Wednesday, 21 October 2015

London Life Hacks: budget-busting tips

I can't count the number of times while living in the London that I have promised to set a budget in a bid to be one of those cheerfully irritating people who actually have savings in their savings account.  But the reality is that I usually manage a week of being super-strict with my spending, before being lured by a bargain flight or a brand new pop-up experience, and ending up falling off the wagon with an almighty thud - forget yo-yo dieting, this is yo-yo budgeting in action!

Let's be honest, saving in London is bloody tough, as there always seems to be some new restaurant, theatre show or interactive experience which everybody is raving about tempting you to part with your hard-earned dough, and even modest plans for after-work drinks or a quick dinner out can easily leave you wincing at the bill.

So that's why I am always thrilled when I learn about a new tip to still have fun but also save some pennies and what better than to share them with you, my lovely readers, in a first of a series of blogs titled 'London Life Hacks'  -

Budget-busting 3-course meal

My flatmate and I try and have a house dinner every once in a while to have a proper catch-up. As vociferous carnivores I was expecting a bit of a reaction when I recently suggested that we go to a vegan restaurant which started life a communal kitchen serving neighbourhood squats, and I definitely wasn't disappointed. However I had heard such good reviews of the Bonnington Café in Vauxhall that I was determined that we check it out. The Bonnington Café is a restaurant run by the community, for the community. There is a rota of local cooks  manning the stove so the cooking style can vary wildly depending on who is in charge that evening from North African and Meditteranean fare, to the taste of the Far East. The only menu is etched on a chalkboard on the wall and consists of a choice of two starters (costing £3), main courses (costing £8) and desserts (costing £3). We loved it as the feel is super-homely (especially if you go on a weekday when it's a bit quieter and the cooking team have more time to chat) and the food consists of tasty, healthy, home-cooked fare. Add in the fact that it's B.Y.O and you pretty much have the perfect place for both carnivores or herbivores to unite and relax.

Keep fit for free
Like most people at least once a year I briefly toy with the idea of joining a gym, promising myself that I will get up at 5am to work out (usually its that point in the day when the post-Christmas dinner meat sweats have made me seriously delusional). Sometimes I even make it as far as doing a cheap one week trial. But I rarely sign up beyond that because, once the holiday high is over reality bites about how many times I will actually attend, especially as what I really love is less about plodding along on the treadmill and more about the range of classes designed to trick my brain into forgetting that I'm doing exercise. If you're in a similar boat fear not because there is a way to get fit for free. Our Parks is a new initiative bringing group exercise classes, led by experienced, fully qualified and insured instructors, to parks near you in partnership with Local Councils. Everything from bootcamp training, yoga and pilates, hula hoop classes and boxfit are on offer and are completely free, which means you can now you can stay fit without sweating about the cost.

Movie Madness
Going to the movies isn't always a cheap outing in London, costing as much as £15 in some cinemas. As someone who loves watching a good flick with friends I need a cheaper alternative, which is why I was thrilled when my sister introduced me to a really cute cinema in the East End. In a market crammed with generic cinema chains with the same overpriced snacks and boring interiors Genesis is a breath of fresh air. Classic film posters hang from the wall, there are comfy sofas in the foyer to relax , the snack bar is manned by super friendly staff who sell a variety of tasty treats including absolutely delicious cronuts (a croissant/doughnut combo which tastes as good as it sounds) from the local 100 year old Rinkoff bakery and after your movie you can head up the stairs to the bar area to  continue your night with cocktails. As if that's not enough Genesis also prides itself on showing local indie films and cult classics as well as traditional Hollywood blockbusters. Oh and the best bit - tickets cost just £4 on Mondays and Wednesdays! Yep it's the perfect Hollywood ending.

Best seats in the house - bargain theatre tickets
One of my favourite treats, and one of the best things about living in London is the fantastic theatre on offer. It is however an expensive hobby, which is why I am always one of those right at the back, in the nosebleed section, peering down at the stage which is often a little fuzzy dot in the distance.  However I recently went to see my favourite musical, Miss Saigon, and for the first time ever had a front row seat. That experience would usually set me back around £100. How much did I pay? Just £20! Here's the secret - basically few sold out shows are truly sold out, as many theatres release a limited number of day seats on the morning of weekday performances. The only way to get these coveted golden tickets is to queue up early (box offices usually open at 10am so if you are there by 8.30am that is plenty of time) and you will be rewarded with a ticket at a fraction of the actual price. And what's it like being in the front row - just incredible, a totally different experience, and even better knowing that you got a bargain. Be warned once you've done this once, it is mighty difficult to ever return to the nosebleed section. For a list of participating theatres and policies check out this fantastic site.

Hope you enjoyed these tips. Watch out for the next part of London Life Hacks and in the meantime, happy saving!



  1. Great post hun! I must try that vegetarian place soon with you :)

    1. Oh yes we should definitely do that as I think you'd love it too.

    2. I am sure I will :)
      I just text you but if you would like to have your next blog post also as a 'guest post' on my blog then let me know. xx

  2. That restaurant looks promising. And I agree, yo-yo budgeting really is a thing!

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    1. Thanks! The restaurant has got a really lovely homely atmosphere and is such a great option for dinner with friends. Enjoy!

  3. The Genesis cinema sounds amazing! I love supporting local businesses to and the fact that you can go for four squids?! Hello my winter week nights!!

    CB x

    1. It is really lovely and such a bargain. Remember to try the ridiculously good cronuts while you're there

  4. London looks so beautiful with all the architecture and the small local places! I would love to visit! x



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