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The basics
THE UK: Student Finances

Top 10 money tips for studying in London

London has a reputation for being one of the most desirable cities on the planet to live and study in. It's also known for placing more strain on the bank account than most and having a high cost of living. This can prove challenging for budding

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It is not without reason that London has developed a reputation for being a little more challenging on the bank balance than other destinations. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but the reality for students is that it will cost more to live and learn in the UK’s capital city. Having your wits about you and being money savvy are all part of the equation. First and foremost, you need to build the higher living costs into your budget. This doesn’t mean living a completely austere existence with no indulgences or the odd treat however.  It’s important that you’re able to have a positive experience and make some great memories while living in one of the most dynamic cities on the planet. There are a few money saving and lifestyle tips you can use and these may prove useful in balancing the books. Here’s our top ten:


Make the most of student travel and transport discounts as soon as you arrive. The student Oyster card (pay as you go) can give you up to 30% discount on journeys in and around London. You also have the option of purchasing a student weekly/monthly railcard, which will get you 30-40% discounts to destinations in and around the city and the country. By making use of transport discounts for students you’ll free up some money to do other things with. For more information on the transport deals and costs you can speak to your institution, or visit Transport for London and National Rail


One of the most important things to remember before you go out and about is to always take your student card with you. You’ll find that a significant number of shops, restaurants, museums, shows, activities and venues offer student discounts. It’s a great way to save a bit of money while still being able to experience the vibrancy of the city. One of the more useful forms of identification, apart from your university ID, is the international student ID card ISIC. The card allows you to qualify for student discounts, not only in London and the UK, but globally, which is always easier on your bank balance.


You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many deals are available online. Taking advantage of discounts and vouchers is an excellent way of making your money go further. Most companies, shops and brands have an online presence so keeping your eyes open for any deals is well worth the effort. This also applies to some restaurants and fast food stores, that offer discounts on certain meals or at certain times.


Although it can be a test of patience and require superhuman willpower, waiting for shops and online retailers to have sales is always going to save you money. This is especially true after significant holidays and or events when they’re looking to offload some stock.  In some cases, you’ll be able to secure up to 70% discount on certain items, so keeping your money and cards in your pocket until you see a deal is a great approach.


Making sure that you keep track of your expenses is very important. By tracking and listing the money that you have spent you’ll have a much better idea of what you can afford. It does take a level of detail and discipline, but it’s well worth it.  In addition, you’ll be able to establish patterns of expenditure and ways that you can make more savings. One thing you may notice is that the amount you spend will likely be fairly high when you arrive as you’ll be setting yourself up and getting used to a new environment. There’s no need to stress too much about this, it’s perfectly normal and if you’re careful will begin to level out after a short time.


When you visit an ATM or cash point machine try and not take out more money than you actually need. The risk of withdrawing money that you don’t require is that temptation can get the better of you and you’ll end up spending it. This is also true of making a lot of payments/purchases using your debit card. The seemingly small amounts can add up rather quickly. If you keep a close watch on your costs and stick to your budget plan, you’ll find that your money will go further.


One of the ways that you can subsidise and shore up your resources is by taking up part-time work. You’ll be able to get information about possible job vacancies through student unions, careers services or online channels.  It can be tough, but certainly not impossible. You’ll likely find you manage to balance your studies and work better than you anticipate, with the added bonus of having extra money in your account at the end of the week or month.  Further, it always helps to keep in mind your primary motivation for undertaking the work and coming to London, namely your degree.


For a more immersive experience of London and a way of saving money, you can take a bus, cycle or walk. Not only will you get a totally new perspective on the city, but you may have some extra pocket money in the end as well. You’ll find that places in and around central London are sometimes closer than you’d imagine.  There’s also the possibility of taking a day trip out of the city, to the coast, country or nearby town/city at fairly reasonable prices.


One of your major expenses will be food, there’s simply no escaping it. There are ways of reducing the amount you spend however, one of which is to forego too many takeaways, snacks and eating out. There is always a premium to be paid for such food and you’ll be able to make it yourself for a fraction of the cost. A weekly or monthly grocery shop can do a lot, which can be at supermarkets or local markets, as can cooking regularly at home. This is not to say you can’t treat yourself every so often, especially with London being a multicultural and diverse city, you can find cuisine from all over the world, from restaurants to food stalls.


You’ll often hear people talk about hidden or unexpected expenses. These can be everything from fines through to television licenses. You’d do best to avoid these and all it requires is being informed and shrewd.  For example, make sure that your Oyster card always has money on it, this way you can avoid the GBP 15 fine for using transport without credit. Be sure to return library books on time so that you don’t incur any fines. Further, if you’re living in rented accommodation don’t place your litter anywhere but in designated areas and never use someone else’s rubbish bin or disposal space, which incurs a fine. An important point to remember is that students are exempt from council tax when staying in rented accommodation. You should register and check with your local council in this regard.


Most importantly, enjoy your time as a student in London and experience everything that you can.

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