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Student Budgeting

Student living costs in the UK 2020

The student budget is a tricky thing to pin down – but our latest National Student Money Survey reveals where students' money goes once and for all...

purse with money sticking out

Credit: Yevgen Kravchenko, kamui29, Bell Photography 423 – Shutterstock

We all know that student living can be a pricey business – but, just how pricey is it?

Rather than taking wild guesses, we can tell you what your expected living costs are, based on what thousands of other students are telling us.

Whether you're wanting to budget your monthly expenses, or simply see how your spending compares to the average student, we've got all the stats on student living costs that you need.

Average student living costs

ExpenseCost per month
Rent£418
Groceries£100
Going out£46
Transport£43
Household bills£37
Takeaways£33
Clothes & shopping£29
Holidays£22
Mobile phone£16
Course materials£16
Health & wellbeing£13
Gifts & charity£12
Other£10
TOTAL£795

In our latest annual National Student Money Survey, we asked 3,161 students where all their money goes, and the results were pretty interesting.

The average student living costs are about £795 a month (or £183 a week), with our findings revealing that the Maintenance Loan often falls way short of covering students' living expenses.

It's probably no surprise that rent takes the biggest chunk out of the student budget. Although this figure is actually £13 less than in 2019, that stat was up £25 from 2018 and £37 from 2017 – so the long-term trend has still been one of rising costs.

Groceries are the second biggest expenditure for students, coming in at £100 a month. This might seem like a lot, but it breaks down to just £23 a week, which isn't too bad for a weekly food shop. Nonetheless, to cut down the costs of groceries further, check out our guide to saving money on food or even try our weekly meal plan.

Everyone knows that students love a good party, and it turns out £46 a month is spent on going out. Some might be surprised that this is almost three times the amount students spend on course materials but, with tuition fees at such a high rate, there's increasing pressure on unis to keep extra course costs to a minimum.

Students also estimate they spend £37 a month on bills which include gas, electricity, water, broadband and a TV Licence. Our complete guide to student bills has step-by-step advice on how to set up, switch, split and ultimately save on bills.

Know exactly where your money goes with an app-based bank.

Which students spend the most?

Surprisingly, only three of the universities in the top 10 for total spending (after rent) are based in London – the University of Westminster, the Royal Academy of Music and the University of Greenwich.

That said, three of the other universities in the top 10 are based in the south of England: Buckingham, Canterbury Christ Church and Hertfordshire, which ranked first, fifth and sixth respectively. Just one non-English uni made the top 10, with Scotland's own Glasgow breaking the status quo.

The very lowest spenders are those at Durham, Edge Hill and Leeds Arts, although Durham's students are the only ones with an average monthly outlay of less than £200.

At some unis, the average cost of bills is very low (£3 at Aston!) – but bear in mind that these figures are averages. A lot of students' bills will be included in their rent, so they would likely have reported that their bills cost £0.

The table below lists all universities and the average that students spend on living costs, after rent. How do you compare to your classmates?

Row LabelsTotal (£)Groceries (£)Takeaways & eating out (£)Socialising (£)Transport (£)Bills (£)Mobile phone (£)Clothes (£)Health & wellbeing (£)Course materials (£)Holidays & events (£)Gifts & charity (£)Other (£)
Buckingham827150431501331331333535333030
University of Law81015045207513530252526025200
Royal Academy of Music7692673383200371138205710310
Westminster686100765013622104123352221150
Canterbury Christ Church63918333488986323542885180
Hertfordshire624108638020034284319143080
Open University58414447438210526412316311312
Derby584164441956145164062041556
Greenwich5711183359128552458153425185
Glasgow522110465952572231231893130
Liverpool John Moores492119667864201259331910103
Bedfordshire4799520659737221211757830
King's College London4731134366533919482012221721
University for the Creative Arts47210724388061142511881374
Highlands and Islands46916190462114152016005
Bradford468146472352284127272442820
University of the Arts London4631324268342223223676530
Edinburgh Napier46310330416864252110781101
Teesside45715124547336222692217197
Queen's Belfast45411043437248224322831120
Salford451131414865411628112037150
Roehampton449994536206323284013251940
Brunel446943428736062313610270
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama446166303393335151616131810
Aberdeen445124546430631527152612132
West of England, Bristol4441163751594618231517181926
Swansea436119386432209587751238
UCL43513532389136112920914147
Huddersfield435127393742602740149141510
Strathclyde433107486239332831171143132
Loughborough42789265043175511319831318
Oxford Brookes426121244341651621203416223
Bath Spa4261451925321041721181713151
Staffordshire426766868531521481018201615
Kent42610338464444201471274240
Northumbria4211244661195213541282614
Imperial College London420116414675351739141111140
Wolverhampton4196636385234273711724420
Chichester41911648544527173271245180
Stirling415147386566182928139130
Kingston41579542969132121212468107
Birmingham City4141032930392513301214108102
South Wales4091234474547192920141672
Bucks New40659441122738343114142850
Liverpool405102306032452129151633165
Exeter398962142366019271718161236
Ulster39674546475282742200480
West London3961314130556110205162070
Sussex394992444872915221883494
Leeds Beckett3897342423333173085718324
Heriot-Watt3877818455213141712733888
Brighton386101355847381524169171019
St Andrews384114665310245251110281325
London South Bank3839476518335223381000
Winchester382118325537301030101832130
Norwich University of the Arts3781345852833850168470
Queen Mary3788824346953123526263100
St Mary's37555126320132650232272180
Abertay Dundee3739323272312520102223070
York St John3721183143432017441192665
West of Scotland37180193271242319523010110
Edinburgh37010841482427828126421511
UCLan36987414353261727101722253
Leeds369952962204116301013281114
Southampton Solent3691072839143716261013191449
Essex36888274983421423811797
Bournemouth3689134553353162415191676
Bristol36711530532055142512614213
Sheffield Hallam36386317028181533131831119
Warwick36311332333460152313723110
Dundee36187304427251836141851120
Northampton3611133159319223614209910
St George's3607437547424153069141310
Sunderland360931730226221301630067
Chester35693446038201229174151312
Reading35587365141311427201119154
Bath351102313954401622942293
Cardiff35010431553036172191115185
Keele3499728333633183688132216
LSE34860202041442330142846210
Harper Adams343128162654201023618201210
Worcester3391062710215423231350850
Sheffield333982852252012231564185
Manchester331814048363216251362384
Wrexham Glyndŵr3301052315302538101520101525
Cardiff Metropolitan327110305527255251050350
Robert Gordon3264722256045820223727150
York32610521521816132814145930
Cambridge3231063826531415780290
University College Birmingham32312530254050101010310100
Newcastle32291284420281423115301515
Manchester Met3228129254530173512211676
Royal Holloway3221272357203312301000100
Falmouth317781353604812931631313
Portsmouth31194284229461422771175
Nottingham Trent309892454372422221013860
Southampton304912841193892812418116
De Montfort3038527233541132310194179
Coventry3039822273240122411810109
Royal Veterinary College3037623614226231513103100
Glasgow Caledonian301463847302020348220234
Aberystwyth300762852243623251186110
Nottingham29882374329241523121012101
Birmingham29781303727251225131113158
Bangor2961072038312792210101380
Plymouth290932325272213201315131313
Surrey28993213132221824871797
City, UoL28980513238301716910240
Leicester2837820284141141110510242
Middlesex27658274755226238510171
Lancaster2751053235295171898880
Oxford260793246132052391212110
Goldsmiths2576028235720743530100
Aston251512131403131714636200
East Anglia2486727582126111276760
Lincoln24498312717911191041513
Hull24070222925820191818245
Leeds Arts2134813281324151081825150
Edge Hill2116320451646198125160
Durham1916414321122910103980
AVERAGE
389
102
34
46
48
39
17
27
14
19
21
12
7

The data has been filtered to exclude universities where there were not enough respondents, or where the results included significant outliers.

Average student rent per week

There's no denying that the cost of rent is the biggest financial worry for a lot of students. As universities improve the quality of their halls of residence, their rent prices are going up, and private landlords are increasingly charging more too.

Rent prices vary massively across the country, with landlords in London generally charging the most (students in London receive a larger Maintenance Loan to accommodate this).

The table below shows the average cost of rent at different unis around the country, so you can see where you'll be paying the most, and where you'll get the cheapest deal.

Row LabelsAverage of Rent
LSE880
Birkbeck800
West London792
Gloucestershire778
University of the Arts London766
King's College London752
UCL750
Goldsmiths750
City, UoL747
Oxford732
Greenwich702
Courtauld687
East London671
Bucks New656
Middlesex643
Suffolk639
Westminster637
De Montfort628
Aston628
Cumbria627
Kingston620
Royal Academy of Music613
Imperial College London608
Edinburgh605
Conservatoire for Dance and Drama600
Bath Spa597
Warwick596
Brunel592
Royal Veterinary College589
St Andrews587
Brighton584
Loughborough583
Canterbury Christ Church575
Hertfordshire575
Bangor570
Surrey568
Heriot-Watt557
Durham557
Edinburgh Napier555
St Mary's550
Falmouth545
Roehampton533
Staffordshire533
Northampton533
St George's532
West of England, Bristol531
Reading530
Manchester Met529
Winchester525
London South Bank520
Sussex518
Chichester516
Bath506
Cambridge504
Nottingham Trent494
Norwich University of the Arts493
Exeter491
Strathclyde490
Abertay Dundee489
Bournemouth486
Plymouth Marjon485
Bristol485
Glasgow483
Glasgow Caledonian480
University for the Creative Arts479
York478
Royal Holloway477
Worcester476
University of Law475
Queen Mary467
Bradford466
Oxford Brookes465
Nottingham464
Plymouth462
Liverpool462
Leeds Beckett462
Lincoln460
Dundee460
Birmingham City459
Kent456
Essex451
Liverpool John Moores447
Swansea446
Portsmouth445
Edge Hill445
Aberdeen441
West of Scotland436
Manchester436
Leeds Trinity435
Huddersfield434
Chester433
York St John432
Southampton431
Sheffield430
Keele426
Leeds422
Coventry414
Newcastle413
Birmingham406
Open University405
Lancaster404
Leicester402
Bedfordshire400
BPP400
Cardiff Metropolitan400
Bolton400
Rose Bruford College399
Salford397
Northumbria394
Aberystwyth392
Highlands and Islands391
Sheffield Hallam390
Southampton Solent383
Newman379
Stirling376
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland375
UCLan374
East Anglia371
Cardiff367
Liverpool Hope360
Anglia Ruskin350
Teesside349
Sunderland341
Robert Gordon339
Derby336
Wrexham Glyndŵr335
South Wales329
Harper Adams328
Hull325
Queen's Belfast307
Trinity St David300
Writtle College300
Ulster285
Leeds Arts256
Wolverhampton196
Buckingham120
AVERAGE
431

The data has been filtered to exclude students living at home, universities where there were not enough respondents, or where the results included significant outliers.

Is the Maintenance Loan enough?

infographic about maintenance loans

It's all very well working out how much students spend each month – but the big question is, how do they pay for it? 

The majority of students will be eligible for some form of Maintenance Loan to cover their living costs at university, but most students report that it doesn't stretch far enough. The average student receives just £572 a month from their Maintenance Loan, which falls £223 a month short of covering the average living costs (£795 a month).

In fact, 55% believe the Maintenance Loan isn't big enough.

Students told us:

After necessary expenses for the semester, my weekly budget doesn't cover emergencies I may have.

The overwhelming majority of students manage their money well and just find that there isn't enough of it to go around.

Over two thirds of students (68%) turn to their parents for extra funds, with students getting an average of £131.31 a month from their mums and dads.

But, fewer students than last year are relying on money from their parents, while the proportion of students getting a part-time job is up from 67% in 2019 to 74% in 2020.

There's also been a noticeable increase in the proportion of students who would turn to sex work in the event of a cash crisis – 10%, which is a substantial increase on the 6% figure recorded in 2019.

It's clear that the Maintenance Loan isn't enough to cover living costs for the vast majority of students, and the government needs to make some serious changes to Student Finance in order to fix this.

To make your Maintenance Loan last longer, check out our guide to budgeting at university.

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