No. Living on just £40 a day in London (that covers everything, including your rent), which comes down to £1,200 a month, is actually very cheap for a Londoner.
But first, just a quick breakdown: £40 a day is based on a double-room inclusive of bills at £600 per month and a £10.30 per day “lifestyle” budget which will include your food shopping. This plan is based on my own “testing” as a Londoner on a budget.
Sure, you can find ways to live even cheaper for maybe a month. But the “£40 a day” is the long-term plan that you can actually apply. This will definitely be more sustainable for all you actors moving to London.
Besides showing you how to live in London for £40 a day based on my own experience, I’ve also provided you a realistic picture of what it costs to live in London and how you can push the price down if you’re on a budget as well as what the upper-end costs would look like.
Furthermore, I have found some very helpful websites, case studies and tips for you that cover sticking to your budget and enjoying London at the same time! So here we go.
How to Live Cheap in London for £40 a Day or £1,200 a Month
The 30-Second Round-Up:
A quick search on SpareRoom.co.uk revealed some basic info on rents with over 1,000 properties showing a match on each of the rental criteria below.
The basic averages of rent costs in London (but keep in mind these vary a lot in real life):
- A one-bed flat will set you back about £1000 per month plus bills;
- A double room will cost you about £600-800 and sometimes will include all or some bills;
- A single room will cost you around £350-500 and will include some or all bills;
- If you’re paying bills on top, it’s better to estimate it at the higher end of around £150 per month.
The Basics: Accommodation
First thing’s first, you’re going to need to set aside a significant proportion of money for rent in London and bills. This will vary substantially depending on where in London you live.
The outer boroughs are typically less expensive but more affluent areas such as Muswell Hill and Belsize Park in the North and Dulwich and Crystal Palace in the south command much higher rents.
This doesn’t mean you have to live in the back of beyond, but it’s important to do your homework. To keep costs down, you should look into ‘up and coming’ areas and these are usually located just a few miles from the expensive places.
Watch out for my article on South Norwood neighborhood sometime next week for a better breakdown on this specific area. It’s less than three miles to Crystal Palace and 15 minutes by train to central London but with rents that are considerably lower.
Here are some tips:
- Try to avoid renting a one-bedroom or studio flat, because it will cost you a lot more money (duh). Finding people to share with or looking for rooms to rent in existing shared-properties will be much cheaper.
- Sites like AirBnB are awesome if you’re planning a short-term trip but if you’re staying for 6 months or more don’t use them long-term. Why? Because you pay a premium plus AirBnB fees. Instead, consider taking on AirBnB or equivalent room for your first month while you look for something permanent.
According to WorkGateways, rent in London can be anything from £350 per month upwards for a double room across the London Boroughs. However, you can cut your costs by an average of £100 if you take a single room.
These rent costs may be a little hopeful as well because the estimates provided for the average cost of a one-bedroom flat in London fail to take into account the competitiveness of the current market and the availability of cheaper places.
Case Study: A Personal Experience
Whilst it is really smart to do your homework and plan costs using internet sites like WorkGateway, from personal experience, they might be a little out of touch with the reality of the rental market in London right now.
This is coming from personal opinion. My partner and I recently rented a flat in South Norwood. It’s a South London postcode here, so according to WorkGateways we should be paying £600-700 per month.
Whilst we did see places advertised for around £800, our flat actually costs us £1050. Part of that is because we have a pet and required a garden but when doing your search on sites like WorkGateways or others, keep in mind that their estimates are at the lowest end.
Check out the London Rents Map from the Mayor of London where you can search by area and see where the lowest prices will be from a more realistic perspective.
The Boring Stuff: Bills
So here’s the boring stuff – alongside your rent, you also have to take into account your bills. Based on three people sharing a house in South Norwood, you should be budgeting around £155 per month for basic bills.
Here are the averages you can expect for bog-standard utilities in London:
- Water: £40
- Electricity: £60
- Gas: £80
- Council Tax: £125
- TV Licence: £145.50
- Broadband: £17.50
Here are some tips:
- Try to narrow your search for places where bills are included. Many people in London rent out their spare rooms to help towards their high overheads and this could be good news for you. Benefits include one single payment each month, a knowledgeable landlord and sometimes, even the chance to live in a super cool area without the high costs of doing it from scratch.
- If you come to London and go to to a drama school or long-term acting class, check whether the course is among those where you can claim exemption from council tax. As a rule, all degree-based and NVQ courses will be covered. For more info on this, check out the UK government help pages.
The Belly Rumble: Food Shopping
Supermarkets in England aren’t that expensive compared to those stateside. It’s actually a great time to come to the UK right now as the traditional supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s are stepping up their game to compete with the budget but quality new stores like Aldi and Lidl. This means great deals for you!
Where to get these deals? To get money off coupons on stuff you buy regularly, loyalty points and money-off vouchers, you need to get store loyalty cards and they all have different benefits.
Here are the top 5:
1. Sainsbury’s. Sainbury’s isn’t the cheapest supermarket in the UK but they often have good offers on groceries and butcher items plus they are part of the Nectar Card scheme which is the best loyalty card out there (get it!)
The reason Nectar Card is good is because you can get points from a whole array of other partners including your energy company if you’re with EDF as well as eBay purchases and more. You can also opt to spend your Nectar points on social stuff like the cinema and meals out!
The downside of the Nectar Card is that you don’t get as many points to your pound as you do with others but the upside is that you can use it in so many places, you can boost your points balance without really needing to shop at Sainsbury’s that regularly.
2. Tesco. Tesco is the kind of supermarket that caters for everyone’s tastes. There are luxury ranges, mid-ranges and budget options, meaning you can mix and match depending on where you want to save and where you want to splurge.
Their veg is among the best as far as supermarkets go. They also offer a loyalty card Clubcard that allows you to spend your points on cinema tickets, days out and meals out with regular promotions to double and triple the points value in exchange for these treats.
3. Waitrose. Waitrose is a top-end supermarket (meaning it’s expensive) but you shouldn’t discount it automatically. Firstly, their basic range is very high quality and can rival it’s budget competitors. Secondly, they often stock ‘forgotten cuts’ like pig cheeks for tiny prices.
The big selling point of Waitrose is the loyalty card which gives you the option to choose your own offers as well as enjoy free tea or coffee in-store at the café or on the go. A great way to keep costs down and indulge in some luxury produce from time to time.
4. Morrisons. Morissons is one of the best supermarket to shop for budget meats. They stock nearly every cut, including stock bones and the prices are great. Their wine, beers and spirits, soft drinks and household items are also really good value.
Their More Card offers one of the highest amount of loyalty points for cashback vouchers to spend in store plus monthly promotional offers.
5. Iceland. Iceland is already a great budget option because most of their produce is frozen (but be careful not to get stung on their fresh stuff, it can be more pricey).
The benefits of their loyalty Bonus Card are pretty basic, but it’s worth signing up where you get a chance to win back your shopping in a monthly prize draw, receive monthly money off coupons and get free home delivery on orders over £20.
Going Social: Pubs, Clubs, Restaurants and More
£50 a week is actually my budget so I thought I’d give you a breakdown of my week and how I stay on top of my money as well as having a very active social life along with a few other practical tips. So here we go!
Monday night is movie night! This means movie night with streaming, that is. Something from Amazon Prime (which currently has 30-day free trial!) on poor weeks or a new release on rich weeks.
For a new release, you can pay about a fiver, but if you subscribe to Instant Video for £7 per month, there’s a whole bunch of cool movies for free. This week we watched Now You See Me for 99 pence over homemade jerk chicken with rice ‘n’ peas. (That’s £1.)
It’s takeout night this week so we’re trolling the net for offers. Papa John’s always has money off but it can be pricey.
However, if you search your local area for the best fried chicken joints (it’s Morley’s in South London) you can eat like a king for less than £4! (Okay, so that’s £4.)
By mid-week, we often have a few friends come over. I cook and everyone brings a bottle or two of cheap plonk or a crate of beer so there’s plenty of everything to go around.
Chill con carne (or veggie version) costs about £2 per person (including seconds) so for an average night in there’s three of us plus a bottle of wine (whichever Merlot is on offer at around £4) and Saturday night sets me back £10. (That’s £10.)
Somehow, this Thursday we seem to have been convinced by our friends to go out for wine.
Everyone was on a budget so we went to The George in Beckenham which has an amazing beer garden, perfect for this lovely summer and a bottle of wine costs as little as £8.50. (So we got £8.50 here.)
Friday night was spent meeting up with my dog-walking crew and taking a stroll around South Norwood Country Park before heading over to The Albert Tavern in South Norwood for some reasonably priced Malbec.
Joining a group based on outdoor interests like walking, running or cycling can be a great way to socialise without spending too much money plus the incentive for a trip to pub afterwards is a great reward!
I took out £10 from the cashpoint (ATM for the Americans) and had a bit of change, which went straight into the piggy bank on return. (And that’s £10.)
This Saturday we headed back to The Albert with a bunch of friends for Karaoke night which was awesome! Most Karaoke nights in South London attract some pretty good singers and the local crowd here will embrace anyone who gives it a go, especially if you can give a good tune.
Don’t be fooled by its appearance here – I got the biggest round of applause I’d ever had after belting out some Les Miserable and that was from the burly men! (£12.)
Come rain or shine, Sunday is adventure day! Depending on how much we can afford to spend on travel costs, we take to Google and find a good walk and get lunch afterwards. Lunch can also be cheap to get!
I recommend you check out pubs owned by breweries like Green King or Wetherspoons for great lunch deals or head to the local bakers for some tasty pastries. On a really tight, week, we throw together a picnic with leftovers from the fridge.
This week, we took a trip to the coast in the car. The three of us put £5 each in petrol, leaving £14.50 to spend on lunch so I splurged a bit and ordered the flat iron steak with hand-cut chips at The Ship in Winchelsea with a shandy, leaving me with just enough change to cover the tip.
I always, always empty my spare change from my budget into my piggy bank. If I can get to the end of this month without touching it, I’ll have £30 ‘spare.’
I either use this to do something extra special or save it some more for a big weekend trip. So maybe you can do the same?
Does anybody have any tips on living cheap in London? Share those below in the comments!