FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in London? (As a Couple)

How much does it cost to live the FIRE life in London?

Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash

How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in London?

Hello, and welcome to interview #5 in the How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interview series! Part interview, part spending report, this series will introduce us to FIRE* seekers from all over the world.

They’ll reveal their essential spending and money-saving tips—all to help us learn new ways to save on our own expenses. As a bonus, we’ll also get to discover the unique advantages and challenges of living in different places around the globe.

*FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early. It’s also known as FI—financial independence. For more info, see my FI School series—it’ll teach you everything you need to know about FI (and FIRE).

About the interview series

I created an intro page for this interview series to help explain what it’s about, what’s included (or not) and why. I’ll also link to all the interviews from the intro page—so check back there to see the entire collection.

Jump to the series intro: How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life? (The Interview Series)

Disclosure: These interviews may include affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a commission if you make a purchase through my links—at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Interview #5: Lionel from London, England

In today’s interview, we’ll meet Lionel Piguet, who lives the FIRE life in London with his girlfriend. Lionel started his blog, Cent by Cent, in November 2020 where he writes about personal finance, productivity, and his journey to financial independence. 

Lionel’s also very active on Twitter, where he frequently shares interesting, thought-provoking tweets. (Follow him there for even more great content!) I hope you enjoy my interview with Lionel!

Part 1: Getting to know you

fire life london lionel
Interviewee Lionel Piguet from London

Tell us about yourself

I currently live in Zone 2 London with my girlfriend. We both work full time and share our expenses. We have been in this living situation since September 2020.

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

Our journey to FIRE only truly started in late 2019 as we got into investing and saw the potential for a financially free life!

What type of FIRE are you aiming for? (FIRE, Lean FIRE, or Fat FIRE*)

How Chrissy defines FIRE, Lean FIRE, and Fat FIRE

Some people define Lean FIRE as under $40k in annual spending; FIRE as $40–$100k in annual spending; and Fat FIRE as $100k+ in annual spending.

However, I prefer looser definitions that are not based on hard numbers. That’s because $100k could be Fat FIRE in a small Canadian town but Lean FIRE in San Francisco. That said, here are my definitions:

  • Lean FIRE: The essentials with little or no discretionary spending.
  • FIRE: The essentials plus a comfortable amount of discretionary spending.
  • Fat FIRE: The essentials plus a luxurious amount of discretionary spending.

My aim isn’t to retire as such but to build a secure financial net. Therefore if I had to define it it would be Lean FIRE the goal is to enable us to start our own businesses and be safe doing so.

Tell us about your living situation

We currently rent a 1-bedroom, 55 square metre (592 square foot) furnished apartment in the Zone 2 London. Currently, it’s just my partner and I sharing the apartment. 

London is very well connected. My commute by public transit is around 40 minutes and 15 minutes for my partner. We have 2 metro stations within 5 minutes and a bus stop 2 minutes away.

Why did you choose to live in London?

I used to live in a provincial town nearby but overall my cost of living was lowered by moving in with my partner in the city centre. It’s a great spot as a young person will see down the road.

Part 2: The expenses

In this section, Lionel shares his essential expenses and best money-saving tips. But before we get started, let’s review some important notes:

Important notes about the numbers

  • Only essential expenses are included.
  • Discretionary expenses  (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
  • Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar. 
  • Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
  • In this interview, the home currency is British Pounds—£.
  • For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter for each expense.

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

1. How much does housing cost in London?

living room yehleen gaffney unsplash
Photo by Yehleen Gaffney on Unsplash

Rent (£1,500/month; £18,000/year)

We benefited of the COVID-19 crisis to move and get an advantageous rent and netted a discount of £300 pcm (per calendar month). I would also look into the long term listings as they are more flexible on price.

Council tax (£62/month; £744/year)

We chose our borough based on the council tax as it’s the cheapest in London.

Note: Council tax is similar to property tax in Canada and the US. However, in England, it’s not necessarily the landlord who pays this tax. It depends on the situation, but it’s generally whoever lives in the property that’s responsible for paying the council tax.

Strata/HOA fees (£0)

HOA don’t exist as such in the UK, you get free reign on your property. There are rules to abide by in the building itself but all maintenance cost is managed by the landlord.

A strata is called a leasehold where someone else owns the land and rents it out to you for a nominal fee. This is taken care of by the landlord directly. If you were to earn part of the land it would be a free-hold.

Home insurance (£0)

Home insurance is taken in charge by the landlord. This only covers the building and the owners items. In our case as the flat was furnished we elected against tenants insurance. The likelihood of a fire or flood being low in our neighbourhood.

Home maintenance (£10/month; £120/year)

Note: this category includes home maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and improvements; household goods and supplies; furniture, appliances, computers and mobile devices.

We buy our supplies bulk and do our research for second hand appliances when it’s hygienically feasible.

2. How much does transportation cost in London?

transportation paris 16 flickr
Paris Shared Bike, Bus and Taxi Lane” by EURIST e.V. is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Vehicle insurance, gas, maintenance (£0)

Currently we don’t plan on getting a car as it would impair our geo-mobility. We are happy to use public transport and can borrow our friend’s car when needed. We would consider an electric vehicle eventually as they come with a lower cost of maintenance and are not required to pay emission tax.

Bike maintenance (£0)

Currently we do not own a bike but are on the fence of acquiring one. In our neighbourhood the council has set up free storage units which would reduce the cost of maintenance. I also suspect that we wouldn’t ride them enough to incur any cost.

Parking and tolls (£0)

We don’t have a car, but if we were to get one, the cost for parking in our area is £160 per year. If you drive an EV, charging is free in the street. Additionally, Highways are free to ride in the UK although it leads to pot holes it significantly decreases the cost.

Transit (£150/month; £1,800)

A discounted traveller card is necessary as it gives you 30% off when travelling off peak. It makes all the difference a trip into Zone 1 goes from £2.00 to £1.50. It allows us not only to save on transportation to and from work but to save on weekend excursions.

3. How much does food cost in London?

grocery store gemma unsplash
Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Groceries (£180/month; £2,160/year)

We always shop the discounts and make sure we get the best rates possible and if possible get our food from the clearance shelf. We make our own bread and meat substitutes (we are vegetarian) which saves massive costs.

Related reading: Chrissy’s Detailed Flashfood Review (Groceries for 50-70% Off)

Eating out (£55/month; £660/year)

We stick to twice a month and look at deals if possible, We treat ourselves for special dates when we can.

4. How much do utilities and bills cost in London?

utilities jason richard unsplash
Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Natural gas and electricity (£48/month; £576/year)

Gas and electricity are hand in hand! Shop around as much as you can and never sign a contract. We check semestrial (every six months) our cost and see if we can move to a better provider.

Water (£16/month; £192/year)

No choice here only 1 option so yeah we bite the bullet. Unfortunately our flat isn’t metered; it leads to us paying a flat fee that is charged every April. Thankfully it hasn’t risen throughout the years and covers both clean and grey water.

Garbage and recycling (£0)

Garbage collection is covered in the council tax here. With daily pick up for waste and bi-weekly pick up for recyclables. The recyclable bags are also provided upon request by the council.

Internet (£27/month; £324/year)

As we both work from home we elected for Fiber wifi to make sure we can both be in a meeting at the same time.

Home phone (£0)

Officially, you get a home line when you acquire WiFi. It comes with unlimited calls to other home lines. We have elected against using the number as our mobiles work just fine. I’ve yet to meet people still using the landlines here.

Cell phones (£25/month; £300/year)

My partner is at £5 per month I personally spend more as I need to include Switzerland in my phone plan.

Streaming entertainment (£8/month; £96/year)

We pool resources with friends when it comes to Netflix or Amazon Prime.

5. How much do other essentials cost in London?

clothing polina tankilevitch
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Life and disability insurance (£0)

Just like medical insurance, disability is covered by the NHS and comes with many benefits if needed. I also elected to have private insurance to cover us. As for life insurance it didn’t make sense at our age quite yet. We will reconsider it once we are married or have dependents.

Medical insurance (£10/month; £120/year)

The NHS (National Health Service) is taken out straight out of your income as a tax. I decide to pay an extra £10 a month to cover us with private insurance and travel insurance.

Out-of-pocket medical expenses (£0)

The NHS covers everything, the only potential cost would be paying £9 when prescribed medicine. Thankfully, both my girlfriend and I are in good health and avoid visits to the pharmacy. 

Clothing and footwear (£15/month; £180/year)

We are minimalists and only buy when absolutely necessary. We also sell our used clothes on Depop.

Personal care

This category includes: haircuts, toiletries and grooming services and supplies.

I added this category after Lionel had already completed his interview. If he’s able to send me his numbers later, I’ll update this section.

Technology

This category includes essential technology: software and hardware purchases, upgrades, maintenance, and repairs. Non-essentials (video games and consoles, e-readers, security cameras, etc.) aren’t included. 

I also added this category after Lionel had already completed his interview. If he’s able to send me his numbers later, I’ll update this section.

Part 3: Adding it all up

Now that we’ve detailed all of Lionel’s essential expenses, it’s time to add everything up in some nice, organized tables!

Important notes about the numbers

  • Only essential expenses are included.
  • Discretionary expenses  (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
  • Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar. 
  • Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
  • In this interview, the home currency is British Pounds—£.
  • For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter with each table.

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

How much does it cost to live the FIRE life in London?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (GBP)Annual (GBP)
Rent£1,500£18,000
Property tax£62£744
Strata/HOA fees
£0£0
Home insurance£0£0
Maintenance£10£120
TOTAL£1,572£18,864

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (GBP)Annual (GBP)
Vehicle insurance£0£0
Gas£0£0
Vehicle maintenance£0£0
Bike maintenance£0£0
Parking and tolls£0£0
Transit£150£1,800
TOTAL£150£1,800

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (GBP)Annual (GBP)
Groceries£180£2,160
Eating out£55£660
TOTAL£235£2,820

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (GBP)Annual (GBP)
Natural gas and electricity£48£576
Water£16£192
Garbage£0£0
Internet£27£324
Home phone£0£0
Cell phones£25£300
Streaming entertainment£8£96
TOTAL£124£1,488

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (GBP)Annual (GBP)
Life and disability insurance£0£0
Medical insurance£10£120
Out-of-pocket medical expenses£0£0
Clothing and footwear£15£180
Personal careTo be added laterTo be added later
TechnologyTo be added laterTo be added later
TOTAL£25£300

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (GBP)Annual (GBP)
Housing£1,572£18,864
Transportation£150£1,800
Food£235£2,820
Utilities and bills£124£1,488
Other essentials£25£300
TOTAL£2,106£25,272

Part 4: Other expenses

This is a special section that’s just for fun! It’s the place for my interviewees to mention any expenses that they’ve done a really good job of optimizing and/or just want to share. 

These expenses won’t be included in the totals (just to keep things as standardized as possible). I hope you find this section interesting and informative. Here’s one that Lionel wanted to share:

Travel

As I work for a large hotel chain we make the most of away weekends as we can benefit of very affordable hotel rates. Of course we don’t do this during the pandemic.

Chrissy’s closing thoughts

Thanks to Lionel for sharing his essential spending with us. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, yet Lionel and his girlfriend prove that you can live affordably in a HCOL city!

For example, they’ve cleverly chosen a borough with the lowest council tax in London. This makes a big difference in their housing costs (which is their largest essential expense.)

Lionel and his girlfriend have also found ways to keep the rest of their expenses incredibly low. I’m beyond impressed with their minimalist budget for all their other essentials:

  • Opting to use public transportation instead of owning vehicles.
  • Eating vegetarian.
  • Shopping around for the lowest utility rates.
  • An overall mindful approach to their expenses.

All of their spending decisions have been made with careful consideration for their budget, needs, and the value each expense provides. In my opinion, that thoughtfulness is what leads to huge savings with little to no deprivation.

Well done, Lionel! Perhaps other young Londoners will discover this interview and be inspired to cut their essential expenses. (And maybe even be motivated to pursue FIRE! 🔥)

Connect with Lionel

I hope you enjoyed Lionel’s interview. For more of his content, be sure to visit him on his blog, Cent by Cent, or connect with him on Twitter.

Share your thoughts

Were you surprised by Lionel’s essential expenses? Are any of them significantly different from where you live? Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your own money saving tips!

Join the series!

I’d love for everyone to participate—whether you’re a blogger or not! The more FIRE seekers I can interview, the more useful the series will be. If you’re interested, I have three simple requirements:

  1. You’re at or pursuing FIRE (or FI).
  2. You track your expenses relatively accurately.
  3. You’re willing to share your expenses and money-saving tips.

That’s it! If you’re interested, fill in the form at this link or contact me.

Ana lives in Kitchener, Ontario with her family of six (!) Learn how she and her family find creative ways to live the FIRE life—despite her larger-than-average house and household.

T lives near Fredericton, New Brunswick with her husband and son. Can you guess what costs more (or less) in her suburb? You may be surprised to find out!

Visit the intro page to learn more about the what and why behind the series and access the complete list of interviews.

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

You can also support this blog by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links. Note that not every link is an affiliate link—some are just favourite products and services that I want to share. 🙂

As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Steve @The Frugal Expat
    March 30, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    This is a great view into a FIRE budget in London. Thanks to Lionel for sharing how he spends his money. I was a little shocked about the council tax. That is crazy that the tenants pay the so called “property tax.” Each place is different. That is a great news you guys found a cheaper zone to live in.

    I am truly amazed at the savings in food. Shopping around for the best deals is the way to go. That is how my wife and I do it. Eating vegetarian really does cut down the costs. We do not buy meat regualarly either so it really does make shopping quite cheaper.

    Thank you Chrissy for this series. It really does open the eyes of so many different budgets in different parts of the world.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 30, 2021 at 10:51 pm

      Hi Steve—thanks for the early comment! Yes, the council tax is very different from property tax in Canada and the US, where (I’m pretty sure) it’s always the homeowner who pays it. It’s an interesting system for sure! Lionel and his girlfriend were very smart to consider this when picking a location to rent in. What a bonus that their apartment is still very central!

      It sounds like Lionel’s very good at finding deals and the best prices on every expense. I am so impressed! As frugal as I’ve always been, I can’t say I was as optimized with my spending as Lionel when I was in my 20s! Thanks for reading and commenting, Steve. 🙂

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    April 1, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    These interviews are great. I feel like I’m living vicariously through the interviewees seeing as travel is not currently a thing.

    I always find it interesting to hear how other people manage their money, What I really found interesting in this interview was Lionel’s decision not to get homeowner’s insurance. Seeing as he lives in a fully furnished place, the majority of the contents of the property belong to the landlord.

    I can appreciate the cost savings throughout, but don’t know if I could share a space that is only 592 square feet. When we first started dating, my husband and I shared a 710 square foot condo and that felt tight at times. As a Canadian in the prairies I am spoiled by the availability of living space.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 1, 2021 at 11:02 pm

      Hi Maria—I’ve felt the same way about this series. It helps take away a little bit of my wanderlust right now!

      That’s a great observation that Lionel doesn’t need homeowner’s insurance as he’s living in a fully furnished apartment. That’s an advantage I never considered!

      I have been very spoiled and have only ever lived in houses, so I wouldn’t know what it’s like to live in much smaller quarters. Being an introvert, I don’t think it would be good for my sanity! I’m guessing Lionel and his girlfriend are very considerate of each other and/or extroverts who don’t mind the small space.

      Thanks for sharing your experience as a Canadian in the Prairies! 😆

  • Reply
    Mr. Dreamer
    April 3, 2021 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you both for sharing! Seems London, UK rent is similar to Toronto and Vancouver. More expensive than Montreal or Ottawa.

    Europe is benefiting from much lower Internet and Phone cost. UK’s public transportation is incredibly efficient as well. How do they manage the food cost £180/month? They are vegetarians and vegetables are even more expensive than meat here. 1 cucumber for $2.29 but goes on sale for $0.99. Tomato is $5.48 / kg but occasionally goes on sale for $2.85 / kg. 180 is $330 CAD. Maybe UK prices are much cheaper.

    In general, they spend $3662.72 CAD a month in a 1 BR apartment in London. More than what we pay in Canada’s capital region for 4 people. I wonder if the income is par with the cost of living. Same question for income and sale tax. I mean, for us Canadians we don’t know the full picture to say if their spending is lower than average or just OK to get by.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 3, 2021 at 11:57 pm

      Hi Mr. Dreamer—surprisingly, London rents are also more expensive than Vancouver’s! However NYC is very similar to London… which makes sense, given how popular and dense both those cities are.

      Generally, it seems that internet and phone costs are lower (and service faster) in Europe and Asia compared to here in Canada. Same with public transportation. I think that population density plays a huge role in all those factors.

      As for food costs, I’m beginning to see that those are often cheaper in bigger (more expensive) cities than in smaller (more affordable) areas. My guess is the volume of food that’s imported into a big city is larger, thereby lowering costs for consumers. There’s also more selection and competition, which also drives prices down. But I may be wrong! We will see as I publish more interviews.

      I suppose you’re right—it’s hard to get really analytical with the numbers without the full picture. I can see all the gears in your brain turning, ha ha. I hope this series doesn’t drive you crazy with the lack of details!

  • Reply
    GYM
    April 3, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    This was a cool interview! It doesn’t seem as expensive as I had thought London would be. Is dental care covered by the NHS too? Or is that considered extra?

    Maria (Handful of Thoughts), we were in a 450 square foot apartment with 2 adults, 1 toddler, and one newborn, haha!!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 4, 2021 at 12:03 am

      Hi GYM—you’re right, it looks like London might be more affordable than most of us would expect! However, it could just be that Lionel is an uber-frugalist and spends way less than the average Londoner. I have another UK interview in the works, so maybe that will help shed more light on things. 👍

      From what I’ve heard, the NHS does cover most dental care, which I find AMAZING. If only we had that here in Canada.

      OMG, I remember when you were still living in your condo, but I didn’t know it was THAT small! Wow, you’re all a bunch of troopers. 😆

      • Chloe
        April 9, 2021 at 5:12 am

        No the nhs subsidises dental care but it is not covered in full by any stretch of the imagination.

      • Chrissy
        April 9, 2021 at 7:52 pm

        Hi Chloe—thanks for clarifying. That makes me feel less bad about Canada’s complete lack of dental coverage. 😬

  • Reply
    David @ Filled With Money
    April 5, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    Just as there are expensive areas in a LCOL city, there are affordable areas in a HCOL city. I don’t think I can keep those costs that low if I move to a LCOL city, I would be influenced by others way too much!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 6, 2021 at 11:05 pm

      Hi David—well that’s just a perfect line: “Just as there are expensive areas in a LCOL city, there are affordable areas in a HCOL city.” How right you are!

  • Reply
    Bob Wen
    April 8, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Their monthly spend on food impressed me the most. As another poster mentioned, it would help to have some idea of their income (I’ll check their website for clues). I know that here in Canada, one of my sons earns $75K as a heavy mechanic, and in the UK he would earn 30% less than
    that and be considered as having a good paying job (which by many standards, it is). Still, Lionel and his partner live in London where wages are potentially higher than elsewhere in the UK.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 8, 2021 at 4:27 pm

      Hi Bob—very interesting that your son would earn 30% less in the UK. That’s quite a big difference. It’s true, though, that location does matter. In general, it does seem that wages are somewhat commensurate, based on where you live. However, they’re clearly not 100% aligned in all industries and areas! Vancouver is a good example of this—wages have most certainly not kept up with our high real estate prices. 🙁

  • Reply
    drplastickpicker
    June 19, 2021 at 5:08 am

    I love this new series!!!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 19, 2021 at 11:20 pm

      Hi Dr. Plastic Picker—thank you, I’m so glad you like it! ♥

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