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12 findings from NatWest’s Student Living Index

Aug 02, 2016

12 findings from NatWest’s Student Living Index The Natwest Student Living Index is a survey of over 2000 university students. It looks at the income, money management and expenditure of students in 25 different university cities.

It’s worth noting that the survey only looked at a small sample of students from city universities. Some statistics won’t necessarily be representative of the cost of living in that particular city. If you’re deciding which city to study in you should take these figures with a pinch of salt. For instance, if students spend very little on alcohol in one city, it doesn’t necessarily mean that alcohol there is cheaper, nor that students there drink less! It’s worth looking at a wider range of data, such as that provided by Unistats before deciding where to live.

That aside, here are 12 key findings from 2016’s results!

1. Students in Portsmouth live in the most cost-effective city for students.

What makes a cost-effective city for students? Average student expenditure divided by average student income. Students in Portsmouth spent little over half (53%) of their income on accommodation and living costs, making it the most cost-effective city for students. By contrast, for students in Edinburgh the majority (83%) of their income was spent on covering living costs, making it the least cost-effective city for students. 

2. Students in London are paying below the national sample average for rent.

London has a reputation for being an expensive city to live in, so it may come as a surprise to discover that students living there spent less on rent than the average survey participant. London students spent just over £105 a week on rent, whilst the average survey participant spent £109. Find out about average weekly student rents.

3. Students in Oxford and Cambridge spend more than others on rent.

The survey found that Oxford was the most expensive city for students to live in, closely followed by Cambridge. Students in Oxford spent just over £135 a week on rent, and students in Cambridge £132.  Students in Belfast paid the least amount of rent, at just under £74 a week.

Because of the pros and cons of different accommodation it’s worth taking time to think about whether you want to live at home or away, in halls or private accommodation and in a city or rural area. If you’ve already decided not to live at home, read our guide to finding student accommodation. You could save yourself some cash!

4. Students in London spend more than others on travel and eating out.

The cost of living in London is higher than anywhere else in Britain, so students studying in London are eligible for a bigger maintenance loan for this very reason! Read our guide to studying in London to get the lowdown on the pros and cons of London living – including its impact on your finances.

Regardless of where you go to university, try to avoid eating out regularly if you’re trying to save money. Remember that we have a whole guide to eating out on a budget for the occasions on which you do!

Travel’s a trickier expense. It’s often unavoidable, but you may be spending more money on transport than you need to. Read our top tips for university travel – you might decide to try a different mode of transport, such as cycling, as a result!

5. Students in Newcastle spend more than others on alcohol.

Students in Newcastle spent on average just over £9 on alcohol per week, and the average weekly spend for all students was just under £7. By contrast, students in Birmingham spent the least amount of money on alcohol, at just over £4 a week. Read our guide to understanding alcohol to get a sense of how much alcohol is too much. It might save you money (and health problems) in the future.

6. Students in Edinburgh spend more than others on going out.

Students in Edinburgh spent just over £1.50 more than the average survey participant on going out - £8.19 a week in comparison to the national average of £6.65. Students in Cardiff spent the least - £4.69 a week, just under £2 less than the national average. Read our ideas for a cheap night out and remember to stay safe whilst partying.

7. Students in Brighton spend more than others on household bills.

Household bills were the second biggest expense for students, beaten only grocery costs. Students in Brighton were spending significantly more than the average survey participant - £14.92 a week as opposed to the average £9.65. Students living in Reading got the best deal, spending only £6.35 a week. Want to get the best rate possible? Read our guide to paying household bills. Living in halls? You may still be able to lower your costs.

8. Students in Manchester and Belfast work more hours part-time than others.

Part-time work was the fourth highest source of income for survey participants, with students earning on average £19.17 a week from a job. Students in Manchester and Belfast were working the most, working 8.16 and 8.13 hours a week respectively. That’s over 2 hours more than the average student! Students in Cambridge were working the fewest hours part-time – 2.72 hours a week. It’s worth noting that Oxford and Cambridge students are advised against undertaking part-time work during term time.

If you’re thinking looking for work read our guide to earning money whilst at university. Just make sure to avoid these money-making scams!

9. Students spend most of their weekly income on groceries.

Students surveyed were spending, on average, just under £20 a week a week on groceries. That seems indulgent given this woman lived on one pound a day for a year!

 If you’d like to spend less on groceries – and you’re not quite ready to join the £1 club! - read our guide to student shopping on a budget. Strapped for time as well as cash? Make these cheap meals in a matter of minutes.

10. Students’ incomes come mainly from student loans.

Unsurprisingly, most of the students’ income came from student loans. The average student questioned received just over £161 from Student Finance a week. The Bank of Mum and Dad also proved popular, with parents or family being the second largest contributors, at just over £40 a week. Of course, not everyone can depend on parents for financial contributions. Find out what to do if your parents won’t support your student finance application or what you may be eligible for if you're estranged from or independent of your parents. You might get extra financial support like bursaries and scholarships, which were the third most important source of income for students surveyed. There are some aimed specifically at those going to university after leaving care and higher education students in general.

11. Students working in Portsmouth had the highest term-time income.

The comparatively high income of students living in Portsmouth goes some way in explaining why it’s so cost-effective to live in. The average student income in Portsmouth was £1,516.98, whereas the average student sampled received £1,193.15. Students in Sheffield had the lowest income, at £934.38 – well below the national average. It’s worth noting that out of the students surveyed, those in Portsmouth had a significantly higher income from part-time work than those in Sheffield, and worked more hours during term time.

12. Students don’t stick to their budgets!

 Shockingly, only 21% of students surveyed budgeted ‘carefully’ and kept track of what they spent. 40% of students claimed they tried to budget but didn’t ‘always stick to it’. 33% said they didn’t budget at all! Luckily, only 6% students said they didn’t ‘consider’ how they spent their money. It’s never too late to start budgeting.