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UK Student University Living Costs

Everything you need to know about budgeting as a UK student  

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Written by  Emma Lunn
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Reviewed by  Saarrah Mussa
Updated: 10 Aug 2023

The cost of university isn’t always just tuitions fees, but also accommodation, bills and more. Learn what these are and how to save money. 

Students starting university will normally be managing their living expenses for the first time. This means paying rent, buying food and budgeting for bills. On top of that you’ll need to pay for clothes, tech, travel, books and your social life. 

Exactly what you need to budget for will depend on your living situation – for example, in halls or in a student house. 

How much does it cost to go to university? 

There are two main costs when you go to university in the UK: tuition fees and living costs. There is government help available for both these, but your parents are normally expected to contribute too. 

How much are university tuition fees? 

All universities and colleges charge tuition fees. These will be a maximum of £9,250 a year if you study in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, and up to £9,000 in Wales.  

How much you’ll pay depends on where in the UK you study, and which country in the UK you are from. For example, if you are Scottish and study in Scotland, your tuition will be free, while Irish or Northern Irish students studying in Northern Ireland pay a maximum of £4,710 a year.  

Going to university used to be a lot cheaper. Fees were capped at £3,225 a year before 2012 when they were controversially raised to £9,000 a year – they have since risen with inflation. 

The good news is you can get a Tuition Fees Loan from the government-owned Student Loans Company. You only have to pay this back once your earnings reach a certain threshold. 

How much is student accommodation? 

Unless you live with your parents, you’ll either live in student halls or private rented accommodation. 

According to Save the Student, students spend an average of £535 a month (£6,420 a year) on rent. But other studies put the cost at a lot more. Figures published by Unipol and the National Union of Students (NUS) in their 2021 Accommodation Costs Survey put the annual cost of UK student rent at £7,374 or £9,488 in London.  

The Unipol/NUS study found the average cost of purpose-built student accommodation in the UK for 2021–2022 was £166 a week.  

In the private sector, ensuite rooms typically cost £155 and studios £228 a week. London was the most expensive place, typically £212 a week for university accommodation. 

Rent for halls normally includes water, energy and broadband; some halls include meals. Privacy and your own space cost more; ensuite rooms with cooking facilities cost the most, while sharing a bathroom and/or kitchen will save you money.  

Rented accommodation in the private rented sector can cost more or less than halls depending on the type of accommodation and where you study. Some landlords charge rent inclusive of bills, but with others you’ll also need to budget for energy, water, and broadband, and split these costs with your housemates. 

Where you study has a big impact on your rent. According to Save The Student, if you study at Imperial College London, UCL or Oxford, rent will be more than £800 a month. But at Queen’s University in Belfast, students pay less than £300. 

If you live in private rented accommodation, you should buy students contents insurance to ensure your possessions are properly covered. Check if you’re covered on your parents’ home insurance – if not, your own policy will typically cost less than £100 a year.   

A Maintenance Loan from the Student Loans Company is supposed to cover your accommodation and other living costs. How much you can borrow depends on your parents’ or household income and where you live in term time. The most you can borrow is £13,022 a year (living away from home, in London).  

If students are not eligible for the full Maintenance Loan, their parents are expected to fund the difference. Other sources of income might include part-time work, local authority assistance, bursaries, scholarships, and contributions from other family members. 

Student living costs 

Some landlords offer students in private rented accommodation a monthly rent inclusive of bills – this makes it easy to budget. But in other students flats or houses, you’ll need to pay the following bills on top of your rent. 


Your property might have both gas and electricity, or just electricity. Gas is normally the cheapest fuel for heating, hot water and cooking. Both electricity and gas are charged via a daily standing charge and a cost per unit of energy you use.  

You can reduce your energy bill by using less energy. You can choose your energy supplier and the cheapest way to pay is via monthly direct debit. 


You can’t choose your water supplier – you automatically use the one where you live. If your home has a water meter, you can save money by using less water. If you don’t have a meter, your bill will be calculated based on the number of bedrooms in the property. 


Students need to pay for travel from their home to the university campus, to part-time jobs, or if they visit friends or family. 

Owning a car is very expensive and rarely a necessity for a student. Student car insurance can be expensive – typically above £1,500 a year. 

Walking or cycling are the cheapest transport options. For longer journeys, buses or coaches are cheaper than trains. A young person’s Coachcard or Railcard can cut the cost. 


According to Save The Student, students typically spend £116 a month on groceries. You can save cash by shopping in the supermarket and cooking at home, rather than eating out. Aldi, Lidl and Iceland are much cheaper than Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose. 

Meal plan, batch cook and split meals with housemates to save money; ready meals, organic food, meat, and getting food delivered will cost more. 

Phone and internet 

If you share or house with other students, you can split broadband costs between you. Compare the cheapest broadband deals with Moneysupermarket.  

If you need a new mobile phone, you can buy one on a contract which also includes call minutes, texts and data. If you’re happy with your existing handset, a SIM-only tariff will be much cheaper. 

How to budget as a student  

Your Maintenance Loan is split into three payments and will be paid into your bank account around the start of each term. 

If your parents are also giving you money, or you have income from a part-time job, you should add this amount to your loan to work out how much you have to live on per term. This will give you your total income. 

Next, you need to calculate your outgoings for the term. This will include everything you need to spend money on such as rent, energy, water, broadband, mobile phone, food, toiletries, transport, books and course equipment. 

Ideally, your income will exceed your outgoings. The difference is how much money you have to spend on non-essentials such as hobbies, sports and fitness, clothes, subscriptions, and socialising. Divide this figure by the number of weeks in the term to arrive at a weekly budget. 

It is easier to budget weekly than monthly for non-essentials. Otherwise, you risk spending too much at the start of the month and being broke by the last week. 

There are various apps that can help you budget. Some bank apps, such as Monzo, allow you to set budget amounts for spending categories, helping keep you on track. 

If your outgoings are more than your income you will need to think of ways to either increase your income (i.e. a part-time job) or reduce your outgoings (i.e. switch to a cheaper phone deal).  

Tips to save money as a student   

1. Get financial help 

Check if you are eligible for any extra cash. You might be able to get help from your university if you are in financial hardship and are a parent/single parent, mature student, disabled, or you previously lived in care.  

Visit The Scholarship Hub to see if you can get a scholarship grant or bursary from a charity or other organisation  

2. Part-time work 

Popular part-time jobs for students include retail and bar work, or tutoring GCSE/A-level students online. Consider working full-time hours in the university holidays if possible. 

3. Cheap borrowing 

Most banks offer students anything from £1,000 to £3,000 as an interest-free overdraft. If you need to borrow money, use your overdraft before more expensive forms of debt such as credit cards and loans. Avoid buy now pay later payment options such as Klarna – they often tempt you to spend more than you can afford to repay. 

4. Vouchers and cashback 

Sign up to anything and everything that offers you money off stuff you need to buy. The best websites and apps include Topcashback, Quidco, and Groupon. Most supermarkets now offer two-tier pricing structures that offer cheaper prices to ‘members’, so sign up for Tesco Clubcard, Sainsbury’s Nectar, Lidl Plus etc. 

5. Get a TOTUM card 

TOTUM (previously NUS Extra) gets students discounts in hundreds of shops. It also works as a proof of age ID and campus life card. 

6. Be frugal with food 

You can save cash on food without going hungry or eating boring meals. Buy ‘yellow sticker’ items later in the day or use the Too Good To Go app to buy food close to its best buy date – you can freeze it if you don’t eat it straight away. Batch cook meals such as stews, curries and chillies and freeze portions to eat another day. 

7. Get on your bike 

Cycling is a quick, cost effective and environmentally friendly way to get around most university cities. Invest in a helmet and decent lock, and add your bike to your home insurance. 

8. Take the coach 

Buses and coaches are much cheaper than taking the train from city to city. A Young Persons Coachcard (16-26) offers a third off National Express coach fares, while Megabus offers bargain deals such as London to Cardiff for £6.83. 

9. Quit your vices 

Stopping smoking can save you a couple of grand a year on average, while ditching vaping will save you a few hundred pounds. Recreational drugs and legal highs aren’t cheap either, so keep use to a minimum if you don’t want to quit for good. 

10. Cheap nights out 

Sign up to Central Tickets for last minute seat-filler deals for gigs, theatre and comedy, or to SRO Audiences for free tickets to watch TV shows being filmed.