Every student dreams of living in London, enjoying the nightlife, museums and rich culture of one of the biggest cities in the world. Unfortunately, however, this comes at a cost. London is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, if not the world. So how do you save money in London as a student?
It is not impossible to save money whilst studying in London- while still enjoying the city itself. After all, if you’re studying in London, you want to make the most of it! It’s totally possible to have a balance of both saving and spending while living and studying in London. You don’t have to give up all the fun stuff in order to save money.
With a few money saving tips up your sleeve, and some handy free money management tools at your disposal, you can manage your finances as a student in London with ease. Here are some golden rules on how to save money in London as a student.
Is it possible to save money in London as a student?
Yes, it is totally possible to save money in London as a student- you just need to know how! There are plenty of ways to keep costs low and still enjoy the city. As long as you are clued up about your income and your expenditure, and make a little time to keep on top of your budget, you can definitely save money in London as a student.
Whether you are looking to reduce your living costs, or actually have some money in the bank at the end of term (or both!), the following tips will help to make sure that you are managing your money as effectively as possible. Let’s dive in.
How much money do you need as a student in London?
It’s true, you need more money as a student in London than in other cities in the UK. You certainly won’t be finding student accommodation for £60 a week in London! However, you don’t need to go into debt in order to enjoy the city. Saving money and living well can go hand in hand.
As an average, London School of Economics (LSE) estimates that students will need between £1,100-£1,300 per month for all living expenses (that includes accommodation, travel, groceries, entertainment and personal expenses). However, remember that this is just an average. The real amount that you spend could vary quite dramatically depending on your own expenses. Do some research about the area that you will be living in, the travel costs, and your own personal spending habits to determine how much you will need each month to live in London as a student.
How to save money in London as a student
Let’s look at some top tips on how to save money in London as a student. Set out to save on the everyday while living in London to ensure that the cost of university in London doesn’t blow the bank.
If you implement most of the tips below, you will certainly save some money throughout the duration of your degree. When you’re on a student budget, the pennies and pounds all count. Make savings where you can so that once you graduate, you can focus on other financial goals. For example, holidays, first homes, and investing for the future rather than paying off debt (no one wants to be paying off uni credit card debt in their mid-late twenties, but it happens more often that you might think!).
Buy a Student Railcard
Railcards are available for both age groups 16-25 and 26-30. This card costs just £30 per year and will allow you a discount of ⅓ off rail fares including the Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and National Rail services.
Whether you are visiting family, friends, or travelling around the city, the money you will save with your railcard will be well worth the £30. You will earn back the cost of your rail card in no time at all.
Did you know that there are also other outlets which will give you a discount with a railcard? Check out our guide to cheap London travel which details how you can claim your railcard discounts on buses, river boat journeys and off peak tube travel.
Use student discounts on shopping
Many shops offer discounts upon presentation of a student card. Some notable outlets are: Accessorize, Adidas, Ann Summers, Boots, FatFace, Halfords, MAC, Millets, New Look, Paperchase, Topshop, Toms, and many more. Just ask at the counter when you pay.
Many outlets will offer a standard 10%, but some may offer 20% or more on certain items. And if you’re unsure if a retailer has student discount? Just ask! You never know what saving you might be able to make.
Shopping online can give you access to discounts on your purchases as a student. Giants like Amazon offer a discount of 50% off the first 6 months of Prime membership, and Apple offers students up to 10% off purchases with a free UNiDAYS account, with the same offer on hotel bookings from Expedia.
Most universities will have a student card which you receive upon registration, but you can also register for TOTUM. TOTUM Digital is free and can be accessed online and through the dedicated app. However you can also register for a physical TOTUM card which comes with a few extra benefits, but costs £14.99.
Eat out for cheap in London
Hundreds of food outlets and delivery services also offer discounts to students. Many of them enable online ordering, so it’s worth checking before you order your pizza if you can get it cheaper! A few examples are Domino’s, Boost Juice Bars, Byron Burger, Frankie & Benny’s, Greggs, Hello Fresh, Iceland, Itsu, KFC, LEON, Morrisons, Just Eat and many more.
Eat out for free in London
Sign up to a mystery dining agency such as Mystery Dining and get sent to some of your favourite restaurants to eat for free! All you need to do is write a report afterwards. Restaurants include Wagamama, Dishoom, Cosy Club, Flat Iron and more. Serve Legal also offers a pub version of mystery shopping (free drinks!).
Cheap groceries in London
Although eating out is fun (even better when it’s free!), most of the time you’ll be cooking for yourself. It’s a good idea to shop at cheaper grocery stores such as Lidl and Aldi, and save money on the essentials such as bread, milk, and pasta.
If your housemates are keen, you could also cook for each other on one night of the week. Each person takes care of dinner on one night. It cuts down on food prep time, and it will also save you money as you’ll be cooking one big batch dish.
For more eco-friendly cheap food options: shop at food waste supermarkets or use zero waste food apps to help save the planet as well as your pennies. You can use apps such as Olio and Too Good To Go to save money and save the environment. Olio is an app which you can use to get free food that would otherwise go to waste, and Too Good To Go offers very cheap bags of food which would otherwise get thrown out.
Explore London cheaply
Just like the shops and food outlets, there are tons of London attractions which offer discounts to students. For example, The London Dungeons and Madame Tussaud’s, not to mention most cinema chains such as Cineworld if you fancy something more lowkey. You can save an average of around £2 on a standard adults ticket at Cineworld if you have a valid student card.
Student discounts are also available at theatres, galleries and museums. There are even some museums which offer free entry for students!
Explore London for free
London has so many fun and free things to do, you just have to find them! From museums and galleries to parks, tourist attractions and live music. Check out our 100 Free Things To Do in London article for some inspiration.
Lower your bills and direct debits
If you’re a student in London, you might be able to save on your phone bill. It’s worth finding out if your phone plan provider has a student option – providers like 3, O2 and EE are just a few who offer favourable rates for students.
You may also be able to get a student gym membership. Many gyms allow students access for a lower price when presented with a student card. For example, The Gym Group offers a benefits plan for just £109 for 9 months which covers access to 2 gyms of your choice, state of the art machines, and an app with extra perks. For an online option; The Body Coach offers 40% off personal plans for students with UNiDAYS.
Sharing is caring
You can make serious savings on many everyday costs when you club together with friends. For example, sharing rides if you have a vehicle, or doing weekly potluck dinners with a sports team are great ways of sharing costs, and socialising at the same time. Two birds!
Keep an eye out for flash deals
Check sites such as www.savethestudent.org regularly for deals on a huge variety of things from wine to board games to trainers and more! Lots of websites will run flash promotions and deals from time to time, so keep your eyes peeled. For example, ASOS will often run a 20% student discount promotion at certain times of the year.
How to budget as a student in London
When you start university, you are likely to be managing your finances for the first time. It’s important to start out with good habits in the first place to set yourself in good stead for the rest of your time at university and beyond into adulthood.
Open a student bank account
To start with, you might want to consider opening a dedicated student bank account. Some banks will even offer freebies and bonuses when you join. For example, at the time of writing, HSBC Student Account offers £80 plus an Uber Eats or ASOS voucher of your choosing. Check out our guide to the Best Bank In London For International Students if you’d like to learn more about student banking options.
When you have your bank account set up, this will help you to stay on top of your spending and get used to budgeting. Knowing your income and your outgoings is critical to keeping on top of your budget.
Use a budgeting app
It’s important to save as much money as you can while you are at university, as this will help you to avoid getting into debt if your student loan doesn’t stretch far enough over the course of your studies.
Use a dedicated budgeting app to help you manage your finances. Apps like Snoop help you to see where your money is going by automatically tracking your spending habits, and suggesting where you could save money.
If saving is not your forte, enlist the help of an AI app like Chip. Chip is an incredible way to use AI technology (which is totally secure), to increase your rate of saving. Chip takes a look at your spending habits, and stashes away money here and there based on your spending patterns. You’ll save money without even noticing!
Find a guide to the best budgeting apps for life in London here.
Track your spending
You could also use a budgeting spreadsheet to help you track your spending, anticipate costs, and make sure that you don’t run out of money at the end of term. Check out the Thrifty Londoner budgeting spreadsheet to help keep you on track.
London student top tips
We’ve covered lots of London student money saving tips. But let’s take a look at a few more bonus tips to make sure that you are in a position to manage your finances as well as you possibly can whilst at university.
Avoid debt- It’s always best to try and stay out of additional debt. If you can avoid using a credit card when you’re at university, do so. Debt can hang over you for years after graduating , affecting everything from your credit rating to your relationships, so try and avoid it wherever you can.
Trial different money management techniques- for example, you could try using cash as much as you can. This is because it tends to be easier to track, which makes it easier for you to keep on top of your spending. It is much more visual when you can see physical cash leaving your wallet. Decide on a set amount for a night out, and leave your cards at home. Once it’s gone, it’s gone!
Find opportunities- Look for money saving opportunities around every corner. For example, take advantage of any discounts or special offers that your student uni on cards may offer you.
Reach out for support- Remember that if you are struggling, try speaking to your university support services, or contact the student loans company – all of which are geared towards helping students.
No matter how much money you have, it’s always possible to make the most of whatever you do have. Be creative and use the tools at your disposal for keeping on top of your finances as a student in London. Remember to follow @thriftylondoner on Instagram for all the latest on personal finance in London.