Are you an international student, migrant, part-timer or low paid worker wanting to know if you could survive living in Leeds with under £600 a month? Yes, it’s absolutely possible to do so despite being on a tough budget, and let me explain how.

Leeds is an affordable city to live in.

Leeds is considered the heart of West Yorkshire county and isn’t a large city, nor is it a small one. It’s neither expensive, nor cheap. Renting costs for professionals start from about £300 per month excluding bills. There are plenty of decent supermarkets and food stores in every neighbourhood too. Living in a city like Leeds with less than £600 per month will require a lot of sacrifices unfortunately. You must be prepared to spend your money only on essentials like rent and food, and forget about non-essential things and activities like eating out, driving to work and maybe smoking.

Spend you budget on essentials only.

Here are a list of things which I consider absolutely necessary when it comes to having a quality life with little money:

  1. Rent & bills
  2. Food
  3. Clothes
  4. Public transport*
  5. Hobbies & entertainment

The majority of your monthly wage will cover your rent and bills. The further outside town a let is, the cheaper its rent. Armley, Harehills and Beeston are few of the rough but cheapest areas to live in Leeds. If you are a student, you will find very affordable homes in Hyde Park, Burley, Headingley and Meanwood.

A good amount of your wage will go towards food shopping. Aldi is the cheapest place to buy groceries and meat. You should buy whole foods only and cook meals in bulk to save time and be in control of your health and diet. Do not starve yourself to save money on food, your health is more important.

If you need new clothes, go to Primark. It sells the cheapest (and possibly unethical) clothes in the UK. You will find everything you may need for your wardrobe there. Make sure you look presentable for your job and friends, and bin any old worn-our clothes you may have.

*If you are overweight, disabled or live more than 5 miles away from your workplace, you may choose to pay for public transport. Otherwise, get a second-hand bike, lights, mudguards and a weatherproof jacket. Cycling to work will keep you fit and save you money and time.

Lastly, you need to make sure you set some money aside for something fun to do once or twice a week. If you love movies, go to the cinema. Buy a new book if you like reading. Unless your hobbies and interests are too expensive for your monthly income, keep on doing what makes you happy, especially if it helps you learn, grow and be yourself.

Save money by abstaining from non-essentials.

Look for cheaper alternatives or completely avoid spending your money on the following inessential things and activities:

  1. Dining out
  2. Ready-made or takeaway food
  3. Alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  4. Branded clothing or products
  5. Driving and maintaining a car

Eating out is too expensive compared to buying your food and cooking your own meals. What would you buy if you only had £10? A single meal in a fancy restaurant or a few meals prepped at home that you can consume for a couple of days?

Getting a takeaway or buying ready-made meals is convenient but works out more costly than buying and preparing your food in the long run. Plus, the latter is healthier.

Give up or find alternatives to drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or taking drugs. These are extremely expensive and health-damaging. Did you know you could save more than £1450 if you quit smoking for a year? Read more here.

Don’t get seduced by branded products. Like those new Nike shoes? Want that iPhone 8? Save yourself some money by purchasing cheaper alternatives, like an older Samsung model if you really need the features of a smart phone. There’s nothing valuable in blowing your wage on things that make you look a certain way.

If you choose to drive to work whilst earning a small monthly wage, you will soon realise it’s expensive to maintain a car. A car is liability that requires you to spend money on petrol, insurance, taxes and an annual vehicle safety test (MOT). An unlimited weekly bus pass costs less than £20 and might be a better choice if you are on a budget.

In addition, there are other things you must not do if on a low income, such as:

  • Taking advantage of your overdraft or credit card
  • Signing long-term contracts for products or services*
  • Gambling

It may feel liberating to make purchases using a credit card initially but you must not spend any money you don’t already have. Credit cards and overdrafts are designed to get you in debt so avoid relying on them.

Avoid signing any long-term contracts, especially for new electronics or mobile tariffs. You may get your hands on the coolest new phone but you will end up paying double its price by the time the contract is over. Don’t live for the moment unless you’ve prepared for the future. *However, there are some products and services (i.e. home broadband) for which you may be better off signing a contract. Stay cautious at all times when money is involved.

Gambling is not a way to double your hard-earned money. Casinos and the lottery are programmed to always win in the long run. You may get lucky once or twice but you get hurt sooner or later. Invest money in yourself or the business you’ve been developing in your head.