With so many new restaurants, bars and pop-ups to explore – and not forgetting shamelessly high rent prices – it’s no secret that living in London is expensive. But, there are also a number of simple ways to ensure you can save money while living in London – and without missing out on all the fun stuff!
Here are some tips to ensure your bellies stay full of cocktails and street food but your bank account doesn’t become starved.
Firstly, get yourself a contactless bank card. Unlike Oyster, contactless caps your weekly spending, so despite using pay-as-you-go, you still have the security of knowing that you’ll never spend more than the cost of a weekly travelcard and you could be surprised by how much you save when you stop mindlessly forking out for one each week – I discovered that I tend to only spend around £20/£25 compared to a £32.10 travelcard.
Secondly, walk or run to/from work. I found that using the pay-as-you-go method encouraged me to keep my journeys down and I actually enjoyed a walk into work or run home more than the crowded tube. If, however, you live too far from your workplace, you could just do part of the journey by foot and still save money. Say you live in zone 2 and work in zone 1, for example, you could walk to the zone 2 station nearest to work and then hop on the tube from there. That way you’re only paying the zone 2 fare as opposed to zone 1 and 2.
Thirdly, don’t be afraid to ask for a refund. TFL offer service delay refunds if your tube journey is delayed by more than 15 minutes or your overground journey by more than 30 minutes. Simply log in to your online account, select service delay refunds, fill in the journey details and hey presto they’ll refund the journey cost back onto your Oyster or straight into your bank account, depending on which payment method you used.
And finally, take buses! I avoided buses like the plague when I first moved to London as I was scared I’d get on the wrong one or wouldn’t know where to get off. But, once I discovered CityMapper and realised that all buses handily announce each station along the way, I soon overcame my fear and took advantage of the £1.50 single fare fee.
Skip the gym! London gyms are expensive and, linking to the point above, if you walk or run to or from work you’re instantly incorporating some cardio into your day-to-day routine and therefore saving on both time travelling to and from the gym, and money on the membership fees. Furthermore, with countless online fitness programmes and exercise regimes available – Project Me from Get the Gloss being one of my favourite – you can create a complete exercise regime that suits you and your everyday life, without the mammoth fees.
Food is a big chunk out of your wages – and an important one at that – but getting organised and cooking more can really help you cut costs and also eat better. I find that doing one big shop online once a fortnight (the big supermarkets tend to be cheaper than the smaller convenience stores dotted throughout London) and then buying a few fresh bits and bobs in between helps me to plan my meals and keep costs down. Also, keep an eye out for deals and multi savings when you do your online shop, quickly Google a recipe using those ingredients and voila, you’ve got yourself a budget dinner.
Planning is also key. You can easily make a one-pot dish such as a curry, chilli or stew for dinner one night and then take it to work for lunch the next day – the Thermos food flasks are a lifesaver if your workplace doesn’t have a microwave – and then you’ve saved the £7 you’ll spend in Pret on a measly salad or quinoa pot. Freezing is also your friend, particularly if you’re cooking for one. Whether it be the rest of your one-pot wonder, a second naan bread in a pack of two, some frozen berries for your morning smoothies or even half a batch of homemade cupcakes – that is if you can resist eating them all there and then – nothing need ever go to waste.
Finding your local independent offerings can be key to saving some cash when going out in London as they are often a fraction of the price of their big chain equivalents. Take the Genesis cinema in Whitechapel as an example, they sell tickets for as little as £4 on Mondays and Wednesdays, £7.50 on Tuesdays and Thursdays and £9 at the weekends – a bargain compared to the £13 London cinemas typically charge.
If you’re a theatre fan don’t shy away from the cheaper preview tickets and also find out if there are any good small theatres in your neighbourhood, which can often stage real gems for a tiny price – the Tabard Theatre in Turnham Green is a great example, with tickets starting from as little as £10. When it comes to booking tickets to events, meanwhile, don’t hang around as many events in London stagger the prices, with early bird, advance and standard tickets up for grabs.
With restaurants, be sure to keep an eye on new openings as they often offer a soft opening with generous discounts – Just Opened London and LondonTown all do great newsletters on the latest openings throughout town.