Since I started commuting and working in London almost two years ago, I’ve met a lot of people that say they can’t save money due to big cities being too expensive.
London is one of the most expensive places in the world, but I’ve learned over this period that spending is still a choice. In-fact, I think bigger cities have cheaper options than some of the more rural places, you just need to know what to look for.
All the coffee you can drink
Every city worker needs their coffee fix. Do your wallet a favor and grab a free myWaitrose card here. This let’s you get a free premium ground coffee (Latte, Cappatino or Americano) once per day with any Waitrose store purchase. Grab a 10p Banana or 4p new potato and you’re good to go!
I once had a competition with my work colleagues to find the cheapest item in Waitrose to get a free coffee. I managed to find a very small new potato which cost me 2p. Cheapest coffee ever! I had no shame weighing the potato and selecting my free coffee. I even bought it via my American Express!
They’ve recently changed this service to require your own cup, so make sure you don’t forget to bring your reusable.
Extra Hack: You can sign up to myWaitrose with many different email addresses. They’ll send you a ‘temporary card’ in a PDF file instantly (this lasts forever). Take a picture of this to use in-store. You’ve now got as many 4p coffees as you can drink every day.
Buy a thermos
Another option is to make your coffee at home - All you need is a good thermos . The Waitrose method may actually be cheaper than this, but sometimes you just need that special type of roast.
Thermoses are also good for storing soup or tea and taking on long wintery walks. It’s one of a frugal seekers best weapons!
Avoid eating out
The number 1 spending problem for many city workers is eating out. London has so many options that are sometimes hard to resist. But nothing beats what you can cook at home, you can cook anything you like and to your own taste, and it’s much better for your savings. Some great go-to meals that I always make are Minestroni, pasta salads and chicken noodle soup. Cook them in batch at the weekend to save time.
My old colleague once told me he bought food out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day in London and spent over £30 on most days, sometimes even as much as £50! That’s a hefty chunk of your potential future fund that you’re throwing down the toilet.
Buy in a supermarket
If you absolutely must buy something to eat, buy food from a supermarket. You can get a loaf of bread for as cheap as 50p in Waitrose. Grab a jar of peanut butter and a bunch of bananas and you have a high-protein snack for the rest of the week (all for under £3.50!) Bring cutlery from home to aide with your preperation. Some other good options are bagels and cream cheese, nachos and hummus or all types of sandwich fillings.
Use apps like Redi
Using mobile applications like this one, you can get discounted meals at top eateries for under a hugely reduced price. I once got a Burrito from Wrap It Up for 99p. Companies use applications like this to try and entice you into their resteraunt with the hope that you’ll make a return trip and pay the full price.
If you absolutely must have your eat out ‘fix’ then be smart about it and use applications like this. It will also take you to some new and exciting places each lunchtime.
NOTE: Redi has now had a name change to ‘Camdem Eats’. Click here to go to their landing page .
Commute in to work
Many Londoners that I meet exclaim that they’ll never get on the property ladder due to London house prices being far too expensive. I always say to them; “Why don’t you buy outside of the city and commute in?”
There are plenty of very cheap areas which are communtable distances to London which are ideal for first time buyers. Basingstoke, Aldershot, Reading and Farnborough are some. You can even find studio apartments for under £100k. You’ve got no excuse to not get on the property ladder.
Don’t miss out on property price increases, real estate are some peoples best asset classes. You can use your 30-45 minute commute to work on your side-hustles, read books or listen to podcasts. I’m writing this right now whilst I’m on my commute! It’s the perfect time to get stuff done.
The benefit of moving further out to cheaper areas is that you’ll always get a seat on the train. If you commute in from towns that are, say 25 minutes away, you’ll almost definitely be standing up for that whole time, unable to do anything productive. You’ll also pay a massive premium on house prices for that extra 10 minutes ‘saved’.
Get a fold up bike
The best thing that I did when I started working in London was getting a fold up bike. I now get from the train station to my office in 10 minutes. If I opted to get on the underground instead, it would take me 30 minutes, I’d have to deal wtih constant delays and I’d also have to pay upward of £1700 per year! No thanks. I’d rather get the free exercise and see the London views instead of have smelly armpits in my face.
Buy a season ticket
Buying your train ticket yearly reduces the cost by a huge amount. For even more savings buy through a credit card like American Express and try to find an offer such as 3% savings when buying through Trainline.
Lot’s of companies offer season ticket loans so that you can benefit from the discounted yearly price, this can be a good option if you don’t have the sufficient funds to buy the ticket right then. I would however recommend against this. Buying through a rewards credit card can gain you some pretty awesome rewards and for most of them, you’d be hitting the welcome bonus instantly. This year I’ve booked two 1st-class flights to America for the price of an economy ticket through Avios!
Use OLIO to be extra thrifty
There are places like Pret all over London that give out free food at the end of the day. Use this application to find out when and where. You’ll also be doing your bit for the environment by helping to decrease food waste.
The benefits of being in a big city like London is the supply of free food is never ending. You will be constantly inundated with free samples in train stations that will happily give you more than 1 if you ask. Places like Itsu and Wasabi reduce their prices massively half an hour before closing time. You can pick up Sushi sets for a 75% reduction in price!
Go to free conferences
This is a great way to network and also get a free lunch. Use websites like X to see what’s on and when. This is especially good for developers. Sky normally hosts free tech meet-ups through-out the year where attendees get free pizza and beer! All in the hope of attracting new hires through their ‘fun culture’.
These tips help make London a cheaper place. I actually spend less money working here than I did working in the south-east where I had no free food or cheap coffees and only expensive pubs with an aggressive ‘You must eat out every Friday’ vibe. Working in London has actually put me off ever eating out whilst at home. I don’t fancy paying £6 for a battered cod or £10 for a shitty Chinese anymore when I know I can get much better quality food in London for under £5. Cities are cheaper… when you know where to look.
Have you got any tips for city working? Let me know in the comments below.