Thursday, January 13, 2011

Saving Money in London

For most of my friends that know me-both here and in the US-most of them probably know that I love nothing better than saving money on my purchases-I love coupons (vouchers to the Brits), discounts, deals, loyalty programs...anything that will make living my life a wee bit cheaper!  And, as vouchers have become very in vogue in London the past two years with the economy, I started thinking about all the ways I try to save money while living in this incredibly expensive city.

Now, I'm not one that would go so far as to buy something I didn't want/need just to say I got a deal (well, barring that Givenchy jacket I bought 10 years was Givenchy, afterall!), and most of the things I try to save money on are either things I'd buy regardless (meals out, for instance) or would like to buy, but refuse to pay full price for (a full half-dozen microdermabrasion treatments).  So, continuing the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd mention a few of the places/ ways I've saved money since being here-for what it's worth, these ideas don't have to be confined to London-or even to the UK (I'm fairly certain some of the group discount sites are now in the US).  In the interest of full disclosure, any links below are purely IMHO, and I'll make no profit from you clicking on them-except the Groupon link-though, in truth, I think I've screwed the link up, so it doesn't matter! :):

Groupon:  There are a few versions of Groupon circling the globe-Tippr, Groupon/My City Deals, Living Social, etc..and they're all effectively group discount buying sites.  With these concepts, you sign up to a website (free), pick your location, and sit back and wait for daily deals to be emailed to you. In the past few months with Groupon, I've bought £170 hair cut/color packages for £45,  a £500 microdermabrasion series for £50, and £60 worth of food and drink (at a place we go already!) for £19.  You really can't beat this, and I may never pay full price for a beauty treatment in London ever again!

Email Vouchers:  I am the queen of vouchers, and I'm not afraid to use them. :)  My $.02 for what it's worth...take a look around at the places you frequently spend money-restaurants, shops, department stores, pubs, etc...and then see if any of them have websites with email programs you can join to receive vouchers.  Ask (think, Olive Garden but better) has a great email voucher program, and as there is an Ask about 50 feet from our front door, it is our go-to restaurant when I don't want to cook and we don't have the inclination to trek somewhere.  Rarely, if ever to we pay full price at Ask-and their deals usually mean one meal is free.  We ate there two nights ago and had two pizzas -both 50% off (or £5.07 each).  Can't beat that!  Young's pub chain is also good with voucher emails-our local is a Young's chain, and again, I can't remember the last time we paid full price for a meal-and have on more than one occasion received a voucher for a free drink (no purchase necessary)!

Loyalty Schemes:  Why not make your purchases net you something in the end? And in the UK, this option seems more plentiful than I care to think!  Boots, Harrods, Nandos, Ping Pong, Nectar, Nero, local restaurants with punch cards...I have no problem carrying around carrying around a tiny piece of paper or plastic the size of a credit card if it means I'm going to get something free after just a few purchases.  You're going to buy the face cream/chicken sandwich/coffee/dim sum anyway-why not use a loyalty card and effectively get a 10% or more discount off every purchase?!?

Bite Card:  I swear I'm the only person that knows about this, though I don't know why...It's a discount card that gets you 20% off at a good number of food stalls in train stations-Delice de France, Costa, Millies...and a few others.  If you have a commute that involves a train station, you're crazy not to have one of these.

Annual Tube Pass:  I have an annual tube pass.  This means that I suck it up once a year (though, some employers will offer interest-free loans), and pay a chunk of money to TFL so that I don't have to worry about what travel in Zones 1-2 *really* cost me again for 365 days.  Along with the actual tube pass come a few 'perks' that seem to be the best kept secrets of the Annual Pass:  Discounts on Heathrow Express (about 40%) for up to 4 tickets purchased at one time-even if all travelers using the discounted tickets don't have an annual pass, and discounts on National Rail.  Most train discounts run in 30-50% range, which is not small change.  The nature of the annual pass alone means you get a free month of travel-in comparison to buying 12-one month passes, and with the other discounts, you have a very real chance of clawing back even more cash into your wallet!

Pub Quiz:  OK.  Don't laugh.  But, the pub quiz can be a very real way of saving some cash!  I'm lucky enough to play with a group of people who, collectively are the right combo for a winning team, and we're fortunate enough to win something (free bottle of wine, bar tab...) almost every week.  I like to look at it as self-funded drinking!  I'd likely be in my local once a week for a few beers anyhow-why not organize with a few friends and make those beers free?!?

Taste Card: The Taste Card is a dining discount card that gives you either a 50% off or 2 for 1 deal at participating restaurants.  Unlike every other suggestion above though, this one does cost to participate.  There is an annual fee of around £75, but if you Google 'taste card discount', you'll almost always find a relevant code for 50%-ish off the annual fee.  There are a good number of national chains with the card (Pizza Express, GBK), but there's also some local gems (Ukai Sushi, Greigs)-and a few that are rather pricey in which the card could actually pay for itself after one use! 

With all of the above, Simon & I hardly ever pay full price for a meal-unless we're just out and about and decide to grab a bite at the most convenient place.  But, if we're looking for a meal, and have the option to plan for a bit, we likely will get a discount on the meal.  As such, we probably eat out a bit more often than most.  But, eating out has always been a special treat for me as we didn't do it much when I was grown up;  if I can treat myself and save money all at the same time, you 'd beter believe I'm going to do it!


  1. Thanks for posting! I recently discovered Groupon and I'm a heavy user of the Tastecard. Didn't know about Young's, will have to check that out.

  2. Great post!! Groupon, Living Social and Key Noir are amazing! I've bought so many groupons for here in London and for when I go back home to NY. They are addicting. =)

  3. Wanted to add the Wedge Card - you get it for free depending on where you live but it gives you lots of discounts as well.

  4. seefilmfirst/showfilmfirst is great for getting free tickets to cinema, theatre and concerts. You sign up online and get an email when a venue wants to fill seats for a performance. The emails are often last minute but if you have no plans on a Wednesday night it's a great way to explore some culture.

  5. Thanks for the heads up. I'm not convinced by all these group buying sites (yet) but if Google values Groupon at $6bn they I guess they're doing something right!
    Got a taste card already, they are a brilliant investment.

  6. Very useful information.--thanks--

  7. You've received a Stylish Blogger Award - come 'n' get it!!

  8. So with an annual tube pass you buy once a year and what's the deal, unlimited rides in all zone, or do you pay a separate fee for anything? Excellent suggestions! Gennifer with a G

  9. Hi G,
    Annual pass does mean buy once a year, correct. What it covers (ie what zone) can vary from just a Zone 1-2 pass for bus, tube, DLR, etc.. up to Zone 1-9. Too many variations to easily post, but this page on the TFL website can explain:

  10. wonderful! I'm convinced I get better information from you than from much of the research I've done, thank you!!!

    Hope things are well for you and the weather is getting a bit better/warmer. We've had 0-10 F temps with major wind gusts here in Cleveland for the last couple weeks straight. It's been ugly, but I still much prefer walking and taking the bus than my car. I wish I didn't need a car at all, but Cleveland's not "metropolitan" in that way; there's still a slight mentality that only poor black people ride the bus. The suburbs are so spread out and public transit isn't readily accessible to them, makes life without a car too difficult.

    Of course I can't get away without asking another question. Again, participation is voluntary. :) if you (or anyone else reading this blog!) knows someone who is a professional interpreter or a translator and wouldn't mind connecting me to them? Someone who would be willing to answer some basic questions about the industry and review a career plan?? Thank you! If yes, please leave me a comment at


  11. Hi,

    Is it possible to place a small text on your blog? Please get back to me on


  12. Karen I just responded to your comment by email. Thank you! Gennifer