How live in London on Budget AND still have Fun.

Like many of the naive, new graduates before me, I was lured in by the bright lights of the big city and the promise of never-ending fun and excitement. Something that is very difficult to resist when you grew up in a small boring village in the South East of England.

The buzz of London got me every time. That feeling of things happen here, important things, things that could change the world. Ok that one might be a little bit too far - but essentially little by little I came to the conclusion that one day I would live here.

                      ^ Don't get slides like this in Berkshire!

And now I do. Literally living the (childhood) dream and it's great! Naturally a restless person,which means I can't stay in the house for more than a day or in the country for more than a couple of months, London it turns out is THE perfect place. And no-one judges my refusal to drink anything other than an artisan Flat White or my obsession with Brunch because the whole city does it EVERY.SINGLE.WEEKEND.

                  ^Now this is what I am talking about!

But of course, there is that small little downside. Just a teeny tiny problem.


I know, I know, you told me so, but the pain of just  how expensive never really hits until your bank account starts heamoragging the money for real. But it's ok - I've come to terms with the fact that over half my salary goes on my rent, despite living in a shared, one bedroom flat in zone 2.

I'm young and wild and free so am willing to accept the pain in return for the limitless supply of places to explore and never being bored. Anyway, I'm pretty good at managing tricky financial situations AKA living life on the cheap.

    ^ Living near Colombia Road almost makes it all worth it!

4 years as your slightly poorer-than-average student in your more expensive-than-average University city has trained me well. If there's a deal, discount or an app that offers free stuff - I'll probably know about it and without even one ounce of shame.

So I thought I'd share with you some of the things I have found along the way to help me spend less and still enjoy London. Because the city may be built for bankers, but that doesn't mean they should have all the fun.

1). Drinki App - FREE drinks

FREE London? *jaw drops.

Yep, you just need to download the app , see which bars are available (they all have set times) and which drink you fancy (they all have a set drink), show your phone to the bar tender and voila, that £8 cocktail is yours for nada!

And don't worry it's not like the bars are available at some weird, unsociable drinking hour or in Croydon the middle of nowhere or anything like that. Nope, there are loads of Central and City bars which means you can still go for those Thursday after work drinks ... just without that hole in your bank balance. Oh,  and the smug satisfaction of standing next to the suits at the fancy bar by Liverpool Street and knowing all the other suckers just paid over £5 for their pint of Saint Miguel.

2).  Soft-launches - Half Price Fanc(ier) Food

Soft Launches are GREAT. The restaurant gets to test if there are any problems by having real life customers in for the first time and you, for your troubles get up to 50% off the bill. It's a win-win and despite it essentially being a "practice run" service has always been top notch.

The best thing is being able to treat yourself to a slightly fancier restaurant than usual because you can now get the bill and not cry or for once, go all out with starters , mains AND puddings.

                      ^ Got this amazing , fresh pasta dish for only £3.50 (in central London) !!

A good way to keep up with all the offers is @soft_launches  on Twitter.

3). Too Good to Go - Save Money Save Food 

Need to grab something after work? Download the Too Good to Go app to get great food for less than a price of a pint.

How so I hear you ask. Is this some kind of trickery? No, you are simply just helping the war on food waste. Every item sold on the app is the surplus food from that day that cafes and restaurants would otherwise throw away.

As it is surplus, which by the way, is still perfectly good food even for the day after, you can't be 100 percent sure of what you are going to get - but hey i'm not going to say no to a box full of cakes and pastries from Timberyard Coffee Shop for only £2.50.

And while that one might not be officially dinner there are still plenty of places on there that are.

4). 50% off Pod, Wasabi & Itsu

Probably not too much of a secret but Pod, Wasabi and Itsu all offer 50% off 30 minutes before they close. Handily there is a Pod right by my office so when 4.30pm hits and I need that half price baguette (£1.80) I'm there! They also do really tasty hot food too - curries, chillis - so you can get what your mum would call a "proper" dinner for just £2-£4.

5). General London Freebies

I love Twitter for two reasons - one it's an effective way of making a complaint (yeah I'm one of those) people and two it tells me about all the FREE STUFF! Whether that's free cake (mostly this), coffee , a cool event or even just free money! Yep that really happened- a few months back Barclays handed out coffee and cash in Covent Garden as some kind of marketing ploy for something I don't quite remember... the irony.

    ^Just another FREE thing                                   

Follow @SkintLondon, @LondONtheinside and of course good old @TimeOutLondon out to make sure you don't miss out. Just be prepared to queue!

6). Discounted Stuff-To-Do

STOP. Before you book those tickets for that art exhibition or a table for boozy brunch double check if TimeOut is offering it for cheaper. Their offers section always has great deals across theater shows, meals and even nights out.

    ^ HALF PRICE evening of beer thanks to Timeout.

7). Cheap/Free Weekday Lunch - Redi App

There's no such thing as a free lunch ...

Or so they say, but then they didn't have the Redi app and friends that give them £5 referral vouchers.

The app which lets you order ahead, skipping the queue and leaving you to actually enjoy your lunch break, has lots of great lunch venues in the City and around Soho. Places like Hummus Bros, The Potato Project , The Melt Room and my all-time favorite Pilau.

Many places offer exclusive Redi £5 meal deals, making the app often cheaper than if you were to go in and order normally. Since you get £5 credit if you sign up via a friend's referral code and when they then place an order, this basically means a free lunch!

Even without the code, the £5 deal is still a very good offer but seeing as I'll let you be my friend I'll give you my code so you can sign up. (JUL3675).

8). Avoid Public Transport AT ALL COST.

Sorry, this one is sensible and boring but you'd be surprised at how much money you can save if you don't use public transport on your commute. And while London is pretty huge and the dire rent situation means we quite literally live miles away from where we work - if there is any possibility at all that you can walk or cycle - DO IT!

                   ^see cycling is FUN!

I work in Soho and live in East London, which isn't too far all things considered but in the days before I had my trusty bike, I actually walked all the way to my office - a solid hour and 10 minutes (or 3.8 miles). Crazy, maybe, but by avoiding the rush hour crush on the tube (central line is  hell on earth) and just getting the bus home,  I was saving £2.90 a day - a huge £58 a month for someone who was just a lowly intern.

PS: cycling in London isn;t as scary as you think - get a helmet, go slow and don't do stupid things like go through red lights.

So go, have some non-expensive, London fun!


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