There is no getting around it – London is an expensive city! Sure, wages are generally far higher here than in any other part of the UK, but property prices, rent and the cost of living can make the monthly bills run into eye watering figures.
But don’t let this put you off – because with a little bit of frugality, you should be able to afford to live in the capital. You just need to apply a little common sense, and take full advantage of ways to make your money go further.
From students to professionals, interns to graduates, there are people living all over London on lower wages. Finding somewhere affordable to lay your head at night is the first hurdle most cross, and there are some innovative (and surprisingly easy) ways of doing this.
This is an excellent way to find cheap accommodation and do your bit for the community as well. Home Share is all about moving in with an older person (in most cases they tend to be female), in return for a reasonable rent and helping out with the practical chores and jobs around the house, as well as providing companionship for the homeowner. Charities and companies such as Share and Care and Care2Stay specialise in this. In addition to the below market value rent you pay for your living accommodation, you also sign a contract to spend 10 hours a week helping out with household jobs and being a companion. It can be an extremely rewarding experience on behalf of both parties, and a great way to live in the capital at a fraction of the going rate.
Believe it or not, there are thousands of empty properties in the capital (and around the whole of the UK). And for those who own them, having someone pay a nominal fee to live there is an attractive option, rather than having the property lie empty. In common with a regular rental agreement, property guardians sign a contract and pay a deposit, and then you live in the house (or room, if that’s the deal) like it was your own. And with the prices of rent in London getting ever higher, this is proving very popular amongst young professionals and key workers. Various companies pair up property owners and guardians, such as Guardians of London and Live In Guardians.
Become a Lodger
There’s a multitude of people living in London who have a spare room in their property. And the money savvy amongst them know that this living space equals ready cash. In basic terms, if you lodge in someone’s house, you get a bedroom and generally use of a bathroom, kitchen and living area (although this will be down to the individual to negotiate with the landlord). Legally, being a lodger is slightly different from renting a property outright, but you still have various legal rights. Prices for lodging in London can range from less than £100 per week, depending on the property and area, but expect to pay between £400-£600 a month for a good room in an easily commutable area. The only downside to being a lodger is that if the owner wants you to move out, then they only have to give a short notice period (generally 28 days).
General Cost of Living
- Once you’ve found your living accommodation, there are plenty of other things you can do to keep your monthly costs down. Everyone needs to travel around the capital, so ensure that you get an Oyster Card to allow you to travel the Tube and Bus network for the most economical price possible.
- If you’re a student, make sure to carry your student card everywhere. Many places offer student discounts on production of your card, but it’s well worth asking even if there’s nothing advertised. Restaurants, cafes, shops, theatre tickets, museum entry fees – all are likely to offer you a discount if you’re here studying.
- Household bills can be a killer. Okay, if you’re a lodger, guardian or home sharer, your bills are probably included in your monthly rent. But if they’re your responsibility, then it’s well worth your while to shop around suppliers. There are a few online ways to do this quickly and easily (meaning you don’t have to spend hours checking each supplier individually). Comparison websites such as U Switch, Go Compare and Money Supermarket are simple ways in which to do this.
- Never pay full price for a restaurant meal again! Competition amongst eateries is high in London. Because of this, there are always deals to be had. It’s as simple as downloading a voucher to your mobile phone, and getting discounts of up to 50% on meals throughout the capital. Sign up with money saving websites such as Voucher Codes, Money Saving Expert and Living Social to get daily deals to your inbox.
- Shop at strategic times. Most of the big grocery stores, such as Tesco and Sainsburys, have a glut of perishable food at the end of each day that they discount heavily. Bread, meat, fish, dairy – it’s all knocked down in price and can be a great way of driving down your daily food cost. And if you’ve got use of a freezer, then there’s nothing to stop you stocking up for a week or more at a fraction of the price it would cost if you were paying regular prices.
- And don’t forget to visit some of the many free attractions that London has to offer. These include many of the major museums – a great way to while away many pleasant hours, whilst learning about the history of London in its many guises.
As you can see, there are a multitude of ways you can maximise your spending power in London. With a little bit of frugality and a whole heap of common sense, the capital really can be an affordable place to live.