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Money diary: Average budget for living in St Andrews

Over the summer I was obsessed with the Money Diaries from Refinery29 and love the idea to be more frank and transparent with budgets and money. After writing my money diary on saving as an immigrant, I thought I would continue in the same vein!  Mixing expat posts with money talk, to further my money diary series with posts on budgets for expats to Scotland.

 In the coming weeks, I will be sharing my budget for living in 3 different places in Scotland. The aim of this is hopefully to give an idea to people of how much it costs to live here – especially if you’re looking to move here yourself! As we’ve lived in St Andrews, Edinburgh and Stirling, those are the three towns I’ll tackle in these upcoming posts.

I’m starting today with St Andrews as this is where I first moved to Scotland (over 6 years ago now!). It’s extremely likely that if you are reading this and thinking of moving to St Andrews, it will be to study. As I was myself a student in St Andrews, this budget will be based on being a student.

Let’s start by saying that St Andrews is extremely expensive, one of the most expensive places in the UK to live as a student (only outranked by London). But don’t let that scare you!  It’s also a town where it’s feasible to be on a budget if you spend some time thinking about it.

Being a student gives a lot benefits, from council tax exemption, to having bills covered by accommodation fees (in some cases), to subsidised events and gym memberships. There aren’t a lot of shops in St Andrews either, so this provides less opportunities to spend your money on stuff you may not need – although the online shopping game can be very strong.

First, let’s tackle my big monthly spendings:

Rent = £600 per month for my room in a private flat managed by university accommodation. The average rent is apparently at £580 at the moment in St Andrews, but it can get much higher in the city centre, and much lower a 10-30 mins walk away. 
Energy bills = circa £50 per month
Council tax = £0 (exempt as a full-time student)
TV licence = £0 (no tv in our flat)
Broadband = £0 (covered in accommodation fees)
Mobile = £10 (sim only)
Food shops = About £25-35 per week, so averaging £120 per month as a single person.
Eating out = £60 per month
Gym = £140 per year for students at the uni gym (that’s just below £12 a month)

This brings the total to around £850.

A basic living of £850 per month is quite hefty as a student but it’s feasible to do it for less of course. The biggest items are obviously rent and food.  My biggest tip would be to try to get cheaper rent by getting flatmates and living a bit out of town. Get a bike and it’ll be easy enough to get into town quickly.

This price obviously doesn’t include all over life admins and activities, like new clothes or beauty products, social clubs costs, attending events, day trips, gifts, books and stationery, trips home, insurance, or transportation to and from the town. However a lot of these are one off costs that come and go.

My first month in St Andrews I spent upwards of £1,000 because I had to buy duvets and items for the flat, pay up front for the yearly gym membership, membership to the dance society, get a new mobile, etc. But it went down massively after that.

Also, if you’re going for university accommodation, the bad and great thing about it is that accommodation fees usually need to be paid up front, at the beginning of the year or each semester. So while my savings disappeared quickly, it meant that my real monthly basic budget was closer to £300. Which made it much easier to budget!

Just like in Money Diaries, I wanted to give you an idea of what an average day looked like for me and how I spent:

8-9am Wake up and drink a smoothie before heading to the gym with a friend. It’s a 20-min walk down to the athletic centre. We often see some students wearing pearls come out of a cab to go run on a treadmill.

10-11am Head into a seminar for a few hours, belly grumbling from not having had real food yet.  After class, head home and eat something. Probably watch a little Netflix before doing readings for my seminars.

1-2 pm On the way back from lunch, I would buy lunch from Tesco or a nearby cafe. At the beginning of the year I would go do a weekly shop at Morrison’s but that kind of stopped halfway through the year. £5

Afternoon Usually spend time at home reading for my course, or at the library, studying. I’d often take some of that time to catch up with friends or watch some TV. 

7-8pm I’d usually have dinner at home though it became often I’d split dinner with friends at their flat, potluck style.

Midnight-1am go to bed.

As you can tell, it’s not daily life in St Andrews that costs a lot of money. Although take out food and popping into the shops every day can really add up. I mostly spent my money on trying new things, going on day trips and partaking in the various fun balls that different societies put on. I wanted to experience all the fun, taking full advantage of St Andrews, and I don’t regret anything!

Most of the time however, the tame reality of a postgrad student, my friends and I had low key hang outs that I loved so much more than the big expensive events. We would buy £5 bottles of wine from Tesco and have a long dinner party or watch a movie at each other’s flats. 

I will be doing Edinburgh next, but let me know if you have any feedback and want more details. I’ll also be preparing a classic Money Diary over an entire week in the coming weeks too. 

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