This is the million dollar question that I get at least once a week or whenever I meet new people. Let me start by saying when I say I live in London, I am no where near Big Ben, London Eye, Harrods or anything in Central London really. I live an hour away and that's still considered London. This city is expensive no doubt, but here is how I can afford living in London
Being a Full Time Student in London is GOLD
I think being a student in London gives you so many possibilities and DISCOUNTS! I have a discounted Oyster card, which means I pay 125GBP a month for a travel card from zone 1 to 4 and that includes all forms of transportation in London (Bus, DLR, Tube, Trains and the Overground). I also get a student train card (Rail Card) to travel in the UK for a significantly cheaper prices. Plus, I get 10% off in most stores with MyUniDays or you can get the NUS card.
As a full time student, you don't pay council tax too, which makes rent cheaper as well.
Give up Central London for Zone three or four
As I said in the introduction, I don't live in Central London. I live between zone three and four, which happens to be on the other side of the River Thames that you probably would not have visited. It basically takes me an HOUR to get ANYWHERE. That's a sacrifice you have to make if you want to stay in an affordable place that is slightly bigger than a shoe box. With my discounted Oyster card mentioned above, it makes sense to live further.
Meal Planning and Home Cooked Meals is a great method to SAVE MONEY!!
This saves so much you have no idea! Those supermarket sandwiches and crisps you buy at lunch for 3-5 pounds add up and become crazy! Think of this: A whole loaf of bread is 80p and humous is 1 pound and a bag of spinach for another 1 pound you can even treat yourself with 6 small bags of crisps for 2 pounds max. There you just made 5 lunches for 5 days for the cost of one! You see what I mean. Another thing, plan your meals before you get groceries, so you don't waste. Each meal I cook has two portions, so I have it for two dinners. Try a few vegan meals a week and that saves loads if you are using one type of vegetable, a can of chopped tomatoes and rice that's like 3 pounds for a filling meal. You can get very creative here and there are like a bazillion pages on instagram and pintrest to help you with that!
Meet Your Friends At Art Galleries or do other free activities
The wonderful thing about is London is the amount of free activities! (Read: How to find cool events and things to do in London). Big museums and art galleries are my default meeting point now. It gives you something to do and it is a fun. If the weather is good, you can also go to parks for picnics and catch ups.
Only Go out to Cafes
I am a social butterfly and I love hanging out with my London pals. As a Muslim, we can't meet at Pubs, so I used to meet my friends for restaurant meals (Read: My Ultimate Favourite Food Guide in London). That started costing me so much!! Now, I try to meet at cafes in the afternoon for tea or a just desserts. We sometimes only get tap water and stay there for two hours or more. Even buying a cup of tea or coffee is much more affordable than a main course.