This is the first in a series about how to get around cheap or free in major cities.
Contributors from around the world – welcome. Please send us your ideas or whole articles on how we can resist the forces of consumerism and still have a good time.
A IS FOR ACCOMMODATION
For no-frills visitor accommodation, university halls of residence rent rooms during holidays. A twin room at International Students’ House is GBP 25.50 a night per person and there’s no age limit. The cheapest YHA in central London, based on a room shared between two people, is the YHA Hampstead Heath at GBP 48.50 (with YHA card) B&B per night.
Alternatively, the cheapest five-star hotel is the Renaissance Chancery Court, which has single rooms for GBP 69-GBP 79 per night.
International Students’ House, 229 Great Portland St, W1 (020 7631 8300) Great Portland St tube.
Renaissance Chancery Court, 252 High Holborn, WC1 (020 7829 9888) Holborn tube.
If you can’t shave money off your rent, think about relocating to an area that charges less council tax.
According to figures for 2004/5 council tax rates, Wandsworth has the cheapest at GBP 596.55 and Westminster the second cheapest at GBP 605.
Compared to the most expensive, Richmond, which is GBP 1,339.05.
YHA Hampstead Heath, 4 Wellgarth Rd, NW11 (020 7770 5846) Golders Green tube.
A IS FOR ART GALLERIES
All the major galleries, from the Barbican to the Wallace Collection to Tate Modern, are free. Surely the best way to while away an afternoon or day come to that for no cash.
B IS FOR BUSKERS
Why buy an MP3 player when you can have tunes for free? There are 25 Carling-associated licensed busking spots at these London tube stations: Angel, Bank/Monument, Bond St, Canary Wharf, Charing Cross, Euston, Green Park, King’s Cross St Pancras, Leicester Square, London Bridge, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, South Kensington, Tottenham Court Rd, Victoria, Waterloo, Westminster.
C IS FOR CUT-PRICE THEATRE TICKETS
January and February are quiet times in theatreland so there are many good dealsaround you just have to know where to go. With audiences enslaved to productions starring the latest B-list Hollywood actor and big shows such as ‘The Producers’ and ‘Mary Poppins’, many fine plays fail to get the attention they deserve. This means, of course, that you can often buy cheap tickets for the less populist shows. Here’s our guide to finding reduced-rate tickets Buy cut-price tickets from Tkts on the south side of Leicester Square Piazza or at Canary Wharf station.
Tickets (limited to two pairs per person) for some shows are half-price, though there’s also a GBP 2.50 service charge on each one.
Tkts, Leicester Square Piazza, WC1 (no phone/www. officiallondon theatre. co. uk) Leicester Square tube. Open Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 12noon-3.30pm.
Tkts, Platform 4 & 5 Canary Wharf DLR (no phone/www. officiallondon theatre. co.uk). Open Mon-Sat 11.30am-6pm.
Most reductions are on tickets bought late on the day, but Wiltons has introduced an ingenious scheme in which the cheapest seats are sold off first and the most expensive last. All seats are unreserved so there is no advantage in paying more.
The theatre is showing ‘Macbeth’ until February 5.
Wiltons Music Hall, Grace’s Alley, off Ensign St, E1 (020 7702 2789) Tower Hill tube.
Box office open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm.
Other worthwhile places to try are the National Theatre, where you can buy seats for GBP 10 from 10am on the day of performance. ‘Jerry Springer the Opera’ at the Cambridge Theatre has Sky-sponsored tickets for GBP 15 and GBP 25, while Tuesday evening at the BAC is ‘Pay What You Can’ night.
The Get Into London Theatre campaign (0870 8402468/ www. getintolondontheatre. com) now in its fourth year runs until March and offers reduced seat prices in theatres throughout London, not just in the West End.
www. tkts. co. uk gives guidance as to what cutprice tickets are available on the day, while www. whatson stage. com also carries up-to-theminute offers.
D IS FOR DOGS
For a cheap night out that could well end up paying for itself, head to one of the four greyhound tracks around the capital. For an admission fee that’s never more than GBP 6, you can enjoy the art deco glories of Walthamstow, the excellent restaurants at Wimbledon, the chirpy charms of Romford or the relaxed atmosphereat Crayford. As for betting, small stakes we’re talking coins rather than tenners are accepted at most venues and there are several fun bets that can pay big dividends for a modest outlay. Just one judicious punt could keep you indrinks all evening. Our tip: put your money on any dog that does a poo before going into the stalls.
Crayford Stadium, Stadium Way, Crayford (01322 557836). Admission GBP 5. Racing on Mon 7.30pm, Sat 11am/7.30pm.
Romford Stadium, London Rd, Romford (01708 762345). Admission GBP 1.50-GBP 6. Racing on Mon, Wed, Fri 7.35pm, Sat 11am/7.30pm.
Walthamstow Stadium, Chingford Rd, E4 (020 8498 3300). Admission GBP 2-GBP 6. Racing on Tue, Thur 7.45pm, Sat 7.30pm.
Wimbledon Stadium, Plough Lane, SW17 (020 8946 8000). Admission GBP 5.50. Racing on Tue, Fri, Sat 7.30pm.
E IS FOR EATS
Five of the best bargain places to eat in London right now
Adonis Where SoupWorks then Soupendous once stood, Adonis is now flexing its muscles. This Lebanese cafi and takeaway produces lip-smacking Levantine dishes.The pastries are delicately textured, from spinach-filled fatayer to cheese sambousek. Lamb is ground and mixed with cracked wheat to make the ‘scotch egg’ cases of kibbeh shamieh. Bamieh, a stew-like salad of tiny okra, and other staples such as moutabal (toasted aubergine, puried with garlic, sesame and lemon juice) are all tip-top. Under a tenner a head.
Adonis, 56 Goodge St, W1 (020 7637 7687) Goodge St tube. Open daily 10.30am-11.30pm.
Fish Club Fish and chips don’t come better than this. Our sole had been line-caught off the Essex coast the previous night, before being chosen by us from the ice-strewn wet fish counter to be grilled so the flakes of flesh were firm but not dry. A monster of a fish, big enough to cover a plate, and all for GBP 9.50.
The bream was the same: GBP 8.95 for a sea fish that was sashimi-fresh, but steamed inside foil with precision timing that would be the envy of London’s frequently overpriced fish restaurants.
Other good signs: no heavy stench of stale fat, no mystery meat pies and no tepid and limp chips. The chips here are carbohydrate Viagra compared to the flaccid, flavourless, frozen kinds that pop up in the most unexpected places. Chef James Thomson was previously the chef at Medcalf winner of the Time Out Award for Best Local Restaurant earlier this year, where he perfected his double-frying method of getting the right degree of crisp on the exterior, and firm but yielding interior.
The delights don’t end there. Fish Club makes its own potted shrimps, fish pies and ‘Scotch pies’, serves oysters, makes its own pickles (even the pickled eggs), and we recommend the mouthwatering salads the grated beetroot and caperone was a real palate-cleanser. The menu changes daily, but on our visit the puddings included a fresh bakewell tart richly aromatic with almonds.
Fish Club is licensed and has a few inexpensive but perfectly quaffable wines, but despite utterly charming service, at the moment more than half of its customers take away the dining areas aren’t exactly cosy, the cutlery is wooden, and the plates are cardboard takeaway trays. We also left Fish Club withthe whiff of the deep-fat fryer permeating our clothes. But that’s a small priceto pay for some of the best fish and chips in London.
Fish Club, 189 St John’s Hill, SW11 (020 7978 7115) Clapham Junction rail. Open Tue-Sat 12noon-10pm, Sun 12noon-9pm.
Khoai This family-run Vietnamese features fresh ingredients, wonderful flavours and irresistible prices. Fragrant soups, succulent prawns, mounds of refreshing lettuce, cooling cucumber and crisp beansprouts, sizeable sprigs of aromatic basil, and chopped chillis to customise those aromatic soups the only difficulty here is limiting your number of dishes when so many are so good.
Must-orders include chao tom (minced prawn wrapped around sugar cane and served with rice noodles, GBP 5.95) and, of course, Vietnam’s national dish, pho (rice noodle soup), which comes small or large (GBP 3.40/GBP 4.75) and with a choice of beef, chicken, tofu or prawn topping. There’s a good choice of soft drinks too, as well as three kinds of Vietnamese beer. Meal for two with drinks and service:around GBP 25.
Khoai, 6 Topsfield Parade, N8 (020 8341 2120) Finsbury Park tube then W3, W7 busor Archway then W5, 41 bus. Open Tue-Sun 12noon-3.30pm, 5.30-11.30pm.
Noto Soho One of London’s leading sushi manufacturers (it supplies the Pret a Manger and Eat chains, among others) now has its own takeaway chain. Its latest branch, in Soho, is its sixth in nearly as many months. It’s a simple little place, but the sushi packs on the shelves are good quality, and there are also warming dishes such as yakitori (bitesized pieces of chicken grilled on a skewer) and donburi (rice with a choice of toppings) heated to order. Expect to pay around GBP 4 for a meal here and watch out for the happy hour from 5-6pm when sushi is sold off at half-price.
Noto Soho, 14 St Anne’s Court, W1 (020 7437 0306) Tottenham Court Rd tube. Open Mon-Fri 11am6pm.
Sea Cow Like the East Dulwich branch, this new Clapham takeaway and restaurant is a proper chippie, but given a junk-food spring-clean: there are no dodgy piesor saveloys here. A tableau of glistening fish is displayed on ice ready to takeaway, fresh or cooked. Organic salmon, bluefin tuna, sea bass and a dozen other choices can be grilled, fried or battered. The chips are fat and firm-textured, the batter light, and the mushy peas freshly minted.
Prices are very reasonable for such high quality and generous portions, and there’s a decent wine list. What’s keeping you?
Sea Cow, 57 Clapham High St, SW4 (020 7622 1537) Clapham North or Clapham Commontube.
Open Tue-Sat 12noon-11pm.
Finally, there’s nothing better than a full English to fill you up for less than a fiver. Available at a greasy spoon near you.
Benjys’ coffee is better than Starbucks’ and it’s only 65p, plus it offers a nutritious jacket spud with cottage cheese for GBP 1.95. Overcome the shame factor and you could save over a fiver a week.
Benjys, 149 Oxford St, W1 (020 7287 1820) Tottenham Court Rd tube. Open Mon-Fri 6.30am9pm, Sat 7.30am-9pm, Sun 9am-6pm.
F IS FOR FILMS
One of our favourite low-cost cinemas, the Prince Charles has week-long offers to members who fork out the GBP 7.50 annual membership. While this makes the Leicester Square (okay, Leicester Place) people’s picture palace a pretty good deal, its new so-called Monday Madness (when members are charged a mere GBP 1 and non-members GBP 1.50) crowns it the best-value cinema in town. Check out its wide selection of good films on second-run, plus (for a few dollars more) sing-a-long-a movies.
Cheap thrills at UGC Cinemas (0870 777 2775/ www. ugccinemas. co. uk) are up for grabs. Pay a monthly subscription of GBP 12.99 to visit as often as you want.
Many of London’s Great Institutions offer screenings for free occasionally atthe V&A, often at the British Museum and National Gallery and regularly at the Imperial War Museum, for example. Best of the bunch, though, is the Tate Modern,both for its facilities and its interesting programming and at GBP 3 (GBP 2 concessions), the pay screenings aren’t expensive either. On show this month arethe films of Robert Frank and masterpieces from Rossellini (‘Voyage to Italy’) and Bergman (‘Wild Strawberries’), respectively.
Another option is to join one of the brilliant new DVD rental internet sites popping up.
ScreenSelect (www. screenselect. co. uk) offers a deal where you can hire three DVDs at any one time for just GBP 14.99 a month. Once you’ve watched one, you send it back and sit back and await delivery of your next choice. This means you could potentially be watching five films a week (or 20 a month), beating Sky pay-per-view and video rental shop prices hands down. Similarly LOVEFiLM (www. lovefilm. com) offers good rates its Bronze package is GBP 9.99 a month, for which you get sent an unlimited supply of DVDs one at a time from a choice of over 25,000 titles. Plus it’s also offering a month’s free trial at the moment it doesn’t get cheaper than that.
F IS FOR FOOTBALL TICKETS
The cheapest Football League ticket in London is GBP 16 for adult admission to Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road ground for Coca-Cola Football League Two matches .
Leyton Orient FC, Matchroom Stadium, Brisbane Rd, E10 (020 8926 1010/ www. leytonorient. premiumtv. co. uk) Leyton tube.
G IS FOR GYM MEMBERSHIP
The cheapest membership prices tend to be those for council-run gyms. These are fairly well run, and the equipment is pretty good, however the lower cost means they often have more members, so you could be waiting longer for equipment. The best time to sign up is when a new gym first opens, as they’ll usually waive thehigh joining fees in the first few weeks.
Peckham Pulse, run by the local council, has been voted one of the best value inthe country.
Peckham Pulse, 10 Melon Rd, SE15 (020 7525 4991) Peckham Rye rail. Open Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat, Sun 7am-8pm.
G IS FOR GIGS
Sick of paying upwards of GBP 20 to see knackered old bands like Pop Will Eat Itself and The Wonder Stuff?
Fear not. There are plenty of venues across London putting on top-quality acts at knockdown prices.
Most noteworthy is the Windmill in Brixton.
Throughout 2004 they had plenty of rising stars, from The Rakes and Bloc Party to The Research and Richmond Fontaine, all at GBP 3 a pop. Other venues to catchdecent bands on the cheap are the Infinity Club, 12 Bar Club and the plentiful selection of indie dives in Camden (Dublin Castle, Barfly et al). For free action check out Rough Trade’s reliably ace weekly alternative session at the Notting Hill Arts Club every Saturday which features cheap beer too.
H IS FOR HOUSE PROUD
Don’t go spending your hard-earned cash on expensive cleaning products, follow our ultra-cheap cheats
Polishing copper Spread a layer of ketchup on a stained copper pan and leave forten minutes. Rinse off.
How to make all-purpose surface cleaner Mix a pint of white vinegar with half a pint of tepid water and add two or three drops of tea tree oil. Don’t use on plated surfaces or some plastics (hardy kitchen plastic should be fine).
Cleaning a frying pan Buy some meat tenderiser from the spice section of the supermarket. Use a wet cloth to rub it on to the pan then scrub away and rinse off with cold water.
Cleaning a blocked shower head Put some pure lemon juice into a watertight plastic freezer bag and tie it to the shower head, fastening with a rubber band.Leave overnight.
Do not use on silver or gold-plated showers.
Polishing sterling silver Dab toothpaste on to dampened silver, leave for 30 seconds and then rinse in warm water. Dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Cleaning (pure not plated) brass Mix equal parts salt and flour and add enough vinegar to make a paste. Layer it on thickly, let it dry, then rinse and remove.
H IS FOR HAIRCUTS
Big-name salons give big reductions on model nights when supervised trainees getto practise techniques. Top choice for colour is celebs’ stylist Andrew Jose’s salon, which offers 50 per cent off, making half a head of highlights an affordable GBP 30. Mr Topper’s gives the boys a mean cut for a ridiculously cheap GBP 6.
Andrew Jose, 1 Charlotte St, W1 (020 7323 4679) Tottenham Court Rd tube. Open Mon 9am-6pm, Tue, Wed 9am-7pm, Thur, Fri 9am9pm, Sat 9am-5pm.
Mr Topper’s, 13a Great Russell St, WC1 (020 7631 3233) Tottenham Court Rd tube. Open Mon-Sat 9am-6.30pm, Sun 11am-5.30pm.
Topshop, 214 Oxford St, W1 (020 7636 7700) Oxford Circus tube. Open Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, Thur 9am-9pm, Sun 12noon-6pm.
I IS FOR INSPIRING WALK
One of the most interesting and inspiring walks in London is The Old Hampstead Village Pub Walk guided tour. It reveals lovely old hidden pubs and includes a visit to the old observatory (weather permitting) and a wander through the glorious ancient lanes of the village. Meet at Hampstead tube. Every Sat 7pm. Cost GBP 5.50, seniors GBP 4.50.
From the Original London Walks company 020 7624 3978.
I IS FOR IPOD
Yay! Now even being skint is no bar to having an iPod.
J IS FOR JUMBLE SALES
Jumble sales are so cheap they are like the sample sales of vintage. Where else can you snap up designer clothes for little more than a couple of quid? They usually take place in church halls or town halls find the listings in local papers such as the Ham & High or Hackney Gazette , or check out www. londonfreelist. co. uk. Car boot sales are also not to be sniffed at; you can pick up everything from homemade herbal beauty products to wellies and 1950s bric-a-brac. Those in the know head to the Sunday sales at Nightingale School innorth London, New Covent Garden Market in the south and Shepherd’s Bush.
Nightingale School, Bounds Green Rd, N22 (020 8889 9017) Wood Green tube. Open Sun 7am-1pm.
Sunday Car Boot at New Covent Garden Market, Nine Elms Lane, SW8 (01895 639912 )Vauxhall tube. Open Sun 8am-2.30pm.
Sunday Car Boot Sale, Silver Rd, off Ariel Way, Wood Lane, W12 (01753 663656) Shepherd’s Bush tube.
Open Sun 8am-2pm. Adm 50p.
Almost any solicitor will usually give you a free initial consultation of half an hour or so. The Citizens Advice Bureau also offers a free service, though itsspecialist legal knowledge is limited. At your first meeting, solicitors should tell you how they calculate their charges, and if possible, give you an estimateof the total cost. Many solicitors also offer a ‘no win no fee’ arrangement. TheLaw Society (0870 606 6575/www. laws ociety . org. uk) has an online ‘Find a Solicitor’ service and can provide guidance for finding a solicitor.
K IS FOR KNOCK-OFFS
Cheap but rarely cheerful, central London’s knockoff merchants will try to peddle you fake perfume, football shirts and designer labels, while simultaneously trying to avoid police detection.
Anyone for a pair of the latest Adibok trainers?
K IS FOR KITCHENS
Scour the Yellow Pages for outlets selling off seconds of white goods and you could nab yourself a designer kitchen for a rock-bottom price. The East London Cooker Centre has stacks of top fridge, washing machine and cooker designs with knockdown price tags and little more wrong with them than a couple of bumps and scrapes. Smeg fridges start at GBP 500. Bargain!
East London Cooker Centre, 276 Cambridge Heath Rd, E2 (020 8981 8266) Bethnal Green tube. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm.
L IS FOR LOW-COST LAUGHTER
On the first Sunday of every month you pay what you think the show is worth at the Aardvark Comedy Club.
It’s a mixed bag with something entertaining always guaranteed. Another favourite of ours is the regular Wednesday night try-out show at the Comedy Cafinear Old Street, where you can see new hopefuls strut their stuff for free.
M IS FOR MUSIC
Classical music needn’t be an expensive pastime.
Lunchtime’s a good time for free concerts, often by young artists or students: try St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square or St Anne and St Agnes on Gresham Street. Regent Hall on Oxford Street has a weekly lunchtime slot, while St James’s Piccadilly suggests a GBP 3 donation for its lunchtime concerts.
But London’s greatest unsung secret is the free music available at the conservatories and colleges. Quite often free concerts are graced by conductors or soloists of international stature who are acting professors; and real enthusiasts can sit in on masterclasses given by world experts in their field. The Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music and the Barbican’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama all have several attractions a week open to the public, though it’s as well to check if tickets are needed for some. Finally, you can combine a trip to Trinity College of Musicwith a look round its lovely premises the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich worth it even if you don’t get to a concert in the beautiful chapel.
M IS FOR MARKETS
Twenty-six major London markets offer everything from hooky T-shirts and DVDs tocheap carrots and cut-price kitchenware. What are you waiting for?
N IS FOR NAILS
Manicures are no longer the preserve of ladies with as much bling on their handsas time Nails inc does a speedy ‘shape and paint’ for a tenner.
Nails inc, 41 South Molton St, W1 (020 7499 8333/ www. nailsinc. com) Bond St tube. Open Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 12noon-4pm.
N IS FOR NIGHTLIFE ON A SHOESTRING
Why pay loads of cash to get into a club when some of London’s best cost next tonothing?
Cargo’s Fourth Birthday A freebie birthday bash on February 3 boasting live setsby Riton, The Soho Dolls and stomping punks YOB.
Movement at Bar Rumba Tightly connected with the Brazilian drum ‘n’ bass scene, Movement is London’s legendary weekly jungle jump up on Shaftesbury Avenue. Dubious?
Well, what other D&B club in the world gets to call Bryan Gee, Ray Keith, Ruffstuff, DJ Marky, Patife and Addiction its residents (never mind the guests it gets in each and every week! ). Get yourself down and prepare to sweat! Entryis GBP 4 before 10pm, then GBP 6.
Nag Nag Nag at The Ghetto One of the most phenomenal success stories in London clubland of recent years, NNN in Soho attracts the fashion pack’s most avant-garde as well as anyone who’s anyone on the electro scene.
Dress up like you mean it (extreme fashion rather than West End glam), and live it up to the best live acts and DJs playing electro punk, disco nouveau, synthcore and classic analogue sounds all for a modest fiver.
Notting Hill Arts Club It may be west London, but there’s nothing snobbish aboutthis arts ‘n’ music space. Diversity is the key, and every night of the week it features this or that music hero plugging, say, Bombay beats, soul and hip hop, indie and rock, international grooves, or Barefoot Doctor’s chilled-out Sunday session. There are often visual exhibitions down here, and the bar staff can make a mean cocktail!
Usually free before 8pm, then GBP 6.
Trash at The End Erol Alkan’s legendary genre-bashing West End club night just celebrated eight years, but you wouldn’t know it if you popped down there on anygiven Monday. Sounding as fresh as tomorrow morning, guitar-tearing chords jostle with electronic classics, and mashed-up noise besides. The crowd are addicted and addictive, and it’s a perfect example of why London’s the clubbing capital of the world.
Entrance GBP 6 to get in.
O IS FOR OFFBEAT MUSEUMS
It’s common knowledge that most major museums in London are free, but don’t ignore these hidden gems when you’re craving a dose of cost-conscious culture.
Fan Museum A charming little museum in Greenwich devoted to the history of fan-making. There are more than 3,000 fans in the permanent collection, dating from the eleventh century, including a recently acquired late nineteenth-centuryfan painted by British artist Walter Richard Sickert.
Fan Museum, 12 Crooms Hill, SE10 (020 8305 1441) Cutty Sark DLR or Greenwich rail. Open Tue-Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 12noon-5pm. Adm GBP 3.50, concs GBP 2.50, under-sevens free, seniors and disabled peopled free on Tue after 2pm.
Geffrye Museum Consume’s favourite museum is housed in former East End almshouses and consists of a series of typical British front rooms dating from 1600 to the 1990s. It’s free to get in, so spend the pennies you saved in the fab little gift shop.
Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Rd, E2 (020 7739 9893) Old St tube/rail (exit 2) then 243 bus or Liverpool St tube/rail then 149, 242 bus. Open Tue-Sat 10am5pm, Sun and bank holidays 12noon-5pm. Adm free.
Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy Animal skeletons and numerous preserved specimens including a quagga (an extinct zebra) and a dodo are crammed into this tiny, littleknown yet fascinating museum, which gives the impression of stepping back in time into the home of a Victorian eccentric. An audio tour created by artists Ann Byrne and Dan Smith describes the exhibits as sculptures rather than as zoological pieces.
Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, Darwin Building, Biology Department, Gower St, University College London, WC1 (020 7679 2647) Euston Square or Goodge St tube. Open Mon-Fri 1-5pm, or by appointment. Adm free.
Horniman Museum An anthropological museum boasting a stunning collection of musical instruments from across the globe and displays of African, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian art.
Horniman Museum, 100 London Rd, SE23 (020 8699 1872) Forest Hill rail or 176, 185, 312, 356, 63, P4, P13 bus. Open daily 10.30am-5.30pm. Gardens open Mon-Sat 7.15am-dusk, Sun 8am-dusk. Adm free.
Linley Sambourne House A late Victorian townhouse that was once home to Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne. Tours at weekends (not 10am) are led by guides dressed as the Victorian inhabitants of the house Lady Sambourne, her son and the housekeeper.
Linley Sambourne House ,18 Stafford Terrace, W8 (Mon-Fri 020 7602 3316 ext 305, Sat, Sun 07976 060160) High St Kensington tube. Sat, Sun tours 10am, 11.15am, 1pm, 2.15pm, 3.30pm.
Mon-Fri pre-booked tours only. Adm GBP 6, concs GBP 4, under-18s GBP 1.
P IS FOR PROPERTY Seeking cheap property in London might seem futile, but there are ways to get what you want (or close to it).
Think ahead ‘A lot of people are taking a punt on Stratford because of the Eurostar station being built there, as well as the Olympic bid, ‘ says Jason Mycroft, sales manager of Halfapercent. com. Looking at areas with proposed regeneration is always a good bet if your main aim is to make a decent profit when you sell on. A two-bedroom flat in a brand new apartment block is GBP 200,000.
Think laterally Space is at a premium so work out where’s left to build on. You might not be looking at somewhere beautiful, but if there’s some infrastructure in place (transport links, chiefly), it might be worth it.
Thamesmead (SE28), with its supply of new homes and proximity to the DLR, is thebest example of once-barren land becoming a new community. A one-bedroom flat isabout GBP 120,000 and a threebedroom house costs about GBP 200,000.
Think outside the (Zone 1) box If you can cope with reading a book on the train for half an hour, and now value interior space over a central location, there are plenty of places on the city’s edges that are not ruinously Home Counties expensive. Still in London even, Walthamstow (on the speedy Victoria Line) is great for those who want more square footage for their pound: a twobedroom Victorian or Edwardian house costs just over GBP 200,000. Bromley is only 17 minutes into Victoria and three-bedroom houses start at under GBP 200,000. Similarly, in Romford, on the Essex borders, a three-bedroom house is about GBP 210,000.
Think old Many first-time buyers are nervous about buying a period property because, as much as they covet the cornicing and fireplaces, they’re terrified of a bad survey. Jason Mycroft reckons that many buyers are so put off by the dreaded word ‘damp’ that they only go for new developments with a ten-year HBC guarantee (building warranty) for peace of mind. Go for a period property in an as-yet more down-atheel area. Gentrification (and the rise in value of your property) is only a matter of time. As Peter Rollings, managing director of Foxtons, says, ‘Fulham was scruffy 20 years ago.’ A Victorian terrace house withthree bedrooms in Plumstead (SE18) can be had for well under GBP 200,000.
Think priorities According to Peter Rollings, despite fluctuations, prices in London have stayed where they were three years ago. ‘Bearing in mind it’s a capital city, London has quite a lot of catching up to do, ‘ he believes.
Foxtons has just sold a studio flat for GBP 130,000 in the heart of South Kensington.
If you’re not worried about space, and just want to live in the swankiest or most central area, you can find something.
Think buses And trains. Don’t pay over the odds for somewhere just because it’s close to a tube station. There really are more buses on the roads these days andmany overland train connections are surprisingly reliable.
If Clapham and Putney are now well out of reach, go for their tubeless peripheries such as Earlsfield or Battersea.
P IS FOR PETROL
Generally, the supermarket chains tend to have the cheapest petrol prices. Asda is the best, having recently slashed the price of a litre of unleaded by 3p to 76.9p
Q IS FOR QUALITY CLOTHES Think laterally: where the locals wear Chanel, they also discard Chanel, so for posh secondhand clothes, you want to head west to Chelsea. You can find suits and work shirts on Northcote Road near Clapham Junction, but if it’s bargain basement you’re after, go east. At Dalston’s massive Oxfam you’re often talking pence rather than pounds.
Oxfam Dalston, 570-772 Kingsland Rd, E8 (020 7923 1532/ www. oxfam. org. uk) Dalston rail then 149 bus. Open Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.30pm, Sat 9.30am-6pm, Sun 11am-4pm.
Q IS FOR QUID
It’s never been so easy to buy cheap but good clothing and accessories. Stores like Matalan and Primark might make your heart sink, but next time you pass one,take the time to go in and have a look. On a recent trip to Primarkwe found a delightful Fendi handbag knock-off for just GBP 3.
Supermarkets are also worth a look you have to sift past the junk, but it’s worth spending time. We recently found this spiffing squint-and-it-couldbe Paul Smith cotton shirt for GBP 15 at Tesco; an Orla Kiely-esque weekender bag, GBP 14, from Tu at Sainsbury’s; and winsome round-toed shoes for GBP 18 by George at Asda.
Asda, Western Rd, Park Royal Rd, NW10 (8851 9000) Park Royal tube. Open 24 hoursMon 7.30am-Sat 10pm, Sun 10am-4pm.
Sainsbury’s, 129 Kingsway, WC2 (020 7242 6320/ www. sainsburys. com) Holborn tube. Open Mon-Sat 7am-10pm, Sun 12noon-6pm.
Tesco, 100a West Cromwell Rd, Kensington, W14 (020 7853 7100) Earl’s Court tube.Open 24 hours Mon 8am-Sat 10pm, Sun 11am-5pm.
Which is all you’ll need for any item in the capital’s growing number of pound shops. Nobrand washing-up liquid, padded envelopes that come unstuck in seconds and gargantuan bars of obsolete chocolate aside, they’re usually worth a browse if only for that tea towel holder you’ve long been meaning to purchase.
Alvin Hall, financial guru and author of ‘What Not to Spend: Priceless Ways to Manage Your Money’ (Hodder & Stoughton GBP 14.99) reckons the best way to save money is to get out and about. ‘I’ve learnt from living in New York: Walk more! Put your feet to the street, as I like to say so long as it’s safe and, in my case, not raining. Not only is it healthy for you, but you can also discover unadvertised sales and new shops with great merchandise and low prices. So you get great exercise, get to see more of this great city, and can save lots of money. It’s a win-win-win!’
R IS FOR ROUTES THAT AVOID THE CONGESTION CHARGE
East to west and west to east are possible along either the south side of the Thames or via the Marylebone Road, Angel and Old Street, but travelling from topto bottom of the city and back again will cost you a fiver or days on the M25.
R IS FOR ROAMING THE STREETS
UBritish Gas charges 53 per cent more per kWh of gas than any other leading company. Ditch it for Powergen’s Dual Fuel plan (www. choosepowergen. co. uk). Don’t be put off by the annual GBP 40 standing charge it’s still a cheap option in the long run. Check www. uswitch. com to see if you could be getting a cheaper deal.
Switching to a new mobile phone contract at this time of year means you can takeadvantage of post-Xmas deals, such as 12 months’ half-price line rental (ie GBP 14.50 per month) with T-Mobile on Nokia 6170 handsets (available from The Link).
The Carphone Warehouse has several good deals including a package called Talk & Text 600 (available with 3 Network), which gives you 500 free cross-network minutes and 100 texts a month for GBP 15 for the first nine months of the contract, thereafter it goes up to GBP 30. Its January sale also has Pay As You Go handsets with video calling and picture messaging capabilities for just GBP 9.99 when youtrade in your old mobile. If you want to stick with your existing contract, get an itemised bill so you can see what you spend most of your money on (calls, texts, picture messaging etc). Then see if customer services can come up with a moneysaving tariff.
The Carphone Warehouse (0800 925925/ www. carphonewarehouse. com).
The Link (0500 222666/ www. thelink. co. uk).
S IS FOR SHOTS, CHEAP SHOTS
Not shots of the tequila or sambuca variety, but things you should never say to Londoners, like: ‘Your underground service is brilliant’ or ‘I’ve never found parking so easy or competitively priced.’
S IS FOR SKIWEAR FOR LESS
Skiing can be expensive, but a cheap outfit might help soften the blow to your wallet. We found a good selection at TK Maxx for about a quarter of the full price and we are always impressed by Millets’ and Blacks’ offerings good quality ski gear at bargain basement prices, such as this pompom hat, GBP 9.99, at Millets. We also found ski trousers and jackets in Blacks for a very reasonable GBP 50. If that still seems steep, why not go for the hire option?
Skitogshire. co. uk offers an excellent selection with jackets to hire from GBP 18 per week.
Blacks, 100 Charing Cross Rd, WC2 (020 7292 5100) Tottenham Court Rd tube. Open Mon-Sat 9.30am8pm, Sun 12noon-6pm.
Millets, 176 Kensington High St, W8 (020 7937 7141) High St Kensington tube. Open Mon-Wed 9.30am-6pm, Thur, Fri 9.30am-7pm, Sat 9.30am6.30pm, Sun 11am-5pm.
TK Maxx, St Johns Rd, SW11 (020 7228 8072) Clapham Junction rail. Open MonWed, Fri, Sat 9am-7pm, Thur 9am-8pm, Sun 11.30am-5.30pm.
T IS FOR TRANSPORT CHEATS
A smack in the face from Ken’s swollen transport fares helped many a Londoner regain full consciousness after the festive excesses.
Nevertheless, the shrewd can evade his clutches just a little longer. Pre-purchase your bus tickets in a Bus Saver book of six and carry on paying thegolden age (ie 2004) fare of GBP 1 per journey. Similarly the tube Carnet gives you ten Zone 1 single journeys for GBP 17 (usual cost GBP 20). Pre-paying with an Oyster card affords similar reductions, bringing a single bus journey down to 80p. If you have the time to travel above ground, the GBP 11 weekly bus pass (unlimited travel in all zones) still offers reasonable value, despite a scandalous rise ofGBP 1.50 on last year. And don’t forget you can cover all 55 square miles of Zones 1-6 by tube, rail or bus with a Zone 1-6 travelcard: GBP 10.50 peak, GBP 5 off-peak (after 9.30am).
Alternatively, shun Transport for London completely. If you frequently take short tube journeys in the centre of town, improve your overground geography: it’s often quicker to walk and www. streetmap. co. uk is just a click away to guide you.
T IS FOR THRIFT
Google can do more than just find you information online it can compare pricestoo, or at least its new sister site, the aptly named Froogle, can. When it comes to finding the most competitive deals on the net, Froogle knocks spots offcompetitors like Kelkoo. It’s particularly good at finding obscure items, thoughas with all price comparison sites, you can usually find things even cheaper if you bother to shop around. To buy pretty much anything at a bargain price, head straight for eBay (yes, we know you know, but it just keeps getting better). Amazon and Play. com are both good for cheap CDs and DVDs, while those in searchof low-cost electrical equipment should head to EmpireDirect, which aims to undercut big high-street retailers such as Dixons by up to 30 per cent. For the best bargains head for the Clearance section, where we recently spotted a Fuji three-megapixel digital camera for GBP 104.27 GBP 50 less than the cheapest price Kelkoo found for us.
www. amazon. co. uk www. ebay. co. uk www. empiredirect. co. uk www. froogle. co. uk www. kelkoo. co. uk www. play. com
V IS FOR VIDEO GAMES FOR LESS
You’ll need to go some to find computer games cheaper than at these two emporiums. CEX stocks tons of secondhand stuff with PS2 and Xbox games starting at around GBP 4. How about Konami’s superb ‘Pro Evolution Soccer 3’ for just GBP 6? Or UbiSoft’s excellent ‘Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow’ for a tenner? CEX is also a great place to swap that dog of a game you got for Christmas for something youactually wanted. Game Focus in Goodge Street offers a similar service, only on asmaller scale.
Needless to say, the staff at both shops really know their stuff.
CEX, 32 Rathbone Place, W1 (central reception 0845 345 1664) Tottenham Court Rd tube. Open MonWed, Sat 10am-7.30pm, Thur, Fri 10am-8pm, Sun 11am-7pm.
Game Focus, 39 Goodge St, W1 (020 7631 0118) Goodge St tube. Open Mon-Sat 10.30am-7pm, Sun 12noon-5pm.
It might only advertise its big (admissioncharged) exhibitions, but don’t forgethow great the free stuff is. Packed to the rafters with the spoils of centuries of fashion, textiles, furniture and photography collecting, it’s surely London’scheapest treasure.
Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, SW7 (020 7942 2687/www. vam. ac. uk) South Kensington tube. Open daily 10am-5.45pm, Wed and last Fri of IS FOR WINE Staff at Oddbins are impeccably trained to find the best deal for your money. Just tell them your budget and your tastes and they’ll sort it out.
Oddbins, 180 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2 (020 7836 6331) Covent Garden tube. Open Mon-Thur 10am8pm, Fri, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-5pm.
X IS FOR X-RATED
Save yourself a small fortune by abstaining from present-buying in December and doing it all in the January sales.
If you fancy indulging in a little fetish wear, you needn’t spend tons of cash. Soho’s Clone Zone, London’s original gay superstore, has Calvin Klein undies from GBP 13, ‘dog’ collars from GBP 11.95 and leather underwear for just GBP 13 alongside a huge range of sex machinery and accessories and porn material.
Clone Zone, 64 Old Compton St, W1 (020 7287 3530/ www. clonezone. co. uk) Leicester Square tube. Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 12noon-8pm.
Normally budget bed linen is cheap by name and cheap by nature with a nasty floral design and a built-in polyester itch factor. Woolworths has come up trumps with the latest addition to its homeware range, in stores from February you could mistake its GBP 24.99 super-soft cotton mix double duvet sets with hipruched or embroidered detail for Frette at three times the price. Sweet dreams!
Woolworths, 168-176 Edgware Rd, W2 (020 7723 3065) Edgware Rd tube. Open Mon-Sat8am-10pm, Sun 12noon-6pm.
If you’ve maxed out your credit card in the sales, now is a good time to transfer your balance to an interestfree account. Be warned, though: many seemingly tempting deals have a sting in the tail, as an increasing number are charging a handling fee for balance transfers. This means that credit card tarts, who jump from one introductory offer to the next, can be charged (usuallyup to GBP 50) when they switch accounts. There are some good deals out there, though. The best we found was with Egg, which is offering nought per cent interest on balance transfers until September (no handling fee).
According to credit reference agency Experian, switching cards two or three times a year won’t affect your credit rating. So keep an eye out for new deals just don’t forget to read the small print Egg (08451 233 233/ www. egg. com).