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What is the cost of living in Sunderland?

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The north-east of England is one of the most affordable areas to live in the UK, offering excellent value when it comes to student accommodation, food, travel, and other living costs. Sunderland is one of the cheapest cities, so it’s a great option to consider for university if you want to live comfortably on a budget. According to Save the Student, 2024 data shows the average student’s living costs are around £1,078 a month, but if you live in the north-east, this drops to around £954. We're also the 7th cheapest UK city for student accommodation according to Student Crowd, with prices starting at £85 a week.

Here, we’ve outlined some typical costs for a student living in Sunderland to help you work out your own budget. How much you spend is up to you, but you might find our PANDA budgeting tool useful, which allows you to enter your expected income and outgoings per term then calculates how much money you should have left over. You can also read our helpful guide on how to save money as a student.

The Dun Cow Pub in Sunderland and the Firestation pub

Cost of accommodation in Sunderland

House prices in Sunderland tend to be much lower than in other parts of the UK, which means that private renting and student accommodation in Sunderland is lower too.

The University of Sunderland’s student accommodation is some of the cheapest in the UK and north-east. You can stay in our accommodation for as little as £85 per week with a dormer height room at Panns Bank.

This cost increases if you choose to upgrade to one of our refurbished or ensuite rooms – you can view more detailed pricing by visiting our accommodation pages.

Whether you choose university accommodation or rent privately will affect the cost of your rent and the facilities available. Our student accommodation in Sunderland includes utility bills, Wi-Fi, and contents insurance, making this option even better value for money. If you do decide to rent privately – which most students will end up doing in second and third year – a three-bedroom flat in the city centre costs around £1,000 per month on average (divided between three people), but you’d need to factor in your bills on top of this.

Cost of travel in Sunderland

We’re fortunate in Sunderland to have an excellent public transport system, keeping you well-connected both in the city centre and beyond. The great news is, it’s also affordable, especially for students, and you can choose to travel by bus, Metro, train, taxi, or even electric scooter. One of the benefits of Sunderland being a smaller city is that everything is walkable too, which is a great excuse to get some exercise while travelling for free!

We’ve outlined a few examples of travelling around the area and how much each option costs:

  • The Sunderland Connect 700/701 service and Students’ Union minibus are free when you show your campus card
  • Nexus offers a £3 unlimited day ticket if you’re 21 and under, allowing you to explore County Durham, Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear by bus, metro, and ferry
  • If you’re aged 16-21, you can use the Tyne and Wear Metro cheaply by purchasing a Pop Blue card, where you can make a single journey for just £1 and travel all day for £2.20
  • The Metro also offers student season tickets, available four-weekly or annually, to be used around Sunderland only, or throughout the whole north-east
  • 16-25 railcards can help you save a third off train fares and cost just £30 for the year, or £70 for three years.

"As an international student travelling from Canada to Europe, one of the biggest motivating factors for choosing Sunderland was its great central location. Another big reason was how affordable Sunderland is in comparison with other cities in the UK, such as London. I also enjoy the feel of a smaller community as I was able to walk to class from the residence building."

Shawn Page
BA (Hons) Media Production and Tourism

Cost of food in Sunderland

How much you spend on food every month will vary, but there are plenty of ways you can stick to eating and drinking on a budget as a student. Cooking at home will be the cheapest option and with a range of great value supermarkets nearby, you can expect to spend around £30-35 on your weekly food shop. According to Which? as of December 2023, Aldi takes the top spot for being the cheapest supermarket overall, with Lidl following closely behind. Read our top tips on food shopping as a student.

Going out for a meal in Sunderland is relatively affordable compared to the neighbouring cities of Newcastle and Durham. If you’re planning on eating out and want to save some cash, seek out the restaurants and cafés that offer student discounts, happy hours and two for one deals, as there are plenty of them available in the city centre.

Cost of course materials

Depending on your course, you may need to pay for books, specialist clothing and equipment, or field trips during your studying, the cost of which can all mount up. Luckily, there are ways you can save money on course materials, including borrowing your books from the University library or buying them second hand. You may also be eligible for our StudyPLUS fund, which can help cover the cost of books, stationery, and other study tools from our online store.

Cost of clothing, toiletries, and grooming

The money you spend on clothes, toiletries, and things like getting a haircut is a matter of personal choice, with some of these options being more essential than others. As a student, you can be savvier with your shopping choices as many places in Sunderland – and the rest of the UK – will offer a discount if you hold a valid student card, such as a TOTUM card. Apply for your TOTUM student discount card here.

Social life costs

Again, the amount of money you dedicate towards your social life will be up to you and will vary between person to person. Make the most of some of the free days out Sunderland has to offer, such as spending time at the beach or park, taking a trip to Hylton Castle, or exploring Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Your student discount will be valid on certain attractions too.

We’ve outlined a few examples of things to do or buy in Sunderland and how much they cost:

  • Boldon Cineworld: £7.80 for a standard 2D cinema ticket with a valid student card
  • Sunderland Bowl: £6 for one, £10.50 for two, or £12.50 for three games of bowling with a valid student card
  • Gym membership: Our on-campus gym and fitness suite at CitySpace is available to our students for just £120 for a full year’s membership
  • Eating out: An evening meal for two at a mid-range restaurant can cost you as little as £30 in total
  • A pint of beer: A local pint in Sunderland will set you back around £3.50 on average.

Read more about some of our favourite things to do in Sunderland.

Other miscellaneous costs

A few other monthly costs you may need to take into consideration include:

  • Mobile phones: The cost of this will vary, but buying a brand new phone where you’re tied to a monthly contract will be significantly more expensive than seeking out a bargain with a SIM-only plan or pay-as-you-go phone
  • Laundry and household items: You may decide to split these costs with flatmates, but items such as toilet roll and cleaning products need to be factored into your monthly budget
  • TV licence: Whether you’re watching in your room in our halls of residence or sharing with your flatmates in privately rented accommodation, it’s a legal requirement to pay for a TV licence when watching live TV or BBC iPlayer. This will cost you £159 for the full year.


For more information on budgeting and other money matters, please get in touch with our Student Financial Guidance team by emailing studentfinancialguidance@sunderland.ac.uk or calling 0191 515 2284.

Published: 26 January 2024