How to live a thriving London life on a budget

#firstworldproblems, but living in London is hard. According to an article published by the Independent last year, London is the 30th most expensive city to live in in the world and, with well over 4,000 cities in the world, that is pretty high up! How are we supposed to work hard, travel the world and conduct full social and family lives while comfortably saving for the future, eh?

I am very lucky to live where I do; for all his quirks, our landlord charges us very favourable rent, which in turn allows me to avoid spending a grand a year for the pleasure of spooning with strangers deep underground (ew). Still, with all my outgoings like rent, house bills, phone bill, contact lens payments, pension, food shopping… there’s not a lot to go around for actually living. 

Obviously, I have a travel OBSESSION, so any savings I actually make right now seem to go straight towards getting out of London but, since August last year, I have somehow managed to stay firmly in the black (apart from a few wobbles - thanks for the bailing out, Mother Goose!) I promise, it is doable to live life wild and (almost) carefree with a couple of small changes to your spending habits, even when you’re on a less than sizable salary for ol' London Town.  

Be realistic with budget
There’s no point setting a £50 weekly budget if you know you spend £40 on travel a week. £10 ain’t gonna get anyone anywhere. Hop onto Excel and write down the amount that hits your account each payday, then realistically note down your outgoings. Divide what's left by 4.5 (the v.rough the average amount of weeks in a month). This is your money to spend as you will. Clothes, alcohol, drugs, a collection of Sylvanian family figures; go for your life. Just don't go over that limit, and don't get in the habit of taking from another week's pot. Chances are that week you think you'll only need £20 will be the week Britney Spears tickets come out (I love you, Britney!)

Do I actually need it?
It may sound like a basic question, and most of the time your instinct is to answer 'yes', but actually think about it. Do I REALLY need this? Am I going to get at least five different outfits out of this new jumper? Do I really need to switch over my moisturiser to this fancy new one? Is this hot chocolate actually going to benefit me? I’m not saying deprive yourself of all of life's joys, because sometimes we genuinely need a little pick me up, but just watch how often this is. When I see a new item of clothing or lippy I want, I take a photo then leave it for a few days. If I still want it, then I treat myself. 

Make your own lunches  
Okay, forget those visions of soggy sarnies and limp lettuce. Ain’t nobody gonna wanna eat that. I work quite centrally with an array of tempting takeaways and restaurants within spitting distance, which was always the draw for buying lunch. However, just use them as inspo! Loving that salad from Hummus Bro? Buy all the ingredients, and some round Tupperware, and make five batches! Fancy a Chipotle? Make a burrito AND bowl for the same price as one standard meal. 

Also, preparing can sometimes be a drag, especially after a long day at work (or hitting the pub) and all you wanna do is crawl into bed. I absolutely swear by weekend prep and freezing everything. On a Saturday or Sunday, I set aside a couple of hours and cook two to three different meals that can be separated into about six different portions. If you do all the chopping in one go, and wash up as you go with music blaring, it literally flies by. Pop four of them in the freezer and take out as and when you need during the week (in case you have that craving for a fish finger sarnie on a Tuesday night and need to push the meals back a day). You'll literally only need to cook a couple times a week and all you’ve had to do is wash up a Tupperware, or two, a day. 

How to drink alcohol
Take inspo from your 18 year old self and drink to get drunk, but *only* drink to get drunk - as in only drink when you’re going out out; NOT crack out the funnel and see how many pints you can down in seven minutes. That tenner you’ve dropped on a couple G&Ts, what did you get out of it? Did it really take the edge off? Did it really make a difference to your evening? A plain ol’ tonic would have tasted pretty similar and you would have saved yourself half the cash. 

Peer pressure to drink is still prevalent, even in your 20s and 30s, but stand strong, ignore the jibes about being boring/preggers and think of your bank account. You could even focus on putting that 40/50 quid you've saved from staying on the soft drinks during those thrice-weekly pub visits (which, when you think about it equates to about £15 a night) into one night every week or two where you can be a little less stringent. Avoid the midnight £20 drop on bar snacks, or the obligatory Maccers, by taking your pre-cooked dinner to work and just eating your meals a little earlier, if possible, before a night out.

Tap into your personal network 
Networking isn’t just for driving your career forward; you’ll be surprised how many people you know who could save you a few bob in your personal life. According to research conducted by last year, the average UK individual spends almost £4,500 on their looks each year! Think how much you could save if you got your talented mate to do your brows every few weeks (obviously compensate them for their time with something though), or you did your nails yourself. I haven’t had bare nails since I was 11 years old, and that would be a pretty expensive habit if I didn’t do them myself. Yes, I may have dropped £16 on a base coat last weekend, but that thing is gonna last me eight months, as opposed to a professional infill that would need to be done every three weeks. 

It’s not just beauty, either. According to that same research, us Londoners spend about £601 on the gym - or, more specifically, on gym memberships for those of us who admire the card in our purse as we snuggle back into bed with a bucket of KFC. I’m very lucky in the fact that one of my friends is a personal trainer and was able to kick start my fitness at an affordable price, as well as giving me the tools and motivation to maintain it myself when I couldn’t pay for a few months. There is SO MUCH you can do at home with little, or no, equipment that gets great results if you’re committed, or have a housemate to keep you in check. That extra £601 could fit nicely into the 'entertainment' section of your budget spreadsheet...

So, there you have it. Try these tips out and, although you may not see a beautifully high number left in your bank account left at the end of the month, you won't be seeing that overdraft or have missed out!