London is an expensive city. A lonely city. A polluted city. Yet it's also vibrant, loving and full of life wherever you go. You have to have a certain personality to withstand the heat but once you've cracked it, it's not easy to ever let the Big Smoke go. I've been here 8 years now and I still can't manage to be away for too long.
Since starting blogging 18 months ago alongside taking a pretty hefty multiple grand pay-cut, I've learnt to save my money and make it go further than ever. Yet somehow my quality of life is better than it's ever been before, minus the expensive clothes and unnecessary stationery splurges. I've learnt to make the best out of any situation and find fun in the heart of the city. Rather than spending all my money on beer - which don't get me wrong, is also fun too - I instead embrace more sober nights and seize the day with plenty of walks and cultural expeditions. Want to know my story and some of my methods for watching those finances? Keep on readin' for those dollar saving tips.
Walking is good for the soul AND the bank balance. I've completely and utterly learnt to ignore my body's will to be lazy and instead taught it to enjoy using those little things we like to call legs. Why pay for a gym membership when you can get fit and actually see that beautiful city you like to call home? Amazing street art, inspiring architecture and the characters of London are all waiting to be found. These things can't normally be located via the tube. It's time to look up, get walking and try not to spend all your money on shoes instead.
Pick the FREE exhibitions
While many of the paid exhibitions are absolutely incredible in London, they are quite often very pricey due to the size and investment that's gone into them. Of course we need to support the arts, but when you're on a budget it's not always possible. Don't fret, for their are SO many incredible galleries in London that offer free exhibitions with both upcoming and established artists alike. Try spaces like Jealous, Stolen Space Gallery, Protein Studios and Nahmad Projects, while of course the V&A and Saatchi galleries are also predominantly free of charge for your use. This is why I love London.
Explore new areas
Going back to those walking vibes, London is a huge city and not many of us can say that we've been everywhere. There's nothing better to spark inspiration than a wander around a new place - who knows what you might find? Try and explore the outskirts. There's some places in Zone 3 and 4 that are reminiscent of villages and provide some much needed respite from the hustle and bustle of central. Here's looking at you Snaresbrook, Blackheath, Charlton...
Get on those mailing lists
Now, we all bloody hate a mailing list. So why am I recommending this? Well. Firstly. I'm not talking about those mass brand, sales, sales, sales emails. I'm talking about independent magazines, small London boutiques and the little art galleries. Quite often these places host events and guess what? Everyone on their mailing list gets invited. These normally provide free booze, a great exhibition or product launch and an endless room of networking opportunities. So what are you waiting for? Get subscribing!
Get some fresh air
Waking? Again? Really? Not exactly. This time I'm talking about Londons wonderful abundance of parks. From Regents Park to Greenwich's Royal Observatory Grounds, there's beautiful scenery to simply sit and take in. Better yet, grab your sketch book and whisk the afternoon away in solitude or with friends.
Offer your services
While you might think this isn't going to save you money, you better believe it will when you need it to. Think about your skills and how you can exchange these with someone who will be of use to you in exchange. For example, you're a kickass copywriter but you need help with your website. Ditch the excessive developer fees and find someone that needs the words to go in their own portfolio. Make an exchange. Enough said.
Following on from the above, it's literally all about networking. People inspire creativity and the more you meet, the more likely you are to potentially meet your future business partner or fellow collaborator. Again while this isn't technically a way to save money directly, the majority of these kinds of events are always free, sometimes offer beverages and food and will distract you from spending money elsewhere. Try the likes of Google Campus, General Assembly and Ace Hotel for regular creative talks programmes.
Okay, so I honestly don't mean to advise you to go completely sober, but booze is one of the main expenses for Londoners and is it really worth it? This year I've been making more of an effort to be engaged in my nights out and while I still definitely have a cheeky whisky on most soirees, I definitely don't go overboard. I've saved a mass of money from doing this as well as got to laugh at a lot of drunk people and have a clear head in the morning. Being creative is all about being proactive remember?
Work for free or really, really cheap.
This one won't apply to everyone, and I don't mean to literally work for someone else for free. However, if you're a freelancer or have a small business, don't whittle away your money on a fancy office space when there are plenty of areas in London that you can work for free and a crazy amount of office spaces where you can work from as little as £50 a month. I'm working on a post for the best places to work, so stay tuned!
While I'd never advise starting a blog for money or other related perks, I'd certainly advise writing one to make you have a strong focus and genuinely keep you occupied for a lot of hours. If you're truly passionate about something, write about it and who knows what will come from it. I've seen blogging have a massively positive impact on my quality of life, from the people that surround me to the amazing opportunities that present those who put a lot of effort and passion in.
What are your top tips for saving money in a major city? I'd like to know. Go on, leave us a comment, you know you want to...