Living in London on a student budget
It’s no secret that living in London is expensive. So how are students doing it while still enjoying the full uni experience?
It can be tough to balance your budget in a city where a single tube fare costs £4.90, a meal out will often cost at least £15 and where student accommodation can add up to £1,250 a month.
We caught up with Sam from the University of Westminster to get her top tips for living in London on a tight budget.
Accomodation quick wins
Sam: When I first moved to London, I wasn’t familiar with the city so I went for the easiest option which was the halls my university recommended to me. This isn’t always the cheapest option and there’s loads of resources available to make an informed decision on the best place to live (that also take into account your budget).
Facebook groups like The Hustle Homes and Badi London Rooms For Rent really helped me in second year to find a reasonably priced room in a house - I would strongly recommend checking them out! There are also tonnes of privately-owned halls such as Optivo which can be cheaper than the halls recommended by your university. Make sure to do some extensive research before committing to something.
Now this one is a bit of a strange one, but I’ve known friends to take advantage of this and save loads in rent. DotDotDot is a property guardian company which allows you to volunteer in properties which otherwise would sit empty. In return you get a discounted rent or no rent at all, any student’s dream!
Now it’s no secret that travelling in London can be pricey, especially if you don’t know the tricks and tips of the City. There are plenty of options when it comes to travelling around London; tube, buses, cycling, shared car rides or taxis. There are also discounts for students which you should fully get involved in (see Totum and UCAS student discounts for example). The 16-25 railcard gets you a whopping 30% off train tickets! You can even get a discount on purchasing the railcard through Student Beans which is usually £30 (with a discount it’s £21). You can also link your Oyster card to your railcard to enjoy 30% off tube rides.
If you’re feeling brave and fancy your chances on the roads, you can always buy a cheap second hand bike or rent a bike. These are dotted all around the city and only cost £2 for 24 hours! You’ll be saving yourself some money, as well as helping to preserve the planet (and getting some exercise!).
I know there’s always the devil on your shoulder telling you to take the easy option and hop on the tube as opposed to walking, but you’d be surprised how close most things are in London. Take a look at a tube map and suss out how close the next tube stop is, the fresh air will do you some good, not to mention save you a few quid!
Dine out without breaking the bank
I know, you’re probably thinking this is next to impossible in a city like London, but I’ll let you into all the secrets that will get you saving tonnes a month. There are plenty of apps out there that allow you to get cheaper takeaways and eat out for a fraction of the price. Too Good To Go offers discounted prices for food that would otherwise be wasted at the end of the day.
If you like eating out like I do, then you should take advantage of the 2-4-1 cards, such as Dine card and Tastecard. If you’re in the right place, at the right time (30 mins before closing), you can also get 50% off food from that day at places such as Itsu, Tossed and Crussh. Pretty cool right!
My last tip on eating out is to sign up to the mailing list of your favourite bars, restaurants and pubs. If you love a voucher and a freebie, you’ll find that places often offer discounts when you sign up to their mailing list.
Don't scrimp on your social life
Now I wouldn’t blame you for thinking your social life is going to be non-existent in a city that’s in the top 20 most expensive places to live, I certainly thought this when I first moved to the city. You’d be wrong though and you’ll be thanking me later for all this inside knowledge… well your social life will be anyway.
My first hot tip is to pick up the free Time Out magazine. They always have articles on free events/exhibitions and markets in London which are great to fill up a weekend!
Use the London libraries
If you’ve had enough of your study area, then you’ll be happy to find out that if you join one library in London, then you can use all libraries in London. Check out Gov.uk to find out where your local libraries are.
See free jazz, dance, gigs and concerts
If you are ever having a boring weekend, then get yourself down to the Southbank centre. It’s famous for its events, with many being offered free of charge! Check out the event list here.
Have you ever heard of First Thursdays? This will probably be your new favourite night! Over 150 East London galleries offer free events, exhibitions, talks, workshops and private viewings on the first Thursday of every month. You can find out more here.
Get cinema tickets for under £5
As you probably know London cinemas can be pricey and probably not on your list of things to do on a student budget. Well, check out Prince Charles cinema for classic films for as little as £4 for members and £8 for non-members. Membership is only £10 for the year.
Also don’t forget compare the market who offer 2-4-1 cinema tickets on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This is probably the last thing you’d think to do in London on a student budget, but actually a lot of cinemas run National Theatre Live showings where they screen the performance to the cinema itself. Tickets are only £15, so a lot lower than a theatre ticket. It also eliminates you being stuffed behind a pillar.
There are loads of free things to do in London, such as the free parks where you can have cute picnics with friends or be at one with nature. If you’re a fan of history, check out the historic buildings and museums in London which are also usually free.
Trying one or more of these tips will soon help you to budget in London whilst still living your best life as a student!