Life in the big smoke

How to live cheaply in London

How to survive on less than £10/day in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

London is an expensive city. I once did an interview in Chelsea and had to cough up £6 for a black coffee, this is an area now known for a reality show about rich kids. London attracts the mega-rich and there are parts of town which mainly cater to these people. Some of the world’s most expensive real estate can be found here, it’s possible to spend five figures in a restaurant, there are streets lined with super-luxe cars.

But what about those of us who don’t really want to spend a lot? I’ve been thinking. Is it possible to live cheaply in London? Is it possible to travel here as a tourist and not spend more than £10/day, still have a good time and experience most of what they city has to offer? I think so.

Let’s do a little thought experiment.

1. Couch surf

Firstly you don’t really want to pay for accommodation as that will start adding up really quickly. If you don’t have friends in the city with a sofa to sleep on, then you’ll have to find a stranger who’s willing to take you in. Luckily there is couchsurfing, get acquainted with the website, make friends and you’ll end up meeting some interesting people in real life.

Potential cost: £0

Image via craice’s flickr.

2. Walk everywhere

Public transport can be expensive in London. To avoid this use your feet. If you stick to one area it’s pretty easy to walk to most places. If you don’t mind scary traffic and an initial expense cycling is also a good option. If you need to take public transport the bus is the cheapest option.

Potential cost: £0

cooking Image via Jana Martish.

3. Don’t spend money on food

If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen buying food and cooking it yourself will be a lot cheaper than eating out. However if you don’t want to buy food at all you can always join students and queue up for the Hare Krishna rickshaw project which hands out free meals around London. One rickshaw can be found at the LSE campus.

Potential cost: £0-10

Image via pinterest.

4. Don’t spend money on drink

When I first moved to London I unwittingly stumbled across a great way to get drinks for free. I’m not talking about going on lots of dates and letting the other person pay (I’m too Nordic for that). I went to lots of networking events in the tech industry. I was trying to meet people and find work as a freelance tech journalist, but I also ended up having a lot of fun and getting slightly tipsy. At almost all of these event there is an open bar sponsored by a tech company.

I’m sure technology networking events aren’t the only places where you can grab a free drink. Private views are also a good bet. Find a local event by doing some googling or checking out sites like Meetup.

Potential cost: £0

Image via instagram.

5. Enjoy all the free attractions in the city

London is actually a great place if you don’t want to spend much money. The museums and art galleries are free, and if the weather is good there are some awesome parks and open spaces to hang out in all over the city.

Potential cost: £0

Image via designios flickr.

6. Don’t spend any money on getting an office

If you have to work or use the internet, you can bring your laptop and head over to places like The Barbican or the British Library. You can easily spend a whole day using their free wifi, working away on your laptop. There will be plenty of people doing exactly the same thing. Bring your own sandwiches, but perhaps buy a tea or a coffee as a way to say thank you for using the space.

Potential cost: £0-5

Other resources

What to do with all the money you might save? Go on adventures!


Ana says:

Hi Lotta, I’m new to your blog (and new to London) and I’m finding it wonderful, to get some “guidance” in these first days…

I wanted to ask you a stupid question, but… Did you have any friends when you came from Finland? I’m finding it a little bit difficult to meet people in this city, everyone always seems so stressed and without time to talk. How did you meet new friends, any advice? As a freelancer, you must work alone all the time, no?

Anyway, thank you and keep up your wonderful job here in this blog!

Lotta says:

Hi Ana. It’s not a stupid question at all, it’s something I thought a lot about as well before I moved to London. I didn’t know anyone in the city when I moved here. I was really lucky with my house mates, they were a lovely, welcoming bunch and I met a lot of people through them. I also went out to quite a lot of meet-ups and networking events and met people through that. Basically I was very, very socially active (which was unusual as I’m normally a bit of an introvert.. I think London just gave me lots of energy). So my advice would be to go out and socialise a lot and to place yourself in situations where you meet people who are in a similar situation to yourself, new in the city or just otherwise also looking for friends. Good luck! x

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