With the number of renters going up and up in London as people struggle to be able to afford deposits on their own homes, the competition for that nice little flat you’ve had your eye on online has gone up and up and so has the price. As a result, it seems we hear stories every week of people who are turning to ever more extreme ways to get a roof over their head in the capital while others decide to leave the rat race behind in favour of cheaper costs and a freer lifestyle. Here are three ways you could avoid spending most of your hard-earned wage on someone else’s mortgage with a guide to alternative ways to survive financially in the Big Smoke.
An everyday struggle for all Londoners is the dreaded commute. The average city slicker spends two hours travelling back and forth on average a day. In addition, we’ve seen the infamous cockney colonies of the Home Counties’ commuter belt grow and grow to spread as far as Bristol to the west and Manchester in the north. It seems this is a trend which is growing and growing due to the pinstriped, coffee sipping financial refugees of the country’s capital just not being able to make it viable.
Evidently, this is not without its own drawbacks as strikes, rising ticket prices, congestion fares and parking, plus falling wages, have resulted in Londoners spending as much as a tenth of their salaries on transport and made to feel like just getting there and back again every day is an achievement worthy of Bilbo Baggins. To pay such extortionate prices for the train, you should expect top quality service, so why not cut out the middle man and get the ultimate bang for your buck, like German student Leonie Müller, and just live on the train? Leonie paid 350 euros for a rail pass and took to residing in her booked seat after a dispute with her landlord but for Londoners, the most expensive, stressful, cramped and unreliable aspects of their epic commutes are the Tube and the south western trains. Therefore, maybe the odd, often cheaper, flight, which is more like a National Express with wings, is much less hassle and viable.
In this case, a pretty out-there (literally) example is Jonathan Davey. A student at the University of London, he avoided paying extortionate rents near his campus by staying in the polish city of Gdansk almost 1000 miles away. After working out living in the capital would cost almost £900 a month on rent alone, Jonathan budgeted just £2,100 annually on everything from flights to food and cheap hotels, both in London and Poland. Alternatively, he stays on mates’ sofas before his lectures, and then flies back to Poland for a long weekend. He even gets to visit his parents in Hampshire on the way from time to time- probably to drop off and collect his washing!
Similar to Jonathan is Sam Cookney, a social media worker who moved to Barcelona. At first, he just worked out the cost of living there and commuting in each day as a joke with friends but as his living situation piled on more and more financial pressure, he took the plunge and jetted off to Catalonia. In reality he only goes in to the office a few times a month but he even has money spare to rent his own little working space for about £70. This way, he’s not cooped up at home in his luxury pad all day! His other monthly expenses are £570 rent, £60 bills plus travel varying between £70 and £150, depending on the tourist season, which saves him about £350 in comparison. He even comments that he often sees the same guys on his flight doing the same so surely it’s not a totally loco locomotion idea, right?
Being homeless, in style
Is being homeless such a bad thing? When you think about it, we’d been homeless for millennia from when we clutched to tree branches and squatted in caves before finally working out how to lean a couple of sticks together. Surely it’s in our deepest nature to be free of such modern constraints as having a ‘home’. Maybe all you need is your modern day cave- you just need to pick the one for you.
One option could be to simply live at the office. Most Londoners spend a majority of their existence at work so you only really get a couple of hours each night to really enjoy the pad you’re paying through the nose for. Before you know it, it’s time to stop watching bad soaps, get some kip and do it all over again. Do you really need a place of your own for those few hours? Your loved ones probably already complain you practically live at work anyway so why not make it literal?
The benefits wouldn’t only be financial. You’ll save your energy not commuting and have more time to work early and late, impressing your boss and leading to a promotion and even more money for your budget. Also, most practical things are there already that you just don’t take enough advantage of from relax rooms to fridges, post services to teabags and toilets to lockable storage- just make sure to tuck your pillow properly out of sight in your ‘yoga mat’ during office hours! To get a shower and go somewhere else warm for a few hours, just head to the gym. Even if you don’t want to work out before getting in the Jacuzzi, you can just halfheartedly pedal on a bike while watching your favourite shows on the little TV. On the other hand, if you actually like making yourself all achy and sweaty, why not just live at the gym instead. In addition, things like shopping, laundry and other amenities can easily be found on the high-street pretty cheaply.
If you want to go a bit more extreme, you could evolve a bit from the caveman lifestyle and build your own home. There’s lots of space nestled away in London to secretly build your own little cabin, like in the film Hampstead Heath, or you could rent out a storage unit for your stuff and just sleep in there. Living in a van or barge is also a cool, hipster option. There’s probably loads of ‘artists’ in Hackney drinking out of jam jars on the canal before combing the frogspawn out of their beards and going to work in the city. Meanwhile, living in a van on the street is technically legal and there are free parking spots if you know where to look although the police may just ask you to move on from time to time. Therefore, it may be useful to use someone’s drive like in the series Shameless or in the more charming film The Lady in the Van.
Finally, if you’re too soft for all of this, you could just become a property guardian and look after rich people’s homes while they’re out of the country for extended periods of time. In some areas of London, these are actually the majority of inhabitants. As was pointed out when trying to rehouse the victims of the Grenfell fire, many homes in the rich area of Kensington are technically unoccupied but privately owned. Sadly, some houses in London have never actually been lived in and some probably won’t be save for the savvy savers getting paid to essentially squat in return for looking after the place. In addition, there are other ways to make simply living somewhere a job in itself, such as working in an old people’s home, fire stations or being a security guard or lorry driver.
Although ‘cruising’ could mean something different to a few Londoners, we’re talking about living on the open ocean here and not other activities that can occur on Hampstead Heath. If you want a mix of all of the previous suggestions, maybe life on board a ship is actually the way to go. You don’t necessarily have to work on board as a cleaner, chef of cabaret singer, working long hours in cramped quarters, to make this a reality either. With the right planning and deals, it’s perfectly possible you won’t have to work there at all unless you dial in.
It’s already been said that many older folk, like the famous Lee Wachtstetter on P&O, are choosing cruising over entering assisted accommodation as the prices are competitive. They have great service onboard, and rather darkly, a hospital and mortuary should it be needed. At least they’ll die smiling with a cocktail in their hand in the Bahamas rather than playing four-in-a-row with Doreen for the sixtieth time that week in a dreary little old folks’ home.
This may seem mental but consider the average price of renting in London has shot up to £29,712, yet cruising has never been more accessible with a yearlong cruise as little as £23,908 if you’re savvy. Surely it’s only a matter of time before some hard-pressed city slickers and cash strapped students take the plunge and go on up the gang plank for a year of sightseeing between dialling in to lectures and meetings, right? On this subject, it seems you can actually attend lectures at sea on what is basically a floating university campus such as Semester at Sea or, the ingeniously named, University at Sea. On the other hand, if you have a bit of cash saved for that dream London house but can’t afford your prime location, you can skip out the middle man and buy a property on what is essentially a gated community at sea. Maybe you could even canoe along the Thames to work as well. Then again, if you could afford such things, you probably wouldn’t need to go to such lengths! Maybe just sell your soul and become a ‘lifestyle blogger’ instead- #shiplife
But, just think about cruising in terms of a potential first-time buyer. The food is all-inclusive, there’s Wi-Fi to work/study, travel costs, bills and utilities all free and even room service and onboard entertainment is available as standard. The quality of living is top hotel quality, with en-suite bathrooms and all the mod cons you could want, plus there’s not even the issue of sea sickness due to new ships’ advanced technologies to keep everything stable and ship shape. Even your budget for gym membership, eating out and socialising is included with Michelin star level restaurants, night clubs, casinos, Broadway shows and swimming pools all on hand. Meanwhile, each port of call offers something new every few days for you to sample the delights of. It could even be easier to make friends than in the big, scary world or unsociable London where everyone glowers at their smartphones too. You’ll have new mates every week on board to keep you on your toes while being on friendly terms with the staff will see you get preferential treatment. Just remember to pack a load of sun cream!