Broke in the Big Smoke

Life in London on a Budget

The 5 keys to buying your first house

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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} 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.

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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.

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 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.

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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

Credit
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

Debts
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.

TKTS

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.

LoveTheatre.com

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 LoveTheatre.com – 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.

MyBoxOffice

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.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Palace Theatre

Cursed Child

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

What a week to be a nerd eh? Those of you who know me personally will know that my two true loves in life are Harry Potter (I’m a Ravenclaw FYI) and Star Trek (Team Janeway all the way) so you can imagine how flipping ridiculous it is that I not only had such an incredible experience at the Star Trek: Beyond premiere but was incredibly lucky to have tickets to see Cursed Child in previews which happened to fall in the same week.

Yes, sure, go ahead and hate me, I definitely deserve it but damn there is no way that I couldn’t not blog about such a wonderful theatrical London experience just because it might make a few people jealous. Of course as a fan I will most definitely #keepthesecrets so if you’re after spoilers you’ll find none here! (Although I may do another write-up once the script is released I’m undecided.)

Cursed Child theatre

First of all, the play is still technically in previews. Despite having been running for around a month it doesn’t officially open until the 30th July so some details may change but I am fairly confident that they have the majority of the show nailed by now. Secondly, I will admit straight up that as excited as I was about new Harry Potter content I was totally skeptical when the play was announced and even more so when it was revealed that it would be in two parts. Obviously as a huge fan I was always going to see it anyway and was incredibly lucky to obtain central seats just four rows from the stage back in October.

Eight months later I am so happy that I was able to shut that inner critic up because I can without a doubt say that it was better than I could possibly have ever imagined and totally worth the wait. In fact, I am already desperate to go and see it again! That said if you have tickets I would also urge you NOT to read the script when it’s released in a couple of weeks if you can possibly restrain yourself. I PROMISE you that going in knowing as little as possible will make the experience ten times better for you but I appreciate how difficult that will be (I remember I was visiting my ex-boyfriend’s mum when Deathly Hallows was released and was told I couldn’t read it in the car on the way home from buying it because it was rude – yeah he’s an ex for a reason! – and that was only a couple of hours wait!) for those of you who don’t have tickets well into 2017 or perhaps not at all. It really does need to be seen to be believed.

So, how can I review a play of which I do not wish to mention anything of consequence? I’ll start at the beginning and say that I was weeping for at least the first five minutes as some of my favourite characters were brought to life right in front of my eyes. It’s not like watching a movie, they are really there, right in front of you and despite some of the controversy around certain casting choices they were all absolutely incredible. There is no suspension of belief here; Noma Dumezweni is Hermione through and through, Jamie Parker is an older, worn-out Harry and Paul Thornley, well I’m not sure he could be any closer to being Ron Weasley if he tried (well unless he was a real ginger).

But in all honesty they aren’t even close to being the best of the bunch with the children instead stealing the show. Sam Clemmet as Albus Severus Potter and Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy standing out head and shoulders above many of their older colleagues. I guess they did have it slightly easier in that their characters are theirs to make their own (I believe JKR actually gave them licence to create some of their own back story to help them find them) but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they are each incredibly talented at their craft.

I don’t think it gives anything away to say that the supporting cast also get their chance to shine with many playing multiple characters (not uncommon in theatre even huge productions like this one) and the on stage choreography of the swing is utter perfection – I’m heading close to spoiler territory here so I will stop lol.

The Palace Theatre is a beautiful building perfect for something so magical and the crew have truly made it home by utilising it to its full potential – secrets are everywhere! 😉 The stage while at first seeming quite simple is used in the most remarkable of ways some of which I wouldn’t have thought possible but I guess when you’re dealing with a story about wizards it becomes your job to make the impossible possible. And of course there is a lot of trickery and special effects that make you believe in the world of witchcraft and wizardry!

I’m literally not going to mention any part of the actual plot at all but I will say that it made me laugh, weep, get goosebumps, gasp and actually swear out loud on a couple of occasions (apologies to anyone sitting near me, I’m sure you understood!) I couldn’t have seen any of it coming and yet somehow everything fit perfectly within the already established canon which is no mean feat for a franchise that’s been around for almost 20 years.

I have to admit I was a bit worried about the length of the show. With part one having a runtime of 2 hours 50 and part two 2 hours 40 it sounds like quite a challenge to watch both parts in one day but neither part felt anywhere near as long as it actually was and I found myself wishing that time would slow down just a little. One viewing of this incredible play isn’t enough. I want more and I want it now but given that it’s currently sold out until the end of May 2017 I’ll have to be patient and wait, either for someone to invent a timeturner or by consoling myself with the script and the fact that I am one of the lucky few who got to experience the magic first hand.

If you don’t have your tickets yet don’t forget about the #FridayForty where you can get tickets for the following week – info on the Cursed Child website.

Fury, Soho Theatre

This is Sam. Young, impulsive, single mum. Londoner born and bred and never ever left. Sam makes her mistakes, but who can blame her? Tom rents the flat above, the one Sam cleans. If they can come to ‘an arrangement’ he won’t call the Social on her. You might think Tom is a monster. You might think Sam’s kids would be better off without her. Someone needs to make a decision.

Shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award and winner of the Soho Theatre Young Writer’s Award, Fury is a chilling and powerful modern Medea about motherhood and class, taking an unapologetic look at the single young mum, the one already judged before she’s even opened her mouth.

Being truly spoiled for choice when it comes to theatre in London it’s easy to overlook the smaller shows that come and go at many of the more artsy venues like the Hampstead or Soho Theatres. Luckily I get some cracking invites from the team at TheatreBloggers.co.uk for these and whenever I see certain shows I’m immediately reminded why, sometimes, it pays off to throw caution to the wind on an unknown performance.

That’s how I felt when I left the powerful matinée performance of Fury on Saturday after an hour spent completely captivated. With such a fast paced script it felt like it was a much longer performance but not once did my attention waver.

With only two real main characters in the show both Sarah Ridgeway (Sam) and Alex Austin (Tom) really carry it, supported beautifully by their trio of narrators who each strive to show a different viewpoint on the situations at hand much like would happen in society today.

Both Sarah and Alex take their characters on incredibly convincing journeys from what they first appear to be to something very different indeed. I actually quite liked Tom at the beginning and yet, by about halfway through I hated him with incredible passion for what he puts Sam through.

The staging is simple, yet clever and conveys the claustrophobia of the situation well by having the audience surrounding it on all four sides. Music also plays quite a big part in this play with the choices of some songs seeming quite strange and yet also completely perfect for the moment it’s enhancing.

As mentioned above I left this performance in awe of the powerful script, performances and hopefully a little less judgemental about people I don’t know. It was incredibly thought-provoking and I thoroughly recommend it to all. If you want to catch it, it’s running until the 30th July as part of Who Runs the World? Girls.

*Disclaimer: I attended this play for free in exchange for blogging about the show.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

Ways to save money on… Magazines

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 Magazines

I’ll be honest, I’m not really one for reading magazines any more – I don’t have much space in my current flat and they just seem to take up space and time I don’t have – so when I do buy magazines it tends to be for the free gift that comes with it more than anything else! But if you can’t resist a glossy magazine or two it can get pretty expensive pretty quickly so here are some excellent tips on how to save money on your favourites:

O2 Priority Moments

If like me you’re a once in a blue moon kind of magazine reader, then look into getting O2’s Priority Moments on your mobile (here’s a trick on how to get it even if you’re not with O2 as your mobile provider) as every month you are allowed to download a magazine for free from a small selection. This month I got the special Star Trek: Beyond edition of Empire magazine which I am loving!

Readly

If you’re more of a give me all the magazines I need all the gossip I can possibly get type of magazine reader, then check out Readly. It’s basically Netflix for magazines – you pay a £7.99 per month subscription fee and you get access to over 1500 titles including their back issues. With such a huge selection there’s something for everyone and you can even use each subscription on up to 5 devices at a time so it’s great to share with the family.

iSubscribe

If you can’t resist a physical copy or you’re really loyal to a particular magazine, then it’s definitely worth signing up for a subscription via iSubscribe. Not only does it save you money in the long run (up to 95% depending on deals available) but you’re guaranteed never to miss an issue AND you get free delivery thrown in too. With over 2500 titles to choose from they’re sure to have your fave! Some of the best deals they have at the moment are 5 issues of Red Magazine for £5, 3 issues of Moneywise for £1 and 5 issues of Men’s/Women’s health for £5 too.

 

Through The Time Portal with Stella Artois

Last night I was very lucky to attend a very special event being put on by Stella Artois to celebrate Wimbledon as Charlie‘s plus one. The Time Portal promised to transport us back to Victorian London just in time for the very first Wimbledon tournament – if you’ve read my blog for a while you’ll know I love a little bit of immersive theatre and when I heard it had been created by the genius theatre troupe behind last years Alice Underground, Les Enfants Terribles.

Stella Artois The Time Portal

We arrived promptly for our 6:40pm slot and watched the present day Wimbledon match on a tiny screen (go on Murray!) before being led through to the back of the pub and in to the time machine to begin our journey. I won’t spoil what happens from there but it’s a fun, madcap adventure full of some of your favourite Victorian characters such as Dodger from Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes and Ebenezer Scrooge.
Stella Artois The Time Portal Time Machine
There are two main things that can make or break an immersive performance in my opinion: set dressing and timing – and I’m pleased to say that for this production both of these needs were met impeccably. The amount of effort that has gone into the setting for a show of such a short duration – just four days – was incredible and as with any good immersive productions I desperately wanted to take a look around (there is some opportunity for this but not enough!) The show is around 40 minutes long and the slots just 20 minutes apart so there are actually two groups going through the experience at any given time – this didn’t always work in Alice but here it was perfect.

After the show I happened to bump in to Andy from Be Clever With Your Cash in the bar and asked him his thoughts – the only complaint being that it was slightly too short. It was also at this point I discovered that like all good immersive performances there were things that I had missed. At one point the group was split in two and I hadn’t even noticed and there was even the potential for a one on one interaction with Queen Victoria! It has desperately made me want to return (and if I liked beer – I don’t enjoy the taste nor does my IBD approve) I would very likely be booking myself a ticket to return later this weekend.
Stella Artois The Time Portal Newspaper
Thankfully I do love a good fruit cider and the Stella cidre choices have been expanded which made it very difficult for me to decide on which of the flavours to try – I was torn between peach or elderflower – in the end I settled for the latter and it was definitely a good choice, perfect for drinking over this hot, sticky summer we’ve been having!

As mentioned above the run for the show is short with it ending tomorrow but there are some tickets available on their website if you’re quick and if you love fun theatre and a good beer then it’s well worth going along. Tickets cost £18 and include the show and two drinks.

BitBS Rating – ££

*Disclaimer: As a +1 I was under no obligation to post about my experience.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

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