UK’s top 10 budget cities for students

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The UK's Top 10 Budget Cities for Students

University life is full of challenges and budgeting is one of the hardest of them all. When you’re adjusting to living away from home, keeping track of your cash can be tricky, so we wanted to find out which cities in the UK offer students a budget lifestyle.

So, how’d we pick the top ten? Well, we researched some of the UK’s largest university cities to find out:

  • The number of charity shops and budget supermarkets close to universities in each city
  • The cost of an annual university gym membership
  • The cost of a burger and pint at a local student pub
  • The cost of two cinema tickets

The UK’s most budget cities in descending order are:

10. Wolverhampton

  • Charity shops: 2
  • Budget supermarkets: 9
  • Annual gym membership: £100
  • Price of a burger and pint: £5.50
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £22

Whilst Wolverhampton had the cheapest burger and pint we could find at a bargain £5.50, not to mention the second-lowest annual gym membership, it lacks budget supermarkets and charity shops near the university, so finishes up in tenth.

9. Birmingham

  • Charity shops: 12
  • Budget supermarkets: 8
  • Annual gym membership: £205
  • Price of a burger and pint: £6.95
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £17

Beyond the glossy Bullring, Birmingham has plenty of budget shops for bargain-hunting students. Entertainment-wise, cinema tickets are cheap, which has earnt Birmingham ninth place on our list.

8. Newcastle

  • Charity shops: 13
  • Budget supermarkets: 8
  • Annual gym membership: £189
  • Price of a burger and pint: £7.75
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £18

The jewel of the North East is a notorious party city, but it should also be recognised as a great value city for students. Newcastle is home to a number of charity shops and budget supermarkets, like the much larger city of Birmingham, but offers cheaper gym memberships.

7. Leeds

  • Charity shops: 13
  • Budget supermarkets: 11
  • Annual gym membership: £187
  • Price of a burger and pint: £7.25
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £20

Yorkshire’s biggest city, Leeds has plenty of upmarket and budget shopping opportunities, as well as some very affordable entertainment options. If you’re after fresh produce, Leeds also has Europe’s largest indoor market. It’s one of five Northern English cities that made it to the top ten.

6. Liverpool

  • Charity shops: 11
  • Budget supermarkets: 9
  • Annual gym membership: £140
  • Price of a burger and pint: £6.95
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £21

This proud Merseyside city has everything a student could want. With a rich musical and cultural history and plenty of attractions including the fantastic Tate Liverpool – which is free to visit – you’ll never be short of something to do. It’s also a great value place in which to live and entertain yourself, especially if you want to hit the gym!

5. Sheffield

  • Charity shops: 19
  • Budget supermarkets: 7
  • Annual gym membership: £235
  • Price of a burger and pint: £7.75
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £15

The second Yorkshire city in our top ten, the Steel City is a haven for charity shoppers, with 19 charity shops in the vicinity of the university. With irresistibly cheap food and cinema tickets, Sheffield is only let down by a high-priced gym membership at £235 each year. While that still balances out to just £20 a month, it’s the highest in our top ten.

4. Glasgow

  • Charity shops: 12
  • Budget supermarkets: 11
  • Annual gym membership: £125
  • Price of a burger and pint: £7.50
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £21

Just missing out on a podium spot is Glasgow. Scotland’s second city is home to over 130,000 students, who can all benefit from cheap university gym membership and plenty of budget shopping opportunities. So, keeping living costs down as a student in Glasgow should be a breeze. Did we mention that a pint and burger can be found for just £7.50?

3. Manchester

  • Charity shops: 12
  • Budget supermarkets: 13
  • Annual gym membership: £120
  • Price of a burger and pint: £8.50
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £18

This Northern Powerhouse sneaks into the top three with solid scores all round. Though there are fewer charity shops than in first and second place, Oldham Street has a great blend of charity and vintage shops, so you can mix and match depending on your budget. Manchester is also home to plenty of bars, although a burger and a pint are on the slightly steeper side at £8.50.

2. Coventry

  • Charity shops: 19
  • Budget supermarkets: 8
  • Annual gym membership: £140
  • Price of a burger and pint: £8.25
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £17

Just missing out on the top spot is Coventry, the furthest city south in our top 10. It has some great charity shops, like the centrally located Myton Fargo – great for vintage fashion and vinyl crate digging. Plus, Coventry is the most central city in England, so it’s handy for travel links too.

1. Edinburgh

  • Charity shops: 20
  • Budget supermarkets: 13
  • Annual gym membership: £120
  • Price of a burger and pint: £7.75
  • Cost of two cinema tickets: £21

Yes, that’s right – Edinburgh comes out on top of our best budget cities for students. Already known for its history and cultural events like the annual Fringe Festival, there are also a lot of bargains out there for students.

Scotland’s capital wins first place largely thanks to the 20 charity shops and 13 budget supermarkets in the vicinity – giving students a tonne of options to get good value food and clothing. Annual gym membership at the university is also low, and you can get a burger and a pint for a reasonable price, too. Here’s to you, Edinburgh!

UK map showing the top 10 budget cities for students

How we ranked each city

To create an overall ranking of the top cities for budget student living, we selected 20 of the largest UK university cities: Aberdeen, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and Wolverhampton.

We then used Google Maps to set a search radius from each city’s primary university for both charity shops (2km) and two large chain budget supermarkets (5km) to get a total for both charity shops and budget supermarkets.

Gym membership prices were collated from university websites. Prices for burgers and drinks were for, where possible, combo deals. Prices were collated from Students Unions when possible – when unavailable a local student pub was used in its place. Prices for cinema tickets were sourced from the nearest cinema to universities.

Cost factors (cinema, burger and pint, and gym membership) and shop factors (charity shops and budget supermarkets) were grouped and standardised to give an overall score for each city.