Thrifty London life hacks

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’ πŸ€‘

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 Β£3 latte never really goes away β˜• 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 Β£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 πŸ‘‡

Key: πŸ†“ Free, πŸ‘› Cheap, πŸ’° Reasonable, πŸ’Έ Make the most of unavoidable expenses!

Food and eating out πŸ₯‘

In a city with a reputation for exceptionally pricey dining, a cheap meal actually isn’t all that difficult to come by.

πŸ‘› Β£3 meal deals at most Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – enough to get you through lunch break and afternoon tea
πŸ‘› Β£3-5 M&S and Waitrose salads and sushi – there’s a decent and healthy variety!
πŸ‘› Β£1 confectionery and 2-4-1 cold drinks at Poundland
πŸ‘› Stretch your pence with loyalty cards, locals’ discounts, reusable coffee cups
πŸ‘› Too Good To Go app – save a meal before it goes to waste at a fraction of the cost
πŸ’° Do your grocery shopping at Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons
πŸ’° Food markets – lots of options bound to suit everyone’s tastes and budget
πŸ’° Lunch menus tend to offer cheaper deals than at dinner time
πŸ’° 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.

πŸ‘› Β£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
πŸ‘› Β£1.50 on Overground journeys as you avoid travelling into Zone 1
πŸ‘› Β£2 Santander Cycles hire per 30min journey
πŸ’° 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
πŸ’° 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:

πŸ†“ Score a free haircut from salons like TONI&GUY as hair models are often sought after by apprentices
πŸ‘› 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!
πŸ’° Avoid paying for a useless TV licence and split a streaming service across your devices like Netflix
πŸ’Έ 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
πŸ’Έ 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 πŸ₯‚

A boozy Friday night could quickly leave you out of pocket for the rest of the weekend – or month – if you’re not careful!

πŸ†“ Many of the world’s most renowned parks, museums and galleries are free!
πŸ†“ MeetUp and Facebook groups – learn a new language for free!
πŸ†“ Sky Garden rooftop at the Walkie Talkie is free entry, you just need to book in advance
πŸ†“ Pub theatre performances
πŸ‘› Host a picnic in the park in summer or a dinner party at home (if you have the space!)
πŸ‘› I’ve heard Wetherspoons pubs are great value for drinks
πŸ’° 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!
πŸ’° Affordable bottomless brunches are few and far between, but you can certainly drink back your money’s worth – and some.

Shopping and activities πŸ›οΈ

πŸ†“ Browse upcoming talks and networking events on Eventbrite, MeetUp and Facebook
πŸ†“ Check out a free (or cheap Β£5) gig at one of the city’s many comedy clubs, including central London
πŸ‘› Bag a bargain at London’s array of markets and charity stores
πŸ‘› Shop around for cinema tickets – booking online often works out cheaper
πŸ‘› Enjoy a performance at The Globe Theatre with a Β£5 standing ticket
πŸ’° Browse offers on Groupon for meals, experiences, classes and services. My trip to Stonehenge was half price in the middle of summer!
πŸ’° Many major retailers offer great membership loyalty benefits. Never pay full price again!
πŸ’° Students and youth card holders also enjoy discounts at food chains and major retailers.

Health and fitness πŸ‘Ÿ

πŸ†“ Register for free fitness trials – try something new!
πŸ†“ Join a local fitness MeetUp or exercise group
πŸ†“ Walk whenever possible – plus it’s the best way to explore
πŸ‘› Buy in bulk and prep meals for the week yourself – freeze half and rotate the options to mix it up
πŸ‘› Swim at the Lido or Hampstead Heath ponds in summer
πŸ’° Buy a bicycle – there’s an upfront cost but it’s free onwards (except maintenance)
πŸ’° Shop around for the best gym membership.

Holiday travel ✈️

πŸ†“ Learn the basics of a new language using an app like Duolingo or go to a free language exchange session
πŸ‘› Heard of Β£9 flights to France? Travel mid-week well in advance to score those fares
πŸ’° Always hunt for the best airfare online – try Skyscanner or Google Flights
πŸ’° Book your flight home to spend Christmas holidays with family on Christmas Day itself, or New Years Day to save
πŸ’° Take advantage of student and youth airfares and travel packages.

Your hacks

I’ve undoubtedly missed a few crucial London life hacks, so I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

Latest posts πŸ‘‡