Two people sitting at the top of Calton Hill watching the sunset

Millennial Money: Edinburgh Expat Edition

Is anyone else obsessed with Millennial Money right now, or is it just me?

If you’ve never heard of this series before, let me give you the lowdown: CNBC runs a YouTube series called Millennial Money, which highlights — you guessed it — Millennials from across the US and the ways in which they spend their money. (Glamour also does something similar with Money Tours and Refinery29 has Money Diaries. Let me know if there’s anything similar I’m missing!).

Every episode of Millennial Money features a breakdown of the person’s salary, their monthly income and expenses, and what they spend their hard-earned moola on.

Some episodes will make you feel better about your financial situation; others will make you want to weep and wonder, why did no one teach me how to invest in my early twenties?!

Either way, you’ll probably start feeling inspired to up your financial literacy game and spend your money smarter. That’s what’s happened for me, at least!

After getting sucked into a Millennial Money black hole and watching God-only-knows how many episodes on YouTube, I started thinking: this would make for an excellent expat blog series. 

Let’s be real here: we’re all nosy AF curious about other people’s salaries and spending habits, and how we stack up against them.

And this type of behind-the-scenes peek is even more fascinating when we’re talking about expats living in cities we’ve all fantasized about moving to at one time or another, whether it’s London or Paris, Tokyo or Cape Town.

So here it is: my version of Millennial Money, the Edinburgh expat edition.

Statue in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

How a twenty-something expat living in Edinburgh (hi, that’s me!) spends her money 

Before we dive in, there are a few bits of housekeeping — technicalities, if you will — that I need to address: I’m no longer a twenty-something and I’m no longer living in Edinburgh *insert crying face emoji here*.

Since the Millennial Money series didn’t exist while I was living abroad, I’m throwing it back to 2017 when I was still in my twenties and still living in Scotland’s capital — AKA my favourite city and second home.

That’s right, I’ve got my calculator out and I’m combing through my TSB bank account statements to give you an insider look at my finances while living in Edinburgh as an expat — including my salary, monthly expenses, splurges, and more.

Shit’s about to get real!

The essentials 

Job title: SEO copywriter
Digital marketing
Housing: Renting a room in a two-bedroom flat (shared with one housemate who owns the flat)
Location: West end of Edinburgh (ten-minute bus ride from Princes Street)
Annual salary: £19,000

Monthly income

Monthly paycheque: £1340 (after tax)
Freelance projects: £100
Total per month: £1440

Monthly expenses and spending 

Rent: £300*
Cell phone bill: £10
Groceries: £140
Transport (Lothian buses ridacard): £60
Eating and drinking out: £165
Misc (travel, cell phone contract in Canada, clothing, etc.): £150
Savings: £300
Total per month: £1125

*I stayed with a friend who kindly let me rent her spare room for a *very* reasonable price because she’s an absolute saint and refused to let me pay more. Please note this isn’t an accurate representation of average room rental prices in Edinburgh.

View of Calton Hill from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland

A week in the life

From Monday to Friday, my day-to-day looks pretty much the same: wake up around 7:00AM, have breakfast, get ready for work, and then hop on the bus into town. I’m usually in the office by 8:30AM, and out the door by 4:30PM.

I tend to keep things relatively low-key in the evenings throughout the week. Sometimes I’ll go out for dinner, take a walk along the Water of Leith, or — if the sun happens to be shining — grab a take-out Pad Thai from Ting Thai Caravan (£6.80) and meet up with friends for a little impromptu picnic in the Meadows.

On Friday night, I might meet up with friends again for dinner (the pan-fried sundried tomato gnocchi from The Outsider is one of my go-to dishes and costs £15.80), or head somewhere like Paradise Palms or the Devil’s Advocate for cocktails (where I usually end up spending approximately £10 to £25 on drinks).

I typically like to do one of three things on the weekend: grab my camera and wander aimlessly around Edinburgh, snapping photos as I walk (free 😉 ), jet off to a new city for the weekend (I spent roughly £300 on a weekend in Paris), or play tourist in Scotland and head somewhere like Loch Lomond, Fife, or St Andrews for the day (£10 for gas money and £10 for lunch).

View of Edinburgh and the Pentlands from Arthur's Seat

During the summer, one of my absolute favourite weekend hangout spots is The Pitt, an awesome street food market in Leith. If I end up staying for an afternoon, I can easily spend anywhere from £20 to £40 (£2 for entry; the remainder on food and drinks).

On Sundays, I love strolling around Stockbridge Market. There are so many fantastic local vendors, and while I’m always tempted to buy another Edinburgh print (as if I don’t have enough already), I usually end up settling for food, food, and more food. A few dishes I’m always drawn to are gyoza from Harajuku Kitchen (£5) and paella from Casa Roble Paella (£4).

See what I got up to (almost) every month I was living in Edinburgh by reading my Edinburgh Expat Monthly Roundups

So there you have it! I hope this post gave you a little more insight into my day-to-day life as an expat in Edinburgh and what it costs to live in Scotland’s lovely capital

Read more posts on Edinburgh expat life:


  1. Fun story, Ashely!

    I can’t say I’ve lived the expat life anytime recently (last was in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps around 2009). But it’s terribly interesting to see how others would spend their money living in totally different situations.

    Millennial Money can be an interesting show to catch—though often it leaves me with questions about how they come up with their numbers 😉

    Hope you’re doing well.

    1. I agree it’s always so interesting to see how other people spend their money! And I hope you’re doing well, too 🙂

  2. Hi Ashley! This was a super post to read, I loved it. Do you think Scotland will become independent soon?

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