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Student Budgeting

Student living costs in the UK 2021

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 £5 note 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£421
Groceries£101
Going out£47
Takeaways and eating out£41
Household bills£40
Transport£34
Clothes and shopping£34
Other£18
Course materials£17
Mobile phone£15
Health and wellbeing£15
Holidays and events£14
Gifts and charity£13
TOTAL£810

In our latest annual National Student Money Survey, we asked over 2,000 students where all their money goes – and the results were very interesting.

The average student's living costs are about £810 a month (or £187 a week), with our findings revealing that the Maintenance Loan often falls far short of covering students' living expenses.

It's probably no surprise that rent takes the biggest chunk out of the student budget – and, at £421, it's £3 up on 2020. Although last year's figure represented a £13 drop on 2019, increases of £25 and £37 in the previous years mean that the long-term trend is still one of growth.

Groceries are the second biggest expenditure for students, coming in at £101 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 £47 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 £40 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?

Five of the universities in the top 10 for total spending (excluding rent) are based in London – the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), St Mary's University, Kingston University, the University of East London and Birkbeck.

Two Scottish universities made the top 10, with Glasgow Caledonian University in the overall top spot and Edinburgh's own Heriot-Watt University in 10th place.

The very lowest spenders are those at Huddersfield, Queen's Belfast and the University of the Highlands and Islands, with students at the former two spending less than £200 a month on all expenses excluding rent.

At some unis, the average cost of bills is very low (£2 at Wolverhampton!) – but bear in mind that these figures are averages. A lot of students' utilities 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?

UniversityTotal (£)Groceries (£)Takeaways and eating out (£)Going out (£)Transport (£)Household bills (£)Mobile phone (£)Clothes and shopping (£)Health and wellbeing (£)Course materials (£)Holidays and events (£)Gifts and charity (£)Other (£)
Aberdeen418128375422241229125624415
Aberystwyth55814278110793217428030128
Anglia Ruskin419154402646632117319570
Arts University Bournemouth66397976048552775227660738
Aston6597884744242121153277562818
Bath317954644354171595984
Bath Spa627168606051128383513130565
Birkbeck61118333506752337327335730
Birmingham36910634653134112922415152
Birmingham City548161412058893135141424654
Bolton349778575102010321120180
Bournemouth33184405418241136134181614
Brighton429804473364321342514321514
Bristol34694424417318401310111422
Brunel28972306120612295822213
Cambridge5766551562512324871749441917
Canterbury Christ Church512162273510333172524641057
Cardiff4101023964254212431831111112
Chester41266312652361838283891654
Chichester445145654010451510351010600
City, UoL2119621141814691114180
Coventry507151475640641750181735120
Cumbria35012533301075182010151050
De Montfort362594170491614366236834
Derby28710310104363293373210
Dundee4199150432677154013406135
Durham35712349646151137121210190
East Anglia3818142853646131922061023
East London630112331506050278040403350
Edge Hill44799513127602436153141475
Edinburgh3441322231393411332210630
Edinburgh Napier504838038108261858231582525
Essex522127626956341847184318237
Exeter273813540828141671019107
Falmouth2616023302110747171717130
Glasgow43710046843824294326223220
Glasgow Caledonian822133951251086315138523033330
Gloucestershire3548532143186132924150025
Heriot-Watt58515075754090107535010250
Hertfordshire4821256431433725624343370
Highlands and Islands2087030155258141328100
Huddersfield1654921132702014730130
Hull2908041473166196630180
Imperial College London2459118161442912720430
Keele3571434036312119311211390
Kent304802655232315331361785
King's College London3598138564417124723414194
Kingston6401032664145118212131338910
Lancaster2711144441174515113583
Leeds492107858149371257191711134
Leeds Arts260672218113211442498130
Leicester272883625404448612550
Lincoln236933638301125813260
Liverpool2809132492278221081695
Liverpool Hope3817582024568100403010120
Liverpool John Moores3058826245082546227080
London South Bank5636767677562323027506073
Loughborough24798153119106241512971
Manchester332825441293692613591216
Manchester Met3339432471832193461916413
Middlesex46211830408180302519517180
Newcastle445964875273520341313151060
Northumbria42712651504046254711141162
Nottingham3199135562324151812814158
Nottingham Trent309873243234213281013983
Open University53118242294479273924147639
Oxford459956586121911501912372035
Oxford Brookes42778624022381053295618210
Plymouth287692420181825231425152413
Portsmouth280802543143215311268141
Queen Mary31883393028191033111891028
Queen's Belfast182376317270515710020
Ravensbourne441724870501716371835322720
Reading3729240284448522231140190
Royal Central School of Speech and Drama510624360543033513272311050
Royal Holloway305120323721301723101780
Royal Veterinary College439103232022147281031710750
Salford2778324222553831901057
Sheffield33596223420371634171523714
Sheffield Hallam4831453934275216411831151551
SOAS7101531081557935137023185090
Southampton3411083738141662821681643
Southampton Solent446103457327232527103271767
St George's40173659085186381500130
St Mary's670175855318115151008808150
Staffordshire55073739050832847234518180
Stirling3751024227494224364152573
Strathclyde27064443528331718564116
Sunderland39792272838373839151117550
Surrey37413230353950162515419100
Swansea327954845382910201559130
Teesside3646030353514024151500100
Trinity St David5631505065301251535282520200
UCL3738039482820122968011128
UCLan40516229312110191211121221
Ulster439121425060481444102216110
University for the Creative Arts3861333350352026302040000
Warwick31711237353329434153825
West of England, Bristol4131134452444314291510181616
West of Scotland269923073257251550070
Westminster43388555533884840200080
Winchester394751849358038202149380
Wolverhampton4186866666222848193116120
Worcester479113426411441243144510108
York39413357701623104613131113
York St John2398834281810827117170
AVERAGE
389
101
41
47
34
40
15
34
15
17
14
13
18

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

Check out our list detailing the cost of student accommodation at each UK university for more info.

Is the Maintenance Loan enough?

Infographic saying that Maintenance Loans are £470 pm and living costs are £810 pm

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 £470 a month from their Maintenance Loan, which falls £340 a month short of covering the average living costs (£810 a month).

In fact, 60% believe the Maintenance Loan isn't big enough.

Students told us:

  • [The Maintenance Loan] only gives money for rent but not enough to eat.
  • Student Finance doesn't always take into account the amount of money having to go towards rent which leaves you little to live on for the rest of the academic year.

Two thirds of students (66%) turn to their parents for extra funds, with students getting an average of £120.56 a month from their mums and dads.

But, fewer students than last year are relying on money from their parents. Many are turning to ways to make money from home, and the proportion of students getting a part-time job dropped from 74% in 2020 to 66% in 2021.

And last year's noticeable increase in the proportion of students who would turn to sex work in the event of a cash crisis (up from 6% in 2019 to 10% in 2020) has proved not to be a one-off, with 9% answering the same in 2021.

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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