Haven’t written for a couple of weeks, just been super focused with the house, viewings for the flat we’re vacating, work busy as usual and the fact we can have social lives again. I also haven’t really had anything to write about, even though I’m super busy, I haven’t really got anything exciting going on, it’s a bit same old same old – just like the weather! I’ve seen a few friends but I’m not really going out as I’m trying to save everything right now so I’m basically a very boring hermit.
But then it dawned on me, the fact I’m doing nothing; nothing to write about anyway, to try and save money is something to write about in itself…
When I first moved to London and got a job at the very bottom of the ladder in fashion I had literally ZERO money. I distinctly remember walking down to my local Morrisons one weekend and buying a tin for about 20p of spaghetti meatballs (so disgusting I know) and that was my dinner sometimes when I ran out of money. Mum & Dad would give me a little bit sometimes to keep me going but there were some low points (20p spaghetti out of a can being one of them). Pay day was the one time that I would go out with friends; I wanted to enjoy the fact I had a little bit of something in the bank for a few happy hour cocktails before reality hit. It wasn’t that I was terrible with my money (I’ve had a few hiccups like we all have) but there just wasn’t enough to ENJOY life as it all went on rent, travel, food.
Anyway, in that time period I really learnt to take pleasure in the small things – buying actual ingredients to make actual dinner from Tesco for example – and learnt how to have fun on a tight budget. Now I feel like I’m back to being 18 and figuring out how to have fun for free, at least now I’m not doing it quite on my own.
Ps, I’m not complaining, I sometimes have to pinch myself that I am actually buying a house as I thought that day would never happen. But it’s also incredibly expensive – solicitor fees, deposit as well as buying a bed frame, a mattress and all those little things that I’ve never needed to buy before because I was renting (mattresses are SO SPENNY!).
So I thought I’d write about things to do in London on little to no budget. Some of these can apply to whatever area you’re living in as well…
Go explore a new area!
In London specifically there’s some amazing neighborhoods where you feel like you’ve stepped off a plane into another country, one of the special things about London and it’s many cultures. An area I discovered recently on a cycle ride is Rotherhithe in SE. If you come out of the station and head towards the canal (see Garter Way) it’s like another world, and then continue on to the Ecological Park and circle back round via the river.
Another area close to that is Isle of Dogs which I explored a couple of weekends ago. Sam and I got the foot tunnel from Greenwich across the river and walked through Millwall Park all the way up to Canary Wharf. It was so interesting because Isle of Dogs didn’t have any tall buildings and I almost felt in the countryside with the green space, old Georgian rows of houses and surrounded by water and then suddenly out of nowhere you’re in CW. It feels like you’ve walked from a 19th century film set to a future sci-fi one.
Thought I’d do best of 3 and I can’t forget my old North London neighbours (to those that don’t know I was always a NW gal but LY moved SE). I’m not going to say ‘go round Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill’ because that’s the obvious choice and you’ve probably done that already. What I will say though is why not explore Camden through to Islington. I’ve done this a few times and gone down to the canal at Camden Town, walked all the way along through Coal Drops Yard (if you haven’t explored that yet then you must!) through to Islington and stopping off at Camden Passage which is full of amazing little independent shops before heading back. You have to visit Annie’s vintage shop, it is incredible. I actually bought a 1920s party dress from there a few years back.
The walk sounds long but you’ll be surprised how far you can walk and it’s a great way to get those steps in! Or alternatively hire bikes or use your own if you have one to explore further distances.
On a warm-ish day go and people watch in your local park.
Another thing I did a lot and a great one if you’re on your own too is going to your nearest green area/park and take a book, headphones, picnic blanket or something to lay on, food (make sandwiches etc if you can’t afford to buy a picnic), and anything else you’d need for a couple of hours lay out in the warm weather relaxing. It sounds dull but just being away from watching TV and sitting somewhere watching the world go by is actually quite nice. I love people watching and could just sit and chill for hours without getting bored (promise I’m not a creepy stalker).
Loose yourself in a book shop.
If the weather isn’t that great but you still want to get out of the house (sometimes it’s just needed) then I like to go loose myself in a bookshop for an hour. I’m not talking about your local WH Smith or Waterstones (no offence to either of those) but the magical book shops like Daunt Books (try the one in Marylebone) or even better and my personal favourite Foyles on Charing Cross Road (Tottenham Court Road station). I used to work around there and if I was having a stressful day and just needed a break I would pop in and just walk around and drool over (not literally) all these different books. Some incredible art books, history books – whatever floats your boat – as well as fiction. I could loose myself in there for ages. There’s also a fantastic cafe up on one of the top floors if you do fancy treating yourself.
Shop for the little things
I’ve been doing this a bit recently, I have a TK Maxx on my local high street and the other day I popped in (restrained myself from buying lots I don’t need) and treated myself to a nail colour only for about £2. I love a bargain and TK Maxx have some great Essie nail varnishes for next to nothing. It then keeps me occupied while I give myself a manicure at home with a fabulous new nail colour (saves spending £30 at the nail salon).
Yesterday I literally did this, it was pay day and I finished work early, was feeling like I SHOULD BE enjoying the fact of both and treating myself but at the same time didn’t want to spend money. So instead I went to Lidl for a food shop and came out with some fresh flowers for £1.79. I don’t often buy myself flowers as I see them as a waste of a fiver or more for something that only lasts a week. But every once in a while (especially if they’re less than 2 quid) then I will and then feel like I have treated myself.
Instead of clothes shopping why not shop in your own wardrobe!
I’ve talked about this before but there is something in us that is always wanting more, the next big thing and I think especially with those of us into fashion. Instagram, emails, sale signs everywhere – there are so many beacons enticing us to buy new clothes and let’s be honest, is there anything more fun than going clothes shopping? For me there probably isn’t, I LIVE for shopping! But instead why not look around in your own wardrobe and remind yourself of the fab clothes you already own and make it a fun shopping trip – sounds like I’ve gone mad but hear me out….
Pop some music on, pour yourself a cheeky drink (mine would be a G&T) and play around in your wardrobe trying clothes on. Try on different items that you haven’t worn together yet, make up some new outfits, pair two different colours or patterns together and just get creative and have a little dance while you’re doing it. Bonus, you might find some items that you realise you really aren’t going to wear anymore so you can make a bit of money selling them as well (I recommend Vinted to sell).
These are all pretty Covid friendly for the world we live in right now but there’s also museums and galleries to explore (and for free). Another one which I haven’t done yet myself is riding the Emirates Air Cable Car over The Thames. I don’t think it’s that expensive and is another way to explore London and go for a walk on either side of the river on a nice day.
So that’s it really, my life isn’t that exciting full of jam packed things happening right now but that’s okay and once we’re in the new house it’ll all be worth it.
If you have any other great suggestions of free or cheap things to do in London then comment below and we can all share ideas of how to have fun on a budget!
Lots of love gals xxx