Cost of living in Leicester, UK?
May 14, 2013 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm a US Federal Employee considering a position I've been offered at a University in Leicester. The salary I've been offered seems reasonable to me (~£42k per annum, I now make about $80k but it's more than we need to live on), but I'd like to hear from people who live in the UK what this really means.

I would bring my husband and school-aged child. My husband plans to get a job there, but he's been a stay-at-home dad for a while so it may not be easy. We have about $18k in savings, but I'd rather not dip into this too much. We also have a house here that we will have to sell when we leave. We bought the house for less than it was worth and made substantial improvements, so I don't think it will be too much of a problem, but we may have to cover the mortgage for a few months after we leave.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak for the UK but don't forget to factor in what you need to save for retirement.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on May 14, 2013

This page will tell you the cost of living in Leicester - there is lots of detail for various items but the bar graph at the bottom may be the most interesting to you: if New York City scores 100 in terms of cost of living then London is 112 and Leicester is 88. The average salary in the UK is about £25K - so you would be getting paid reasonably well. Some expenses (eating out, fuel) cost quite a lot more than the US and others (health insurance) less.

Make sure that your husband's assumption that he will be able to work legally is correct. If it is not then your equations will alter. In terms of where to live you might want to look at where the best rated schools for your kid are and use that as something of a guide.
posted by rongorongo at 11:56 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look carefully at the schools and talk to your potential employer - getting UK school places is much more complicated than US public school admissions. There is no guarantee that even if you are moving next door to the best school in town, you will get to send your kid there. Even if there are theoretically places available, it may be single sex for the wrong sex, or give preferences to people of a religion you don't practice. The problem gets way worse if your child is 12-15 or so, UK "secondary" age.

If your child is over 15, you may have issues as an American, since he/she will be "missing" GCSE exams, which Americans don't take. If it's a shorter-term placement, you may have problems later, since UK education narrows down earlier than US education - if you bring a teenager back to a good US school, he/she may have dropped subjects that they would have continued in the US. Since many US colleges require a "well-rounded" high school education, with years of each core subject, this might be a problem later on. (UK kids who go to college in the US are international students, but an American who has lived in the UK for a short time might not get the leeway they get for dropping all but their strongest subjects at A-level.)

The upshot for budgetary purposes: make sure you are not backing yourself into a corner that will force you to pay for an alternative to state education (a private or international school or turning your husband into an unexpected homeschool dad) if you were not already planning to do so. Investigate educational options in advance.

Here's Leicester Mumsnet, with a list of schools and locations.
posted by Wylla at 12:02 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I live in Nottingham (just a few miles up the road from Leicester). £42K is a good salary for the region. It's the sort of money (even as a single salary) that will get you a reasonably comfortable suburban lifestyle.

Leicester is not homogenous. Like most British cities there are very poor areas and very affluent areas, often within a stone's throw of each other. The are also plenty of rather nice little villages and towns within an easy commute of the city. Train and bus coverage is very good.
posted by pipeski at 1:31 PM on May 14, 2013

£42K will mean you'll bring home about £2,600 per month after tax (assuming you're paying UK taxes). Renting a reasonable property in Leicester or the surrounding area will cost you about £700 pm, and factor in another £300 tops for council tax, utilities and insurance. Be prepared for smaller rooms than you're probably used to in the USA, our homes are compact compared with the USA.

The cost of living is higher in the UK than the States, even outside London. Our equivalent of sales tax is 20%. It's not charged on everything, but it's built into the price, not added on at the checkout as it is in the States.

As others have said, be certain your husband is entitled to work legally before he applies for a job and get a school sorted out. Don't assume your child will be able to go to the nearest school.

Leicester has a very large Indian (and sub-continent) population, so you'll be able to find great Indian food and 'international' supermarkets selling exotic ingredients and spices. It's a nice enough place, not much culture there, but a lot of pubs - if you venture into the town centre on a weekend night be prepared to see public drunkenness on a scale you'd probably only see in the States on St Paddy's Day or New Year's Eve.
posted by essexjan at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can't tell you exactly how well you'll live on £42k a year. It depends on where you want to live, what you expect to happen, and whether your husband is able to get a visa or not. My husband and I together make around £39k per year, and we make do well enough. It's not great, but it's not bad. So, really, it's up to you how well you do.

But I've been living in Nottingham for nearly 13 years, having moved from New Orleans and having grown up in L.A. And this is what I know:

Everything is colder, damper, and drunker.

There will be festivals and holidays where all your neighbours will light fireworks that you swear you only saw in professional shows. Some things will seem ridiculously cheap, until you do the conversion rate, and other things will be depressingly expensive, and you'll buy it anyway because you are unbelievably homesick.

Your house will seem small and incredibly cramped. There won't be a dryer, and you'll discover the joys of drying things on the radiator. There's no air conditioning almost anywhere, which is fine 99% of the time, but that one day in August where you want to get out of the house before you scream, everywhere else will seem even more miserable.

At a restaurant, the portions will be tiny. You'll get a cheeseburger, and wonder where the rest of it is. And you won't believe how much your students drink on any given weekend. The fashion's all wrong, and there are too many women on too spindly heels walking around on icy winter nights.

The news is always depressing, the government is trying to run us into the ground, and the anti-immigration attitudes are always around you. People spit on the pavement in front of you, and never throw away their rubbish in fast food restaurants.

When someone tells you "that's quite good", they mean it's not great. Everyone will use sarcasm and then laugh at you when you completely miss it.

But when you take a train into the countryside, you won't believe how green everything is. The Asian supermarkets have amazing fresh things you can't find anywhere else, making it so much easier to make wonderful food.

Television is amazing - not just the dramas that make their way over to BBC America, but there are fantastic documentaries and terrible sitcoms and hilarious panel programmes and stupid shows that are so unbelievably comforting some days. There are radio programmes that couldn't be made anywhere else.

There's the sudden rush of comfort when you go to your doctor's, and you're told that you're actually really quite sick, but it's fine, because prescriptions only cost £7.85, and the hospital appointment will be booked for you, and you don't have to pay anything. Or when you get a prescription that you're used to getting in the US, and rather than spending $90 a month, you're spending that £7.85 and it's a three-month prescription. Or it's free.

Where everyone makes a point of making fun of anyone who takes themselves too seriously. Where even when you're furious, you apologise, because you're sorry, but this has gone on far enough.

Where daffodils pop up in the spring to remind you how beautiful the place can be. Where your tiny Edwardian terrace house has a whole range of bulbs hiding in the garden that only pop up at certain months.

Where right now, it's pouring rain outside, filling up my water butt and watering my potatoes, but I'm in my house, snug and warm, and with a cup of Twinings' new Sunshine Grey (Earl Grey with added lemon), watching a documentary on the London Zoo.

Sometimes, it really sucks. But other times, it's beautiful.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:24 PM on May 14, 2013 [25 favorites]

And jeez, that was overly dramatic. I'm sorry. It's the rain, I think.

But if you have any questions, let me know. I'm just a hour train journey away.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:25 PM on May 14, 2013

£42k outside of London/SE is a pretty decent professional salary. ASHE is the annual survey of hours and earnings, and it'll show you where it fits.

Your house will seem small and incredibly cramped.

But, for the most part, you'll be able to walk to places. Or take a bus, if you're inclined. And depending on the child's age, perhaps walk or bike or bus to school. These are all aspects of the relative cost of living. If you want to replicate your current American lifestyle, from cars to living space to a big fridge, then it has the potential to get expensive. On the other hand, you won't be paying X in health insurance premiums, Y in copays and Z for prescriptions. Even if the university offered a supplementary private plan, as many professional employers do, it wouldn't cost much by comparison.

Wylla's right to highlight education as the big unknown here.
posted by holgate at 4:14 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

House prices are pretty good there, compared to other places I've lived.

Good points about the UK : healthcare in the UK is free and generally good, and the state education system is high quality by US standards. If your kids are very good academically they can get a much cheaper college education, e.g. Cambridge is at least as good as Harvard but costs a fraction as much.

I suspect your husband won't find it too hard to get a job as Americans are considered exotic and interesting, particularly out in the sticks there.

Cost of living in the UK is comparable. Cell phone plans are cheaper, and cable is not needed to get high quality TV, just the much cheaper TV license fee.
posted by w0mbat at 5:26 PM on May 14, 2013

On the salary thing, note that a University job in the UK will have a pension contribution to the USS (Universities Superannuation Scheme) added on top, which is worth a fair bit. I can't remember off-hand what the employee cut is, about 5% I think.

The flip side is that if you expect to return to the States, taking your pension with is more complicated as it's not a investment scheme but a final-salary style pension. (These days the pension pay out is based on inflation adjusted career-average pay rather than your final salary, but the principle is the same.)
posted by pharm at 12:54 AM on May 15, 2013

Oh, and, if your husband gets the right visa to work in the UK, he should be prepared for every employment agency, recruiter, and company to want to meet him in person and photocopy his passport and the visa.

Even if it turns out they're nowhere near Leicester. Even if they actually don't have any jobs for you.

(Still bitter about having to go out to the middle of nowhere in fucking Coventry just for an agency to go "Thank you. We' in touch.")

This is part of all the fairly new immigration hiring polices that are supposed to prove to the plebes that the government really does care about British people having British jobs.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:17 AM on May 15, 2013

As an addition to pharm's comment about the USS pension: new people joining the USS pension no longer join the final salary scheme. Instead you'd join the "Career revalued benefits scheme". There's information about that on USS website.

How long are you planning on remaining in the UK? Just wondering if it is worth renting out your current home, so you can return to it eventually.
posted by SuckPoppet at 1:09 AM on May 16, 2013

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