Surviving in London is hard enough for people with full-time jobs. Trying to survive on a student budget is five times tougher. Here are a few tips for living on a student budget in a city that, most the time, feels like it’s trying to rob you.
London is an incredibly expensive place to live. You end up paying £800+ per month for a room in a dingy flat with a flatmate whose personal hygiene verges on the criminal. You’re essentially paying the best part of £1000 for prison conditions. At least it’s not as bad as in Plymouth, where students now literally live in a former prison (a trend which Shrewsbury took them up on).
But once you move out of halls you no longer have to stay in London. If you move out far enough on a main train line, however, housing prices fall off a cliff. If you flee far enough it’s possible to live in a house where you can tell whether you’re living in a bedroom or a cupboard, without asking the estate agent first.
If you can’t decide what area to live in, take a look at commutefrom.com. You specify which uni / area you’ll be commuting to, how long you’re willing to spend commuting there and your budget and it will give a breakdown of where you can live within your budget and preferences. You can also sort the results by crime statistics, to reassure your anxious parents that you are moving to an area with less crime than average.
I have a conspiracy theory that London is actually tiny, and people just think it’s big because the Mole People want you to keep taking the tube. When you actually put your journey into Google Maps it’s often quicker to walk than it is to take the tube (for shorter journeys). Test your route and walk occasionally.
You’ll save money, get free exercise and (occasionally) save a little bit of time as well – all without any risk of being attacked by the Mole People.
Cycling in London is terrifying. It feels like most people are trying to kill you, and the ones who aren’t wouldn’t stop to help once you’ve been knocked over. At best they see you as a speed bump with sound effects.
The time you’ll feel safest on a bike is when you’re sat in traffic. You’ll be doing a lot of it.
If you buy a scooter however, you don’t need to use the road at all, if you don’t want to. Most journeys can be completed much quicker than on a bike, and they’re much much cheaper than buying one and easier to fold than most folding bikes in existence (£50 for a scooter vs £300 for a folding bike).
Of course, a lot of pedestrians are going to hate you, as are cars when you choose to use the roads. It also feels kind of crummy when you scoot past a child in their kneepads and helmet and notice they’re riding the exact same brand of scooter that you are. But you’ll get there a lot faster than everyone else, and with a lot more money weighing you down.
Finding deals and discounts is annoying – trust a guy who looks for them all day long. There’s no need to spend all your time looking for the best deals and discounts. Let the nerds and professionals do it for you.
As a student you can get a lot of deals just by flashing your student card, and it’s always worth asking if you can get a student discount. But there are a lot of extra exclusive deals out there for students, which you are probably missing. Student deals website Student Money Saver finds you the best deals out there and sends them to your inbox, giving you huge savings without any of the hassle of actually spending time looking for them.
Don’t buy food from anywhere remotely convenient
If you’re poor, shopping somewhere even remotely close to where you live is an impossible dream, akin to flying or becoming the queen.
Local stores, even local versions of big supermarket chains, heavily mark up their prices. You pay 11.2% more at a local Tesco, compared to their own superstores.
London is mainly filled with these smaller stores, and it can be hard to find a larger superstore without travelling a long way.
If you’re poor, it’s much better to do your shopping online. You’ll be less tempted to buy stuff you don’t need (people buy around 19% more food when they shop in-store whilst hungry) and you’ll probably enjoy the experience of having your food chauffeur-driven to you, rather than lugging bags back on the tube.
You’ll be less likely to make impulse buys, and you can also occasionally take advantage of loopholes in online deliveries, and get £60 shops for only £15. You’re pushing trolleys when you should be using a mouse finger at most.