I get it. London is EXPENSIVE. But it doesn't have to be! I've been successfully living on just my PhD stipend (which, I'll tell you, isn't much) for a year since I was laid off from my part-time job. Here are the best 7 ways to save money living in London (including ways to save money on London transport, on food, on rent, and more!).
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This is top on my list of 7 ways to save money living in London, as transport costs in London can quickly add up. This is especially true if you live outside of zones 1 and 2.
First off, you NEED to get a railcard if you're a student or if you're under 30. You'll get 30% off train fares and also off of off-peak travel if you connect it to your Oyster card.
If you're a student, get a student oyster card.
Take the bus instead of the tube to save money. The bus just costs £1.50 and you can take advantage of the ‘hopper fare' if you switch busses. The bus costs the same during peak and off peak hours (unlike the tube). During peak hours, you'll be saving £1 or more on each journey.
Better yet, cycle if you can! I'm personally too much of a chicken (and too bad of a cycler) to do this, but it's a great way to get exercise, save the planet, and save money. A lot of employers also have cycle schemes where they'll contribute to the cost of buying a bike.
See if your employer will pay for an annual transport pass for you up front. A lot of companies do this and then you pay them back monthly (and interest free). If you can afford the annual pass on your own, definitely go for it as well, but I realise it's pretty spenny.
Travel off-peak. While the difference might not seem like much (it's pence not pounds), it does add up, so travel off-peak when you can. Plus, it's less crowded!
Shop at the cheapest supermarkets. This probably goes without saying, but, go to places like Iceland, Aldi, or Lidl over Tesco, Sainsbury's or—even more expensive—Waitrose and M&S.
Try to avoid buying ready meals or processed chilled foods. These can get really expensive really quickly. (Though, of course, it's okay to treat yourself!)
Try to reduce your meat consumption. My partner is vegetarian and I'm vegan and we spend way less than our flatmates on groceries for this reason (even though we do treat ourselves to more expensive meat alternatives, etc.).
Get your groceries delivered and plan your meals in advance. We use Amazon Fresh for our weekly shop. By buying it all at once and planning our meals in advance, we buy only what we need and will actually eat. I find that every time I set foot in Tesco, I basically spend £10-£20 somehow buying random things I see as I'm making my way through the aisles.
Let me know if you'd be interested in a what I eat in a week as a vegan on a budget. I have many, many past weeks' worth of meal plans I'd be happy to share!
Take advantage of student discounts. While not a lot of supermarkets do them, some places, like certain branches of Planet Organic, do. Now, obviously, this is a pretty expensive place to shop, but if you're treating yourself, you may as well get a discount!
Check out my article on my favourite student discounts in the UK for more info.
First of all, if you're going to the cinema, etc. take advantage of student discounts available for UK students.
Also, if you're going to a gig or club event, buy tickets as far in advance as you possibly can—the first release tickets are usually SO MUCH cheaper.
If you'll be going out drinking, think about how much you're willing to spend before you go out. Otherwise, you could end up spending WAY more than you planned. Now, this isn't foolproof (and, it may all go out the window when you get drunk), but I find that at least thinking about it beforehand helps me stay on track.
If you're drinking and you're on a budget, drink somewhere cheaper like Wetherspoons. I know their owner is pretty awful, but if you're broke, you're broke.
Finally, share things like your Netflix subscription with your flatmates to save money if you can.
My biggest tip for saving money on rent is to live further out from central London. I have a friend who lives in zone 4 and pays literally more than £200 less per month than I do in zone 2.
You can also consider living outside of London entirely, somewhere on a train line. Often, depending on where you work or go to uni, it can be a quicker commute living outside of the city than in actual London. The only issue is that the trains stop at a certain time, but if you're generally happy to go home on the early side, this is a good option.
Finally, remember that you don't have to offer the asking price for your rental. Especially if you're working directly with the landlord via Spareroom or OpenRent, you can sometimes negotiate them down, particularly if you agree to stay for longer.
Check out this article for tips on finding an affordable flat to rent in London.
Obviously, eating out isn't a necessity and you can save a lot of money here by just not doing it, but I know it's hard if your friends want to go out to eat, etc. That being said, I'd recommend only ordering food in when your friends want to rather than on your own to save money.
Also, treat yourself to a nice coffee to brew at home or the office and make your own lunches.
🛍 This coffee from Whittard is super nice.
If you go out to eat, I'd recommend going to chain restaurants that have student discounts. Some of them can save you up to 25% on your bill and are generally cheaper to begin with as well. As a bonus, many of them have completely separate vegan and vegetarian menus these days which is a plus for me.
If you're ordering takeaway, check to see if ordering directly with the restaurant is cheaper. Often, they won't charge a delivery fee and the prices may be lower than on Deliveroo. For example, Papa John's always has deals that work out WAY cheaper.
Bills can quickly add up in London, particularly in the winter. Here are my tips to save money living in London by reducing your monthly bills and utilities.
First off, I'd get a pay as you go phone. I use Three and basically pay like £20 every several months. And, during lockdown, I'm not paying for a phone plan I'm not using which is great.
I'd also recommend setting your heater to a timer in the winter, if possible. Not having your heater on all the time really does save a LOT of money. Our heating bill went down almost £50 per month this way (and we're still plenty warm).
It's also important that you set expectations with your flatmates. If you're on a tight budget, you should be up front with them about bundling up vs. always turning the heat up, etc.
Even better, if you can find a place where bills are included, SNATCH IT UP. It's often WAY cheaper and then you don't have to worry about it. It saves you time too!
The only thing I'd caution against is, if you don't already have any credit history in the UK, you should try to get at least one bill in your name to start building it up.
You should also take meter readings regularly (or get a smart meter) to avoid any surprise giant power bills.
Also make sure you're on the lowest tariff for your energy company. You can call them to figure it out or check online.
Another tip is to switch your energy providers every so often. If you use a tool like USwitch, you can often get a really good introductory deal. As long as there are no leaving fees and you don't mind the hassle, switching regularly can save you a good amount of money.
Another thing I didn't realise when I moved to London is that you can negotiate with a lot of providers, for example, your internet service provider.
Finally, make sure you register for your student exemption (or single person discount) if applicable for your council tax!
One of my main tips for saving money in London is to really pay attention to budgeting. If you're not sure where to start, check out my article on how to create a budget for beginners. In particular, I'd recommend the Yolt app to help you track your budget and spending.
Finally, use Splid in your flat to make sure you're splitting costs for cleaning supplies and any communal items evenly.
So, there you have it! Those are my top 7 ways to save money living in London. I hope this article will help you to save money on London transport, rent, food, and entertainment! And, do let me know if you have any other tips below!