Money saving websites for London students
Websites and a few extra tips on saving money in this expensive city that we call home...
For All London Students (LSE-specific tips are further below)
Perhaps the best website I've come across out there with advice for students on saving money--from the best bank accounts to ways to reclaim TV license tax, to free software packages and and how to budget, is the Money Saving Experts "Student Checklist" page.
Those of you new to the UK may also want to be aware that the hugely popular Groupon phenomenon has certainly caught on here. (Groupon being an interesting phenomenon in and of itself--there are some good articles out there about how it works and why.)
Toptable is also good for finding discount rates on dining out--and if you review the place you ate at you earn points which eventually lead to a free meal.
London Timeout is also now offering a Groupon-esque discount programme, London Deals Timeout, and it is worth checking/ signing up to their emails.
If you have an iphone, the app London Discount Vouchers is not great, but useful at times when you are out and about and make a last-minute decision to, say, go to a museum or tourist location--often they will have a discount on entry prices or nearby restaurants--and you just have to show the vendor the voucher on your phone screen in order to use it, so no need to print anything off. If you don't have an iphone, Vouchercloud has similar offers and printable vouchers.
Major tourist sites such as Madame Tussauds, the London Dungeon, and Kew Gardens can be costly to enter--but if you can show a train ticket you can get 2 for 1 on many of these locations, through the Days Out Guide--If I recall it's run by the National Rail. They target people coming to London from other locations, but on occasion I have simply popped into the nearest overground train station and bought the cheapest ticket they have (often just around £1), and then used it to get 2 for 1 entry at the places they have on offer. A bit sneaky, but hey why not.
If you do a lot of shopping online (on any huge range of items--trains, flights, grocery shopping, hotels, ebay... pretty much anything you can imagine) you should consider joining Quidco. It's a cooperative with a small membership fee per year (around £4 if I recall correctly). This is how it works: if you click through to a website from, say, Google, and then make a purchase on that website, the location you clicked through from gets a small 'kickback' on your purchase. Quidco gives that kickback to you as the buyer. You don't make large margins but if that money is going to someone, it may as well be you as the consumer!
I've done a few of the London Walking Tours over the years (of which London Walks is probably the best-known company--but a google search will reveal several others) and they are good fun--and with a student discount not too pricey. But know that there are also several websites from which you can download free self-guided walking tours, or .MP3 walking tours, if you want to go DIY. See for example Richard Jone's Walking Tours, or the London for Free walks.
Finally, for those of you who are LSE-specific--just a few small tips that helped me get through some tight times when I was a student there: Wright's is the cheapest food on campus. It's very much a 'greasy spoon cafe', but good for a quick and filling meal. If the takeaway queue is far out the door, consider pushing past to see if there are seats available at the back and 'eat in' instead.
Also, during the year the Hare Krishna folks often come around 12-1:30 (until they run out of food) to offer free meals out of their portable wagon. This surprises many students at first, but it's so they can get people eating vegetarian food, as part of their meat-free lifestyle. If you're an environmentalist such as myself, you can bring your own tupperware for them to fill, instead of using their own disposable plates. There's always a queue, but it moves quickly.
The LSE gym has reasonable monthly rates. However if you decide to join the LA Fitness at the Waldorf instead (the next-nearest gym that I know of), bargain with them--I have had memberships there twice, and both times paid significantly below the initial rate that they quoted me--particularly in these hard economic times.
The Sainsbury's on the corner of High Holborn and Kingsway used to discount their food that was nearly out-of-date around 5pm every day. That's dinner, sorted.
For cocktail fans, B@1 near the Lyceum Theatre has the best happy hour, excellent drinks, and brilliant staff. It gets really crowded though. It's also one of the only cocktail bars I know of where you can easily reserve a table for free in advance, for parties and such.
On the subject of tasty beverages, Samuel Smiths pubs are located all around London and are significantly cheaper than most other pubs. They only serve their own brewery beers, but they've got the usual range (lager, stout, wheat, etcetera). Sam Smith pubs near campus are the Lyceum Tavern, the Olde Cheshire Cheese, and the Princess Louise.
The Student Union copyshop (above the Quad, next to Alpha books) has cheaper photocopying, dissertation binding, etc than the library.
You can now keep track of your checked-out library books through Moodle, and I believe you can renew them online from there as well. I paid a fortune over the years in library fines, which is such a waste. Hopefully this new system will allow you all to avoid my foolishness. (If you get over £10 in fines, you get blocked from renewing online--but in my experience if you ring them up in person they will sometimes take mercy and renew them for you manually, so at least you're not adding even further to what you owe!)
If you're really 'pinching pennies', know that the LSE SU Shop may not be the best prices on 'school supplies' such as notebooks, highlighters and paper. The best I've found for this sort of thing are the random discount shops you get on some London high-streets, often nestled in between kebab shops and discount clothing stores. They usually sell a myriad range of random things, many of which will be piled up out front of the shop to lure you in. Sometimes these are 'pound shops' (everything's a pound). They tend to sell cheap notepads, pencils and pens. They won't have our lovely LSE logo on them, but 'meh'.
That's all I can think of for now--and please do post your own discoveries in the comments section!