How to make the most of studying in London on a student budget
There’s no two ways about it, London is one of the most fascinating cities on our planet. It’s a melting pot of cultures. University life in London is 24/7 – there’s always something going on that’ll get your juices flowing. Studying in London ticks so many boxes. It’s great for those who’ve lived in the sticks and are craving a taste of the big city lifestyle, as well as those who already live in London.
Many of the SPCE team have lived and studied in the capital, so we’re well placed to provide you with our five top tips to thrive in London on a student budget:
Keep Tube and taxi travel to a minimum
Although the London Underground is a great way to get around the capital, it’s by no means cheap. Even with an Oyster Card, if you live outside of Central London you’ll probably have to venture in from Zone 2-4 for lectures.
It’s also worth noting the price difference between peak and off-peak journeys. Peak fares apply between 6.30-9.30am and 4.00-7.00pm. Off-peak journeys are 34% cheaper for students. If you have an 18+ Student Oyster card you can also claim 30% off weekly, monthly and longer period Travelcards too. Taxis are even more expensive and given the volume of traffic on the capital’s roads we urge you to steer clear. Walk as many places as you can – it’s good exercise and a good way of familiarising yourself with your new surroundings.
Get a road bike
Alternatively, you can pick up a brand-new or second-hand road bike and cycle around London instead. There are various cycleways in London and that number is only going to rise in the coming years. New and second-hand bikes are regularly available on Gumtree and eBay. It’s also a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for local independent cycle shops which may be able to find you a bargain.
Only consider a road bike if you have somewhere secure to store it overnight e.g. in a shed or inside your student accommodation. The best-value short-term solution would be to rent one of the Santander Cycles, formerly known as the Boris Bikes. These are available at just £2 for 24-hours. Safety is paramount when travelling on your road bike – London’s streets are notorious for vehicle traffic so make sure you wear a helmet always!
Become acquainted with local markets and ‘reduced to clear’ aisles
The London School of Economics broadly estimates you will need between £1,100-£1,300 per month to cover your student accommodation and all other living expenses. Food and drink is one area of your living expenses that you can easily influence. With a little imagination you can eat great food for less.
Visit local markets such as Whitechapel and Lewisham which offer huge choice on fresh fruit and vegetables at greatly reduced prices and often better quality than the supermarkets. Speaking of the supermarkets, make sure you head to these late afternoons to pick up the best bargains in the reduced to clear aisles, with discounts of up to 80% not uncommon.
Consider university-approved private housing
Finding somewhere suitable to live in London can be a real challenge for a student. University halls of residence can be a solid option for purpose-built surroundings, but this does come with a premium rental price tag. Instead, why not check out the list of private student accommodation with landlords that are pre-approved by the universities? Within the SPCE app, available on the App Store, you can search, view and book property viewings all in one go.
London is full of free entertainment!
The capital is literally teeming with incredible events and exhibitions that can keep you amused without even having to dip into your pocket! Be sure to regularly check Time Out’s free London events page. If all else fails, your university’s Student Union will often put on events of their own. If you’re studying at a creative uni, you’ll no doubt be able to go and catch a free music showcase or art exhibition every so often.
Learn to love discount cards and voucher codes
Finally, if you and your housemates have had a stressful week or two hitting the books and you need to let your hair down, London is well-connected to the best discount cards and voucher codes to give you more bang for your buck. For instance, a Taste Card gets you two-for-one meals at literally thousands of restaurants across London. It also pays to keep a close eye on popular voucher code sites such as Groupon and Wowcher to see if restaurants and bars in your area are offering any worthwhile deals.