Growing up I always assumed that adulthood entailed getting a job and buying a big house. It turns out that only part of that was right. I most definitely had to get a job but buying a big house was far from reality. Instead, I found myself spending hours on Right Move looking at overpriced, run down flats in London and having to work out to the penny how much money I’d have left for food once my rent and overheads were paid. When I first looked at renting I scoured the internet for hints, for someone to tell me how much I should be paying and what I could expect but found nothing on the subject that I could relate to. So here’s my pearl of wisdom.
I moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Tufnell Park London with a friend I met in student halls. We paid £1451 a month for this small two-bedroom space with a kitchen no bigger than that in a caravan and a washing machine that looked as though it came straight from the 60’s. The carpet was stained and smelt like stale smoke, the furnishings as basic as could have been provided but it was our first non-student accommodation and we were made up with it.
Renting isn’t cheap. It can be if you share with many people or you choose a less than prime location but to be in central London with easy access to the Northern line and not eating, sleeping and pooping in one room we had to pay a fair bit above the average.
Our monthly outgoings on a two bedroom flat were as follows:
(We halved everything, these numbers are what we paid as a whole)
Gas & Electric £48.30
Wifi – £32
Council Tax (With 25% discount as my flatmate was still a student) – £114
Water and sewerage – £140 every six months (£23.33 per month)
Total: £1668.60 per month (£834 each)
We chose not to have a TV and so did not pay for a TV license saving us £150.50 for the year.
On top of this, we had our personal outgoings, Netflix, Spotify, Phone Contracts, food, travel etc.
Needing to commute daily for work I quickly racked up around £120 a month on TFL fees alone.
My phone contract was £20, I paid £9.99 for Spotify and £7.99 for Netflix (+£50 a month into the overdraft left over from my final year). Bringing my total fundamental (if you can call Spotify fundamental) outgoings a month before food and any other expenses to £1041.98.
On top of this, I spent the remaining £250 a month (£62.50 a week) on my food shopping, any socialising, my travel home, expenses for work and any other business such as replacing wardrobe items and buying birthday/Christmas presents etc. It was tight. Very tight. And it still is now, as is the reality for many of us across the country. There’s no room for error living paycheck to paycheck, it can only take one mishap to throw you into the red again, budget well and put whatever you can aside and you may be able to avoid this.
Here are a few tips if you’re just starting out:
- Pay all your bills on the same day so you know what you have left to spend for the rest of the month
- Pay your gas and electricity by direct debit at a fixed monthly rate. Paying on a receipt of a bill will ensure you only pay for the energy you use but it also increases the chance of you missing the letter in the pile of post and makes it hard to estimate your monthly expenditure. Gas & electric bills can go up wildly in the winter and to keep a consistent budget I would highly recommend paying a fixed amount each month by direct debit.
- Use a price comparison site. Seriously, if you aren’t tied to a provider (we were sadly) then shop around for energy and broadband deals. We could have saved up to £30 a month if we hadn’t been tied to using one provider in our contract.
- If you’re flat-sharing set up direct debits to pay the money directly to your flatmate a few days before the bill is due to come out of theirs. As the flat mother and the payer of most of our bills, I really appreciated having the money in my account a few days earlier to ensure there was no chance of it not clearing in time and my account becoming overdrawn.
- Apply for help if you need it. For a short period of time when I first moved into my London accommodation, I was still on an interns salary and barely able to make my rent. Applying for council tax credit saved my bacon, literally. There are benefits out there to help people get started, research and make the most of them.
- Prioritise. I prioritised Netflix over a TV license as I watched more Netflix than I did TV. Makes sense right. Discovering your priorities will help you to budget for the things that mean the most to you.
- Keep a financial journal for a few months prior to moving out. This is a tip I wish I had done in hindsight. By tracking your financials for a few months you’ll see the areas you can cut back on and those that cost you the most money. Travel, for instance, is non-negotiable for me but my morning Starbucks was.
It’s important to remember that there are so many variables to your monthly outgoings and so its impossible to take my figures as a solid grounding for your own. But I hope that they can give some clarity to those embarking on their own journey.