The Monthly Expenses and Cost of Living in the United Kingdom’s Largest City Are Higher Than Anywhere Else
During the last two years, there is a certain buzz about how Polish immigrants that lived for years in the UK are returning to Poland due to the increasing salaries and improving economy in their homeland (and the soaring feel of unsafety in London). That puzzled me: yes, the salaries here in Poland are increasing, but still, I bet they are far lower than London for the same jobs. I imagined that there is something else at play here: the cost of living in London when compared to other European capitals.
For this reason, I decided to spend hours researching how the prices in London, the capital of the United Kingdom, compare with the capitals of the five largest countries in the European Union: Germany (Berlin), France (Paris), Italy (Rome), Spain (Madrid) and Poland (Warsaw).
Here are the premises used for this comparison between London’s living costs and other European capitals:
Average Cost of Living and Monthly Expenses in London for One Person
To make this objective, I wrote this article using the following guideline: What are the average monthly expenses for one person (a single, young professional living alone in a rented studio)?
Why did I use this specific pattern to write this article?
First, to make it straightforward.
Second, I guess this represents a large share of my readers.
Third, from the numbers written below, you can also guess the costs for a couple or a family by adding additional expenses like a nursery or education.
And Fourth, because for seven years of my life I was exactly this kind of person: a single, young professional expatriate.
Living Expenses Considered
The living costs below consider the late 20s, early 30s person, living alone, eating 2400 kcal per day in a diversified diet, who enjoys eating out once per week and drinking some pints of beer every time he meets his friends, frequents a gym and has a haircut once per month.
In other words, I took my own expenditures as an example — except for the part of eating 2400 kcal per day, since my size requires way more than that.
- Housing: rent of a 45 m2 furnished studio in a middle-class area.
- Transport: monthly ticket for public transport
- Utilities: 1 month of heating (to discover how to save money on heating, check here), energy, gas, Internet, etc, for 1 person
- Supermarket: 2400 kcal per day with a diversified diet + cleaning products
- Entertainment: eating out 5 times per month, 10 beers at a local pub, and 2 movie tickets
- Gym: 1 Month of full membership
- Health and Personal Care: 1 haircut and 1 visit to the dentist or private doctor.
The sources for the cost of living came mostly from two sites:
- Numbeo for supermarket items. Numbeo is a crowd-sourced global database of reported consumer prices. Currently, it 7,389,784 prices in 10,384 cities registered by 607,931 contributors. It is an enormous database with, in my experience, accurate numbers.
- Expatistan for other expenses (except the listed below). As Numbeo, Expatistan is another tool for calculating the cost of living in cities around the world. Their database is composed of 3,374,000 prices in 1,764 cities recorded by 388,500 contributors
Reminder: Despite not all countries using the Euro as currency (UK and Poland have their own money), all the values below are converted to Euros.
Cost of Living in London per Month
Housing (Monthly rent in London of a 45 m2 furnished studio in a middle-class area): € 1,454.00
Transport (Monthly Ticket of Public Transport): € 168.00
Utilities (average monthly cost in London for heating, energy, gas, Internet, etc., for 1 person): €112.00
Supermarket (2400 kcal per day with a diversified diet + cleaning products): € 248.08
Entertainment (eating out 5 times per month, 10 beers at a local pub, and 2 movie tickets): € 214.00
Gym (1 Month of Full Membership): € 48.00
Health and Personal Care (1 haircut, 1 visit to the dentist or private doctor): € 85.00
How much does it cost to live in London per month:
For a single person to live alone in London with a conventional lifestyle, he will spend € 2,329.08 per month.
Living Costs Berlin
Housing: € 728.00
Transport: € 78.00
Utilities: € 97.00
Supermarket: € 247.71
Entertainment: € 138.40
Gym: € 25.00
Health and Personal Care: € 50.00
How much money do you need to live in Berlin?
To live in Berlin without sharing an apartment, a young professional will spend € 1,364.11 per month between housing, transport, utilities, supermarket, entertainment, gym, and healthcare.
How the Cost of Living in Berlin Compares with The Cost of Living in London
The cost to live in Berlin is 41.4% smaller than in London.
Cost of Living in Paris
Housing: € 1,229.32
Transport: € 76.00
Utilities: € 109.00
Supermarket: € 274.57
Entertainment: € 213.60
Gym: € 33.00
Health and Personal Care: € 55.00
How much money do you need to live in Paris?
To live in Paris, renting a studio for one person, and considering all the other living costs, you will need € 1,990.49 per month. To enjoy some of the best things Paris offers, however, you will need a bit more.
Check also our article about the Cons and Pros of Life in France
Is London or Paris More Expensive?
London is 14.5% more expensive than Paris. This is the smallest difference among all the cities researched in this article, giving the French capital 2nd place among the most pricey European cities.
Cost of Living in Rome
Housing: € 663.00
Transport: € 35.00
Utilities: € 92.00
Supermarket: € 216.86
Entertainment: € 161.10
Gym: € 25.00
Health and Personal Care: € 62.00
How much money do you need to live in Rome?
To live in Rome as a single person and not sharing an apartment, you will need € 1,254.96 per month. You don’t necessairly need to live in expensive areas, since Rome is a safe place and most districts are ok to live. Also, as most of us know, it is one of the most beautiful European capitals.
How the Cost of Living in Rome Compares with The Cost of Living in London
The living costs in Rome, for a single young professional, are 46.1% lower than in London when you consider all the criteria above.
Cost of Living in Madrid
Housing: € 679.00
Transport: € 54.00
Utilities: € 87.00
Supermarket: € 215.57
Entertainment: € 138.10
Gym: € 35.90
Health and Personal Care: € 63.00
How much money do you need to live in Madrid?
To live in Madrid in a studio by yourself, and considering expenses with transport, utilities, groceries, entertainment, gym, and healthcare, you will need € 1,272.57 per month. The fact that Madrid is one of the safest European capitals helps to reduce costs since you don’t need to live in expensive zones to avoid violence.
How the Cost of Living in Madrid Compares with The Cost of Living in London
Madrid is 45.4% cheaper than London for a single person living alone. This is a result similar to Rome.
Cost of Living in Warsaw
Housing: € 518.00
Transport: € 24.00
Utilities: € 97.00
Supermarket: € 168.15
Entertainment: € 77.00
Gym: € 25.00
Health and Personal Care: € 43.00
How much money do you need to live in Warsaw?
Warsaw is the cheapest city on this list, and it comes as no surprise (despite it being much more expensive than other Polish cities). Considering all the expenses, you will need to live in Warsaw, per month, € 952.15. The Polish capital is the only European capital among the assessed where you can live with less than 1000 euros per month. Warsaw is also among the cheapest cities to take an Uber in Europe.
How Warsaw Compares with The Cost of Living in London
Warsaw is an impressive 59.1% cheaper than London.
Table: Living Expenses in London (Rent, Utilities, Transportation Costs, etc.) vs. Other European Capitals
|Housing (Rent of a 45 m2 furnished studio in a middle-class area)||€ 1,454.00||€ 728.00||€ 1,229.32||€ 663.00||€ 679.00||€ 518.00|
|Transport (Monthly Ticket of Public Transport)||€ 168.00||€ 78.00||€ 76.00||€ 35.00||€ 54.00||€ 24.00|
|Utilities (1 month of heating, energy, gas, Internet, etc, for 1 person)||€ 112.00||€ 97.00||€ 109.00||€ 92.00||€ 87.00||€ 97.00|
|Supermarket (2400 kcal per day with a diversified diet + cleaning products)||€ 248.08||€ 247.71||€ 274.57||€ 216.86||€ 215.57||€ 168.15|
|Entertainment (eating out 5 times per month, 10 beers at a local pub and 2 movie tickets)||€ 214.00||€ 138.40||€ 213.60||€ 161.10||€ 138.10||€ 77.00|
|Gym (1 Month of Full Membership)||€ 48.00||€ 25.00||€ 33.00||€ 25.00||€ 35.90||€ 25.00|
|Health and Personal Care (1 haircut, 1 visit to the dentist or private doctor)||€ 85.00||€ 50.00||€ 55.00||€ 62.00||€ 63.00||€ 43.00|
|Total (Expenses per Month)||€ 2,329.08||€ 1,364.11||€ 1,990.49||€ 1,254.96||€ 1,272.57||€ 952.15|
|Cost of Living vs London||-41.4%||-14.5%||-46.1%||-45.4%||-59.1%|
Key Takeaways: High Prices in London Make It One of the Most Expensive Cities to Live in Europe.
The UK is so expensive that, despite having some of the best schools in the world, the costs forced it out of the list of the best countries to study in the world.
Living in London is no small feat, especially when it comes to your wallet.
The city ranks high on the cost of living index, making it one of the most expensive places to reside in the U.K., and even more so when compared to other European capitals. If you’re planning to move to London in 2023, you can expect to pay around €2,329.08 per month as a single person living alone. This estimated cost covers rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment, and other daily expenses.
Housing is your biggest monthly expense, with the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a middle-class area costing about €1,454.00. Add to that the monthly travel card for Zone 1, which would cost you €168.00, and you’re already looking at a significant chunk of your budget. Utilities like heating, energy, and internet add another €112.00 to your monthly spend.
Dining out and enjoying a few beers with friends could set you back €214.00 a month. And if you’re keen on staying fit, a gym membership would cost around €48.00.
Interestingly, London’s cost of living is significantly higher than other European cities like Berlin, Madrid, or Warsaw. For instance, living in London is about 41.4% more expensive than in Berlin and a staggering 59.1% more than in Warsaw.
My Personal Conclusion on Why Poles no Longer Want to Move to London
The results above pretty much explain the question I made myself days ago, which inspired me to write to ask why so many Poles are returning from the UK to Poland, despite the salaries in Great Britain still being higher than here. I remember some time ago.
The answer, in this case, became simple: because the living costs in the UK are far higher than in Poland. Not everything is inexpensive in Polish lands, however. Months ago, I wrote an article about 5 things insanely expensive in Poland
It is crucial to remember, however, that the whole planet is experiencing the largest inflation cycle of the last 40 years, therefore the amount of money that you need to live now certainly will change in the coming months.
Levi Borba is the founder of The Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transaction.