How to save money in London (and other expensive cities)

Save MoneyBy Eamon
How to save money in London

It’s no secret that living costs in London and other big cities are through the roof. Residents – and even visitors – can get squeezed for every penny without getting much in return. But not for much longer. Here’s how to save money in London while still getting the full experience it has to offer.

Find more free things to do

The capital of England is full of public spaces, attractions, festivals and live music. Replace expensive experiences which lure you in with fancy marketing and décor. Fine dining, bars, and shopping can become private house gatherings or a picnic in Hyde park, Greenwich park or Wimbledon commons. Much of the time we’re just meeting up to socialise. If you can’t do that without extra stimulus from a loud room full of strangers then you may be in bad company.

Also, take advantage of public-funded venues like the National History Museum or be blown away by views at the Sky Garden. If that’s too boring, head out to iconic events such as Notting Hill Carnival and St Patricks Day parade when they’re on. There’s always something free (or at least affordable) going on. Facebook events and Meet Up, for example, have countless people hosting everything from Yoga to hiking to social clubs.

Get discounts if you want to spend money

You can’t be in London and not treat yourself to its unique experiences. But when you do visit hotspots like the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE London Aquarium, use discount sites like Big City Saver to buy tickets. Just like that, £300 worth of fun over 3 months is now £200.

Stay out of London city centre

It’s perfectly fine to wander into central London from time to time as the underground is an affordable way to travel throughout the city. But prices for goods and services in the centre go up astronomically and there’s more temptation around you to indulge in a spending spree.

These days, it’s not necessary to live close to the centre either. Housing payments are the biggest expense for most people. Remote work is still popular so find yourself a nicer place in outer boroughs of London like Enfield or Newham while getting the same salary and commute into the centre as and when you need.

Travel around London using Santander hire bikes

For those who don’t mind a bit of light exercise, you can stay healthy and save ridiculous amounts of money using the London bike hire scheme. Become a member to use the cycles for 24 hours from just £2, or use the cycles all year round for £90 (25p a day). You can essentially get from one side of London to the other in 1 hour and 20 minutes or less. But most journeys will be much shorter. This is a massive cut from the £147 monthly underground costs and several thousand for owning a car. And the best part is that it would take the same time getting from Wimbledon to Stratford on a bike as it would in a car because of the heavy traffic.

Buy street food or prepare your own

If you want to treat yourself to a nice meal, you may be tempted by the convenience of Deliveroo or long-standing reputation of a restaurant. But the unspoken heroes of our time are independent street food sellers. A lot of these stands have chefs who cook authentic cuisines that taste better than established joints. Discover the best food trucks in London if there aren’t any quality food markets nearby.

Beyond that, start cutting down on eating out and takeaways in general. Just one lazy day a week with a £15 Uber Eats order will set you back £765 in 12 months. Similarly, oven meals and the like can set you back £5 with ingredients that cost £2 to make. That’s another £3 saving for 6 days a week, which would total £918 over the year. Also, make extra portions for when you’re out during the day and in need of lunch. This could save a further £1.50 per day assuming you were already being conservative eating £3.50 meal deals. That’s around £382 annually. See how smart food choices quickly amass thousands of pounds in the bank. Speaking of which…

Set up a separate bank account for 'fun money'

You can only spend money if you have it. So budget your essential living costs and then work out how much you have left over each month. Allocate some of this excess for non-essentials like coffee, memberships, and going out. But make sure to leave plenty for investing. Now, keep your main bank account for income and day to day essentials and set up a separate account to direct debit a dedicated amount of money for the fun. That way you can easily track your limit for the month to avoid overspending. Plus, if you don’t use all of that allowance one month you have the option to treat yourself to more fun the next.

Overcome the Fear Of Missing Out

There’s so much going on in London that you might end up getting invited to things on a regular basis. Our gravitation towards participating comes from feeling left out if we don’t. For introverts and people pleasers, you may just feel anxious or rude about saying no to friends or work colleagues. This FOMO is problematic for the average person trying to maintain a balanced social life. But once you can get over this fear and embrace spending more time to focus on yourself, it will liberate you mentally and your bank account will thank you. This is why you need the money Mind. Working on yourself is arguably the biggest contributor to taking control of your finances and your freedom.