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Dos and don'ts of saving money in London

By Time Out London contributor

Alice White's (very) rough guide to extreme penny pinching in the capital

I've just moved to London and I'm struggling to afford anything. Help!​

I only recently moved to London as well. One of the first things I noticed is that, all of a sudden, I didn't have any money. Sure, I never really had any to begin with, because what comes in goes straight back out again. But still, food and travel and generally just staying alive is expensive. With that in mind, here are a few simple tips that I've picked up to get around being poor.

alexi duggins

DON'T Eat a variety of meals

Think of a meal. Any meal. Now, that's all you're going to eat for the rest of the month. Bulk buy those ingredients. The truly great thing about this strategy is that when you get to Sunday and the supermarkets are all only open for an hour, and you forget to replenish your stocks, it's easy just to eat a bowl of peas and sleep off the remaining hunger. You're not above this.

DO Use everything you have

My weakness is the various lotions and creams of Boots, which are expensive for what’s basically just inedible jam. So I’m not allowed any new scrubs, lotions or creams until I’ve used up all the half-finished bottles that have accumulated in the bathroom. I’ll wash my hair with toothpaste if I have to. The same applies to clothes – you're going to wear those clothes until they fall off your body. No keeping up with trends – which is probably a good thing since hipsters haven't noticed that they're starting to look more and more like the Hitler Youth.

DON'T Smoke

If you don’t smoke a pack a day for ten years you’ll save £25,000. Yeah, if you love smoking you'll be miserable, but aren't you already? And you'll smell better. Added bonus.


DO Take the bus

I used to have a monthly travelcard, but I cut that out pretty sharpish when it dawned on me that I work from home, therefore it was costing me over a hundred quid to go to Camden a couple of times a week. Ask yourself: How fast do I need to get to where I'm going? You might have to rise at 6am to make an 10am appointment, but that's what time important people get up, so at least you'll feel rich. Feelings are important. And free.

Black Cab

DON'T Take taxis

Last week I went out drinking somewhere far from home – on the other side of the city no less – and my friend fell asleep on the pavement at 3am. We managed to bundle her dead-looking body into a black cab. The trip ended up costing me several tens of pounds, though I'd abandoned her bag and coat in a club, so I couldn’t really complain too much about footing the cost. Anyway, in retrospect what I should’ve done is caught a night bus and ridden it for hours on end with my catatonic friend like we were in 'Midnight Cowboy'.


DO Drink before you go out

Alcohol, for what it is and what it achieves, definitely isn’t worth the several pounds a glass it costs. Don’t make water bottles filled with booze and cordial, then partially freeze them, then shake them up and drink them on public transport because that is illegal, but doing it house-to-club makes perfect financial sense. It's time to accept that going to a bar is a distant memory. Now you never go anywhere good, and instead spend your evenings looking at all the things in your house you bought when you used to have money.

Carnival - One Love

DON'T have a love life. Or any friends

Dating people is expensive because they will want to hang out with you and meet up and do fun activities that mean they get to know you better. Then, inevitably, you'll have to explain that you're only eating peas, and they'll notice that your clothes all have holes in them revealing your malnourished skin. It's the same with friends. They're demanding and you don't need them bragging about a delicious sandwich they ate, or how they rode the tube (remember, you're not allowed that anymore). Love does cost a thing, if you take buying drinks, phone bills, bikini/scrotum waxes into account. Actually, if you're regularly getting your scrotum waxed you've got bigger problems than starving to death. Be lonely for a couple of years, it'll do your bank balance good.

 Learn more about being a Londoner with seven types of conversation every Londoner dreads.

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