How do I decide where to live?

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

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Where do you want to call home? Where can you afford to live? What kind of area would suit you and your budget?

These seem like pretty big questions, but by looking at the key financial and lifestyle factors, MyBnk have broken it down into an easy guide to help you decide.

Should I live in the city or the countryside?

When you picture your future, can you see yourself in the fast-paced city or in a greener 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.

We tend to associate the big cities with big money, and we all know that the cost of living in cities like London are extortionate compared to the rest of the UK, but considering other factors, which lifestyle would you choose? There are always positive and negative draws to any location when choosing where to live.

Broadband access

In modern society we are all about the instant access and easy lifestyle. One of the drawbacks of living in a remote location in the UK is broadband speeds! This BBC article reports that most remote areas receive speeds of only 13.7Mbps! This is three times slower than in urban locations.

While not all people would find this a problem, remote workers, gamers, or families streaming videos may struggle to all access their normal speeds. So, whilst we are all paying the same price for our broadband service, not everyone will be able to access the speeds promised for their contracted monthly payments, which on average is £19 extra per month.

Medical treatment

It has also been documented that when living in a rural location you can be at a disadvantage when it comes to medical treatment. Only 80% of people living in rural spots 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 is 50 to 54, while the biggest age group in urban areas is 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 for places to spend your extra cash both cities and rural places offer similar venues – pubs, cafés, and restaurants all exist in both areas. The difference is that rural towns 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 is has beautiful open space and the 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

Head to our money hub page.

Read our article on how to plan now for the future.

If you’re feeling worried about your finances, that’s ok and 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.


Updated on 21-Sep-2020