Living in London for the first time is an exciting experience for anyone, but even more so as a student. With so much on offer you’ll things to do that you never imagined - but it can be notoriously expensive!
Here are a handful of tips to save you some cash and let you focus on having fun.
1. Sit down and work out a budget
Rather than going in blind, sitting down and writing out a rough budget for your spending each month will highlight roughly where your money goes. This lets you see if there are areas where you can tighten your belt and make those pennies available somewhere else that matters more.
2. Look at your bank account
It can be tempting to spend and never look at your bank account, but while this can avoid short-term stress, it definitely ramps up stress in the long term! Take a peek at your bank balance every day to check for unexpected expenses, and to remind yourself about how quickly things can add up when you're not paying attention.
3. Review your bills
Rent and utilities are likely to be the biggest chunk of money to come out of your budget, especially in an expensive city like London. And while some London apartments have bills included in the price, most won't. Make sure you've got enough cash set aside to cover utility bills because it's no fun getting left in the dark.
4. Hunt around for a better deal
It's always worth shopping around and speaking to your provider to make sure you’re getting the best deal, and that the rate isn’t going to suddenly go up one month without you realising.
If you're renting, check your contract to see a) whether you're allowed to change and b) whether you have to change back when you move out: if you violate a term in your contract this will likely incur a fee, so be careful.
5. Make sure you're paying your fair share
If you’re sharing with other flatmates, figure out the total of all household bills and what percentage of that you’re each responsible for. Ideally everyone should be paying their fair share, but sometimes it ends up with one person paying a disproportionately high amount. This usually happens by accident, so it's worth having a look to make sure everyone's happy.
6. Review your subscriptions
It’s also likely that you’ll have subscriptions like Spotify and Netflix to think about. Even with a city as exciting as London on your doorstep you need a way to unplug and unwind, but these days it's easy to have four or five active subscriptions without even thinking about it. Trimming back to the most important one or two can save you a decent amount of cash each month.
7. Travel wisely
Driving in London is expensive..! Not only do you have to pay for fuel, insurance, and tax, but you'll most likely have to pay the Congestion Charge, potentially the ULEZ charge (find out more about those here) and most likely an enormous amount to park wherever you go.
Our recommendation? Ditch the car and go for public transport. Familiarise yourself with the city, and try to pick somewhere with convenient transport links.
8. Don't go food shopping while you're hungry
Consider how often you do a food shop and how much you’re spending. Is it every week? Every two weeks? Do you always spend about the same or do you find yourself varying wildly? If the latter, maybe try avoid shopping while you're feeling peckish, as you're much more prone to make expensive impulse purchases!
9. Buy in bulk where possible
With basics such as toilet roll, kitchen roll and other household supplies, you can often save money by buying in bulk. These will also include things like sponges, antibacterial spray, toilet bleach, washing up liquid, laundry detergent and floor cleaner. You’ll also most likely have some initial investments to make on things like a mop and bucket, broom, dustpan and brush and a vacuum cleaner if you don’t already have these.
10. Cut back on the booze
Do you spend your evenings in local pubs or wine bars? Or perhaps you bring a bottle to a friend's house to go with an evening in? If so, alcohol probably adds up to a fair amount of your monthly spend, and cutting down is a great way to make quick savings.
11. Remember your health
Consider what you do or might have to spend on health costs. If you have access to the NHS, there’s a chance you’ll still be required to pay for your own prescriptions - so think about any recurring medication you take, any contraception you purchase or if you see any specialists not covered by the National Health Service.
12. Use discount codes
There are discount codes you can get your hands on through websites such as Groupon. You can usually find good deals on experiences, such as massages or admission fees - though you might need to attend them during off-peak time slots.
13. Flaunt your student status
Being a student opens up a whole world of money-saving opportunities to you. Having a student ID card from your education institute, or an NUS card from the National Union of Students, can see you getting an average 10% off admission charges, tickets and even clothing shops. Check out the NUS Extra app for even more deals.
So there you have it, a handful of ways to make it easier to afford to live in London. A bit of basic budgeting can save you later headaches and give you peace of mind, meaning that when you do treat yourself - you’re not going to regret it later on down the line.
Being smart and savvy with your spending can make London a much more rewarding and comfortable place to live.
Count your monthly bills; your treats; your taxes; your eating and your travel habits. Remember that your salon visits and your Zumba leggings cost money too, as well as the generous rounds for your work team. You don’t have to be scared about spending in London if you make sure there are no nasty surprises.