finding somewhere to live in London on a graduate salary
In 2019, the average graduate salary is around £22,000 - and with your first proper salary also comes a whole host of bills and responsibilities. One of the biggest expenses that graduates have to contend with if they move for their first job is the cost of rent.
London is, unsurprisingly, one of the most expensive cities to rent in in the UK, but it’s also one of the most popular destinations for graduates, moving in search of their dream job.
Obviously, your first salary is largely dependent on your chosen profession. If you’re heading to work in the Square Mile, you could be one of the lucky ones earning closer to £30,000. Roles such as actuaries, management consultants and investment bankers are some of the best paid opportunities for people leaving University.
Lawyers also consistently top the charts of highest paid grad jobs - some trainee solicitors can even start on £35,000 plus. However, if you are looking at more creative, media related positions, you’ll probably going to be at the lower end of the grad salary spectrum - it's not unusual for starting salaries in journalism or media to be closer to £18,000.
Whatever your salary, it’s important that you get your head around exactly how much you’ll be taking home each month and therefore how much you can spend on your monthly outgoings. There are free online tools such as Listen To The Tax Man and The Salary Calculator which will help you understand exactly how much will be landing in your bank account come payday.
From here the next step is working out how much you can afford to spend on rent - not forgetting about bills. House sharing communities like Lyvly are great for simplifying your monthly direct debits easily and helping you maximise your disposable income. You need to make sure that your rent is only taking up about a third of your take home monthly salary, otherwise you could find yourself broke, stressed and not enjoying London life.
Whilst it’s not always easy to find an affordable place to live in the capital, there are a few ways you can reduce rent and areas that are surprisingly affordable.
How can I reduce the cost of rent in London?
Live with friends
One of the easiest ways to save money on rent is to enter a house share. A studio flat in London can set you back well over £2000 per month, not including bills, whereas a room in a house share can cost you less than half of that. If you have a bunch of mates from Uni all moving to London to start their careers, it might mean that you’ve got a ready made set of housemates - which is great! The costs of a room in a shared house is a lot cheaper than getting a one bed flat by yourself. Once you’ve got your group sorted, head to Rightmove or Zoopla and start searching for properties with enough rooms to cater for you all.
However, if you don’t know anyone else moving to the capital at the same time as you - or maybe you do but they already have accommodation sorted - there are loads of ways you can meet prospective housemates. Sites like Spareroom are a great way to find rooms in ready made house shares and there are even flatmate speed dating events that you can go along to.
The only problem with this process, is it can be stressful and intense. Competition for rooms in house shares in London is tough - and you can’t always guarantee that you’ll get on with these people. That’s one of the reasons why Lyvly was created. We take all the hassle out of finding a home and housemates. When you join our community we’ll not only find you a home that caters for your needs, but we’ll match you up with credible and friendly housemates that we think you’ll get on with.
Become a Property Guardian
There are thousands of properties in London that stand empty throughout the year. From houses to flats or really cool buildings like churches and fire stations - you’d be surprised to learn just how many of them don't have tenants of any descriptions. Owners of these properties are often concerned that their empty building will fall victim to squatters or anti-social behaviour, which is why social enterprises like Dot Dot Dot are championing property guardian systems.
Becoming a property guardian basically means that you are responsible for the maintenance of the property and are living there so the building is no longer empty and vulnerable. Guardians have pretty much the same rights as tenants, with a few small differences - like the landlord is able to access the property without prior notice. This unique form of affordable housing has become increasingly popular in recent years. Not only are the months fees a lot cheaper than average London rent, but tenants go through a strict vetting process before they are allowed to become a property guardian. You will find that you end up living with people who share your values and are open to a bit of adventure - is there a better story about meeting your friend than that time you both lived in a disused fire station together?
Live a little bit out of town
Another way of finding cheaper accommodation is to consider living a little further out of town. When you decide to move to London, you might have imagined you’d be living a stone's throw away from Leicester Square or have Buckingham Palace on your doorstep. However, few people - and even fewer graduates - can afford to live in Zone 1 - and it’s not just the rental prices that make people choose to live further out. Whilst being amongst the hustle and bustle might be fun at first, once you start working you’ll realise a slightly slower pace of life is appreciated.
Luckily, London is extremely well connected - so even if you live in Zone 4, you’ll often find that you can be in The City or Soho within 30 minutes. Some graduates even find that living in Essex, Hertfordshire or Surrey is an option for saving money on rent - but one factor you need to consider is the cost of train tickets if you're travelling in everyday.
You also don't need to be right in the thick of it to experience the magic of the city. London’s boroughs all have their own distinctive personalities and communities, and there will always be something fun going on in your neighbourhood - from pop ups to food markets, restaurant openings and club nights.
If you pick your area right, you’ll find that you actually have no desire to head into central once the weekend arrives - and that's when you know you’re a true Londoner.
The Lyvly Guide to Affordable London Areas
If you’re a new graduate looking to find affordable housing, getting your head round London areas if important. You can find spots of affordable gold all over the city, you just have to know where to look.
The key to finding a great and affordable area in North London is the wonderful Victoria Line. Constantly voted as the best TFL line by Londoners (trust us, you’ll get it when you live here), the Victoria Line connects North and South London at lighting speed - it only takes 35 minutes to ride the whole line. North London areas like Finsbury Park and Seven Sisters are way more affordable than N1 neighbourhoods like Highbury & Islington but are just as well connected. They also have plenty to offer to keep you entertained at the weekends.
Finsbury Park not only plays host to a whole bunch of show-stopping events and festivals, but it’s also a short bus ride away from Harringay Green Lanes, the go to spot for the some of the best Turkish food in London. Even if you go to the very end of the Victoria Line (and a smidge further east) to Walthamstow, you'll still find a popular and affordable area to live. Walthamstow was never really on anyone’s radar until a few years ago, but now the gastronomical takeover of Walthamstow Village as made it a mecca for foodies.
A tube from Walthamstow to Oxford Circus will only take you 18 minutes and that's reduced to a tiny 7 minutes if you're hopping on at Finsbury Park.
Heading South of the river, you tend to get more bang for your buck closer to town. Popular graduate areas like Clapham are a sure fire bet if you are looking for a fun-loving neighbourhood full of like-minded young people. However, rents here are constantly creeping up, and may not always be somewhere you can afford to live if you are on a lower grad salary.
Luckily, there are more affordable areas a short train ride away from both Clapham and Central London. In recent years, Croydon has gone from place you would avoid, to a truly desirable locale. The opening of Boxpark - a permanent food market of dreams - was one of the key markers of Croydon’s new status as a ‘place to be’ and start up hubs like Start Up Croydon are also bringing innovative professionals to the area. If you work in Zone 1, East Croydon station is one of the best connected in the South - taking you to Victoria, London Bridge and Blackfriars in under 20 minutes.
A few years ago, you could take your pick of East London boroughs and still get a more agreeable rental price compared to the rest of the capital. However, with Hackney pretty much becoming a more cool and creative Chelsea, rent prices are constantly soaring.
While there are plenty of properties you can afford on a grad salary, they might not always be the nicest properties. However, take a 5 minute train further east to Stratford and you can find both great location and gorgeous properties. The 2012 Olympics totally changed the landscape of the area, and there are plenty of luxurious properties, like the Lyvly home we have there, available for a reasonable price. Stratford not only has pretty much everything you could want from an area - a huge shopping mall, cinema, gigantic heater skelter - but it’s also well connected.
You can get either the central line or national rail to Liverpool Street in about 10 minutes, meaning you can technically roll out of bed at 8.30am and still be at your desk in the City or Shoreditch by 9am. If you work in Canary Wharf, there’s also the Jubilee line that will get you there just as fast.
If South East London is more your thing, both Lewisham and Deptford are worth considering. Rents in Deptford are seriously cheap considering you're living a short walk from one of London's most famous tourist attractions - the River Thames.
Neighbourhood neighbours with Greenwich - but a lot more affordable - Deptford is also only a 15 minute train ride from London Bridge. Lewisham is slightly further out, but perfect for anyone that craves a little greenery in the midst of the City. You’ve got both Blackheath and Greenwich in easy reach, as well as plenty of local attractions like the new Model Market street food haunt. If you work in Soho or Covent Garden, Lewisham is a great choice - you can get a direct train to Charing Cross in about 20 minutes.
West London is notoriously expensive - boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea have some of the most expensive rents in the whole of the country. However, there are a few areas that fall in to a graduate salary price range if you are determined to go west.
Hammersmith has some of the most affordable rents in West London, and if living the Made in Chelsea dream is what you’re after, you can be in Sloane Square in 15 minutes. Shepherds Bush is also a popular area for students and graduates, but with the attractions of Westfield, rents are increasing all the time. Living slightly further out in areas like Putney can also help to reduce your costs, whilst you can enjoy some of the greenery and Thames-side living the area affords.
Take a trip slightly North though and you’ll find Wembley. Whilst its football stadium is one of the most famous in the world, Wembley hasn’t always been the most desirable place to live. However, things are changing and Wembley now has way more to offer than just the beautiful game.
Boxpark recently opened their latest permanent residency there and (it seems to be a London rule that where Boxpark goes the rest of the cool bars and restaurants will follow).
Whilst Wembley might feel like a bit of a trek if you work in The City, it's still only around 35 minutes to Canary Wharf, and other professional hubs like Paddington are within easy reach and you can get a direct tube to Bond Street in half an hour.