Cost of living report

The cost of living has always been a cause for concern amongst the general public, but recent times have seen prices soar significantly. Our personal finance experts have looked into which areas are hit hardest and how things have changed in the last few years.

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The cost of living refers to the price you have to pay to maintain a decent standard of living. While this is affected by how much you earn, other factors such as inflation, taxes and things such as the COVID-19 pandemic all affect the cost of living.

Although the cost of living crisis has undoubtedly got worse in the last year, some families have been struggling for much longer than that. But which parts of the country are worst affected? And how have things changed in the last five years? We have looked into a number of government sources and other resources to find out.

If you’re looking to save money at the moment, why not compare 0% balance transfer credit card deals to see if you can reduce interest on your existing debts?


Top 3 most and least expensive places for rent in the UK

Top three most and least expensive boroughs for rent

Housing is one of the biggest costs that the public face, especially for those who are renting properties. Demand for housing remains high, especially in major urban city centres.

With that in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that 19 out of the top 20 most expensive places to rent are found in London.

Kensington & Chelsea is the most expensive, with the average renter paying £2,971 per month in this affluent area of the capital.

Top ten most expensive places to rent in the UK

Local authorityRegionAverage monthly rentFive-year difference
Kensington and ChelseaLondon£2,97110.80%
City of WestminsterLondon£2,59712.90%
Hammersmith and FulhamLondon£2,17313.10%
City of LondonLondon£2,0487.50%

The area that has seen the biggest increase in rents is still among the most affordable. Blaenau Gwent, in south-east Wales, has seen rents go up by 45.3% in the last five years, although it still costs just £567 a month.

Local authorityRegionAverage monthly rentFive-year difference
Blaenau GwentWales£56745.30%
ShepwaySouth East£88938.50%
HastingsSouth East£94235.70%
BroxtoweEast Midlands£81635.70%
Merthyr TydfilWales£57635.00%
OldhamNorth West£67134.10%
GedlingEast Midlands£77133.50%
ThanetSouth East£87133.30%

If you'd like to read more on this topic, we've collated the latest UK cost of living statistics and trends, covering inflation rates, average UK living costs, income, house prices, and more.

House prices

Top 3 most and least expensive places to buy a house in the UK

top ten most and least expensive places for house prices

Getting on the property ladder is harder than ever before and house prices have continued to increase, even in the face of the pandemic.

As with rents, demand is highest in London and the South, with Kensington & Chelsea once again being the most expensive place, at £1,513,711.

Top ten most expensive places for house prices in the UK

Local authorityRegionAverage house price 2022Five-year difference
Kensington and ChelseaLondon£1,513,7118.10%
City of WestminsterLondon£977,554-11.90%
City of LondonLondon£838,145-7.50%
Richmond upon ThamesLondon£792,53819.40%
Hammersmith and FulhamLondon£721,185-6.80%
ElmbridgeSouth East£667,11815.10%

Prices have increased the most in the last five years in the Scottish council area of Na h-Eileanan Siar, better known as the Outer Hebrides.

Here, the average house price has increased by about three quarters, from £91,482 in 2017 to £159,288 in 2022.

Local authorityAverage house price 2017Average house price 2022Five-year difference
Na h-Eileanan Siar£91,482£159,28874.10%
Blaenau Gwent£82,675£131,59659.20%
Orkney Islands£144,279£220,73953.00%
Merthyr Tydfil£96,699£147,34152.40%
North Devon£221,106£332,93850.60%
Rhondda Cynon Taf£100,624£149,72448.80%


Energy bills are one of the most contentious living costs that are on the rise currently, with demand for gas increasing, while supply is being limited.


Top 3 most and least expensive places for electricity bills in the UK

top ten most and least expensive places for energy in the UK

Those on Merseyside and in North Wales pay the most for their electricity, with an average unit cost of 22.41p per kWh. In real terms, that equates to £807 a year.

Residents of Northern Ireland pay the least, with a unit cost of 19.43p per kWh and £699 per year.

Top 15 most expensive places for electricity bills in the UK

RegionAverage unit cost (per kWh)Average overall billFour-year difference
Merseyside & North Wales£0.22£80728.60%
South West£0.22£79625.40%
North Scotland£0.22£79323.60%
South East£0.22£78930.80%
South Wales£0.22£78726.70%
West Midlands£0.21£76329.40%
South Scotland£0.21£75729.70%
North East£0.21£75127.20%
North West£0.21£74826.30%
East Midlands£0.21£74729.90%
Northern Ireland£0.19£69934.30%

However, Northern Ireland also has seen the greatest increase in prices, up by 34.3% between 2017 and 2021.

Region2017 Average overall bill2021 Average overall billFour-year difference
Northern Ireland£521£69934.30%
South East£603£78930.80%
East Midlands£575£74729.90%
South Scotland£584£75729.70%
West Midlands£590£76329.40%
Merseyside & North Wales£627£80728.60%
North East£591£75127.20%
South Wales£621£78726.70%
North West£592£74826.30%
South West£635£79625.40%
North Scotland£641£79323.60%


Top 3 most and least expensive places for gas bills in the UK

Cost of living report - image module

London pays the most when it comes to gas, at 4.27p per kWh, or £581 per year. That figure doesn’t vary too much around the country, with those in the North East paying £538 a year in comparison.

Top 14 most expensive places for gas in the UK

Region2021 Average unit cost (per kWh)2021 Average overall billThree-year difference
South West£0.04£5744.20%
South Wales£0.04£5665.60%
South East£0.04£5632.20%
North Scotland£0.04£5594.10%
Merseyside & North Wales£0.04£5573.50%
South Scotland£0.04£5554.10%
West Midlands£0.04£5544.10%
North West£0.04£5523.80%
East Midlands£0.04£5423.10%
North East£0.04£5383.70%

Those in South Wales have been hit the hardest when it comes to rising gas prices, which went up 5.6% between 2018 and 2021.

Region2018 Average overall bill2021 Average overall billThree-year difference
South Wales£592£5665.57%
South West£608£5744.20%
South Scotland£589£5554.08%
West Midlands£588£5544.08%
North Scotland£593£5594.05%
North West£586£5523.84%
North East£572£5383.66%
Merseyside & North Wales£593£5573.54%
East Midlands£581£5423.10%
South East£608£5632.22%

Council Tax

Top 3 most and least expensive places for Council Tax in the UK

most and least expensive places for council tax in the uk

You may think that Council Tax is highest in areas with the highest property prices, although to some extent, the opposite is true.

The average Band D prices paid in high-value areas in London like Westminster and Wandsworth are actually the lowest, at £829 and £845 respectively.

On the other hand, the average Band D property in Nottingham pays the most, at £2,226 a year.

Top 10 most expensive places for council tax in the UK

Local authorityRegionAverage Band D Council Tax 2021-22Five-year difference
NottinghamEast Midlands£2,22625.70%
DorsetSouth West£2,223-
RutlandEast Midlands£2,19523.80%
LewesSouth East£2,18924.10%
Newark & SherwoodEast Midlands£2,17122.20%
West DevonSouth West£2,16724.80%
BristolSouth West£2,16425.70%
WealdenSouth East£2,16323.00%
GatesheadNorth East£2,14526.20%
DurhamNorth East£2,13823.20%

The area where residents have seen the greatest council taxi hike is Pembrokeshire, where the average Band D tax has risen by 40.4% in five years.

Local authorityAverage Band D Council Tax 2016-2017Average Band D Council Tax 2021-22Five-year difference
Isle of Wight£1,616£2,07228.22%

Northern Ireland domestic rates

Top 3 most and least expensive places for domestic rates in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland domestic rates

While residents in Northern Ireland don’t pay Council Tax, they do pay domestic rates, consisting of a regional rate set by Stormont and a district rate set by local councils.

Taking into account how these rates would be applied to the average house price in each area, those in Ards & North Down pay the most on average.

With an average house price of £187,947, being charged a rate of 0.872%, locals here can expect to pay around £1,639.

Local authority2022 Average house price2022 RateFive-year difference
Ards and North Down£187,9470.87%55.00%
Lisburn and Castlereagh£189,9680.84%49.10%
Fermanagh and Omagh£153,2670.99%71.40%
Causeway Coast and Glens£183,1100.81%47.20%
Mid Ulster£159,6050.91%58.20%
Newry Mourne and Down£176,7960.81%39.20%
Antrim and Newtownabbey£166,6780.83%35.90%
Derry City and Strabane£145,7410.87%32.70%
Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon£146,5770.82%27.60%
Mid and East Antrim£151,7940.78%19.60%
Local authority2017 Average house price2017 Rate2017 Average rate amount
Fermanagh and Omagh£116,4560.76%£881
Mid Ulster£126,4220.73%£923
Ards and North Down£145,6780.73%£1,057
Lisburn and Castlereagh£151,4060.71%£1,069
Causeway Coast and Glens£130,6760.77%£1,012
Newry Mourne and Down£130,4000.79%£1,026
Antrim and Newtownabbey£133,2130.76%£1,017
Derry City and Strabane£109,5180.87%£955
Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon£113,5960.83%£941
Mid and East Antrim£120,4420.83%£996
Local authority2022 Average house price2022 Rate2022 Average rate amount
Fermanagh and Omagh£153,2670.99%£1,510
Mid Ulster£159,6050.91%£1,460
Ards and North Down£187,9470.87%£1,639
Lisburn and Castlereagh£189,9680.84%£1,594
Causeway Coast and Glens£183,1100.81%£1,490
Newry Mourne and Down£176,7960.81%£1,428
Antrim and Newtownabbey£166,6780.83%£1,382
Derry City and Strabane£145,7410.87%£1,268
Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon£146,5770.82%£1,201
Mid and East Antrim£151,7940.78%£1,191
Local authorityFive-year difference
Fermanagh and Omagh71.40%
Mid Ulster58.20%
Ards and North Down55.00%
Lisburn and Castlereagh49.10%
Causeway Coast and Glens47.20%
Newry Mourne and Down39.20%
Antrim and Newtownabbey35.90%
Derry City and Strabane32.70%
Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon27.60%
Mid and East Antrim19.60%


Average retail cost per litre for different types of fuel

Graph showing prices of petrol and diesel

Another outgoing that has received a lot of media coverage is that of fuel, with some petrol stations charging as much as £2 a litre.

While the cost of fuel is fluctuating by the week, as of June 2022 it stands at £1.9272 per litre of unleaded, £1.8310 for premium unleaded and £1.9015 for diesel.

Those prices have all increased by more than double compared to the same month five years ago, as much as 61.8% for diesel.

Average retail cost per litre 2017-2019

Fuel type201720182019
Premium unleaded£1.16£1.28£1.28
Super unleaded£1.25£1.38£1.39

Average retail cost per litre 2020-2022

Fuel type202020212022
Premium unleaded£1.06£1.29£1.83
Super unleaded£1.20£1.43£1.93

Fuel cost 5 year difference

Fuel typeFive-year difference
Premium unleaded58.50%
Super unleaded54.20%

Groceries & other costs

Average weekly household expenditure for groceries & other costs

household expenses

Looking at the cost of other everyday commodities and services such as groceries, these have increased by 11.5% in the last five years.

Spending has increased the most on restaurants and hotels (24.5%). However, spending in a couple of areas has decreased, including education, clothing & footwear and household goods & services.

Average weekly household expenditure

RankCommodity or service2019-20Five-year difference
1Housing, fuel & power£83.0014.00%
3Other expenditure items£79.3018.50%
4Recreation & culture£74.807.90%
5Food & non-alcoholic drinks£63.709.30%
6Restaurants & hotels£52.9024.50%
7Miscellaneous goods & services£45.7013.10%
8Household goods & services£36.50-0.50%
9Clothing & footwear£23.40-1.30%
10Alcoholic drinks, tobacco & narcotics£12.907.50%

Average weekly household expenditure

Commodity or service2014-152019-20Five-year difference
Restaurants & hotels£42.50£52.9024.50%
Other expenditure items£66.90£79.3018.50%
Housing, fuel & power£72.80£83.0014.00%
Miscellaneous goods & services£40.40£45.7013.10%
Food & non-alcoholic drinks£58.30£63.709.30%
Recreation & culture£69.30£74.807.90%
Alcoholic drinks, tobacco & narcotics£12.00£12.907.50%
Household goods & services£36.70£36.50-0.50%
Clothing & footwear£23.70£23.40-1.30%


Areas with top 3 highest and lowest average annual incomes in the UK

Cost of living report - image module

While rising prices make it much harder to achieve a good standard of living, this is obviously offset by higher earnings.

However, earnings have largely failed to increase at the same rate as many of the costs above.

Unsurprisingly, the area with the highest property and rent prices is also the place with the highest earnings.

Kensington & Chelsea sees the average employee make £39,566, over twice as much as the lowest earning area, Melton, in the East Midlands.

Local authorityRegionAverage annual income 2021Five-year difference
Kensington and ChelseaLondon£39,56611.30%
St AlbansEast of England£37,78812.90%
Hammersmith and FulhamLondon£37,0036.70%
Richmond upon ThamesLondon£36,372-3.50%
Surrey HeathSouth East£36,13415.00%
Tower HamletsLondon£35,96516.70%

In the last five years, earnings have increased the most in Na h-Eileanan Siar, the small group of Scottish islands better known as the Outer Hebrides, (40.8%). But in some areas, they’ve actually decreased (as much as -14.1% in Brentwood).

Local authority2016 Average annual income2021 Average annual incomeFive-year difference
Na h-Eileanan Siar£19,324£27,20540.80%
Malvern Hills£19,498£26,02933.50%
West Lindsey£20,628£26,94730.60%
Pembrokeshire / Sir Benfro£18,587£23,74627.80%
North Norfolk£17,992£22,90727.30%


Areas with top 3 highest and lowest average pension incomes in the UK

places with the most and least average pension income in the UK

Those who are no longer working are amongst those affected the most by rising living costs, with saved pension pots not keeping up with inflation.

For a retired couple, the average pension income is highest in the South East, at £691.

Median weekly pension income (couples)

RankRegion2020/21Five-year difference
1South East£69110.00%
2South West£62311.60%
3East of England£6219.90%
6Northern Ireland£57424.20%
8East Midlands£56610.30%
9North West£55710.50%
10North East£5479.80%
11Yorkshire and the Humber£54011.10%
12West Midlands£53813.00%

The area where this has increased the most is Northern Ireland, going up by just under a quarter. 

Median weekly pension income (couples)

Region2015/162020/21Five-year difference
Northern Ireland£462£57424.20%
West Midlands£476£53813.00%
South West£558£62311.60%
Yorkshire and the Humber£486£54011.10%
North West£504£55710.50%
East Midlands£513£56610.30%
South East£628£69110.00%
East of England£565£6219.90%
North East£498£5479.80%

Disposable income

Areas with top 3 highest and lowest disposable incomes in the UK

areas with most and least average disposable income in the uk

Taking into account the costs of the commodities and services above, and comparing them to average earnings, which region ends up with the most money left over?

Given that earnings are so much higher in London, it may be unsurprising that those in the capital have the highest estimated disposable income, at £329.20.

Disposable income

Region2020 Average weekly expenditure per person2020 Average weekly earnings2020 Estimated disposable incomeFive-year increase
West Midlands£219.30£460.00£240.7013.90%
Northern Ireland£199.00£432.70£233.7025.70%
North West£229.50£458.10£228.6015.30%
South East£285.00£510.60£225.601.70%
East Midlands£239.90£463.00£223.1019.60%
North East£225.20£438.50£213.305.40%
Yorkshire and The Humber£233.70£442.30£208.608.40%
South West£263.90£443.80£179.904.60%

While this amount has increased by around a quarter in Northern Ireland, in the South East, disposable income has only grown by 1.7%.

Region2015 Average weekly expenditure per person2015 Average weekly earnings
Northern Ireland£195.80£381.70
East Midlands£214.30£400.90
North West£201.70£400.00
West Midlands£191.10£402.50
Yorkshire and The Humber£196.60£389.10
North East£192.40£394.70
South West£226.40£398.40
South East£246.10£467.90
Updated 20 April 2023
Region2020 Average weekly expenditure per person2020 Average weekly earnings2020 Estimated disposable income
Northern Ireland£199.00£432.70£233.70
East Midlands£239.90£463.00£223.10
North West£229.50£458.10£228.60
West Midlands£219.30£460.00£240.70
Yorkshire and The Humber£233.70£442.30£208.60
North East£225.20£438.50£213.30
South West£263.90£443.80£179.90
South East£285.00£510.60£225.60
Updated 20 April 2023
RegionFive-year increase
Northern Ireland25.70%
East Midlands19.60%
North West15.30%
West Midlands13.90%
Yorkshire and The Humber8.40%
North East5.40%
South West4.60%
South East1.70%

What to do if you're struggling with debt

Dealing with debt can be disheartening and seem like an uphill struggle, but there are steps you can take to tackle it.

Prioritise your debts

Some debts are more urgent than others, so by making a list of all the amounts you owe, you can make sure you're dealing with your secured loans (mortgages and rent) before your unsecured loans (credit cards and overdraft).

Speak to your creditors

Although your creditors might feel like the last people you want to speak to whilst in debt, the Banking Code says that banks must be sympathetic towards people's missed payments, so get in touch with your lenders and explain your situation. They may be able to offer you a manageable repayment plan that enables you to pay back what you owe in smaller monthly payments.

Write a budget

Write out a budget that clearly shows you how much money you have coming in per month, what your bills are, and therefore how much extra spending money you can afford per month. This will not only help you figure out how much you can afford to spend on debt repayments, it can also highlight where you are over spending, and where to make cut-backs.

Ask for help

It's easy for debt to spiral out of control and become problematic, especially during the current cost of living crisis, but there is help out there. The government are providing help for households, so visit Help for households to find out what support you may be eligible for.

Inflation calculator

Ever wondered how inflation and the rising cost of living are affecting your household costs? You can use the Government's inflation calculator below to see how increases in the cost of living have affected you in the past year, and work out your personal inflation rate.

You can insert your household spending patterns into the calculator (categories include groceries, housing, transport and leisure) and it will estimate your personal inflation rate based on the current inflation rate.

You can also provide your income and the calculator will estimate your spending on other areas based on the average spending for a household on your income level.

For the most accurate results, make sure to include granular costs for as many outgoings as possible. Make sure you consider irregular purchases e.g new car or dress, and include the average amount this costs you over a week, month or year.


Why is the cost of living going up?

The cost of living is always determined by a large number of factors. Demand is one of them, with demand for things such as energy and fuel both very high at the moment, it has driven their prices up.

In addition to this, there are still lots of shortages in some areas as a result of the pandemic, meaning that manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand.

The end of financial support relating to the pandemic has also had an effect, as have other factors such as climate change and trade issues.

What is the cost of living in the UK?

This all depends on how you define the cost of living. According to the ONS, the average weekly household expenditure was £587.90 as of 2019-20.

This figure takes into account a number of goods and commodities such as housing costs, groceries, transport, clothing and more.

The cost of living in the UK is higher than in a lot of countries, although it isn’t among the highest in the world.

Why are gas and electricity prices going up?

Gas and electricity prices are among the costs causing the greatest concern. Again, the increase in prices comes down to supply and demand.

Providers are having to pay more to source gas and electricity and these extra costs are being passed on to customers.

These wholesale prices are at an all-time high due to factors such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and particularly extreme weather in some parts of the world.

How much Council Tax do I pay?

The amount of Council Tax that you have to pay depends on two things: where you live, and how much your house is worth.

Each local council sets its own Council Tax rates and these are split into bands, based on the value of your home.

You may qualify for discounts or exemptions too, for example, if you’re a student, disabled, or live alone.

To find out exactly how much you pay, you can check at GOV.UK in England and Wales, or with the Scottish Assessors in Scotland.

What are private pensions?

A private pension is a pension plan that you pay into, which will then be paid back to you after you retire.

This exists alongside your state pension and is split into ‘defined contribution’ and ‘defined benefit’ pensions.

With a defined contribution pension, the amount that you’ll receive is based on how much you contribute.

On the other hand, defined benefit pensions are usually run by your employer and are based on how much you earn and how long you’ve worked somewhere.

What is Fuel Duty?

Fuel Duty is a tax paid on the sale of fuel used for vehicles such as petrol and diesel. It generates a large amount of revenue for the government and is charged as part of the price that you pay at the pump.

The amount you pay for Fuel Duty varies by type of fuel and for 2022-23, stands at 52.95p for both unleaded petrol and diesel. VAT is also charged on top of those too, at 20%.

How to budget money?

With the cost of living on the rise, many people are now creating a personal budget to manage their money.

The first thing to do is calculate how much money you have coming in, after deductions such as taxes and insurance.

Next, you need to work out how much you’re spending, including fixed expenses like bills and rent, as well as variable ones like groceries and leisure activities.

Once you have an idea of your incomings and outgoings, you can make a plan and set some goals for your spending going forward.

This will likely mean that you have to adjust some of your spending habits to meet these goals and find some expenses that can be cut.

You should also make sure to review this budget on a regular basis to make sure you’re still on track.

Dealing with the high cost of living

If the rising cost of living is causing you concern, then why not check out our guides below for tips on saving money on food, bills, going abroad and more.

Methodology and sources


All data provided by Zoopla and refers to average rental listing prices as of May 2022.

House prices

Sourced from the Land Registry’s UK House Price Index, showing the average house price from April of each year.

Utility bills

Sourced from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s annual domestic energy bills data.

Annual bills are based on fixed consumption levels of 3,600 kWh per year for electricity and 13,600 kWh for gas.

Council tax

For England, Wales and Scotland, figures show the average Council Tax paid in Band D properties, sourced from the following sources: 

Northern Ireland uses domestic rate bills rather than council tax. The rate for each area was sourced from the Department of Finance’s poundages data and applied to average house prices (according to the Land Registry UK House Price Index).


The average cost of fuel sourced from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s monthly and annual prices of road fuels and petroleum products and refers to mid-June figures for super unleaded, premium unleaded and DERV fuel.

Groceries & other costs

The average cost of several household goods and services according to the Office for National Statistics’ family spending workbook 1: detailed expenditure and trends. These figures refer to financial years.


The median annual income for all workers according to the Office for National Statistics’ ASHE earnings and hours worked, place of residence by local authority.


The median gross weekly pension income for pensioner couples, sourced from the Department for Work and Pensions’ Pensioners’ Incomes Series.

These amounts are an average over three years as there are small sample sizes for some regions.

Disposable income

The average weekly expenditure per person by region from the Office for National Statistics’ family spending workbook 3: family spending workbook 3: expenditure by region, subtracted from the average weekly income by region (from the Office for National Statistics’ ASHE earnings and hours worked, place of residence by local authority).

About Salman Haqqi

Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press.

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the press centre for our latest news.