Planning Your Budget: Cost Of Living In UK for Family Of 4 [2023]

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Are you an expat contemplating a move to the UK with your family? What are the living costs and the real deal behind the average cost of living in the UK for a family of 4 in 2023? You’re not alone. 

A family of four would need approximately £4,235 to live comfortably in the UK.

However, understanding the financial landscape is crucial. From average rent to university tuition fees, we’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the monthly rent, average rental cost, and more to help you plan your budget effectively. 

Whether you’re relocating for work or your children’s education as an international student, knowing how to save money while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle is essential. Let’s dive into the UK’s average living cost.

Breaking Down The Cost of Living In The UK

A man calculating his expenses using a pen, calculator and papers, holding some paper bills too.

When considering the cost of living in the UK for a family of four, it’s essential to break down the monthly expenses, excluding rent. On average, the cost of living for a family of four in the UK falls between £4,000 and £4,500 per month, with variations depending on location, such as a city center. Here’s a breakdown of these expenses:

1. Groceries

Groceries for a family of four can range from £300 to £500 per month, depending on dietary preferences and shopping habits.

2. Utilities

Excluding rent, monthly utility bills, including gas, electricity, and water, typically average around £100 to £150.

3. Transportation

Owning and maintaining a car, like a Toyota Corolla sedan, can cost around £150 to £250 per month when factoring in fuel, insurance, and maintenance. Public transportation costs may vary but can range from £100 to £200 per month for a family of four.

4. Healthcare

While the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) covers most healthcare expenses, some services may have associated charges. Private health insurance, if desired, can cost extra. Get health insurance from a prominent company such as Cigna Global.

5. Childcare and Education

Childcare costs can vary widely, with nursery fees ranging from £500 to £1,000 per month per child. Schooling may be free for residents, but international students or those opting for private schools should consider additional expenses.

6. Entertainment and Leisure

Budgeting for entertainment, dining out, and leisure activities can range from £200 to £400 per month.

7. TV License

The TV license fee is required to watch or record live television in the UK. It costs around £157.50 per year, which can be broken down to approximately £13 per month.

8. Miscellaneous Expenses

This category includes expenses such as clothing, personal care items, and unexpected costs. It can amount to £100 to £200 per month.

9. Bank Account Fees

Depending on the bank and type of account, monthly bank account fees may range from £5 to £20.

Is Healthcare Free in The UK?

Remember that the cost of living can vary significantly between cities in the UK, with expenses typically higher in the capital, London, than in other cities. The UK’s healthcare system, funded by the Commonwealth Fund, covers most healthcare needs. 

Additionally, individual circumstances and lifestyle choices can greatly impact monthly expenditures, making families need to create a personalized budget based on their specific needs and location.

Learn how much you will earn in the UK in our detailed article on British salaries.

What Are The Factors Affecting Living Costs In The UK?

Various factors, such as your location, lifestyle, preferences, and family size influence the cost of living in the UK. The average cost of living for a family of four in the UK is between £4,000 and £4,500 per month, including rent. Expats with a family of four can expect this amount to go higher or lower depending on the following factors:

1. Location

Establishment in London during a gloomy day.

The cost of living in the UK varies significantly depending on where you live. Generally, living in big cities like London, Manchester, or Edinburgh is more expensive than living in smaller towns or rural areas. 

For example, according to Numbeo, the average rent for a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre of London is £2,942.67, while the average monthly rent for a similar apartment in the city centre of Leeds is £1,097.33. The location also affects other expenses, such as food, transportation, utilities, and entertainment.

2. Lifestyle

a man walking by while holding his bike in some moral paintings.

The cost of living in the UK also depends on your lifestyle and preferences. For example, if you like to eat out often, go to the cinema or theatre, or travel frequently, you will spend more money than if you prefer to cook at home, watch Netflix, or stay local. 

Similarly, suppose you have expensive hobbies or habits, such as golfing, smoking, or drinking. In that case, you will incur higher costs than if you have cheaper or free hobbies or habits, such as hiking, reading, or meditating.

3. Preferences

a girl preparing her breakfast.

The cost of living in the UK also reflects your personal choices and tastes. For example, if you prefer organic food, designer clothes, or high-end electronics, you will pay more than if you opt for conventional food, budget-friendly clothes, or basic gadgets. 

Likewise, if you prefer to live in a spacious house with a garden, drive a car, or send your children to private schools, you will face higher costs than living in a one-bedroom apartment, using public transport, or sending your children to state schools.

4. Family size

a family who recently move into their new apartment.

The cost of living in the UK also varies depending on your family size and composition. For example, if you have children or dependents, you must consider additional expenses such as childcare, tuition, clothing, and entertainment costs. 

Families moving international students or non-EU citizens may also need to pay for health insurance, visa fees, and other administrative costs. The tuition fees will also depend on the age of their children. The UK cost of education is usually higher for international students. 

Cost Trends in The UK

a man doing his groceries.

In the UK, the cost of living has been on the rise in recent years, primarily driven by various factors, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on major cities, the Brexit transition, and global inflationary pressures, such as the high fuel costs. 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Consumer Prices Index, including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH), rose by 6.4% in the 12 months to July 2023, down from 7.3% in June. This was still the second-highest annual inflation rate since March 2012. 

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 6.8% in the 12 months to July 2023, down from 7.9% in June. This was also the second-highest annual inflation rate since September 2011.

Key contributors to the escalating cost of living in the UK include food and energy prices, transport costs, and housing prices. 

Food and Energy Prices

a vendor handing some apples to her customer.

To properly gauge the average cost of living in the UK, you must know the trends for food and energy prices. Food and energy prices have surged due to disruptions in supply chains caused by the pandemic and Brexit. 

For instance, food prices rose by 5.9% in July 2023 compared with July 2022, while electricity prices rose by 14.8% and gas prices rose by 21.5% over the same period. Global demand for commodities and raw materials has also driven up these costs.

Transport Costs

a couple waiting for their train in the train station.

Transport expenses affect your cost of living as well. They have sharply increased, primarily due to higher fuel prices and public transport fares. For example, petrol prices rose by 18.5% in July 2023 compared with July 2022, rail fares rose by 3.8%, and bus/coach fares rose by 4.4% over the same period. 

The rebound in travel activity after lockdowns has further boosted demand for transport services.

Housing Costs


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UK house prices are currently around £288,000 in major cities. However, while house prices have been volatile in the UK, with record highs in 2022 followed by declines in 2023

According to ONS, private rental prices increased by 5.3% in the year to July 2023, up from 5.2% in June. This was the largest annual percentage change since this UK data series began in January 2016. The housing market is characterized by high demand and limited supply.

The impact of the rising cost of living varies among different income groups and regions. Low-income households may face more significant financial challenges as they allocate more of their income to essentials like food and energy, which have seen steeper price increases. 

Benefits of Living In the United Kingdom

a picture of graduating students.

Living in the United Kingdom can offer several benefits for expats with a family of four. These advantages encompass various aspects of life, from education and healthcare to everyday expenses and quality of life.

1. Education Opportunities

The UK is home to world-renowned educational institutions, including University College London. This can provide excellent opportunities for your children’s education, and some universities offer scholarships to international students.

2. Average Charges for Healthcare

Expats can benefit from the National Health Service (NHS), which provides access to high-quality healthcare services. While private health insurance is available, the NHS ensures that essential medical care is accessible without additional expenses.

3. Cost of Living

While London’s costs can be high, other regions offer reasonably low prices for rent, utilities, and daily expenses. This can help your family save money while still enjoying a comfortable lifestyle. Many mid-range supermarkets 

4. Dining Out

Dining options are diverse. You can choose from an inexpensive restaurant to a mid-range restaurant in city centers. You can enjoy the local cuisine or international fare to suit your family’s tastes. Like other countries, a fast food restaurant is also an option for UK residents. 

5. Public Transportation

The UK boasts an extensive and efficient public transportation system, including local transport and monthly pass options. This can make commuting within cities convenient and cost-effective.

How Much Does It Cost To Run a Car in London?

6. Housing

While London’s rent prices can be steep, other areas offer more affordable options for housing. You can find properties that fit the needs of your average household.

7. Prescription Prepayment Certificate

If your family requires regular medication, the NHS offers a Prescription Prepayment Certificate, allowing you to save money on prescription costs.

My Take: Living in the United Kingdom as an expat with a family of four can provide access to quality education, healthcare, and various services at reasonable costs. 

While London can be expensive, other regions offer a more affordable cost of living, making it possible to save money and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Whether exploring the rich cultural heritage or taking advantage of the diverse dining and entertainment options, the UK offers much for expat families.

Downsides of Choosing The UK

UK view in a rainy afternoon.

There are several downsides to consider when choosing the UK as a destination for expats with a family of four. Here are some of them:

High University Tuition Fees

UK universities are renowned for their quality, but international students pay significantly higher tuition fees than UK nationals. This can be a substantial financial burden for expat families. 

The average cost of education for international students, including international fees and living expenses, can be exceptionally high, especially in city center locations where rent and other costs are elevated.

Limited Access to World-Class Universities

While the UK boasts many world-class universities, this may only be applicable in some regions, especially in areas like Northern Ireland, where the options might be more limited.

Cost of Living in City Center

Aside from education, the overall cost of living in the UK, excluding rent, can also be relatively high compared to other parts of Western Europe. This includes mobile phone plans, emergency tax, and day-to-day expenses.

Limited Access to Affordable Goods

Chain store is prevalent in the UK, but the average cost of goods, especially those subject to the normal tariff, can be higher than in other Western European countries. This affects expat families’ purchasing power and quality of life.

Choosing Between Buying and Renting A House In The United Kingdom

a woman wondering whether to buy or rent a house.

Choosing between buying and renting a house in the United Kingdom can be a significant decision, particularly for expats with families of four. The decision largely depends on various factors, including financial situation, long-term plans, and personal preferences.

For expats with a family of four, there are several considerations to remember.

Buying a House:

  • Cost: The regular price of purchasing a house in the UK can vary significantly depending on the location. Other cities, especially London and other expensive cities, can have high property prices. However, you may find lower home prices in regions like South Wales. The average cost of a house in the UK was £296,000 in August 2022, which is £36,000 higher than last year, according to ONS.
  • Space: A family of four typically requires more space than a single person. Buying a house, preferably with at least three bedrooms or more, can provide the necessary space for your family.
  • Long-Term Plans: If you plan to stay in the United Kingdom for an extended period, buying a house can be a good investment. Over time, your property may appreciate in value, allowing you to build equity and sell at a profit in the future.
  • Stability: Owning a home can provide a sense of stability for your family, as you won’t have to worry about rent increases or frequent moves.

Housing will cost you a decent amount, especially if you decide to purchase a house. Read this article explaining high housing prices in the UK.

Renting a House:

  • Flexibility: Renting provides flexibility, which can be advantageous if you’re uncertain about your long-term stay in the UK. You can rent a house that suits your family’s needs without committing to a long-term mortgage.
  • Tighter Budget: If you’re on a tight budget, renting may be the more financially feasible. You can find rental properties in various price ranges, including one-bedroom apartments, for less money than buying a house.
  • Maintenance Costs: As a renter, you won’t be responsible for major maintenance costs. The landlord typically covers repairs and basic utilities, which can be convenient for a family of four.

Read our guide on rent prices in London.

Average Rent Cost

The average rent for house rent in the UK is now at £1,243, up 10.3% on the same time last year and 1.1% from last month’s figures. This rent increase is affecting utility costs for the average household, with the latest average prices in the city centre rising along with utility bills for residents in city centre areas.

The rent price in the UK varies depending on different factors. Expats can still find a cheap house bargain compared to nearby countries. 

Comparison to a Single Person

For a single person in the United Kingdom, the decision between buying and renting may differ significantly from that of a family of four.

  • Buying: A single person may find it easier to afford a one-bedroom apartment or a smaller property, making homeownership more feasible, especially in areas with lower property prices. Owning a home also offers potential long-term financial benefits.
  • Renting: Renting a one-bedroom apartment is often the preferred choice for single individuals, especially in expensive cities. It provides flexibility and may be more affordable for someone with a tighter budget. Maintenance costs and utilities are typically more manageable for a person in a smaller space.

Final Thoughts About The Cost of Living for A Family of Four in The UK

In conclusion, understanding the cost of living in the UK for a family of four in 2023 is essential for ex-pats planning a move. Expenses ranging from groceries to housing can significantly impact your budget, with location and lifestyle choices playing a pivotal role. 

While the UK offers benefits like quality education and healthcare, it also presents challenges such as high university tuition fees and city center living costs. Whether you buy or rent a house, carefully considering your financial situation and long-term plans is crucial. 

For more detailed information, don’t hesitate to explore the link in the article to help you plan your budget effectively and make informed decisions. 

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