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The less obvious costs of living in London, UK

London | 5 MIN READ

If you’re moving to London for the first time, especially to study, then getting set up can be pretty thrilling. It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed and carried away by all the excitement and not take into account the more sensible (and sometimes dull) realities of budgeting. 

If you get a student loan especially - it can feel at first as if you’ll be flush with cash forever - but as you splash your way through that first instalment things may get a bit tight towards the end, until you find yourself eating unflavoured porridge and wearing 19 jumpers to save on the gas bill...

You can avoid ending up in these sorts of situations by getting clued up and aware of the potential hidden costs that living in an apartment in London might bring - allowing you to budget and maybe think twice before blowing all your pennies on champagne and kebabs.

The cost of living in London

London is one of the most famous and sought after cities to live in in the world. With so much to do and such a diverse range of boroughs, activities, cultures and people you’ll never manage to see everything it has to offer, but you’ll have a brilliant time trying your best!

Because of its popularity and everything it has to offer London can be notoriously expensive. Rent prices, especially, exceed those of any other city in the UK, but rent isn’t the only consideration.

If you’re moving here to live and study then you might already have done a little budgeting for your stay - it’s worth making sure you’ve considered some of the less obvious costs of London living. This article aims to give you a heads up on what some of those living costs might be while studying in the capital.

The Less Obvious Costs of Living in London

1. Utilities:

When you’re choosing where you want to stay, it’s worth considering the impact the state of your rental property might have on things beyond rent - like utility bills. If you rent a gorgeous old building with high ceilings, though it may look wonderful and give you lots of space, it might cost a small fortune to heat. If the insulation isn’t very effective then you’re likely to have higher electricity and gas bills as you try desperately to keep warm in the winters.

Check to find out if any bills are included in your accommodation, sometimes WiFi is thrown in with the rent, but if it isn’t it could add more than £40 a month on top of all your other bills. Dolphin Square serviced apartments include utilities, as well as high speed, reliable WiFi, so you know at the outset what you’ll be spending.

It’s worth remembering your other bills as well, the ones that aren’t directly associated with your home but are a key part of your lifestyle. These might include your phone bill, Headspace membership and Spotify account, as well as any other subscriptions you might have on the go.

2. Exploring the city’s evening entertainment: 

Although students will get out and about at the local watering holes, adventurous individuals and those looking to try all the flavours the city has to offer might visit some of the more upmarket spots around London - which will most likely come with a heftier price tag. This may well be the case if you go to some of the more fashionable areas like Chelsea, Kensington, and Soho. 

The current average cost of a pint in London is a mighty £5.19, making it one of the most expensive places to booze in Europe. 

Onsite amenities at Dolphin Square include the excellent Bar & Grill and a shopping arcade, so residents can keep it really local and pop downstairs for a professionally made cocktail or buy a bottle and enjoy it in the comfort of their own home. There are also a good number of pubs and wine bars in the lovely surrounding area of Pimlico, which are more than worth a look.

There are also (COVID restrictions allowing) an almost endless multitude of shows, gigs, exhibitions and other brilliant events going on throughout the city all the time - so there’s always a tempting ticket to spend your money on!

3. Transport Fares: 

One of the best things about London is the brilliant public transport system. With 8,600 buses, 270 Tube stations and 12 major train stations connecting the city with the rest of the country, as well as Santander Cycles, great cycle lanes, black cabs, UBER and even water buses and taxis, there’s no shortage of ways to get around. But this can make it tricky sometimes to know you’re going for the best deal. 

If you’re likely to use the overground, especially if you’re going on trips out of the city, perhaps to get some sea air or go walking in the beautiful British countryside, then it’s really worth looking into a 16-25 Railcard, available to anyone aged 16-25 as well as for mature students. This will save you a third of the train fare each time, very quickly making back the initial £30 cost of the card.

Another potential cost to consider if you’re moving to London is that of visiting friends or family outside of the city. If you’re an international student then having a look at how much flights in and out of London back home might be will help you budget for the year. Bear in mind that fares will rise around peak seasons including holidays such as Christmas, Diwali or Eid.

Dolphin Square is a less than 5-minute walk from Pimlico tube station, connecting guests to London’s excellent Underground network in a matter of moments, giving you access to the city centre and other boroughs, as well as out to all the London airports.

4. Owning a car:

Almost half of London households have decided to scrap having a car in the city - and that number is rising. As well as the draw of using the excellent public transport system to get around, avoiding traffic and adding less pollution, this is also because owning, insuring, taxing, fuelling, driving and parking a car in London is really not cheap. 

If your accommodation comes with car parking (as Dolphin Square does) this can make a big difference, but you may still have the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) to take into account.

5. Wellbeing: 

Taking care of yourself and your general wellbeing is critical, it always has been,  but as a society we’re becoming more consciously aware of it and more comfortable talking about it. The intense challenges and circumstances that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic have thrown this into sharp relief and have accelerated and opened up the very necessary conversation around mental health.

Psychological and emotional wellbeing isn’t an issue that stands alone in a vacuum - it is inextricably embedded in the context of our lives. What we eat, the exercise we do, our relationships and activities: every choice we make affects our mental health and is affected by it. So it’s pretty crucial to take care of it.

There are ways to look after yourself and reduce stress which don’t have to cost the earth: strolling in the park, going for a run, sitting quietly and focussing on your breathing for 5 minutes every morning - all of these are effective and have an accumulative positive effect - but you might also choose to invest some money into your own wellbeing. These living expenses may feel like you’re splurging on a luxury, but as your mental health underlies everything you do, it’s worth it and so are you.

Perhaps you want to go to a weekly yoga and meditation class, or get a really good gym membership, an outrageously cosy jumper, some fresh vegetables and a juicer, a subscription to Netflix so you can chill out and watch your favourite show or a train out to the Peak District. Whatever forms your self-care comes in, transform your wellbeing by believing that making yourself feel good is worth putting some of your money towards.

A bit of savvy budgeting can make sure this doesn’t become a matter of stress and a fear of scarcity. Helping yourself feel more grounded and calm can also help you to make more mindful decisions about the other ways you spend your money, feeling more ready to pack in expensive bad habits or costly distractions.

Dolphin Square has onsite facilities which include a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a luxurious Moroccan spa and The Bar & Grill, so you can treat yourself to rest, relaxation, exercise and fine dining without having to head out from the comfort of your complex.

Choose how you spend your money

Being aware of these less obvious costs in London can set you up to handle what can be a very expensive place to live. This allows you to have more control over what you choose to spend your money on and minimises the risk of getting nasty surprises, so you can relax and enjoy your new city rather than stressing over accounts all the time.

If you want to be in the heart of the city, while making sure you are getting the best value for money, then you can’t do better than our affordable apartments in Central London’s Dolphin Square. You get to enjoy the best of London without breaking the bank. Come and have a look today and see what lifestyle could be possible.