Living in London can be expensive. In a city where the cost of a one-way journey on the Tube can add up to £6.70 and where the average rent for a single bedroom flat is £1,665 a month, it’s no surprise that London is the sixth most expensive location in the world, according to ECA International. So, if you’re not careful, you may easily let your finances spiral out of control.
But, staying frugal – or keeping within a reasonable budget – doesn’t have to come at the cost of saying no to all the experiences that London has to offer. Here are five tips on how to do just that.
Tip 1: Start cooking
When I began to cook my own meals – even if I cooked for 2 or 3 days a week – I managed to save a lot of money. Here are three ways to get into cooking:
1. Subscribe to a meal box
It’s the most convenient and affordable way to cook, especially if you’re short on time. You don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or planning what and how to cook. Meal boxes from HelloFresh, MindfulChef, and Gousto provide you with easy-to-follow recipes and fresh ingredients, which are delivered right to your doorstep. You’re also able to cancel your subscription at any time.
2. Buy your groceries from supermarkets
If you’d rather buy your own groceries, there are four affordable supermarkets I’d recommend: Tesco, Sainsbury, Nisa, and Lidl. For me, I prefer going to Tesco because they’ve got a bigger range of food products to choose from.
3. Cook with friends
Sometimes, cooking alone can be quite tiresome. Try making it a social activity. Invite your friends over for dinner and cook together. It would be a great way to enjoy yourself and attempt to cook new dishes, all in the comfort of your own home.
You could also cook larger portions, so that you can save them for later and not worry about your future meals.
Tip 2: Ask for student discounts
One of the biggest advantages of being a student in London is being eligible for student discounts on almost everything. You should always ask if there’s a student discount on offer because chances are, there would be! Here are some places where you can expect to benefit from them:
- Takeaway restaurants
- Barbers/hair salons
- Museums/art galleries
Additionally, many online services also offer student discounts:
- Amazon Prime
- Spotify/Apple Music
Tip 3: Take advantage of all the free things to do
There are many free activities that allow you to explore London. From visiting museums and art galleries, to having picnics at parks, to going on scenic walks, to touring historical sites, and to watching live music gigs, London will always have something for someone. Here’s a great list of 101 free things to do in London!
Tip 4: Travel smart
If you’re going to use public transport (Tube and bus), I recommend purchasing the 16-25 Railcard and combining it with your Oyster card. You can do this at your nearest Tube station by asking a member of staff for help. You’ll benefit from a 33% discount on Tube rides during off-peak hours and a 33% discount on all National Rail services (trains that go outside of London).
Cycling is another great way to save money, as London is very cycle-friendly. You can invest in your own bike or choose to rent public bikes (Santander, Uber, Lime, and Freebike), which give you very affordable rates.
Finally, there’s walking. It’s surprisingly easy to get around when you’re on foot, as most places are close to one another. It’s also a great way to get to know the city better!
Tip 5: Bank with Monzo
The best way to stick to your budget is to know exactly how much you’re planning to spend in a month and how much you’re actually spending. Banking with Monzo made it incredibly easy and efficient for me to track my expenses in real-time.
With Monzo, you’re able to set a maximum spending limit and to create “category budgets”, which tracks your payments across different kinds of transactions (e.g. for groceries, transport, entertainment, bills etc.). Additionally, based on the budget you’ve set and your consumption patterns, Monzo uses predictive technology to let you know if your spending is on track so that you’re able to adjust accordingly. Lastly, Monzo has a “round-up” feature, which enables you to automatically round up payments and place your spare change aside as savings. So, if you buy lunch for £7.59, Monzo rounds it up to £8.00 and then adds 0.41p to your savings.