5-ways-to-tackle-a-tube-strike

I have a love/hate relationship with the Underground. I love the fact that I can hop on and off a tube to get about town, that you only have to wait a couple of minutes until the next one arrives, and how it certainly helps avoid hefty taxi charges at midnight. I hate just how much I rely on them to get around and obviously those unpleasant crowded journeys. So when a tube strikes gets confirmed *insert despair emoji*.

As the 24-hour tube service gets closer, making it an even more relied upon travel option, it looks like we’re going to be at the mercy of several union strikes with the next one starting at 6.30pm tomorrow. I was pretty disorganised for the last strike, assuming that I know the city quite well so it’d be fine to decide my route as I walk out the door. The result was a long journey (especially on the way home after work). I’m determined to be more prepared this time around so I’ve searched the internet and recalled past recommendations. Here’s what I found…

1. City mapper app – iTunes / Android – I’ve frequently been told that this is a life-saving app which not only provides routes based on your current location, it can also tell you how long it will be until the next bus arrives. I haven’t downloaded it before as my phone is clogged up with photos but if there’s one time to get ruthless and start shifting the MBs, now is it. (The app also works in other cities, handy for city breaks!)

2. Walk London map – I’ve seen this map pop up every time there’s been a tube strike but I’ve never properly taken notice of it. It basically gives you an average journey time between tube stations so you can decide if you could walk all or parts your usual route.

3. TfL bus maps – The bus section of the TfL website is fairly intuitive, however, never fully trust that it will give you the most efficient bus route and always test out a few different options rather than the one it gives you. There’s nothing worse than choosing a bus route and then 5 minutes later realising it goes around the houses. If you’re just in central London, this map is useful (they were handing them out at tube stations today), although it doesn’t give you journey times so I’d check at the bus stop or via the TfL website.

4. Microsoft Office apps – iTunes/ Android – I’ve just discovered that you can get a host of Microsoft Office apps for your mobile or tablet for free. This includes Outlook (possibly a handy way to separate work and personal emails), Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If your work uses Office 365 I’ve heard that One Drive and One Note are helpful organisational tools to use on the go.

5. Calorie-counting tube map – Ditch the gym session and walk (or run) your tube route. This map by Treated.com and GP Wayne Osbourne provides a calorie count (for the average person) for each distance between tube stations across the entire network. Read more about the map here.

How do you tackle tube strikes? It would be great to gather a few more tips!

(If you want to know what the tube strikes are about, this article on the Telegraph was a good one.)

 

When I left Birmingham for London I had to say goodbye to my first and only car, an S reg silver Peugot 106 affectionately called Josh. I knew that when I lived in the capital, where public transport was so much more accessible and frequent (weekend closures and severe delays excluded), I wouldn’t really have need for a car. I also knew that with rent and an endless list of things to enjoy in London, the expense and effort of running a car made it more of a luxury.

I enjoyed about four years car-free until I returned back home last October and rented a car to help get around. I had the unfortunate reminder of the sheer luxury that having your own car offers – getting from A to B without 100s of people joining you, not having to lug your weekend essentials up and down the underground’s stairs and escalators, and listening to the radio!

Whilst I was a bit rusty, I got to grips with being on the road again and loved it. The following few months saw me hire a van to move flat and then a car to travel down to Cornwall. I’ll admit that at the time, after years of not driving, I felt like I’d thrown myself in at the deep end. But after a few trips I finally re-discovered a way to get to those places that feel like far too much effort to get to by public transport. And when compared to the cost of a train it’s really quite affordable.

As the summer approaches I’m daydreaming about more trips to the seaside and the beautiful British countryside. So I thought I’d share my top tips renting a car in London, part as a reminder to myself of lessons learnt, part for anyone who’s been thinking of hiring a car in the city and hasn’t driven for a while.

Tips-for-renting-a-car-in-London-2

 

1. Think about whether you’re comfortable driving the route and distance you’re travelling and whether you need to share the driving. When we got back from the 7 hour drive from Cornwall I was knackered. I realised then that not having driven much over the last few years meant I probably wasn’t used to concentrating for so long. Next time I’d definitely think about paying the extra for another driver.

2. Understand which fees are included when you book and if there are any when you return. I’ve used Enterprise and Europcar so far and although Europcar seemed cheaper when booking, by the time we’d paid petrol it was about the same price as Enterprise. We also chose to reduce the excess from £1,000 to £250 on the day which bumps up the price by about £10 per day. (I’m yet to try Zip Car so would love any reviews.)

3. Find a car hire that’s outside central London and within walking distance of public transport. Unless you’re a really confident driver I wouldn’t recommend picking up your car within zone 1. It’s much less nerve-wracking starting off on slightly quieter roads and I managed to find places within about a 15 minute walk of a station.

4. Ask the rental garage to show you how to open the petrol pump, and turn on the lights and windscreen wipers. It may sound totally daft but I quickly discovered that different cars have different places and ways to use these essential parts and you really don’t want to have a panic trying to find it when you’re driving.

5. Think about the practicalities. After not owning a car for a while some of the practical things passed me by. So I recommend thinking about rest breaks, road snacks, when you’ll arrive at your destination and if you’ll need anything (i.e. a small country village shop might not be open late or on a Sunday).

Have you driven in London since moving or when visiting?

(I would also love to know what your first car was and if you named it!)

Budgeting is boring. It’s really not much fun putting limits on things in a city where there’s so much to do, see, eat and drink. And I doubt I’m alone in wishing that I could spend money without thinking about it. But in one of the world’s most expensive cities, managing your money is a reality for most and it’s a useful skill if you want to enjoy the big stuff (like a nice holiday) too.

At the beginning of 2014, with turning 30 and wanting to buy a house on the horizon, I promised myself I’d sort out my finances. I’d spent a good three years or so of doing as much as I could, often going beyond my means, and it felt like it was time to start being sensible. It hasn’t been easy (especially with a blog based on getting out and about), and some months I’ve not done so well (those shoes were a necessity…) but I’m getting there.

These last few weeks have felt particularly tricky as things have been tight after moving flat and preparing for some things coming up. So to help keep me going, and to give anyone in the same boat a little inspiration, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt so far about managing money in London.

Thames-sunset---tips-for-managing-your-money

1. Bite the bullet and break down your essential outgoings. I find it helps me realise what I can really afford each month. My old housemate gave me this spreadsheet a few years ago and I still use it today. I take a look at it just before I get paid and when I’m planning a big purchase so I can figure out how I’ll pay for it.

2. Download your bank’s mobile app. You can get a mobile app for most big banks like Natwest, Nationwide, Barclays and HSBC. I downloaded the app for my account last year and I use it to keep track of my bank balance, transfer money to friends (rather than drawing out cash and spending the change), and pay bills on the go.

3. Get support from your friends (emotional not financial!). Friends and finances can be awkward, but I find it helps to talk about it even if it’s just a general ‘I’m broke’ winge. When we’ve got similar goals it means everyone is happy with cheaper catch ups and days out.  But even when we haven’t, they sometimes have in the past and have some helpful tips (or at least some sympathy).

Managing-your-money---London-Cocktail-Week

4. Spread out your socialising. I had a bit of a habit of organising things for those first two weeks after being paid and then struggling to do much in the last few weeks of the month, when I then start organising things after payday. It was a vicious cycle. It’s not always possible to spread things out but if you can it definitely helps.

5. Don’t be embarrassed to say no. I think London has a pretty big ‘Fear of Missing Out’ culture, due to its frequent pop ups and regular new openings.  It has taken me a long time to start turning down things that I know will stretch my finances. I used to come up with random excuses to avoid looking (and feeling) boring. But over the last year or two I’ve stopped worrying about it so much and started to be sensible with what I can afford. Most of the time people appreciate the honesty, and it’s much easier than coming up with and maintaining an excuse.

Look-up---tips-for-managing-your-money

6. Enjoy London’s beauty. You can easily spend a day walking around taking the city in (which doesn’t cost a penny). I try to choose an area I’ve not been to before (tip – West London is beautiful in Spring), or make sure when I revist places I look up and take in the architecture out of direct sight.

7. Work the wish list. I love shopping. These days it’s fuelled by fashion blogs, magazines and Instagram. So to stop me buying things I see straight away, I add things I really like to Pinterest so that when there’s a discount and/or I’ve got the money it’s easy to find and I don’t get so tempted to browse. I also use my Amazon wish list for books and kitchen equipment.

8. Make more of meals at home. It’s easier said than done, especially if cooking for one, but I really enjoy cooking a good meal at home these days. There’s so many blogs with easy recipes, meaning you don’t need a cookery book to get started. I’ve recently discovered that brunch at home can be as good as in all those cafes I see on Instagram on a Saturday morning. I’m getting good at American pancakes and avocado on toasted sourdough is super simple, both are fairly cheap to make at home. I’m going to try sweetcorn fritters next as I had a great brunch at M1lk with them. (Note -I don’t eat eggs, but if I did I’d try these brunch eggs.) I’m going to start exploring all the great food shops here too.

Brunch---tips-for-managing-your-money

9. Exchange a cocktail night for a cocktail hour. I love cocktails but when they cost between £8 and £15 I prefer to savour the flavour and go for a cocktail hour or two. You still get to experience all the latest cocktail bars but it doesn’t break the bank.

10. Treat yourself. Small treats help keep me going when I’m really trying to manage my money. A good coffee and croissant is my reward for a week of packed lunches, I still allow myself new clothes each month (within a little budget) and I can still due impromptu things (I just know if I can afford it or not).

As with everything it’s all about getting that tricky thing called balance!

Do you live in London on a budget? Do you have any tips to share?

London likes to throw challenges in our tracks every now and again, finding a flatmate is definitely one of them. I think it’s safe to say most Londoners will have taken this on (with reluctance) during their time in the city. Things are constantly changing and you’re pretty lucky if you’ve not found yourself in a situation where you need a place to live, rental contracts amongst friends don’t line up, or someone wants to leave.

I’ve recently found myself in need of finding a flatmate, meaning that I’ve survived pretty much everything London living can throw at you. I’ve lived in a large random shared house, with friends, and now with a stranger. Whilst I don’t have the answer to finding the perfect housemate (I don’t think they exist!), I’ve learnt a few things along the way I thought may be worth sharing. I’m also hoping you’ll add your tips and any funny stories in the comments box below.

How-to-find-a-flatmate

Contracts – An obvious one. If you want to stay and replace your current flatmate it’s important to understand your contract. When can you terminate the contract? Who can terminate the contract? How much notice do you have to give? Who’s responsible for the rent/deposit/fees until you find a replacement? Will they do an inventory update? Just a few questions I’d find the answer to.

Finding a flatmate – I started with an email to friends and asked them to send it on to people they trust. You only need to know one or two kind people to get the word out to a decent amount of people. A recommendation is always desirable. If not Spareroom is my favourite for ads, you can do a lot more than other sites for free and you can track how many views you get to judge popularity. It’s also the easiest to navigate if you’re looking for a spareroom.

The flatmate ad– Treat it like a sort of online dating profile. Have decent pictures of the flat and spareroom, include all the important features and the kind of person you’re looking for, but don’t oversell it or lie. Same applies if you’re looking, a profile picture isn’t really necessary, to be honest you’re really being judged on your job and what kind of flat you’re looking for (ie, do you have a job, will that affect your time in the flat, are they looking for a sociable flat etc).

Viewings – You may be happy to do them ad-hoc or all in one night if you can arrange it. I got more interest within a month of the advertised move date, so try not to worry if you don’t have many viewings at first. When showing people around be honest but don’t outline all the faults, at the same time don’t oversell it like a second-hand car dealer. It’s also good if you can sit down and have a chat, think of a few questions important to you like whether they enjoy a glass of wine in the evening *ahem*.

Making the decision – It’s always tough with strangers as you don’t know what they’ll be like when you’re actually living together but I think you have to trust your judgement and keep your fingers crossed!

Do you have any tips to add or a funny story to share about your experience of flatmate finding?

I’m no expert in the rental market, but since coming to the capital from Birmingham I’ve moved three times, lived in the North and the South and have gone from shared living with randoms to with friends. I’ve definitely learnt a few things about renting in London along the way. As I survived the latest move and I’m starting to feel settled in my new home, I thought I’d share my tips for anyone who’s planning to move to or around the city. I also thought that if you’re reading and have got a few tips to add then I might learn something too! There’s always a next time around when you’re renting!!

So here are my:

Tips for renting in London

The budget – you’re quite lucky if you don’t blow it here. Set something you can afford (you want to have a life outside your home in London!) and have a contingency amount. Every time I’ve moved I’ve ended up spending about £50 pm more than I planned to.

The location – choose somewhere that’s close to some of your friends, or if you’re new to the city somewhere social and not out in suburbia. Having a quick commute to work is good but in my opinion you have a better work/life balance if your friends and social life are closer.

The compromise – unless you have a sizeable salary you need to decide what your compromise is. Do you want a nice flat, close to the tube, safe area or stick to a tight budget? You’ll definitely get a few of these but I’ve not yet heard of an area that ticks all the boxes!

The search – this is the stressful part. Treat it like a mission and don’t give up until somewhere is found.  I tend to start looking between six weeks and a month before I need to move which is a bit scary but that seems to be the London market.  Places become available and get snapped up in a flash!

For house shares I liked Spare Room more than Gumtree. It’s obvious but if the landlord shows you round, always meet the housemates. It’s daunting living with complete strangers but I lived with four other people when I moved to London, made some great friends and met a lot of people.

For a full flat/house Zoopla was by far the best website. We signed up to estate agencies in the area and generally the independent ones were better and cheaper. Tip from my sister – always pester agencies for new places, they get them every day and it’s likely they ring the people they remember first.

The move – I’ve had help from friends and family before but this year I had built up enough stuff to fill most the flat and thought a man and a van would be fairer on my friends. It cost £65 with London Capital Carriers to take me and my belongings north to south, which I thought was OK. Book an early slot though, they were 1 hr 30 mins late for a 2pm request due to delays on other jobs.

Are you moving to London? Or have moved around and have some tips or experiences to share? (Funny stories very welcome! I’m sure we’d all like a laugh this Friday! 🙂 )

I hope you’ve all had a great holiday and are looking forward to the year ahead! I love the motivated feeling that the dawn of a new year brings and have my new year resolutions ready to go. This time last year I launched This City Life with the aim of motivating myself and others to get out there and discover the great things London has to offer.  Over the past twelve months I’ve enjoyed so many different places, discovered the things I love doing and met great people along the way.

In case you’ve set exploring London as one of your new year resolutions, I thought I’d share my tips and tricks to help you achieve it.

Think-about---Explore-London

The things you love doing. You can learn so much about London just by searching out all the different places that offer the things you love doing (especially if you get off a tube stop early or take a different route).

A burger fan? There’s a foodie scene for that. Like Gin? There’s a club for that. Enjoy drinking really good coffee? There’s hundreds of independent cafes in the city.

Follow---Explore-London

The right people.  On social media, not on the streets of course.  Twitter is great for finding new places.  Start with a few good London guides and the places that you already know, then keep an eye out for the people they interact with and retweet.  If you go to a new place, follow them and mention them in a tweet.  If you get a retweet you might just find a few like minded people or places.  Bloggers are also great to follow as we all love finding new places to share.

Need a few suggestions to get you started? Here are my favourites.

London guides: @InLondonGuide; @TimeOutLondon; @AboutLondon; @LondONtheInside; @VisitLondon; @Londonist

Cakes and places for the sweet tooth: @BiscuiteersLtd; @Beas_Bloomsbury; @TheTeaRoomsN16; @PrimroseBakery; @TheTeasKnees

Independent coffee bars: @CoffeeLondon; @CoffeesmithsHQ; @SpeakeasyW1; @CaravanKingsX; @OzoneCoffee

Cocktail experts: @TheCocktailGeek; @CocktailLovers; @Archer_Street; @DiffordsGuide; @Callooh_Callay

Bloggers: @MelissaFoodie; @LyndonsCoffee; @Mulia; @LadyLovesCake@ThisCityLifeLdn (me!)

If you need any more, check out my follow list.

Buy---Explore-London

A few guides aimed more towards Londoners. I have gathered a few since moving to London.  My favourites are the London Style Guide, 1000 things to do in London and London’s Best Bars: 500 Great Places to Drink in the Capital.  I also received a few new books over Christmas that look like they’re going to be really useful – Secret London – Unusual Bars and Restaurants and Great Cake Places London 2012.

Set-some-goals---Explore-London

And try to stick to them.  A few simple goals, like trying one new place a month or going to a different cafe when you get a coffee craving, should keep you on track to exploring what London really has to offer.  Once you get into the swing of it you’ll find you hardly ever return to the same place twice.

Will you be exploring London this year? Or do you have any tips or tricks that you’d add to help?