How Studying Abroad in London Teaches You About Budgeting + an Ode to LEON Restaurants

Oct 30, 2018 8:33:00 AM / by Maisie Haney

In this week's post, Maisie discusses how living in a city like London has taught her about budgeting and prioritizing spending, including saving money by cooking at home, setting budgets for weekly activities, and finding budget-friendly staples such as LEON fast-casual restaurants. 

As I have mentioned, and I am sure anyone you’ve spoken to about London will tell you (even if you had just mentioned how strange the rain situation is like, “You know, the rain in London feels like a broken glass simulation that might be at Universal Studios.”), London is expensive. So expensive, that when my mother calls to tell me how much I’ve spent, I am always shocked. I have never been so conscious of how much money I spend, and yet I am fighting a losing game. My friends literally said out loud that it would be more money-conscious to eat out at “cheap” places for lunch and dinner, to just skip out on grocery shopping and cooking meals pretty much all together. Absolutely not!!!! Do not fall into this trap. I have saved so much money grocery shopping, and when I am desperate to eat out, I always go for LEON. More LEON praise to come (minus their gluten free chicken nuggets, this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing).

Leon RestaurantThe LEON at Hammersmith Station

Grocery shopping to save money is key - we are not responsible for paying for our transportation in the city, you don’t have to do fun things that are expensive, but you do need to ensure that you are nourished. Food is the one thing you really can’t get around buying, and I know I pretty much bought my staple cupboard items as soon as I got unpacked and settled. I will say, my first time establishing what my staples were, I went a little overboard on the Cadbury’s buttons, and you may not want to do this. However, my gran has taught me it is important to have your favorite biscuits and chocolates on hand for when you want to kick it, drink tea, and watch movies. I think I bought some pasta, tomato sauce, rice, brown sauce, and eggs when I first visited the Sainsbury’s. At this point, I am limited by my perception of the proximity of this Sainsbury’s and a Tesco further down the road - how was I supposed to know that I would want some edamame hummus or hazelnut milk (I really need these things and I’m thinking Waitrose)?

Homecook to Save Money While Studying AbroadA home-cooked meal, yum

One thing very important to keep in mind, is that our country is very behind and we still eat foods with preservatives in them. The UK is better than us, their carrots are candy, and they go bad faster than you can say, “I don’t need to caramelize these carrots.” Vegetables and bread will spoiler quicker than you expect them to, so I often buy really small quantities of vegetables and eat them up within a few days. I like to have bread on hand for the lazy sandwich, to have with my eggs, but I save more money if I barely buy it. I am trying to eat this giant loaf within 2 weeks, and it’s hard if I’m not eating bread every single day. Generally, if you are not against eating the same ingredients all the time and are creative (a “plant,” if you will) you will survive.

After spending on groceries for a few weeks, it will become clear what your grocery budget should be looking like. Once you have this information nailed down, make sure you are also budgeting for your fun times, your restaurant times, entertainment, and going out for drinks if that is what you like to do with your time. Simply, it is not great to eat spaghetti every night. Fish and chips may be far too normalized and bland (sorry about it), but there is a bounty of curry restaurants and much more to try out, and I really just love food. I am willing to spend a bit of money on a good meal, but this can be explained by an interest I’ve had in food since I was very young. Determine how much you would be willing to spend on meals per week or per month. I allow myself to eat out on the weekends, or when I am particularly desperate and/or stranded. At some point I made up this weird rule that if I hadn’t spent more than ten pounds already in a given day, I could buy myself a meal for dinner. This was hard to keep track of and stupid.

Photo from a FREE Gig in LondonSam Evian, he played a FREE show at Rough Trade.

The same rule applies for entertainment/drinks/clothes/whatever else costs money. Have a minimally flexible idea of how much you would be willing to spend per week or month on these items/categories. For me, I have set aside around £25 per week for entertainment and drinks, as the gigs I like to go to generally are no more than £15, some are even free, and I hardly pay for shows at home (in other words, this is the time to splurge on these things, since I never really have to worry about it). I am not bothered about traveling outside of the UK, because I already don’t have much time to explore London.

An Ode to LEON Restaurants

The LEON collage, I was asked to be a LEON ambassador when spotted creating this.

Finally, I would love to reiterate the value I place on LEON. Absolutely wonderful, they have never disappointed me (although the chicken nuggets were merely reminiscent of Tyson). If I am really hungry around lunchtime, and a trip back home doesn’t seem to make sense, I always go to a LEON. I have practically eaten every menu item already. If I am being extra cautious about overspending, I will order the Brazilian beans entree, I think it’s only £3.95. I feel like this is pretty excellent for a meal that is delicious, high in protein, and very filling when you consider that many restaurant entrees could be anywhere from £9-15. To wrap this up, their pitchers of water are flavored with fresh sprigs of mint. I love LEON, and I want you to love LEON.

Here's something to listen to you next time you're enjoying the ~naturally fast food~ at LEON...

Thanks, Maisie!

Maisie Haney

Maisie Haney is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An Art History major at Rollins College, she is studying abroad in London this semester.

Maisie's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.


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Topics: London, England, Scholarships & Financing