Living, Living in London | London on £25k

One of the reason’s I wanted to move to London was to get involved in all of the amazing things to do. I’ve always felt like people in London had access to so many cool events and interesting activities that people who lived outside London did not. It is a shame that’s the case, but that’s a whole other conversation. I factored this into my £25k threshold. Not in the same strict sense that I carefully considered my rent and travel, but more casually. I didn’t move to London to work 24/7 or spend all my time outside of work stuck in my room. I wanted to live in London.

The prospect of having so much to do, was so exciting to me. So much so, that right before I moved, I booked an event while I was still in Newcastle. It was a live podcast for a podcast I listened to regularly, Ctrl Alt Delete combined with a book signing with a blogger turned writer I loved, Katherine Ormerod author of Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life. For that particular event, it was £16 (including a hard-back copy of the book, which I ended up getting signed!). It lasted two hours with a welcome drinks at the beginning. To me that pricing felt fair.

This month, I booked another event, another live podcast in collaboration with Tu, Sainsburys’ for their #allboobswelcome campaign promoting their new bra range. The structure of this event was slightly different as there was a panel, so the audience got a little boob testimony from each panellist. Although it was a 9:30am start, I had a fab time. It cost me £6, of which £5 went to a woman’s aid charity. Each person also received a £10 Tu voucher to spend on lingerie. All that for £6 is a bargain, no?

Other mundane things like eating can also be a bit of a treat in London. So many markets and food eating spaces that offer more of an experience than your average sit down, table arrangement. Mercato Metropolitano is one such place, literally described as a ‘vibrant space’ and that it is. There’s a food stall for almost every cuisine, plus bars and loads of big tables for communal dining. They even have a learning hub where they organise cooking classes, one time I saw a Ethiopian cooking class – very niche but very cool! It sounds simple, but when you’ve not had it before, it’s all very exciting. It makes grabbing a drink and a bite to eat after work that bit special and it’s not even overpriced. I met a friend there last week and we shared an £8 pizza and got a £4 cider each, less than a tenner each.

I also bit the bullet and invested in a gym membership after a lengthy protest. Gyms in London are so expensive. They just are (I’m still processing this). £30 a month is the normal monthly rate. Coming from paying a more than reasonable monthly rate of £15 in Newcastle, you can imagine my horror. I ended up finding a gym near me for £25 a month. They sold this to me as a special price-point because it just opened. It’s not a fancy, private gym, it’s your average chain and in 6 months’ time, it too will be £30. At which point I will have most-likely gotten over the price and more than likely commit that extra £5. I will say though, as a classes girl (as opposed to do your own session), I did notice the classes are longer at 45 minutes to an hour as opposed to 30 minutes back home so that’s helped take the £25 edge off, kind of.

For Londoners, these things probably aren’t that amazing, but for me it was a part of London-living I was really looking forward to. And although I wouldn’t eat out or attend an event every week, it’s fun to do it every now. And to do these things, no matter how fairly priced they are, they do cost money. Money I wouldn’t have without my wage.

Why I’m Doing No-spend February (clothes edition) | London on £25k

Yeah, so I just spend too much money on clothes unnecessarily, don’t I. I mean I spend money unnecessarily in many areas but clothes is something that I can see getting out of hand and every now and then I just need to check myself. In the past, it’s been something that I had no choice in when I literally didn’t have the money. But, this time I do have the money and I have to confess, I was struggling before I even started.

I get paid a few days before the end of the month as opposed to last day of the month, so I had a replenished account right before February began and I panicked. I came so close to bulk-buying right before February started. I literally don’t know why. Normally, I wouldn’t even buy every week, it’s more like 2/3 times a month. This response though, has made me realise how much I need to do it and I am still determined to come back at the end of the month and write about how I completed it, but also still worried I won’t make it.

A lot of people did a no-spend January and in hindsight that would’ve been the financially sensible thing to do especially after Christmas but here we are. Yes, I purposely chose the shortest month of the year to put myself to the test because I knew I’d find it difficult. A challenge is great and all, but I do believe it has to be realistic and somewhat achievable. Now 3 days into the month, I can confirm it is even harder than I thought. It’s mostly the temptation that’s the issue, I have the means to buy so I have to choose not to. In theory, the decision is easy, don’t spend and save instead but in practice… I am optimistic though, I think after the first week, the worst of it will pass, hopefully.

I’ve had to remove temptation. I religiously check new-in sections on all my favourite sites. I have a schedule (Monday and Thursday is ASOS, Tuesday is Topshop, Wednesday is H&M and Friday is Zara/ Zalando/ Weekday), which I’m quite proud of to be fair. Must stress though, I don’t always buy on those days (I haven’t made a Zara or H&M order in months). But with this ban, looking that regularly is just too torturous. I am excited to ‘shop my wardrobe’ though, that’ll be fun and hopefully distract me for most of the month.

Another thing I notice that often happens is that I no longer spend on other things because clothes always come first. Things like make-up and skin care, so that’s something I will treat myself to at some point, maybe as a half-way treat when I get there.

I would say I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I am not. I’ve already seen so many cute things on ASOS that I probably wouldn’t have been that keen on before but now need them all.

My Favourite Train Hack | London on £25k

Let’s say you start searching for a trip to Newcastle 2/3 weeks in advance. London to Newcastle return can cost upwards of £100, easy. And that’s with a 16-25 Railcard which gives you a with 1/3 off train fares. I’ve tried Trainsplit and have not been wowed. Train fares are crazy high and I refuse to be extorted just to visit my family for a weekend. So, here’s how I manage to play the system that tries to play me.

To pull this off you will need a railcard, 16-25 is what I have, and a digital rail platform of your choice, I like Trainline. After a basic journey search from London to Newcastle and a little play around with arrival/departure times, you could get tickets for like £80. That, friends, is not a bargain.

The real bargain starts in London stops in York and ends up in Newcastle for £50-£60. Sometimes you can even skip the York swap-a-roo. York is the game changer, the secret weapon, most importantly the money saver. It’s not strictly the half-way point between London and Newcastle but it has always worked for me to split the journey there to get cheaper tickets. London to York return usually costs £40- £50 and then York to Newcastle return can cost as little at £10. Even better, if you can align the train times, you don’t even have to physically get off the train at York (at most you’ll have to move seats). But ultimately, even if you have a short wait in York, it’s a small price to pay for a £40-£50 saving.

You’re welcome!

How I Saved Up to Move to London | London on £25k

I moved to London in Autumn 2018 having got a job, but I have pretty much always wanted to try out the capital. I’ll also preface this post with the fact that I am – or at least try to be – a very methodical and logical person in everything that I do, especially something as huge as moving from Newcastle, a small-ish city in the north east of England to London, the capital city and one of the most expensive places in the world. I like having time to think things through and make calculated decisions where possible.

The time between getting the job and moving was a huge luxury and something I really valued at the time. It was in May that I found that I would be moving to London to start a job in October. And it was at that point that operation plan and save was a go. Just under four months and counting.

I was in a fortunate position to be living at home and since I had relatively little monthly outgoings I could, in theory, have saved a fair amount. Each month, after tax, I would have a disposable amount of around £1,000 so I could have saved at least £3,000 by September. But in reality, I came to London with £2,000 in my savings account. Where the other thousand pounds went is a mystery to both you and I. Dinners out, birthdays, online shopping, local trips, online shopping…

Part of my saving operation was to prepare for the (huge) cost of living in London. I worked out my maximum budget for the big and important expenses that I would have:

  • monthly travel £170*
  • monthly rent budget of up to £850
  • rent deposit of 6 weeks rent (which is the typical rate in London) of £1,275

*Transport in London could cost anything from £140 (in zone 1-2) a month to £260 (zone 6) a month. But because I hadn’t found a place to live I couldn’t really even guestimate how much I needed.

These were expenses I would need to pay pretty much on the spot, besides travel which could be staggered if needed. And I saved just under enough to cover it, which admittedly did panic me a little initially, but I still had my final monthly income of £1,400 for September from my old job and I would be expecting the slightly increased post-tax wage of £1,700 for October from my new job so I had some cushion.

Once I arrived in London, a week before I started my new job, the hunt for a room to rent did not go as smoothly as I anticipated. And by that I mean I wasn’t able to find somewhere in that week, despite being told a million times that it would be ‘easy’ and that I would find a place ‘super quick’. I ended up living with my boyfriend who kindly let me stay with him, rent-free, for 6 weeks. It wasn’t the plan, but it turned out to be an ideal situation as it allowed me to look for a place I loved and save some more money. I was however, staying in zone 6 (aka barely London) so my transport costs to work, which was in central London Monday to Friday, came to £260 a month which, coming from paying £45 a month in Newcastle, was basically like paying rent.

As I said in my post about renting in London, I ended up paying a bit more for my rent than I planned but I’d like to think operation plan and save allowed me to accommodate this (or should I say accommodate me). Once I found my place, I had to pay:

  • admin fee of £300 (what the ‘admin’ was that justified this fee is beyond me)
  • deposit of £600 (pretty random, but less than the 6 weeks i was expecting)
  • £685 rent (my tenancy didn’t begin at the start of the month, so I saved £105)
  • £62 bills (shared in part with the tenant before me, another saving of £5)

In total, I paid around £1,650 all in the same week for which I covered using a combination of my monthly earnings and some of my savings. So although I had a plan, it didn’t totally work out that way but  it did work in my favour in that I saved more than what I ended up needing to and even managed to save more while I temporarily lived with my boyfriend. I was able to leave £1,000 in my savings, which I was pretty pleased with. Keeping this money in my savings account was something I did on purpose, to incentivise me as I continued to save. I hope to end the year with a lot more than that £1,000, but we’ll see how I get on.

What I *Don’t Spend Money On | London on £25k

I recently got a Bullet Journal for Christmas and after getting shamelessly lost in the Bullet Journal holes on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, I added a BUJO staple to my own journal – a spending log to physically record my spending (excluding rent, bills, travel). I was not prepared for how it would make me feel. It was SO confronting to see where my money be going. And while I’m a big believer in looking at your bank statement regularly (I do it once or twice a week), I am horrified to see where my money goes unnecessarily. It’s all good and well saying YOLO and clicking confirm on your purchase or YOLO-ing on your contactless bank card, tap-tap-tapping away, but sitting down at the end of the day and physically writing down exactly what I bought and how much I spent has been grim. Grim but necessary.

But in the spirit of new year, positive vibes, optimistic attitude I decided to distract myself, move away from what I do spend money on, I’m yet to come to terms with that, and instead think about all the things I *try not to spend money on, sometimes actively, sometimes not.

I like to think of myself as frugal, I do try not to waste money and find other, cheaper ways of doing things. And in some areas, I’ve become really good at it (most of the time).

Lunch. I take my own lunch in most days at work. I do this because spending anything from £5-10 on lunch a day,  5 days a week, to me, doesn’t make sense. I also don’t like the idea of having a sandwich every day, I find it boring and too samey. So my home made lunches vary from sandwiches to pasta to quiche (which is my thing in the cold winter) to soup etc. I don’t like having to decide what I want to eat and then inevitably going for a sandwich or paying for something I don’t end up enjoying. Every now and then I will treat myself to a nice market lunch or go for lunch with someone. When it’s occasional, it feels more like a treat and I don’t feel like I’m wasting money.

Hot drinks. Although I’m a big tea lover, I almost never buy it, but not necessarily because of the monies. I have an obscene amount of sugar in my tea, 3 teaspoons. And I can never gauge it with the sachets (one time I got it just right, after 8 (!!) sachets) so I just don’t bother. I prefer to make it myself in a kitchen where I can add my sugar with a teaspoon and fewer pairs of judging eyes. Knowing that it could end up costing me like £15 a week (and/ or diabetes) if I got a cuppa every day is more a bonus.

Plastic bottled drinks. Besides milk or squash, I wouldn’t typically buy plastic-bottled drinks like soft drinks. This is more of a recent change for me, in an effort to be kinder to the environment. Cutting down on plastic is really hard so I try to do my bit by cutting out plastic drinks. I also have a Chillys bottle which has made this a lot easier as it means that I always have a drink. Plus, it means I drink more water.

I could definitely improve and reduce my spending on a lot more but I’m happy I’ve been able to maintain not spending on these three things. Next month, though, I’ve decided to do a no-(clothes)spend February. Extreme measures and that. I have no idea how it will go but I will report back with the outcome.

Renting in London: what a WOW | London on £25k

I’d heard a million times over that the cost of renting in London is outrageous, crazy, ridiculous etc. etc. And having done my research, I found that the rumours were in fact true. In comparison to rent in my small-ish northern home city, the prices were staggering and unsurprisingly it was one of the reasons I set my minimum salary expectations at £25k.

I’d had a look at rent prices before, just out of curiosity but as soon as I found out I would be moving to London, I spent an obscene amount of time on SpareRoom and Right Move just trying to navigate the rental marketplace of the capital city. What I gathered was that not only did prices vary from £500 to £1000 for a room – I know – but the quality of the rooms varied too. However, there wasn’t much consistency, the most expensive rooms weren’t always of the highest standard. You could pay the same amount of money to live in the basement of a warehouse as you could to live in a modern, new-build flat. The former isn’t really my aesthetic but maybe that’s what you’re paying for in warehouse rentals(?!).

By the time I arrived in London, I had an idea of what I wanted out of my London pad (bedroom):

  • double
  • no more than £850 (including bills) per month (for the perfect place)
  • zones 1-3
  • ensuite
  • no more than 2 housemates

Admittedly, after spending three months browsing and sifting, I got picky. But the way I saw it, this is where I will be spending a lot of my time, the place I want to want to come back to at the end of a working day. My last house-share was during my undergraduate degree in Manchester. A nine-man house that was old, smelly, falling apart and cheap as chips. After which I stayed in a comfortable room, in my family house. There was really no way I was going to stay somewhere I didn’t like again and that came at a price.

I was fortunate enough to have somewhere to stay when I arrived to London before I secured a place. By the time I eventually got round to finding a room, having been in London for about 6 weeks, my reality was more:

  • rent: £790 pcm + bills: £67.50 pcm + quarterly bills £47.52
  • double, ensuite
  • zone 2
  • 2 flatmates
  • warm without heating (which is something I never knew I needed but it has been a huge bonus so far)

So it was a bit of an expectations-versus-reality situation. I’m paying a lot more than what I would have liked but I have everything I was looking for. My place literally ticks all the boxes and then some, so for that reason I was happy to pay more.

From my monthly salary which is around £1,700 after tax, the flat eats up over half. It’s the price I pay to be happy, safe, close to central London and to me it’s worth it. Wow, right?

Saying Yes to the Job | London on £25k

Earlier this year as my contract at work reached its mid-way point, I was given two, amazing offers – to extend my contract and remain in my role for another year or take up a similar role in London for a year. After much deliberation, I chose the latter. London has always been a place I’ve loved and having visited almost yearly for a lot of my childhood, I decided long ago that I would like to live there one day. Obviously, as I got older, I understood how expensive the capital was but that didn’t seem to deter me. So there I was, presented with an opportunity to move and although on paper it would have been the easiest decision, I had to seriously think about whether I really wanted to move and if I could feasibly do so.

I had been living at home for nearly two years post-graduation and I loved it, I loved my space, being close my family and enjoyed my home city a lot. Naturally, I got very comfortable and actually the thought of moving was a lot scarier than I expected it to be. My main concerns were, whether I would enjoy the job, and whether I would enjoy London. In the end, my decision was made once I realised if I wanted to give London a proper go, my opportunity had arrived. It was definitely a case of London > job. The one condition I did have though, was that I would not leave for a job that paid any less than £25k. When it came to money it was more a case of job > London. Some people thought that was too much to ask and others thought it was completely justified if not a little modest.

I chose 25 because I had an idea of how much rent would be which is where most of my salary would go and ultimately, I wanted to try out London without having to worry too much about money. I wanted to go in the hope that I would enjoy it so much I could to stay there long term. The city has so, so much to offer and I did not plan to work 24/7. I would long to attend events, gigs, exhibitions, shows and shops that simply weren’t where I was, I stayed jealous of Londoners that had access to all these cool things. I refused to move if money was going to be an issue. I was fortunate enough to have a choice, I could have stayed in my home city and been content so if I was going to go then, for me, it didn’t make sense to go there and not be able to enjoy it.

So, it was a yes to the job and a YES to London. Then I had about 3 months to start preparing, which in hindsight was something I appreciated a lot. I wasn’t uprooted immediately, I had time to come to terms with the move and also start planning everything and that’s exactly what I did. I revisited some research via SpareRoom on London rental prices and made sure I knew roughly what my outgoing expenses were going to be. I spent some time on the TFL website looking through daily, weekly, monthly and yearly transport costs. It was an eyewateringly shocking experience, to say the least. Literally double if not triple the amount I would pay for the same things in my home city. To get my head around the insane costs, I would sit and calculate how much I would need spend each month, rent, travel, phone bill, groceries etc. etc. at least once a week. I worked out it would be roughly £800-1000 a month. Gross, I know, but it’s the capital city and I figured it is what it is and accepted it from there.

I’m in my early twenties, without any huge responsibilities and so I was prepared to move to one of the most expensive cities in the world even if that meant potentially no savings for a year. Some people may see it as a wasted year, financially, and in that sense, it would have been more sensible to stay put, but I saw it as a chance to move to a big city and see where it would take me. In short, YOLO, as the kids would say/did say(?).