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The Cost of Living in London

26 May 2016 Amy McKechnie Read time: 7 min
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Amy McKechnie

The Cost of Living in London

So, you’ve decided you can no longer resist the siren call of city living? You pack up, touch down in London Town and start a brand new chapter. The fortunate amongst us find a decent job relatively quickly, and a good place to call home follows shortly after. You know your wage and you know your rent so… you’ve got your finances all planned out right? Wrong! So wrong if you listen really hard you can hear the faint sound of many Londoners laughing at you right now. The same ones who just finished laughing at somebody expecting the Northern Line to run on time. We’re a city of laughers, ignore the stereotypes.

Rent in London


Rent will be your biggest expense; this is not something exclusive to London. You work out your monthly wage, you deduct rent and the rest should be leftover. It should be easy to work out how much you have to play with. However, you’ll quickly find in London, should is a pile of sh…ould...
The first hidden expense to be cautious of is a hidden rental fees. This could be an additional, unlisted letting agency fee, a surprise “we actually want you to pay for a new set of keys” fee, or additional fees for using the parking or the garage. It can be hard to find the full costs of renting on some websites, and seems an easy option to just focus on the monthly rental fee. In fact only one company gives you the full picture here, and they happen to be us! What are the chances? We understand that finances can be a balancing act, and a surprise will have you losing your balance in a London minute so we want you to feel prepared and protected.

Movebubble shows you the cost of renting in London


In our handy app, you can see not only the monthly rental cost, but also the other fees you'll need to consider, and you'll be paying upfront before you move in.

Our app can show you:

First month's rent - This will be required to be paid upfront before you move in
Security deposit - This is usually calculated at 6 weeks rent, and is held by the landlord as a guarantee that you'll look after the property. Providing you do, you should get your deposit back after you leave the property. See our article on how to get your deposit back for more information.
Agency fees - Lettings agents charge a fee for their services, and this can vary from one company to the next. We'll show you the agency fees for each property in the app so you don't get caught out.
Holding deposit - If you love the property, you'll need to put down a holding deposit. You can hold your property through Movebubble so you can be 100% sure that the holding fee is safe, and will be returned to you if for any reason your offer is not accepted. This fee is paid upfront, is the equivalent to 1 week's rent, and is deducted from the other payments you need to make upfront if you decide to move in.
Exclusive Movebubble discount - We've negotiated some great discounts on the upfront fees on selected properties, only available when you hold the property through Movebubble - so make sure you check out the app before you decide on your next home in London! You could save £££.... Download the app now!


Other costs to think about when renting in London:


Once you’ve paid your way into your new homestead, don’t expect to put away that wallet anytime soon. The cost of living in London is more than paying for a place to sleep. If you happen to drive, you will have to check resident parking fees around your area. Each neighbourhood charges different rates, however, there are ways to source out cheaper spots. Sites and apps like YourParkingSpace.co.uk have sprung up where one can ‘rent’ a parking space. Similarly, if you are a driver remember that Central London operates an £11.50 daily Congestion Charge. You can always check if you will be driving through this zone by using the postcode checker on the Congestion Charge website.

People who either have a lot of stuff with them or who have moved to London from overseas should also be aware that cities like London do not have easy access to tips or large removal sites. If you need old furniture/large amounts of rubbish being collected, it will incur a charge from the council. Moreover, requesting additional bins can sometimes incur a charge.

Getting around London


There’s no delicate way of putting this; you will have days where you hate TFL (Transport for London). You pay for a service that sometimes… occasionally… quite frequently lets you down. Depending on where you live and work, the cost of commuting can seem quite daunting if you consider an annual travelcard. The upfront fee of a Zone 1-3 year round travelcard is £1,520 for example, (Check out the adult fares here) however, this genuinely does work out cheaper if you consider use of two trips at least per day. If you happen to live and work in the same zone, you should consider using your contactless card to tap in and out, as this comes with a great daily cap and requires less of a commitment. A bus ride will cost you £1.50 per tap on contactless, with a £4.50 daily cap.

Tip: Always remember to check the zone maps. London is split into zones, with Central London falling under Zones 1 and 2. If you happen to travel without passing through zone 1 (this will be made really easy to spot on the tube, just look at the list of stops running along the wall and you will see the zones are labelled below each stop) look for a separate pink Oyster/contactless barrier. These will be away from the main barriers but they reduce the fare as you did not pass through a central zone.

Though this may seem like an absurd to point out, the cost of living in London can creep up because of the hygiene issues around public transport. Hand sanitiser becomes an essential, unless you really fancy putting your hand anywhere near your mouth after watching a stranger hack up half of his lung into his bare hand and then grab hold of the pole… Items like face wipes and hand sanitisers do become quite costly unless you plan ahead and buy in bulk from some of the discount shops. Similarly, catching slight colds and tickles is more common in such a congested city. Instead of reaching for the pricier name brands, a smart tip is to check the ingredients on some of the generic brand products. Quite often the only difference is branding, and of course the price tag.

Getting around London… in a bit more style


You might be rushing off on a date and you don’t want to leave the house looking like Fiona, then emerge from the underground looking like Shrek, or maybe you’ve just happened to miss the last tube home (check these charts on the walls of most platforms, or sometimes outside the stations for information on the last tubes) so you need to take alternative transport home. There is, of course, the London cabbie. They are a snapshot of traditional London life and a cultural landmark. The drivers will most likely have enough stories for you to fill a book… but they are not the most bang for your buck. A one-mile trip lasting 13 minutes in a black cab costs up to £9, according to TFL figures. However, the same journey in Uber’s cheaper option UberX - can cost around £5.70. Uber is the ubiquitous driving app that allows users to hail a ride using their phone. They charge a base fare of £2.50, plus an extra 15p per minute and £1.25 per mile. The black cabbie charges a flat fee of between £6.80 and £9 per mile between midnight and 6am, with that cost being cut to between £5.60 and £8.80 between 6am and 8pm.

Why not calculate your Uber fare before you go?

TIP: don’t forget to factor in surcharges if you are looking to Uber out of a New Year’s Eve party, for example. The prices notoriously spike around busy holidays, and the app will let you know that it's 'surging' and the fares can be up to 3x the usual price.

Working in London


Dolly knew what she was singing about when she said “workin’ 9-5… it’s all taking and no giving.” Whether you love your job or you’re just thinking of payday each month, there are ways even your job can become a financial boomerang – you know they pay you, but the money never seems to stay out of the company for long. Lunchtime. Quite often the highlight of the day. Living and working in London makes it far too easy to indulge yourself every lunch hour. A coffee here, a Pret lunch there. Not only will this cause you to need a gym membership – yet another cost for the list – those little £3 drinks here and there really add up. If, at the bare minimum, you are buying a meal deal at lunch time and a coffee in the morning, that’s around £6. 5 days a week is £30. In a month that is £120 wasted on lunchtimes! You might consider making a little more food at home, and bringing it to work with you. A packed lunch might sound slightly childish, but do you know what doesn’t sound childish? A packed bank balance. You’re welcome. This also gives you that extra bit of cash to splash on work nights out, and other more fun weekend activities!

Another – maybe antisocial – comment to make about the cost of working is to watch out for how often you join colleagues for drinks. London is the most expensive city for alcohol in the UK, and you'll find yourself being invited to drinks anything up to 5 times a week... yes... every working day! A danger of working in an office environment is the constant leaving drinks, leaving gifts, birthday drinks, birthday drinks that go on. Sure, you get the odd slice of cake, but you most definitely had to pay for it. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it cost-free.

Staying Fit in London


If you like to stay active, shuffling into a packed train every morning and every evening probably doesn’t get your heart racing like a bums and tums cardio class. It can be difficult to find the time to walk to and from work for many Londoners, especially since for many it would involve walking over water. Gym memberships in London can be incredibly pricey. Unless you are lucky enough to live in areas with access to some of London’s most beautiful parks and open spaces – like Hampstead and Primrose Hill – you might want to source out local running clubs or outdoor bootcamps to try and trim the pounds whilst also keeping some in the bank. When the weather warms up, you can go to some of London’s great public lidos. Check out some of the best swimming pools in London here.

We’re not trying to scare you, or burst your bubble. We want you to come here, we want to step inside the (move)bubble of London living. The cost of living in London is manageable if you are prepared. We are here to defend living in this crowded, costly city because whatever price you might have to pay the worth outweighs the cost in the end. Once you understand the ways in which you might be financially tripped, you can balance the work/life balance with more stability and start your very own city adventure without seeing your money go up in the Big Smoke.

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