How to Budget in an Expensive City – Five Budget Management Tips for London:
Want to enjoy a champagne lifestyle on lemonade money? Here are a few ideas that work well in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Whether you live here or are visiting, it’s worth finding ways to make your money go futher. My tips for budget management come from living and working in London for over twenty years.
Running a car in London is very, very expensive. Apart from petrol and road tax, insurance is higher in the Capital. Unless you have an off-road parking space you’ll have to pay for a parking permit which can be hundreds of pounds a year and considerably more expensive if you paying daily. If you are based outside of the most central part of London and happen to drive into the congestion zone you’ll end up having to pay for that too, on a daily basis. It’s something that can thrown any kind of budget management.
Find a better way to travel:
- ZipCar offer car rental by the hour. There are thousands of ZipCars all across London and your rental includes up to 60 miles of petrol and the cost of any congestion charges.
- If you are confident cyclist, then why not hire a bike. You can pick up and drop off at different locations (so, you could use one to cycle to a restaurant for dinner, then splurge on a cab home). It costs from £2.00 an hour!
- Public transport across London is comprehensive and frequent. Pay for a daily travel card, buy an oyster card or use a contactless credit or debit card to pay as you go with a cap at the cost of the daily card.
- Walk! You might be suprised how small London is. The underground map is not to scale – so, for example, the walk from Charing Cross Station to Embankment takes less than 2 minutes, while Picadilly Circus to Leicester Square is about 5 minutes. And, you’ll see a lot more by walking. From Waterloo to Westminster is about 10 minutes – but will take you along the southbank and over Westminster Bridge in the direction of the Houses of Parliament
Check out what you can do for free.
- Many of the museums and galleries in London are free, other than for special exhibitions. That includes the V&A, the British Museum and Tate Modern.
- If that’s not your thing, there are plenty more ways to enjoy yourself in London without spending a penny. For example each of the Concert Halls and Theatres along the Southbank have their own live foyer music and daily activities which include things for kids, dance, music and art events. Many of the churches in central London have free lunchtime concerts.
Manage your food budget
- Avoid eating and drinking in bars and cafes near tourist destinations. If you do find you need to eat, look for one of the reliable restaurant groups – Benugo, Peyton a& Byrne and Rhubarb often have concessions in tourist destinations and all offer good value, well made food.
- If you find a restaurant that seems like a bargain, check the price of wine and soft drinks and whether there’s a fixed cover charge.
- The best bargains tend to be for lunch time and pre-theatre or post-theatre set menus. You can dine in a Michelin restaurant for under £30 per person, if you avoid the evening a la carte or tasting menu. Try Murano, Arbutus or Pollen Street Social!
- Or, why not join a supper club event. It’s a great way to meet new people and generally a lot cheaper than eating out, because you bring your own drinks. Find out more at Tabl. That way you are spending your money on having the food cooked for you, not paying a premium for your drink. It’s a great idea for budget management.
Live or stay away from the price hot-spots:
- Central London is horribly expensive. Whether you are renting, buying or staying in a hotel for a few nights, the cost of being in Mayfair, Park Lane or Chelsea really does seem like Monopoly money sometimes. If you are on a tight budget try looking a little further out. For example, cross over the boundary from Kensington and Chelsea to Hammersmith and Fulham and you could stay at the K Spa for around a third of the price of a Park Lane Hotel. There’s a decent spa and you are right on the doorstep of Westfield shopping centre. Or in chic Marylebone, the Montegue offers boutique rooms and a wonderful concierge room service for around £160 a night for a room for two.
- Alternatively, look at Airbnb and hostels. Right in the centre of Holland Park the new Safestay Hostel is in a listed Jacobean Mansion. Around £80 will get you a private double room with ensuite.
- If you are looking for a rental property or to buy then try finding a place close to the overground rather than the underground. Or, look in less than fashionable spots. Walworth borders on Zone One, but you’ll still find one bedroom flats for under £250,000 to buy and for less than £1000 a month to rent. Budget management in London is all about deciding your lifestyle priorities.
Enjoy the outdoors:
London has a wealth of parks – mostly free to use. You’ll find all sorts of things happening in the park, from theatre and opera to table tennis and treasure hunts.
- Right in the heart of the City you’ll find St James’s Park, Regents Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Take a picnic and a bottle of champagne and imagine yourself living in one of the white stucco fronted mansions that surround the gardens.
- Many of London’s parks and gardens have their own special attractions. Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens has a series of historic glass houses with rare plants and trees from round the world, while Holland Park has an outdoor theatre (with a series of opera performances each summer), an orangery, an ice house and a Japanese garden.
- Others like Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park will make you feel as if you are in the middle of the Country, just 20 minutes from the heart of London.
- Most of the parks have tennis courts and football pitches. Some even have outdoor gyms and table tennis tables. Generally the rates are a fraction of the price in a commercial gym – or completely free of charge.
Of course, one way to stretch your budget if you run out of funds before payday is to make good use of your credit cards. Why not try a reward credit card, where everything you spend will earn you Avois point that you can use to fund your next holiday!
Disclaimer: This post was written in association with TSB. All content is editorially given.