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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

I have a couple of questions re first month living expenses (before I get my first pay check) in London and options I can consider for housing location while I am working there:

1. How much would you estimate would be required for basic living expenses (excluding rent, utilities, internet as I have that taken care of) for the first month in terms of eating out, transport, grocery, laundry etc. I am trying to get an idea as to how much I should carry in cash to London to get by for the first month for a single person before I get paid end of the first month. I will be leading a simple life for the most part and won't be looking at the most expensive options in this period but will mostly eat out. Any suggestions as to how much to carry for the first month (an estimate not an exact number; I will build in a buffer)?

2. I will be working in the City and am looking at options for housing in terms of locality/neighborhood. I will require a studio/1 br (about 500 sq ft) for my needs. A nice view from the apt would be nice but not a must-have. My main objective is to cut down on travel time and I would prefer neighborhoods that are close to the City and even walkable on a good day (I don't mind a 20 min walk if the weather is nice). Which areas would you suggest? I am not looking for a real fancy neighborhood but something that is reasonably close to the City and safe. My rent will be reimbursed by my employer up to a certain amount so I am not looking for the cheapest place but also not the most expensive neighborhood.

Thanks!
 

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I recommend checking out Zoopla > Search Property to Buy, Rent, House Prices, Estate Agents and SPARE ROOM for flatshare, house share, flat share & rooms for rent to get an idea for how much a studio or 1 bd flat might cost. Zoopla has a nice map feature where you can draw on the map areas you want to live in and then go from there. Try that feature out to select things near your job (I realise that won't tell you what is and isn't safe). You might check out areas like Canary Wharf, Wapping, and Bermondsey for safe/nice areas. They aren't going to be cheap, by any means, but if your employer contributes a good chunk you may find that the rent is reasonable. Nothing in London is going to be "cheap" in any area. I don't know what your expectation is, so it's hard to say. In most areas of Zone 2, I would think you should expect to pay around £1,000 - £1,250 pcm on the low end for a studio - 1 bd (but that can still get you something really decent in a decent place, too, in my opinion). If you want to live a lot closer in (a 20 minute walk to the city is really close) you can expect to pay even more.

Eating out in London is going to cost you a fortune if you do it regularly. I would say if you are factoring that into your budget, you can probably expect to spend £200+ per week, potentially. I find this question difficult to answer as it just varies from person to person. It can depend on what you do in your free time as well. London does have a lot of free entertainment available (museums, lots of sights to see by just walking, the architecture alone is something to marvel at when you first arrive) - but some people forget how expensive it is to drink alcohol, take taxis, buy clothing, see films, etc. You could easily spend £20 per night on dinners if you were going out for meals each evening.

In the past I personally have lived very comfortably on around £120/week including most of my food/entertainment (and eating out at least twice per week - not including expensive meals) and that was in West London, Zone 2 to give you a better clue. But I personally didn't drink alcohol or spend gobs of money on that sort of entertainment. I also did not have to take the tube M-F, which gets pricey quickly! You can easily check the tube website to see how much you would need to pay weekly for transport, if that's going to be necessary for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi, thanks Chief Tea Officer!

1. The eating out bit is mostly for the first month when I will be in temp office provided acco.
I won't be cooking much during this period. I am trying to budget for the first month coming in
so that I can get enough cash w me before I get paid. I won't do the cinema in the first month and may have an odd day going out for drinks. My rent, utilities, Internet would be provided for so it's essentially basic eating out, travel, laundry, grocery shopping for basic items. Any basic estimate?

2. Great, I will look at Zoopla. In terms of area possibilities I have been thinking of:
Clerkenwell
Angel
Spitalfields
Shoreditch
Shad Thames

Any comments on these areas based on proximity, ease of travel, safety etc? I will budget 1500-2000 pounds pm for housing (of course cheaper the better). I'll need about 500 sq ft. Thanks!
 

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This is great info here.

I'm in a similar position to CLS, and am really struggling to come up with a reasonable monthly budget beyond rent as much of the info I have found is dated prior to 2013. Is the data for cost of living on a site like Numbeo accurate?

Like CLS, I am very interested to know what an average expenditure on groceries & personal care items for a single person or couple would be.

Thanks in advance!
 

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I understand wanting to eat out when you first arrive, especially as you get to know the city and if you are in temporary lodgings - I just want you to realise it will cost a lot, especially if done at every meal.

As far as using Numbeo I feel that it's a bit all over the place in terms of accuracy. I would say the groceries are about 20-25% underestimated in cost in many cases. Not all of them, but for example I would not say the average loaf of white bread is £1 (unless perhaps you are buying the cheapest and/or worst bread available?). Make of this what you will.

The restaurants are slightly underestimated as well. I would say perhaps by 10-15%. I am uncertain whether 2 people would eat for £25 a piece at 3 courses each.

If you are budgeting £1500-2000 pcm for a 1 bedroom you will be absolutely fine. That will get you a nice place in Zone 1 or Zone 2 and anything further out you could get a larger and nicer place for that price range (and probably pay even less, too). I would say for £1500 you can easily find a 1 bedroom that is 500 sq ft. The better the location, the more it will cost, naturally.

All of the areas you list are nice areas. Clerkenwell and Spitalfields are going to cost the most, by far. Shoreditch is also a popular area and has gotten pricier in the last 5 years, but your budget is plenty big enough to afford it. Angel & Shad Thames will cost less than those areas as they are slightly further out. If you're working in the city you may want to look at what is nearer to your work and work your way out. Also see what you like based on the style of the flats available. The views in Shad Thames will be nice, but there will be less to walk to right outside your door. There will be everything to walk to (hence the cost) in Clerkenwell, Spitalfields, and Shoreditch. If you lived in any of these, you'd likely need to use the tube/buses very little as there is so much that is walkable. Plus, they do have great connections for transport should you need them. I wouldn't describe any of these areas as areas that I "wouldn't live in," however I personally probably wouldn't choose Shoreditch or Shad Thames so much, myself. Here is a partially useful map of Crime Hotspots around London. Don't read this and think "I must avoid all of these areas!" Not so. For example, obviously Soho/Leicester Square is a tourist area and not unsafe in general - it is simply full of people and that probably contributes greatly to why it attracts so much crime. There are also hotspots on the map which are up-and-coming and have changed over time, or are still changing. Other areas like Shepherd's Bush are quite nice, but have some rough areas around them, so it's a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part, I would say that list is a fairly good "avoid" list, though.

As for your main question (and for Elwood's):
I would say a single person buying: groceries, laundry, eating out 2x per week (cheap place), paying for 5x tube at 2.80 rate (zones 1-2), and having a pay-as-you-go mobile phone = £150 per week
Double this for a couple.

That's my estimate based on my personal shopping habits having spent time in London on 3 separate occasions and knowing the costs of the food. You can of course spend up to £200 per week if you want to eat out more, eat at nicer places, go out more etc. And you may find that that's simply not enough. One thing I would suggest is when you first start working, spend 2 months saving up your disposable income and live on a pittance. Then you'll have this nice safety net of cash where you'll feel really comfortable adjusting to London cost of living.

Hope this helps. I can't wait to get back personally.
 

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If cheaper is better, you should give up on the walking option and look in zone three, though I don't really know how feasible it would be to walk from zone two to zone one to begin with (though that really depends on where you live and work). My fiance works in zone one and still couldn't walk there when he lived in zone two.
Also bare in mind that the closer you are to central London, the more expensive restaurants and the like will be as well. My fiance was living in zone 2, but recently got priced out. Zone three's still within the main three travel zones, and you'll get cheaper rent. London's one of the most expensive cities in the world, if not the most expensive, the farther from the center you're willing to live, the cheaper your life expenses will be.
 

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London's one of the most expensive cities in the world, if not the most expensive, the farther from the center you're willing to live, the cheaper your life expenses will be.
It is expensive, but definitely not the most. As of March 2014, it didn't rank in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world.

I also find that food in London is cheaper (for quality groceries) than in most major cities in America. In New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, you can expect to pay an average of $4.50 - $5.50 for a loaf of whole wheat bread. Don't go converting that to pounds - us Americans earn dollars so that's a hefty sum to be paying by comparison if a loaf of bread in London is a mere £1.50. You would also pay something like $5-7 for 450g of strawberries (you might pay £2.50 for this in London). If I want quality food whilst living in the US I need to budget around $100/week for just myself for groceries alone. More, if I want to buy all organic and eat out meals.

Similarly a bus ticket is $2.75 one zone, one-way where I live and there are no other methods of public transport. Rent is close to the same (dollar for pound - though it doesn't extend up quite as high as London's will of course), and you get more square footage for your money - but nothing is furnished and no bills are included, typically. The cost of utilities is much higher here compared to what my husband is paying in London. I pay the same dollar-for-pound to what he pays in London (our flats are about the same size), however I require a car to get around, I pay about $400 more in utilities (after rent), I also have a car as mentioned, and I have to pay for a parking spot as a result, as well as petrol etc, and I don't have healthcare covered by my employer (which if I chose to pay for it is $160/mo + $6,000/year deductible). The internet costs around 2-4x as much here as it does in the UK (and companies typically have corporate monopolies in areas so you don't have a choice of service provider) so most places you will pay $50-70 (or up to $100/mo if you live in a remote area) for internet services. Mobile phone services are generally around $50 - $110/mo (with $80/mo probably being the average price). So in my experience, living in London was really not more expensive. Buying a house is definitely expensive in London, and the pound is strong so if you do not earn pounds or if you do not earn a high salary it is absolutely difficult to get by there, but comparatively to major cities in the United States (and in other countries as well) I didn't find London prohibitively expensive. I actually found it kind of a relief. Fantastic public transport and the option to not pay $100/mo for a cell phone plus the ability to buy fresh foods for affordable prices? Amazing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Actually comparing London rental to HK, turns out rental in London is in fact going to be a bit cheaper than HK. I stay in an area adjoining the business district in HK. What I am trying to do is find a place that's roughly similar . Chief Tea Officer - the housing sources you pointed out look great. Thanks for posting!
 

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It is expensive, but definitely not the most. As of March 2014, it didn't rank in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world.

I also find that food in London is cheaper (for quality groceries) than in most major cities in America. In New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, you can expect to pay an average of $4.50 - $5.50 for a loaf of whole wheat bread. Don't go converting that to pounds - us Americans earn dollars so that's a hefty sum to be paying by comparison if a loaf of bread in London is a mere £1.50. You would also pay something like $5-7 for 450g of strawberries (you might pay £2.50 for this in London). If I want quality food whilst living in the US I need to budget around $100/week for just myself for groceries alone. More, if I want to buy all organic and eat out meals.

Similarly a bus ticket is $2.75 one zone, one-way where I live and there are no other methods of public transport. Rent is close to the same (dollar for pound - though it doesn't extend up quite as high as London's will of course), and you get more square footage for your money - but nothing is furnished and no bills are included, typically. The cost of utilities is much higher here compared to what my husband is paying in London. I pay the same dollar-for-pound to what he pays in London (our flats are about the same size), however I require a car to get around, I pay about $400 more in utilities (after rent), I also have a car as mentioned, and I have to pay for a parking spot as a result, as well as petrol etc, and I don't have healthcare covered by my employer (which if I chose to pay for it is $160/mo + $6,000/year deductible). The internet costs around 2-4x as much here as it does in the UK (and companies typically have corporate monopolies in areas so you don't have a choice of service provider) so most places you will pay $50-70 (or up to $100/mo if you live in a remote area) for internet services. Mobile phone services are generally around $50 - $110/mo (with $80/mo probably being the average price). So in my experience, living in London was really not more expensive. Buying a house is definitely expensive in London, and the pound is strong so if you do not earn pounds or if you do not earn a high salary it is absolutely difficult to get by there, but comparatively to major cities in the United States (and in other countries as well) I didn't find London prohibitively expensive. I actually found it kind of a relief. Fantastic public transport and the option to not pay $100/mo for a cell phone plus the ability to buy fresh foods for affordable prices? Amazing.
I definitely agree about the food as comparable to America!
In America I always eat out because I can't afford to grocery shop, whereas in London its the complete opposite! But he was talking about eating out, so that's what I was basing that off of. I've definitely found eating out over there is much more expensive. But I live in Baltimore (ever seen the Wire? Its really like that) which is actually really cheap to live in, so rent in London's definitely a big jump up for me. Haha! There's also the council tax to consider, but the fees my fiance pays on that don't seem to be too bad.
Monthly fees for public transit over there are a lot higher than what I'm used to, but you also really can't beat the quality or convenience of it, especially if you compare it to how poor transit tends to be in the states. I think the food quality and the transit quality are two of the biggest pluses for London in my book.

I just saw the fellow say it'll be cheaper for him than in Hong Kong, so I suppose that'll help him budget wise.
Although, my fiance does say that apartment hunting in London is a huge nightmare, so best wishes to the poster on finding a nice place quickly.
 

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You'd be best off to get an Oyster Card (exactly the same concept as HK's Octopus Card) and get a 30 day Travel Card to go with it (the 30 day travel card offers unlimited bus travel throughout the entire TFL network and unlimited Tube Trips within the zones you've purchased for... i.e. I have a Zone 1-2 Travelcard, so I can hop on and off of the Tube as many times as I care to at stations within Zones 1 & 2 during the 30 day period... if I decided to go from my home to the Westfield Shopping Mall in Stratford, it I will have to pay a zone 2-3 top up fare, as Westfield Mall in Stratford is located in Zone 3)... there is absolutely no way you can reasonably expect to walk from Zone 1 to Zone 2 or beyond... it's too big of an area to reasonably cover on foot... I know this for a fact because I used to live near Pimlico Tube and my husband worked near Westminster Tube, and while the locations look close on the map, they're about a mile away from each other and would have taken about a half hour to walk that distance (give or take, depending on how fast I was walking and whether or not I stopped to window shop along the way). We now live near Kensington Olympia Tube (i.e. just barely into zone 2) and if Husband were to walk to work, it would take him about 90 minutes on foot to cover the roughly 4 mile distance.... as it is, it takes him about half of that to take the tube, including time taken to get from our flat to the Tube and then from the Tube to his office.

Oh, and cash fares are no longer accepted on any of the public transport buses in London... this change took place on 06 July... you need to have either a prepaid ticket/transfer, Oyster Card, or contactless payment card (i.e. Debt or Credit Card that you can use to "touch to pay")

For information on current tariffs for the bus and tube, including Oyster Card discounts, please consult this fare chart, keeping in mind that these are current fares and will most likely go up again next year..

If you get an Oyster Card but don't buy a 30 day Travel Card, you are still free to load the card up with £££ and pay as you go. There are daily price caps in effect for pay as you go and the system will keep track of how much you've spent in a day so that once you've met the price cap, you won't be charged for any more trips you make in that same day period.
 
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You'd be best off to get an Oyster Card (exactly the same concept as HK's Octopus Card) and get a 30 day Travel Card to go with it (the 30 day travel card offers unlimited bus travel throughout the entire TFL network and unlimited Tube Trips within the zones you've purchased for... i.e. I have a Zone 1-2 Travelcard, so I can hop on and off of the Tube as many times as I care to at stations within Zones 1 & 2 during the 30 day period... if I decided to go from my home to the Westfield Shopping Mall in Stratford, it I will have to pay a zone 2-3 top up fare, as Westfield Mall in Stratford is located in Zone 3)... there is absolutely no way you can reasonably expect to walk from Zone 1 to Zone 2 or beyond... it's too big of an area to reasonably cover on foot... I know this for a fact because I used to live near Pimlico Tube and my husband worked near Westminster Tube, and while the locations look close on the map, they're about a mile away from each other and would have taken about a half hour to walk that distance (give or take, depending on how fast I was walking and whether or not I stopped to window shop along the way). We now live near Kensington Olympia Tube (i.e. just barely into zone 2) and if Husband were to walk to work, it would take him about 90 minutes on foot to cover the roughly 4 mile distance.... as it is, it takes him about half of that to take the tube, including time taken to get from our flat to the Tube and then from the Tube to his office.

Oh, and cash fares are no longer accepted on any of the public transport buses in London... this change took place on 06 July... you need to have either a prepaid ticket/transfer, Oyster Card, or contactless payment card (i.e. Debt or Credit Card that you can use to "touch to pay")

For information on current tariffs for the bus and tube, including Oyster Card discounts, please consult this fare chart, keeping in mind that these are current fares and will most likely go up again next year..

If you get an Oyster Card but don't buy a 30 day Travel Card, you are still free to load the card up with £££ and pay as you go. There are daily price caps in effect for pay as you go and the system will keep track of how much you've spent in a day so that once you've met the price cap, you won't be charged for any more trips you make in that same day period.
I dunno, my husband lives in zone 2 and he can walk to work in around 40 minutes. That's not quick I realise, but it just depends what area you live in? Most cases yeah, not going to work. Plus the weather will get in the way. If he's able to walk though an unlimited travel card isn't necessary (unless using travel at the weekends or for other purposes often). I think this is great advice though - unlimited travel is invaluable if you need to travel on tubes and buses and want to see the city. It makes me excited to get back :D

Wonder if my dog can ride with me free on that card...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So there is a lot to digest here... Thanks for sharing!

1. When you take the tube outside of your Travel Card zones how do you top up? Do you need to do that before you travel out of your zone? Btw what do you use the Oyster card for then if the Travel Card can offer so many travel options? Are these two 2 separate cards that you carry? I got the Oyster last time I was there but didn't know about the travel card

2. My primary concern in the first year of work is to be really close to office and cut transit time.
Studies have shown longer transit times impact happiness!: The perils of commuting: Commuting makes you unhappy | The Economist -- but more so I expect long hours to begin with and I'll be the new guy at the work place so being close to work and the City is really imp for me in my first year at work. I will move further out to zone 3 or the suburbs if needed in the future as I settle into the job and the city.
Given this background, which residential areas would you say would be truly 'walkable' to the City of London? My office building will be close to the Moorgate station. Thanks!
 

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1. Just put some cash on your Oyster as pay-as-you-go. Any extra fare will be collected from it automatically. Oyster is much more versatile than travel card, and you don't pay any more than travel card because of daily cap. You can load season ticket, longer travel card, railcard etc on to your Oyster to give you greater flexibility and possible discount.
2. It's up to you. Being close to the city means you pay more in rent, and you don't get the space you get in the suburbs. Perhaps not so important if you are single, but a couple or family will appreciate it. Try East End (e.g. E1 or E2 postcode) like Aldgate, Shoreditch (in Borough of Hackney).
 

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I also find that food in London is cheaper (for quality groceries) than in most major cities in America.
I have a friend who works for a company that collects and resells cost of living data to companies with expats, and she tells me that their data shows that groceries in the UK cost about 80% of what they cost here in the U.S. And I can attest to the fact that the quality is much higher and the selection much better. Just look in the cheese section at M&S. Or at the sausages... Only a small percentage of UK processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup (80% penetration here in the U.S), which is another plus.

I'm not sure what I will miss from here... as American kids growing up in Surrey, we missed Graham crackers, Bubble Yum, and Pop Rocks. Not much else though!
 
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