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Making the most of your money whilst living in an expensive city

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

So, you live in an amazing city whether it's London, New York, Milan, Singapore or Paris - congrats! The downside these cities are hella spenny (quite expensive) We’re not going to tell you to move into a cheaper house, or share a flat with friends, or do your shopping at Lidl - because you already know this and we don’t want to patronise you. Instead we’ve got some of the things we did when going to University in one of the UK’s most expensive cities (Manchester) and now living in THE UK’s most expensive city (London) and how they’ve helped!

Change your energy provider

When you move into a flat or house in a new city, you are often consumed with all the moving faff, that little things such as changing the energy provider can be the last thing on your mind. Particularly with renting, you move into a new flat and there is already an electricity provider - great. Not so great. Being loyal does not work out cheaper in this context - it pays to shop around. By researching online, comparing and switching your energy provider, you can make a big difference to your gas and electricity bills. 

Get a railcard discount (and then pair your Oyster card with this)

You can get up to 1/3 off with a railcard. Railcards are targeted at rail travellers across different niche markets. You pay an upfront flat fee (usually £30) for a Railcard, that lasts for a certain duration that enables you to get significant discounts on nearly all train tickets throughout Britain.

Typically, the cost of your Railcard will have paid for itself after one or two trips.

Usually city travel cards such as the Oyster card used by Transport For London can be paired with any discounts you have, allowing you to apply up to a third off on your underground journeys too.

Travel by bike

Speaking of Oyster cards, get a bike! Bikes don’t use petrol, don’t use all your coins for car parking and definitely don’t zap £8 off your Oyster card each day. Bikes are glorious. We like Bikes.

Be an early bird (i.e. buy tickets earlier)

Timing is key! If we go back to our University days (ah, the good days). And especially the nightclub days (well technically nights but anyway), tickets would always be cheaper, the longer we bought them in advance.

When you live in a big city you want to go out and experience it, which means going to events (usually ticketed with a fee). So, the next time you want to head out to an event (socially distanced of course), make sure you check out if there are any early bird releases where tickets are going for a cheaper price. The same goes for trains and planes - the earlier, the better.

Travel at off peak times

So no-one actually likes rush hour. It’s busy, it’s inconvenient - you have to get up early and most importantly, it’s expensive.

Travelling just 20 minutes later (if you are in the morning) or earlier (in the afternoon) can save you around 50% on the ticket price. The times to avoid travelling between 06:30am - 09:30am and 15:30pm - 18:30pm. Like we said, busy, it’s inconvenient and it’s expensive.

If you want to get anywhere on public transport, your best bet are Off-Peak tickets, these are drastically different than the prices attached to fully flexible tickets that allow you to travel at any time of the day.

Visit supermarkets & coffee shops at the end of the day for unsold food at reduced prices

When food is inedible, supermarkets and coffee can’t sell it to consumers.

So, they are faced with millions of tonnes of perfectly fine food, which usually end up in one place - the bin. According to the Guardian, approximately 45% of all fruits and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, and 20% of meat and dairy products are wasted by suppliers, retailers, and consumers every year. As we are good citizens of the world, we can help by heading to supermarkets and coffee shops just before they close to see if there are discounts on any of the perishable items (saving the planet and your wallet)

Set allocated amounts of spending per day i.e. living on £10 a day

Allocating a certain amount to spend per day is the best piece of advice we have EVER heard (and we’ve heard a lot of pieces of advice). It’s quite simple, in a typical month there are 31 days, if we tell ourselves we can’t spend more than £10 each day, that’s £310 every month we have for everything which isn’t rent, bills, necessary spending, such as food. If you don’t spend the full £10 each day, put the remaining amount into either a savings pot or carry it across to the next stay so your allocated amount is a bit more.

Think about your purchases before making your purchases

Most purchases are made out of convenience. And those purchases that are made out of convenience tend to be more expensive (funny how that works). Instead of being on autopilot and buying that £9 Pret lunch everyday, think and plan your lunch before.

Download apps to get the best deals

Apps are great. Not only are they the cause of buying more stuff (we’re looking at you ASOS & Topshop), they also help us save money. Some of our favourite apps for all things money saving in London* are…..

@softlaunchlondon to get up to 50% or a free sample at new restaurants

@karma for unused takeout food at low prices

CityMunch offers discounts during quieter periods at more than 200 restaurants in London, Bristol, Manchester and Bath. 

Tipps also offers discounts on a range of bars and restaurants when you leave a review

Dusk which offers one free drink per night (typically a cocktail or a pint)

TodayTix app, which sells advance tickets to London theatre shows (will resume in 2021)

*Sorry, we are aware there are other cities in the world and not just London. If you’re interested in the full guide of places, give us a shout!

Use your local grocers and markets

Giving up the standard supermarket shop can save me money. The supermarket is essentially the middle man in between you, the consumer and the producer. Going direct to a farmers market or local grocers is a great place to buy fruit and veg for less. Also buying food that are in season will save you a ton of money.

Exercise for free

With gyms shut because of Coronavirus, we have been forced to learn that there are plenty of exercises that we can do for free (although we do miss the fresh towels after spin class). A couple of our favourites are: Running, Dancing, Walking, Home Workouts (lots of free content on Instagram and Youtube), Cycling, Stair climbing & Skipping.

The key is to swap things that are expensive things for free/cheaper activities (this is something that can be applied all areas).

Fempire Finance

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