The real cost of London living

Our handy tips to keep the pounds in your pocket.

London has the full package. It has the good looks, the history and experience, the hard-working attitude, the charm and a taste for fine wine. With its cultural diversity, beautiful architecture and buzzing nightlife, it’s no wonder London is a desirable destination for over a hundred thousand students. However, many prospective undergraduates understandably worry that living in the capital comes with a huge financial cost. After a year of calling London home, I can alleviate these concerns and share a number of ways you can combat the expenses of living to protect your precious bank balance.

The student diet is famous for being full of carbohydrates, alcohol and little else. Baked beans, noodles, pasta and rice are however extremely cheap and keep you feeling full, so are great to stock up on. Nevertheless, around coursework deadlines and exam periods, it’s especially vital to get that five-a-day and balance your diet to keep energy levels up. Local markets are a great place to get hold of cheap fruit and vegetables, particularly at the end of the trading day when they almost give it away!

Similarly, there’s no shame in getting half price nourishment from the reduced section in your local supermarket: ‘we are students after all’! This catchphrase is a personal favourite of mine and normally gets you out of most trouble. Use it wisely.

Swapping Waitrose and M&S delicacies for Aldi and Lidl versions may seem pretty tough at first, but when that £15 you saved equates to a bottle of Disaronno AND you still have plenty of food in the fridge, you’ll feel a strange sense of accomplishment!

When your bank balance is not-too-forgiving and has a tendency to gravitate towards a zero, it’s interesting what you begin prioritising. For some of my friends, going out was the biggest expense in their budget. Entry to London clubs can be pricey, not to mention them nonchalantly charging £8.50 for a single vodka and Coke when you get inside.

Thanks to economics and the law of supply and demand, with so many bars and clubs, plenty of them offer student nights with cheap guestlist entry. Some places offer free entry for girls too, meaning that time you spent doing your hair and makeup has paid off: now who’s laughing, boys? If clubbing isn’t really your thing, there are hundreds of quirky bars all around London waiting to be discovered. Entry is also likely to be no more than a few pounds, which is always a bonus when you’re saving the pennies. Although cocktails are expensive, there are often happy hours with 2-4-1 drinks: the perfect plan for catching up with friends in Covent Garden after lectures!

After all that lovely (affordable) food and drink, there are plenty of free ways to work off that Disaronno and keep in shape. There seems to be a disproportionately large number of runners all around London. You’ll see them everywhere from a flat jog along the river to a challenging route over Notting Hill, so dig out that Lycra! If running isn’t for you, there are outdoor swimming pools at Hampstead Heath, over 550 Boris bike stations and 400 free outdoor gyms dispersed around the capital. The views as you discover different parts of London on a workout beat those of any sweaty, super-expensive gyms. If you’re feeling less adventurous with your activities, there are a number of gyms that offer packages from £15 a month, not forgetting societies and teams at King’s for every sport you could wish for!

While on the surface London may seem like a city of suits and Kensington cliques, it’s still possible to stretch your student loan to Bloody Marys in Chelsea every once in a while!

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