Money-saving tips from a millennial mover
My little sister recently moved to London. She’s 30 and a qualified attorney (so not that “little”) but as the older sibling I obviously remind her quite regularly of the wisdom my extra years have bought me.
Having moved to London as a fresh-out-of-university 22-year-old 10 years ago, I remember well how challenging it can be to make ends meet in the early days of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
So I did what I usually do when it comes to my younger sister: dispensed as much unsolicited and bossy advice about how to live her life as I possibly could. Here are some of the money-saving tips I foisted upon her.
Ride the bus
It’ll cost you £1.50 no matter how long your journey is and you can hop off and hop on another bus within the hour completely free (as long as you use the same card to do so). A full day of bus travel is capped at £4.50. But these days things are fancier than back in my day: buses operate on a cashless system so you’ll need to have a contactless card, Oystercard or Travelcard.
Give yourself plenty of time if you’re going to take the bus as obviously traffic affects this mode of transport more than it does the Tube.
Look for loyalty programmes
This is an especially good idea when it comes to grocery shopping. Most supermarkets offer a free loyalty scheme whereby you earn loyalty points per £1 spent, which gives you money off your next purchases. Some of them even enable you to spend points at other retailers or selected partners like taxi services or hotels. As long as it’s free, it is probably a good idea to take up a loyalty offer in my opinion (although make sure you do the maths if you have to pay anything, to assess whether it’s really worth it, and read the terms and conditions).
Raid “reduced to clear”
Whichever supermarket you land up shopping at, check out the “reduced to clear” section first. It’ll contain marked down items that have reached their best-before date that day. These should still be good to eat (use your judgment based on looks and smell) or to put in the freezer.
Some of the lunch spots in the city also lower their prices after a certain time of day because of their commitment to making fresh meals daily. For example, you can snap up half price sushi at the end of the day to have for supper or to keep for lunch the next day.
Milk the meal deal
Lunch can be an expensive part of your day because you don’t always have the ability to pack your own and you then have to fork out a small fortune to keep yourself going through the afternoon. Luckily, a number of retailers (particularly the supermarkets) will offer meal deals that comprise, for example, a salad/soup/sandwich, a snack (popcorn or crisps) and a drink for a discounted price if you buy all three together. You’ll save money and already be sorted with a snack when the 4pm hunger pangs hit.
Visit the voucher sites
There are countless online voucher sites that are generally free to sign up to, and which offer vouchers for nearly anything from restaurant meal deals to clothes, dentist visits and kitchen utensils. There are also often vouchers for exercise sessions (which is a good option before committing to what will generally be quite an expensive gym contract) and beauty treatments (there’s nothing quite like the jackpot feeling of having had a bargain mani).
Trust the trainees
Lots of hairdressers are trying to train up inexperienced staff and offer discounted hair cuts or colour if you’ll let them loose on your locks. They’re very often supervised by their more qualified colleagues who will (hopefully) be able to step in if damage control if required.
Find the free WiFi
Coffee shops in particular are happy to let you use their free WiFi, which will help you contain those pesky data costs. If you’re still unemployed and hopping from friend to kind friend’s couch, this is a great way to get out of the house and do some online job-seeking in a social environment.
Get your own coffee cup
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to kick the coffee habit given the UK’s cafe culture, so buy your own reusable mug to save on costs (coffee shops will often offer a discount if you bring your own) and help the environment.
Watch your pennies (on an app)
I’ve also recommended she use a budgeting app to keep track of her spending and directed her to this MoneyLens article which discusses five helpful spending/budgeting apps.
I’ll admit I’m bossy and interfering when it comes to my little sister so it’s no surprise that my advice is often bestowed upon a reluctant-to-listen recipient. But this time it seems to have been taken on board and I’m really pleased to see how well she’s managing her money. If there’s one thing about moving to London, it’s that it’s far more enjoyable if you’ve got some spare change to enjoy yourself every now and then.