Cost of living in London: How much is enough?

Cost of living in London: How much is enough?

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Expat blogger Kelvin breaks down the main costs of living in London, including accommodation, transport, food and taxes.

Someone emailed me asking me about relocating to London. More precisely, he asked me what was considered a decent relocation package for living in London. From what I understood, he's currently making a comfortable living back home and is still in two minds about uprooting himself and living halfway across the globe.

I guess some relocate for better pay while others move for a more desirable lifestyle though rarely for both. At the end of the day, we have to be quite clear about why we move in the first place. More importantly, different places may suit our needs at each stage of our lives.

Though I hope my replies to him have addressed his concerns, I thought it would be great to list down some of the main costs of living in London in this post and hopefully get some feedback from you.

1. Cost of accommodation in London
I read somewhere that it's common to pay up to a third of your salary on your accommodation. I'm not sure how true that is but it really depends on the individual. In my London Accommodation Guide, I gave a rough estimate on the monthly rental and upkeep to expect for your accommodation.

The usual factors include size (usually in terms of number of bedrooms), proximity to the city and basic amenities and the area (some are more upmarket than others). For a one bedroom flat in Zone 1, be prepared to fork out at least GBP 1200 for the rent alone.

However, if you are negotiating a relocation package and have to look for your own accommodation, request for the firm to put you up somewhere for at least three weeks while you hunt for a more permanent place. Believe me, it takes that long and you won't want to rush into anything that you might regret later.  

2. Cost of transport in London
With the recent Tube and bus fare increase to cover London Transport's ballooning deficit, it's high time to get a Travelcard, especially those who are doing regular commuting. I gave a breakdown of savings earlier and you could be looking at savings of a couple of hundred pounds annually.  

Depending on the extent that you'll be travelling, set aside at least GBP 4 per day if you are travelling within Zone 1. For more information on travel fares, refer to Transport For London.

3. Cost of food in London
If you're banking on home-cooked food, it's really not that expensive to feed yourself in London. Though not to the extent of spending only GBP 1 per day, you can get pretty affordable 'essential' range at your local supermarket if you're not into free range or organic labels. If I have to put a figure on it, a minimum of a fiver per day would be pretty safe.

However, if the kitchen isn't exactly one of your favourite places in the house, a decent meal in a decent restaurant will set you back around GBP 15 without alcohol (head towards London Chow for some suggestions). Else the good ol' fish and chips takeaway costs around GBP 3. Add a quid more for a kebab at your friendly local kebab stall.

4. UK taxes
When it comes to the saying about only two things being certain in life, tax is certainly the more expensive. That's especially true in the UK. Even with a 50 percent income tax going to be slapped on those earning more than GBP 150,000 per year in the UK, the tax rate is still cheaper compared to Denmark (59 percent for top bracket) and Netherlands (52 percent for top bracket).   

To see how much bread that you will actually be bringing back home, use this online calculator as a guideline.

So there you go, the four main living expenses in London. As always, if I miss out anything, do feel free to leave a comment or two here.

Kelvin, Singaporean in London / Expatica

Kelvin relocated from Singapore to London in 2007 and is still amazed at how much London has to offer. He likes roaming around the capital in his free time and writing about what to do and where to go in London, and how life in London differs from Singapore. Visit Singaporean in London or Kelvin's London food review site London Chow.

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