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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£431
Groceries£92
Going out£49
Transport£44
Takeaways£34
Household bills£32
Clothes & shopping£31
Holidays£24
Mobile phone£17
Course materials£15
Health & wellbeing£13
Gifts & charity£10
Illegal drugs£4
Other£11
TOTAL£807

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 way short of covering students' living expenses.

It's probably no surprise that rent takes the biggest chunk out of the student budget. This figure is up £25 from 2018 and £37 from 2017, showing that rents around the country are continuing to rise.

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 just over £21 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.

Everyone knows that students love a good party, and it turns out £49 a month is spent on going out. Some might be surprised that this is over 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 £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.

Know exactly where your money goes with the brilliant Starling Bank app.

Which students spend the most?

Surprisingly, only one of the universities in the top 10 for total spending is based in London – University of the Arts London.

Instead, two of the top 10 spenders are Scottish universities (Dundee and Aberdeen). And, students at Queen's University Belfast also generally spend way above the average.

Meanwhile, those at Lincoln and St Andrews spend less than the national average, at around £250 a month.

At some unis, the average cost of bills is very low (£1 at Lancaster!) – but bear in mind that these figures are averages. A lot of students' bills will be included in their rent, so for all intents and purposes, 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?

UniversityTotal (£)Groceries (£)Takeaways & eating out (£)Socialising (£)Travel (£)Bills (£)Mobile phone (£)Clothes (£)Health & wellbeing (£)Course materials (£)Holidays & events (£)Gifts & charity (£)Illegal substances (£)Other (£)
Liverpool Hope6758353981357347735141151780
Cumbria575875155826718139174190128
University of the Arts London57211044581002524491481581000
Dundee557110255864642634722948460
Open University545136424562873136182027101119
Worcester53268243468212634618111220100
Aberdeen5261313754582917502385311100
Teesside522113419271812534923191400
Northumbria51310143535154204318118711615
Queen's Belfast502994255953022581221491360
Westminster4961253944107601533132528900
Manchester Met4931044268564020352017631494
Anglia Ruskin493114637880717521652619213
Greenwich491104729755281827172452223
Cambridge483107566832624582082014070
Hertfordshire4699736416354214318294312012
Bedfordshire46286304155663744194035800
Queen Mary458945540702720439185012020
King's College London454116664967271237123816408
Birmingham City453725268672521431829361208
Glasgow Caledonian4459951526842234312101911015
Robert Gordon4439539615340266310837424
St George's4421145963871129231411416013
Surrey442155336143391727161124970
Middlesex4399471427367152272228017
Stirling4361303346765812271010171800
Arts University Bournemouth435883031424814443056321433
Essex43112855526742182413138730
UCL4319249456255173111654810
Salford430924041922820431237121300
Aston429813149364519451540561110
Wolverhampton4278732434126141923621411100
Imperial College London42011430577848717892710015
Huddersfield42010751603825195218269960
Edinburgh Napier41910149455830252718112113120
Durham416127467017271548188231800
Liverpool John Moores413113376246292431111141710
University for the Creative Arts41090252657362130145958040
Ulster409703936621728472141261490
St Mary's4055028236029192315216819050
York St John404131444326611626612149015
Bath40211032573942143417835932
Edge Hill401883659671522371211361700
Kent39779385236352133132032121115
Chester396993137568019246828701
Brunel395100295746242157341011700
Heriot-Watt39066396484122438201619900
Brighton39085266256421726911199228
Hull3851062748511824262315298110
Newcastle385803846292916291111214467
Queen Margaret3817737685523733222328700
Grand Total3769234484432173113152410411
West of England, Bristol37494314054402227818188411
South Wales3738838536143281671619400
Nottingham Trent372982773401820291210161198
Sheffield Hallam36978314536718371674114337
UCLan3677038483415175418201618200
Bournemouth36692345227541630121122619
Goldsmiths361852338553413331925241200
LSE35714156364024829566600
Warwick355893331434012321522241310
Bristol35497305223441427108328100
Bath Spa3527431434324243315142412150
Roehampton3521024339692592311104690
Bangor348661736345523211029441200
Leeds Trinity3381203831425612813221130
Portsmouth3389242533822142812913924
Kingston3356643393429214818179930
Oxford Brookes33394393421451518521171473
Nottingham3329337562332162713612619
Leeds33093285423331624101015869
Swansea32887304540171931912221320
Plymouth327982836362217261422151212
Aberystwyth32794294019212329211492107
Reading3239029424336142512813516
Sheffield32285324323351731179111154
Southampton322863437232419331462111112
Liverpool32186266231111728117145220
Sussex320902949482716219711940
Loughborough31984354327161530179106422
Keele3159326455014242165201000
East Anglia31295183330341230137196115
Exeter31181263734291328141227920
Leeds Beckett311682752444114278814710
Birmingham31177254536251329146241242
Cardiff3108827472440112814613930
De Montfort310674252371627287911580
Royal Veterinary College309771839381416382011152300
Manchester30888314528261133101115640
York306862453212015291142111210
Edinburgh3057934412430142414723914
Staffordshire3059521193337211843216900
Glasgow304993444242792378161050
Strathclyde30379274441201722111814407
Coventry30111621312636142211312513
Royal Holloway30097213329241623149201300
Cardiff Metropolitan2986631532613144115526600
Canterbury Christ Church29872144944351221131511850
Derby2967926324828152481088010
Ravensbourne29536212894151618831114013
Oxford292133254281851818511800
Lancaster29187254329116261324151010
Leicester2897838353524172111613731
Gloucestershire28381293341101428101713720
Southampton Solent27182243238162933870300
Winchester269652121562723209710900
St Andrews256992624162714233613500
Lincoln25279222645412269891000

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.

UniversityAverage monthly rent (£)
LSE729
Imperial College London682
Liverpool John Moores643
Kingston630
Huddersfield599
York596
Oxford571
University of the Arts London567
Goldsmiths566
Durham565
King's College London562
Reading554
City, UoL550
Northumbria541
Cambridge528
St Mary's528
Middlesex522
University for the Creative Arts519
Brunel515
Roehampton513
Bath513
Sussex510
Surrey507
UCL507
Oxford Brookes506
Brighton505
Aston503
Royal Holloway501
Sheffield Hallam498
Bristol486
Bournemouth474
Westminster474
Edinburgh469
Bedfordshire464
Leeds463
Nottingham Trent454
Portsmouth451
Manchester Met450
Southampton448
Coventry443
Bath Spa441
Winchester441
Queen Mary438
St Andrews437
Edinburgh Napier433
Kent429
Hertfordshire426
Strathclyde426
Leeds Beckett426
Southampton Solent419
Robert Gordon416
Chester411
Plymouth405
York St John404
Leeds Trinity404
Lancaster403
West of England, Bristol398
Open University397
Dundee395
Liverpool394
Exeter391
Sheffield388
Royal Veterinary College386
East Anglia386
Glasgow382
Gloucestershire381
Swansea378
Nottingham377
Leicester376
Warwick376
Loughborough374
Lincoln374
Manchester380
Stirling380
Birmingham367
Staffordshire362
Arts University Bournemouth360
Newcastle360
Essex360
Aberystwyth358
Canterbury Christ Church355
Cardiff Metropolitan353
Keele338
Salford336
Anglia Ruskin331
Cardiff318
Greenwich318
De Montfort315
Hull306
Derby301
Edge Hill299
Liverpool Hope292
Heriot-Watt290
University College Birmingham288
Wolverhampton285
Aberdeen279
Worcester277
Ravensbourne275
Bradford266
Birmingham City264
Glasgow Caledonian260
Queen Margaret245
St George's237
West of Scotland237
Cumbria237
Teesside233
Queen's Belfast226
Bangor226
UCLan226
Newman208
Ulster163

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?

student maintenance loan vs living costs

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 £540 a month from their Maintenance Loan, which falls £267 a month short of covering the average living costs (£807 a month).

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, fewer 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.

There's also 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.

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