Are you thinking of taking up a teaching position in the UK? If you are, you’ll need to know how much it will cost to live in a different country compared to where you currently live. This comprehensive guide on the cost of living in the UK will help you budget and plan for living abroad.
So how much does it cost to live in the UK?
As with more parts of the world, it depends on the area. Renting a property in London could easily cost you in excess of £2,000 a month, while living in rented accommodation in Birmingham could cost as little as £800. Dinner for two at a typical Italian restaurant in Glasgow could set you back £55, while the same meal in Leeds could cost less than £40.
Calculating the true cost of living in the UK is difficult, because prices vary wildly depending on the area in which you want to live. And when you consider that working out the cost of living in other countries such as Australia, Canada and the US is equally challenging, it’s easy to see why some expats encounter financial issues when moving abroad.
In order to compare the overall cost of living in the UK with Canada, Australia and the US, we’ve researched six different regions in each country and calculated the average cost of living in each area.
In the UK, we’ve researched the cost of living in London, Southampton, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow. In Australia we looked at Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, Perth and Adelaide. In the US we researched Washington, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Portland. And in Canada we placed Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec under the microscope.
We assessed each of these areas against a consistent set of criteria: accommodation, clothing, food, transportation and entertainment. Each of these broad categories are further broken down into numerous subcategories to show you exactly how much it costs to live and work in the UK compared to other countries around the world.
The end result is the most complete guide to the cost of living in the UK available online. If you’re thinking of relocating to the UK to take up a teaching position, this guide will provide you with all the financial information you need.
Unsurprisingly, property prices are higher in London than anywhere else in the UK. The average cost of renting a 900 sqft property in London is between £1,704.00– 2,408.00 per month, compared to £754.00–1,206.00 in Southampton, £851.00–1,021.00 in Birmingham, £829.00–1,052.00 in Leeds, £788.00–816.00 in Newcastle and £851.00–1,090.00 in Glasgow.
The situation is almost identical when it comes to smaller properties too. Of all the areas we researched, London and Newcastle and the most expensive and cheapest places respectively to rent a one-bedroom apartment. However, renting a flat in Birmingham is slightly more expensive than renting a similar property in Southampton.
The total average cost of renting a 900 sqft property in the UK is £963.00–1,261.00, while in Australia living in similar rented accommodation could cost you anywhere between £1088.00–1,410.00 (A$1,948.00–2,526) each month. On average, it’s between 12–13% cheaper to rent a two-person property in the UK than it is in Australia. However, when you consider that the average salary for a teacher in Australia is between £33,319.00–48,053.00 (A$59,629.00–85,999.00) compared to £19,000–28,700 for teaching in the UK, the lower cost of accommodation is more than offset by the reduction in salary. This is obviously something you’ll need to consider if you live in Australia and are thinking of taking up a teaching position in the UK.
It’s a similar situation for people in the US who are looking to move to the UK. The average price of a one-bedroom apartment in the US is £971.00–1,359.00 ($1,284.00–1,797.00), compared to £877.00–£1,087.00 in the UK. Although it’s between 11–25% cheaper to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the UK than it is in the US, the difference in salary is enormous. The median average salary for a teacher in the US is $58,000.00 – equivalent to £43,760.00 in the UK. When you compare that to the average salary of UK teachers, it’s clear that a larger percentage of your salary will go towards paying for accommodation if you decide to move to the UK, even though the actual cost of renting a property is cheaper.
According to our research, moving to the UK is financially more attractive to teachers in Canada than for their counterparts in Australia and the US. The average salary for a teaching position in Canada is C$49,410.00, which equates to £28,012.00. Experienced teachers in the UK can earn approximately £28,700.00 per year, so as long as you are moving to the UK to take up a senior teaching position there should be little difference in terms of the salary you receive. And when you consider that the average cost of renting a small apartment in Canada is £630.00–871.00 (C$1,112.00–1,968.00) compared to £877.00–1,087.00 in the UK, it’s likely that moving to the UK from Canada will have little impact on your finances – from an accommodation perspective at least.
In terms of the cost of utilities such as gas and electric, there doesn’t appear to be a huge difference between the UK and Australia. However, utility bills are significantly lower in the US and Canada. The average UK household spends between £144.00–193.00 per month on energy bills, compared to £122.00–194.00 (A$218.00–346.00) in Australia. The cost of fuelling a property in the US and Canada is £95.00–133.00 ($126.00–177.00) and £61.00–91.00 (C$107.00–160.00) respectively. It’s also worth bearing in mind that switching between UK energy providers to find the best deal is very easy, and online services such as uSwitch make the whole process very straightforward.
It’s a similar situation when it comes to purchasing electrical goods. According to our research, flat screen TVs are, on average, 30% more expensive in the UK and Australia than they are in the US and Canada. One reason for the difference in price between electrical goods bought in the UK and US is the different import duty thresholds: if you’re in the UK and you purchase goods from outside the EU for delivery in the UK, you’ll have to pay customs duty and import VAT on all orders over £120 and £18 respectively. In the US, $800–1,600 of goods are classed as duty-free, depending on the country of origin.
However, a recent study by the consumer group Which? found that the main reason disparities in prices were down to manufacturer pricing, rather than the exchange rate or import duty thresholds. The group is actively campaigning for the UK government to raise the threshold for import duty on goods bought online, and it’s also worth noting that Brexit is likely to have an impact on the cost of goods imported from outside the UK for both businesses and consumers.
Changing jobs is challenging enough, but if you’re moving to another country too, you’re going to have a lot on your plate. Hiring someone to help with the chores is a great way to free up some valuable time, and in the UK it’s far more affordable to hire a cleaner than it is in Australia, the US or Canada. In fact, the difference is staggering. Hiring a cleaner in Australia will set you back, on average, £16.00 (A$29.00) per hour, whilst in the US a cleaner could cost you as much as £18.00 (£25) per hour. In the UK, you can expect to pay £11 per hour for the same type of service. And if you live in the midlands, it could be as low as £9 per hour.
Outside of London, the cost of clothing is more or less the same wherever you are in the UK. Our research shows that branded goods tend to cost less in Leeds and areas in and around Yorkshire, whilst London, Southampton and Birmingham are the most expensive.
The impact that Brexit will have on the cost of clothing in the UK has divided opinion. Whilst it’s widely accepted that the price of imported food will increase if the UK government is unable to secure trade deals identical to those which the EU has already has in place, there’s no clear consensus on how Brexit will affect the cost of clothing in the UK.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) firmly believes that UK consumers will be faced with rising food and clothing prices after Brexit unless the government can successfully negotiate favourable deals with non-EU countries. Britain currently benefits from zero/low tariffs on various imported goods, but if no trade deals can be successfully negotiated before the March 2019 Brexit deadline, BRC believes the cost of clothing could sky-rocket. If you’re planning on moving to the UK from Australia, the United States or Canada, this is something you need to bear in mind.
Cost of Clothing in the UK Compared to Australia
As it stands, the cost of clothing in Australia appears to be slightly higher than in the UK. A pair of Nike trainers is likely to cost you approximately £69 in the UK, whilst a similar pair would cost you the equivalent of just over £80.00 (A$144.00) in Australia. Likewise, while you’re likely to be able to bag yourself a dress for less than £30 in Southampton, Newcastle or Glasgow, the same type of garment will likely cost you £10 more in Australia.
Cost of Clothing in the UK Compared to USA
As you would expect, the majority of American-branded apparel is going to cost you far less in the USA than they would do in the UK. In fact, you would save a staggering 69% by purchasing a pair of Levis 501 jeans in the States compared to just about anywhere in Britain. However, according to our research, a pair of Nike trainers is likely to cost you almost as much in the US as they would do in the UK.
Cost of Clothing in the UK Compared to Canada
Unsurprisingly, our research also revealed that a pair of Levis jeans is likely to cost you far less in Canada than they would do in the UK. You can pick up a pair of the iconic jeans for the equivalent of around £40.00 (C$70.00) – a saving of approximately 65%. When it comes to the other items of clothing that we researched – dresses, shoes and trainers – there’s little difference in price. Of course, as we mentioned earlier, quite how Brexit will impact the cost of high-street shopping is not yet clear.
It’s widely accepted by many industry experts that Brexit will have a significant impact on the prices UK consumers will pay for food. Around 30% of all food purchased in the UK is imported, with over 70% of gross food imports from countries in the EU. In comparison, only 17% of overall consumer spending is on imported goods. As a result, changes to import tariffs or exchange rates are likely to have a particularly significant on the cost of food.
If the event that the UK and EU fail to strike a deal post-Brext, it’s highly likely that tariffs would be imposed on EU imports into the UK. This would almost certainly increase the price of EU-imported food. This scenario could potentially be avoided if the UK government significantly reduced tariffs across the board and/or decided to accept cheaper food imports that may not meet the EU’s stringent regulatory standards on food. So if you’re considering emigrating to the UK, the potential impact of Brexit on the price of food is definitely something you should think about.
Cost of Food in the UK Compared to Australia
Although eggs and bread are more expensive to purchase in Australia than the UK, the other food types that we researched are less expensive. A 500g of boneless chicken breast will set you back around £3.45 in Britain compared to the equivalent of £3.33 (A$5.95) in Australia. A pint of milk in Australia is, on average, £0.74 (A$1.33), while in the UK you would expect to pay approximately £0.82 on average. The biggest saving, however, is to be found when eating out. On average, lunch out will cost you around £11.00 in the UK, compared to £9.50 (A$17.00) in Australia.
Cost of Food in the UK Compared to USA
According to our research, there’s little difference in the price of food in the UK and US (although this could very well change when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019). Lunch out in America is likely to cost you about the same as it would in the UK (around £11.00), while a dozen eggs cost exactly the same (£2.67). A pint of milk is slightly cheaper in the US (£0.70 compared to £0.82), and there is only £0.30 difference on average between the cost of a 500g pack of boneless chicken breast (£3.45 in the UK compared to the equivalent of £3.76 in the US).
Cost of Food in the UK Compared to Canada
Unlike Australia and the US, the price of food in Canada is more expensive than it is in pre-Brexit Britain. Eating out in the UK still appears to be slightly more expensive (£11.00 compared to the equivalent of £10.37), but the other types of food that we researched are generally more expensive to purchase in Canada than in the United Kingdom. A pack of chicken breast will set you back around £3.45 in the UK, but in Canada the same meat will cost approximately £4.61 (C$8.00) on average. There’s a big difference in the cost of a pint of milk in the UK and Canada (£0.82 and £1.43 respectively), and bread is also more expensive to buy in Canada than in the UK.
The cost of purchasing a new car in the UK is already considerably more than in Australia, the USA and Canada, and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) believes that Brexit could increase the cost of purchasing a new car even more. The SMMT believes that a tariff on imports of cars manufactured in Europe will increase the price of a typical family car by £1,500 or more, which could in turn put thousands of jobs at risk.
The cost of running a car is also expected to rise post-Brexit, although not everyone believes that Brexit will have the same kind of impact that it will have on food and car prices. In a recent interview with Confused.com, Simon Williams, media relations manager for the RAC, calculated that even if the value of the pound decreased by as much as 20%, this would only cost an extra £2 to fill-up the tank of a typical family car – that equates to an extra 4p per litre. However, when you consider that the cost of fuel is already 56%–114% more expensive in the UK than it is in Australia, the US and Canada, you’ll need to bear this in mind if you’re thinking of moving to the UK.
Cost of Transport in the UK Compared to Australia
Purchasing a VW Golf 1.4 TDI in the UK will cost approximately £3,000 than it would in Australia. This particular model would, on average, cost around £18,385 in the UK, whilst in Australia the same car would cost the equivalent of £15,157 (A$27,033). Likewise, the cost of fuel is also significantly higher. A litre of fuel costs approximately £1.20 in the UK, while in Australia it’s the equivalent of £0.77 on average.
Cost of Transport in the UK Compared to USA
If you’re moving to the UK from the US, the cost of running a car is likely to hit you the hardest of all. The difference in price of a VW Golf in the UK and America is not as great as it is between the UK and Australia, but you’ll still save around £2,000 if you purchase the car in the States. The cost of running a car, however, is significantly less in the US than any of the four countries we researched for this study. According to our research, petrol costs the equivalent of £0.56 per litre in the US – a staggering 114% cheaper than in the UK. So if you’re moving to the UK from America and will need to drive extensively, the cost of running your car is something you will definitely need to consider.
Cost of Transport in the UK Compared to Canada
Of the three countries we compared to the UK, Canada is where the biggest saving on buying a new car can be found. Typically, the price of a VW Golf in Canada is a staggering £5,000 less than in the UK. The cost of running a car is also much cheaper in Canada than it is in the UK. Typically, you’ll spend £0.50 more per litre of fuel in the UK than you would in Canada.
When you’re weighing up the cost of emigrating to another country, you’ll most likely focus on obvious expenses such as accommodation, utility bills, food and transport, but it’s important that you also consider the costs of the little things that make life worth living. Whether it’s the occasional meal out, a trip to the cinema or a drink or two with your family and friends, a little downtime every now again is important for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Cost of Entertainment in the UK Compared to Australia
When it comes to life’s little luxuries, there’s little difference in price between the UK and Australia. Of the pastimes and leisure interests that we researched, the only discernible difference in price between the two countries is the price of a monthly gym membership. Joining a gym in London is likely to cost you double the amount you’ll pay in other parts of the UK, but even with London’s figures bumping up the average, a monthly gym membership is likely to cost you approximately £7 less in the UK than it would in Australia.
Cost of Entertainment in the UK Compared to USA
Our research indicates that the greatest difference in the price of leisure activities in the UK and US is for an evening meal out and a monthly gym membership. A meal out in New York, for example, is likely to cost you an eye-watering £88.00 ($117.00), compared to £63 in London. The cost of keeping fit in the US, meanwhile, is likely to set you back the equivalent of around £48.00 a month, compared to £36.00 in the UK. With regards to the cost of cinema tickets and alcohol, there’s virtually no difference in the average price between the two countries.
Cost of Entertainment in the UK Compared to Canada
Unlike Australia and the US, the leisure activities that we researched are slightly cheaper in Canada than they are in the UK. A meal out for two at a typical restaurant in Canada is likely to cost you, on average, around £53.00 (C$93), while two tickets to see a movie are likely to cost £4.00 less in Canada than they would in the UK. The price of beer is also very marginally cheaper, while the cost of a monthly gym membership is around £3.00 less on average in Canada than in the UK.
The True cost of Emigrating to the UK from Australia, USA and Canada
Hopefully this guide has provided you with all the information you need to decide whether or not taking up a teaching position in the UK is financially viable for you. Calculating the true cost of moving to in the UK from Australia, the USA or Canada is extremely difficult, as it really does depend on which area of the country you move to. As our research clearly demonstrates, the cost of living in places like Leeds and Newcastle is far lower than in southern areas such as London and Southampton. However, in reality the lower cost of living in the north of the UK is likely to be offset by the lower wages on offer for teaching positions in those regions.
We have used XE.com to convert the various currencies into pound sterling, and we have rounded up the figures for greater clarity where appropriate. We’ve deliberately avoided providing an overall cost-of-living value for each of the countries, as not all things will apply to all people.
If you’ve found this guide useful, please feel free to share it with your friends, family and work colleagues. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort into creating the most complete guide to the cost of living in the UK, but if you have a question please get in touch!
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