12 Tips For Getting By In London… Without An Income

Living in a big city as a student, intern, or poorly-paid graduate is hard, especially when all your rich finance friends are going for fancy dinners while you’re crying into your microwave noodles.

Based on my experiences of living in London as a student and an unpaid intern in Geneva – two of the most expensive cities in the world – here are some tips to help you get by.


  1. Get a National Rail Card. You are eligible if you are 16-25 or if you are a student (students over 25 will need to get the Rail Card brochure stamped by their university). The £30 you spend will be easily earned back by all the discounts you get on your train tickets.
  2. If you don’t live near a cheap supermarket, get your groceries delivered/ Most have a minimum order of £40 which is annoying, but you can bulk order things that won’t expire like toiletries, or split the order with your housemates/neighbours. The money you save from not going to an expensive supermarket or corner store will be worth it. Ocado is a good option to try and will give you £20 off your first shop.
  3. If you are a student, utilise your student card. Join UNiDAYS and Student Beans, get a student oyster card (you can get a season pass or a pay-as-you-go discount), and always ask every shop or restaurant if they offer a student discount – they sneakily don’t always advertise that they do.
  4. Take your student card everywhere, even on holiday. You will be surprised how many tourist attractions in the EU let you in for free with a student card.
  5. Be a smart supermarket shopper. Buying in bulk might not be the cheapest option if the food goes off before you have the chance to eat it all. Make sure you always check expiry dates at the supermarket and grab the product with the furthest away date. Also, always have some carry bags stashed in your handbag/backpack so you never have to pay for supermarket bags again.
  6. (Warning: this option requires you to have little shame). Buying toilet paper is not necessary. If your workplace/university/school/any public toilet you are in has steal-able toilet paper, stash a few rolls in your bag every day.
  7. Pre-drink. Ain’t nobody got time for £7 G&Ts.
  8. Don’t ever catch a black cab. They cost more than your kidneys are worth. If you don’t want to walk or get the bus/tube, get an Uber. You need to download the app on your phone and create an account with your credit card details. To call an Uber taxi you will need phone data. Asides from that it is super easy and very affordable.
  9. Get free and decent haircuts with trainee hairdressers. The Toni & Guy academy is always looking for “hair models” to practice on. Look here for advertised free haircuts. Be warned, they do a good job but as they have to check their every step with their supervisors, you might be there all day. It took me 3 hours to have a trim.
  10. Scope out free exercise classes in your area. Sweaty Betty stores in the UK offer free classes. They obviously book out quite quickly, so get online one week prior to the class at midnight and nab a spot in all the classes you can. If you miss out, there is a waiting list, so you might still get a spot if someone cancels.
  11. If you ever use any sort of startup or app like Deliveroo, Uber, Transferwise, Classpass, Giffgaff, etc. you can almost always get a discount code for being a new user. Sometimes you may need an existing user to refer you, but if you don’t know anyone using the product in question, you can usually find someone’s referral code on Google or try asking in a Facebook group.
  12. If you need extra cash, working as a film and TV extra is always an easy way to do so. Just register with an agency, fill out the details. They may ask you to come in and have free photos and measurements taken, and then they will start sending you jobs. Usually you can get about 100-200 pounds for a day’s work, sometimes more. POP and Casting Collective are two good agencies to start with. It’s an easy job that requires no prior training and little brain work. It’s worth noting that no decent agency should ask you for any money up front. They will just take a percentage of your earnings.


If all else fails… sell one of your kidneys. You only really need one.

Sarah Borg is a guest contributor for the Inspiring Interns blog. She studied medicine in Australia and received her MSc Public Health from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has previously interned at The World Health Organization in Geneva, and is now a University of Oxford graduate student. Check out her portfolio here: https://sarahannborg.wordpress.com/

Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship jobs and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.