Let’s face it; the United Kingdom is an expensive place to live. The cost of living is high, and wages are often low compared to other developed countries. However, some things are cheaper in the UK than they are in the US. Whether you are looking to move here for work or for pleasure, here are some things to keep in mind that will help you save some money.
There are plenty of things that are cheaper in the UK compared to the US. However, the ones that stand out most include:
- Medical supplies and pharmaceuticals
- Food items (chocolate, tea, and specific liquor)
Other than the products listed above, anything manufactured in the UK or within the EU is generally cheaper than the US in the UK. However, this isn’t always the case. If you’re looking forward to great deals when you travel, below is an in-depth look at items and services you may want to check out.
What is cheaper in the UK vs. the US?
According to statistics, the UK spends 8% of its GDP on healthcare, while the US spends almost twice as much at 15%. You’d expect Americans to enjoy better and more affordable healthcare.
However, that can’t be further from the truth. Both countries have vastly different healthcare systems. While the US healthcare system is mainly run by for-profit, charitable, and non-profit organizations, the UK system is almost entirely run by the government.
As a result, healthcare costs are much cheaper in the UK than in the US. For instance, the average American spends upwards of $10,000 a year on healthcare. On the other hand, the Average Brit spends just under $4,000 (£2,989).
However, most of what people in the UK pay in annual health costs is collected as tax without additional out-of-pocket expenses.
However, in the US, it’s a mix of insurance, co-pays, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. Additionally, the data shows that the outcome of healthcare in the UK is far less variable than in the US.
For instance, despite the lower budget, life expectancy and mortality rates in the UK are higher and lower, respectively, compared to the US.
Similarly, while only about 84% of Americans can afford medical insurance, in the UK, everyone other than tourists is covered and can access medical care at a fraction of the cost in the US.
The only upside of the American system is it’s more responsive than the UK system. Otherwise, the UK takes the win hands down.
When people think of things that are cheaper in the UK compared to the US, one of the things that come to mind first is education. The US has hit the headlines multiple times with its eye-watering college tuition fees.
The government caps tuition fees at approximately £9,250 ($11,445) annually in the UK. On the other hand, the US government has no say on how much university tuition costs in America, leaving colleges to determine what to charge.
As a result, the average annual cost of a university education in the US is well over $36,000. That cost can go well past $50,000 if you enroll in some prestigious universities such as Harvard, MIT, or Standford.
Of course, most of these costs only apply to residents and citizens, as international students often pay much higher. Additionally, when considering the cost of education, it’s essential to factor in accommodation.
For both countries, the cost of housing will vary significantly depending on the location of the campus and scholarships available. For instance, while parents in the UK often have to pay for housing separately, many colleges in the US include housing costs in their fee structures.
Another factor that makes the cost of education in the UK cheaper than in the US is that an undergraduate degree in the UK takes 3 years to complete. The equivalent in the US takes 4 years, which means an extra year in tuition and living costs.
However, it’s important to note that, unlike the UK system, the US college education system is 3-tiered as follows:
- Private universities
Some of the most prestigious US colleges fall under this category. Their annual tuition costs are approximately $32,231 (£20,847).
- Public universities
The cost to attend these colleges differs depending on whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. State residents pay approximately $9,139 (£5,911), while students from other states pay 2.5X more!
- Community colleges
Community colleges are the most affordable of all, with approximate tuition costs of about $3,347 (£2,164). However, you can only get an associate degree here and then transfer to a university for an undergraduate.
3. Medical Supplies and Pharmaceuticals
Like healthcare, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are prohibitively more expensive in the US than in the UK. Additionally, it’s also much harder to buy them over the counter as most pharmacies in the US require a prescription for something as basic and standard as diclofenac.
For instance, it’s impossible to get a Nos-steroidal Inflammatory in the US without a prescription. So, you’ll have to factor in the cost of a doctor’s visit to get the prescription and then dig deeper into your pocket to pay for the medicine.
To put it into more perspective, Fluconazole Tablets will cost you $50 of insurance co-pay in the US, while in the UK, you’ll only need $4 to get them from a Tesco Pharmacy. Even better news for UK residents is that medicine such as Fluconazole doesn’t require a prescription.
4. Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bars
Chocolate is a favorite treat for people across the world. Whether you just like to snack on it, use it for desserts and culinary experiences, or would like to surprise a loved one with a bar, few things are as endearing as this sweet confectionery.
Chocolate is another item that’s significantly cheaper in the UK compared to the US. At the time of writing this, a 100g (approximately 3.5oz) of Cadbury milk chocolate was going for £2.99 ($3.69) in the UK, while the equivalent would set you back £5.26 ($6.50).
That’s nearly double the price in the US compared to the UK. Still, based on the experience of Britons who’ve tasted American-made Cadbury chocolate bars, the price might not be the only field where the British variant wins.
According to Brits who’ve had Hershey’s Cadbury dairy milk chocolate, the American version is nowhere near as creamy and mellow as the British version. In fact, reports indicate that the American version has more sugar.
On the other hand, the chocolate bar you find in the UK has more milk and more cocoa powder, giving it a much better taste. However, the taste of the two products is subjective depending on who you ask, although the fact that the ingredients and their amounts are different is indisputable, as the labels indicate.
5. Internet and Phone Plans
In today’s world, internet connectivity has almost become a basic need. As a result, every household needs a connection. Besides, a stable internet connection has proven instrumental in learning, running a business, and connecting with a global community.
However, internet costs across the world have yet to hit affordable levels. In the case of the US vs. the UK, data shows that broadband costs more in the US than in the UK.
A UK household spends an average of £39.75 ($49) per month on a dual service – a superfast fiber connection and a home phone (landline). On the other hand, US households spend about £51.90 ($64) per month on the internet alone.
Similarly, phone plans seem to be more affordable in the UK than in the US. For instance, a quick Google search revealed that a 40GB 5G plan with unlimited text and calls on UK’s EE network costs £30 ($37)a month.
On the other hand, it would set you back £32.42 ($40) + taxes to get AT&T’s plan with unlimited texts and calls, including to Canada and Mexico, albeit you’ll only get 15 GB of data!
It gets even worse when you consider that depleting your data on AT&T decreases browsing speed to 128Kbps, while on EE, you’ll have significantly faster speeds at 0.5 Mbps.
6. Sim Cards
Unlike in the US, getting a new sim card is easier and cheaper when you travel to the UK. As tiny as a sim card is, it’s a necessity if you want to enjoy affordable and uninterrupted communication services as you travel.
In the US, most phone service providers lock consumers in a contract that includes a sim card, a phone, and a data plan, and often, a new phone for which you’ll be paying monthly installments. This mode of operation makes it harder and more expensive to switch providers.
However, in the UK, sim cards are available for as little as £0.99 ($1.35) from any of Britain’s four providers (EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three).
Consequently, you can use the sim card on any unlocked phone. Fortunately, most phones are not tied to any service provider in the UK and are sold unlocked, so sim cards are also readily available.