How to Not Go Broke in London: An Outsider’s Guide

“Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.” -Unknown

I’m sure you have all heard that London is an expensive city, but it’s actually a really expensive city. Things here are priced either the same as in the US or even higher, plus when you convert it back into USD that price tag shoots way up. Yes, the conversion rate is absolute crap. For example, today for every 100 USD that you have you only get to spend 64.5 British pounds. So let’s say that a really cute purse is 50 pounds, not bad right? Well plot twist: 77 USD are about to show up on your already maxed out credit card. This is my fair warning and my advice on how to not break the bank because when I met my credit card statement this month I almost had a heart attack.

1. If you’re staying for an extended period of time: COOK! Don’t eat out a lot. Trust me: it’s not worth it and most of the food won’t come out how you picture it in the first place. Go to the cheapest grocery store to every exist in this world: Sainsbury’s. They have little stores in most neighborhoods and a few superstores here and there. You can fill up two grocery bags for less than 15 pounds.

Yes, go ahead and buy the fish and chips a time or two. And get that Oreo-covered waffle from Wafflemeister. And definitely get that vanilla crème-filled donut from the market. But skip everything else; cook some pasta and go on with your day.

2. If you need shoes, clothes, coats, accessories, or bedroom stuff go to Primark. This place is like a non-trashy Walmart and actually has the cutest stuff for SUPER cheap. I bought two pairs of shoes there for 20 pounds total. I would suggest going there before you hit the other stores because they may have exactly what you’re looking for at half of the normal price.

Beware: this place looks like Black Friday every single day. If you’re going to go in, you need to be in a fabulous mood and have nowhere else to be for quite some time. When you walk out of there you may be on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, but hey, your wallet will thank you.

3. If you’re a student in the UK and have a UK id card, use it! So many places offer student discounts: ASOS, H&M, McDonalds, Ryman, Subway, Topshop, Urban Outfitters, etc. (The discounts may work with US student id cards, I’ve just never tried.)

4. If you plan on going out to a bar or pub, pregame. Yeah, that may give you a painful flashback to freshman year sitting in your dorm and chugging Burnett’s before you set off to a frat — but I’m serious. Cocktails are usually 10 pounds, beers 7, and cider 6. Save some money and drink your cheap bottle of wine before heading out the door.

5. Do you want to go out to clubs and literally not spend a single pound? Meet promoters. Back in Philly as soon as I see a random guy coming my way on a street, I basically avoid eye contact and ignore him. Here in London, embrace it. That person is 9/10 times going to be a promoter and he wants you to come to his club for free. Free entry, VIP table, free drinks all night, and you usually get to skip the line. Get his number and don’t think he’s weird. It’s his job.

Hopefully these tips will make your extended stay in this fabulous city less stressful. Make sure to have a blast.

Always, K.

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