Financial anxiety is with me every day – I always joke that I’m just a poor student. Because of that, I had to get good at living on a budget and have mastered the art of prioritising my spending.
Living in London with a limited budget is not easy but definitely possible. Here’s a list of my tips to make it happen.
Manage your budget
The most important thing is not to rely on an unregulated flow of cash. Make a budget, determine how much you want to spend on different things each week/month, track your expenses and adjust your budget appropriately. Be sure to prioritise your fixed expenses and allocate enough money for those first.
I made initial calculations before coming to LSE based on information I found online and conversations with friends. I track my expenses daily in an app on my phone and once a month I sum up all of them divided into categories in a spreadsheet. This makes me feel in control of my finances.
Find an affordable accommodation option that works for you
Accommodation would probably be your biggest expense. Plan it wisely. The main points to consider are whether you prefer student accommodation or private housing and where in London (consider commute options to campus). It might be worth considering areas that are maybe a bit further off, but cheaper.
Don’t assume that an Oyster card is affordable
The sad truth is that public transport in London can be expensive.
When I moved to London, I just assumed that an Oyster card with a monthly pass would be the cheapest option. A friend told me to try commuting on a pay-as-you-go basis for a month first, track my expenses for transport and see if it was indeed the best. In my case, it wasn’t.
Consider having a “trial month” first to establish what’s the best option for you.
When shopping, avoid brand names
This one is simple: store-brand items such as Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s tend to be way cheaper than bigger brands. Oh, and Aldi is actually the cheapest supermarket so be sure to shop there when you have a chance.
Take advantage of London’s many free activities
Many of London’s iconic attractions are completely free! These include the most important museums, galleries and parks. Make a list of free activities you’d like to try – you’d be surprised by how long it will be!
Look for free or low-cost activities
Keep your eye out for free or low-cost events, such as concerts, festivals, outdoor activities, movie nights, or other special (or regular) events. The best way to do it is weekly checking the dedicated websites.
Moreover, many neighbourhoods have community places, events and initiatives that are a rather unique and cheap way of having fun so do your research and take advantage of them.
Have parties at home instead of going out
Hosting parties at home, organising movie nights instead of going to the cinema or having game nights are just some of the ideas for more affordable but equally enjoyable ways of having fun with your friends. Chances are, they are also students who’d be more than happy to cut their spending this way.
Cut down on your alcohol consumption
Last but not least – the student lifestyle often involves lots of opportunities to drink alcohol. If you’re not abstinent and don’t want to miss out on going out to pubs, I recommend limiting yourself to one beer.
I have discovered that mentally, while the difference between having one drink vs. none is big, the difference between having two or more vs. one isn’t that significant. But this small change of limiting yourself to one drink makes a big difference to your budget indeed.