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...
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 latest annual National Student Money Survey, we asked 3,385 students where all their money goes, and our findings were pretty interesting. With an average monthly spend of around £807, 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
|Expense||Cost per month|
|Clothes & shopping||£31|
|Health & wellbeing||£13|
|Gifts & charity||£10|
It's probably no surprise that rent takes the biggest chunk out of the student budget. This figure is up £25 from 2018 which, although not a huge jump, shows that rents around the country are on the rise, and are an increasing concern for student tenants.
Groceries are the second biggest expenditure for students, coming in at £92 a month. This might seem like a lot, but it breaks down to £21 a week which isn't too bad for a weekly food shop. To cut down the costs of groceries, though, check out our guide to saving money on food.
Everyone knows that students love a good party, and it turns out £49 a month is spent on going out. While some might be surprised this is over three times the amount students spend on course materials, 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 £32 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.
Average student rent per week
There's no denying that the cost of rent is the biggest worry many students have when it comes to living costs at uni. 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 studying in London 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.
|University||Average monthly rent (£)|
|Imperial College London||682|
|Liverpool John Moores||643|
|University of the Arts London||567|
|King's College London||562|
|University for the Creative Arts||519|
|York St John||404|
|West of England, Bristol||398|
|Royal Veterinary College||386|
|Arts University Bournemouth||360|
|Canterbury Christ Church||355|
|University College Birmingham||288|
|West of Scotland||237|
The data has been filtered to exclude universities where there were not enough respondents, or where the results included significant outliers.
Is the Maintenance Loan enough?
It's all very well working out how much students spend each money – 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. In fact, the average student receives just £540 a month from their maintenance loan, which falls £267 a month short of covering the average £807 a month expenses.
In fact, 62% believe the Maintenance Loan isn't big enough.
Students told us:
After my rent went out I had roughly £5 to live off.
My £4,054 a year doesn’t cover my £5,760 rent and bills cost, let alone food and supplies for university.
Nearly three quarters of students (73%) turn to their parents for extra funds, with students getting an average of £134.25 a month from their mums and dads.
But, less students than last year are relying on money from their parents, Maintenance Loan and part-time jobs. Instead, more have had to turn to credit cards, overdrafts and private loans.
And, there's been a noticeable increase in students using adult work to make money – around 4% of students have done adult work, which is double the 2017 figure.
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.