Britain on a Budget: The 9 Cheapest Places to Live in the UK

Cheapest Places to Live in the UK
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We’ve all dreamt of packing up our lives and running away from bills, mortgages, and responsibilities. We’ve all probably dreamt of it a lot more in the current climate of soaring cost of living and inflation that’s well above 11%. But what if you didn’t have to venture quite as far as Indonesia in your hunt for lower property prices and a better quality of life? What if you could save on the expenses and still stay in good Old Blighty?

Cue these charming English towns. They’re the ones that promise first-world luxuries without the steep prices that so often comes with life in the UK. They also offer plenty of that wild and ancient natural British beauty on their doorstep, and rich and ancient cultures and histories of their own.

With the average house price in the UK now sitting at a whopping £292,000 ($331,000) at the end of 2022, we’ve sought out spots where it’s possible to purchase property for a whole load less than that. We’ve also focussed on places that are known for their low cost of living, their attractive rental rates, and towns that are cheap even within their specific region.

Doncaster, South Yorkshire 

Yorkshire aerial view
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Doncaster is a large minster town in South Yorkshire, the honorable title given to areas with rich church heritage in the UK. Named after the River Don, which runs through it, Doncaster is the second-largest settlement in the county and boasts its own international airport. 

Generally speaking, the north of England is notorious for bad weather, but Doncaster benefits from a maritime climate that means its temperatures remain mainly similar to that in the South East. So, it’s a good choice if it’s only the infamous winter chill in the air that’s holding you back from the relatively more affordable North.

St George’s Minster dominates the skyline, and there’s no shortage of things to do in the area, from the iconic Doncaster Racecourse and the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park that houses over 400 animals. The £22 million Cast entertainment venue opened its doors in 2013 and can host up to 620 people in its theatre auditorium. The creative center also boasts drama and dance studios and educational and ancillary spaces for public use.

Still, Doncaster is an affordable town with housing prices averaging just £174,263 ($230,000). The estimated living costs without rent in Doncaster are bout £600 ($800) per month per person, and the average monthly rent for a one-bed apartment close to the city center is just £500 ($660). That’s more than 80 percent cheaper than New York City, and one of the cheapest of any major town in the whole of the UK.

Bradford, West Yorkshire

The countryside of Yorkshire
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Just an hour northwest of Doncaster, the city of Bradford has emerged in recent years as a top UK tourist destination and has a lot more going for it than just cheap living costs. Bradford is surrounded by countryside and sits on a Greenbelt in the UK, so it’s a top choice for outdoorsy folks who like to pull on the boots on the weekend and get hiking – the Yorkshire Dales are just to the north and the Peak District is just to the south. Walking in those is 100% gratis, don’t you know?

Bradford also became the world’s first UNESCO City of Film. The town’s filmmaking heritage dates back to the birth of cinema, and the city has been a key location for UK film and TV production for decades. With inspirational movie locations, annual film festivals, and tons to learn about British filmmaking down every street, Bradford is unique in its rich history.

It will only cost you an average of £142,234 ($187,000) to purchase a property in Bradford and around £570 ($750) per month to rent. That’s £100 ($132) less than Yorkshire’s average. If you’re willing to venture slightly out of the city center, the suburbs of Eastbrook and Wapping are some of the cheapest places to live in the UK as a whole. Those have average property prices of about just £74,000 ($97,000)!

Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire

Cheapest Places to Live in the UK
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The largest town in historic North Yorkshire, nestled on the banks of the River Tee, Middlesbrough is becoming increasingly popular as an investment area in the UK. New jobs, more leisure opportunities, and better homes and schools have turned this once industrial town into a desirable place to live.

Middlesbrough is situated right in the Heart of the Tees Valley, just 20 minutes from the coast. The town is home to the beloved Middlesbrough F.C. football team, one of the founding members of England’s Premier League back in 1992. Middlesbrough is steeped in history and culture, with a big leisure park, its annual Mela Festival, the Art Weekender Festival, and a leading university

The Roseberry Topping is a distinctive Yorkshire landmark, right on Middlesbrough’s doorstep. Captain Cook, the renowned British explorer, climbed the hill as a child and the summit of the steep peak provides impressive views of the county. Rambling the nearby hills makes for a fantastic day out in nature from Middlesbrough – it’s also free to do!

Average house prices across Middlesbrough are around £131,000 ($173,000), with living costs averaging around £580 ($770) per person without rent—almost 50% less than in London. But when rent is in the mix, Middlesbrough comes in at a whopping 80%t lower than the country’s capital, with one-bedrooms just outside the city center going for £450 ($600) a month.  

Sandwell, West Midlands

Cheapest Places to Live in the UK
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Time to take a trip slightly down south to the metropole of Sandwell in the West Midland’s Black Country. If you thought only the North of England offered excellent value for money when it comes to the UK property market, think again. Sandwell is one of the cheapest places to live in the UK for rent.

With Birmingham on its doorstep and great connections to the south, Sandwell is wonderfully located in the heart of England. The borough is well-suited for families, and there are plenty of well-rated schools in the surrounding area. The city of Worcester and the picturesque Malvern Hills are less than an hour’s drive from the center, promising stunning natural beauty and panoramic views of the Severn Valley, the Welsh Mountains across the border, and thirteen different counties. 

There are plenty of things to keep you busy in Sandwell itself, from the Sandwell Valley Country Park to the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery. Oh, and the town is also home to highly successful West Bromwich Albion FC. 

The average property price in Sandwell is about £143,000 ($188,000). Sandwell joins Wolverhampton and Dudley as the cheapest places in the Midlands to rent, with the average standing at around £500 ($660) a month. You should also find that day-to-day costs, from coffees to bread is less here than in London.

Hartlepool, County Durham

Cheapest Places to Live in the UK
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Who said that living by the sea had to cost a fortune? With miles of golden shores, maritime history, and a new multi-million-pound marina complex, the Northeast Coastal town of Hartlepool has a lot going for it. 

Hartlepool has long been a major seaport in the UK, and the industrial heritage and quaint setting have been pull factors for tourists in recent years. The town also puts on annual festivals to celebrate the history of Hartlepool, like the Tall Ships Race that encourages youth involvement with sailing and international friendship.

The average rent for a one-bed, right in the city center, is just £480 ($633) a month, with living costs outside of rent averaging only £454 ($600) per person. At the same time, the average house price is around £130,000 ($171,000). This has gone up by almost six percent in the last year, so if you want to bag your little piece of coastal paradise, move quick, and you could be in for great returns. 

Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, N. Ireland skyline
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With its unbeaten areas of natural beauty, iconic heritage, famous cities, and bucketloads charm, it’s surprising to see Northern Ireland make it on to this list. But Derry is actually among the very top cheapest places to live in the UK when you weigh up average salary against house prices. What’s more, it’s been that way for over three years. 

Just over an hour from Belfast, one of the most famous cities in the UK, Derry is well connected and memorable in its own right. Derry was named the first UK City of Culture in 2013, and the mile-long 17-century Derry Walls, which are still largely intact around the center, make it a contender for the best-preserved walled city in Europe (sorry, Tallinn!). 

Derry has no shortage of excellent schools, friendly locals, and vibrant nightlife. The monthly cost of living in Derry is predicted to be just £358 ($473), while the average annual salary stands at over £33,000 ($44,000). Property prices are low in comparison, at only £150,000 ($198,000) on average, making Derry an affordable and exciting place to live.     

Shildon, County Durham

Cheapest Places to Live in the UK
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Steeped in heritage and with quaint northern charm around every turn, County Durham boasts over 1,000 years of English history. Durham Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers splendid panoramic city views from its turrets. Durham town itself sits on a hill and is protected by the River Wear on three sides. That helped make it an important defense point against the Scottish invasion of England in the 1600s. 

Also sat on the banks of the River Wear is the Durham Cathedral, which was used as a set for Hogwarts in the filming of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The North Pennines makes for a great scenic rambling spot. They’re now also known as a dark sky reserve, which you can study from the Durham Observatory during the annual 12-day Stargazing Festival

One significant draw factor to the county is the world-renowned Durham University, one of the most prestigious schools in England, ranking sixth in the UK. The average property price in Durham sits at around £150,000 ($198,000), which is surprisingly low for all the area offers. However, this price has also seen a steady increase in recent years, making for great investment opportunities in the county.

Even more surprising yet, if you venture just outside the city center, the average price for property in the charming town of Shildon stands at just £80,000 ($105,000). This town has been named the cheapest place to live in the UK, with rent averaging less than £400 ($528) per calendar month. Country Durham and its suburbs should be serious contenders if you’re looking to get on the lucrative UK property ladder.

Tylorstown, Rhondda Cynon Taf

The Brecon Beacons, which are close to Tylorstown
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Regional mail publication WalesOnline determines that it’s the tiny town of Tylorstown (no rhyme intended!) that comes up trumps as the cheapest place to live in Wales. Tucked between the rocky ridges of the Rhondda Valley, it’s a place that was once at the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution, with more coal mines than you shake a Welsh cake at.

After the demise of the mining industry in the 20th century, life took a turn for the worse here, and all over the valleys of South Wales. However, there are signs that life and prosperity are returning to the regions in the wake of the COVID pandemic. We can see why…

The barren but beautiful peaks and troughs of the Brecon Beacons loom to the north, while the lovely coastlines of Penarth and the Gower Peninsula await to the south and west – both are within an hour’s drive. You also get great access to the big city of Cardiff, and the historic book town of Hay-on-Wye.

Oh, and houses are CHEAP. We’re talking a median price of just over £57,000 ($64,500) for a pad in these parts, which is just 2.5 times the average income of people who live in the town. Compare that to to the cost of a place in Abersoch, the most expensive part of Wales, where you’ll need to fork out over £305,000 on average for a house to call your own.

Stirling, Stirling and Falkirk

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If you’re keen to head over the border and into the wild lands of Scotland on your quest for affordable spots to live, then Stirling’s certainly worth a look in. Crowned by mighty Stirling Castle, the town swirls around a rugged volcanic bluff. It’s famed as the erstwhile capital of Scotland and is steeped in histories of wars between England and Scotland, Saxons and Danes.

Today, you can come to find the place that they call the Gateway to the Highlands. Look north and you’ll see the higher peaks of Scotland rising over the horizon. They peak up to Munros aplenty (summits that top 3,000 feet) in the wonderful Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, which is only 30 minutes away in the car. Edinburgh is the same distance in the other direction, and Glasgow is accessible in just over 35 minutes to the southwest. No wonder they call this the heart of Scotland!

Anyway – to the price. Stirling strikes a fantastic balance between the cost of property and average wages. People here earn over £38,000 ($43,000) per annum. However, the mean cost of a house in these parts still sits at a little over £208,000 ($236,000).

The cheapest places to live in the UK – our conclusion

This guide runs through just a nine on the cheapest places to live in the UK. There’s a big focus on the Nort of England. That’s because, far away from the bloated house prices of London and the South East, there’s way more scope to find towns and cities that won’t break the bank for would-be homeowners looking to hop on the ladder. You should also find that rent and day-to-day living costs are less in these parts. We’ve also picked out a spot in each of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to highlight the cheapest places to live in the UK and its constituent nations, where might find even better bargains than if you were to stick to England itself.

Where are the nicest and cheapest places to live in the UK?

Living in Britain on a budget isn’t impossible. The UK has a host of beautiful towns and cities with low property prices and living expenses in exchange for great quality of life. An accurate way to measure this is weighing up salaries against property prices, and Derry in Northern Ireland comes out on top when you do that. With an average annual wage of £33,000, Derry’s property prices are low in contrast, at £155,000 on average. Carlisle in the north is a close second, along with Bradford in Yorkshire and Stirling and Aberdeen in Scotland. 

Which part of the UK has a low cost of living?

The cheapest places to live in the UK, with low property prices and living expenses, are concentrated in the north of England. Towns in the south, west, and north of Yorkshire have the lowest housing prices in the whole country, reaching as little as £25,000 for a one-bed property. Although Milton Keynes, just over an hour from North London, is also one of the most cost-efficient places to live. This is unusual for southern England. Milton Keynes is the largest settlement in the affluent Buckinghamshire county and still boasts high property prices, a signature of the south. But the area has the most considerable discrepancy between living costs and average income in the UK, making it the place with the lowest cost of living. 

Which part of the UK has the cheapest rent?

You can find the cheapest rent in the UK in Shildon, Ferryhill, Bishop Auckland, and Willington, all located in County Durham. But the West Midlands also boasts some of the cheapest rental properties in the country, with Sandwell and Wolverhampton averaging at just £500 a month for one-bedroom, city center apartments.   

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Esmé is an English literature graduate and freelance writer. Originally from London, Esmé is lucky enough to call Bali home. Her travels have taken her from the far corners of the East to the islands of the Caribbean. When she's not writing, you'll find her lying on a beach somewhere, lost in a crime novel.