving within the UK).

Jobs in London: average salary in London in 2021

The job market in London seems to have revived a little despite Brexit and the pandemic. However, the salaries in London still range a lot. If you’re an intern or assistant – expect to earn everything from the minimum salary (around 14000 pounds a year depending on your age) to 18K a year brutto.  Same goes for shop assistants and waiters – the only difference is that you get paid by the hour. It’s really not a high salary in a city like London. Later on, I will explain, how you can live on 12K, 18K, 40K or 70K in London. 

Moving to London

Junior or executive roles usually start at 18K and finish at 30-32K depending on your experience. Managerial roles start at 35-49K and God knows where they finish, but as a talented marketing manager with 5+ years of experience, you can make around 45-55K 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. According to these websites, the average salary in London in 2018 is 40K a year brutto.

It could be hard to find a job in London, if you don’t speak the language properly. In my post “how to find a job in London as a foreigner“, I explain in more detail, how I managed to find a job in London, when I just moved to the city. I recommend you checking the job aggregators like Monster to look for jobs.

cost of rent in London

Moving to London: the logistics (where to find a room / flat, where to buy furniture & more)

If you’re new in London or you’re planning to move to London, make sure to read my post about the worst places to live in London to avoid these areas. If you’re looking for a room, I recommend using websites like Spareroom or different communities on Facebook (room to rent, flatmates in London etc). If you’re looking for a flat, I recommend using Zoopla and Rightmove for that.

If you’re looking for affordable furniture, I recommend using a combination of ” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”>Amazon (yes, they sell furniture), Argos and Ikea. If you’re looking for more unique furniture (but still with a fast delivery and for a good price), I recommend Wayfair. If you’re looking for bedding and various home accessories, we got most of ours on ” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”>Amazon and also in Primark (Primark Home has some lovely bedding / pillows / duvets).

Cost of living in London: how much does it cost to live in London in 2021?

So, how much does it cost to live in London in 2021? You can live in London with a very little amount of money, however, you will have to have a very ascetic lifestyle. As I promised, I will first tell you about the salary that is needed for a comfortable life in London, the different costs of living in London and then, I’ll tell you, what you can afford in London with 4 different salaries.

Salary needed to live in London in 2021:

Of course, the salary needed to live in London in 2021 heavily depends on your lifestyle. 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 studio flat in Zones 3-4, buy food in Waitrose, pay for your transport and go out with your friends from time to time, you’d need at least £1900 a month. That would be around £28-29K a year before taxes. So how does that translate into costs?

Rent prices in London

If you want to live in a nice neighbourhood in a decently connected location (that would be zones 2-3 of London), prepare to pay around £1200 for a studio and £1500-1600 for a 1-bedroom flat. You can find cheaper flats in very posh neighbourhoods like South Kensington or Hampstead only in case the building half-decayed. Or you can find a fabulous flat for £1600, but it would be ages away from the tube 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 used to live in a new building with a concierge, gym, 5 minutes walking from the metro, in zone 1 (that’s basically the city centre), but the neighbourhood was a bit rough and dodgy.  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 takeaways. You can read more about it in my post about Elephant & Castle. If the neighbourhood matters a lot to you, check my post about the best districts to live in London. I also have a post about the worst areas to live in London that you should probably avoid.

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 extra.

Salary needed to live in London housing costs

Food prices in London: cost of going out in London

For a family of 2, we usually spend around £70 per week in supermarkets (shopping at Waitrose & Budgens), which ends up being ca £300 a month on just dinners and breakfasts at home. Then, there are lunches at the office, £5-8 per lunch – around £150 per month per person and, of course, going out. We don’t go very often to very expensive places but on a normal night out, we end up paying £30-60 per dinner. In more expensive places e.g. French restaurants, the dinner for two will start from £70 (with a bottle of wine).

Moving to London costs in London

Other costs to consider when living in London

Transport in London is crazy expensive. For a transport card for Zones 1-2, you would need to pay around £125 a month. That sum increases depending on your zone, so right now, we are in Zone 3 and I pay £153 pounds every month. 

Sometimes you want to go to a cinema and that’s also pricey in London. Cinema tickets start from £11-13 per person and on the weekend they can be sometimes £18 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 £180 pounds a month.

If you want to save money in London – I also have a post on this topic – click here to find out how to save money and afford more in London.

salaries in London 2018

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 bar 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.

How to afford to live in London?

As promised, I will tell you now how can you afford to live in London with 4 different salaries: the minimum wage, 18-20K, 40K (average salary in London in 2018) and 70K. 

how can you afford to live in London

What can you afford with a minimum wage in London?

As I already mentioned, the minimum salary in the UK depends on your age, so check this page to find out how much can you earn. 

I also have a separate blog post about living on a minimum wage in London. You can find it here >

So what can you afford with a minimum wage in London? Let’s just assume for the simplicity that you’re over 25 and since April 2019, you’ll be making £8.21 an hour. If you work 40 hours a week, that would be £1379 a month or £16,551 a year. From that, you need to pay taxes, so you’ll take home £1250 a month. You can afford to rent a cheap room in zones 2-3 for £500 a month. Actually,  I never rented a room, but you can find cheaper or more expensive rooms on Spareroom.

Let’s add to that £125 for the railcard (or you can cycle for free and not pay for the gym as well) & the groceries of £200. You’ll be left with £425 for going out, travelling, shopping and some basic necessities. Add here phone & internet bill (about £50 a month). With a minimum wage, it’s very hard to make any savings.

salary needed to live in London in 2018

What can you afford with the salary of 20K in London?

I would say 20K is a very average junior salary in an agency or a salary of an administrator or an office assistant. So what can you afford with the salary of 20K in London?

First of all, you need to pay taxes (well, your company will pay them for you), so you’ll be left with £1415 a month. That’s really not that much different from the minimum wage and you’ll still probably need to pay for a room around £500-600 a month in rent. 

What can you afford with the salary of 40K in London?

My salary at work is just over 40K now and I can’t say I’m eating black caviar every day. So what can you afford with an average salary in London? £40,000 a year is around £2550 a month after taxes (minus pension contribution) and that could already get you a cheap studio (£1200 with taxes) or an incredible ensuite room if you want to save for your own flat.  You can already afford to go out more often and indulge in shopping in more expensive places. You can also travel from time to time, as after all the spendings, you will still have around £900 left for shopping, travelling and saving. 

What can you afford with the salary of 70K in London?

Oh wow, you’ve been offered 70K in London? Congratulations, it’s really good. With this salary, you’ll be taking home £4050 and I can totally see you living in a nice 1-bedroom flat somewhere near Camden or Angel (paying £1800 with all the taxes), going out often and travelling a lot. £70K is a great salary for a single person in London. If you have a family, it’s also good and you’ll be able to have a moderate lifestyle in London. If you were offered even more, for example, 80K, you can find more information in this post about life on the 80K salary in London.

Summary of moving to London – how much money do you need in London. Is living in London worth it?

To summarise, for a comfortable life in London for 1 person, you would need a salary of at least 40K a year. 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 (£1600-1900), transport, lunches, groceries and you would be left with £1500 to spend on entertainment, going out, saving and travelling.

Still considering 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.

Some other articles you might enjoy reading:

Non-touristy things to do in London

Best things to do in North London

How to save money in London

We bought our first house in London

CategoriesExpat life The UK
  1. Luciano says:

    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?

    1. Liza says:

      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.

  2. Shibani says:

    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 🙂

  3. Jeanette says:

    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.

  4. 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.

    1. Liza says:

      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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