How To Live In London On A Budget | The Student Guide

London is a city renowned for being super expensive, especially when it’s compared to areas in the North. To be exact, The Worldwide Cost of Living Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has ranked the UK’s capital as the 17th most expensive place to live in the world…if that doesn’t illustrate the living costs for you in black and white, we really don’t know what will!

Despite this, being a student in London comes with so many benefits; it’s no wonder that the area is a buzzing hub for both domestic and international students! Whether you thrive from the excellent university facilities offered, or prefer uncovering the fascinating culture of The Big Smoke, you’ll find your own niche as a student in this city and it’s one not to be missed.

We do understand that money can be a huge issue and possibly even put you off from choosing a university in London. If you’re worried or getting worked up about it, please know you’re not alone! Sooooo many students like yourself find it difficult to think about money when moving, especially when you realise you’re forking out for accommodation, food and trying to manage a social life…it’s a crazy balance! Tuition fees alone are enough to worry about, who needs more?!

So, to help you out (‘cos that’s what we’re here for) we’re giving you all the tips, tricks and hacks to live in London on a budget. Let’s not lose sleep on something we can tackle with just a bit of research – hey? Get your notes app out and start listing down some of these ideas, you won’t regret it!

1. Thoroughly Research Accommodation Options

academic house in London

Student accommodation will be one of the first things you think about when moving to London for university. Having a comfortable home away from home is essential to a healthy mind and positive experience. 

If you’ve already done your research, you’re guaranteed to have worked out that London prices per week for university and private accommodation are nearly double that of somewhere up North, when in reality they offer the same living spaces. Makes it feel slightly unfair – right?

Our biggest piece of advice is … don’t go with the first accommodation choice you see. 

Keep a log of ones you like in a spreadsheet for later use. What’s the location, is it cheap rent or what’s the student vibe like? Is it close to transport so you can get to and from university? Does it have good facilities, such as a common room or laundry room? Is it next to a supermarket or grocery store for you to grab all of your essentials? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself, and setting up an Excel sheet will clearly illustrate this for you. 

2. WALK!

The london eye with bright blue skies, a open top bus and lots of students walking to their lecture

We were born with a pair of legs for a reason, so we can walk around and explore places by foot. The world wasn’t blessed with buses, taxis or even the London underground – they’re a construct of human engineering! So, don’t feel like you need to use them to fully immerse in the London student life experience.

What makes walking even better is it’s completely free, saving you a whopping amount of money over the academic year. This money can then be used to fund your social life, food shops and essentials you might need from day to day.

Of course London is huge and we’re not expecting you to trek for hours just to reach one destination, but this is the time for you to show a level of maturity and prioritise when’s best to pay the price of London transport.

Also, we can’t help but boast about just how beautiful the city is. Walking around is one of the best ways to soak in all the culture and view some of the most popular London attractions. Who can really complain strolling to their next lecture past Big Ben and along Westminster Abbey?!

Ps, cycling is just as good for your health and doesn’t cost to run, but if you don’t own a bike then you might end up spending more than you would on normal transport options!

3. Swap Out High End Supermarkets 

man taking photos of his delicious dinner cooked from a cheap supermarket

Everyone loves dining at M&S and Waitrose, but when it comes to looking at the bank account after a trip here, sometimes it’s just not feasible.

Switching out these high end supermarkets and focusing efforts on shopping at the likes of Aldi and Lidl will help save money and massively improve your food budgets. It’s kinda crazy just how much you can save, and not have to compromise on quality…what’s not to love? If you don’t believe this statement, why not take a quick read of this article which compares the two products – you might surprise yourself.

There’s this stigma that cheap food is ultimately unhealthy, and that’s just not the case! Food costs don’t have to be extortionate to be nutritious, it’s what you do with the ingredients that fill you up! To help you out, we urge you to go out and buy a student cookbook centred around cheap meals which serve 1 or 2 people. Honestly, it’s a game changer and we can’t recommend purchasing one to benefit you further. 

4. Branded Goods Doesn’t Always Mean it’s ‘Better’

heinz beans on a shelf in the london supermarket

Calling all of our Heinz lovers and Lurpak fans, this ones for you. Because it’s branded doesn’t ALWAYS mean it’s better. It might be nice, but it certainly doesn’t mean that supermarkets own branded products aren’t. Why not just try it one time? Take the plunge and watch your bank account (and taste buds) thrive.

5. Reduce The Amount Of Money Spent On Takeaways

Girl happy with her takeaway after a stressful day of university

Leading on from its predecessor, if you’re in London on a budget, stop looking for Deliveroo or Uber Eats to fund your hunger. The audacity of their Marketing team to be throwing deals around, left right and centre when you’re on a budget!!! Don’t be tempted – you can do it…

If you plan your new found London life wisely, you’ll be able to come back to your student accommodation and cook a delicious treat which will be far more impressive. Fakeaways and home baking are great ways to tackle those salt and sugar cravings!

That being said, you don’t want to suffer. If you have sufficient funds and know you’ve worked hard for it – why not buy yourself a takeaway in London? Give yourself a break and reap the rewards you deserve. After all, you’re smashing uni through the week and living in a completely new city…goals.

6. Stick To Free And Cheap Attractions

Queens guards marching in front of buckingham palace, London

London is teeming with things to do for students, especially Central London! There’s activities and hidden gems dotted on every corner and they’re just waiting for you to find them. 

If this is your first time living in London, or even visiting, then you’re going to want to delve straight into the culture and immerse yourself in the experience. Ultimately, you get to do university once in your life and you deserve to make the most of it; don’t stop doing what you want because of low budgets. 

Sticking to free or cheap London attractions will help balance this issue, and you’ll be shocked at just how many different things you can get involved with. Check out our quick list here:

Free and Cheap Attractions In London For Students

  • Natural History Museum
  • British Museum
  • Tate Modern
  • Victoria and Albert
  • Tower Bridge
  • Big Ben
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Hyde Park
  • Richmond Park
  • Camden Market
  • Portobello Road Market
  • God’s Own Junkyard 

7. Make The Most Of Student Discounts

girl shocked by how many student discounts she has

Like we’ve mentioned before, you’re only a student once and you won’t get as many deals as you do right now…so, make the most of it!

Student discounts will be your best friend during university, and in nearly every single shop, café or store you go into, you’ll be able to pick something up at a reduced price. It’ll help ease your living expenses and give you more freedom to do bits you enjoy. 

8. Keep Fit Outside

tower of london views whilst running

There’s a pressure to join the gym and spend money on an account which might only get used once or twice. If this is you – get rid, grab some running shoes and experience fitness outside. London has a plethora of running spots for you to explore. It doesn’t matter if you’re a marathon runner or using Couch to 5k app, running is for everyone and a great, free activity to keep fit!

9. Find A Part Time Job

barista student working to earn money to live in london

All the ways we’ve spoken about in this guide have focused on ways to save the money you already have, but one way to keep ticking yourself over is by getting a part time job! 

Part time jobs can be anything from bar work, barista, receptionist or front of house staff. Make sure to head to Indeed or Linkedin Jobs to find the latest posts and pop over your CV now.

For future job applications, being able to demonstrate the balance of uni and a part time job is such a brilliant trait to have, and many companies will look for this when accepting candidates. So, what’s stopping you?!

10. Stay Positive, It’ll Work Out In The End

friends happy and enjoying budgeting in london

Last but not least, London is an amazing city and you’re lucky to have the option to live there. Money can be difficult and hopefully these 10 ways will make you feel a lot more content with moving and budgeting in London. Stay positive, think of why you’re doing it and remember you’re not here forever…as sad as that may seem!

And there we have it, a great big guide on everything you need to know about living in London on a student budget. Forget all your worries, just keep this page bookmarked for future reference and you’ll be good to go. 

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