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How to save money in London

I am distinctly sarcastic IRL, and sometimes a little of that side of me seeps into my social media. Talking about saving in a high expense environment tends to bring that side of me out. And right now we’re heading in for a perfect storm in the UK, or at least in London. As the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, the economy is not just reopening – according to recent financial reports, it’s bouncing and leaping back. This means that we are back to spending – at a level higher than the pre-pandemic averages*.

Let’s get to the point of this article though.

In the faithful tweet I jokingly named 5 activities to save money while being in London:

  1. Work 24/7
  2. Don’t go out
  3. Don’t eat
  4. Don’t drink
  5. Live somewhere else

Let’s put the money hat on and translate these into what you can in fact do to not undo your own nest egg curated over the months of, hopefully, spending less in the quiet months of 2020 and H1 of 2021.

1. Optimise your commute

Some of us might be able to work from home for a while longer or forever, while this is not an option for most. If you are having to commute, now is a good time to re-think and optimise it. Here is a handful of quick ways that work in London:

  • Reduce the number of zones you cross – as example for a person living on the edge of zones 4&5, I’ll opt to travel from station in Zone 4 to my Zone 1 workplace, reducing my daily expense by £2.10** every time I commute
  • Opt for a specific destination ticket instead of zoned travel card – if you are using national rail instead of the tube, opting for a specific route ticket is generally less expensive than opting for a zone to zone travel card
  • Use a bus instead of train or underground, or cycle – this option works great if you have a limited distance to cover. Buses and Santander bikes are significantly less expensive per ticket compared to other modes of public transit and if the route works for you and you don’t mind the likely extra few minutes on the move, it’s a great option

2. Get clever about how you book tickets for events

Events are coming back. As are the costs associated. However, tinnies in the park and a trip to the Barbican Conservatory, or a trip to the Tate are suitable alternatives to paid events. However, if you are not up for that, do your due diligence before putting the money down. Let’s take theatre tickets as example – first, check the theatre’s website for the ‘benchmark’ price. Next, check online for discounts. My go-to sites are lastminute.com, todaytix.com and littlebird.co.uk. At present venues are offering a number of deals and discounts, so check groupon and wowcher too, whether it’s theatre, concerts or any other live events.

3. Use apps and discounts to reduce food costs

Food costs are mounting at the moment – restaurants are suddenly more expensive, as is food delivery. To cut some of these costs, there is a handful of schemes available such Tastecard, First Table, Gourmet Society and Dine Club, to name some. Mystery Dining is also a great option but involves a little bit of work for your ‘free’ meal and having your friends in on the game. Fort picnics and when you’re not too fussed about the specific foods selection, Too Good To Go and Karma are both great options.

4. Keep drinks affordable

Happy hour is coming back across the city, as apparently are apps such as Dusk. Look out for deals at specific venues. But if the venues are not to your or your friends’ liking, get clever about what you drink and make your every other drink a soda lime. This will be great for your pocket and for avoiding hangovers!

5. Actually do live…outside the zones 1&2.

There is a certain level of prestige associated with living in Zones 1 & 2 of London. There of course is also the convenience of being close to most things, reduced commute and being in on most street events. But this comes at a cost – opt for living outside these two zones for immediately lower accommodation costs, or consider house hacking. In London terms, assuming that you’re a renter, this might mean renting a larger unit and sub-letting, sharing with friends or even becoming a lodger. If none of these quite work and you happen to be fairly mobile as an individual, consider house guardianship and creative community spaces which also offer accommodation. If you happen to own your home and moving out of the Zone 1 or 2 is not an easy option, Air B&B, getting a lodger or even pet boarding might all be viable options to reduce your overall cost.

I hope that some of these tips help you to find balance in the about-to-be-normal-again world. Stay safe out there!

*Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57804446

** Source: https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/new-fares

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