A Property Investment Guide by a Singaporean living in London
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As WalkingProperty.com is a housing-focused blog, I’ve mainly been covering topics relating to property trends in London.

However, as many of my readers are also interested in the costs of other living essentials other than rents, so as a follow up to my earlier article, “Singapore or London: How Much I’ve Spent Living in Each City”, I wanted to give my own take on how other essentials such as eating out, entertainment and utilities compare, particularly from the perspective of a Singaporean living in London. It is no secret that rents are the largest expense for many working professionals in London, many spending up to 40% of their income on rent. But if you’ve always thought that everything in London is expensive, do read on – the below may surprise you!

Bars & Clubbing

Being young(ish) and without kids, we like going out and enjoying a drink (or a few) with friends in the evenings and weekends, so we’re always on the lookout for the best places to go for live music and a warm and friendly crowd. Without a doubt, alcoholic drinks at a bar in London are much more affordable as compared to Singapore. A pint of beer at a mid-end pub or bar would cost around £5, and a large glass of house wine (250ml) would be around £6. Some outlets also offer 1-for-1 drink offers during happy hour before 7pm, making for quite a cheap night out. Cider, one of my favourite drinks, go for around the same price as beer.

Cider shop, offering a variety of apple ciders

Cider shop, offering a variety of apple ciders

But Champagne is the real deal in London, where a bottle can go on sale at the supermarket for as little as £10, quite unheard of in Singapore.

Eating Out (at restaurants)

While the low-budget Kopitiam-style dining out option doesn’t quite exist in London, eating out at mid-end restaurants can be quite affordable, especially if you take advantage of the many offers and promotions available during the weekdays (excluding Friday and Saturday). The Tastecard is a membership program which offers 1-for-1 for popular chains such as Pizza Express, Zizzi and La Tasca, which brings the cost of a nice meal down to as little as £7. Also, unlike in Singapore, tax is usually already included and reflected in menu prices, so all you add to your final bill is just 10-15% (for tips).

Even for times when we are on a tight budget and we still want to grab a quick bite out, supermarket chains such as Tesco and Sainsburys offer cheap sandwiches such as the Egg & Cress or Ham and Mayo for under £1.50. If you need to sit down, its never hard to find a public bench in a park nearby to sit and stop for 15 minutes to watch the crowds go by, or if you are really pressed for time, you can always eat on the Tube (which is allowed, but watch out for the ‘Women who eat on the Tube’ facebook group, which is the equivalent of Stomp in London).

Utilities

The cost of utilities vary somewhat according to the provider you use in the UK, but currently our supplier is British Gas, which provides electricity for our area in East London. Our rates are currently 13.71p per kWh for electricity. This turns out about the same what Singapore Power charges, currently at 25.68 cents/kWh. However, from a usage perspective, we save on our electricity bill in London by not having the air-conditioning on all day (and night). We also cut back on our heating bills by having double-glazed windows to keep the heat in and load up on thick fluffy blankets at night!

Groceries

As many of the other Singaporeans living in London would agree, groceries are cheaper here, but only if you stick to the local produce instead of insisting on Chinese food. Some staples that have low prices include fresh milk, which goes for £1 a pint, and pasta, at 70p/kg at Sainsburys. Bread is also super cheap, at only 50p a loaf. I drink lots of Diet Coke, and pay only 12p per can here, compared to around S$0.70 in Singapore. For even greater savings, we try to swing by the supermarkets at around 7-8pm in the evenings for their daily sales, where perishable items such as milk can be reduced by as much as 50-75%. These go fast though, so make sure you’re there early!

Free Coffee & Cake! 

It is possible to get a free premium coffee everyday if you wanted in London, by signing up for the Waitrose card. This card is free and anyone can sign up for it online. By presenting your card everyday at Waitrose, customers can enjoy a free tea, coffe, latte, espresso on the house! John Lewis also offers a similar program giving out a free coffee and cake to members (free to join), but this is only offered on a monthly basis. Still a great deal though! But I’m still waiting for the day to come when NTUC Fairprice decides to follow suit to offer their shoppers a free kopi…

Free Entertainment

Even without a penny in your wallet, you could be entertained like a King in London. Some of the free events we’ve attended open to the public include: Live Opera performances, free Tango and Salsa dance lessons, live music at Trafalgar square, open air screenings of Wimbledon matches at the Scoup by Cityhall, outdoor jazz concerts . Some of these events are funded by the local government, or paid for by corporate sponsors (Mastercard for Trafalgar Square). In some cases the performance group is set up as registered Charities (such as the Merry Opera Company, whose’s aim is to make Opera accessible to all). Museums and parks are typically free, and special summer events such as the Festival of Love at the Southbank center in June even offers free speed dating for all sexualities. A brilliant idea, don’t you think?

Public Transport

This is a big one: Without a doubt, one of my largest expenses in London has to be public transport. A ride on the bus (regardless of whether you take a long or short distance trip) would set you back £1.45, and the tube from £1.50 – £8.40 (maximum daily cap with an Oyster card). Hence public transport in London can put quite a dent in your wallet. If you have a car in London and want to drive into Zone 1 (the city), be prepared to pay £11.50 daily congestion charge, which is the ERP equivalent here, but caps out at a daily limit, good for those who take multiple trips around Zone 1.

Cyclists in London on the Barclays Superhighway.

Cyclists in London on the Barclays Superhighway.

However, more locals have been turning to cycling to save money, and facilities such as the cycle Superhighway. In our case, we try to walk 1 or 2 train or bus stop distances for short distances when we can to save money!

Movies

Without a doubt, watching a movie is much more expensive in London, with tickets going for as much as £12 without any discounts. However, there are ways to save money on movies by taking advantage of on-going promotions such as Orange Wednesday offer 1-for-1 tickets midweek, and the Cineworld chain also offers unlimited movies for £15.90 a month. But with so many other fun things to do in London, who has the time to really max out on this deal?

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