My route of how to save money in London will be incredibly different to others due to my illnesses in the last year of living in London. But I picked up tips and tricks in the time I was there to save money along with developing an attitude towards the long-run rather than living pay cheque to pay cheque. In this article, I highlight all the ways I saw people pouring money into there London lifestyle when with a slight change they could have saved. For transparency, to help you understand the benefits of adopting these ideas, I had £13,500 ($17,000) from my savings in London by the time I used my one-way ticket to the USA. This was with a total of 17 months living in London with a graduate job (job straight out of university).
Save money in London by changing your attitude:
This is probably the biggest one. Particularly in London and in other major cities while you’re in your twenties, there are a lot of people out there with more money than you. It’s very easy to get sucked into trying to live the lifestyle you aspire to have. When I first got to London I was in shock, I had more money living in Liverpool as a student than I did working in investments in London. I wanted to be able to enjoy my life in London but also think about my long-run goals of saving for travelling. If you actually want to save you must adjust your attitude and realise that the people around you may not have the same goals as you and different financial situations to yours. Never compare yourself to them.
Someone called me tight-fisted one evening and it hit me hard because I hate not being perceived as generous. But then when she went on to explain why, because I suggested making popcorn at home, (mainly because I want more sugar on my popcorn being a sugar addict) rather than buying the £2.50 bag at Tesco Express, I felt like laughing. I would rather go in on a bunch of drinks with my friends, being generous in that way and hold off on a product like popcorn, which I know has a 95% mark up or so. Careless about how people perceive your attitude to money, you will be happier and no doubt you will be able to save more money as a result.
Save money in London using Monzo:
Something that will come in handy when travelling anyway as a good travel card is this genius concept. This is a perfect eye-opener to try and see how you can save money and budget more effectively. You put a certain amount of money from your bank account onto the card and then spend said money on your Monzo card. The card is linked to an app that shows you where you are spending your money; with categories such as food, drink, recreation, utilities etc. My friend is a Monzo card user and for health reasons was told by the doctor he had to give up alcohol for three months. At the end of his first month of not drinking, he had saved £350 in the category of drinking/bars/clubs. Going completely sober is extreme to a healthy person who doesn’t actually need to give up alcohol, but it just illustrates how much you could save.
Save money in London by living the life of someone with a salary of a minimum of £5,000 less than yourself.
In London or any other high costing city, it is easy to spend your monthly salary because the money is sat their in your account. There were people out there living on salaries far lower than mine and surviving, people I worked with and socialised with. After a few months I made the commitment to try and live on a wage that was lower than mine, mimicking the choices of the people I knew that were on a lower wage to me. This decision worked out that I could save £350 monthly. Viewing it as living similarly to others I knew, rather than feeling like I was missing out on £350 a month, made putting the money away far easier. If you are wanting to save for travel and live in London but don’t know anyone who is or can feasibly live on a salary £5,000 less than you, I would strongly recommend reassessing what you want. Waiting a little longer for a promotion so you can then save or going elsewhere for a job in order to save more quickly.
Save money in London by having a separate savings account (that you can’t easily change money back and forward from.)
A girl I knew in London who had your typical ‘I literally can’t save while I’m in London’ attitude never did despite being on a good wage, a wage actually better than the friends she hung around with. She had a savings account, but frequently being drunk she would transfer over some of her savings to her current account before buying another four £7.50 gin and tonics. The ease with which she could chop and change money on her phone, drunk at 2 am on a Saturday was a problem for saving. I chose an account that I purposely didn’t have an app on my phone along with putting my money in investments that I knew would take at least a week to dis-invest to receive the money. This meant for me, the money I was putting in their was there to stay.
Save money in London by investing vs. saving your money:
I can’t advise on investing (as no-one legally can unless they have the professional qualifications to do so) however while saving I put my money into investments rather than a savings account. My goal was to save for two years, which I did. But because of this time length, it meant that I could make money on the money I was saving. Purely on the saving strategy I mentioned above I saved £11,000 for the 19 months I was in London. The figure when I started travelling (31 months after my saving period started) for this amount because of how I invested it was £13,500. I have written an article on what I invested in, why and what was best for me and my investment goals here. There was however also the chance investing my savings could decrease the amount I saved and I could be worse off. For me, however, the reward was too high and I was comfortable with the risk. My investments went through Brexit, a prime ministers resignation along with both an American and British election, all factors that are considered detrimental to the value of investments, but I still made money. While all efforts are being made to save this money it was nice knowing that the money invested is making money, just by sitting there.
Save money in London by changing eating out & drinking:
This is the hardest one in any major city as the culture is very much eating and drinking to socialise. The best way to save money with this one is to simply not do it, but that isn’t much fun.
Impromptu meals and drinks: The most expensive times are the impromptu ‘shall we grab a drink/bite to eat?’. Try your best to avoid these, it’s money spent but never feels quite as good, a bit of a non-event. Nonetheless, these last-minute meals and drinks costs similar to a pre-arranged event with friends.
Work drinks: If you are part of a social office it is hard to not go and socialise on a Friday after work. The main thing I learnt is to just moderate yourself, I could have easily spent £150 every Friday after a busy week. Having one or two instead means you’re socialising for a few hours and haven’t missed out but have spent comparatively less.
Things I used to save money on eating and drinking:
- Groupon: I quickly learnt to get deals for food and drinks, my favourite example was getting a six-course meal and a bottle of wine for two for £60, but this isn’t rare.
- Dojo app: This is an app to find things to do, but it also has a filter of where is cheap to eat and drink around the city
- Design my night: again similar to dojo but focusing on drinking and going out- if tells you the happy hours and prices.
- Tastecard: I feel like its had its heyday but still valid in a lot of restaurants, this gives 2-4-1 on meals or 50% off at certain times.
- Researching BYOB- a real lifesaver as drinks usually make up around 30-40% of the bill
Save money in London by changes your lunches, snacking and drinks on the go:
My Dad said something so key for how I viewed saving money during the week, ‘Imagine that the high street is like it was in the ‘70s’. It’s so true, they didn’t have Starbucks, Costa, Pret or Greggs. You didn’t have a choice, in the 70’s but the millennial age of convenience has made it so tempting not to save! Make your own lunches, I have no idea why people who moan about having no money don’t do this. Whatever you cook in the evening before make slightly more of or get a loaf of bread and salad and make a sandwich. My lunches worked out to cost me on average, £0.75. Don’t get me wrong on occasion I also ate lunch out, but for the majority, if you bring food in for lunch you will be more healthy, and save money.
Mid-afternoon will strike and you may be hungry, do not go out and get snacks. Try your best to pre-empt that you’ll probably be hungry mid-afternoon. Adding snacks to your shopping list rather than buying £1-2 snacks ad-hoc in the office will save around £400. £400 JUST ON SNACKS. Live like they did in the ‘70s rather than in the age of convenience and you’ll save money.
Save money in London on your groceries and Dinners
My favourite way to save money, do a weekly shop online. Here you can plan what you’re eating for the week breakfast, lunches, snacks and dinners. Buying all or the majority of you’re food in one weekly expense is also so useful to know your outgoings. As a plus online grocery stores save your previous shopping lists so for the following week it takes 10 minutes to do your weekly shop because its all saved on your account, it’s so useful.
Avoid expensive supermarkets, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, there is no excuse while you can get shopping delivered to you online by Tesco and ASDA. If you have access to a car or are near to one, alternatively shop at ALDI or LIDL.
I also have a load of go-to recipes that are cheap to make, can be done in bulk and even someone with poor cooking skills can rustle up. My money saving meal ideas if you still feel like your not saving money despite cooking.
Do not do home delivery meal kits-these are for people who are not saving.
Save money in London by sacking off the gym memberships
You do not need one, I have always been of the belief that if you are someone motivated enough to regularly go to a gym, which you need to in order for the membership to be worth it, you will also be motivated enough to exercise without the membership. Often offices have sports clubs (netball, running, rugby etc), paid by work. London is known for its massive parks so there is ample opportunity to run. If you’re still not convinced timeout even did an article on free gym and fitness classes around London here.
If you feel you can’t scrimp on a gym membership look to memberships of sports facilities partly owned by the local council, these are always a fraction of the price, albeit slightly less fancy with equipment potentially being slightly older. But if you really are a gym bunny this should not matter to you. If you are curling up your nose at a quasi-council owned gym, you are probably gymming for the perception being part of that gym gives off to others. Plus with all the home made food you are now eating, you’ll no doubt lose weight anyway!
Save money in London by not dating:
It’s expensive and you feel obliged because you’re in your twenties, single and in London. This one is particularly for boys, you absolutely can’t look tight-fisted here and drinks generally flow heavily because of nerves and everything is easier with a drink right? If you’re a serial dater you could literally be pouring money into this past time. Maybe because I have a lazy attitude to dating now I can say it, but this is expensive, so if you are trying to save, try to reign this in.