The Best Cheap UK Cities for Uni Students in 2023
Want to know where the cheapest place to live in the UK is?
It’s no secret that living costs are rising and that some areas of the UK are vastly more expensive than others. If you’re trying to make an informed decision about which uni city to move to based on living costs, how much the average student spends or where to move to after graduation, we’ve got everything you need to know about the cheapest places in the UK and how much you can expect to spend.
Typical student living costs
Being a student isn’t cheap, and if you’re heading off to uni you’re probably worried about how much the cost of living is going to set you back. While your student loan will fully cover your tuition fees, your everyday costs such as rent, bills, food and socialising might not be fully covered and it will be down to you to budget and make the most of your loan.
When it comes to income, student loans now account for almost half (49%) of students’ monthly income. This means that many students do rely on help from their parents or from a part-time job to make some extra cash to cover the gaps their student loan doesn’t reach.
When it comes to going out, the average student night out across the UK costs £26.50 with the average takeaway costing £11.30 and the average cost of a pint being £4.30. Other monthly costs other than essentials like rent, bills and groceries include alcohol where the monthly average is £43.30, fashion and beauty which is £48.10 and self-care or the gym which is £26.80 per month.
Rent will massively depend on what university you go to and what city you live in, although it’s worth mentioning that on the whole student accommodation is different to private accommodation and tends to be a similar price regardless of the city you’re living in. According to the Natwest Student Living Index, the UK average is £455 per month on rent. In Manchester, this rises to £556.06 per month, the most expensive city on the list, whereas in Edinburgh the average is just £200 per month.
Household bills are rising and this is a concern for the majority of people across the UK. For students living in halls or private student accommodation bills won’t be a huge concern as they’ll be included in the costs of your rent, but for second or third-year students living in student houses, the bills are normally your responsibility.
The average energy bill for students in the UK is £56.45 per month, per person. This can cover gas, electricity and water costs. Energy bills will depend on how many people are living in your house or flat, the size of your flat and your monthly usage. Rising energy bills are a huge concern, so we can expect to see this number rising over the next few months.
If you have a car with you in uni, you probably rely on it a fair bit to get from place to place. Fuel prices have also risen and students pay an average of £47.04 per month on costs relating to their car, including fuel, insurance and day-to-day maintenance costs, such as car washes or cleaning.
The average cost of groceries per month for students in the UK is £76.29. This is the highest monthly outgoing for students, other than rent.
According to the Natwest Student Living Index, the average cost of going out and socialising with friends is £70 per month in universities across the UK. This is a pretty big jump compared to previous years, mainly due to the end of COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, the average cost of hobbies per month is £92 (playing sports, watching sports, going to the gym, theatre or museum trips etc.) Home entertainment such as TV, gaming etc is £61 per month and students also spend an average of £61 per month on academic studies such as library fees, textbooks and printing.
Cheapest places to live in the UK
When it comes to the cheapest place to live in the UK the following list has been taken from the Natwest Student Living Index 2022. These cities were worked out based on the average monthly living and accommodation costs divided by the average monthly income.
Most expensive places to live in the UK
Best student university cities in the UK
Obviously, every city will have its pros and cons and there are a number of things you should be weighing up before you make the decision to move to a certain city or apply to university.
With rent and energy bills rising, many major cities which were typically seen as cheaper to live in are no longer considered “affordable” due to salaries not rising in line with the costs of renting and bills. If money is something you’re really worried about when you go to uni, you’ll need to do some research on your potential chosen cities and see how much you can expect to be paying per month in these cities and the Natwest Studnet Living Index is a great place to start.
The most affordable cities are currently Cardiff, Cambridge, Southampton and Sheffield but it’s no secret that big cities such as London, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool have huge student hubs and are great places to live in terms of socialising and events. The choice of which university city to live in lies entirely with you, but you can use the research conducted by Natwest as a guideline as to what you can expect to be spending per month.
The UK’s cost of living crisis
It’s no secret that the UK is in a cost of living crisis, with many prices rising rapidly due to inflation, energy bills and rent rising and salaries just not stretching far enough. For students who are learning how to budget and manage money for the first time, as well as being independent from their parents this can be a very scary and worrying time. 24% of students said that they have received no financial help or support from their universities in line with the cost of living crisis and only 25% were offered financial support.
How the cost of living crisis is affecting students and young people
In the last year, nearly 9 in 10 students have made lifestyle changes in order to live within their budgets due to the cost of living crisis. The most common change has been a decrease in online shopping with 47% of students agreeing that they’d reduced the number of times they online shop, while 35% have chosen to go on fewer nights out and 26% have even reduced the number of meals they eat per day.
Only 12% of students said that they hadn’t made any changes, while others agreed to reducing the amount of heating being used, getting a job, choosing less expensive modes of transport and cancelling streaming services to try and curb living costs.
Is it cheaper to live in Scotland than in England?
Not necessarily, as this will depend entirely on the cost of living vs average salaries. When you’re thinking about the cheapest place to live in the UK, many people consider Scotland to be much cheaper than England, however, both Edinburgh and Glasgow have been listed as two of the most expensive cities for students to live in in 2023, based on the fact incomes and student loans can be fairly low in comparison to the cost of living prices.
However, despite this, the cost of renting is much cheaper in Scotland than in places across the UK such as London, Manchester or Oxford. For example, the average monthly rent in Edinburgh is £200 per month and £467 per month in Glasgow, whereas it’s £556.60 in Manchester and £505.50 in London.
It’s definitely something that needs thought and if you are thinking about studying in Scotland, remember that while prices may be cheaper average salaries and loans are also lower.
Overall, the cheapest place to live in the UK will depend on multiple factors, such as your income, student loan amount, whether you drive, and the cost of your rent and bills. However, don’t let the high cost of living put you off applying for certain unis as when it comes down to it, the student average budget is pretty similar across the UK and if you are applying to unis where the cost of living is higher, there are ways that you can help to reduce your monthly spending.
Don’t forget to check out how to manage your money and make it go further and hacks to save on your energy bill for more help and advice about the increase of living costs.