Global Business School for Health


Tips for UCL students - managing expenses & saving money in London

3 August 2023

GBSH student ambassador Ran shares vital tips on managing expenses & saving money in London. From rent to nights out, learn how to navigate the financial challenges of student life in one of the world's priciest cities.

Tips for UCL Students - Managing Expenses & Saving Money in London

As a student at University College London, I know first-hand the financial struggles of trying to survive as a student in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Between the sky-high rents, cost of transportation, food, textbooks, nights out, and everything else, London can quickly drain your bank account if you're not careful with your spending.

Estimated Housing and Essentials Cost near UCL East (Stratford)
Renting a shared apartment near the UCL East campus in Stratford is more affordable than staying near the main campus in central London. With rising inflation, total annual costs for necessities like housing, groceries, and transportation in Stratford average around £17,000-£25,000.

  • £1000-£1400 per month for a room in a shared flat, including bills
  • £400-£600 per month for groceries and household supplies
  • £40-£90 per month for public transport using a student Oyster card

In addition to necessities, many students want to make the most of their time in the UK and Europe. They often allocate an extra £2000-£4000 annually for activities like:

  • Eating out at restaurants more frequently
  • Attending concerts, clubs, and other entertainment
  • Shopping for non-essential items
  • Travelling around the UK and Europe

After a few years of trial and error in the UK, I've picked up some great habits and resources to help me live more affordably so I can still enjoy all the perks of being a student in vibrant London. Whether you're just starting at UCL or have been here a while, check out my tried and tested money-saving tips below that have changed my student life.

Track Your Spending
The first step to managing your money wisely is clearly understanding where it's going. I highly recommend using the budgeting app Mint (mint.intuit.com). It securely connects to your bank and credit card accounts. It automatically categorises your spending to see how much you're shelling out on housing, groceries, nights out, subscription services, and more.

Identifying those recurring costs and areas where you overspend is invaluable in making intelligent changes to your lifestyle and routines. For instance, seeing how much I spent on takeaway coffees and Uber rides last term motivated me to scale back by making my coffee and taking the bus instead. The app keeps me aware.

Create and Follow a Student Budget
London is expensive, but creating a realistic budget tailored to student living costs makes it far more manageable. I used resources like Save the Student (savethestudent.org) to research average student expenditures and set monthly amounts I could afford for rent, transportation, food, personal care, entertainment and more.

I'm also careful to build some savings into my budget, so I have a little emergency fund as a backup. Having set limits, I try to stick to help curb needless spending and reduce stress so much. Plus, tracking my progress and hitting my goals feels super rewarding.

Cook Affordable, Healthy Meals
Eating out and takeaway in London is crazy expensive, so teaching myself to cook proper meals has been a game-changer. My food costs are probably half what they used to be now. I do a weekly meal plan and one big grocery shop to buy ingredients for simple, healthy meals in bulk.

The Hungry Student Cookbook and Good and Cheap cookbook (available cheap on Amazon) have become my kitchen bibles for money-saving recipe ideas and techniques. Having my own homecooked lunches and dinners saves me around £30-40 a week.

Take Advantage of All Discounts
Being a student in London has its perks when it comes to discounts! I save money by taking advantage of all the student deals and offers available. I use my student card to get some discounts at restaurants and shops. Signing up for APP Unidays and Student Beans gives me great deals for tech, clothing brands, delivery services, and anything I want to buy online.

I also look out for student discount nights at pubs and clubs and always check for student pricing on travel, museum tickets, concerts and more. If you know where to look, a little hunting will uncover savings on almost everything.

Live with Flatmates
Having flatmates to split the costs with has made rent, bills, and household basics much more reasonably priced. We buy essentials like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and groceries in bulk, which saves each of us money. My monthly housing costs are likely £200-300 less than if I lived alone.

A flatmate life means you have to be flexible and coordinate things like chores, but the financial benefit is worth it. Plus, having built-in social time and people to explore the city is lovely.

Avoid Impulse Spending
My lack of self-control seriously hurt my bank account when I first moved here. Now I curb impulse spending by waiting 24 hours before purchasing outside my monthly budget. This short waiting period lets the initial impulse fade nine times out of 10.

I also unsubscribed from all retail emails and installed Site Blocker extensions on my devices to limit access to tempting shopping sites. Having that extra friction saves me from many regrettable buys.

Resell Used Items
I'm obsessed with the secondhand shopping options in London, from charity shops to flea markets to selling apps. It's such a great way to find quality items for way less. I always resell my textbooks and any clothes, furniture, or tech I no longer need.

APP Facebook and Vinted make selling a breeze. I also share unused items amongst my flatmates and friends, which benefits all of us. You can find virtually anything used if you keep an eye out.

Use Resources Like London on a Budget
One of my favourite websites for saving money in London is 'MoneySavingExpert'. They share the latest deals, discounts and limited-time free events around the city, which helps me take advantage of fun things I'd otherwise miss. Subscribe to their newsletter to stay on top of pop-ups, markets, free museum days, discounts and more. As a student, it's an easy way to enjoy the city on a budget.

It Takes Some Effort, But It's Worth It
Living in vibrant London as a student is a fantastic opportunity, but the high costs can also be daunting. With some effort, though, enjoying everything this world-class city offers is possible even on a tight budget. By tracking your spending, budgeting wisely, limiting expenses, and maximising student discounts and resources, you can make your money go much further during your time at UCL. Implementing even a few saving strategies can make a big difference financially and reduce stress. London is an incredible student city - be smart with your finances, and you can thrive here!

I also suggest you check out the @UCLGBSH Instagram account; there are interviews with several students sharing how they save money in London. Let me know in the comments if you have any other money-saving tips to share so we can all benefit. You are wishing you the best during your time as a student in this one-of-a-kind city!