So the hard educational work is done. You’re the proud owner of a spanking new degree and you’re looking to make the move to one of the greatest business hubs in the world – London.
Perhaps you’re moving from another area in the UK, or maybe you’re from overseas. Whatever the case, London is a whole new ball game – and the future is beckoning with excitement and a brand new life.
It’s an intoxicating, breathtaking, and slightly nerve-racking time. So with this in mind, here are our 8 essential tips for a graduate moving to London:
1. Decide where you’re going to live
Let’s assume you’ve already got a job (although if you haven’t, this should replace number 1 on your “things to do” list). The most crucial thing to do is to find a place to lay your head.
Now, there’s no getting away from the fact that renting in London is expensive, but hundreds of thousands of people manage it every year, and you just need to be a little savvy when it comes to finding a property that’s within your budget.
When you first start searching for a property, it might seem somewhat mind-blowing. How on earth do you know where are the nicer areas to live? How long will it take you to get to work each day? What on earth are the “zones” that people talk about?
Okay, so the first choice you have to make is where in London you’d like to live. The city is marked out in zones – these relate to the areas covered by all the train options in London – The Tube, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground, and National Rail Services.
Zone 1 covers Central London, Zone 2 is slightly further out, etc.
In reality, renting a place anywhere in zones 1-4 will see you with a commute of probably less than 45 minutes, no matter where in the city you work.
The first two allow you to define your requirements, and is where all the various agents advertise their properties. Gum Tree also shows agent’s property, but in addition many private individuals advertise property as well.
If you’re looking to share a property, websites such as Easy Room Mate and Spare Room will put you in touch with other, similar minded people. This is a great way to bring down the monthly cost of your rent.
When you find a property you like, be aware that it’s perfectly okay to haggle a little on price. Sure, decent places to rent get snapped up fast, but you can make an offer lower than the monthly asking price, and if it’s declined, you can always agree to pay the higher cost.
After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
2. Work out your other monthly cost of living outgoings
Unless you’re really lucky to get a place where bills are included, you’re going to have to budget for various monthly outgoings. These include heating (oil/electricity/gas), water, council tax, Internet, TV, etc.
And if you want a landline phone, that will cost extra as well. To be honest, many people simply have a mobile phone and don’t bother with a fixed line any more.
Similarly with Internet, if you’ve got a good deal on your mobile/tablet/laptop, then you may choose not to purchase an Internet connection to your home.
TV is another way to save money, as you can watch whatever you want online. However, be aware that unless you only watch video clips that are not being shown at the same time on live TV, you’ll need to purchase a TV licence. This costs £145.50 per year, or you can pay in monthly installments of £12.12 (price correct as of October 2015)
According to crowd sourcing website, Numbeo, the cost of utilities in a flat of 85 square metres will cost £136 per month. You can check if you’re paying the best possible price for your utilities by using independent website U Switch, or one of the many price comparison websites such as Compare The Market or Money Saving Expert.
3. Get yourself an Oyster Card
An Oyster Card is a handy way of paying for your Tube and Bus fares. You simply tap the card on the reader at the beginning and end of your journey, and the system automatically adds up your costs and caps them at the lowest price.
Not only does this save you money on regular fares, but also means there’s no need to queue to purchase individual tickets for each journey.
4. Suss out your R&R
Pretty much anywhere you live in London will mean you’re within easy reach of restaurants, bars, multiple gyms, and many of London’s leafy green spaces and parks.
Good restaurants abound, with virtually every kind of food imaginable available to eat in authentic eateries all over London. Square Meal is a great place to find restaurants and other venues close to where you live.
If you want to join a gym, you’ll find many individual and chains all over the city. Virgin Active, LA Fitness, and Fitness First are some of the big names. If you’re working for a large corporation, be sure to ask if they’ve set up any corporate deals that will lessen the monthly cost for you.
5. Learn how to save money
There are many ways you can cut down on your monthly costs. One is to ditch the expensive purchase of your lunch each day, and simply take your food with you.
Another is to forgo the luxury of your daily cappuccino – this can amount to a substantial amount of money when you look at your spend on an annual basis.
And never forget the power of walking. Not only is it good for you, but it really can bring your transportation costs down to zero! Just be sure to invest in a good waterproof coat to protect you from the unpredictable British weather.
6. Download some essential apps
There are some great apps that are London specific. For instance, Uber allows you to book and pay for taxis online, ensuring you get the cheapest price. City Mapper is a great way to help you navigate the confusing London streets.
7. Be security conscious
As in any big city, you should take precautions to keep yourself and your belongings safe. For instance, always shield your PIN number when entering it, and check that no-one is looking over your shoulder when you’re at an ATM.
If you want to check out how safe a potential living area is, the Metropolitan Police provide the up to date crime figures for all areas of London.
However, don’t get too hung up on this, as London is definitely one of the safer cities in the world to live in. Just be sensible and be aware of what is going on around you – you’ll be just fine.
8. Make friends
If you’re moving to London on your own, it might be nice to have some pals to hook up with before you get there. Websites such as Meet Up puts groups of people together to take part in pretty much any kind of activity you care to think of.
From dance to bootcamps, badminton to hiking, vegans to gays, entrepreneurs to Instagrammers – whatever you like to do, there’s sure to be a group doing it in London.