Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tips for living in London on the cheap

London is a great city to be in if you have lots of time on your hands, but it's full of temptation if you're on a budget (as I am, while I seek full-time employment). I've discovered ways around some of the more expensive aspects of London in my short time here, which I now share with you. If you have any suggestions please leave a comment!

On public transport

Get the bus. It may be slow, but it's way cheaper than the tube, and during my period of funemployment, time is something of which I have a lot, while money is less plentiful. Taking buses is also a great way to learn your way around London and to get a mental picture of how all the areas fit together. Central London is actually really small, so sometimes it's quicker to get a bus than to go underground. Another bonus about getting really comfortable with buses and their routes is that you already understand how they work when you're faced with getting a night bus home after the tubes stop running (not fun to have to figure out after a few too many pints!).

Waiting for the bus (this happens a lot)

On entertainment

Enjoy the freebies. There are loads of museums and art galleries which do not charge an entry fee. If you find yourself broke one Saturday with nothing to do, head for the Natural History Museum, National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and any number of other destinations which charge nothing for a great day out. There's also nothing to stop you hitting the great markets of London just to look around. You don't have to buy anything at Portobello Road Market, Columbia Road Flower Market or Spitalfields Market, but it's fun just to take in their sights.

Get outside. With the sun finally showing its face (please, for the love of Vitamin D, let this be the start of spring), there are so many pretty places to go soak up some rays. Today two of my friends and I took a walk around St. James's Park, which is currently resplendent with yellow daffodils. Regent's Park is also excellent for spring flowers and bird life, and Hampstead Heath is also worth a visit for the swan lake. All the Royal Parks are free to enjoy, and I'm looking forward to some picnics in the summer!

Daffodils in St. James's Park

On shopping

Buy smart. London is expensive. Everything here is expensive, but some stuff is less so. These are some shopping tips I've picked up:

Cosmetics: While I have less cash, whenever I need new beauty or body products I buy the travel minis - less money to fork out and I'm hoping by the time I need to replace them I'll have more income :) As an aside, I generally find Superdrug to be cheaper than Boots for cosmetics (although Boots' loyalty programme is far superior). 

Coffees: One of my favourite things to do when I'm out is to indulge in a takeaway hot drink. There is no better feeling than a hot chocolate clasped with freezing hands. Pod, which has a few branches around central London, does a happy hour from 10am-12pm and after 3pm every day: any hot drink for only £1.  

Clothes: The only things you own here which need to be of good quality (not up for negotiation!) are your winter coat and shoes. A warm (preferably wool-based) coat and comfortable shoes cannot be compromised on. Everything else can be bought on sale, from any number of the more budget-friendly chains (H&M and New Look, anyone?) or (resignedly) Primark. I try to steer clear, but you can say what you like about them, their stuff isn't ugly and it's really, really cheap. 

Groceries: One of of the things I love about this country (or the first world in general) is that stuff goes on special all the time. Go shopping with a grocery list, but be flexible according to what is on promotion that week - although (note to self) this is not an excuse to buy half-price Ben & Jerry's. It also helps to go shopping late in the evening as stock near expiry often gets marked down at the end of the day (and I promise it's still safe to eat!). 

My weakness

On eating out

This has been my biggest non-essential expense since moving here, as dining out is my favourite way to socialise and it's crazy expensive in London. The only advice I can give is that pubs are usually cheaper than restaurants and eating at off-peak times means you're often able to take advantage of specials running before10am or from 12-6pm. Cocktail happy hours generally end between 8-8:30pm, so start drinking before then too. 

If all else fails and you find yourself broke with a dinner to go to, eat at home beforehand and only order a starter or dessert at the restaurant. 

Any tips of your own to share?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow  <b>reberoodle</b> on Twitter