Disposable income around the UK

Where in the UK can you make the most, and spend the least?


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It’s no secret that prices and salaries vary widely around the UK. Coupled with a rise in credit card usage, it’s clear that where you live will often dictate how much disposable income you have and how much you rely on alternative means to make ends meet.

If you want to earn more, most people will tell you to move to London for a better-paid job. But if you did, it’s likely that you’d just end up paying more for living expenses. With this in mind, we looked into the pay gap found in different British cities and asked whether a higher income is always balanced out by a higher cost of living. Or, if there are there places where you can earn more without also having to spend more.
We studied income and cost-of-living in 30 cities around the UK to answer these questions.
For each city, we took the average monthly salary, and subtracted from this the average monthly living costs and rent for one person (see full methodology below). The result is an estimate for the average disposable income for an individual in each of these cities, shown in the map below.
Of the 30 cities in this analysis, Derby came out on top for disposable income, with the average worker there potentially getting £1,456 on average to do whatever they want with each month. This is 34% above the overall average of £1,083. Those living in Brighton get the least disposable income, at £751, 31% below the average.

Monthly disposable income in 30 cities around the UK



Worst 5 cities for disposable income

1. Brighton
2. Norwich
3. Plymouth
4. Manchester
5. York

Best 5 cities for disposable income

1. Derby
2. Reading
3. Southampton
4. Edinburgh
5. Aberdeen

Average salary vs cost of living in the UK

Country Total costs
Derby £809
Reading £1,186
Southampton £947
Edinburgh £1,019
Aberdeen £1,027
Milton Keynes £1,107
Belfast £831
Swindon £1,007
Liverpool £850
Cambridge £1,192
Leeds £933
Coventry £943
Glasgow £925
London £1,629
Birmingham £952
Newcastle upon Tyne £882
Kingston upon Hull £767
Cardiff £906
Sheffield £818
Bristol £1,076
Oxford £1,263
Nottingham £875
Leicester £874
Exeter £941
Portsmouth £1,024
York £959
Manchester £1,002
Plymouth £883
Norwich £889
Brighton £1,170
To look at the data another way, the chart above shows each city’s average salary and living costs side by side. The smaller the gap between a city’s red and blue dot, the lower the average disposable income in that city. Notably, London’s gap is about average in size, but much higher up the chart than the others, reflecting the higher incomes and costs you find there.

The full results

CityAverage monthly net salary (after tax)Monthly single person costs (including rent)Estimated single person rentDisposable income
Milton Keynes£2,348£1,107£394£1,241
Newcastle upon Tyne£1,939£882£265£1,057
Kingston upon Hull£1,816£767£204£1,049


think tank Centre for Cities

For rent, the total rents listed above were added, then divided by six, to get an approximate figure for the rent a single person could expect to pay.

The disposable income figure was then found by subtracting this, and a single person’s monthly costs without rent, from the average monthly income after tax.

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact

Matt Mckenna
Head of UK communications
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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