If you’re thinking of moving to London, or perhaps you’ve just arrived here in the city, you might be asking yourself- what salary do you need to earn to live in London comfortably? You might be wondering how people get by in the most expensive city in the country, especially when you account for inflation and the recent increased cost of living.
The crux of it, is that the salary you need to live in London comfortably, will vary depending on your circumstances. What is comfortable for a single 22 year old in a house share will look very different to a married mother or father with two children and a mortgage.
📢 The good news is, we surveyed over 200 Londoners to get their thoughts on what you need to earn to live in London comfortably. The answers were vast, and varied between £30k and £200k per year!
But what was the most common answer? Let’s dive in and find out!
What’s the average salary in London?
Before we jump into the survey results, it’s important to check in and discuss the actual average salary in London to add some context. According to Statista, in 2023, the median earnings for a full time employee in London is £44,370.
This salary is across all age groups and across all areas of Greater London. Of course, this is an average. Meaning that many Londoners survive on a much lower, and much higher salary too. It takes into account those straight out of uni, and those with board-level positions.
My experience as a Londoner
As a Londoner, I moved to the capital on a £23k salary in 2016 to work as an Account Coordinator. In my last position of full time employment in 2022, I earned a £55k salary as a Senior Brand Manager.
On £23k and living in a house share
So how did I fare? Living in London on a £23k salary (even back in 2016) was difficult. I was able to get promoted to a managerial position within 9 months and boost my salary to £30k, but even so, those first 9 months were not easy when it came to money.
When I first moved to London I wanted to enjoy living in the city, meet new people, and make new friends. That of course meant spending money. So how did I get around that? As well as budgeting (I recommend Snoop as a great free budgeting app), I also started a side hustle which involved selling hand embroidered t-shirts on Etsy. It was small money, but it gave my finances a boost each month and kept me out of debt.
On £55k and living with my husband in a 1 bed rental
Laughably, when my (now) husband and I moved into this 1 bed rental, our rent was about the same as it was when we lived in separate house shares. The only difference? We had moved to the nice leafy neighbourhood of West London which was a far cry from what we were used to. We had the same monthly costs, but our own rental home together in a much nicer area of London.
I think this illustrates how much the single tax can impact the monthly cost of living as a Londoner. Having a partner to split rent and bills with can hugely benefit your living environment and your bank balance.
I felt comfortable living on a £55k salary in London, and I was able to save, invest, go on holiday and enjoy myself (within reason).
What salary to you need as a single person living in a house share?
Houseshare platform Spareroom reported that the average cost of renting a room in a houseshare in London in Q3 2023 was £989 per month. When you factor in bills, commuting costs, and the average grocery spend in London on top of that, you need well over £1,000 a month for essential costs alone.
To enjoy a standard of living where you can travel to see friends and family, spend some money on socialising, entertainment and hobbies, you’ll also need some disposable income each month. So where does that leave us?
Of the 225 people surveyed about what salary you need to live in London comfortably, 10 said that they thought that you could comfortably get by on £30k, but 45 people thought that you needed between £33-45k to have a comfortable standard of living in London.
What salary do you need as a couple in a rental?
As mentioned earlier, when you can split costs as a couple, the pressure is taken off a little bit financially. You can split rent, bills, groceries and pretty much all essential living costs.
Unfortunately, the rental market in London is not set up well for single people earning the average wage in London. The average price of a rental in London is a whopping £2,192 a month in 2023. Of course, the average rent on a one bedroom flat will be lower than this (in my real life example of expenses in London, I share that my one bedroom rental in Chiswick cost £1,343 per month) but when you factor in all utilities split between a couple, the cost of living quickly adds up.
The most common answer to the question: what salary do you need to live in London comfortably? Was £60k, with 45 people out of 225 believing that this was the amount you need for a comfortable lifestyle in the city. As a couple, you might find that £50k each, or a combined total of £100k allows you to live comfortably, depending on your outgoings.
What salary do you need to support a family and buy a home?
When you factor children into the cost of living in London, you might find that you need a much higher salary to support them, any parental leave, and the costs of raising a child. In fact, the average of raising a child in the UK in 2023 is £938 per month. I’m willing to bet the true cost of raising a child in London is higher than that.
Taking into account the cost of raising a child, and the fact that the average price of a home in London in the last 12 months (Nov 2023) was £726,047, you’re looking and some expensive monthly costs.
The mortgage repayments on a property costing £726,047, with a 10% deposit and assuming a 6% interest rate, is £4,215 per month on a 25 year mortgage. Add bills, groceries and discretionary spending and you’re looking at needing a high household income to support a family in London. The 20 people surveyed who said you need to earn £100k a year to be comfortable are not far off the mark!
If you’re reading the above and worrying about the high cost of living in London, do remember that the figures stated are averages. There is no doubt that people live in London and enjoy a comfortable standard of living on a variety of salaries.
Everyone’s definition of ‘comfortable’ is different, and what you define as comfortable will depend on your own individual circumstances and aspirations. For example, a £50k salary might be comfortable for someone in their 20s renting a room in a house share, but not someone with a two children and a mortgage in London.
Raising a family in London means that there’s a whole lot more at play when it comes to a comfortable standard of living. If you have one or more children, there is significant costs involved in childcare, space, and lifestyle that you may need to provide and therefore a higher salary is required in order to feel comfortable.
What is a good salary in London?
A good salary in London depends on your outgoings as an individual. Are you a single person looking to rent a one bedroom flat by themselves? Are you looking to buy a home and raise a family? In my opinion a salary of £50-60k is a good salary for a young professional. It’s certainly above the London average of £44,370. But for someone with aspirations to buy a home and have children, you’ll need a higher salary.
Is £50k enough to live on in London?
You can definitely live off £50k in London. In fact, 34 people out of 225 people we surveyed said that they thought that you could live comfortably on £50k in London. That said, 45 people out of the 225 surveyed thought that you needed £60k.
If you can keep the costs of your home and utility bills low (and not live in central London), £50k is enough to live in London within reason, especially if you are sharing living costs with a partner.
Is £40k a good salary in London?
The median average salary in London is £44,370, so in these terms, a £40k salary is a little below average. However 23 of the 225 people that we surveyed said that they thought that you could live comfortably in London on £40k.
If you’re a young professional, living in a house share, you may find that by controlling your expenses and living in a cheaper area of London, you can live relatively comfortably on a £40k salary.
But in real terms? Considering that the average cost of renting a room in London is nearly £1,000, you may find that your expenses could creep into uncomfortable territory.
Can you survive London on a £30k salary?
In my opinion, you may be able to survive in London on a £30k salary, but you may not be able to enjoy yourself very much, and you’ll probably have very little disposable income on this low salary. Living in London on a low income is doable, and many people do it, but my advice would be to find a way to supplement your income asap to avoid getting into debt.
That said, 10 people out of the 225 people we interviewed said that they thought you could live on £30k comfortably as a single person. So perhaps it’s a case of doing the work to find some very affordable housing, and keep costs very low while you live in the city.