Broke in the Big Smoke

Life in London on a Budget

Why is talking about money such a taboo?

This is a column I wrote for Bloggeration mag before going on holiday in August but which sadly was never published before being closed – rather than let it go to waste I thought I’d publish it here as part of a new Money Monday series of posts which I’m hoping to do fortnightly.

Thanks to Sex and the City and other TV shows of a similar ilk, talking about sex is no longer just for the open minded. With excellent social media campaigns like It’s time to talk, Time to Change and Rethink we’re finally treating our minds as extensions of our bodies and opening up the conversation on mental health issues. So why oh why is talking about money still such a taboo?

I have no issue talking about money as you can see from my blog. I’m happy to tell you that I earnt £27,500 a year working in my last job, that I pay £530 pcm for my room in my East London flat and that I spend far too much money on both eating out and tickets for events and shows.

Every single person has to deal with money regardless of whether they have too much of it or too little. Those that fall in the latter camp often feel ashamed at their struggle to manage their money properly and make ends meet but they shouldn’t. You shouldn’t.

One of the main reasons people find themselves in a financial fix is lack of education. I don’t know about you but I got taught absolutely nothing about budgeting, paying bills and credit cards in school and had to figure this all out on my own. This lack of information is how mistakes happen.

If we talk about our experiences, we can learn from each other, and avoid making the same mistakes!

This is one of the reasons I love the UK Money blogging community they’re generally much more open about things I find and don’t hesitate to help one another out. It feels like there’s less of a competition between them than in other blogging genres! Last month we held out second money conference and it was really good to see how our numbers have grown in just a year.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

September 2016 NET Worth

Cash – £2.73
PayPal – £61.25
Santander – £2,891.63
Halifax C/A – £6,034.85
TSB – £573.80
Tesco – £1,281.14
Credit total – £10,845.40

Capital One C/C – £1,461.75
MBNA C/C – £3,139.75
Virgin Atlantic C/C – £2,297.64
Halifax C/C – £2,583.68
Loan from Mum – £4,000.00
Loan from Dad – £2,000.00
Debt total – (£15,482.82)

Net worth
£10,845.40 – £15,482.82 = –£4,637.42

Progress is impossible without change

6 months ago today I was told I was being made redundant.

Tomorrow is my last day with the company I’ve been with for over three years.

I don’t have another job to go to right now. Tomorrow at 5pm I will officially be unemployed.

It’s not like last time. Last time it was my choice, I had a plan for a new adventure and I was excited. It was the best decision I think I have ever made. I love my life in London so it’s scary to have that be in jeopardy right now. Especially when it wasn’t my choice.

I haven’t been applying for as many jobs as I should have. I had my eye on an internal role that would have bridged the gap between IT and a communications/PR role. Unfortunately, that wasn’t feasible so now I have to make my own future.

The problem is I don’t know what I want to do.


Well I do, but I want to do lots of things. I want to potentially work in social media, blogger outreach, events management, PR. Create YouTube videos, write things, visit interesting places and get paid to do it. I don’t want to do just one thing anymore. But it seems that doing that isn’t easy

Ideally I’d be able to find a part time Helpdesk position where I could work three or so days per week and then have the rest of the time to work on that other stuff that I want to do. Including building my blog, there is so much I want to do with this space – so many ideas that I have but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Or the motivation…

This year hasn’t been the best one for me. I’ve had health problems, family issues, this redundancy looming over me for half of it and right now I’m feeling tired and a bit mentally frazzled. Every time I try to write something I get this overwhelming sense of panic that I’m not good enough. I have so much that I want to write about and even some things that I need to write about.

For the past year I’ve been doing the odd collaborative post with companies in order to earn a little extra money and I hope to increase that going forward. Don’t worry the content isn’t going to change and I will never post something that I don’t actually like or agree with.

Most of the time the content will be written by me anyway, in my usual tone/style (that is if I have a style, I don’t know – do I?) – if it’s not written by me it will be clearly marked as a sponsored post at the very top of the article (like this one) that way if you’re only here for my sparking personality you can skip those but I hope you don’t mind. So far I’ve made enough money to pay for my hosting since I moved to self-hosted WordPress at the tail end of 2015 and a new blog theme (which lol I haven’t had time to implement yet). Clearly I’m rolling in it and don’t need to fret about finding work to pay the bills lol.

All joking aside, thank you to anyone who’s read this far. Anyone who keeps coming back to this site whenever there’s a new post that takes their fancy. Anyone who’s just found this site and hasn’t automatically clicked away because they’re fed up of bloggers moaning about their life being hard. (On a side note, Claire posted this great blog about bloggers being either aspirational OR relatable – I’m afraid I’m firmly in the latter camp – there’s nowt aspirational about this blog!)

 I’m hoping that posting this is all that’s needed to kick my butt in to gear and get writing again  – thanks for sticking with me!

The 5 keys to buying your first house

Sponsored post

Whatever your thoughts on the EU referendum, it appears as though house prices are set to decline in the coming years as a result of the outcome. For homeowners, it may not be the best news in the world. But for those who feel locked out of the property market, such news will probably provide a lot of encouragement.

Furthermore, the recent cut in interest rates is likely to make mortgages even more affordable, which will make the dream of homeownership an increasingly realistic one for existing renters. Nevertheless, despite the dice starting to fall in a slightly kinder manner, gaining a foothold on the property ladder is far from a foregone conclusion, so below is some advice to help you get there – regardless of where you live, or how much you earn.

Saving for a deposit

There are finer nuances to saving, but the principle which overpowers all the others is discipline. Whatever your monthly budget is in terms of incomings and outgoings, you need to find a way to ring fence a couple-hundred quid of it, and move it into a separate account. Aside from building up your savings rapidly, such self-control will also demonstrate to mortgage providers one day that you are a credible and diligent potential borrower, thus standing you in good stead to be approved at a good rate.

Get more for your savings

It’s one thing to save – it’s quite another to maximise what you get for it. The new Help-to-Buy ISA is one place to lock your savings away, and, if you play your cards right, could see you earn up to a £3,000 state-sponsored bonus. The incoming Lifetime ISA may be another option from next year, and similarly offers a bonus scheme for first-time buyers.

There are other different kinds of ISA available too which can offer a significant boost to the funds you put away in terms of interest. You just need to be conscious of the risks, and weigh up whether the rewards justify them or not.

Improve your credit score

When it comes to applying for a mortgage, your credit rating will be crucial in determining whether you are approved, and at what rate. Not many people are too au fait with how credit scores are calculated, but there are numerous steps you can take to improve it. Simple things like registering on the electoral roll, paying off your credit card balance each month, taking out a mobile phone contract and even ordering a copy of your credit file to check for errors can all make a big difference.

Consider a private deal

It may sound risqué; even desperate, but writing letters and putting them in post-boxes of homes you like may result in one landing with someone who is thinking of selling up. If you luck out, you may be able to do a private deal with them, and both of you can save plenty in agency fees.

Understand the true cost of buying

Most people think that covering the cost of a deposit means job done. Unfortunately, the costs don’t end there. There will be other fees for estate agents and solicitors, not to mention stamp duty, insurance and home improvements. And even once this is all paid, you should note that your financial exposure is ongoing. As a renter, you don’t need to give it much of a second thought when something like a boiler breaks down. However, it will be you who has to foot the bill for maintenance once you’re a homeowner. It’s all part of the deal, but, if you are adequately prepared financially, then it will no doubt be one of the happiest experiences of your life.

{Guest Post} London for the Uninitiated Twenty-Something by Dave CLough

While I’m off to Vegas for the Star Trek 50th Creation Convention I’ve asked a couple of people to guest blog for you here on Broke in the Big Smoke. Today Dave Clough from music blog Life Support Machine tells you how those in their twenties who are new to London can avoid the tourist traps of the city.

London means different things for different people. For some, it can be a place of patriotism and glory, whereby images of the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Nelson’s Column will parade across the back of one’s eye. Or perhaps its attraction lies in its cultural diversity, evoking smells of steam-cooked Taiwanese pork buns and BBQ-fried jerk chicken, exhaled from tiny back-alleys. Or maybe, for others, London is a place of hedonism, be it laced with crystal glass highballs and million-pound views, or heavy basslines, pumped out from clubs situated beneath the plethora of railway arches dotted across the city.

London for the uninitiated

Whatever experience you’re looking for be sure you know where to find it, for London has a tendency to leave the uninitiated visitor with a rather sour taste in their mouth if they fall foul of its many garish tourist traps, which is why we have put together this guide for those who, perhaps, haven’t visited London before, or who have and haven’t had the experience they were looking for. This is authored by a London resident of 7 years and edited by a Home Counties native, who regularly frequents the capital for its culture and nightlife, so we hope we can add some real value and insight into what London has to offer the millennial, and more importantly, where to find it.

Do your research

When in doubt, look to TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor holds more than 320 million reviews of over 6.2 million businesses and attractions worldwide, with 200 new contributions posted every minute. London has ranked highest on MasterCard’s Global Destinations Cities Index as the most visited city in the world for the past 7 years. That’s a lot of visitors, with a lot of opinions.

For local knowledge, your point of call should be Time Out London. Time Out has a large workforce that includes volunteer contributions from your everyday Joe trying to get his entertainment fix, to full-time slaves of the recreational lifestyle, who spend every waking minute sourcing the best up-and-coming and underground bars, restaurants and events, and visiting all those with undeserved hype so that you don’t have to. Independent guides are numerous too, covering lots of sectors, whether you are looking to do London on a budget, London with a team, or London as a couple, to name but three.

Social media will also be massively helpful. Good bars, restaurants, journalists and entertainment entrepreneurs are generally good friends with each other, so by following one’s Twitter or Instagram thread, a plethora of local, independent and specialised businesses will open up to you.

For gigs and music events you’re really spoilt for choice. Resident Advisor will cover all your electronic music needs, showcasing the most popular current events alongside an intricate list of clubs and live music to satisfy even the most obscure tastes. If you have particular artists in mind then track them on Bandsintown, a website with a huge database of artists that has all the information on live events, sending out notifications when new shows are announced.

Sights to see

Whether or not you are interested in history, the famous landmarks are well worth a sight, if only for their architectural magnificence and bucket-list statuses. With that in mind, take a walk over Westminster Bridge and view the splendor of Britain’s 500-year-old Houses of Parliament; book a tour if you are politically interested. Continue on to Trafalgar Square, crane your neck up at Nelson’s Column and take a hike around the National Portrait Gallery, before wandering up the Mall to the Queen’s front doorstep. This will leave you with a general notion to the majesty of London, as well as give you something to tell your parents and colleagues about, who maybe aren’t as interested in the same music and culture as you.


As with any good trip, your visit to London should begin (and end) in a pub. Pubs are the essence of British culture; it was in a pub where Lord of the Rings was first drafted, and where the infamous Gunpowder Plot was conscripted, incriminating the name of Guy Fawkes forever more. London is home to some of the most historical and eclectic pubs in Britain, with everything from dark, crumbling caves for interiors to glittering cavernous halls. To get you started, here are London’s 5 most popular pubs according to TripAdvisor:

  1. The Mayflower Pub, Rotherhithe. This pub is almost 400 years old and its owners have tried to retain its original features and ambience as much as possible, only with a highly plausible update on the food menu. A good starting point for a pub crawl around Rotherhithe that will quite literally take you back in time.
  2. The Queen’s Head, Piccadilly Circus. For a welcome respite from the big shops and gaudy advertisements of modern Central London head to this independent pub that dates back to 1736. Sink some real ale and chow down on some hearty food in this surprisingly good value central location.
  3. The Andover Arms, Hammersmith. If you find yourself out in the deep unknown of West London, The Andover Arms will feed, water and bed you for the night in the comfortable surroundings of a traditional English pub, but with just a touch of fancy so that it feels a little bit special.
  4. The Victoria, Paddington. This pub is a good bolt hole to counterbalance the wide open spaces of nearby Hyde Park. A Fuller’s pub, expect a cosy atmosphere and some classic London beer whilst you revel in the fact that Charles Dickens wrote some of his last novel, Our Mutual Friend, whilst sat in your very spot.
  5. The Churchill Arms, Kensington. The Churchill Arms is a heart-warmingly quaint little pub found in the shadows of the royal Kensington Palace. Another Fuller’s pub, this merry and comfortable establishment should round off your visit to the classy Kensington High Street and Gardens perfectly, with some good Thai grub on offer to remind you how two cultures can live so cooperatively side-by-side.

Top destinations for nightlife

London nightlife is awash with diversity and eclecticism. No matter who you are or what your preferences are, there is a community out there that shares your values, be it top-quality claret, raucous cabaret, endless comedy or all-night clubbing. The following is a list of three neighbourhoods famed for their unique nightlife and why they need to be checked out:

  1. Camden Town – Camden is the kookiest, wackiest part of London, where all manner of arts are celebrated and encouraged. The markets contain bargain handmade clothes and leather goods, foods from all over the world and artwork in abundant. You’ll find the pubs and street corners buzzing with quirky characters and loud live music. Check out The Hawley Arms for rock star fame and Camden Town Brewery to see where the infamous Camden Beer is brewed.
  2. Shoreditch – Shoreditch is one for late night bars and street food. There’s practically a street food festival on every street, and a new bar or restaurant at least every fortnight. Shoreditch is quite pricey, but the competition keeps the quality of food and drinks up to scratch. Check out The Blues Kitchen for hip-swinging live music every night and 8 Hoxton Square for top-quality food.
  3. Mayfair – Mayfair is for those who want to splash some cash on high-end dining and classy drinking. For a genuine Mayfair experience that doesn’t break the bank head to Kitty Fisher’s, whose namesake became famous for her taste in London’s wealthy men and their lavish lifestyle.

{Guest Post} Ways to save money on… Gigs

While I’m off to Vegas for the Star Trek 50th Creation Convention I’ve asked a couple of people to guest blog for you here on Broke in the Big Smoke. As today called for another Saving Sunday post I asked my lovely friend Charley to give you guys the lowdown on how she saves money on going to gigs in London.

So, you want to save money on live music in London. Have you met my friend Jukely? Let me introduce you.

Jukely is a live music subscription service. It’s a bit like Netflix for gigs. It was started in 2013 and brought over to London early last year. There are 2 types of subscription; solo or +1. Solo subscribers pay £25 a month and get 1 pass to as many shows as they like. Fancy bringing a friend along to each gig? The +1 package is an extra £20 a month and allows you 2 passes to as many shows as you like.


New shows are added every day at 11am and passes are available 3 days in advance, along with a 14 day preview of upcoming shows. You can only get passes for one show at a time, unless you’re on the +1 package in which case you can split them and get one for 2 different shows. Passes are only renewed once you check in at the show, either through their mobile site or app. Failure to check in means you won’t get new ones for 48hrs. You can also cancel any you have up until around 5pm on the day of the show.


 I’ve been a Jukely member for just over a year now and have managed to catch some gigs from artists I’m already familiar with as well as been introduced to some new artists that are now in my list of favourites. I’ve even managed to get passes to some festivals, such as Field Day and V Festival. The ticket prices for these shows can vary, from £5 for one of Meilyr Jones’s first London shows last year, to £75 EACH for 1 day V Festival tickets, but at the end of the month, all I pay is £45 for 2 passes to every show.


Jukely don’t include every show in London, but they do offer passes for shows that cater to all music tastes. Friday & Saturday night’s tend to mainly offer DJs and dance/house acts, with passes giving you access to Ministry of Sound and Fabric most weeks, and considering tickets to these venues are around the £15 mark each, the price of a Jukely subscription is a steal. I’ve seen a bit of everything, from country crooner Ryan Bingham, ska legends The Specials, heavy metallers Testament and even a David Bowie tribute act!

If you feel like you’d like to give Jukely a go, then be sure to use code JUKECE1 for £10 off your first month. Jukely also give you 1 week free trial. If you first sign up to just their emails then you get sent sneak peeks of what passes they have coming up, so then you can time your free trial.

This is a must for any music lover. If you have any questions, feel free to pop them over to me at @captaincharleyy over on Twitter and I’d be happy to answer.

Parallel Lives

Do you ever stop to think how different your life would be if you made just one decision differently? Some point in your life where you said no instead of yes or I can’t instead of I can?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – especially my decision to move to London. I still maintain that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made but I do wish I had a what-if machine to see how different things would be had I made the decision to stay in Aberdeen.

The Prince’s Trusts recent Parallel Lives campaign shows how things can turn out for the worse in some cases but they fully believe that all young people have the potential to change their path in life, and are committed to supporting them into work, education or training.

They’ve been doing it for 40 years now and have helped thousands of young people turn their lives around but as a charity they can’t do it without some help. They have plenty of volunteering and fundraising opportunities or if you’re able you can donate to them directly here.

#TogetherWeCan save young lives

{Guest Post} 4 Things I love about Camden by Rhian Westbury

While I’m off to Vegas for the Star Trek 50th Creation Convention I’ve asked a couple of people to guest blog for you here on Broke in the Big Smoke. Today Rhian Westbury shows you her favourite things about that eclectic little area called Camden.

The main reason which I love living in the proximity of London is one part of the city in particular, Camden. Here are the top 4 things I love about Camden.

The markets

Of course the majority of people know Camden for its markets and there’s reason why. I absolutely love spending a day exploring the markets and picking up treats that’s I don’t need but just want. The vast majority of the artwork which is in my flat comes from stalls in Camden and the Lock is definitely my favourite place to explore. The Stables are good fun if you’re happy to get lost and some of my favourite places to eat and drink sit within the markets. Chaboba bubble tea shop sits in The Lock and I love their tea, normally I opt for strawberry with mango bubbles, yummy. And the Cereal Killer Cafe sits in The Stables, and yes it’s expensive for cereal but you can’t beat sitting down with a bowl of Reeces Peanut Puffs with Almond Milk and some Cookie Dough Pop Tarts.

Rhian Westbury Guest Post 1

The Underworld

The Underworld is a music venue nestled behind Camden Town station which you will definitely have spotted even if you’ve not ventured anywhere else in Camden. The venue is truly iconic and has housed some of the best smaller gigs with bands such as Fall Out Boy, Sum 41 and Bring Me The Horizon having played their in the last few years alone. I love the atmosphere in the venue, the fact that it’s pretty intimate and it’s definitely one of my favourite music venues around.

Vegan eating options

I try to eat a Vegan diet as much as possible and Camden is such a great place to do so with so many options. Mildred’s is a Vegan staple housed just off the high street with many non-Veggies not even noticing that there’s no meat (or dairy). The Inspiral Lounge sits in The Lock looking out across the canal and boasts one of the best Vegan burgers I’ve ever had. With so many Thai options you’re never short of places to grab food with your non vegan friends as well. But the high point of Camden has to be Cookies and Scream which is a vegan bakery. They do the milkshakes, cookies, ice cream, donuts and various other cake goods which is enough to have me drooling just walking from the station.

Rhian Westbury Guest Post 3

Roundhouse urban beach in the summer

During the summer urban beaches pop up everywhere but the one nestled on the top of Camden’s Roundhouse is one of my favourites. It’s not massive in size but it’s intimate and a lot of fun. With sand placed all around the balcony area you can grab a deck chair and soak up the little sun we might get, grab a cider or cocktail from the stall, play table tennis or just enjoy feeling the sand beneath your toes.

July 2016 NET Worth

Cash – £24.52
Santander – £3,271.12
Halifax C/A – £3,914.32
TSB- £457.84
Tesco – £1,133.42
Credit total – £8,801.22

Capital One C/C – £2,024.58
MBNA C/C – £3,203.49
Virgin Atlantic C/C – £2,347.52
Halifax C/C – £2,636.14
Loan from Mum – £4,000.00
Loan from Dad – £2,000.00
Debt total – (£16,211.72)

Net worth
£8,801.22 – £16,211.72 = –£7,410.50

Ways to save money on… Theatre Tickets

This year I want to take the blog back in a personal finance direction and thought a good way of doing this would be to start a little series on ways to save money. Some of these will be London focused while others will be more general. Hopefully at least one of the topics in this series will catch your eye and help you save a few pennies!

How to Save Money on Theatre Tickets

It feels like I’m at the theatre once a week at the moment and I am certainly not complaining but people often ask me how I can afford to go so often. While I am lucky enough to occasionally be comped tickets to see shows thanks to this blog the majority of shows I pay to see with my own money. If it’s a big show, like cursed child, of course I have to pay full whack just like everyone else but there are many ways to save money on a trip to the theatre & I’m going to share some of these with you now.


Probably one of the most well-known options TKTS. If you’re not familiar with it, TKTS is the official Leicester Square box office for the Society of London Theatre and can offer fantastic discounts on some of the best shows London has to offer. The website is updated daily with the offers they have available but your best bet is to head to their booth in Leicester Square in the morning and queue up to see what availability is like for that day – obviously this changes frequently so they may not always have the show you are dying to see but you’re guaranteed to get a fantastic bargain in some shape or form.

If you’re planning to see a specific show or want to book in advance then there are a multitude of websites on which you can book.But my pick of the bunch has to be – while the discounts aren’t always as big as some of the others what I do like is that very often you get something free thrown in as well from ice cream to wine or even two course meals it makes the cost of your night out a whole lot cheaper overall and I really like the fact that they will tell you the exact seat you have been allocated unlike a lot of other websites.


I’m not exactly sure how I first discovered MyBoxOffice but I am so glad that I did. For a small membership fee of £15 per annum, you get access to a wide variety of shows via their website ranging from West End musicals to smaller more intimate events all for just a small administration fee of up to £5 or in some cases completely free of charge.  As these tickets are usually to help fill up seats for underbooked performances they’re often released very last-minute so you have to be spontaneous in order to grab yourself a bargain!

241 with National Rail train tickets

If you’ve traveled to London via train then be sure to check out the National Rail days out guide website where you can benefit from 241 theatre tickets to some fantastic shows – at the moment they have Sunny Afternoon, The Woman in Black and The Railway Children plus more on offer. Even if you haven’t come by train it can still be worth taking a look at these as you can always buy cheap tickets from Clapham Junction to Waterloo in order to take advantage of this offer.

Be young

Sadly not one everyone can take advantage of (I didn’t know about this until it was too late for me!) but if you’re between the ages of 16  and 26 you can get some incredible discounts on theatre across the country. It’s all part of a campaign to get more young people seeing live performances and while not every theatre in London participates in this scheme you can find a great list of those that do and how to sign up on the WhatsOnStage website here.

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