Learn about the average cost of university life, including accommodation, food and going out, with methods to slash these costs.

What is the typical cost of living at university?

University Living Budget

University Living Budget

Once you get to university and you’re fending for yourself, you might be astonished how much a shopping basket of essentials or a water bill actually comes to.

Going out and eating out, takeaways and snacks, lodging, course costs and grocery shopping are the top items students spend more on than they imagined they would before they came to uni.*

On the other hand, there may be some charges you’re informed you’ll need to incorporate into your budget which you won’t need to worry about.

To assist you start planning your student budget, we’ve done the math to calculate out what students really shelled out for at university each month on average.

Expenses Monthly cost
Accommodation £££-££££
Transport £80
Food shop £74
Water, gas  electricity £46
Interests and hobbies £46
Clothing £42
Holidays and flights £89
Bank charges and fees £30
Takeaways and snacks £26
Phone and internet £27
Alcohol and cigarettes £15
Personal care £12
Coffee and tea £6
Other expenses £21


The ins and outs of a student’s monthly budget for housing and food

It’s likely that living expenses will take up the majority of your budget.

Because the cost might vary quite a little from one location to the next, it is difficult for us to provide you with an overall figure as a ballpark estimate. You can, however, maintain this to a minimum via the following means:

Collegiate residences

Since you will most likely be living in campus dormitories during your first year of school and paying rent at the beginning of each term, a sizeable portion of your student loan will have been paid back before you even realise it.

Your most significant expenditure, along with your water, energy, and internet prices, will no longer be a concern for you, which is certainly a cause for celebration (at least for the next two to three months).

Prices for residence halls will differ from one university to another and will also be influenced by the level of quality that you select.

If you are on a strict budget, it is best to look into options that are less expensive and more fundamental rather than purchasing contemporary furnishings or en-suite bathrooms.

You should inquire about this topic on open days, when you will most likely be given a tour of the various halls that are available.

Private rentals

The majority of students relocate off campus during their second and third years, settling into privately leased houses or flats and making their payments to a landlord or renting agent at the beginning of each month.

There is a significant amount of variance in the cost of rent from one region of the country to another.

For example, there is a cost associated with attending university in London due to the city’s vast array of attractions and activities, which can never be exhausted. In order to take into consideration the greater cost of living in London, the maintenance loan that you are eligible for will be increased. This is only the case if you are living away from home in London.

You can anticipate earning less money in less populous cities, villages, and rural places, but you also run the risk of having fewer employment opportunities and less access to public transportation.


Transport = £80

This will be determined by the city in which you will be attending school, as well as the distance you will be from your family and friends (and how often you plan to visit).

Take note that this also accounts for any costs associated with the upkeep of your own car (eg petrol, insurance).

In a city the size of Edinburgh, it is possible to go around on foot or by bike, which is better for both your health and your pocketbook. However, in a city the size of Manchester or Birmingham, using public transportation will be more of a need.

You could bring your car to university with you, which could be convenient if you intend to drive home on the weekends. However, you will need to think about expenses like gas and insurance, in addition to practical considerations like finding parking on campus.

Be aware that if you move off campus during your first year of college and still feel the need to commute to classes and the library on a regular basis, your transportation expenses may skyrocket.

A helpful hint: make your holiday travel plans as far in advance as you can to save money on plane or train tickets.

Buying tickets on the day of the event will almost always result in a significant price increase.

Food store costs equal £74

You shouldn’t get all of your goods from a single supermarket, especially not a “express” store, which is typically more expensive because of the added convenience it offers.

You should look about at other stores to find the ones that give the best deal on the various things you want to purchase, as well as look for stores who are willing to price-match.

There are going to be some things that everyone in your halls or house will use, and you can save money by purchasing them in bulk (think toilet roll, rice and tea bags).

If you intend to make a single huge purchase, you should keep in mind that you will need an additional set of hands at the store.

A word of advice: make a meal plan for the week ahead (and stick to this).

You might be shocked to see how much money you can save by avoiding impulsive takeout orders or expensive ready-made meals.

The price of water, gas, and electricity comes to £46.

You won’t have to worry about things like this as much while you acclimatise to living away from home because the rent for the halls you’ll be living in includes all of the utility costs.

When you move into a private house or flat-share, on the other hand, you’ll have to be more conscious of things like how long you spend in the shower and what time of day you turn the heater on.

However, if you’re lucky, you might find a rental property that includes all of your utility expenses in the monthly rent payment.

Always check with your landlord or the rental agent first to see if you are permitted to switch providers.

Combined, interests and pastimes equal £46

Never give up on the pursuits and interests that bring you joy; not only will they help you connect with others who have similar passions, but they will also keep you upbeat and positive when the stresses of college life become too much to bear.

If the cost prevents you from maintaining the same level of quality with them, look for alternatives that are either less expensive or free:

Gym expenses making you sweat? You can go for a run outside or discover some organised sports activity.
Gaming geek? You can fund your habit by selling old video games and gaming consoles that you no longer use.
Are you a music fanatic? Instead of spending a lot of money on tickets to see famous acts, satisfy your need for live music by going to local performances with newer bands.
Merchandise equals $42

You probably (most surely) have all the clothes you need, especially if you pack correctly for term and avoid these common washing blunders. Resist the impulse to go shopping the instant your student loan comes in; you probably (most definitely) have all the clothes you need.

£89 for vacations and airline tickets

You will no longer be eligible for extended summer breaks once you receive your diploma, so you should make the most of the time off while you still can (if you can make it work).

Put some of the money you get from your second job toward your travel expenses, including airfare, vacation packages, lodging, and spending money.

A total of £30 in charges and fees from the bank

Managing your money more wisely will allow you to steer clear of this aggravating expense.

Look for a student account that has a significant interest-free overdraft and allows you to set up SMS notifications to keep track of your spending so you know where your money is going.

The total for takeaways and refreshments is £26.

It is acceptable to get a takeout or dash to the store for some biscuits while you are writing on an essay.

Consuming this on a consistent basis will not be beneficial to either your financial situation or your physical well-being.

Phone and internet access add up to £27.

In most cases, the cost of internet access is included in hall rent (and perhaps private accommodation).

Find out how much data and minutes you actually use in a month by checking your usage history. It’s possible that you won’t believe how much money you’re spending on something that you don’t even get close to depleting.

. All we need from you is your postcode, so please provide it.

The price of booze and tobacco is fifteen pounds.

Students of all generations have learned to save money by purchasing alcohol to be consumed at home before going out to pricey clubs and concerts.

Even if it may be a more cost-effective option for a night out, the total cost might still add up quickly if you frequently go out.

Always remember to drink in moderation and be responsible.

Personal care = £12

On a student’s budget, you probably won’t be able to afford to go to luxurious spas very often, but that doesn’t mean you should let your standards of personal cleanliness and attractiveness slide (if only out of consideration for those sat next to you in lectures…).

If you need a cheap haircut – say for an upcoming job interview – but you don’t trust your housemate to do it, check to see if any local salons or hairdressing schools give free cuts or discounted rates. If they do, you might be able to get a good cut for a lot less money.

Coffee and tea cost 6 pounds.

Without a caffeine fix, those early morning lectures can be challenging to go through, but those grande macchiatos with the heart in the middle can build up to a significant expense very quickly.

If you have an unwavering commitment to your go-to coffee shop, you should at least get a gift card for them so that you can get a free cup every 10 or so purchases.

In point of fact, for any student who adores coffee, this is an excellent idea for a thoughtful stocking stuffer gift:

Other costs equaled 21 pounds.

Everything else, such as stationery, resources for your class, and even household electronics and appliances.

Things like childcare or nursery expenses also come into this area, which may be relevant to you (especially if you are a mature student). This group also includes things like parking and transportation costs.

Before moving into halls or a property, it is important to find out what kinds of furnishings and appliances will be offered. This will prevent you from spending money on things that you won’t actually use.

You and your housemates also have the option of coordinating so that you don’t end up with four kettles (but no bottle-opener).

Ways to save money while you’re attending college

After submitting your application for student financial aid and determining how much financial assistance you are qualified to receive for living expenses, you will have a better sense of how your student budget is going to be structured.

You might additionally do the following:

Grants, scholarships, and other forms of assistance that are tailored to your specific situation can be found here.
savings from the summer and weekends spent working before starting university
a helping hand from family, such as paying your phone bill or grocery bill while you are attending university working part-time while attending university or participating in paid research

But even with this, it’s possible that your income won’t be enough to meet all of your expenses (particularly rent, bills and study expenses not covered by your tuition fees).

If that is the case, you are going to have to resort to a few different strategies in order to make ends meet.

As a student, you may decrease your expenses by following these tried-and-true money saving strategies.

1. You are required to have a student travelcard.

The sooner you get an idea of your typical weekly schedule, the sooner you will be able to decide whether you want to purchase a travel ticket for the institution that is valid for the week, the month, or even the term.

Choosing this option almost always results in a savings over purchasing individual tickets separately. Traditional paper tickets are typically offered at a price that is a little higher than what one would pay when purchasing tickets online or adding value to a pre-loaded electronic card.

Consider how frequently you intend to travel back to your hometown as well. A student railcard can help you save a significant amount of money on transportation expenses if you frequently take public transportation such as the train or the coach.

Check to see if there is any financial help that may particularly be used to subsidise the costs of transporting you to and from the placements that are required of you as part of your programme.

2. Obtain your books from a used bookstore.

Used bookstore

Used bookstore

You will, without a doubt, be given a lengthy list of books that are required to be purchased in order to successfully complete the course.

The vast majority of tutors will insist that you purchase each and every one of them, but you should still find out how many are required (and how many are nice-to-haves).

You probably don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that will just sit on your shelf collecting dust.

Check to see whether any of the required books can be borrowed from your institution’s library or if you can obtain the pertinent portions of the text from an internet resource for free download.

3. Shop at the appropriate establishments.

Keep an eye out for things that have been marked down in price when the grocery stores on and off campus reach their closing times.

Be aware of the stores on campus; while they may be convenient if you have a need for something sweet late at night, they may also sell products at higher prices (and encourage you to spend money that you do not require).

Find out which grocery stores are located in your immediate vicinity and then shop around for the greatest prices on a variety of products. If you find the same item somewhere at a lower price, some retailers may even agree to match that price.

4. Schedule your evenings for going out.

It won’t take you long to figure out which nightclubs and pubs host the most popular student events during the week.

Weekends, being the time when people other than students go out, typically have higher prices and greater foot traffic than weekdays.

If you put your name on a guestlist or come before midnight, you might be able to get in for free or at a discounted price.

If money is limited or you’re just not feeling up to going out, don’t be hesitant to advise staying home and watching a movie with your friends.

5. Cut down on your monthly energy costs.

This is something that only really applies to people who rent their living space privately; if you live in halls, the cost of your energy is already included in your accommodation bill.

Consider ways in which you may limit your energy consumption to bring down your monthly bills, such as sharing meals with your roommates or donning a sweater rather than turning up the thermostat at the first sign of a shiver.

We would also suggest looking about for a reliable energy supplier that offers competitive rates and moving to them, assuming that your landlord or letting agent will allow you to do so. You might get lucky and find a rental property that includes some of your utilities in the monthly rent payment.

6. Flexible student jobs

It would surprise you to learn how many options there are for kids to make some quick money today. These aren’t necessarily your traditional employment in retail or waiting tables, though (though if you’re going to school in a big city, you should find plenty of opportunities in these fields).

You may work as a mystery shopper or answer some fast questions online in exchange for modest sums of money at intervals. Both of these are examples of alternative ways to get money. These can add up to quite a good sum and be arranged around your schedule in a way that is balanced.

However, you should be sceptical of any advertisements that seem to good to be true. Check with the student services office at your school if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the offer; it could be a hoax.

7. Participate actively in academic research

You could come across advertisements put around campus by students who are looking for people to participate in studies or experiments that are a required element of their class.

Don’t let the terrifying sound of the word “experiment” put you off. These zombies are not necessarily of the clinical variety like those that appear at the beginning of horrific zombie flicks.

It’s possible that the whole thing will boil down to nothing more than trying to complete a task while being watched closely by someone else; there won’t be any needles or electric shocks involved at all.

8. Make your food from scratch.

Rather than doing your shopping on an empty stomach or impulsively, try to plan out your meals for the week ahead of time and stick to a shopping list; if you go into a supermarket hungry and without a sense of what you need, you are more likely to make impulse purchases, be swayed by a supposed ‘deal,’ or buy too much of something. Try to plan out your meals for the week ahead of time and stick to a shopping list (that will end up going to waste).

Instead of relying on ready-made meals from the microwave or takeout all the time, you may save a significant amount of money by preparing your own meals from scratch. Cook a huge quantity, transport any leftovers to the school, and place the remaining food in the freezer for later use.

9. Don’t forget to inquire about possible student discounts.

This is true for eateries, retail establishments, exhibitions, museums, and other types of activities. Always remember to carry your Totum card or other form of student identification with you.

It’s common knowledge that students don’t exactly have an abundance of spare cash, so there’s no need to feel frightened or like you’re being cheap if you ask for something.

Check to see if there is a student discount available when you are buying tickets online.

10. Get on your bike

It’s possible that if you’re attending school in a village or a town, you won’t have to rely on public transportation as much.

You might be able to get by on foot or by bike, which is an inexpensive and uncomplicated method to get in shape.

It’s possible that if you live on campus during your first year of college, you won’t have to spend as much money commuting around town. However, if you move into a house or apartment in the city during your second year, you might find that your transportation costs skyrocket.

When talking about where you want to live with your potential future roommates, you should keep this in mind. Even while living in the middle of town will make it simpler for you to get home after a night out, you will still need to make it to campus on a regular basis for your classes.

Now that you have an idea of what the typical cost of attending university is, consider what your living expenses will be while you are there.

Utilize our student budget calculator to generate a spending plan that is unique to your situation.

Regarding the findings of our investigation

All prices have been rounded up to the closest pound sterling pound.

Student Survey was carried out by YouthSight on behalf of, and collected responses from 3,874 undergraduate students enrolled at universities in the UK between March 20 and April 12, 2019.

** The data for university halls was compiled from the lowest costs for non-catered halls that were posted on individual institution websites as of October 2019.

Living Costs and Food Survey (2014, 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18) from the Office for National Statistics, which shows the median expenditure for students in the UK, with figures adjusted for inflation and omitting those who didn’t spend anything on a particular cost category. All other data: Living Costs and Food Survey (2014, 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18).