Living in London cheaply isn’t an easy task. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world and living here can mean you find that your pay packet is gone before you’ve even received it – which for anyone on a low wage can be stressful and at times feel almost impossible.
That’s probably why there are so many blogs and articles giving handy hints on tips on how to save money when living in London. It’s great to hear these kinds of tips from people who’ve lived and worked in London and know how much of a slog it can be when you’re counting your pennies. However, there really are loads of things you can do to make your money go further, whether that’s just making small changes, being more savvy or taking the plunge with a couple of lifestyle changes.
We’ve scoured all of the very best tips and hints on how to live on a budget and piled them together in this article. Some are so good, we’re definitely hoping to start saving some hard earned pennies and pounds for a change.
Saving Money on Food
After monthly rent, transport and food are generally the second biggest essential expenses for Londoners. Most people that live and work in London are busy and so things like cooking, which can take time, often fall by the wayside. It becomes really easy to stop shopping and cooking and just buy takeaway or convenience foods, the problem is this can soon add up.
From online food shopping to saving on eating out, here are some tips to help you save on food…
If you live in London you’ll have access to hundreds, no, thousands of amazing restaurants! Many of those restaurants (1187 of them, and counting!) will be members of schemes like the Taste Card which give regular discounts and offers of 50% off meals or 2 for 1 deals. However, there can be even cheaper ways to get a discounted dinner!
If you don’t want to (and/or can’t afford to) pay the £70 a year for the Taste Card, simply check out online booking sites like Open Table (formerly Top Table), London-Eating or similar sites who often have many of the same offers which you can book with no membership fee. TablePouncer, for example, give you discounts on last minute bookings that have been cancelled. There’s a range of budget and high end restaurants so it’s a great idea for a special occasion booked at the last minute!
Keep an eye out for new restaurant openings that often have special offers. Many restaurants have a “soft” opening around 1 week before their official opening – letting staff practice and iron out any minor teething problems. This can mean food is discounted by 50% and means you can get into the hottest new restaurants before they even open! Follow hot dinners for the latest on soon to open restaurants.
You can also just type into Google “Discounts (name of your favourite restaurant/type of restaurant eg: Italian Restaurant) + (location)” and see if anything comes up.
Also, check out sites like Groupon.
Most offers are during weekdays when restaurants find it harder to take bookings. It’s rare to find offers on Fridays and Saturdays when many restaurants can fill their restaurants with customers paying full price – understandable as they need to make a living too.
If you’re after an interesting evening meeting new people and maybe a free meal too – lots of meetups and networking events give out free food and drink to attendees, so keep a look out for events on meet-up and eventbrite.
It might also be a good idea just to ask your favourite restaurants in person or over the phone if they have any offers coming up. You never know!
Also, a lot of meet ups and networking events give free food and drink out to the attendees, so they could keep an eye out for these on eventbrite and meetup.
Supermarkets in the UK are generally not as expensive as some supermarkets abroad, especially in the US – although the pound isn’t doing too well at the moment you can still find some bargains. This is how…
If you live in London, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be a convenient distance away from the cheapest UK supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. However, if you do live close to one of these supermarkets then you could save a lot of money by shopping here. Although cheaper, both Aldi and Lidl have a great selection of high quality local and international food but manage to keep their prices cheaper by employing less staff than larger, more expensive supermarkets.
Special Offers Food Isle
If you visit the Supermarket towards the end of the day, there is usually a section with discounted food that’s close to its sell-by date. You can often find some great bargains on meat and ready meals and if you don’t want to eat the product immediately, you can freeze it for another day.
Convenience stores or smaller chains of big brand supermarkets such as Tesco, Marks and Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s, often have higher prices than their larger, superstore counterparts. If you don’t live near a larger supermarket or superstore, you could save money by ordering your weekly food shop online online, despite any delivery charges.
Online Food Shopping
When you live in London it can mean that your weekdays are incredibly busy. Fitting in travel, work, shopping, socialising and, potentially, parenting too, can mean it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Shopping for food online may mean that you are able to save precious hours every month as well as a host of other benefits, from easily accessing the best money saving deals to potentially avoid buying anything on a whim whilst you’re wandering around the isles!
Takeaway Food Deals Online
There are loads of different Takaway apps for the UK and nowhere are there more than in London! Movie night doesn’t have to be at the cinema – finding a takeaway deal and renting a film online can be a great alternative to spending upwards of £15 on a cinema ticket.
Deliveroo, Just Eat, HungryHouse, Uber Eats are some of the most popular and some (like Uber Eats) don’t have a delivery fee. If you Google around online, you can also often find discount codes that will knock even more money off your order. Just search for “(name of food delivery company) discount codes” to check if there’s anything available. e.g. UberEats Discount Code UK
Weekly Meal Planning
Planning what you’re going to eat every week can seem boring and time consuming, but it can actually save you a lot of time and money. Buy only what you need to create each dish and make enough of each meal to take to work as your lunch the next day. This way you won’t need to waste extra money on convenience food but you’ll still have quick and tasty meals every day.
The reality is that most shared flats and houses in London just don’t have the freezer space for storage. Ask your landlord for a larger freezer first, but if they say no then ask if your housemates would be willing to contribute. If you have the kitchen space, it could be worth investing in a new or second hand extra freezer to keep in the kitchen specifically for people’s home made ready meals.
Saving Money on Travel
Travelling on public transport is unavoidable for most Londoners unless you live within reasonable walking distance from your work.
Buying a year long travel card with Commuter Club is usually the best way to save money on transport costs if you live and work in London. It’s a bigger spend upfront but if can save you a lot of money. If you travel from zone 2 to zone 1 for work and currently use your contactless card you could save £15 per month and up to £200 per year as opposed to using your contactless card. Just remember to register your card in case you lose it!
Commuter Club also gives you access to discounted national rail fares, Odeon Cinema, Fitness First, Made.com, Moo and more.
London has some of the best entertainment and nightlife in the world but it can often be expensive. Again, Groupon is a good standby for random evenings out and you could also try Time Out for a collection of offers from food and theatre to music and club nights.
Many of London’s best museums are free and although you’ll usually have to pay to visit certain exhibitions, wandering around the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery or the Natural History Museum is a great way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon.
You can also check out Londonist for a list of free events in the capital. There’s always something going on that you won’t have to pay for.
Moving to London
If you’re looking to move house in London then you’ll probably be trying to save money at the same time. This is really hard to do in London because you’ll probably be travelling a lot to view properties and coming home late. You’ll also be spending a lot of time searching for the right property, which makes it hard to find the time to do anything else, let alone prepare food.
A great way to save time and money when looking for property in London is to use free services like Snapdup. You’ll get put in touch with property experts in the areas you’re looking to move who will only show you the best property that meets your requirements. You may even get shown property that hasn’t yet become widely available on the market. This kind of service can help you save time and potentially, money.
London is one of the fashion capitals of the world and that’s reflected in the amount of amazingly tempting shops that reside all over the city! It can be really hard to resist buying fashion, especially if you’re on a budget, but there are ways that it can be done!
Look for bargains in the markets
London has some of the best markets in the world. From Portobello Road to Petticoat Lane, Brick Lane Market, the Vintage Market and more! You can find stylish clothes at prices much lower than your average high street shops and it’s worth spending a whole day rummaging around for the best vintage and bargain pieces.
Visit the best charity shops
Charity shops in London can vary wildly in quality of the clothes they sell. If you can’t shake your taste for high end fashion, try visiting charity shops in the most expensive areas of London like Hampstead, Chelsea and Knightsbridge where you’re more likely to find designer items at discount prices.
Shop the sales
Because London has some of the best shops in the world, it also has some of the best sales in the world! Waiting till the seasonal sales start mean you could save hundreds of pounds on fashion, especially if you’re buying larger ticket items like coats and shoes.
Research when your favourite shops have sales and try to make it in on the first day to pick up the best pieces in the size you want.
Shop discount stores
Shops like TK-Maxx sell designer brands of clothes, sportswear, homeware, home furnishings and even food at discount prices. You can buy anything from a top of the range cooking pan to a Valentino coat and J Brand jeans for a fraction of their retail prices. They also have high street brands at discounted prices too so there’s something for every budget.
If you want to buy something special or just can’t keep away from designer brands, why not try shopping at some of London’s designer outlets? From Superdry to ASICS to GAP, NEXT, Nike, Phase Eight – there are several big outlet or factory stores where you can find brand and high street names at a fraction of the price you’d usually get on the high street or online.
Shopping in the year round online sales at ASOS is a great way to save money on fashion and to save time in the shops! You can return items for free which makes this option a convenient and cheap way to shop online.
Although like many big cities in the world, London isn’t the cheapest place to live, however, hopefully this guide will show that there are less expensive ways you can live in London no matter if you’re getting by on lower wages or just trying to save some extra cash. If you’ve got some great tips to save money when you’re living in London, we’d love to know!