London isn’t cheap. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know this. If you’ve met somebody who went there, it could be the first thing they bring up. There is no doubt that it is one of the most expensive cities in Europe and all around the world.
Cutting costs, making ends meet: London on a budget
The EIU ranked London as the 15th most expensive city in the world .* The guys over at Expatistan.com say their maths makes London THE most expensive city in the world. England’s national students union (the NUS) says the average student in London spends more than £12,000 every year just on living costs. Add to that the rent that is usually quite high (if you need to check up on average rental costs of living in London, we have this other article for you). But! You do get what you pay for. London matches the high costs with great quality and offers very few other cities can match.
Some people, like our guest writer Carlos, even say that this is their “favourite city on the planet” (check out his article to find out why). But some ways of live in London are cheaper than others. As any other student in London on a budget, at the end of the month I would check out these guides to living in London on the cheap and get a bit angry at whatever idiot with a keyboard came up with stuff like, “#3: Try Squatting instead of renting” and “Check out the trash cans behind bakeries and restaurants at the end of the day”. If nothing else, I wanted a chance to graduate before I started living like a bum. This is the guide I wish I had at the time, with the lessons that I have learned about making do and getting by on as little money as possible.
1: London on a budget is so much easier if you wave your student card around
-as often as you can. Anywhere. Everywhere. Being a student in the UK has more advantages than anywhere else I’ve ever been to. Student discounts at the movies, free museums, cheaper tube and train tickets, half-price meals at restaurants, even special student deals with a few of the Banks. You’re a student, you’re proud of it, and you’re going to milk it while it lasts.
2: Attend more University talks
I’m not even joking. I learned this one and it practically saved my life and my degree. Listen to me for a second: every department of every university (and there’s dozens of universities) has guest speakers doing talks on one subject or the other that are free to attend. In London, you can attend anything from the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire to Alien Life-forms. How can they help you? You’ll hear some world-class academic talk to you and teach a class for free (just do the maths about how you are paying for your other lectures). And you can raid the cookie jars during coffee break and help yourself to as much coffee and tea as you possibly want. Make sure you take the opportunity to talk to the staff – these professors and assistants are just as keen on the free coffee as you are, and getting to know them out of the classroom can really help you later on.
3: Forget the tube, ride a bicycle
Even Boris Johnson is doing it (that’s the love-him or hate-him Mayor of London): in London, make sure you use every sunny day to cycle around. It’ll cut down on your transport costs (even the Oyster card can burn wholes in wallets), make you catch some air, work your tan and on top of all that you won’t need to be joining the gym. Check where other commuters have been cycling at Cycle Routes: London or see Timeout’s lists on brilliant bike rides – from secret to family-friendly, they have a outlined a road for everyone.
4: Bookmark these pages
There are thousands of free events happening in London on any given week. Art shows, musical gigs by the best upcoming bands, film viewings, ticket giveaways, it all really happens. Some times you’ll find your favourite artists playing free concerts – remember when legendary, revolutionary Billy Bragg spent a day busking with Frank Turner? Only in London! It’s really just a question of knowing where to look, and these two pages are your best bets to keep you up to date with what’s happening for free:
And Timeout again which you can buy in print or access online lists almost every event in advance. Bookmark these pages and make sure that can still go out and have fun even if you’re strapped for cash.
5: And bookmark this one as well.
While you’ve got bookmarking still in your short-term muscle memory, save this website it’s a great source for stretching your pound: Studentbeans for free stuff and exclusive student discounts. A lot of brands promote special deals through them, and it’s definitely worth returning to see what hot, new offers they have going. Plus, they have some funny blog articles involving plenty of the less glamorous sides of student life.
So whether you’re one of the thousands of Erasmus students in London, or you are sticking around for the full 3 years at Uni, the truth is – London can be as expensive as it is cool. But it doesn’t have to be: if you’re clever, having fun won’t mean blasting your budget away in one night. This is your student experience, make it amazing.
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And remember! If you need to find University housing – or you know someone that does – you’ll find the student home you’re looking for on http://uniplaces.com.