How to afford a living in London as a student with 800 GBP

1. Accommodation – location over anything [SIGNIFICANT]

[REASON on putting accommodation first: 50% of your expense are from rent expense – meaning choosing the right accommodation determines your budget survival]

On choosing accommodation, you can only choose two from these three triangles: location, price, and privacy/comfort. As much as budget is concerned, I chose the location and price over comfort & privacy. Location so that riding bicycle are still possible under 30 minutes and price below 500 GBP. I shared a flat of 3 rooms with 5 other Indonesia students (I shared a room with another person), with monthly cost around 2,000 GBP and that left 400 GBP per person. With estimated gas and water cost, averagely around 20-30 GBP per person (on the coldest days of winter, we turned the heater on all the time and hitting 200 GBP per month for gas cost – anyway that was being subsidized during the summer and spring). Let’s assume average monthly cost is 450 GBP: 400 rent + 25 GBP gas & water & 25 electricity and rice (yeah we all MUST eat rice). 

FYI, I live in West Kensington area (Zone 2) – around 5 mins walking to West Kensington tube station. The residential area there was nice, quite enough but offer easy access to amenities such as Tesco Mega Store, local market, cheap fried chicken place. My favorite is the Mega Store – where usually I did my midnight shopping for groceries on the way back home from campus library. On certain days, Tesco Mega Store open for 24 hours. It was a pretty good deal, good location, good nearby environment and best value price. 

Please consider the cheap price comes with sacrifice of your privacy and comfort. You ought to expect the toilet wars between 5 person in the morning, noise tolerance, pile of dirty dishes, and other problems of living with other people.

2. Buy and ride a bike [SIGNIFICANT]

I bought a SPECIALIZED hybrid bike (which had been modified but still proper for commuting) for 90 GBP. The bike purchase saved me from purchasing monthly student OYSTER card of 80 GBP. My investment reached break-even on the first month. Not a bad investment right? Plus I got to enjoy the experience on biking in a bike-friendly city*.

Another “investment” I made alongside the bicycle itself are the proper helmet (40 GBP), windbreaker Pak a Jak visibility jacket for safety reading at cold night (20 GBP) at Cycle Junxion shop at Hammersmith, North End Road and bicycle light (required by regulations) at Amazon for 3 GBP. You will also need a strong D-lock to secure your bike on parking lot. Let’s say overall investment is 100 GBP.

*Later I found out that London were considered bike-friendly because of some bike and lorry accident. Well, as a Jakarta people I do not see the danger though. London is very safe, as long you follow the traffic rules.

3. Pack your own lunch/dinner [SIGNIFICANT]

This is essentials to keep your eating budget under control. Even though South Kensington local food stalls are student-friendly enough, you can still considerably save lots on eating budget. Back in 2017, you can afford a proper Chinese style meal with 5 quid or even a rather fancier Japanese lunch set with 8 quid. My favorite to go meal was the Chopstix rice and greasy chicken dishes that costed me 5.50 pounds for large portion and  KFC 3 pounds value meal box. However, I do not suggest not eating the fast food regularly for health concern. I mostly did the latter due to my busy work during thesis writing in the summer, and even though I did not catch any sickness I can tell my body was not really happy with the KFC and other fast food rally every day. 

During the course work period (first 6 months) of my postgraduate study, I cooked and brought my lunch almost everyday. Usually I did groceries shopping in the weekend / weekend midnight for 1 week meal preparation. My go to ingredients: red and green bell peppers, all kind of mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus (occasionally), frozen salmon (3 pounds for around 6 portion), soya milk, strawberries, banana, eggs, and tomatoes. All of one week portion usually cost around 40 GBP. For breakfast I usually took banana-strawberry smoothies blended in protein powder. Let’s say for 15 meals that left 3 GBP per meal (almost half of the normal eating out / student dinner). I left the weekends for cheating days, budget for eating out with fellow Indonesians or hang out with college friends. Usually we eat in Indonesian/Malaysian/Japanese/Korean restaurant for maximum 10-15 GBP/meal. Yep, you have to manage the social meal well.

My typical easy bake vegetables mix – salt pepper & oil

Let’s say for monthly eating, I allocated 250 GBP.

Accommodation, food, and transport itself already 700, what about the rest?

1. Gym membership: 40 GBP for one year. Subsidized by campus.

2. Internet and call plan: 20 GBP monthly.

3. Fun budget: 100 GBP including football game, wall climbing, books purchase, clothing purchase, occasional coffee and muffin.

Total: 450 + 250 + 40 + 20 + 100 = 860 GBP. 

London’s minimum living cost in 2016 was around 1,250 GBP.

  • I survived on living in zone 2 London, with around 30% cost saving from normal living cost of Londoners. 
  • For those you are considering on the cost of living in London, hopes this can enlighten you on frugal living in one of the most expensive city in the world. 



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