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Study in London - how much to budget for living costs?

(20 Posts)
mathanxiety Wed 05-Nov-14 19:56:29

DD2 is in university in the US and has a chance to study in London for a year. She hasn't nailed down any financial details yet but is pretty sure from reading the study abroad brochure that her financial aid package will cover tuition/fees, books, food and rent/halls plus transatlantic travel money and 'sundries' (though those two items are generally underestimated ime).

The grey area is walking-around money/living expenses above the normally underestimated 'sundries', and money to possibly allow a bit of very low cost travel in Europe. My understanding is that she won't be permitted to work while there.

My question is, how much would the average frugal student spend on snacks/ tea (no coffee for DD2)/ clothing/ footwear/ toiletries/ tampons/ cheap haircuts/ occasional cinema and cheap eating out/ British phone/ interrail/train-boat-Ryanair to Dublin to see the many Irish rellies (no accommodation costs in Ireland)/ and travel costs within Britain to see various sites (youth hostel accommodation anticipated). DD2 is used to a tight budget and supports herself completely for that sort of expense right now.

EmpressOfJurisfiction Thu 06-Nov-14 13:02:58

Don't know about the whole budget, but I do have some suggestions on how your DD2 can save money over here.

For travel within London, a student Oyster card would be cheapest, and for travel within Britain, she could get a student railcard for £30 that will give her 1/3 off train fares for a year.

@SkintLondon on Twitter often give useful info about free / cheap entertainment, restaurant offers and hairdressers looking for models for free haircuts.

Primark are great for decent cheap clothes. I think if she can get an NUS card from her university over here (National Union of Students) that could be good for discounts in some places too.


Lunastarfish Thu 06-Nov-14 13:09:31

More than you think then triple that sum!!

Artandco Thu 06-Nov-14 13:19:58

I would say £100 a week.

She can survive on less, so saving each portion of that will allow for travel.

-£20 a week travel ( bus only, more on tube)
-£10 a week on odd snack out, toiletries, extra food at home
-£10 a week for cinema/ odd cheap clothing item ( cinema is about £9/10 in London so if she went one week, she wouldn't buy clothes etc). Some places offer deals on old films/ wierd times etc
-£20 on socialising/ hair cuts/ medical prescriptions/ dentist etc. Again if she needed one she would have I not do others.

So approx £60 ish most weeks would get her what she needed. £40 left each week for travel/ larger spends ie if she needs new shoes prob over clothing budget/ dentist bill higher if problem found etc

mathanxiety Thu 06-Nov-14 19:15:40

Thank you!

This is wonderful.
She is definitely a frugal student and tends to take her studies seriously so she wouldn't be spending a lot of time shopping or entertaining herself. This would mean she wouldn't be spending a huge amount either. Plus she is hard to fit and shopping gets her a bit dispirited so she tends to avoid it unless she really needs something.

It struck us when we were chatting last night that she can get an Irish passport based on my nationality (DD1 already has one) and might possibly be able to get some sort of part time job or do evening babysitting or tutoring. She has a part time job at the moment in a campus library and has worked in a law firm doing receptionist/secretarial stuff.

EmpressOfJurisfiction Thu 06-Nov-14 19:57:35

There are discount shops that sell branded toiletries for £1 or less, and not drinking coffee will definitely make life cheaper!

mathanxiety Fri 07-Nov-14 00:33:40

She gave up coffee a few months ago because she thought it was doing a number on her - headaches and cramping after her morning cup - and has been amazed how much more money is left in her account weekly as a result smile.

Needmoresleep Fri 07-Nov-14 15:09:45

DS is pretty frugal and is more than coping on £100 pw. However do factor in that it is really worth making the most of being in London. A student card will give good discounts, but if you also want to be a bit of tourist it adds up.

Day tickets for the National Theatre are about £10, there are some wonderful exhibitions, concerts etc. A huge array of historic buildings. DS has just been to a sporting event with school friends and to a major exhibition at Excel with University friends, neither of which will have been particularly cheap. He has luckily done most of the "London stuff" as a child. If you are only in London for a year there is a heap of things you should not miss.

Also be warned that some hall food is pretty awful. However supermarkets in the UK tend to sell a good variety of reasonably inexpensive and healthy food.

mathanxiety Fri 07-Nov-14 15:41:22

She is well used to pretty unpalatable university food. Tbh, I am not the world's most imaginative or able cook so her expectations were not high on the food front, setting off to university..

She would love to see as much of London as possible, and possibly do some travel. Last year her combined income from a summer job and her part time job in university came to about $5k, and she is hopeful that a similar income spread over this school year and next summer could see her through even allowing for losing on the exchange rate. I gather she would be setting sail for London for the 2015/16 school year, which will be her third of four years of university so she has time to cut back and save as much as she can to give herself a little nest egg.

Decorhate Sat 08-Nov-14 16:33:26

As well as allowing her to work, getting an Irish passport will possibly make it easier for her to travel within Europe & may save on visas where necessary

MillyMollyMama Mon 10-Nov-14 15:11:01

London is expensive for students. The problem is that not doing things with other students, eg having coffee, going out for meals etc.will mean she gets isolated. That will not be good. She also needs to try and live close to the University. Travelling costs will mount up otherwise. Yes, there are cheap flights but you have to get to the airports. That is not cheap either. DD is at university in London - what University food? No canteen at her University becuase it is not campus. Check exactly where she is going. I honestly do not think it is possible to be frugal in London and have a life. All the exhibitions and historic buildings charge, although there are small student reductions. The money you mention is Ok if you intend to be a bit of a hermit. If you really do want to see things and go places, I do not think it is enough.

mathanxiety Mon 10-Nov-14 22:27:05

Yes, I think the Irish passport would definitely make travel easier. DD1 found this to be the case, and also that she was able to get EU student rates for museum admission. She was also able to open a bank account very easily when she spent a semester in Paris a few years ago, without all the rigmarole the Internal Revenue Services forces upon non-US banks when US citizens try to open foreign accounts. What she did possibly trod a fine line as far as the IRS was concerned, but heyho.

I think for the purposes of spending a full year in London a bank account for DD2 would be necessary. If she worked then she would declare income and file taxes in both the UK and US (and might need to file in Ireland too but I can look into that) but it's likely she wouldn't make enough to reach the tax threshold, or would qualify for a refund of US taxes. She might need to make quarterly social security payments and tax installments if self employed (babysitter, house sitting, dogwalking, tutoring secondary level students, etc), but if she worked in the sort of job she has now, with an employer then her life would be simpler and so would mine, come tax time (I do her taxes at the moment).
Just sort of thinking out loud here...

The university she has her eye on is LSE and as far as she knows there are halls with the option of catered or self catering. If she couldn't get a room in a hall then I would not advise that particular university and would tell her to try for some place where halls and a certain modicum of campus life is available. The expense is part and parcel of being a major tourist city I suppose, though the city she is in right now is incredibly chi chi and she hasn't had time to see most of the attractions even though they are free (DC) partly because she has a lot of work to do with lectures and papers and her job, and partly because she has plunged into a political party/women's rights and is very involved in rallies, organising speakers, meetings, etc, (and would like to do similar in London).

MillyMollyMama Tue 11-Nov-14 14:08:04

Taxation is paid at source here unless you are self-employed. A bank account is a good idea.

LSE does appear to guarantee a room for students coming from aborad for the year so that is good news. However, these are residences (living accommodation only) and LSE is not a "campus" as such. It will have students spread out all over London, as well as in the halls, and about 50% of the students there come from abroad anyway. Plenty more will live at home. You would need to check the meal arrangements, if any, at the halls and where she will be taught. If there is a refectory, it will be subsidised.

If she is into Politics, it is best to join the Students Union and any other political group there that takes her fancy. LSE say they have over 200 clubs so there will be something that suits. Be wary of student rallies here. They can have undesirable agitators who attach themselves to the rallies and everyone ends up being arrested or "kettled" by the Police, ie not allowed to move for 6-7 hours. Really best to avoid anything like this and student rallies tend to be pretty rare here for that reason. The Police will take pictures of you and it can influence future employment.

Ryanair use the outlying airports, Stansted, Luton, etc. so you have to budget to travel there. You can do do cheap eats out for about £8-£10 plus a drink. It really would b a shame if she did not go out with new friends because that is one of the reasons for being in London. Students tend to go out quite regularly. My DD works whilst at University in London, but employers can be quite demanding regarding the hours they want you to work any my DD would not be finding time to travel in term time. If she wants more flexible work, babysitting can pay quite well. Tutoring might be more difficult unless she knows the British syllabuses. You will not get a haircut for £20 in central London, probably not even £50. Go to the cheaper outlying areas for that. You can take out a phone contract or do "pay as you go". PAYG is more expensive and calls home may well cost a fortune, so skype maybe? Entry to exhitibions is usually about £10 for students but obviously there are free galleries. The main tourist attractions charge, including the Cathedrals. If she needs any dentistry work, then probably £100 minimum as she will almost certainly have to be a private patient but best to sort aything out before she gets here.
I think the main thing about studying abroad is to make friends. My DD1 had a terrific time when she did it in Europe but going with the flow is a good idea and being flexible with your travel ideas helps too or you might be doing a lot on your own. Don't come with too many pre-conceived ideas.

Needmoresleep Tue 11-Nov-14 15:59:29

May I disagree with just about everything MMM has said:

1. With the opening of the Saw Swee Hock Centre LSE has quite a strong campus feel, and some of the best student facilities in London. LSE Halls are mainly 20-30 minutes walk away, which in London terms is good. Most are half board, so breakfast and evening meal. Most "junior year abroad" students seem to go into hall.

2. LSE, because it specialises in social science, will have lots of students interested in politics, plus there is scope to attend other things in London, eg watch Parliamentary debates. From DS' experience there are lots of voluntary lectures on a host of subjects, eg some run by LSE-TED. LSE has one of the biggest programmes of public lectures anywhere. The Students Union may be political but my impression is that it has a far more administrative function, eg running a shop and other commercial activities, than it did in my day.

3. LSE had 50% overseas students in my day. The proportion is higher now, especially if you add in non UK EU students. It is hugely international.

4. I find the comments about student rallies and "undesirable agitators" odd. By and large the LSE student body is very career orientated with a depressing number wanting for work for Goldman Sachs. (And an impressive number managing to do so.) There were demonstrations in Central London about 4 years ago about student fees. However with a student body largely composed of students from elsewhere, more than 50% post-graduate, plus a larger proportion of richer students, though LSE students would have been represented I doubt they were in the forefront. Indeed from observation the demonstrators seemed to include a lot of older school children and young adults over the age of 25.

5. My understanding, and it was discussed at the parents briefing day which included a number of US parents dropping their children off, is that US students are offered a specific tailored health insurance package which gives access to private medical care and dentistry. At the same time they can register with the NHS so have free access to the LSE medical centre and to NHS Emergency Room (A&E) treatment and presumably NHS dentistry. I am not 100% because the Americans themselves seemed confused by the concept of "free" medical care. It seemed they had hitherto only heard bad things about the British health system and so were surprised and despite many questions, not completely reassured that coverage would be adequate.

My DS is now very busy doing a wide variety of academic and non academic things. We have been giving him £100 per week but he seems to have plenty left over to pay for one off events and sports society trips which will add to his overall University experience. But as I said up thread worth making sure your DD can also afford to do some tourist things.

DrinkFeckArseGirls Tue 11-Nov-14 16:13:46

Supercuts do very good haircuts for £15.

Needmoresleep Tue 11-Nov-14 16:35:56

Or find a Cypriot barber! Or a fellow student who is offering to cut hair. Alternatively central London hairdressers often look for "models" for their trainees to practice on.

Employment should not be a problem. Lots of casual work like being a waiter for a catering company. Or regular hotel, shop or bar work. Legally it suits employers to give employees limited hours as it prevents various employee benefits kicking in.

Tutoring again should not be a problem. There are a lot of affluent ex-pat Americans living in London, who seem culturally more inclined to support education via tutoring. There are a number of tutoring agencies as well as schools following the American system. Phone calls should not be a problem either. You can buy a cheap phone and PAYG SIM from a supermarket like Tescos plus there are lots of adverts for SIMs offering cheap overseas calls (Lebara etc). However there will be wifi both at the LSE and in hall so Skype is the way to go.

In short once accommodation is paid for, students usually manage to find ways to live well and cheaply.

mathanxiety Tue 11-Nov-14 21:19:44

During the time of the US healthcare debate a few years ago the NHS was portrayed as an institution that leaves patients to die miserable deaths while waiting on its Dickensian style lists. However, DD is well versed on the NHS and wouldn't hesitate to avail of it.

We skype and facetime right now and she keeps up with her old high school friends this way too as they are a far-flung bunch. Really what she would need a phone for would be for local contact and contact with my mother in Dublin who refuses to get a computer. We have relatives in London and hopefully she could keep in touch with them too (though they are a lot more up to date than her grandmother).

The guinea pig hairstyling is an idea she might well take up too. At the moment I sort of shear her very long and curly hair when she comes home at Christmas and in the summer.

She's an outgoing girl and friendly soul, and not 100% American so she has something of an inside track which might be a help to her in settling in and making the most of it.

This information is extremely helpful, and thank you one and all.

Figmentofmyimagination Wed 12-Nov-14 18:14:14

Here's a good tip. Tell her to sign up to BBC be in the audience alerts. Here is the link.
You get to watch loads of great comedy radio shows being recorded - for free - all you have to do is clap - you can bring your own sandwiches - nobody cares - and go on your own if you haven't anyone to go with - again nobody will notice - and the venues are all right in the centre.

Figmentofmyimagination Wed 12-Nov-14 18:26:08

LSE is indeed depressingly career oriented - and with a disproportionally large number of extraordinarily wealthy students - especially the graduates. It is the "go to" uk university for extremely wealthy Russian and Chinese graduates. I did a masters there 4 years ago and I was a bit sad to find that the main focus seemed to be matching students to jobs in investment banking etc. if she wants political engagement, I suspect that today's LSE would disappoint. There are a lot of high profile public talks there though, hosting "world class" speakers etc - but they are often public so no need to be at LSE to sign up.

mathanxiety Wed 12-Nov-14 20:52:18

No shortage of extremely wealthy students where she is right now. I can't imagine being in university and money being no object, and it was an eye opener for her when she first went that undergrads were booking first class tickets home to Dubai via Zurich when she was looking at Amtrak (17 hours home) vs Southwest with stopovers in Atlanta, Buffalo and Oklahoma City and a change of plane in Buffalo when she was trying to plan her trip home for Christmas. She does love high profile public talks and goes to as many as she can, so that is good to know.

Going to radio shows would be a really interesting way to see British culture. Thank you for that tip. I might do that myself if I ever have an afternoon in London!

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