London is one of the most exciting cities to live in the world, and is one of the top 20 most expensive cities to boot! Let’s face it, life in London is not cheap. So how do you take advantage of all London has to offer while having a blast and not breaking the bank?
Whether you’ve just moved to London and need help saving money or you’ve been in London for a while and realize how quickly things are adding up, we have a list of the Top 12 Brilliant Ways to Save Money Living in London. It just takes a little cutting back, learning some new negotiation skills and a different mindset and you’ll find yourself less stressed and actually happier living in the city. Don’t let the prospect of living in London long-term feel daunting!
There are many ways to save money in London, from learning about public transport discounts, how to save on energy and free and discounted activities around the city. Also, check out the lowest-priced stores to shop at and how to furnish your home for free with our extensive list of savings. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save more day-to-day so you can enjoy those holidays you’ve been itching to go on. So without futher ado, let’s get you those savings!
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1. Avoid Telly Tax by Streaming
Did you know there’s a television tax in the UK?! I thought this was the most ridiculous thing when I moved to London. You actually have to pay for a license to watch live TV, and it’s around $159 a year! So if you don’t mind skipping TV, you can save money by streaming through Netflix, Prime, or your preferred provider. You might even be able to get a friend or family member to add you to their streaming account!
2. Save on Energy
Don’t just assume you have to stick with the energy supplier the previous tenants had at your residence. Shop around to get the best rates and when you’re contract is up, don’t hesitate to negotiate for a lower rate. I’ve also always found when you’re midway through a contract and tell them you’re planning on switching, they suddenly are willing to negotiate. Never take things at face value! This actually goes for all your service providers; gas, electric, broadband, cell phone.
I currently use Octopus Engery because I love that they use renewable engery. If you use my referal code you can save £50 if you choose to sign up.
You can also save by being wise about things like switching off all your electronics at the wall before bed at night or even in between uses. Try getting a timer for your heater, or switch it off and on as needed. And while you’re at it, make your own DIY insulation by wrapping cardboard with aluminum foil and sticking it behind your radiator. Ha! Don’t be afriad to get creative!
Lastly, have a look at the Warm Home Discount Scheme and see if you qualify. You could save up to $140 a year!
More on how to save money on your energy bills here.
3. Council Tax Discount
What exactly is council tax? This was a new term for me when I moved to the UK and it took me a while to understand all the terminology. But it’s actually pretty simple. Your local council collects these taxes to pay for services in your community.
There’s a council tax band for every property that’s between A and H, mainly based on the property’s size and location. The council tax itself is based on your property’s market value and can be pretty pricey. Even at the lowest, council tax can cost at least $1,000 a year!
What a lot of people don’t know is that there’s ways to get either 25% or 50% discounts on your council tax with a few variables. You can save just by living alone! So make sure and claim your council tax discounts to save big this year.
4. Flatshare, aka, Get a Roommate
This might seem obvious, but some people don’t really consider how much money sharing your space with someone can save you. You can split just rent or all of your bills depending on your contract. If you’ve never had a roommate before, make sure you go through a reputable website to find your perfect flatmate.
To save money on rent in general, the further out you live from central London the better, but then you have to calculate travel costs if you’re working or visiting downtown frequently. So if your heart is set on a particular area of the city, you can always save money by getting a roommate or just renting a room yourself. And you never know, you might end up with a great new friend! I’ve listed here ten websites for flatshares to help your search.
- City Accomodations
5. Free & Discounted Furniture
As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Why pay full price for items you can get like-new for much cheaper? There are oodles of ways to find free furniture and household items, but nowadays there are dedicated websites for you to explore and take out the hassle of roaming the city. From free items to exchanges and deep discounts, check out this list of 5 websites to find your bargain of the day! Reduce, reuse and recycle.
Also, get friendly with your neighbors! By that I mean to go out of your way to know who your neighbors are and how you can help each other. If you’re on good terms, they might be getting rid of a lamp and think of you before chucking it in the bin or giving it to a charity shop. And vice versa.
6. Frequent the Charity Shops
Welcome to one of the greatest things London has to offer…charity shops. Now I know it might not sound very exciting if you’re new to London, but I’m telling you that the world of charity shops in London is very, very exciting.
In these amazing places, you can find pre-loved things to wear, to read or listen to, and of course, all kinds of stuff to adorn your house with. Hello, fabulous home decor. And you can find it all at knock-down prices. These shops are where to want to be if you’re not into the big retailers and are a bit more off the cuff. Each one is definitely unique.
Even the rich and famous in London donate their cast-offs to charity shops, so if you choose the right location, you may even snag some designer duds if that’s your thing. From charity “boutiques” to junk shops, I’ve complied a short list of ten charity shops I definitely recommend you check out.
- All Aboard
- Oxfam Books
- King’s Cross Boutique at Coal Drops Yard
- British Heart Foundation
- Cancer Research UK
- Fara Kids
- Mary’s Living and Giving
- British Red Cross
7. Get a Free or Discounted Haircut
Although London is home to some of the best hair salons in the world, why pay a premium, especially if you’re just needing a trim or restyle? Did you know when hairstylists are going through their training, they need people to practice on? That’s where you and I come in. I’ve actually done this in a few cities I’ve lived.
Also, with London being as fashion-forward as you can get, trends and styles are constantly changing. So you’ll find stylists come from all over the world to learn the most up-to-date techniques and tricks of the trade. When they do this, a lot of them offer free or discounted haircuts and there are schools dedicated to just this.
It can be a risk, but you could end up with a style you love, so why not? Have a look at these 5 training academies and schools in London with free or highly discounted rates:
8. Public Transport Discounts
London transportation is one of the most efficient networks of tubes, buses and trains worldwide. However, it comes with a high price. Just one week in London and you’ll be floored at how much money you spend just getting around.
Traveling throughout London adds up quickly and it takes a while to learn how to navigate the system. So real quick I’ll summarize; London is divided into 6 zones starting with zone 1 being the city center. If you’re traveling across London, try to avoid zone 1 as much as possible as it’s the most expensive. Also, an Oyster Card is a must for travel so that’s what we’re going to be talking about here.
Taking the bus is the cheapest way to travel with your oyster card at just £1.45 each way. However, if you’re in a hurry or just don’t like the bus as much, be prepared to pay at least £4.70 for a single trip on the tube!
But never fear, as you may be eligible for one of the National Railcard discount cars. They save you up to 1/3 off rail jouneries and you can connect to your oyster card. This gives you extra money off travelling during off peak on the tube. To activate this you do need to go to the station and get someone to connect your oyster card and railcard.
Another travel tip: Although the black cabs are super cute and notorious for life in London, never, ever hire a black cab. Maybe just ask to pose with one and get your photo opp! I’ve made the mistake a time or two of hiring a cab and they sure know how to jack up the rates for internationals. If you’re having a touristy day, you’ll definitely want to save that money for the pub!
9. On-the-Go Coffee Subscription
Now, you know I love my coffee. And it goes without saying you’ll save the most money on coffee by brewing at home, but you’re not always at home, are you? And let’s be honest, the smell of coffee in a coffee shop is intoxicating. And sometimes it’s fun to be waited on. But buying coffee out can end up being one of your biggest expenses in London.
Luckily, the amazing Pret coffee shop has a new coffee subscription guaranteed to save you heaps of money!
Sign up with Pret to enjoy five, yes I said 5, Barista-made drinks a day, including organic coffees, teas, frappes, hot chocolates and more, for just £20 a month. Five a day would nearly cost you the same! And to top it off, your first month is free! This is definitely the best way to save money on coffee during the day when you’re out or on breaks at work.
10. Save on Food Without Skimping on Quality
Speaking of coffee and food, let’s talk about how you can save money in London on essentials. While I’m a bit of a foodie and love some of the higher-priced food shops, the overall quality of food in the UK is substantially better for the cost compared to other parts of the world. So even though these low-cost grocers will save you money, that doesn’t always mean you have to skimp on quality.
Check out the top 5 cost-cutting food suppliers that are popular all over London. And don’t be afraid to make deals at your local neighborhood market stalls as well.
11. Ditch the Gym Membership
In the past couple of years, more and more people have turned to outdoor and at-home workouts. And the first thing I always tell people about London is how much green space it has. Did you know London is actually 47% green space?! And not only that, but there’s 8 million trees in the city. Being the 5th greenest city in the world according to Eco Watch, you really can’t escape nature here.
So that means London is definitely a city to be walked. Even if you’re just popping out to the shop, walk instead of catching the bus. You’ll discover so many side roads and quirky alleyways on foot while getting exercise.
Also, consider getting a bike for a bigger workout and to save money on public transport. Here you can find more information about the cycling routes in London, how to choose the right bicycle and even better cycling skills.
Then head out to one of the plethoras of parks and greenways for a walk, run or hike. Some of them, like the local park by my place, even have outdoor gym equipment you can use for free. Here’s my list of ten of the best parks to visit in the London area.
- Hyde Park
- St. James Park
- Hampstead Heath
- Regent’s Park
- Crystal Palace Park
- Greenwich Park
- Richmond Park
- Holland Park
- Victoria Park
- Kensington Gardens
As the majority of these are royal parks, see their main website for more information and the complete list of London parks. Challenge yourself to visit as many as you can this year!
12. Get Cultured with Free Museums & Galleries
You can never be bored in London! It’s a cultural hub with endless possibilities. And one thing you’ll notice is that London is packed with every kind of museum and gallery you can imagine. And the best part? Most of them are absolutely free, with the exception of special exhibitions throughout the year.
I can’t believe it took me so long to visit these museums because I didn’t know they were free. This proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to get cultured. I’ve compiled this list of ten free London museums & galleries you must visit. And if you want to learn even more about these free museums check out Nine Museums You Must Visit in London.
- National Gallery
- Science Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Tate Britain
- National Portrait Gallery
- Victoria & Albert Museum
- Saatchi Gallery
- Wallace Collection
- National Maritime Museum
- Imperial War Museum
So there you have it; 12 Brilliant Ways to Save Money Living in London. As you can see, London is a pretty expensive city to live in, but hopefully, you’ve learned that there are many ways to cut back and save yourself a load of money this year with just a bit of a lifestyle modification.
Again, don’t be afraid to think out of the box and get creative either. There have been many days I just take the tube to Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus and spend hours walking around and people-watching, which only costs me a few quid in tube fare. You can also search for apps with restaurant discounts and if you’re hankering for the pub atmosphere, get there early for discounted specials.
And no matter what, always remember your happiness isn’t about how much money is in your bank account. Enjoy the little things, especially in an extraordinary city like London!
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.