London on a budget: A survival guide for students

Moving to the “Big City” for University? What could be more exciting! As much as I loved growing up in a small rural town, I could not wait to get involved in the buzz of City life and the world of opportunities. I have found one of the most enjoyable things and greatest benefits of the London experience is the cultural diversity the city has to offer; although I have never felt more multicultural, London will also embrace your differences and soon feel like home and a place you belong. As the capital City, London also offers thousands of opportunities which other Universities simply can’t provide, such as networking events at some of the world’s largest corporations (my advice: go for the free food, and the networking of course). Yet, people were constantly telling me “the cost of living in London is too expensive” or “student life in London is not fun because you will be poor all the time.” Sound familiar? Here how to prove them wrong and enjoy the ‘London experience’ on a student budget.

The golden rule of being a student in London: make the most of student discounts. In contrast to living in a rural location, London is full of chain restaurants, high street shops and entertainment venues; the majority of which accept student discounts or run promotions for students. Speaking from personal experience, never be afraid to ask if a business offers student discount and you’d be surprised how much you could save. Furthermore, sign up to promotional emails to receive notifications of the best deals across London; Myunidays, NUS and Timeout London are a great place to start, as they will send you weekly offers and exciting ideas.

Everyday Essentials I never realised quite how much that tub of Ben & Jerry’s or fillet of fish cost before moving to London and having to do my own grocery shopping. Surprisingly, it is however possible to do your weekly shop cheaper in London than in other cities across the UK. Firstly, London has countless street markets selling all kinds of food which is a fraction of the price of supermarket food and much fresher. The day I brought 10 avocadoes for £1 will forever be dear in my heart. Secondly, shop around. As you’re in London, there are so many shops within a small proximity which gives you the advantage of being able to visit different shops to get the best deals on products. Finally, London has thousands of opportunities to get bargain food at closing time. Whether you go to a supermarket or a restaurant (Itsu reduces all produce by 50% before closing time), shopping later in the day can save you a small fortune.

Travel One of the biggest contrasts between London and a smaller city or town is the expansive travel network London has to offer. Gone are the days of waiting for the bus which comes once every hour; in London, travel runs 24/7 and getting from A to B has never been easier. Yet convenience comes at a price, which quickly adds up. Certain ‘student hacks’ can however make your money go further and your journey go faster. A student rail card entitles you to 1/3 off rail journeys, and a student Oyster card can get you 30% off the standard price of Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets. Also, avoid travelling in rush hour; not least to save your personal space, but it may also save your purse, as you could see the cost of your journey rise by at least 40p per journey during peak times.

Accommodation Missed out on student halls and living in private accommodation? I’m not going to pretend that renting in London isn’t more expensive than other cities in the UK, but it is certainly affordable on a student budget. Many of the misconceptions about how expensive London overlook the fact that you do receive a higher student loan to cover the price of accommodation. I would advise looking for accommodation with a set rent which includes bills, as they tend to work out more economical. However, if that is not possible, be a savvy student and do your homework; many utility providers, such as Virgin, offer great packages tailored towards student needs (think fast Wi-Fi) and student budgets.

Finally, plan a budget a try to stick to it. Remember that there’s always help out there. But by simply managing your money effectively, the London experience is affordable and fun.

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