To summarise my position:

  1. I was approached by a recruiter with a job at a London startup. I stated that I'd be looking for a £45,000 minimum salary (relocating from North West, England) which he said he'd guarantee in an offer, so I applied.
  2. I completed their telephone test, tech test and face-to-face interview, Company X makes the offer for £45,000.

Now at this point I'd made a mistake. I'd incorrectly calculated how expensive London was going to be. After crunching numbers, I'd need £50,000 to support me and my wife. I informed the recruiter that I wouldn't be accepting the offer.

The next day I get an email from the CTO who asks to call me. I accept the call and we begin talking about the expense of London and he states that they are flexible on salary and might be able to offer a relocation package.

I follow up next day I email back and reiterate how I'd made incorrect calculations and feel bad for rejecting the offer. I didn't outright ask for more money; reflecting, I feel this was a mistake and I'd left things 'murky'.

The final email I received was a budget breakdown from the CTO on how I can afford London on the offer they already made. This budget makes a lot of incorrect assumptions about my finances and general incorrect calculations on the cost of London with respect to travelcards and council tax. Most of all though, the CTO assumes that it's possible to rent in London for £850. My research has been predominantly on the cost of renting and I've had trouble finding suitable places cheaper than £1300 a month. He does say if this is incorrect let me know, but I didn't want to get into a tit-for-tat over London living expenses with my potential future boss.

So this is where things soured for me. The previous 'flexibility' had disappeared. I have not replied to this email and that was 11 days ago.

I feel that this bridge is now burned, which I guess is my own fault.

My question then is: should I follow up on this? And if so, how should I approach this?

  • If you need rents data (and I'd recommend that if you're going to have the conversation then have it with some data to hand) then the London Rents Map could come in very handy. It says that London median weekly rental for a 1 bed flat is £265, shows you how this varies by area. – A E Mar 29 '15 at 19:47
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    Also potentially useful: London rents mapped by tube line. – A E Mar 29 '15 at 19:49
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    What's wrong with just negotiating? Just ask for more in future. The amount you get paid has nothing to do with rent. When they offered to negotiate salary that was your opportunity to strike, not to bellyache about rent. Also you need to be more careful next time, you say your minimum they hear your price. – Nathan Cooper Mar 29 '15 at 20:24
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    You'll need to spend £1300-£1500 on rent not £850! Tell the clown to stick his lowball offer. – TheMathemagician Mar 29 '15 at 23:33
  • The CTO is probably coming from the position that £45k is not unreasonable, given that there are competent people who will do the job for that. Which means either you need to be a rockstar to justify asking for £55k (£500pcm extra rent turns into about £10k pre-tax), you need to drop your standards on accommodation, you live out of the city and commute in (which I did for years), or your wife needs to go out to work as well. – Julia Hayward Mar 31 '15 at 12:07

After going silent for 11 days, there's a good chance that the CTO has written you off at this point. However, a followup inquiring if he's still willing to negotiate, and the things you need that are driving a price of £1300/month vs £850 to make the case for needing £50k couldn't hurt. Since the difference between what your household budget and the CTOs estimated budget is almost entirely covered by the spread in housing costs, the other differences between the two can be set aside if you're able to revive negotiations.


Let this one go and chalk it up as a learning experience. I wouldn't say the bridge is burned, but you've definitely crossed it. After 11 days, barring some extremely unlikely emergency, the CTO would have contacted you again if they were really serious about negotiating with you. Now, persistent attempts at negotiation on your part might well (though not necessarily will) be seen as obnoxious pestering or money grubbing.

Notice that he was encouraging and flexible on the phone, but not at all in writing? I suspect that the phone conversation was a tactic to get you talking again, so that they could eventually whittle you down to the lower offer. There are plenty of innocent explanations for this, but I sincerely doubt there are any other reasons behind this "sudden" switch. If the flexibility were sincere, he would have given you something, even if it wasn't a pay bump: relocation assistance, extra holiday, whatever. It's possible he might just consider "hard selling" to be a good negotiation tactic (trying to get you to lower your counteroffers until any given ground is token at best), but I also find this unlikely.

The CTO said he would negotiate with you and then refused to do so. He also gave you a bald faced lie, and a really bad one at that, about rent prices. Is this someone you want to work for? If you were desperate or in love with this job, you would have accepted the lower offer already.


11 days were way too much, unless they are desperate they will look for more motivated candidates. For future reference, this is a breakdown of London expenses for living around zone 2 in a one bedroom flat (some numbers might be higher actually):

  • 18000 rent (1 bedroom)
  • 1500 council tax
  • 1250 tube
  • 480 internet
  • 240 mobile plan
  • 480 electricity
  • 420 water
  • 480 heating
  • 3600 groceries
  • 2000 going out

total cost of living by yourself in London in a human 1 bedroom around zone 2: 28000 GBP per year (minimum)

Net wage for 45000 GBP per year: 33000

Leftover money: 5000 GBP per year.

These 5000 GBP go into:

  • hobbies
  • pension fund
  • savings
  • mortgage deposit
  • holidays
  • clothes
  • birthday gifts
  • emergency expenses
  • gym
  • bike
  • weekend trips
  • iPod/iPad/laptop
  • anything that is not a primary necessity but makes you feel good

I think that for any adult the minimum salary to live in London should be around 60K per year, maybe even 70K. Below this, you are either sharing expenses or you REALLY like London.

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    London will definitely help you with your career, but I recommend taking the situation as a temporary one. The good news is that there are lots of jobs in London, especially for IT and programming, and lots of opportunities to make more. – user32664 Mar 29 '15 at 23:23
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    I have no idea where you got half of these numbers from. As the OP has already said you forgot the student loan. In Westminster the council tax is £42 a month, making it 1/3 of what you said, electricity costs around half the amount of gas, who on earth spends £70/week for food on their own? You've allowed enough for a single night out a week, maybe. It's almost impossible to get a smart phone for £20/month and you can get good internet/phone for £30, easily. This may all balance out but there are millions of people living in London on far less than £45k. – Ben Mar 30 '15 at 12:24
  • Those numbers are a (low) estimate from living in a human 1 bedroom flat in zone 2. The millions of people living in London for less than 45K are probably sharing a flat or living further out. 70 GBP per week for food is perfectly reasonable if you eat well. Fruit, vegetables, fish, red meat and wine are expensive. This of course decreases if you dine out more than once a week (and I did account for one night out per week, yes). I don't know how the council tax could be so low, but I'll believe you. O2 has a plan for 15 GBP per month, and Three should still have one for 10 GBP or less. – user32664 Mar 30 '15 at 18:32
  • I really don't understand why people want to live in London. I live about 10 miles north of Manchester, earn 50% more than your requirements (c# contractor). Large 4 bed house, large garden, reasonable commute (<40 mins). 10 minute walk to the train station, 10 minute walk to the moors. Why would you want to live in a cramped flat/apartment, with 10 million other people? – Neil May 31 '16 at 11:48

Assuming you want the job, you need to address the 11 day delay and stop discussing rent and what a suitable home is with the person you want to work for. Start by thinking long and hard about whether you could get by on 45. How about 48? Does it have to be 50? Would you rather lose the job than take 48? You must know your own mind on this very clearly.

Once you know your price, write back and

  • apologize for the delay. Explain it by saying you were researching places to live and trying to adjust your rent numbers accordingly
  • reiterate how much you like the job and list at least two reasons (neither of which is the money or the location) why you like it (the tech and the problem they're solving are the usual reasons.)
  • state the absolute lowest number for which you will take the job, and describe it as such. For example, "after all this research I have concluded that the only way I can accept this position is with a salary of X." Do not point out, much less apologize for, the fact you originally requested a lower number. Just state what you need now.
  • express again your strong desire to work there
  • close by asking them to let you know if this is going to be possible

People who teach negotiation often say things like "your rent is not relevant" and they're half right. It's not relevant to your employer. It is relevant to you. If you would be miserable living the way you would have to live on 45, and happy on 50, then getting from 45 to 50 is very important to you. You need to know that. You need to know your own numbers so you can move quickly when you're negotiating. There's a good chance that someone else has been made the offer by now, but one more email trying to salvage things (and spinning the delay as "I was really trying to see if I could live on 45 after all") might work. If it doesn't, at least you have all these numbers for next time and can react with more alacrity when another opportunity arises.