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Student Budgeting

Student living costs in the UK 2019

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...

student spending breakdown

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Student living can be a pricey business. There's rent to pay for, as well as books, bills, food and maybe even some socialising too. How do you even begin mapping out a budget?

Well, rather than taking wild guesses it helps to know what your expected living costs are, based on what thousands of other students are telling us.

In our annual National Student Money Survey we asked 3,167 students where all their money goes, and our findings were pretty interesting. With an average monthly spend of £770, our results reveal that the maintenance loan often falls short of covering students' living expenses.

So if you're wanting to budget your monthly expenses, or just see how your spending compares to the average student, we've got all the stats around student living costs you need.

Average student living costs

ExpenseCost per month
Mobile phone£18

It's probably no surprise that rent takes the biggest chunk out of the student budget. This figure is up £12 on 2017 which, although not a huge jump, shows that rents around the country are on the rise, and are an increasing concern for student tenants.

Food is the second biggest expenditure for students, coming in at £108 a month. This might seem like a substantial amount. but it breaks down to just £27 a week, which is a reasonable amount for a weekly food shop and any meals out and takeaways. Plus, we've got 57 ways to save on food to help keep these costs down.

Everyone knows that students love a good party, and it turns out £64 a month goes on socialising. While some might be surprised this is three times the amount students spend on textbooks, with students paying £9,250 a year on their degree, there's increasing pressure on universities to keep extra course costs to a minimum.

Students also estimate they spend £37 a month on bills which includes gas, electricity, water, broadband and a TV licence. Out complete guide to student bills has step-by-step advice on how to setup, switch, split and ultimately save on bills.

Know where your money is going with the brilliant Starling Bank app.

Average student rent per week

There's no denying that the cost of rent is the biggest worry students have when it comes to living costs at university. As universities improve the quality of their halls of residence, their rent prices are going up, and private landlords are increasingly charging more too.

Of course, rent prices vary massively across the country, with landlords in London charging the most (and students studying in London do receive a larger maintenance loan to accommodate this).

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

UniversityAverage cost of rent (per week)
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)£293
University of Westminster£261
Edinburgh Napier University£254
Goldsmiths, University of London£250
Middlesex University£226
University of Surrey£223
University College London (UCL)£215
Kings College London£215
Royal Veterinary College£211
St George's, University of London£196
University of Edinburgh£187
University of Bedfordshire£186
Anglia Ruskin University£186
University of Reading£181
Cardiff Metropolitan University£179
University of Oxford£168
Imperial College London£166
Canterbury Christ Church University£165
University of Glasgow£163
University of Bath£162
Royal Holloway, University of London£161
University of Sussex£161
University of Brighton£159
Oxford Brookes University£157
Cardiff University£156
University of Aberdeen£152
Kingston University£152
University of Chichester£152
University College Birmingham£150
University of Kent£149
London Metropolitan University£148
University of Portsmouth£147
City, University of London£144
University of St Andrews£143
University of Roehampton£142
University of Bristol£142
University of Dundee£141
University of Lincoln £138
University of Gloucestershire£135
University of Strathclyde£134
Aston University£131
Durham University£131
University of the West of England, Bristol£131
University of East Anglia (UEA)£130
Swansea University£130
Queen Mary University of London£129
University of Southampton£129
University of Exeter£128
Bournemouth University£128
University of Hertfordshire£125
Heriot-Watt University£125
University of Liverpool£123
Buckinghamshire New University£123
University of Plymouth£123
Leeds Beckett University£123
Robert Gordon University (RGU)£123
University of Cambridge£123
University of West London£120
Bangor University£120
University of Essex£120
Brunel University£120
University of South Wales£117
Nottingham Trent University£117
University of York£117
Southampton Solent University£115
Bath Spa University£114
Coventry University£112
University of Warwick£112
Liverpool John Moores University£111
Loughborough University£111
Lancaster University£111
University of Sheffield£110
London South Bank University£109
Staffordshire University£109
Sheffield Hallam University£109
Newcastle University£108
University of Leicester£108
Manchester Metropolitan University£107
Keele University£107
University of Manchester£107
University of Worcester£106
University of Leeds£106
University of Nottingham£105
University of Derby£103
University of Chester£103
York St John University£102
University of Huddersfield£101
DeMontfort University£101
University of Salford£100
Leeds Trinity University£100
University of Winchester£99
Harper Adams University£99
Birmingham City University£98
Aberystwyth University£96
University of Birmingham£95
Northumbria University£94
University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)£89
The Open University£88
University of Hull£88
Queen's University Belfast£81
Edge Hill University£80
Teesside University£71
Ulster University£64
University of the West of Scotland (UWS)£44

As you'd expect, it's mainly the Northern universities (minus Edinburgh) where rent is cheapest, and the further south you go, the more expensive rent becomes. This has led some students in southern cities outside London to campaign for a higher maintenance loan to reflect this.

Wondering which university students spend the most? We've broken it down uni-by-uni so you can see which students are the biggest ballers, and which are the biggest savers.

Is the maintenance loan enough?

Maintenance loan gap

It's all very well working out how much students spend each money - but the bigger 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. In fact, the average student receives just £600 a month from their maintenance loan, which falls £170 a month short of covering the average £770 a month expenses.

Students told us:

If I didn’t have support from my parents there is no way I could afford to pay rent and sustain myself at university.

Last year I lived in the cheapest off-campus accommodation and still couldn’t afford to do a weekly food shop and pay my bills. Had to get two jobs because parents couldn’t help out at the time and my grades definitely suffered.

Interestingly, for the first time more students are turning to a part-time job rather than their parents in order to top up their maintenance loan. 76% of students reported using a part-time job to make extra cash, meaning the importance of learning how to juggle work with study is more important than ever.

But a huge amount of students - 73% - turn to their parents for extra funds. This year we found that parents give on average £138.50 a month to their children studying at university to help plug the maintenance loan gap.

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.

Heard of saving bots? These clever apps automatically set aside some money each month so you're saving without even realising it. Genius!


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