MOVING TO LONDON ALONE: TIPS FOR THE SOLO EXPAT
Let’s analyze a key topic which is hotly debated among single people willing to relocate to London: can you afford it nowadays?
London is absolutely cool, and everybody should have the experience of living there, even if just for a few years. It is no wonder London continues to attract the young and less young, thanks to its cosmopolitan atmosphere and the infinite options it has to offer. And let’s face it, the bottom line is that if you need to give a boost to your career as a skilled professional, London is the place to be as most of the jobs are there!
However, compared to all the other European capitals, London is also by far the most expensive, with prices which are soaring relentlessly every year. This is why before setting your mind on London for the long term, especially if moving alone, you should ask yourself:
What is your monthly “earning power” :i.e how much you can potentially get in your bank account compared to the salary needed to live in London.
This will determine how you can survive financially.
If, compared to London standards, you are a low-average earner, ask yourself how adaptable you are and what is your own idea of “quality of life”
This will determine how you will cope psychologically.
MINIMUM SALARY TO LIVE WELL IN LONDON
The concept of “living well” in London is totally subjective as we are all different and we come from different backgrounds and walks of life. It generally means being able to live comfortably. It may be without particular luxuries and taking into account costs such as rent, living expenses (grocery shopping, transport, internet, telephone, council tax, etc.) and extra activities.
Below you can choose in which category you fit and how much fixed expenses will eat into your salary.
YOUR AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY IN LONDON AS A SINGLE IS BELOW 18K-20K
Unless you are rent-free and/or you and your OH have a joint income and/or your OH earns a lot, I would strongly advise you to stay away from London on this wage, especially if you are relocating to London alone or as a single. It would be worth it to have the experience even if just temporarily, but be aware: in the long run, it’s going to be a bit of struggle. As a student or a young professional, you may be able to see the comedy in the struggle and have a good time as well but it may be a little less funny as an adult.
You may feel sharing a double room in a merry 6-8 person flatshare in London may not prove to be as comfortable as anticipated. I’ve met people employed in the social field or in retail working on a zero-hour contract basis and barely reaching 900 pounds a month, complaining about the psychological pressure such a situation implied, especially when your roommate is not your OH and you’re working different shifts. If your earnings prospects are that low and you are single, you’d better consider British towns with a lower cost of living.
Generally, if your level of English is good enough, unskilled or minimum salary jobs can be found all over the UK, and your quality of life won’t suffer as much.
YOUR AVERAGE MONTHLY INCOME IN LONDON AS A SINGLE IS £20K-25K PER YEAR
If you’re moving to London alone and able to manage your money well, this is the minimum yearly wage that will allow you to live decently. Unless you are rent-free, this will mean flatsharing.
You can afford the luxury of a single or double room in London, which will rarely be en-suite (with private bathroom). You will live one day to the next and saving large sums could prove to be a bit difficult, but this will also depend on your lifestyle and the area in which you work and live. By moving towards the outer zones, the cost of rent will drop a bit. The current issue is that rents are constantly growing.
If you find work in zones 1 or 2, you will have to calculate if it’s actually more efficient for you to live in outer areas to save on accommodation: London public transport is definitely costly these days and the game may not be worth the candle. You will kill two birds with one stone if you manage to find work outside central London. It will save you a stressful commute and you will (hopefully) put some money aside.
£20k a year makes £1390 per month net. The living expenses that you will incur will be the following:
Expect to pay at least £500 a month, excluding expenses, sharing with other people. Due to the recent steep increase in rents, sharing with only one person has become a luxury. In Zone 3, sharing a flat with only one person will cost you at least £650 minimum per month. You will generally find for less on a Monday to Friday basis or may be better off sharing with more people (flatshares of between 4-6 people are most common).
Extra Expenses Not Included In Rent
You will need to add the following monthly expenses (average amounts, just to give you an idea):
• Council tax: about £35 per person
• Water: about £8 / £10 per person
• Electricity / gas: about £20 per person
• Telephone / Internet: about £5-7
• Telephone handset: £35-40?
• Transportation: £140 for a monthly travelcard
• Food / toiletries , etc; I’d say about £100, depending on your needs
Your total monthly expenses will therefore be around £850-900 per month, depending on the number of people with whom you share the apartment. You will be left with £400-450 for extras (theatre, cinema, concerts, pubs, holidays, etc.)
Yes, London is not exactly cheap. If you go to the movies, a ticket costs at least £10 and an evening at a concert at least £20, but there are many things that can be done by spending little or nothing at all.
All in all, earning £20K and flatsharing is manageable, regardless of the circumstances. But if you want total independence, that’s gonna be quite tough. Rent for a studio flat in London can easily reach £1,000 per month including utilities these days. Still manageable for a couple, a bit less for a single tenant.
Studios and flats are still more affordable in towns such as Leeds, York, Lincoln, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow to name a few. In more popular areas such as Bristol, Oxford, Brighton or Cambridge, demand exceeds supply and prices are nearly as crazy as London’s.
YOUR AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY IN LONDON AS A SINGLE IS £ 30K+
If your average monthly pay is that high, you’re going to be fine and any flatshare will be much more comfortable for you. You may even be able to afford a half-decent studio flat (apartment) all on your own.
Couples with a joint income of £30K+ may manage something bigger. A 1-bedroom flat in zone 3 may cost you £1.100 per month, plus utilities, but you could easily pay £1.400 per couple. That’s London, baby: privacy comes at a cost.
Renting a studio or a flat implies signing an annual contract. It is most common for the landlord to increase the rent once the contract expires. Make sure to ask in advance and always keep a lookout.
YOUR MONTHLY EARNINGS IN LONDON ABOVE 35K
Things above this range of salary are going to look good, and you’ll be able to live in London comfortably. Singles will be able to afford a decent studio flat. On the other hand, sharing with a flatmate or two will give you the opportunity to put money aside for travel, summer festivals, etc.
So being comfortable means being a 35K+ candidate. Above this yearly salary, you will be perfectly fine in London.
London is still a city offering great career opportunities; if your field is in demand and you are a skilled professional, climbing the career ladder is easy. Many are the young professionals that in one or two years manage to double their income. Read some useful tips on how to find a job in London.
Finding temporary accommodation in London is an important step. It will allow you to look for your ideal flatshare in London, which may require some time. Check out the following options for short-term accommodation in London!