Worried that student life in London will be too expensive? Here's how to make it affordable
Being a university student costs a lot of money no matter where you are, but we all know how notoriously expensive it is in London. Even with the additional London loan, it can still seem like there isn’t enough money to go around. But have no fear! There are many ways that London is far more affordable that you think.
1. Travel -The tube is pricey- it is known. But there are a number of ways to mitigate this. As a young person aged 16-25 you will qualify for a 16-25 Railcard. But did you know, that this can be linked to your Oyster card to give you 1/3 off all off peak tube travel and 1/3 off all bus travel? Travelling by bus is also much cheaper than the tube, and with the new hopper fare it can even be more lucrative for short round trips.
If you absolutely must travel by tube in rush hour, then get yourself a student oyster card. These are free to apply for and give you 1/3 all travelcards. It is more than worth it to get both the rail card and the student oyster card, just to cover all your bases.
2. Shelter- Once you move out of halls, there is the issue of renting a house which is even more daunting with the bad press the London rental market keeps getting. But don’t let the naysayers get you down- it is possible to rent in London without breaking the bank. It takes a bit more planning and forward thinking, but as we discuss in this article, living in a four person houseshare in zone 3 (and if you’re lucky two) is reasonably affordable.
3. Expanding your horizons – Now that the nuts and bolts are over with, how do you make the most of London on a tiny budget? Relatively easily is the answer. Most national museums offer free entry to permanent exhibitions, and some also throw in the odd temporary exhibition. Many of these museums and galleries also have a monthly evening event for free, although there may be some charges for some activities. Walking is also free! You can find free walking guide all over the internet- some endorsed by local councils, some by TFL itself. These often offer a brief running commentary on the sights of London.
4. Dining out – There’s also no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the occasional meal out. Both TimeOut and the Londonist have a constantly updated list of cheap eat which often consist of 2 courses for £20 or under. There is also always the joy of a BYOB restaurant. I can recommend Brixton Food Hall. Not long ago the total bill for myself and two friends came to £200. That was only for a main course, but even counting for a starter of dessert, I can’t see it running to more than £12 per head. Tesco wine not included.
5. Having a pint - A post-lecture pint is a great way to cement friendships at university but with the average cost of a pint in London running up to £4.00 or more, particularly in Central London, this can be costly. But it doesn’t have to be! Find your local Sam Smith’s pub – central London is absolutely littered with them. A pint of ale runs to just over £3.00 (as of 2018). Don’t forget to find out where the local ‘Spoons is either! The price varies widely depending on where you are in London but it will still be cheaper than some other pubs.
Getting off the beaten track is also a good way to find an affordable pint. Generally speaking if you are near a landmark, a main road or a station you will be paying above the odds.
6. Partying hard – How do you party in London without ending up impoverished? A good plan is to research free or cheap nights- there are many in London particularly if you look a little further out of Central London. Many clubs might also have guest lists that offer discounted entry. You can often sign up for these easily online. Many clubs will also have student nights that offer discounted entry and drinks if you show your student card.
Finally, for those last-week-before-the-loan-comes-in-day, you can always have a house party. You will need to mindful of your neighbours and keep the noise down, but it is a very cheap way to party with your friends.
7. Discounts - Taking advantage of your university discounts! This one is a little less London centric but, as a student, you can receive many discounts through you NUS card and the Undelays app. As a student you will also qualify for discounts at many larger cinemas, museums and other ticketed events. Local restaurants, shops and other small businesses may also offer discounts to students from the local university- always ask for a discount! The worst they can say is no.
And don’t forget to look at your own institution! Your university may also offer you free licences of certain software, such as Microsoft Office, for the duration of your degree.
So, in short, London is definitely affordable. It just takes a little more time, a little more planning and a little more know-how.