2 years ago, I moved to London to pursue my first adult job; hopes were high of Made in Chelsea-esque social scenes, cocktails and endless fashionable outfits. These dreams were soon crushed when I received my first pay cheque and the harsh reality truly hit: 70% of my salary does not belong to me.
Like most girls in their twenties, I strive to have a life. I hate staying in. I get a concerningly unhealthy buzz when I buy new clothes. I drink far too much. Without these things in my life, I’m not me… but these things cost money, which I don’t have much of.
I’m always complaining I’m skint, but the reaction I usually get from colleagues or friends is ‘how can you be – you’re always out!’ or ‘Your Instagram says differently!’. Well… this is my ridiculous life. I take Instagram vs. reality to the extremes. I spend my weeks eating nothing but eggs and tins of tuna so I can go on extravagant holidays to Vegas. I go to different bars every weekend but spend my week nights crippled with anxiety about how I’m going to survive the rest of the month on £12.78.
A life of juxtapositions.
So how do I get by? When there’s a will, there’s a way. Over the past few years, I’ve managed to come up with a handy set of rules that have successfully allowed me to have a great social life in London on a very average salary. Here’s how:
Step 1: Get a credit card
These things are great for London. The bank basically gives you free money, that you don’t need to pay back, at 0% interest*. My estimations show that if you have a £2k balance on this little magic piece of plastic it can tide you over for at least 5 months on flashy nights out and unnecessary items of clothing.
*These payment terms usually last around 12 months until which point you are likely to find yourself silently sobbing in the disabled bathroom at work, on the phone to the bank asking why you’re basically flushing money down the toilet in interest. Worth it for that new Kylie Jenner lip kit though, right? Maybe not…
Step 2: Get your priorities right
Ever found yourself in a bit of a pickle at the end of a long month, where you have to make that difficult choice between parting with £12 for Canesten Duo, or having the luxury of eating dinner that week? Yeah… me neither. But if I did so happen to be in that situation, here is my advice:
Look at your life choices, and ask yourself, ‘what is more important to me?’… What would you rather spend your money on? Social or survival? Put your favourite things in order of priority and it’ll soon become clear what you should neglect.
A big motto of mine is ‘fun over food’ – yes, my earlier reference to eggs and tuna was tragically true. My alcohol / social expense is typically around 3 x that of my food, which usually means long evenings of drinking fuelled purely on breakfast. It’s safe to say I’ve become prone to a memory blank during the bad side of my twenties, but it does mean an extra bit of cash to be spent on fun nights out in London.
Step 3: Hack the apps
One of my favourite things to do is to take advantage of promo codes for new apps and really bleed them dry for what they’ve got. If you live in London and also happen to not live under a rock, you’ll have heard talk of promo codes for new taxi company Karhoo, who I think soon realised they were giving away far too many free taxis to people like me who have no intentions of ever actually PAYING for one. Keep an eye out for Karhoo codes as well as other apps – UberEats is also great for new joiners who get £10 off their first food order. Perfect timing for me to shamelessly plug my codes: eats-kateb873 for £10 UberEats credits; KATEB609 for £10 Karhoo. Everyone’s a winner and you’re helping a girl in need.
Note: Be wary of using taxi codes whilst intoxicated. From personal experience, if you throw up in a taxi, you usually have to pay a hefty fine of around £40, defeating the purpose of the hack and leaving you kicking yourself (not to mention covered in vomit).
Step 4: Sell your life on eBay
By this stage in life you probably feel you have nothing to show for that credit card whatsoever apart from a sore liver and a few crap items of clothing that you’re now sick of wearing. Time to sell them all on eBay!
No… please don’t sell your liver. Unless you’re really desperate. But I doubt anyone would have it to be honest…
Seriously though, if you do have the time and energy to spend putting your unwanted items on eBay every month, and if you have the bonus of being able to post from your office, it’s quite a handy way of making some extra cash. When I can be bothered, I can sometimes get around £30 for a few random items. Quite useful when you find yourself out of pocket from unfortunate taxi incidents as mentioned in step 3. Something to be wary of with eBay is the amount of creeps with foot fetishes asking you to sell them old, used shoes. I personally haven’t lowered myself to doing that yet, but if you choose to, who am I to judge?
Step 5: Budget your money
So you’ve completed steps 1,2, 3 and 4, you’re completely out of ideas and are lacking any sort of back-up plan. The credit card is maxed and your parents are sick of lending you money because they know for a fact you’re just spending it on alcohol.
This is when you have to think about budgeting. Seems simple, right? Amazingly, I only even began to consider this option a few months ago, and God it really is a revelation. To look at your earnings and plan ahead to decide whether you can actually afford that bottomless brunch, rather than just turning up, buying ten rounds and scrimping for the rest of the month as a result? Ground breaking.
If it’s not too late, I’d probably advise you to reverse these steps and kick off with step 5. This may not seem like the most fun of options, but it will save you a lot of stress in the long run (not to mention embarrassing run-ins in your office toilets).
Ultimately, work out what’s best for you to be happy. For me, it’s dedicating all of my cash to holidays and social events, and struggling through the week to make up for it. Tragic but true.
Find your balance. Have fun. Don’t lose to London.
Living in London? Read my other blog posts about London life