Can you live the London life on a budget? Why not…

EveryIMG_5687 time I travel home from uni, I have to venture up to London, before I then head back down to the south. It may just be a part of my route home, but one day (in the very near future, pretty please), I want it to actually be my home. I love it. I’m obsessed with wanting to live that London life; busy, hectic, eventful. I know it doesn’t sound all that relaxing, but your 20s aren’t a time for slowing down, they’re when you’re just getting started. I know London is exactly where I want to be after I graduate. Fairwell uni bubble, the capital is calling!

My love of London means I’ve spent a fair amount of time roaming the streets, but when you’re a student, and money is not your best friend, London starts alarm bells ringing. Fear not, my fretful friends, I’ve got a few tips up my savvy student sleeves.

Note: This isn’t the way to live every day, let’s not be frivolous now, but for those odd days off, here’s how to reign in the spending.

Musicals mean money.

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Theatre Old Drury Lane

From previous posts, you may be aware that I do love a good musical, and that they don’t come cheap. Before, I’ve suggested turning up at Leicester Square and grabbing whatever cut price tickets you can get. If you want to get more for your money, then here’s another suggestion. The last few times I have been to the theatre, I have purchased mid-range or low-range tickets, right near the back, where my fear of heights suddenly manifests itself, only to be upgraded to better, higher priced seats. I’m not saying this is a dead cert, but it is always worth inquiring on the day what the situation is. To make it even more likely, pick a mid-week matinee performance which is always less popular, because let’s face it, everyone else is busy working away while we’re off gallivanting to the theatre like cultured students. Just think: the less people who go, the more likely you’re all going to be shuffled up into the swanky seats. Winning.

Photo by Byron Hamburgers

I sat there! Photo by Byron Hamburgers

Eat on the cheap.

Even if you’re not off to see a show or a musical, go and pretend you are. The restaurants around the theatre district, close to Covent Garden, are surprisingly cheap. But isn’t Covent Garden a tourist money trap, I hear you say? Not necessarily. Pre-show menus are everywhere! Two courses for £9.95, drink included. Yes please. I know, I was surprised too. From lunchtime to around six, every restaurant around is touting for your business. There’s so many to choose from, they have to lure you in somehow, and if you’re as conscious of money as every other student, this is the way to do it. And when it’s a set menu, there’ll always be the crowd pleasers on there, so you’re sure to find something you like.

Hang around at Happy Hour.

On my last trip to London, I was celebrating a close friends’ 21st, so I wanted to do something extra fancy. Following our extremely cultured theatre trip (to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory … (at the Theatre Old Drury Lane)), and a cheap but scrumptious after show meal, the next step was obvious: cocktails. And if you get your timing right, finish dinner just as Happy Hour begins. Two doors down from Byron Hamburgers (go there!), is Be at One, a small bar where Happy Hour lasts three hours.

Photo by thecocktailcard.co.uk

Photo by thecocktailcard.co.uk

It’s trendy (I’m not sure that word is cool anymore), and it’s got a great atmosphere; maybe because everyone has finished work for the day, or they’ve just had one too many cocktails. Ah, that London life. After work cocktails in Covent Garden? See you there one day. The bar staff were extremely welcoming and incredibly skilled at what they do. I don’t know whether measurements are stronger in London, but wow, you get a lot for your money. Cheap, lethal pre drinks before heading back for a night out at uni sorted. You’re welcome.

So, there you have it. It’s very simple, but it’s all about timing: when to eat, when to drink, when to book tickets. We also managed to minimise travel costs and time wasted on the tube by staying in one neat contain area. The theatre, restaurant and bar were all within metres of one another. Maybe you don’t get to see as much, but you get to make the most of your time and try out a few new places you maybe wouldn’t have thought of going before.

And, remember, when in doubt; wave your student card around. You’d be surprised how many places accept student discount.