Student living costs in the UK 2019

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…

Student living can be a pricey business. There’s rent to pay for, as well as books, bills, food and maybe even some socialising too. How do you even begin mapping out a budget?

Well, rather than taking wild guesses it helps to know what your expected living costs are, based on what thousands of other students are telling us.

In our annual National Student Money Survey we asked 3,167 students where all their money goes, and our findings were pretty interesting. With an average monthly spend of £770, our results reveal that the maintenance loan often falls short of covering students’ living expenses.

So if you’re wanting to budget your monthly expenses, or just see how your spending compares to the average student, we’ve got all the stats around student living costs you need.

Average student living costs

It’s probably no surprise that rent takes the biggest chunk out of the student budget. This figure is up £12 on 2017 which, although not a huge jump, shows that rents around the country are on the rise, and are an increasing concern for student tenants.

Food is the second biggest expenditure for students, coming in at £108 a month. This might seem like a substantial amount. but it breaks down to just £27 a week, which is a reasonable amount for a weekly food shop and any meals out and takeaways. Plus, we’ve got 57 ways to save on food to help keep these costs down.

Everyone knows that students love a good party, and it turns out £64 a month goes on socialising. While some might be surprised this is three times the amount students spend on textbooks, with students paying £9,250 a year on their degree, there’s increasing pressure on universities to keep extra course costs to a minimum.

Students also estimate they spend £37 a month on bills which includes gas, electricity, water, broadband and a TV licence. Out complete guide to student bills has step-by-step advice on how to setup, switch, split and ultimately save on bills.

Average student rent per week

There’s no denying that the cost of rent is the biggest worry students have when it comes to living costs at university. As universities improve the quality of their halls of residence, their rent prices are going up, and private landlords are increasingly charging more too.

Of course, rent prices vary massively across the country, with landlords in London charging the most (and students studying in London do receive a larger maintenance loan to accommodate this).

The table below shows the average cost of rent at each university around the country, so you can see where you’ll be paying the most, and where you’ll get the cheapest deal.

As you’d expect, it’s mainly the Northern universities (minus Edinburgh) where rent is cheapest, and the further south you go, the more expensive rent becomes. This has led some students in southern cities outside London to campaign for a higher maintenance loan to reflect this.

Is the maintenance loan enough?

Maintenance loan gap

It’s all very well working out how much students spend each money – but the bigger 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. In fact, the average student receives just £600 a month from their maintenance loan, which falls £170 a month short of covering the average £770 a month expenses.

Students told us:

Interestingly, for the first time more students are turning to a part-time job rather than their parents in order to top up their maintenance loan. 76% of students reported using a part-time job to make extra cash, meaning the importance of learning how to juggle work with study is more important than ever.

But a huge amount of students – 73% – turn to their parents for extra funds. This year we found that parents give on average £138.50 a month to their children studying at university to help plug the maintenance loan gap.

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.

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