London vs Student Budget
The constant struggle of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world on a student budget
It’s an endless cycle of treating yourself at the beginning of the month, trying to damage control after week two, having a can of baked beans for dinner by week 4, and counting down the days until your student loan finally appears in your bank account. Living off a student budget can be tough anywhere. But why on earth would you choose to face that challenge not just in any city but in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world?
Once you’ve got your place at uni you need a place to stay at. Good thing: London is big. Bad thing: London is big. Worst thing: No matter how far out you move, it’s still expensive. Student accommodation starts from roughly £200. That’s for a single room with an ensuite bathroom and probably a shared kitchen. Weekly. While that’s what you pay in other cities per month, London decided to stick with the numbers but make you pay that same amount every week. Apart from lucky timing for the payment (thanks Brexit) or sharing a flat with friends, there’s not much you can do about the ridiculously high prizes for rent. Of course, there are those tempting offers saving you £50 a week, in a ’quiet London suburb with a direct tube connection to the city’, but…if you live in zone 4, do you really live in London?!
If you truly think zone 4 still counts as London, expect to spend a lot of time on public transport. What doesn’t look that far on the map can result easily in an hour tube ride. Plus public transport will make your money disappear before it even comes up in your bank account. If you rely on public transport (although you should never ever rely on Transport For London information, you never know whether there’s a tube strike, half an inch of snow or a train stuck at Oxford Circus that will mess with your plans), travel cards will save you lots of money and suddenly about £100 monthly (yep, that’s including student discount) doesn’t seem like that much anymore. The bus system is a mystery not to be solved unless you downloaded city mapper- an absolute must, no matter how long you’ve been in London for. Download it and save money by catching iconic double-decker buses and enjoy the view from the upper front row seat! If you do live quite central- try walking. Journeys on the tube can be quite long, especially if you have to change lines as the stations are big. Often walking is a lot faster than public transport and will show you how close to each other most things are- who knew Piccadilly Circus and Westminster Abbey are just a few streets apart?!
It’s all about the food and surely you can find any cuisine you crave in London. Apart from restaurant ranging from every budget, the city goes absolutely crazy about pop-up stores and markets. Ever fancied a sushi burrito, a cereal shake or sweet pizza? Then Borough and Spitalfields markets or Brick Lane are the place to be. Unfortunately (for the wallet), “Let’s meet for brunch/ lunch/dinner”, is equivalent of ‘let’s hang out’ in London and will make your wallet suffer a little more. Luckily, grocery shopping isn’t too expensive- make an effort of figure out what to buy at which supermarket as prices for the same product range a lot ( even if it’s the same chain) and make sure to not spend money on food eating out when you can just as well bring lunch to college!
Getting a job in London is the easiest thing: Bars, café’s, restaurants, almost all student-friendly places are hiring BUT a minimum wage of £5.55 per hour for people under 20 makes you question whether it’s really worth your time as a part-time job will most likely not even cover your rent and will keep you from fitting anything other than college and work into your life. With a little bit of research, luck and knowing people who know some people, you can find some great jobs- why not work at your favourite magazine, theatre or club?
After all, best thing about studying in London, is being a student in London. No matter if it’s coffee shops, clothing, exhibitions, cinema, your new iPhone or a camera, being able to show a student ID definitely has its perks. Apart from that, most museums and galleries are for free and lots of plays, musicals and shows offer great last minute deals!
Despite all the struggles when it comes to budgeting in London, when you sit in that double decker bus gazing at the sparkling lights of the city and the thought “I’m in London” hits you, it’s worth every penny.