20 Tips For A London Newcomer (From a Londoner!)

Are you a London newcomer? Or perhaps you’re about to become one? Here are my top 30 tips for those that are moving to London for the first time. These tips are based on the things that I learned after I moved to London as a fresh faced 23 year old, and the things I wish I knew back then.

London is an exciting place to be, but in such a big city, it can be easy to feel lost when you first arrive. So without further ado, these are the Thrifty Londoner top tips for settling into life in London seamlessly.

1. Rent & housing

If you’re yet to move to London, you’ll want to start looking for your new home right away! The housing market is ferociously competitive, and some might say it’s a downside of living in London.

That said, you can get this right by finding the perfect houseshare using a platform like Spareroom. My advice? Shell out for the paid for version to make sure that you don’t miss out on the perfect home for you.

And if you’re not looking for a houseshare? Use Rightmove to find a home to rent, and contact estate agents in the area in which you would like to live- sometimes they can show you properties before they even hit the market.

2. Making friends

My top tip for having the best experience in London? Making good friends. There is so much to do in London, which is absolutely fun to do solo, but perhaps even more fun with a friend coming along for the ride.

If you’re looking to start a new hobby, you can take free classes such as free dance classes, or try out a gym for free with a free gym pass, and get to know people with similar interests.

Alternatively you might like to try expat Facebook groups, Meetup groups, or using an app like Bumble BFF.

3. Cost of living

The cost of rent in London is undoubtedly the biggest monthly expense when it comes to living in London. Currently, the average rent in London is £2,039 a month as of June 2023 according to research by HomeLet

Your other big costs are likely to be groceries, bills, travel and entertainment. So what are our top tips to lower the cost of living in London for a London newcomer?

Use price comparison websites

The best way to reduce the cost of your utilities is to shop around for your electric and gas. A great price comparison website is MoneySuperMarket, which has a great reputation in the UK. Plug in your details and get an instant quote to see the best supplier for your area and ensure that you’re not paying more than you need to for your bills.

Use low cost providers

WiFi and broadband

Your WiFi broadband package is a great opportunity to save some money. This is especially true since this is a bill that you can have more influence over when you are renting. Our favourite low cost provider is Plusnet Broadband, who have won several awards in 2023 including Broadband Provider Of The Year and Best Value Provider. They’re an excellent option and have a reputation for excellent service and great value for money.

Phone bill

Your phone bill is another easy way to cut back. This is especially true if you’re able to get an O2 mobile SIM-only plan.

O2 mobile customers get the benefit of O2 priority, with lots of London based perks that make it well worth going with this provider. Plans are priced from £10 per month, which is very affordable.

Get cashback on everything

Cashback is my best tip for building up a pot of money, and essentially get money back when you spend. How does it work? Whenever you click through to a retailer website, through a cashback website (my favourite is Topcashback), the retailer will pay the cashback website a small commission (also known as an affiliate payment) for referring you to their site. The cashback website will keep some of that commission for themselves, and then pass on the rest to you!

I’ve personally gained hundreds of pounds by using Topcashback for online purchases, and it’s been a great way to treat myself or use that money towards the cost of Christmas.

4. Budgeting & finances

As a London newcomer, keeping track of your finances can be a little tricky to begin with. It can sometimes feel like all of your money is going down the drain at first!

The best thing you can do is follow the 3 part rule- knowing what you earn, what you spend, and what you owe.

This rule means that you have total clarity over your earning and spending, and also any debts that you may have. A great way to keep track of everything is to use a budget. A budget doesn’t have to be anything restrictive, and in fact it can help you to save more money over time.

A free budgeting app like Snoop can be really helpful when it comes to managing all of your bank accounts in one place, and keeping track of your spending. You can even create a budget within the app too. It’s a real must for London newcomers who would like to take control of their finances.

And if you’re ready for something even more comprehensive? Check out the Thrifty Londoner Ultimate Money Matrix which is a spreadsheet that you can use to track your spending, your financial goals, savings, investments, and debt repayments all in one place.

👀 Check out the Thrifty Londoner Ultimate Money Matrix here

5. Transport for London

You can use a map of The London Underground to get your bearings in London and to see how London is split into different ‘zones.’ Zone 1 is the most centrally located area of London.

The best thing you can do to help you travel across London is download the Citymapper app. It will show you which changeovers you need to make on The Tube, and how long your journey is estimated to take. It’s every Londoners must have!

If you are eligible, another great option to save money on travel in London is to use a Railcard. A railcard can offer you 1/3 off off peak travel on TFL which is a great saving.

6. Sending money abroad

If you’re a London newcomer from abroad, you may need a way to send and receive money from abroad. That’s where a service like Wise can come in very handy.

Wise is an easy way to transfer and exchange money internationally, and save on fees when doing so. In fact, you can save up to five times more compared to a UK high street bank. It’s well worth signing up for if you need to send money abroad.

7. Groceries

In London it’s very easy to fall into the habit of shopping for groceries daily in convenience stores such as Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local. Or perhaps a sneaky Deliveroo or UberEats (use promo code eats-laurad2354ue to get £3 off your first order!).

The best thing you can do when it comes to groceries is to use low cost supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi. But they’re not always in the most convenient of locations. But if there is one nearby? Definitely make the most of it!

Doing an online shop is also really handy if you don’t have a car. Check out supermarkets such as Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. You can also use TopCashback to make even more of a saving when you do your first online shop with these retailers.

AND to make things even easier, you can use the Cheddar app (use code THRIFTY) to get cashback on purchases automatically. All you have to do is add your cards to the account, and the cashback will automatically appear in your account once you’ve bought your groceries.

8. Saving money in London

If we are being honest, this whole website is dedicated to either saving money in London or making the most of your money in London. But that being said, there are some specific money saving tips that can help you as a newcomer to London.

In addition to budgeting (as mentioned earlier in this article) you can also save money when it comes to day to day activities. There are hundreds of free things to do in London, and you can

My best tip? Make sure that you have a great savings account that is offering you a competitive interest rate. My favourite option currently is the Chip Instant Access Savings Account. You can withdraw your money instantly if you want to, all while making a decent amount of interest on your cash. For example, at the 4.84% AER interest rate, if you had £10,000 in savings, you’d earn £484 in interest in one year!

9. Insurance policies

This is quite a sensible one for this top tips list- but it’s SO important to have the right insurance policies when you live in London.

If you’re renting a property, you need to make sure that you have contents insurance. That means that if your home gets flooded or fire damaged, your possessions are insured. There have certainly been many a winter where London homes have suffered from extensive flood damage. And the thing that got me to take out a contents insurance policy? The flat in the block opposite me had a huge fire.

Luckily, it’s not hard to find affordable contents insurance. A great place to start is Urban Jungle who are very well suited for insurance policies for young people in the city. It’s affordable, easy to set up, and you can manage everything digitally. It’s ideal for those living in London because it’s a rolling plan created to your needs- so if you don’t want to pay out for an entire year at a time, this one is for you!

👀 Sign up for Urban Jungle contents insurance here.

10. Language and customs

If you’re a newcomer from abroad, it’s a great idea to brush up on your English and also get to know some British slang and idioms. That’s if you’re not fluent already! For example, British Pounds are often referred to as ‘quid.’

Thankfully, you don’t need to know cockney rhyming slang in London, but you might find that a little research goes a long way. Check out this guide to British slang if you want to do some research.

11. Entertainment & things to do

Top tip? Make a bucket list of things you want to do while you’re living in London. There are thousands of bars, restaurants, events and entertainment to keep you busy in the capital. So many that you’ll never get round to them all!

To make sure you don’t miss out on anything, make that list and try and pick something from the list whenever you’re at a loose end. If you have anyone visiting you, it’s the perfect opportunity to do the touristy stuff! But other than that? Try and enjoy the city like a local, and do things that you enjoy and that interest you.

12. Working in London

London is known for having a very ‘work hard, play hard’ culture when it comes to working life. This is especially true of some careers in Law, Banking, and if you’re working in The City.

As a newcomer, try to create a good work life balance if you can. That might mean dedicated down time, or doing activities that make you feel relaxed. It might also mean choosing to live in a property that doesn’t require a huge commute to and from the office.

However you decide to balance your working life and home life, make sure that you make it a priority.

13. Healthcare in London

As with the rest of the UK, it can be a long wait to get a doctors appointment in London. As soon as you get to London, it’s a good idea to sign up to a doctor or a dentist, so that you’re already on their books if you do need to make an appointment. The process is easy if you already have an NHS number, and most surgeries allow you to sign up online.

If you’re moving to London from abroad on a visa, you will need to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge to access the NHS services. The cost of the surcharge will vary based on how long you are staying in the UK and your visa type. This calculator can estimate the cost for you.

14. Save money on shopping

When shopping for non-food items in London, you can again use Topcashback to get cashback on all your purchases, but there are also lots of other ways to save.

London is home to a wealth of charity shops, outlet malls, sample sales and kilo sales– all of which are great places to find a bargain when it comes to clothing and accessories.

And if you really want to save some cash? Check out clothing website Everything 5 Pounds, which is essentially an online outlet store. The clothing sold on the site all have the labels cut out, but with some careful snooping you can try to determine the high street store that they are from. In fact, you may even recognise the clothes from previous seasons!

15. Travel abroad

Another big tip for a London newcomer? Travel abroad! You may not live in London forever, and due to the fact that that are so many large airports in London and the surrounding area, you can often get the cheapest flight tickets by travelling from London.

Check out Skyscanner to find flights with Ryanair and easyJet and snap up some real bargain flights all over Europe, and even further afield!

16. Making extra money

As we have now established, the cost of living in London is expensive. You may wish to make some extra money in London on the side of your full time job. Whether that’s to make ends meet, or to have some extra money to save or spend in the city.

In fact, this Thrifty Londoner website was initially a side hustle, and my way of making some extra money on the side of my full time job in London. If I can do it, anyone can!

You may also wish to check out freelancing websites such as Fiverr or PeoplePerHour if you have a freelance skill such as writing, editing, proofreading or data entry that you would like to make some extra money from in your spare time.

17. Food & drink

London has tens of thousands of restaurants and bars, so you will certainly find something for any taste or budget. In fact, you’ll probably be overwhelmed with choice as a London newcomer!

If you enjoy food and drink, you can most certainly find great deals when using a Tastecard, or heading to LivingSocial for discounted food and drink experiences.

And if you need something that’s an even better deal? Check out the many fish and chip restaurants in London– it’s a British classic!

18. Free things to do

If there is one piece of advice I’d love to give you- it’s to make the most of the free things to do in London. There are tons of free events for every season. But there’s also lots of free things to do all year round. My favourite free thing to do is God’s Own Junkyard. It’s so fun!

You will also find that most of London’s galleries and museums are free to enter. That includes the V&A, Natural History Museum and Tate Modern!

19. The great outdoors

London is a city, but that doesn’t mean it lacks green space! When you’re living in the ‘Big Smoke’ it’s important to take some time to be in nature. Luckily, there are a huge amount of parks in London.

There are the famous ones like Hyde Park, St James’ Park and Kensington Gardens. But, there are also lots of other gorgeous parks with tons of wildlife like Holland Park, Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath.

Make the effort to visit these different parks and you’ll also get to experience some new neighbourhoods in London too!

20. Cultural diversity

London has a wonderfully diverse population, and it’s the ideal place to live if you want to meet people from all over the world, and from different backgrounds. From festivals, to food, to dance, to ways of life- there’s lots to learn and experience in London. Enjoy it!

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