Compared to the national average, the cost of living in Birmingham is fairly affordable. Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey ranked Birmingham as the world's 118th most expensive city out of the 227 cities surveyed. This puts Birmingham's cost of living well below that of London, which is ranked 17th.

These two are the only cities in England that make an appearance on the list, so while Birmingham has a far better position than London, it is still one of the country's priciest cities. In a global context, the cost of living in Birmingham is similar to cities such as Lisbon, Vancouver and Auckland.

Cost of accommodation in Birmingham

Rental prices in Birmingham are high and continually on the rise due to high demand. Utilities and council tax are usually charged in addition to rent, and this should be kept in mind when budgeting. New arrivals looking to minimise their accommodation expenses should concentrate their house hunt on Birmingham's outlying suburbs, which are usually cheaper than inner-city areas.

With six universities scattered around the city, Birmingham has a robust student let market. Newcomers and expats looking to reduce their rental expenses can look at houseshares or student accommodation, as these are typically more affordable.

Cost of groceries in Birmingham

The cost of groceries in Birmingham varies considerably depending on the outlet. Mid-range supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons are generally affordable, but good savings can be found at discount retailers Aldi and Lidl. Meanwhile, high-end supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose sell plenty of imported products but are expensive.

Apart from making a savvy choice of where to shop, other ways to save include buying in-store brands rather than name brands and opting for local produce over imports. Shopping at local farmer's markets is another way to reduce the grocery bill.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Birmingham

As the second-biggest city in the UK and a university city, Birmingham has plenty of nightlife and entertainment options. Broad Street in the city centre is Birmingham's hub for nightlife, and it offers a range of bars and clubs to suit any budget.

Additionally, new arrivals can find many excellent eateries along this road, but newcomers should expect to shell out to enjoy the wonderful cuisine on offer. There are also affordable restaurants available in the city, particularly those offering ethnic cuisines such as Indian and Chinese.

Newcomers can enjoy plenty of low-cost or free arts and culture activities. Galleries such as the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the MAC Birmingham offer free entry and allow art lovers to experience exhibitions, art classes, shows and workshops at no cost. Nature-loving newcomers can explore Cannon Hill Park or walk along the scenic Canal Walkways at no cost.

Cost of transport in Birmingham

With a good selection of bus, tram and train routes, Birmingham offers residents a local transport network that meets their needs, saving them the cost of purchasing, maintaining, insuring and fuelling a car. The city also has some good cycling infrastructure, making getting around on two wheels a healthy and cost-effective option.

Cost of education in Birmingham

Birmingham is home to several excellent schools. Most of the city's best schools are funded by the state and are therefore free to attend. There are also many good private schools, but fees can be high, and they are often outperformed by local state schools.

While there are no schools offering foreign curricula in Birmingham, some independent schools will offer the International Baccalaureate programme. This allows students to transition between countries without facing any major interruptions to their education. Parents opting for schools offering this curriculum must budget well, as they are often costly.

Cost of healthcare in Birmingham

Healthcare in Birmingham is administered by the National Health Service (NHS). While the NHS is known for providing good quality public healthcare, the system is plagued by long waiting times.

Non-UK nationals looking to access the NHS must pay a healthcare surcharge if they'll be in the UK for longer than six months. The fee, which amounts to a few hundred pounds, is payable per visa application. Once expats become permanent residents, the fee is no longer required, and they can continue accessing the NHS.

Private healthcare is available but is usually pricey. Comprehensive private health insurance is recommended for those wishing to use the private health system. Note that expats who are not permanent residents must still pay a healthcare surcharge, even if they are privately insured and don't intend to use the NHS.

Cost of living in Birmingham chart

These are the average costs for Birmingham in November 2023. Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in city centreGBP 1,800
Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centreGBP 1,200
One-bedroom apartment in city centreGBP 1,000
One-bedroom apartment outside of city centreGBP 750
Milk (1 litre)GBP 1.20
Dozen eggsGBP 2.31
Loaf of white breadGBP 1.09
Rice (1kg)GBP 1.50
Packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)GBP 14
City-centre bus/train fareGBP 2.40
Taxi rate per kmGBP 1.12
Petrol/gasoline per litreGBP 1.58
Eating out
Big Mac MealGBP 6
Coca-Cola (330ml)GBP 2
CappuccinoGBP 3
Local beer (500ml)GBP 4
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantGBP 50
Internet (uncapped ADSL per month)GBP 27
Monthly mobile plan with calls and dataGBP 16
Utilities (average per month for standard household)GBP 212

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