13 Ways To Enjoy Living In London Without Going Broke

Refinery29 UK
Jul 23, 2020 · 5 min read

By Jess Commons


The other day I ordered a glass of wine and it was £12.50. Yes, it was absolutely delicious wine. And yes, it was the first of two glasses of ludicrously priced wine I ordered in that bar that evening (more fool me) but seriously, £12.50 for 175ml of liquid? Absolutely ridiculous.

Granted, £12.50 is not the norm for a glass of wine in London. There are plenty of places you can go in the capital to drink and eat for much cheaper. But in a city where a single journey on the Tube can be as much as £4.90, where the top tickets for over half of the West End theatre shows exceed £100, and where rent for a one-bedroom flat can quite happily (for landlords) cost £1,250, it’d be easy to let your finances spiral spectacularly if you took your eye off the purse strings for even a minute.

So how do people manage to live in London and you know, actually live? It’s a question many people ask themselves. Perhaps you’ve just moved down for university and have spent the past week wandering around in shock at the cost of all those great art exhibitions you were going to visit. Or perhaps you’ve been here your whole life and still can’t get over how that one cinema ticket and a bucket of popcorn in Leicester Square set you back £35.

Luckily, the ever-wise London dwellers from our Money Diaries Facebook Group have been sharing their tips on how to have fun in the capital without spending all your cash. Click through to find out how to eat, travel, drink and experience culture for a fraction of the cost.

Eat what others don’t want

“The app [Too] Good To Go is great for getting takeaway for next to nothing. Basically restaurants sell the food that would otherwise be thrown away, but at a fraction of usual cost.”
- Saskia

“I’ve used it before and got a huge amazing sushi meal for £2.50 pp!”
- Olivia

“If you like eating out, lots of places like Itsu put their food from the day at 50% off half an hour before closing. The best time to get sushi imo.

Go 2–4–1

“Sign up for 2–4–1 offers on meals such as a Dine Card. You can also get 2–4–1 [at many places] if you’ve bought through GoCompare or Compare the Market.”
- Sarah

Avoid expensive corner shops

“We switched to a delivery once a month of essential stuff that will keep. Tesco and Asda always have deals — get your housemates on board — and then pick up veg and bits as we go. We no longer use branded and found local veg stores which saved us a ton. Food is even better!”
- Hayley-Jayne

Take the bus

I get a student bus pass on my Oyster for £58 a month for all zones and try to stick to buses as much as possible and take the Tube only when needed. Saves a lot of money, and I enjoy the scenic bus rides and having phone signal for my whole commute. Remember your commuting costs aren’t just to and from work, which is why travelcards are good; just going food shopping etc will cost you unless you have a travelcard or live very close to a supermarket.”
- Grace

Go for lunch not dinner

“I love food and enjoy trying new stuff. I try and go out for lunch to new places at the weekend, lots of really nice (incl. Michelin starred!) do lunch deals. Also, pre-theatre can be cheaper. And I have friends over at mine for dinner and brunch instead sometimes, which saves us all a bit if you take turns or chip in.”
- Becca

Look for soft launches

“I sign up to mailing lists for all my favourite bars, restaurants, pubs…often give vouchers for free or discounted stuff! Soft launches are really good if you want cheap food at nice places, I use Hot Dinners website or Twitter to search for upcoming ones.”
- Sinead

Look for renting alternatives

“If you think you will have time, being a property guardian can be good.

Dot Dot Dot Property were great a few years ago, you do a volunteering project in return for cheap rent.”
- Elegia

Get your culture for free

“Pick up free Time Out magazines; they always have great articles about free events/exhibitions/markets in London. I’ve been to a free event/exhibition pretty much every week since I moved to London five years ago and the vast majority have been fantastic.

Also, the Art Fund card is great — it’s about £20 and gets you free or discounted entry to loads of exhibitions, houses and museums.”
- Emma

Switch restaurants for street food

“Make sure you take advantage of student discounts and the student travelcard if you intend to use public transport, work out how to walk to places (everything is shockingly close once you realise how close Tube stops are to each other) or consider getting a bike.

Make your own coffee and have a Keep Cup so you can get 50p filter from Pret. If you’re eating out, street food is fun and cheap, as are places like Home Slice.

Rent is an arse, so be open minded about where you live, there are some really cool areas that are less well known (although do factor in travel zones) and don’t limit yourself to things like wanting an en suite or a double bed (some of my best houses have had small rooms).

Something like Monzo can help you budget, but people do live full and happy lives on student budgets in London, so try not to stress!”
- Bethan

Go independent

“There are loads of fun things to do in London for free or for not very much [money]. Lots of amazing parks to spend the day exploring, canals to walk along etc. Plus, most of the museums are free.

For some of the more touristy places, check for 2 4 1 vouchers and Tesco days out vouchers. Take advantage of all of those things around to keep costs of days out low. There are loads of little independent cafes that aren’t too expensive in terms of food too, don’t just presume independent is expensive, they are often cheaper than the chains and much nicer, plus good to support small businesses!
- Emily


“It may seem quick and easy to get the Tube everywhere but you can genuinely walk quite a lot of places!

There’s a walking version of the Tube map that shows you how far apart the stations are in walking distance. Well worth it to save a few quid!

Btw if you have an Oyster card you can add your 18–25 railcard onto it too.”
- Carrie

Cycle (safely)

“Was in exactly the same position as you, and one thing that I’m so grateful for was my bike. Although cycling in London gets bad rep, most boroughs offer free ‘cycling proficiency’ courses to build your confidence. Citymapper also offers ‘quiet routes’ on all of their cycling routes so you can avoid anything too busy/heavy traffic. I travel all over London with work/socialising and spend a tiny amount on travel costs, which has been a financial lifesaver.

Also Sam Smiths pubs — pints in central London that aren’t extortionate.”
- Esme

Originally published at https://www.refinery29.com.


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The leading global media company focused on young women. We inspire, entertain, and empower our audience through optimistic and diverse storytelling.


Refinery29 is the #1 new-media brand for smart, creative and stylish women everywhere.

Refinery29 UK

Written by

The leading global media company focused on young women. We inspire, entertain, and empower our audience through optimistic and diverse storytelling.


Refinery29 is the #1 new-media brand for smart, creative and stylish women everywhere.

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