London is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world – but there are plenty of bargains if you know where to look.
We’ve listed some of our favourite tips on how to save money in London, and answered some of the most common questions you have.
What's the cheapest way to travel around London?
Commuting and travel is one of the biggest things Londoners spend their money on.
Link your Railcard to your Oyster Card
If you link up your Oyster card with the 16-25 Railcard, you'll get a third off on off-peak travel on the tube, overground and DLR (after 10am on weekdays and all day on the weekend). The 26-30 Railcard can also be used on Oyster Off-Peak pay-as-you-go journeys on National Rail, London Underground and the DLR. Find out more about it here.
Investing in a railcard is a great idea. There are lots of different options so you can find one which suits you best. Railcards give you a third off of train fares and cost around £30 a year. You can also link most railcards to an Oyster Card to get discounted travel on the tube, bus, rail, tram, DLR and overground.
The Cycle to Work Scheme offers a tax-efficient way to travel to your office in London. If your company is part of the scheme, you can buy a bike and safety gear tax-free, saving up to 39% overall. Here's how the Cycle to Work Scheme works.
If your company isn't part of the Cycle to Work Scheme, cycling can still be a cheaper option than public transport. Hop on your bike to save money, help the environment and get a workout all in one go.
Visit the TfL website for tips on how to stay safe whilst cycling, find your way around and how you can hire a ‘Santander Cycles’ (or better know ‘Boris bike’) from just £2 if you don’t have your own bike!
Weirdly, walking can sometimes save you time as well as money. Here are five London tube journeys that are actually faster by foot:
Leicester Square to Covent Garden
Chancery Lane to Farringdon
Lancaster Gate to Paddington
Knightsbridge to Sloane Square
Blackfriars to Southwark
UberPool when you'd usually Uber
Share an Uber! UberPool matches you with people going in roughly the same direction, so you can share the ride and the cost.
You’ll be on the road a little longer, but it’ll save you 25% during peak times (weekends and 8pm-4am Monday-Friday) and 15% the rest of the time.
Is it cheaper to buy a Travelcard or use contactless?
As a general rule, a Travelcard is more expensive than an Oyster card or contactless payment card.
The exception is if you make three or more journeys per day for six days or more within a seven day period. In this case, a seven day Travelcard works out cheaper than an Oyster or Contactless payment card.
The TFL site can help you figure out which is the best ticket for you to travel with.
How can I save money on food shopping in London?
Buying lunch out every day can be an expensive habit. The secret to saving money on food shopping in London is planning ahead.
Doing meal prep and planning packed lunches at the start of the week will save you money on buying lunch out. Making a big dinner and taking in leftovers can help too. Here's more tips on how to save money on food shopping in London.
You could also try to use an app like Too Good to Go or OLIO to help save money on food. They reduce food waste by selling fresh but unsold food. Download the apps to find out more about how it all works.
How can I save money on rent in London?
Pick the right neighbourhood
Renting costs can vary dramatically in London, depending on the area. Try Rightmove’s ‘where can I live’ tool to find areas that fit your budget. It’s also a good idea to check how much council tax you’d have to pay as this also varies a lot by area and can make a big difference to your overall costs.
Find a roomie
Sharing a house with others is usually cheaper than renting a one-bedroom or studio flat. There are plenty of websites and apps where you can post an advert (like SpareRoom) or get matched with potential roommates (for example Badi).
Be energy efficient
London is home to a lot of old houses with drafty windows and tall rooms. They may look quaint, but your energy bills probably won’t! Check the energy efficiency rating before you rent a place. The scale runs from A (the best) to G (the worst).
How can I save money on going out in London?
Find meals in London for £8 or less via London Cheap Eats. For boozy evenings with friends, try restaurants that let you bring your own alcohol (such as Tay Do Cafe, which serves Vietnamese food in East London).
Booze on a budget
London is bursting with beautiful parks and interesting museums that are completely free to enter. You can also find free events, activities and exhibitions via Time Out.
Save on cinema
Movie lovers can get their fix for as little as £4 per ticket by paying a £10 annual fee at the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square. (The Odeon around the corner has sold seats at £40 a pop, so it pays to do your research.)
Culture for £5
See Shakespeare performed in the Globe for less than the cost of your lunch. The venue offers 700 standing tickets for every production at five quid each. As the bard himself wrote: “Poor and content is rich, and rich enough”.
TV for free
Experience TV or radio differently by being part of a live audience. Go to the BBC, ITV or Channel 4 website to apply.
Have a laugh
Music for less
Head to Camden and Brixton for more free gigs than you can shake a drumstick at. Or dance for free to live music at pubs like the Dog and Fox in Wimbledon.
How can I save money on shopping in London?
Books for a bargain
London boasts some amazing second-hand book stores. Visit Skoob Books in Russell Square for a quirky vibe and shelves groaning with thousands of titles. Or head down to Regent’s Canal near King’s Cross between 12-7pm to browse books on a barge.
Shoreditch and Brick Lane are well-known for their thrift shores and vintage shops. It takes some work to find a bargain, but it’ll be more unique than something bought off the high street.
Charity shops in Chelsea
Take advantage of the locals’ expensive taste by snapping up their second-hand goods. You’ll also find clearance stores on King’s Road that offer up to 75% off.
If you can bear the crowds, you’ll find many affordable high street shops here. You can dress yourself for next to nothing at Primark, and Tiger has a cheap and cheerful range of homeware, toys and knick-knacks.
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