How do I decide where to live?

A young person looks thoughtful against a split image of the city and the countryside

The Mix would like to thank MyBnk for their help and expertise in producing this article about deciding where to live. Click here, or below, to take our e-learning course, built in collaboration with MyBnk.

So, where to live in the UK? It’s a big question, but by looking at the key financial and lifestyle factors, MyBnk has broken it down into an easy guide to help you decide.

Should I live in the city or the countryside?

When you ask yourself where is the best place to live, do you see yourself in a fast-paced city or in a greener, more open space? According to the most recent 2020 census, about 55 million people live in urban areas, compared to around 11 million people living in rural towns and villages.

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly seen more people making the move from cities to suburban and rural areas, but what would work best for you and your lifestyle? Here are a few things to consider.

Broadband access

In modern society we are all about instant access and an easy lifestyle. One of the drawbacks of living in a rural location in the UK is slower broadband speeds, but these days that might not be a deal breaker for you unless you’re a professional streamer or you need fast upload speeds for work.

An Ofcom report from 2015 found that the average download speeds for urban, suburban and rural areas in the UK were 50.5, 30.7 and 13.7mpbs respectively.

It’s definitely worth finding out what broadband speeds you could expect before you move, though. If 13.7mbps is the average for rural areas, some places will inevitably be less connected than others.

Medical treatment

It has also been documented that when living in a rural location you can be at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing medical treatment. Only 80% of people living in rural areas live within a four-kilometre distance to a GP surgery and 55% live within eight kilometres of a main hospital.

In comparison, the stats for urban top 97% for both distance to a GP surgery and a main hospital!

Age of population

According to this government report, In 2018, the biggest age group in rural areas was 50 to 54, while the biggest age group in urban areas was 25 to 29. This is something to be aware of before making the decision to move – what kind of community do you want to live in?

Work and commuting

You might assume that there would be higher employment in urban areas, but surprisingly in rural areas, 77% of those of working age are employed, compared to only 73% of working age people in cities.

We do need to consider here though, that just because a person is living in a rural area and counted in the numbers above, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily working in this area. Lots of rural villages are classed as commuter towns where people in search of countryside living continue to travel to cities for work.


Generally, travelling around big cities isn’t a problem. In places like London, you will have lots of transport options and they’re all quite frequent and reliable. Also, with a daily Travelcard from zones 1-4 costing £12.70 it’s not going to break the bank either.

In other places in the UK it’s a different story. Public transport tends to be patchy, infrequent, and unreliable with the most expensive bus route (a five mile single journey trip from Winchester) costing £5.65! Travelling by train can also be very expensive and stations in more rural areas tend to not have direct links to major cities.

Travelling by car

Travelling by car is the most popular mode of transport for those living outside major city centres as it offers a more efficient and practical alternative to busses and trains. The initial cost of learning to drive and purchasing a car can put lots of young people off the idea, but in the long term if you’re not in a city, travelling by car is one of your only options for getting around.

For people who live in cities, learning to drive may have never been an option – expensive lessons, tests, paying for a car, and even finding somewhere to park are all issues that can add up to people never getting behind the wheel.

Things to do

When it comes to places to spend your extra cash, pubs, cafés, and restaurants can obviously be found in urban and rural areas. The difference is that rural locations offer far fewer options. In fact, accessing general amenities such as supermarkets can become a mission if you are in a rural area.
One thing that can’t be denied about the country is that it has access to beautiful open space and scenery – and it’s all free!

One of the main advantages of living in a city is a diverse and thriving social life. From cinemas and theatres to fitness classes and local events, cities are definitely a place to get out there and meet people. Most cities also offer lots of free events and exhibitions!

Even though there’s more to do in cities, according to the BBC, people living in villages and hamlets have significantly higher amounts of disposable income (between £640 and £700 per week) than their urban neighbours (£555). Which means that even though there are more options in the city for outings, village dwellers have more cash to burn.

For more advice on how to plan your financial future

If you’re feeling worried about your finances, that’s ok, we’re here to help. Money can be a really stressful issue to navigate, especially while everything is so uncertain. But our support team are here to listen, offer reassurance and connect you to the right advice. Head here to speak to our team of experts and trained volunteers.

Next steps

  • The Money Advice Service offers free, unbiased and independent advice about all financial matters. 0800 138 7777
  • Citizens Advice offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local centre.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Next Steps

By Holly Turner

Updated on 27-Jun-2021