After recently flying to America for a job opportunity, I had a sudden and quite unexpected change of heart. I have mentioned before that my family and I had regrouped after we had been through a traumatic event. I didn’t want to live at home, but I still wanted to be close to my family — I just wanted my own, more independent life. Then, a job I had interviewed for months ago happened to have a few roles available in central London. I decided to contact them and see if they would consider me. I went back and forth on the train, and after seven interviews and a Meyers Briggs personality test, I was offered a job in the financial district.
The job included benefits, private health insurance, a discount on transport, and an elevated salary for the expense of living in central London. I had two weeks to find a place to live and move to London, with a moving budget of roughly £2,500. This is a complete financial break down of my first month living in a big, expensive city.
Housing: £1,400 ($1,846.72)
Rent in London is hideously expensive for everyone, and easily the biggest bite taken out of your budget. It was the biggest worry I had about moving to a city, as I only have one credit card and savings. The solution for me has been that I decided I wanted to be a property guardian. This is a charity in England in which young professionals live in and look after historic buildings in big cities. We are given a building which has heating, running water, washing machines, and cooking facilities. The rent is much cheaper than a normal flat and all of your bills are included. Whilst I was interviewing for my new job, a beautiful building came up for rental — a grade 2 listed Art College in Queens Park. I went for a viewing and fell in love with one of the many amazing, high ceilinged art studios/former classrooms. They all had hardwood floors, big brass radiators, and lots of natural light. I was completely besotted from the moment I walked in.
I reserved one of the studios on the second floor, which would cost me £550 a month including bills, a communal kitchen, shared showers, and use of a washing machine. I also had to pay a licensing fee of £700, £85 for the administration fee, and £65 for my own fire extinguisher, fire blanket, and smoke detector.
Furniture: £77.50 ($102.23)
Since I have always lived in furnished accommodations, I literally walked into the studio on my first day with two suitcases and a duvet and sheets my Grandma had pulled out of the attic for me. I met Matt, one of my many wonderful new flatmates who are a mix of artists, musicians, and people who work normal 9-5 jobs. We ran around the space like two excited school kids. There were several rooms full of discarded furniture, which we had been told we could help ourselves to. I blagged myself a free coatstand, full-length mirror, wardrobe, large wooden desk, study chair, two leather armchairs, and a small vanity for doing my makeup in the morning. The only furniture I bought this month was a memory foam mattress from Amazon, which had free delivery to my new address. One of the rooms was piled with beautiful flat pieces of teak stained wood. I borrowed a drill from one of my other flatmates who works as a handyman, and using four wooden pallets and four flat pieces of wood, I made myself a Japanese-style minimalist bed frame. I also built some shelves using bricks and some long flat pieces of wood. It looks very Instagrammable, and I can’t believe I spent so little money on my new apartment. I am trying to really reduce waste this year, and I’m really happy I was able to recycle so much stuff and also decorate my new place.
Next month is going to be all about soft furnishings — I want to buy a couple of Persian rugs, which I am combing Facebook marketplace for. They will probably cost me around £100-200 each. I also want to buy myself some new sheets, a quilt, and four feather pillows, which will be another £100-200. I don’t want to overload my new place with stuff, as it looks rather lovely slightly bare. It’s meant to be an empty space for walking around inside and thinking, and I want to keep it as it is. I like to think of my new living space as an artist’s studio/walk-in wardrobe that I also happen to sleep in!
Transport: roughly £150 ($197.86)
My new job offers me a 30% discount on all London Underground transport, but sadly that hasn’t kicked in yet. My commute on the Underground takes me about 35 minutes and costs me £2.90 per journey during peak times. I also take the bus to socialize with friends or visit the local comedy clubs, which is normally £1.50 per journey. When the weather warms, I want to walk and cycle more.
Food: £115 ($151.70)
I’ve got to be honest here — I am not particularly impressed with the food in London. There is a takeaway culture of convenience, and the food that comes in those plastic shrink-wrapped bags just doesn’t really taste of anything to me. I am not at all tempted by Pret or any of the supermarket food. So I’ve decided to mostly eat homemade food during the week and treat myself at the weekend. I spend around £16 on staples at the supermarket, such as eggs, cheese, yogurt, butter, and bacon. I eat a packed lunch at my desk and then go out for a curry on the weekends or a nice sit-down brunch. There is also a farmer’s market in the playground of a primary school near my house, so I like to go there and buy my fruit and vegetables for the week.
No new clothes this month — I already had work clothes I can wear in my new office.
Toiletries: £2.75 ($3.63)
I had to buy toothpaste from the chemist near my house.
Socializing and entertainment: £20 ($26.38)
In an attempt to make my budget stretch a bit further this month, I decided to be a very light drinker. I’ve had one pint and a double amaretto and coke (holy hell, it’s worth giving up drinking for three weeks just because it makes your first sip of alcohol incomprehensibly delicious). I’ve also started doing standup comedy, and if you perform you get in for free! It’s my favorite thing to do in London, and I love it so much, I’m obsessed, help.
Total: £1,765.25 ($2,328.52)
I was very nervous about moving to London. I felt really crippled by money worries and thought I would be too afraid to leave the house for fear of overspending, but this month has been great. I’ve had some really fun nights out, I’m meeting new people every day, and I’m excited about being in the city as it starts warming up. I’m looking forward to festivals and picnics in the park in a couple of months. It’s nice to know I can be frugal when I need to be, but I am looking forward to my next payday.
Phoebe Prentice-Terry is a writer, art dealer, and survivor of David Cameron’s various experiments in human misery. She likes Gin and Tonics, French skincare products, and is most proud of her collection of Wolford bodysuits.
Image via Unsplash