Hi everyone! In my last blog, I have started to share some tips for living on a budget in London. I have realised it’s too much for a single post so here is part two of my post! Head over to the first part if you would like to read a bit about accommodation. In this part, I will talk about transport, food and groceries, household equipment, free time and potential part time jobs with the university.
Coming to the transport around London, I personally believe the tube is quite expensive. I can’t remember when I last used the tube, it must have been very long before COVID-19 appeared here. I love cycling. I learned this in Cambridge and never really stopped commuting on a bike. It can be a bit scary at the beginning as London is very busy. But you get used to it. Take lots of lights and high-visibility items for safety. For me, cycling is awesome as I don’t need to spend time in a crowded vehicle and get some free exercise and a bit of ‘fresh’ air. And in vast majority of cases, cycling is the quickest way to get around London as we don’t get into traffic jams so much and can take some shortcuts too. It doesn’t rain here as much as one would expect from stories! If I have to take public transport, I usually go for a bus but that is just because I like to keep it cheap. They are just £1.5 for journeys starting within an hour of each other. But they usually take a lot of time. If you use tube a lot, you might benefit from a monthly student pass. It’s ultimately a balance between the accommodation and transport costs unless you cycle as accommodation further out would come cheaper.
When it comes to food, I love to cook making budgeting so much easier than eating out! Groceries doesn’t really seem too much more expensive here than elsewhere in the country or even compared to my home country. I love fruits and some veggies and I am incredibly lucky to live near Church Street market in Paddington. You can buy kilos of fruits or vegetables for a pound there, sometimes even the exotic ones. If cooking is not your thing, you can usually find good takeaway quick meals for under £5-6 here too. There is a cheap Asian canteen near the South Kensington Campus and in my area, there is lots of Lebanese and similar shops offering cheap shawarma, kebab, gyros, etc. Uber Eats likes to give lots of discount vouchers to new members and occasionally afterwards too. If living in halls, you can take part in many free food events, usually.
One more thing I learned in lockdown was using an app Olio too. It’s an app where people can share whatever they would throw out otherwise. It was set up for food but now the exchange of household and even specialist items is even busier! In lockdown, I volunteer with them as a food waste hero too. That means I collect unsold food from the supermarkets that expires soon, I can keep 10% and give the rest to the neighbours through the app. Lots of my neighbours are volunteering too so we can exchange. It’s a very easy way hot to get some goodies and equip your household well, if you are willing to wait a bit for the specific item to come there. It’s also a fantastic way to connect with your neighbourhood.
In the free time, I personally love to join the university clubs. They are so much fun and most get financial support from the university so they can be the cheapest way of doing the given activity, sometimes even for free. And there is so many everyone can find something! My outdoor sports are pretty much my only bigger expense now as I am doing so many of them and like to gradually get my own equipment!
If you are still tight on budget, you can take part time jobs. I have heard lots of students are well-paid tutors for high-school students in London. I haven’t tried that. But I sometimes take up teaching duties in the university, I help with outreach as a president ambassador (blogging, vlogging, university tours, interviews, university fairs and talking to prospective students can all be part of it), and I help with admissions. Several students also take shifts in the university bars. You wouldn’t have a ton of time during your studies to work as well but many people do find time for a few hours a week working if they need or want some extra change.
In the end, London isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. There are ways for not paying rent, having many meals or groceries for free, travelling for just the cost of a second-hand bike and maintenance, and even equipping your household and meaningfully spending your free time with very low expenses. It really depends on what you like. As I like to spend my spare money on the outdoors, if you save on essentials, parties or anything else you really enjoy can be a lot better and less financially straining too!