Cash Pros and Money Woes in the UK

Written by  January 3, 2019

How far can your finances stretch during your time abroad?

It's been three months of living in England and I can say without a doubt I am broke AF.

It's common knowledge that the financial cost of living in the UK can be summer up in two words: extremely expensive. Whatever savings I initially had depleted far quicker than I could have anticipated while trying to see as much as I could.

Yet, I'm still naive enough to think that anywhere is accessible to live if you budget yourself correctly. Against all advice, I believe I will be able to have a comfortable existence while on my working holiday. I’m gathering a general consensus from the native English and fellow visa community on just how people get by.

What everyone finds to be true is that unless you are well-off or have some arrangement, you will end up living with other people. This is an odd and new concept for me, finding a spare room with complete strangers and hoping that you are still able to take your sweet time shaving in the shower. There are houses with more than five people sharing one bathroom—and that’s still at a steep price.

One guy I lived with was damn near a vampire; I never saw him cook or shower, he just retreated to his room engulfed in a thick cloud of smoke.

It is all part of the experience though; you never know who you will meet. One guy I lived with was damn near a vampire; I never saw him cook or shower, he just retreated to his room engulfed in a thick cloud of smoke. Others you see all the time, become immediate buddies and get the feeling you are living in a long-term party hostel. You begin to feel differently about space, as there usually isn’t much of it, but you get used to it and adopt the very hip concept of minimalism pretty quickly. At the moment, I’m looking at single bedrooms (single bed) outside of the city centre with a shared bathroom for about £125 (roughly $225 CDN) a week.

I have found that other living expenses are wildly cheaper than back home. If I was in Canada and saw a phone plan advertised with 16GB of data and unlimited minutes for $30, I would think the marketing team forgot to add a zero. There are plans in the UK with unlimited data for under £40 ($70). Like what?! Unheard of!

Groceries are also dirt cheap, if you ask me. Just comparing a cucumber I would buy for $1 only costs £0.30 ($0.50) here. Buying at big chains like Tesco (which is on the same level as shopping at Walmart for groceries) may not be the best quality, but even organic or farm-fresh produce is comparatively cheaper. I can eat super clean and abundant on £20 ($35) a week.

Although it is all relative. If I were making the same amount as at home, but in pounds it would be pretty breezy getting by. However I have found the wages here to be quite low in comparison. The minimum wage here is not as forgiving at £7.80 ($13.50) for 25 and over.

From a dollars and cents (or pounds and pence) perspective, it has been an interesting test of adaptation. It is hard to make the adjustment from spending like you are on vacation, to then turning on the frugal switch and not converting money in your head anymore. The housing situations can be less than ideal, but also the most fun and comforting knowing that we are all just ordinary people working hard to make a living.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Amanda Belcourt

Amanda Belcourt is a Canadian with big hair and big dreams of living abroad. Now situated in the UK, she plans on documenting her experience to hopefully inspire others to travel as well.

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