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Cost of living in the UK – What to Expect



This is likely to be your largest outgoing. College accommodation fees can be found here:

Residence Charges - Durham University

This can be a good choice to help you plan your finances as you will be close to your lectures, therefore should not incur additional travel costs, and fees are usually inclusive of water rates, gas/electricity and broadband internet. Some colleges are fully catered, meaning that meals are also included with your college fees.

Another option would be to rent privately, perhaps sharing with other students. Rents can vary widely depending on the location of the accommodation. Again, some landlords will include water and energy bills with your rent, which can help you to plan your finances. It is advisable to arrange accommodation prior to arrival, and this will also help you to plan your budget as you will be aware of how much you need to pay.  


Again, living in university accommodation or private accommodation very close to the University can remove the requirement to pay for day-to-day travel costs. However, should you choose to live further out from the center of town, the bus company Arriva offers a £1.50-£2.50 day ticket on certain routes – meaning you can travel for only £1.50-£2.50 per day. Please see the following for details:

Public Transport - Durham University

If you need to travel outside of the Durham area whilst in the UK, for example, to visit family/friends in other parts of the UK, there are several options, including train or coach. The train is often the more expensive option, but booking ahead can reduce the fare significantly.

Utility bills:

These may include gas, electricity, water charges and telephone/broadband.  As already mentioned, college accommodation fees usually include these charges, and some private landlords will charge rent which is inclusive of certain bills. If your rent does not include these charges, you may need to arrange to split these bills with your housemates and plan these costs into your budget.  You can choose from a number of providers for your gas, electricity, telephone and broadband, and the following website can help you to search for the best deals and will give you an idea of how much you would be paying: As a general guide, expect to pay around £15-£25 per week for these bills, depending on usage and the number of people you share with.

Northumbrian Water is the only provider of domestic water in this area of the UK. If water rates are not included with your rent, you will either need to pay a fixed rate based on the value of your property; or if a meter has been installed you will be charged for how much you use. The following calculator can help you to estimate your water bill if a meter has been installed:

Use Our Water Usage Calculator | Save Money With A Water Meter (

TV Licence:

You need to pay for a TV Licence in the UK to watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or streamed live on an online TV service. This is currently £159 per year, and you can choose to pay with a monthly direct debit. You may still need this if you are living in college accommodation as a communal licence will not cover you to watch TV in your own room. You will also need a TV licence in a shared house, although you may only need one licence for the entire property if you have a joint tenancy. Please see the following guide for more details:

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Contents/personal possession insurance can be a good idea. This is also included in the cost of college accommodation but if you are living in privately rented accommodation it is advisable to arrange your own cover for your personal items. Websites such as offer an overview of insurance policies for students – this can cost as little as a few pounds per month.

Food and other household expenses:

This can vary greatly depending on what you eat and where you shop. It may be possible to spend as little as £25 per week on food, but this can take a great deal of meal planning. It may be wise to budget for around £50 per week for food and other household essentials, including cleaning products and toiletries. You will need to budget more if you plan to eat out and/or order take-away food, rather than cook all your meals.

Prices can vary depending on where you shop. Be aware that larger supermarkets based outside of the city center can be much cheaper than the smaller stores based in the center – remember you can use your student card to buy a £1 day ticket on Arriva buses. Another option is to do your food shopping online – there is often a minimum spend for this so you could share this with other students.


Most rental properties will have a washing machine, but students living in College accommodation will need to use the on-site laundry. Expect to spend an average of around £7 per week on this.

Books and other course materials:

These can vary depending on your course. The University libraries are free to all students, although you may be advised to purchase several ‘core’ textbooks each year. Certain courses may also require you to purchase specialist materials or software. Your department should be able to give more information on what you will be required to purchase - so you could ask them in advance for an idea of course costs.


In addition to the above, you may incur additional costs, including leisure (e.g. eating out, cinema, or sporting activities). These costs can vary, and it is best to budget for the priority expenses such as rent, bills, and course costs first.

 You may also need to buy certain large/bulky items when you arrive, instead of bringing them with you e.g. bedding, towels and kitchen utensils.  Bedding packs can be bought from your College, whereas cooking utensils can be bought locally or online – budget to spend at least £50 on these items.

It may still be relatively warm when you arrive in the UK (if arriving in September) so you may choose to purchase winter clothing, such as a coat and boots, once you have arrived – it may be wise to budget around £50-£100 for additional clothing.


Please note the above is intended as a guide only – costs can be much higher, depending on how you choose to spend your money. Costs can also change/increase, so please ensure to budget extra for increased costs as well as unexpected emergencies.


Budget planner:

Once you have an idea of costs, you could try to plan your budget for the year ahead using this spreadsheet: Monthly Budget Sheet - International Students