London’s ranking may have dropped down out of the ‘World’s Top Ten Most Expensive Cities’ list, but this costly metropolis gives new meaning to the phrase ‘dropping a few pounds’ 🤑
Compared to other major cities back home like Sydney or Melbourne, London’s lower wages and steeper costs of living (think: rent, transport and bills you’ve never heard of) will surely shock your system in the first months as you gradually start thinking in pounds instead of dollars.
No, the sting of that £3 latte never really goes away ☕ And that’s without a croissant.
To give you an idea, compared to Sydney, in London: there’s 20% VAT added to consumer goods and services (up from Aussie’s modest 10% GST), a meal out is 25% more expensive, and monthly utilities are rarely under £100 per person.
Setting a budget is a great idea, but let’s be honest that’s a whole new blog post to cover. These London like hacks are a great place to start 👇
Key: 🆓 Free, 👛 Cheap, 💰 Reasonable, 💸 Make the most of unavoidable expenses!
Food and eating out 🥡
In a city with a reputation for exceptionally pricey dining, a cheap meal actually isn’t all that difficult to come by.
👛 £3 meal deals at most Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – enough to get you through lunch break and afternoon tea
👛 £3-5 M&S and Waitrose salads and sushi – there’s a decent and healthy variety!
👛 £1 confectionery and 2-4-1 cold drinks at Poundland
👛 Stretch your pence with loyalty cards, locals’ discounts, reusable coffee cups
👛 Too Good To Go app – save a meal before it goes to waste at a fraction of the cost
💰 Do your grocery shopping at Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons
💰 Food markets – lots of options bound to suit everyone’s tastes and budget
💰 Lunch menus tend to offer cheaper deals than at dinner time
💰 Discounted sandwiches and sushi in the few hours before store closing time.
Transport and getting around 🚌
London’s transport system is world class service, but you do pay for what you get. Even with fares frozen over the past few years, the Tube network is particularly expensive. Thankfully there’s plenty of options for getting from A to B.
👛 £1.50 Hopper fare for buses, and connecting bus journeys are free if you tap on within an hour of tapping onto the first bus
👛 £1.50 on Overground journeys as you avoid travelling into Zone 1
👛 £2 Santander Cycles hire per 30min journey
💰 Cycle to Work schemes – an employee benefit that saves you 25% or more on a bike and accessories with payments taken tax efficiently from your salary by your employer
💰 Subscribe to emails such as Trainline to get a heads up on cheap fares for spontaneous weekend travel.
Rent and living expenses 🏠
Rent is the other necessary evil of living in London. While this topic could easily be another entire blog post (or series) in itself, here’s a few main points to consider:
🆓 Score a free haircut from salons like TONI&GUY as hair models are often sought after by apprentices
👛 Take advantage of so many competitive mobile plan deals – challengers such as giffgaff piggyback off more established networks, so you get the same coverage for less!
💰 Avoid paying for a useless TV licence and split a streaming service across your devices like Netflix
💸 East and South London (for the moment, at least) tend to attract cheaper rent as opposed to their affluent Central, West and North London counterparts
💸 Opt to live in an area that’s a 15min+ walk from a Tube station. For instance, Crouch End is a gorgeous spot wedged between some of London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods.
Socialising and sightseeing 🥂
A boozy Friday night could quickly leave you out of pocket for the rest of the weekend – or month – if you’re not careful!
🆓 Many of the world’s most renowned parks, museums and galleries are free!
🆓 MeetUp and Facebook groups – learn a new language for free!
🆓 Sky Garden rooftop at the Walkie Talkie is free entry, you just need to book in advance
🆓 Pub theatre performances
👛 Host a picnic in the park in summer or a dinner party at home (if you have the space!)
👛 I’ve heard Wetherspoons pubs are great value for drinks
💰 Rush tickets are a great way to secure cheap seats at some of the best theatre performances in the world. There’s an app for that!
💰 Affordable bottomless brunches are few and far between, but you can certainly drink back your money’s worth – and some.
Shopping and activities 🛍️
🆓 Browse upcoming talks and networking events on Eventbrite, MeetUp and Facebook
🆓 Check out a free (or cheap £5) gig at one of the city’s many comedy clubs, including central London
👛 Bag a bargain at London’s array of markets and charity stores
👛 Shop around for cinema tickets – booking online often works out cheaper
👛 Enjoy a performance at The Globe Theatre with a £5 standing ticket
💰 Browse offers on Groupon for meals, experiences, classes and services. My trip to Stonehenge was half price in the middle of summer!
💰 Many major retailers offer great membership loyalty benefits. Never pay full price again!
💰 Students and youth card holders also enjoy discounts at food chains and major retailers.
Health and fitness 👟
🆓 Register for free fitness trials – try something new!
🆓 Join a local fitness MeetUp or exercise group
🆓 Walk whenever possible – plus it’s the best way to explore
👛 Buy in bulk and prep meals for the week yourself – freeze half and rotate the options to mix it up
👛 Swim at the Lido or Hampstead Heath ponds in summer
💰 Buy a bicycle – there’s an upfront cost but it’s free onwards (except maintenance)
💰 Shop around for the best gym membership.
Holiday travel ✈️
🆓 Learn the basics of a new language using an app like Duolingo or go to a free language exchange session
👛 Heard of £9 flights to France? Travel mid-week well in advance to score those fares
💰 Always hunt for the best airfare online – try Skyscanner or Google Flights
💰 Book your flight home to spend Christmas holidays with family on Christmas Day itself, or New Years Day to save
💰 Take advantage of student and youth airfares and travel packages.
I’ve undoubtedly missed a few crucial London life hacks, so I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!