London is a pricey city, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay the world to enjoy its goods. Find out how you can cheat London with discovering the cheapest ways to live in London.
Utter the word ‘savings’ in London, and it is like you are speaking a foreign language. How could you save in a city where it literally sucks the last penny out of you? After all, this is one of the world’s most expensive cities, and things in London don’t come cheap. Or so many have you believe.
During my time in London, I was living off paycheck to paycheck trying to scrape on by like many others. It was also the first time where I was being paid monthly, so I had to learn (and slowly I did) that it was not all that wise to blow it on the first payday weekend unless I wanted to live off Iceland meals for the next 30 days.
But as time went on by, I discovered that London doesn’t have to live up to its pricey reputation – you can still have your cake in London and eat it too. The only thing that cake may be from budget bakery Greggs instead. Its called ‘comprise’, innit?
Maybe you won’t be able to save for a ride on the London Eye (leave that expense to the parents that will come and visit you), but you can still be savvy. Here I give you my tips on the cheapest ways to live in London and still afford that last double-decker red bus ride home.
Ok, this girl may have never made it onto the Catwalk, but that didn’t mean the model dream had to die without doing a strut down the prestigious Oxford Street – oh no! It turns out, London is calling, particularly screaming out for models like you and me every single day to do the ultimate hair flick.
Forget buying package dye or asking a mate to cut your hair ever again as hair makeover and de-tangler royalty Toni & Guy Hair Academy on New Oxford Street seeks out hair models every day. Choose to have your hair cut for a fiver or have your hair dyed for nadda. These free or minimal costing makeovers are not done by pimply teens newly sinking their teeth into the hair business, but by qualified hair gods from around the world. They have come to Toni & Guy’s London headquarters to hone their crafts and flair on various sets of hair. Luckily for us, we can receive the fruits of their scissor-hand labour without coughing up the hundreds of pounds otherwise in a typical saloon.
The best things in life may be minimal (or free) but you are required to sit in the academy between 3 – 5 hours, depending on the treatment or service you are receiving. The reason being is that the students have to consult their tutors on how they are going to give you the ultimate Princess Diaries’ Anne Hathaway makeover. Better yet, after visiting the academy for a handful of years, you may even become on a first-name basis with the lovely, red-headed reception lady.
Yellow sticker specials
While everyone is still caught up hunting Pikachu in Pokemon Go, I am unashamedly hunting down another yellow kind – discounted stickers! Usually, happy hour for these grocery item bargains commences around the 6 pm mark, but there is no set time per se. There is no telling when these supermarket fairies who light up the aisles with fluoro yellow stickers will appear. Discounted magic can happen at any given time!
Just make sure when you do spot an attendant with some sort of yellow sticker gun, looking like they are about to fire away, need not be afraid. Just straight up follow them down the yellow aisle road and all will be redeemed for some savings glory.
The British are gun crazy – of the good kind of course. Think a gourmet M&S sandwich for 20p or a bag of spinach at Tesco for 8p. Those prices are crazy, yes, but they are not far-fetched. It’s not even crazy to think that you may come out of a corner store Tesco 10 minutes before closing with a bag full of items that are cheaper than your last Poundland shop – 5p bag included! Need a source of inspiration? The Sun UK has your back with this highly inspirational money savings article.
Unless you want to fasten the expiry date on your time on Earth, best to eat those yellow stickered items as soon as you bust through your front door with your 5p Tesco bag in tow. These items can be like a ticking time bomb to your health if they are feasted upon five days later after bargains glory. After all, five-day-old bit of fish and potentially salmonella infested chicken ever sound appealing? Seriously, this is the cheapest way to live in London when done in a healthy manner.
Make your next Tinder date pay for it all
Gosh – I can imagine this one being a tad controversial. London dating can sometimes be just as quickly transactional as your last Off-License visit. People come, and people go. It’s quicker to meet your next date online than it is to receive your next cocktail during Happy Hour at The Yard.
London is a time sucker. It likes to suck all the time out of you with commuting and working hardcore to afford next month’s rent (or your next Ryanair getaway) so why not kill two birds with one stone? As the Brits are ever polite, more often than not, your potential lover will flash out their wallet faster than Flash Gordon so instead of you thinking that 2019 is all about equality, take it back to 1950 and make them finance your night out?
If the lucky lover is fortunate enough for date round two, don’t let karma get to you and this time, you cough up the dough. And if you are worried about where to arrange the second date, easy! Suggest a cute picnic down at one of London’s scenic parks, pack in two £3 Tesco Meal Deals, a £5 bottle of Prosecco and you are all set. This date is all about you showing them the effort you would go for them (and all for under ten quid).
Oh boy – if you fall for them, then you have to let go of your cheapskate ways on this one. Let’s not be that partner that forever and a day mooches on their equal because that will turn the relationship into a negative.
Go to a guest speaker evening
Why not combine your thirst of going to the pub for a social (and possibly drunken) outing and instead, have a night that stimulates intellectual thought (and perhaps a new subject matter to debate on). Funzing is a great social marketplace that hosts guest speakers in pubs across London that talk about a range of topics. From appreciating the learnings of Sigmund Freud to finding out what it was like being a part of MI5, your new conversation starter just turned high brow.
Also, not only will you save your liver from copious amounts of alcohol for the night (we all know that going to the pub for “one drink after work” is well and truly asking for it) but you will save your well-worn bank card from being stretched to the limit!
It does cost you the world to attend these events that start from £10 however you can easily justify the night out; you are receiving entertainment in the form of acquiring new knowledge in a social setting that doesn’t peer pressure you into drinking more. Be sure to check out their website for discounts that may creep up.
Hit up your local Wetherspoons
I would not be surprised if the Brits had more alcohol running their veins than blood with the amount of waterholes found across zone one and two in London. The thought of alcohol is a hard one to escape and if you are a sucker like me that does not need much arm-twisting to go out for a sneaky drink, maybe you should learn how to comprise on what place to enjoy this said drink.
Thank heavens for the Wetherspoons. This national chain of pubs can be found right across the UK, with each pub looking completely different from one another so don’t expect a McDonald’s feel to each one you enter. Stepping in here makes you leave London prices at the door as one reason for its vast popularity is its cheap alcohol and food on offer. The Wetherspoons is the place of dreams if you were chasing a pint and ‘missing the love’ pub grub for under a tenner.
These pubs are soulless when it comes to vibe. Sure there may be abuzz with people drinking its £4 pints, but Wetherspoons did indeed kill the radio star with no music blaring out as background noise. Nor does it hold events (unless you booked your wedding on a budget, then you are all set). The only entertainment on offer includes poker machines and the company you have in tow.
Sign up to newsletters
Instead of receiving the Daily Mail in your inbox to be a know-it-all on celebs you don’t even know who they are at all, sign up to newsletters of your favourite venues to find out the latest discounts and events.
I would not have known that meaty mavens Meat Liquor’s have days where they offer ‘50% Your Total Bill’ or know that the jazzy institution The Blues Kitchen’s offers ‘Free Wings’ if it wasn’t for my trusty inbox receiving these super important announcements.
Your inbox may not like you for thinking that it is receiving spam content. Just make sure you let the email gods know that receiving discounts from your favourite places is something that deserves a red flag.
Hire a bike
One good thing to come out of Boris Johnson’s tenure at Major of London are the affordable red communal bikes scattered across the city. Ditch the tube and stuffy air as for only £2, you can hire one of these hot wheels to cruise around town and enjoy the almost fresh air that is above ground. Despite saying adios to tube travels, you will still be in the dire need of a long shower afterwards (London pollution, innit?).
It’s a great way to experience London but exercise (don’t mind the pun) with great caution; London’s traffic is on steroids so best to keep your leisurely ride to footpaths or through parks unless you are prepared to dodge some intense traffic.
Go over the 30 minutes hire time, and you have to cough up an extra £2, charged to your card. Safety wise, it is not required by law to wear a helmet so you don’t need to carry that bad (but protective) boy one around with you.
Hit up the sample sales
London is a place full of well-dressed folks. Style evolves faster than any Apple announcement. But how do you keep up with the pace of it? Personally, I ain’t one to flick the pages of a Vogue to see what I need to wear tomorrow but I do like to see what I am wearing six months down the line at a heavily discounted price. Need not to feel ashamed – you can still have a witty sense of style while only paying upmarket Primark prices!
Chicmi and LDNfashion are both excellent sources on where you can find your next bargain to make it feel like you have saved money, but then again, would you have gotten that discounted £700 Sophie Hulme bag to £60 in the first place? Note to self: Probably not but I love it always and forever more.
Shoreditch is a mecca for these pop-up shops of heavenly bargains. Just be prepared to sort through the racks and maybe the mosh pit of people until you found your retail glory.
These pop-ups can often result in impulse buying. Did you really need that £100 name-brand scarf that makes you think you saved £300? Even though you may have scored bargain of the 21st century, you may have not even considered that you wanted it until it was charged to your credit card.
Go to a free event
London is the city that never sleeps. It is literally polluted with events all over town so why not go to a free one? A great way to find out what free events are on is by consulting ye trusty ol’ Timeout, Eventbrite or your local pub. That, and there is always some kind of celebration somewhere (or protest) so get on that bad boy bandwagon.
It may cost you the coin to get there but you may have a priceless experience – even if you did join an anti-Brexit march (kudos to those that have!).
Watch a TV show being filmed
Are you keen for some celeb spotting or wanting to have a sneak peek of British TV being shot right before your very eyes? There are a few websites such as Lost in TV that allow you to jot your name down on the list of attendees to see live tappings or rehearsals in London.
Despite receiving a confirmation, it is not a guarantee to actually get into the taping or the rehearsal show. You need to be in that line earlier on before the stated start time. This case scenario happened not once, but twice with me with seeing my favourite comedian Russell Howard practice new material for his upcoming. I, unfortunately, did not have the last laugh as the curtain drew on my attendance prematurely.
Live on a diet full of fried chicken
Make the last dreds that remain in your healthy bank account stretch by treating yourself to a hearty dose of fried chicken without the guilt factor. Just like you go heavy on sprinkling salt on your chips, London goes heavy with its gloriously golden fried chicken shops scattered throughout the city.
The best thing about these hole-in-the-wall take-out joints is that it makes you feel like you have just entered a 90s time warp with its tacky decor and its super low prices. How low? A cheeky snack of chicken four wings will most likely cost you just over a pound. Now, if you are super hungry, expect a chicken, chips and drink meal to cost you over two quid. If you are up for paying a pittance but not feeling the need for deep-fried protein, some of these places even sell ribs and pizza – banging!
Confused about which chicken shop to head to? Check out London’s most renowned fried chicken critic, the Chicken Connoisseur. I need to admit, I don’t have many heroes in life but I would go as far to say that the Chicken Connoisseur is my living idol.
OK, your chicken fetish may be lightweight on the bank card but your waistline may suggest otherwise. Even though a two burger plus a dozen wings deal for £3.99 may sound appealing, to make you feel less guilty about the whole fried chicken eating situation, get a mate involved – because eating kerbside cheap chicken at 3 am is what true friendship is all about.
Share the shit out of app promotions
Why pay full price when there are apps out there to cater to your saving needs. Help those newly released apps spread the word and you will be shown appreciation through discounts and credits. Take for instance Uber rival ViaVan. Not only did they have ride-sharing fares through zone 1 at a ridiculously low rate (£3), but they offered a £10 credit every time a mate joined the ViaVan bandwagon. This highlighted promotion is only an example but keep an ear out for new apps to test out and to get that discounted chain reaction going.
You will possibly spam people with your savvy ways, and they might get angry. But, ultimately they won’t because you will be saving them pennies or getting them some free goodness. Your friendship is in for the keeps!
Be a good person
Sprinkle some good out into the universe, and you may be rewarded. Sometimes, people will treat you from time to time if you aren’t an asshole in life and actually are a decent, kind and friendly human being and vice versa. It’s called give and take.
Although, you should always be giving – whether it is with your time, dishing out a treat or being an awesome friend. If you are open, you could be pleased in various ways. I say this with good intentions as using people would be a very shitty characteristic on your behalf.
Be an open person – to new people, to opportunities and experiences. You never know where they may leave you. They may even lead you to play this heartfelt game as pictured above. Most importantly, just don’t be a shit person because karma can be a bitch.
Be in a relationship
Ok, I never lived up to this one. The closest thing I got to being in a relationship was with hanging out with male friends that do not swing my way. (Eligible men, do apply.)
Just like H&M likes to slash clothes prices in half, you can too do exactly that with your rent by getting into a relationship. That means you can get the ultimate ‘two for the price of one’ deal if you buddy up with someone that you wouldn’t mind being the fiddle to their spoon with. The savings you will make with being in a relationship could go towards buying you both high street clothes that will make you make you the Posh & Becks of your postcode.
Your partner is of course! If you are in a committed relationship, good on you for waving goodbye to singleton! You will now have zero time to go deep sea diving to inspect the potential fish in the sea in London. Til rental agreements do you part!
Photo credit: Chicken Consossuier