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When you first arrive in the UK, the amount of money you need should ideally cover three months of living costs. Any less and you may find yourself having to cut your stay in the UK short.
The following figures are based on our experience as a family of four (mum, dad and two teenage boys) living in Glasgow, Scotland.
I’ve provided a reasonable range of costs as well as some insights into what our budget looked like when we first arrived. Rest assured, the first 3 months are unique and can be brutal. It’s easier sailing once you start earning an income. Make sure you’re sitting down while you read this!
For a family of four, probably £12,000 to £20,000
And you will need most of this in the first few weeks.
Rent and council tax: £5,000 to £7,000
About £1,000 mth.
- Without a UK credit rating or guarantor, you will need to pay 6 months’ rent in advance plus 1 month’s bond (7 months’ rent).
- Rent for a furnished 3-bedroom flat in a good area next to public transport and close to a local school (so only walking is required) is between £700 and £800 mth. ** UPDATE ** It’s now 2022 – add another £200-£400 a month **
- Council tax is payable by the tenant and is about £150 to £200 a month for water, sewage etc.
- London area rents and commuting costs are ridiculous. They could be as much as double to triple or more. The main reason we chose to live in Scotland.
Gas and electricity: £300 to £450
£100 to £150 a month.
- We use the same provider for gas and electricity to get a dual-fuel discount. It’s cheaper by direct debit.
Food and groceries: £1,200 to £2,400
About £100 to £200 a week.
- More if you need to stock up the pantry with condiments and other staples.
Commuting: £150 to £300 per adult
£50 to £100 mth for bus fare and £75-£100 mth for train fare.
- If you live anywhere near London, it will be considerably more.
- If you are fortunate to have the cash for a car, you can get a cheap, reliable car for about £1,500 – £6,000. Just remember that running costs and parking will add up. It’s unlikely you will drive your car to work each day unless you get free parking.
Temporary accommodation: £1,000 to £2,000
£500-£1,000 a week for at least 2 weeks.
Clothing and footwear: £1,000 to £2,000
- School uniforms for two boys in S3 and S6 – woollen blazers, woollen jumpers, thermal shirts, thermal socks, raincoats, waterproof leather shoes, ties, pants, shirts, physical education uniforms and school bags. No school fees for a state school.
- Don’t forget if you come from a warm climate, and you will need to buy warm clothing and footwear for everyone – jackets, socks, scarves, beanies, etc. Clothes dryers are rare, so you will need enough warm clothing to allow time for washing to dry over several days hanging on a clothes airer.
Furniture and other household items: £1,000 to £2,000
- We had to buy mattresses x 3, 1 x bed base, bed linen, pillows, towels, basic kitchen things, TV and TV license, some lamps and laundry items like ironing boards and electricals like iron, hair dryer.
- A furnished home does not include everything you need.
- If you have spare cash for furniture – anything from £2,000 to £5,000 – then you can rent an unfurnished home. Rents are usually £50 to £250 a month cheaper for an unfurnished or part-furnished home.
Shipping costs: £350
- We had to pay the final Seven Seas shipping and customs fee after our belongings arrived in the UK. This was in addition to the £750 plus fees to send our goods over.
Other miscellaneous: £1,000
- For things like haircuts, dental and other medical not covered by the NHS.
- Internet, telephone and TV license: £150 to £500
- The Internet can be nice and fast, 50-350Mbps unlimited download.
- Mobile phone plans are affordable at about £20 a month for 20GB of data with your own phone. New phone handsets are about £200 to £350 each.
- A TV license is mandatory at about £12 a month, with about £40 upfront.)
How much you need really depends on your circumstances.
- The good thing is that your rent is paid for 6 months.
- Your savings only have to last until your first pay packet.
- We found jobs in the first 2-3 weeks, so we’re making about £350 a week each after deductions for NHS and tax (on entry-level roles earning £16,000 and £18,500).
- We didn’t get our first payment until the 18th and the 28th of October – about a month after we arrived, so it was tough the first month. Our bank balance dwindled down quite quickly with all of the advance payments, and at one point, we worried that we would have to return home before the adventure began.
- Our first pay was about £3,000 combined. Which came in handy!
- We earned about £9,000 in the first 3 months in wages.
- We also got discounts on our mobile phone plans and insurance with our jobs, so we saved about £60 a month there.
Other costs you may incur
Remember your airfares and transfers when you arrive if you need to fly between UK cities and train or bus fares from your arrival airport to where you will be searching for rentals.
- We bought our London to Edinburgh BA flights for about £500 for the four of us.
- The bus from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow was £30 for a family ticket. Trains are more expensive for short and long-haul trips. Trains are much cheaper with advance tickets. You need to plan.
Eating out before you have your own kitchen – even if your temporary accommodation is self-contained with a kitchen.
- If you are out and about hunting for rentals, jobs, schools and completing all of your chores – you will likely need to buy food and drink when you’re out.
- A Tesco supermarket (budget supermarket) gives you a sandwich, drink and fruit or crisps for a lunch package deal for about £3. Most people grab one before work. We make our lunches whenever possible.