A Twenty-Two Year Old’s Guide to Saving Money in London

By Zarina Macha

Here is a second post from Zarina, a post written for people in their 20’s that I would love for you to share with people you know or children. I love posts like this packed full life stories and tips. It says a twenty-two year old’s guide but I know I have learnt about lots of things about saving money in London, who knew buses were so cheap! Grab a glass of water/cup of coffee and have a read. Over to Zarina.

Saving Money in London

How does a twenty-something year-old girl living in London financially survive without a contracted job?

The answer: with great difficulty.

Okay, it’s not that bleak ladies and gents. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world as an unemployed recent university graduate sounds impossible. Somehow, I’ve managed to get by these past six months through a couple of guitar-tutoring jobs, selling my books and a hefty overdraft.

No Steady Job

In the second half of 2018 I worked as an Event’s Steward for two different stewarding agencies, mostly at Wembley Stadium. For a socially anxious extrovert with panic disorder, this was…not good, to say the least. (Torn between happily engaging with customers and freaking out over large crowds). Several trips to the first-aid room and leaving home early were a constant occurance.

Sadly, getting a contracted job is difficult (as I’ve realised these past six months; can’t tell you the countless CVs, emails and phone calls I’ve dished out) and stewarding gives constant work. Many stewards sign up with multiple agencies to get plenty of regular shifts.

Fortunately, I upgraded from stewarding to being a bookseller at Waterstones over their busy Christmas period (God, now this sounds like my ****** CV). I had a great time, and was gutted when the truth of the Christmas temp world and economically crumbling bookselling business meant I couldn’t continue my job.

Books that have changed my Life - Self-help to Autobiographies
Look Judy Blume! A book just like what Zarina has written.

Living With Mum

But I have managed to get by. Making the smart decision to move back in with my mother a year-and-a-half ago has saved loads. My monthly rent as a student was £533 (not including bills); I moved out December 2017 and was contracted until August 2017. So Jan-Aug; 7 months; saved a grand total of £3731. Spent it on driving lessons and getting my first book edited instead.

Moving back home is probably one of the smartest financial decisions I’ve ever made, and as long as you get along with your parents it’s a pretty good deal.

Cheap Transport

But what about travel? Public transport in London can eat up your wallet. Luckily, taking buses whenever you can is a cheap travel option. Buses cost £1.50 per journey and you can take as many as needed within the hour for that price: https://www.visitlondon.com/traveller-information/getting-around-london/london-bus

The daily bus rate (with your Oyster or Contactless card) gets capped at £4.50, so if you have to take four buses in a day, consider that fourth option a free ride.

Saving Money in London

Similarly, I have a yearly young persons railcard which gives a third off all train travel across the country. This is perfect if you are a commuter, or like to visit friends or family who live outside of your home town. It only cost me £35 to go from London to Manchester with a six week advance booking thanks to the railcard. (note from Lynn, I have a Network railcard that gets me 1/3rd off south east journeys after 10am, one for the over 30’s)

Low-Maintenance Lifestyle

But let’s be real; I’m in my early twenties, so what about socialising? You’d be shocked how much money alcohol costs per week; I’m in recovery and haven’t drank alcohol for twenty months, so I’ve saved well over a grand in booze expenses. Plus, I don’t like clubbing as much as I once thought I did, and clubs in London are ludicrously over-priced. I like going to gigs, usually a couple a month; these are typically free or only £6 per ticket, and considering I drink tap water at the bar it’s hardly a lavish expense.

London also has loads of things you can do for free – art galleries, museums, parks, coffee shops that won’t break your wallet. Simply wandering around Southbank or Brixton Mall can be nice. I joined a great board game social group not long ago which is a fun way to socialise, plus costs nothing besides the odd San Pellegrino from the bar.

Saving Money in London
Art by Dylan James

I should add that I don’t smoke cigarettes (may have the odd two or three in a year, but that’s scarcely a habit), and I don’t drink coffee, both of which can chomp up the wallet. 

I also try and take food from home whenever I go out – sandwiches, crisps, and buying stacks of healthy snacks like raisins, flapjacks, fruit-and-nut bars, liquorice, nuts, apricots is a good shout. Not only are they good for you, they will quench your hunger more efficiently than a bar of chocolate.

Saving Money in London

Little Things

 Additionally, you’d be surprised of how much money you can save by making small active changes in your life. I got a Mirena Coil fitted back in September 2018 which stopped my periods. Not recommending everyone do that; I chose that particular birth control for personal reasons, but I’ve roughly saved fifty quid not having to buy pads and tampons.

I purchase clothes from inexpensive shops like H&M or New Look (or charity shops; you’d be amazed what beauties you can find). I recently ordered an eyebrow epilator pen which was running on a 65% discount, costing me only £14. Think of all the money I’ll save not having to get my eyebrows threaded every month!

Wardrobe De-clutter and style session with Claire Wacey of CW Style

I also plan on switching my phone contract; right now I pay roughly £30 per month for my phone, but if I switch to a SIM only contract and keep my Samsung Galaxy A5 (it’s a great phone and God knows why I would need to upgrade) I could save a tenner each month with a sweet EE deal of unlimited calls, texts and 20GB of internet (right now I get 5GB). That’s £120 a year less that I’m spending.


 It’s tough being frugal, but with a few simple changes to lifestyle habits, saving money is not that difficult. A quick re-cap on the main points:

  • Living with parents – cuts rent and bills money
  • Oyster bus pass – cheaper than trains
  • No alcohol, cigarettes or junky crap – keeps you slim and trim
  • Take food from home – eating out is a waste of money
  • Figuring out what you can live without – no unnecessary spending

Remember, no one is perfect, and treating yourself to stuff now-and-again is fine. I like to splash out on books now and again, and I don’t wear make-up except lipstick (and a few of those lasts me ages). A big tub of coconut oil to keep my skin and hair fresh and healthy can last half a year. Living within your means is not that difficult, as long as you’re realistic about your limits!

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More to explore


Lynn Beattie

Aka Mrs MummyPenny

Personal Finance Expert

I write about personal finance made simple, lifestyle choices that will save you time and money, as well as products and services that offer great value.

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4 Responses

  1. Hello MMP/Zarina,

    Living in London I think there are loads of fun and free things to do. Have you visited the Pelicans in St. James’ Park yet?


    other good free things are attending free TV/Radio recordings of one of the best, but hardest to find, is restaurant pre-launches where they offer food/drink for free or for a massively reduced price.

    Hope this is interesting and gives you other things to try in London.


    The Reverend

    1. Great ideas!!! I love the pelicans at St. James park so random! And yes I often attend pre-launch events, free food is the best;-) Thank you for your comments.

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