Living expenses and budgeting

Find out how much basic items cost, if you need to buy course books, which discounts are available and more.

Average living expenses

Use our living costs calculator to find out the international average living expenses as calculated from the expenditure of our current international students.

You should be realistic about your budgeting for your time at university. It is essential that you have enough money to live on for the duration of your course.

International students: Please note that these figures are different from the financial maintenance test that you will be required to pass to obtain your Tier 4 student visa.

For more information on expenditure in private accommodation, please see the guidance from our Residences Office.

Buying course books

Although you can borrow course books from our libraries, they are often in high demand and so you may find that you have to wait to use them and you may only be able to borrow them for a short time. This means you may need to buy important course books and you should budget for this.

Essential course books are likely to be available in Blackwell's bookshop located in Cardiff University Students’ Union.

You may also be able to buy the books on your reading list before you arrive as lecturers give the reading list for some courses to Blackwell's Bookshop. So if you pre-order them, they could be waiting for you when you arrive in Cardiff. Email Blackwell's to find out if they have your reading list or visit their website to order your books.

International students: It's often a good idea to wait until you are in Cardiff before buying course books. You may be able to share books with friends, and you won’t have to carry them from overseas.

Student discount cards

You'll find that a lot of things, from cinema tickets to clothing, DVDs to travel, can be bought at discounted cost if you're a student.

Your student ID card, which will be issued to you at enrolment, is very useful. In addition to giving you access to University buildings, the card also proves that you are a member of the NUS (National Union of Students) and often entitles you to discounts in shops, cinemas and restaurants. Ask if they offer a student discount.

This card can be purchased for £12 at the STA Travel shop in Cardiff city centre. It is available to any full-time student and entitles you to discounts on charter flights, some accommodation, cinema tickets and admission to art galleries and museums.

To obtain an ISIC card, you need a passport-size photograph and proof that you're a full-time student.

You'll make considerable savings on travel around the UK by purchasing a 16-25 Railcard or a Coachcard.

Young Persons Coachcard

This card costs £10 for a year or £25 for three years and gives you 30% off all National Express coach travel in the UK. To get one you simply need proof that you're a student. You can buy the Young Persons Coach Card at National Express coach offices or online.

16-25 Railcard

This card costs £30 for one year or £70 for three years, and gives you a third off your rail travel in the UK. To get this you will need proof you're a student, your passport and a passport-size photo. You can buy the card at any railway station or online.

Cost of basic items

Lidl (supermarket on Cathays campus)Tesco (supermarket near Talybont)
Milk (2 pints)£0.89£0.75
Margarine (500g)£0.89£0.89
Basmati rice white (500g)£1.79£1.89
Tea bags (80 bags)£0.97£1
All-purpose cleaner (1 litre)£0.95£1

Cost of laundry facilities

Laundry facilities at University residences typically cost:

  • Normal wash: £2
  • Super wash: £2.20
  • Dryer (20 minutes): £1