It’s been about two months since I moved to London. Priority number one is to budget my funds! As an avid RFDer (RedFlagDeals) user, it’s only natural my first instinct is to find the cheapest stuff possible with the best possible value as well. It’s quite rough out here. In comparison to Toronto, almost everything here is much more expensive.
This list isn’t comprehensive of everything I’ve found but it’ll show some of the main tools I have in my arsenal of deal finding weapons.
In the UK, there actually is something similar to RFD. It’s not quite the same community but the site has its advantages over RFD; it’s called Hot UK Deals. If you take a look at the site it has the deals listed in an order similar to Reddit. People can upvote, or give heat, to a deal posted. The more heat the deal gets from users the more likely it’ll end up on the hot deals list. I’ve found a great many deals for my room off this site. Like RFD, you can read the comments post per deal to see if it really is worth or not. It’s a good way to get a feel for how much of a deal it is in the UK.
Cutting Cost on Travel
Definitely get an Oyster card if you’re in the London area. Oyster cards will give you discounted day passes. Also, the initial £5 deposit is refundable. Like most places in Europe it’s always best to book your train tickets a couple weeks in advance to ensure you get the cheapest price possible. There are also other ways to discount your ticket prices even more!
Railcard – If you’re between the ages of 16-25 you can apply for a Railcard. It essentially lets you purchase most train tickets for 2/3 of the price; this includes even already discounted tickets from purchasing early. If you’re not between this age limit the other way to apply is to be a student at a university.
Gold Card – If you’re neither a student or 16-25 you do have the option of a Gold Card which offers the same discounts. You can obtain a gold pass if you purchase an annual fare Oyster card. If you’re working in the UK for more than year it’s something definitely worth looking into. Not only do you get the benefit of a Gold Card but you also get additional benefits like:
- An annual pass essentially costs as little as paying 10 months; that’s 2 months of free travel.
- For an extra £1, you can give the Railcard benefits to one other person.
If you’re worried about the fact that your Oyster card is now essentially a £1000 card and that you might lose it, don’t! You can register your card online and from there you can always put it on hold or transfer your account to a new card should you ever lose it.
Super Duper Discount Cards
NUS Extra – For all of those in Canada, the NUS Extra is very similar to our SPC. It’s essentially a student card. You might ask, “I’m not a student so I probably can’t get one.” This isn’t true and it’s actually quite simple to get one. Every year it seems a school will be able to offer the card at £10 a year for any of their former students. The system doesn’t check at all and the card is delivered to your house with your photo on it. It comes in pretty handy when you want to pay student prices all over town (especially some of the museums). Aside from using it as a pseudo student card, it comes with some pretty amazing discounts, such as Pizza Express at 40% off, Big Mac at McDonalds with free medium fries comes out to £2, and super cheap laundry service. Check out the rest of deals on their website.
Gourmet Society – Normally this card is £70 for a year. However, with the NUS Extra you can purchase it at £20! What you get with this card is either 2 for 1 meals or 25% off your bill at select restaurants. The list is quite extensive. The best part is you only need one card per table. So, if you go with a bunch of friends, at £20 a year, you’re already making your money’s worth. They’ve partnered up with a bunch of restaurants around London so its worth taking a looking.
Phone & Data Plans
This one is simple. Get Giffgaff! If you’re bring over a phone from Canada it’s likely that it’ll work here. The only thing you might miss out on is LTE since our bands are different than the UK. Simply get a SIM mailed to your address in the UK. If you’re staying at a hotel, have it mailed there and they’ll bring it to your room. If you’re doing Airbnb ask your host to collect it for you at their address.
Giffgaff offers a good selection of plans. At £10 you get a decent amount of data and talk time and unlimited text; 500 minutes and 1GB of data. For most people that should be enough if all you’re doing is some social media, and maps. After September 21, the £12 plan is changing to 250 minutes and 3GB of data instead of unlimited data. So more data than the £10 plan but less minutes. Generally most people will choose between these two. Go up to £15 and you get 500 minutes again but with 5GB of data.
If however you’re only here for a few days or a week. You might only need maps throughout your visit. Then I suggest getting a £5 data plan that gives you 500MB of data. That’ll be more than enough for using maps! If you’re using Google Maps I suggest also saving maps offline to use even less data. If you do need more data though at £7.50 they do sell 1GB.
That’s Not All
That’s all I have to share for now, but there’s definitely more to come! There’s a lot to be said about loyalty cards and general rules of how and where to shop for groceries. Online shopping is also a big thing here in the UK. But in the meantime, let me know in the comments if you found anything else in the UK that helped you save some money or get better value out of what you wanted!