Moving to the UK? Congratulations! Britain is a great place to work or study. It offers better wages and higher standards of education than most places in the world. It’s also rich in culture, history and opportunities.
Moving here probably wasn’t cheap. Unfortunately, living here won’t be cheap either. The only consolation? With the value of the pound falling post-Brexit vote, you're likely to get more sterling in exchange for your home currency.
The UK is the 12th most expensive country, while London ranks as the 6th most expensive city in the world.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save money - when you know how. Here’s our top tips from local Brits.
1. Share a flat
There’s no escaping the fact that housing in the UK is expensive. In fact, rents here are the highest in Europe. Brits spend almost 40% of their income on their home, compared to a European average of 28%.
Sharing a flat is very common here to keep costs down. It’s also the best way to make new friends in your new life.
2. Get a bank account ASAP
Life is much easier (and cheaper) with a local bank account. Fortunately, it’s also easier than ever for you to set one up when you arrive in the UK.
You’ll just need two documents. One to prove your identity and one to prove your address. That’s why most arrivals find a place to live first, although it is possible to get round this if you want one sooner.
Check out our complete guide for how to open a bank account in the UK. And if you need to send or receive money from abroad, watch out for hidden charges from banks and brokers.
Use TransferWise instead to avoid bad exchange rates on international money transfers.
3. Reduce your household bills
The bills for your new home will probably seem high, especially in winter. You might prefer to put on a bigger jumper (or sweater as our American friends say) than turn up the heating.
But you can almost always save money by switching suppliers. There’s more competition than ever before, yet Brits are reluctant to switch. So the best deals are offered to new customers.
The average British household can now save £337 per year by just changing their energy supplier. It doesn’t always pay to be loyal. You can use a price comparison website like uSwitch to see who has the lowest price for you.
4. Get connected
You can also use Uswitch to find the best deals for mobile and broadband contracts.
Look out for ‘sim only’ deals if you have a phone already and simply want to change to a British network. GiffGaff offers some of the cheapest sim only plans.
If you plan to travel back home a lot then look out for roaming deals too. Three will let you use your phone in many countries at no extra cost.
If you live in London, you can even get your broadband set up by Relish on the same day. That will save your mobile data while waiting.
5. Eat for less
You can buy quality food at a low price in most British supermarkets. Simply wait until the end of the day and look for bright red or yellow stickers. British supermarkets don’t like throwing food away so it gets heavily reduced just before it goes out of date.
If you're a sushi fan in London (first world problems), the likes of Itsu and Abokado also slash their prices in the last few hours before closing to shift any excess stock. A great way to get a cheap(er) dinner.
There are smart ways to get cheaper food in restaurants too. Tastecard helps restaurants fill empty tables by offering half price meals to its members. You can search their website for which restaurants are currently taking part.
You can also find daily deals on Groupon, which encourages people to try new restaurants and other stores.
6. Pay less to travel
Few things get Brits more irritated than the cost of commuting. After the weather, their favourite topic of conversation. There’s a few ways you can keep costs down though.
If you live in London - or many of the other UK cities - a car definitely isn't essential. Just one in three Londoners drive daily. You can travel on trains and buses by swiping your contactless card. The cost is capped so you’ll never pay more than a daily or weekly pass. If you don’t have a contactless card, pick up an Oyster card from a ticket office instead.
For train travel elsewhere, you can find the lowest fares by buying tickets online as far in advance as possible. Check out the Trainline for good deals.
In London a season ticket is a big commitment - and a big up-front payment - but you can use CommuterClub to pay in monthly installments. They also let you cancel your season ticket at any time.
For short trips, ride sharing services like Uber are cheaper than taxis in most cities.
7. Know when to haggle
Brits love haggling when they’re abroad, but prefer not to ‘cause a scene’ when shopping at home. Fortunately, there are still plenty of opportunities to pay less than full price in the UK if you’re brave enough to ask.
Markets sellers are usually the most receptive to haggling. It’s also standard practise when buying a car.
There’s usually an opportunity to pay less for a contract, like a mobile phone or gym membership, especially if you’ve done your research and checked other offers. Many landlords too will accept a lower rent if you’ve convinced them that you’ll be a reliable tenant.
Most Brits would never haggle inside a shop, but it’s sometimes possible to pay less for expensive items like technology.
8. Do your own Brexit
One of the great things about the UK is how easy it is to leave the UK. There are excellent travel connections and plenty of low cost airlines flying in and out every day.
You’ll love how easy it is to book a quick break in another country - especially if you’re coming from outside Europe. Or you might want to go back and see friends and family.
Make sure you search by whole months instead of specific dates and you can see the cheapest flights coming up. You can also select ‘everywhere’ as your destination if you simply want the best deal.
Also, the UK might be an island, but don’t forget you can get a train under the sea too. You can even put your car on it. Make sure you book as early as possible for the best deals on the Channel Tunnel.
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