Living costs: halls vs private accommodation

Living costs

By Nicole Correia,

Before deciding on a university you’ll have so many things buzzing around in your mind during this time of the academic year: UCAS, predicted grades, results, the long-awaited end of exams, summer, and the excitement of moving out. But where will you be moving to? Halls or private accommodation?

Generally first years choose halls. It’s convenient and a great way to throw yourself into university life, socially and academically; you live within your university grounds (or very close) and among your fellow students.

The benefits of living in halls:

  • Bills are all included in the price you are offered: this means electricity, heating, gas, water, and internet too
  • You generally pay termly and emails are sent to remind you when money is due
  • There are plenty of options: shared bathroom, en-suite, premium room, basic room, and shared kitchen are examples of the options you have
  • You’re able to live with other Freshers, which is positive as you’re all in a new place, tackling work, social and university life together

The cons of living in halls:

  • Some halls may be expensive, depending which university and area you are living in. Ask yourself if you really need a double bed? Will the self-catered option save you money?
  • It can be loud; university students are infamous for their partying habits and for the most part this is great, but university security do clamp down on the noise during exam period - so, enjoy the parties whilst you can!
  • Sometimes you will find that someone’s had a swig from your milk carton - this is part of hall life and sharing your living space with others. There’s no reason to cry over spilt milk, however annoying it may be sometimes! (We’re all guilty of stealing a bit for ‘just one cuppa’)

Show me the money

Universities cater for a wide selection of students, with many financial backgrounds. This means that at each university there are different options for hall accommodation.

At Canterbury Christchurch University an en-suite bathroom is £9 extra a week - consider if you would mind sharing a bathroom, and how much more food you could buy with £9 extra in your pocket each week.

Bear in mind that location causes hall (and also private accommodation) prices to rise or fall. Halls in Edinburgh have been reported to charge around the £180 mark, whilst Southampton ranges between £100 and £190, depending how much you demand from your accommodation and how close it is to the city centre and campus.

If you’re not so fussy about the room or bathroom you will save a bomb. It has been reported that student accommodation in Bradford is among the cheapest, at under sixty pounds a week. With this in mind, you could save up to £40 a week if you compare it to other rooms at universities which can average around the £100 mark.

Joe Persechino from UNITE, which owns and manages 42,000 student rooms in private halls, said: “Be sure to explore all your accommodation options - there are lots of people who are great fun in the pub, but who you wouldn’t want to live with, so think carefully about agreeing to a houseshare. There are plenty of accommodation options available to you, from sharing with friends and course mates, to moving in with strangers or having your own studio flat. So be sure to do your research.”

Consider if you’re vegetarian that choosing a catered option may be more expensive for you than buying your own food - meat is expensive and you don’t want to be paying a fixed price and having a limited choice. Depending on how much you eat, what you’re eating, and what you can spend, a self-catered weekly food bill is likely to cost around £30. This is excluding any nights out.

Saranya Kogulathas, a second year at the University of Reading, spent her first year in halls and is spending her second year in private accommodation, and yet she plans to move back to halls with all her friends because she misses the student experience: ‘It’s honestly like living in a village with all your friends, something I’m unlikely to be able to do ever again. My last year of study is my last opportunity to have it.’

Joe from UNITE adds: “We often find students return to live with us in their third year after spending their second year in a shared house. All their bills and Wi-Fi are included in the cost so they can budget, plus they can choose to live with friends in our shared flats. This hassle-free living is appealing.” Home- sweet-private-accommodation-home.

Generally second years choose to move out of halls and into a house, shared among friends they made in first year. This is more often than not the cheaper option of accommodation. In Bath, for example, a shared house between five students to rent would cost approximately £320 a month, depending once more on what kind of house you opt for. This figure can be applied similarly to most city universities. A quick look at estate agent websites will give you an idea of what you’re getting for your money. Be sure to ask as many questions as you can - your estate agent will find out anything for you he doesn’t know off the top of his head. Michael, who works at a lettings agency in Reading, also suggests that you ask the tenants (if they are present at the viewing) a bit about the property and more specifically what the landlord is like: “Student tenants aren’t on commission, and let’s face it, if the landlord is an ogre they’ll tell you to your face! It’s a little difficult for us to reiterate things like that..!”

The pros of living in private accommodation

  • You can choose who you live with, unlike halls. This means that you will probably feel more comfortable and be confident that your milk will not be stolen (unless your friends are cheeky!)
  • You do not have pesky fire alarm tests waking you up at 10AM every Wednesday morning
  • Doing your laundry becomes less of a chore as you don’t have to lug it to the washing machine, merely downstairs in the kitchen of your home
  • It is most probably quieter than halls, unless your neighbours are the head-banging at 2AM types

The cons of living in accommodation

  • You will have several different bills to organise and split payments for. Rent is often set up through a direct debit but bills will need to be split equally among your housemates each quarter/month.
  • If you have any problems with the house itself you will be dealing with the landlord. Landlords can be lovely and on-the-ball, but is fair to say that they aren’t all so easy to talk to and get hold of.
  • You will not be on campus - this means if you’re going to go to your lecture in your pjs like you may have done whilst living in halls, you’ll most probably have to walk onto campus- the public will not consider this as normal as your fellow students on campus may.

Ultimately, if you budget carefully, you can make either option a possibility. What’s important is to consider where you be most comfortable and happiest. This will be most likely be your first taste of living away from home, so enjoy it, consider the costs and be sure to budget, but try not to let this be the only factor in your decision.