London is expensive. If you’re considering studying here, you’ll probably know that. For me at least, one of the main drawbacks of studying at LSE was the high cost lifestyle, being a student is expensive enough as it is!
My advice? Save. Save more than you ever thought you’d need; work all summer if you have to. Freshers week alone cost some people all of the money they had put aside for the first term. You won’t need to drink vodka to get you feeling light-headed, not with the dizzying prices of London clubs! Burning the candle both ends is the quickest way to burn a hole in your wallet for sure.
But wait!! Don’t let my doom and gloom scare you off. I have gathered a few tricks to stretching your budget to survive in London, so keep calm and take notes. (I’m not going to lie to you; my mum is the mastermind behind at least half of these)
Become a member of everything (my purse is bursting at the seams with membership cards). Let your shopping give you something back: the Waitrose card gives you a free coffee every day, Tesco will send you vouchers, Costa and Starbucks cards let you earn free drinks, and the list goes on. Bankside is literally surrounded by Starbucks, so I’m racking up the free drinks rapidly.
The Price is Wright
There is a bar, and that bar’s name is Wrights Bar. Somewhat iconic among LSE students, Wrights stands in the middle of campus, offering hot drinks and food for the budget conscious. I compare all prices to Wrights Bar prices: £2 for a coffee? Wrights do that for 60p. The Garrick and other LSE cafes can’t compete, and they know it – the LSE shop even sell a t-shirt with Wright’s logo emblazoned across the front. Wrights Bar has saved my life, and my budget, on many occasions.
Salad Bar Smuggling
The aim is to smuggle your salad allowance out in a handy Tupperware container. Alright, alright, alright, taking a packed lunch box might not be the coolest or easiest thing to do, but the money you save will be worth it. The first week of term, I found myself spending £3.75 on a Pret toastie (a very tasty toastie I have to say…) and more on drinks and snacks throughout the day. Wrights offers some cheaper alternatives, but it still all adds up. I now have a salad from Bankside, along with a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar (which I bought in bulk with one of my Tesco vouchers). Added up, lunch cost me 35p, cant really do better than that.
Get every student card and app you can get your hands on. Being a student may come with a few perks after all. The Unidays app gives you discount on loads of shops, plus some special offers (Guys: McDonalds!!!). Remember to shop around too; I made a Santander student bank account, which came with a free 3-year railcard. The 16-25 railcard is probably the most beneficial student membership you can have. You get a large discount on train tickets, and you can link it to your oyster card to get a third off all tube and bus journeys.
Don’t buy new textbooks. Most of the time, (depending on your course) I would say don’t buy textbooks, period. In geography, the reading lists are very sporadically sourced, so if you tried to buy all of the reading, your Amazon order would probably equal your entire student loan, and seriously injure the postman. Most of the texts can be found online, or in the library, so it’s really not worth spending £40 to get your hands on your own version (especially if you’re only going to read the first chapter…). If you do need to buy the book, like I did in Economics, buy an older edition. For a fraction of the latest edition price, you get practically the same content, just shuffled around a bit to trick you into splashing out on a shiny new book. I’m not saying buy an edition from 1968, just go back a couple of years: it seriously makes no difference!
Bring on the Apocalypse
The amount of food I have stored in my room could easily get me through an apocalypse. The Walking Dead characters are amateur hour compared to me. I have snacks and biscuits, microwave sachets, and every ‘just add water’ product that you can imagine. The catering at Bankside provides an evening meal every day, except for Saturday, at which time 600 hungry students are left to fend for themselves. While others may eat at one of the many restaurants around Bankside, I’ve got all I need to fix myself some cheesy vegetable tacos or spicy couscous.
So what I’m saying is, London is expensive as hell, there’s no avoiding it; but its not impossible to live on a budget. Planning and a little bit of self-control have gone a long way for me, and I hope I have helped in some way with that worry.