Let’s cut to the chase, London is an expensive city. It feels even more expensive as a student navigating your finances without a fixed and steady income. Take it from me, as international student for six years–four of which have been spent in the UK–planning a budget and “tricking” the expensive London system is essential for student survival. Here are a few budget-friendly tips to get you well on your way to living in London (without spending a fortune!)
The cost of travelling will very much depend on whether you need to commute to get to campus. As a commuter myself, I’ve found public transport to be not only overwhelming but–you guessed it!– expensive as well. However, TFL has a convenient 18+ student oyster card, offering 30% off monthly bus or tube passes. Indeed, do not be discouraged about taking public transport in London, as commuting is another brilliant opportunity for you to see different, non-central areas of the city and get a proper feel for the life of a true Londoner.
Other more cost-effective travelling options include Santander bikes which, with the student discount, offers yearly membership for only £67.50. Be careful though and familiarise yourself with cycling on the left-hand side first! But afterwards, it truly is one of the cheapest and healthiest ways to quickly get to and from your destinations on a budget.
If you got super lucky and found affordable accommodation close to LSE, don’t be shy about walking. London is truly a stunning and enormous city which means you are more likely to discover its hidden gems if you walk around the area and are truly focused on the moment.
London is truly a stunning and enormous city which means you are more likely to discover its hidden gems if you walk around the area and are truly focused on the moment.
One of the biggest expenses during your time in London will be food. At first I was very conscious about the amount of money I would spend on groceries. However, since this is the last thing you should compromise due to finances, I found a great number of amazing opportunities for students to eat good, healthy, and filling food, all whilst being on a budget.
One of the first things you need to do while you are in London is download the “Too Good to Go” app! This app helps you connect with the restaurants that have an unsold food surplus which they would otherwise throw away. This means you get to eat the delicious food you would buy in restaurants, but for 70% off its original price! As a bonus, kudos to you for being environmentally conscious!
Furthermore, you will need to find your local supermarket. All famous supermarket chains offer loyalty cards which give you plenty of discounts on your favourite foods. These types of supermarkets are also the cheapest grocery options for you, compared to corner shops around London. To be extra cost-effective, I suggest you do your groceries in Aldi or Lidl, followed by Tesco and Sainsburys (at a good quality mid-ranged price), versus the expensive Waitrose or M&S.
The final cost-effective deal that I recently discovered is the “Pret A Manger” coffee subscription. If you mention this to any student around you then you will see how loved and treasured this subscription is– and there is a legitimate reason for it! You get up to five drinks every day for £20 per month with the first-month free trial! This is an absolute must-have, especially in the busy weeks of the university where we drink, sleep and breathe caffeine.
As I said before, London is an enormous city with something to do for everyone, be it a multimillionaire or a student in charge of their own finances. If you want to have a cultural experience on a budget, I recommend visiting as many museums and galleries as possible as almost all of them are free! And they truly hold not only British, but also the world’s treasure.
If you want to spend a nice evening in a restaurant with friends, it is always worth checking student discount apps such as Unidays and Student Beans. It is almost guaranteed that your favourite food chain such as Nando’s or Pizza Express will have a discount for you.
Did you know that you do not have to go to Oxford or Bond Streets to get high quality and trendy clothes? In fact, charity shops in the UK are extremely famous and well-respected. Consequently, they get amazing donations from wealthy communities. When you are in London, do not forget to visit shops like Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Oxfam and many other charity shops where you get to see the well-kept second hand items, and sometimes brand-new clothes too! By shopping at these places, you not only do a great job for the environment, but also help fund life-changing research in cancer, for example, as well as other charities.
When you are in London, do not forget to visit shops like Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Oxfam and many other charity shops where you get to see the well-kept second hand items, and sometimes brand-new clothes too!
Last but not least, it never hurts to earn some extra money in your free time. Finding a part-time job might feel like a hectic, tiring, and uncertain process, but will help you be more relaxed with your budget and enjoy your time in London with a little bit of reduced stress. Not only will it make you more financially stable, but it can also be a truly fun and interesting thing to do. Hence, I urge you to go and apply for part-time jobs on campus (such as content creating), where staff understand the importance of flexible hours, and also check the opportunities in LSE Careers Hub.
I hope this overview of the most popular student deals was useful for you to experience London in its full glory without feeling too overwhelmed with its price tags. For some, London might be a cultural shock, but these insider tips will make your transition to a local Londoner much smoother.