According to various surveys, London is often ranked as being one of the most expensive cities in the world. So is it possible, particularly for students and recent graduates to live comfortably in this expensive city? Of course it is. Thousands do so. The trick is to know how to maximise your money and luckily there are loads of tips and tricks on this page to turn affordable London living into a reality.
Getting yourself a good job
First of all, this may seem basic, but at some point you’re probably going to require a job in order to live in London. If you haven’t already done this, then upload your C.V to UK Staff Search. It’s FREE and simple, so do this today so that thousands of potential employers can check you out and you can actually afford to have some fun!
You should also have a look on social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter – seek out companies that you might wish to work for and then follow the recruitment news so you can be informed about any current vacancies. Social media is also a great opportunity to establish yourself as an authority in the industry that you wish to work in and allows you to network with some key hiring staff.
Choosing affordable living arrangements is a vital consideration when trying to stretch your money out. Depending on your situation, you might want to think about living in property guardian accomodation.
Huge buildings such as former convents are put under the watchful eye of a property guardian (you) for a minimal amount of rent which works out at roughly 60% less than the typical cost of living in rental accommodation.
If you feel that being a property guardian isn’t for you, then you’ll need to take a more conventional approach to affordable living and move into shared accommodation. You’ll often find that smaller house-shares, maybe with 2 or 3 people are more expensive than larger house-shares with 6 or 7 people. Even though queues for the bathroom may become an issue, the more people there are to share bills with, the better.
If you can handle living with couples (who may or may not indulge in public displays of affection and/or screaming matches) then you’ll likely save further money still, as couples sharing one bedroom obviously take up less room, but are still there to contribute towards communal expenses. It is essential to get the best deal you can on tenants insurance.
Choosing an affordable location
Location is a key component to working out your cost of living in London. If you choose to live in Central London, there’s every chance that you might be able to walk or cycle to work, both of which will save you heaps of money. Although obviously the convenience of living in Central London doesn’t usually come with an affordable price tag. So you might want to consider living much further out of London, even in the home counties, but this is balanced out with the inconvenience of hefty train fares on some train lines. A great book to consider reading when choosing where to live within a commutable distance of London is Caroline McGhie’s Daily Telegraph Guide to Commuterland which describes various locations on the train lines into Central London. Average property prices and train fares are all analysed in this amazing read.
Save money on bills
Once you’ve figured out where to live and who (or how many) to live with and you’re settled in to your new home, you should take a look at the utility bills that are in place. Always shop around and see what current offers are out there and how much money they can save you. Comparison sites such as Go Compare will be able to find you a great deal. Don’t end up paying more than you need to for bills, just because you were too lazy to look into it properly! You’ll kick yourself if you ever find out how much money you were needlessly wasting. You can learn more on this topic by reading How To Save Money As A Tenant In London or by checking out the fantastic advice over at Money Saving Expert!
Cheap nights out
People are often under the impression that going out drinking in London is an extremely expensive pastime. Well, this isn’t Scandanavia and you can easily go out and have a good time without taking out a mortgage for a pint. London has an enormous amount of watering holes and many of them will have some sort of happy hour, or 2-for-1 offer in place to make having a good time feasible. If you’re a beer drinker, then you should consider Sam Smith’s pubs where you can get a really decent pint at a staggeringly affordable price, often for less than GBP 2.50. If you prefer cocktails, then check out LateNightLondon.co.uk who have 29 bars scattered across Central London with excellent happy hours and great late-night opening hours.
Another option if you’re feeling brave enough, is to consider throwing a house party – or alternatively you could convince someone else to throw one instead. Decide how many people to invite, send round a few emails, bulk-buy some booze in from Majestic Wine and tell everyone to bring a bottle.
Make your own lunch
Eating well is pretty important (!) and there’s no reason why your stomach should suffer just because you’re counting the pennies.
The best thing you can do to save money on food on a daily basis is to make your food at home before you go to work. Don’t be tempted into thinking that grabbing breakfast and lunch whilst you’re out won’t affect your wallet. You could easily end up spending a tenner a day on sandwiches, drinks and snacks, which quickly adds up to over GBP 200.00 per month. Instead eat breakfast at home and take your lunch with you. On days where you really must grab lunch whilst you’re out, look out for meal deals at shops like Boots.
Cheap food shopping
When it comes to buying food to cook at home, it’s wise to have one food shop or delivery per week. You should make weekly meal plans so you know exactly what you need and won’t end up wasting your money by throwing food away. Don’t forget about using your freezer to store ingredients and perhaps making use of leftovers by having them for lunch the following day where appropriate. Try not to go to the supermarket more regularly than once a week, or else you’ll be more tempted to pick up ‘treats’ and other things that you really don’t require. If you drive, then you should think about buying larger sizes of products that will last for a while, saving you money in the long run; examples include cereal, pasta, rice, washing up powder etc. If you don’t have your own car, then you could always use a home delivery service such as Tesco.
As far as high street or online shopping, students and postgraduates who are still studying can qualify for excellent student discounts by purchasing the NUS Extra card.
Cheap Eats in London
Of course, once in a while you’ll want to treat yourself by going for a meal. Even though there are some amazing Michelin-starred restaurants in London, not all establishments have unthinkable prices. One good tip is go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a licence to sell alcohol, but allows you to ‘Bring Your Own Booze’. This allows you to make great savings on a lovely evening out. It’s also a very good idea to read Time Out’s Cheap Eats in London guide which is packed full of cheap and tasty places to eat, complete with maps.
Don’t waste money on travel
Transport in London can be expensive, but there are ways to save money. First and foremost, it’s really important that you get yourself an Oyster card, as you’ll save money on individual journeys rather than buying Single or return tickets. For full details see the Transport in London page. If your work offers an interest-free annual season ticket loan, then you should definitely consider taking one out, as this will save you so much money compared to buying a monthly travelcard.
If you have the option of using either the tube or the bus, then it’s usually cheaper to opt to take the bus, although you’ll probably have to put up with a longer journey as a result.
Avoid taking cabs
When you’re on a night out in London, make sure you know when your last train is, so that you can get home affordably. If you miss it, then you should work out in advance where your local nightbus routes are. If this isn’t an appropriate way for you to get home and you really require a cab, you can use UBER from your smartphone which is a safe and reliable way to travel in London. NEVER be tempted to use an illegal minicab even if they’re offering you a good price. This page might be about saving money, but you should never compromise your own personal safety to save a couple of quid.
It may seem unthinkable when you first arrive in London and you’re having the experience of a life-time, but eventually you’ll probably want to visit other areas of the UK – either to visit friends and family back home, or if you’re from abroad, then you might be interested in seeing what the rest of the country has to offer (the answer is lots). Train travel in the UK is probably the most convenient method of public transport, but it’s not the cheapest. If you want to travel by train, book as far in advance as possible – you can get great deals several weeks in advance by looking at TheTrainline.com. If you’re aged between 16 and 25, then you’ll need to purchase a 16-25 railcard and save 1/3 off train travel.
Cheap things to do in London
The entertainment that London has to offer is phenomenal. Whilst some activities can be quite pricey, it’s unlikely that you’ll run out of cheap or completely FREE things to do in London. A perfect book to buy when you first move to London, is Time Out’s 1000 Things to do in London for under a tenner which does exactly what it says on the tin …. priced at GBP 6.50, this book offers the chance to fall in love with London for under a tenner. Complete with attractive photos the book is packed full of suggestions for budget shopping, dining, nights out, free tickets and low-cost cultural experiences.
If you’re a student, then you should find that flashing your student card in many shops, cinemas and other sightseeing ticket offices, should get you a student discount. Even if a discount doesn’t appear to be advertised, it’s always a good idea to ask if one is available. Make sure you don’t forget your student I.D though, as you’ll be unlikely to qualify for the saving without proof. Holders of a valid NUS Extra card can qualify for heaps of student discounts saving money through multiple discount partners.
Good value student insurance is essential as 1 in 20 UK students are the victim of theft. Don’t let it be you!
Free audience tickets
If you’d like the chance to watch some of your favourite TV shows being filmed, then the good news is that free tickets are often available for audience members. Free tickets to shows like Jonathan Ross, Live at the Apollo and many quiz shows are often available through sites such as the BBC and also TVrecordings.com. It’s important to understand though that receiving a free ticket is not confirmation that you’ll be part of the TV audience. Television companies often dish out more tickets than seats, so they’re guaranteed a full house. To avoid disappointment, arrive early so that you’re at the front of the queue when they let in the masses.
If you’re aged between 16-25 you can join the ‘Young Barbican’ programme for free and then pay £5 for screenings at the Barbican cinema
between Monday and Thursday.
Other cinemas such as CineWorld or Vue often have a monthly membership which makes multiple trips to the cinema more affordable.You'll also find that booking tickets online can save you as much as 10%.
Discount theatre tickets
If you're an avid theatre-goer, then London is the place to be. Whether it's musicals, fringe theatre or Shakespeare that you're into, the best productions in the world are put on in the West-End. For amazing theatre discounts and theatre/dining packages, visit LondonTheatreDirect.
- British Library
- British Museum,
- National Gallery
- Natural History Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
- Science Museum
- Tate Modern
- The Tate Britain
- The Victoria and Albert Museum
- Bank of London Museum
- Imperial War Museum
- Museum of London
- National Maritime Museum
- Sir John Soane's Museum.
If you're not only new to London, but have never really done the sightseeing attractions on previous visits to the capital, then you've picked a pretty exciting time to be arriving in town. Take some time to live life as a tourist. You might be dying to go on the London Eye, visit the Tower of London and celeb-spot at Madame Tussauds. Unfortunately, activities of this type often come with a high price-tag, so it's a good idea to invest in a type of pass that allows you to pay a one-off price and visit unlimited attractions. The London Pass is one such option that gives you access to over 50 of London's most popular attractions. This review gives you more information on the London Pass.
Walking is one activity that is always free in London - you could stroll through one of London's Royal Parks, Hampstead Heath, or maybe go and visit the dinosaurs (free entry) in Crystal Palace Park. Alternatively you could combine lovely walks with some booze and pick up a copy of London Pub Walks .
For further information on all that London has to offer in terms of entertainment, please visit our Entertainment in London page.