How much does it cost to have a basic standard of living in the UK?
September 7, 2008 11:04 AM   Subscribe

What's the cost of living in the UK?

Could someone please tell me how much it costs to maintain a basic standard of living in the UK?

I'd be especially interested to the total amount that needs to be spent per year on:

posted by Tnuocca to Work & Money (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You may find the Economist's Big Mac Index useful.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:12 AM on September 7, 2008

I visit the US regularly from the UK. I've found that in New York, what you would pay in dollars, we would pay in pounds, so a meal costing $20 in New York would be £20 (i.e. nearly $40).

In the midwest, things are cheaper than New York, and much, MUCH cheaper than England. For example, I picked up the tab recently for a 3-course meal for five of us in a Mexican restaurant in southern Ohio, and it came to £35. The equivalent of Mexican food in the UK is Indian, and you would not in a million years get a 3-course Indian meal for five for that price.

As for housing, it depends on where you live now and where you'd live in the UK. Our property prices are very high in some areas, although we are going into a housing/mortgage depression as you are in the US.

Where I live, close to London, a 1-bedroomed apartment would be about £200,000 minimum. To rent would be around £700 a month minimum.

Outside London prices are much lower. Check out Right Move for prices around the country and see what you'd get for your money, both buying and renting.

Unlike the US, if you live in an apartment block, hot water/heating isn't included. You should allow at least £100 per month for gas/electricity/water (in total, not separately). There's also council tax, which is a local tax, which is variable depending on the type of property you live in, and the area, but you should allow another £100 a month for that.

If you work legally in the UK, you'll be liable for Income Tax, which is usually deducted at source by your employer, unless you're self-employed, along with National Insurance contributions. Broadly, you'll lose about 25-35% of your gross pay to these taxes, unless you're in a higher tax band, in which case it'll be more.

We don't have sales tax, but we do have Value Added Tax on some items, at 17.5%, which is already added to the price of goods, so the price on the ticket is the price you pay.

Public transport in the UK is very expensive, as is the cost of owning a car - our petrol prices are through the roof.

Generally I've found that most of my friends in the US have a higher standard of living than I do, in terms of the number of times they eat out, go to the movies, theatre, are able to follow hobbies that require lots of toys or equipment, buy clothes, and so on.

Hope this helps. If you have a specific question arising out of this, please feel free to MeMail me.
posted by essexjan at 11:30 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Housing (and other) costs vary a lot across the country. You can get a good indication from the Rent Service's Local Housing Allowances of private rents covered by Housing Benefit. The Land Registry compiles house prices by region.

Day-today living, according to the Government, should be covered by £60.50 per week (single person income support allowance). In reality, gas and electricty could eat up over half of that amount on their own, and you'll struggle to subsist off the remainder.

You can calculate income tax and National Insurance for a given income here, and entitlement to tax credits and welfare benefits here .

The Office of National Statistics site can be mined for various data that may answer some questions.
posted by wilko at 11:31 AM on September 7, 2008

What would you consider a 'basic standard', and where in the UK?
posted by malevolent at 11:32 AM on September 7, 2008

Previously, and not very long ago.
posted by goo at 11:48 AM on September 7, 2008

I should also note that rents have gone down recently with the crash in the housing market (preceded by the surge in buy-to-let properties). It is absolutely a renter's market at the moment.
posted by goo at 2:01 PM on September 7, 2008

Wow. This varies maasssively. I'm in London, and I live quite frugally on a minimum wage job, which is definitely doable. But then my weekly outgoings are limited to food, bills, taxes and... well, that's about it.

When I've been in the US (NYC, NJ and the surrounding area, for extended periods of time) I've tended to notice that the standard of living seems, comparatively, higher. There are many, many variables here, but it seems, for lack of a better word, more comfortable in the US.

Where are you coming from and where are you considering going to? That might let us give a more informed answer.

Day-today living, according to the Government, should be covered by £60.50 per week (single person income support allowance). In reality, gas and electricty could eat up over half of that amount on their own, and you'll struggle to subsist off the remainder.

£60.50? Yeah, I think that sounds about right. I've definitely lived for periods of time with a similar level of income, and much less after rent.. £30 a month in gas and electric is more realistic for a single person living on their own. I assume anyone on that level of income would be under housing benefit and council tax benefit too. Actually, if you're frugal and cook from scratch a lot, you could probably live quite a comfortable life like that.

To rent would be around £700 a month minimum.
I rent a room in a several person house in a really nice, very safe, very leafy area of North London for about half that. So it's possible.

But yeah, all this is just colour without a bit more info.
posted by Magnakai at 2:15 PM on September 7, 2008

Also - London is not the same as the rest of the UK. For the rental price of a room in a shared house in London, you can rent the whole house for yourself in many other parts of the country.
posted by idiomatika at 3:46 PM on September 7, 2008

When I lived in a medium sized UK city I found that the basic cost of living was less than in the US. A lot of this was due to lots of available housing, not needing a car, the moderate weather leading to reasonable utility bills year round and the relatively low cost and high availability of healthy grocery store food. However if you want to do anything above the basics (travel, buying consumer goods, eating out) it gets more expensive than the US in a hurry plus the quality of what you get is often much less. Especially at restaurants and for clothing.
posted by fshgrl at 4:22 PM on September 7, 2008

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