London on a budget - the survival guide

Surviving in London is hard enough for people with full-time jobs. Trying to survive on a student budget is five times tougher. Here are a few tips for living on a student budget in a city that, most the time, feels like it’s trying to rob you.

Leave London immediately

london living

London is an incredibly expensive place to live. You end up paying £800+ per month for a room in a dingy flat with a flatmate whose personal hygiene verges on the criminal. You’re essentially paying the best part of £1000 for prison conditions. At least it’s not as bad as in Plymouth, where students now literally live in a former prison (a trend which Shrewsbury took them up on).

But once you move out of halls you no longer have to stay in London. If you move out far enough on a main train line, however, housing prices fall off a cliff. If you flee far enough it’s possible to live in a house where you can tell whether you’re living in a bedroom or a cupboard, without asking the estate agent first.

If you can’t decide what area to live in, take a look at You specify which uni / area you’ll be commuting to, how long you’re willing to spend commuting there and your budget and it will give a breakdown of where you can live within your budget and preferences. You can also sort the results by crime statistics, to reassure your anxious parents that you are moving to an area with less crime than average.


walk in london

We have a conspiracy theory that London is actually tiny, and people just think it’s big because the Mole People want you to keep taking the tube. When you actually put your journey into Google Maps it’s often quicker to walk than it is to take the tube (for shorter journeys). Test your route and walk occasionally.

You’ll save money, get free exercise and (occasionally) save a little bit of time as well - all without any risk of being attacked by the Mole People.


Cycling in London is terrifying. It feels like most people are trying to kill you, and the ones who aren’t wouldn’t stop to help once you’ve been knocked over. At best they see you as a speed bump with sound effects.

The time you’ll feel safest on a bike is when you’re sat in traffic. You’ll be doing a lot of it.

If you buy a scooter however, you don’t need to use the road at all, if you don’t want to. Most journeys can be completed much quicker than on a bike, and they’re much much cheaper than buying one and easier to fold than most folding bikes in existence (£50 for a scooter vs £300 for a folding bike).

Of course, a lot of pedestrians are going to hate you, as are cars when you choose to use the roads. It also feels kind of crummy when you scoot past a child in their kneepads and helmet and notice they’re riding the exact same brand of scooter that you are. But you’ll get there a lot faster than everyone else, and with a lot more money weighing you down.

Also, if Tyrion Lannister is doing it, it's officially cool.

use a scooter

Everything he does is cool. Including *spoiler alert* patricide committed in a toilet. Both are gonna catch on big time.

Don’t buy food from anywhere remotely convenient

If you’re poor, shopping somewhere even remotely close to where you live is an impossible dream, akin to flying or becoming the queen.

Local stores, even local versions of big supermarket chains, heavily mark up their prices. You pay 11.2% more at a local Tesco, compared to their own superstores.

London is mainly filled with these smaller stores, and it can be hard to find a larger superstore without travelling a long way.

If you’re poor, it’s much better to do your shopping online. You’ll be less tempted to buy stuff you don’t need (people buy around 19% more food when they shop in-store whilst hungry) and you’ll probably enjoy the experience of having your food chauffeur-driven to you, rather than lugging bags back on the tube.

You’ll be less likely to make impulse buys, and you can also occasionally take advantage of loopholes in online deliveries, and get £60 shops for only £15.You’re pushing trolleys when you should be using a mouse finger at most.

Budget for the things you keep telling yourself you won’t do this month

You may have vowed not to drink this term, or smoke or buy a collection of priceless antique Faberge eggs, but by the end of term even people with the best of intentions may not be able to stick to that vow.

nuns drinking beer - budget

This isn’t just a budget that you have to stick to; it’s a budget that drunk you has to stick to as well. If drunk you is likely to buy fancy cocktails on a night out, followed by a gourmet kebab, then you should budget for that as well. If drunk you really can’t be trusted then you should take cash out before a night out and leave your card at home, where drunk you can’t get hold of it without taking an inconvenient bus ride.

London is filled with cash machines, cocktails and kebabs. It's all too tempted and you can't be trusted.