I was born in Paris but moved to the countryside when I was seven years old. When I left home for university, I moved to fairly sized cities, which were also quite affordable. Thus, I did not get to experiment THE city… Until I moved to London! Oh, it was great… and painful! From paying €650 for a very central studio flat in Lyon or a €500 massive room in a two bedroom flat in Turin, to £780 for a room in a 5 bedroom flat in London.
And I have the feeling that my room is not that expensive compared to what many others get. But then, adds up the travel card… Just for comparison, a monthly all-zones travel pass in Paris is €76 while a monthly zone 1 – 2 travel pass in London is £131. Painful, I know.
Don’t get me wrong! I am not complaining, I love London. Which is why, despite the very high cost of living, I moved there! The thing is, moving in your dream city but not being able to enjoy it is a bit sad. You start questioning your choice. Does my salary actually allow me to live in London? Is it all worth it?! Should I reconsider? And so many other questions and after thoughts while actually…
… the only thing you need to focus on is how to defy the odds, prove all the clichés wrong and use some money saving hacks I am about to share with you! You will probably know a few of these already, but you might also learn a few more!
How To Live The Life in London On A Budget
- Buying in bulk online – Home delivery is the most convenient thing when it comes to groceries. You place the order online and wait for it to arrive. Sorting everything by prices on the website, you can find the cheapest items and save a lot of money. Buying in big quantities is also cheaper. Furthermore, since you don’t need to carry everything yourself, buying several kilos of pasta isn’t an issue. You always need pasta so it’s great to have some stock!
- Choosing generic brands – Famous brands are a safe bet, sure. You assume the products will be good. But most of the time, the only difference is the packaging. Ingredients rarely vary. When 500g of generic brand spaghetti costs £0.20 against £2 for branded ones, that choice is easy. Local stores don’t often sell generic brands while big stores and websites do.
- Getting loyalty cards – If a store offers a loyalty card, get it. Especially if it is part of a wider scheme. My Nectar card allows me to accumulate points when I shop online for groceries, train tickets, furniture, etc. which can be turned into vouchers. £5, £10, etc depending on how many points you get. Small savings here and there that add up turn into big savings.
- Visiting £1 and saver shops – Some items are expensive wherever you go. An alternative is to visit your local £1 shop or Poundland. Even the cheapest coffee will not be under £1 at your supermarket while you can find good brands in £1 shops! This specifically works for items such as washing power, cleaning liquid, toilet paper, beauty products, etc. which are always so expensive yet essential.
Rent, transport & work
- Choosing your flat – The issue with London is that rent is very expensive. Sad truth. Finding something affordable is possible if… you do not rush your search. Consider the size, furnishing, common rooms, conditions, location. Maybe you can move a bit further away from the city center while staying in the same travel zone. The most important is that you have a station not too far to get to the center fairly quick. Another solution is to find a flat that is for example at the beginning of zone 3 while the closest station is in zone 2. Cheaper rent, cheaper travel card. Worse case scenario, you go even a bit further away and walk a bit longer.
- Checking hidden costs – So you’ve found that flat located in a super cool area. The room is fairly sized, the common rooms are clean, shiny and nice. The price is good. It’s like, you’ve found the pearl! And then, they tell you that it does not include some or all bills. And you need to add a hundred pounds, maybe two hundred. Ouch. Always look out for prices that already include all bills!
- Getting your travel card – Pay as you go, weekly card, monthly card, you choose. If you take a monthly card but do not travel enough to break even, then it is money lost. Calculate how often you will travel for work, probably 5 returns a week. Plus the occasional going out or in town. If all that combined is still less than a travel card, just pay so you go. Money saved.
- Making lunch at home – Making your lunch box every evening can be tedious so the temptation to buy something at your local Tesco Express is very strong. Let’s make some calculations. A meal deal is £3, multiplied by 5 workings days, £15. 5 meals using 1kg (£0.45) of (generic brand) rice, 3 cans of ratatouille ( £0.70 x 3 = £2.10) and a bag of 6 apples (£1.50) make £4.05. A £10.95 difference, which will add up. Use the money saved for drinks, going out, shopping or traveling!
Shopping & other treats
- Accessorizing instead of buying – I love treating myself to new things but let’s be honest, do I need a new little black dress? Not really no. Am I bored of the one I have? Yes, for sure. Maybe I can jazz it up with different shoes, jewelry and bag for a whole new look? Or watch tutorial on how to transform basic clothing and accessories into something different?
- Selling unwanted items – If you want to make space or get rid off unworn items, you can sell them on second hand websites or apps. Mercari, Vinted, Depop, to cite a few. It might not sell immediately, but you can still get a few pounds back.
- Visiting your local library or swapping books – Any book lovers amongst you? Me too! Despite not having space nor money for new books, I keep on buying more! Next time, before placing a cheeky order on Amazon, check out our local library. They might have the book you were looking for! Otherwise, you can arrange some book swap with friends, relatives, bloggers or even strangers!
- Going out for less – One drink, two drinks, three, four, etc… it adds up and it is expensive. And you also have to pay entry to the club! God damn it, breaking the bank are we?! If you don’t want to pay to get in, get there a bit earlier. Some clubs do free entry until 11pm, other until midnight. Sure the atmosphere is not set yet but you did not pay and you can chill like you were at the pub until the party really starts! Or you find a promoter that will have you go in for free or cheaper and drink for free!
BUT most important of all
- Knowing your spending capabilities – Before deciding to spend your money or do anything, make sure you actually know what you can spend. No one forces you to save money and you can spend it all on booze, parties and clothes. Your choice. But just so you know, if something happens and you don’t have anything in the bank to soften the hit, then you are in big troubles. You don’t need to save a lot each month. Just a bit. Calculate all your necessary expenses against your monthly salary, assess what you’ve got left, what you can use for fun, to treat yourself and what you can save.
- Learning to say ‘no’ – There is nothing shameful about being broke. If you don’t have money, don’t be ashamed. Not being able to afford something is a pretty good reason to say ‘no’. Because if you say yes, you’ll spend money you don’t have and will be in big trouble. Sometimes, being pragmatic is just as good as enjoying yourself… but it can actually save your ass. Truth be told, I know what I am talking about! Whether you don’t want or can’t, do not be afraid of saying no.
I guess you need to have some sort of discipline but you don’t have to be super strict with yourself. We’ve all have a different behavior towards money and all feel differently about how we spend it. Do what works for you, enjoy life in the big city. However, remember that even though treating yourself feels amazing, once money is gone, it is gone, there is no going back. Great fashion, amazing experiences and crazy night outs don’t pay the bills. If something happens, having a little something saved aside will save you a lot of stress!
What do you think of these? Do you already apply some of those tips? Have they been working for you? Do you have any more tips for us? How do you manage life on a budget in a big city?
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you liked this post.
See you soon,
*Some items featured in this post are gifts from brands.