Aug 09

Free City Living

Reading Time: 7 mins

With the credit crunch still taking its toll, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for urban dwellers to afford the delights of city living. But fortunately, difficult doesn’t mean impossible – there are plenty of ways to enjoy your city without spending all your hard-earned cash.

Take a look at our ideas and see what fun you can have in your city without having to reach for your wallet.

Free nights out

Free events

musMuseums and galleries will often host free events over the holidays. One thing that cities do well is free events and lucky Londoners can have more free nights out than most. Get a full list of free events in London here.

There are free  events at many museums, so do check the relevant websites. Find a museum near you here – and go to the ‘What’s on?’ search engine to find museum, gallery, library and archive exhibitions all over the UK.

Head to London where you can snap up special deals on various  events with the Days Out Guide. See the listing of 2-for-1 theatre tickets, for example. To get the discount, click the ‘claim your offer’ box and fill in your details.

Free cinema tickets

cinemaIf you fancy going to the cinema for free, check out See Film First for some free movie tickets.

Simply sign up – for free – and they’ll email you when free screenings are available and give you a screening code which you enter on the home page.

However – tickets are available on a first come, first served basis so you’ll have to be quick.

Alternatively, get yourself a free Orange SIM card and you can get 2-for-1 cinema tickets on Wednesdays.

Place the Orange SIM into your phone temporarily, then text ‘Film’ to 241 to receive a message (which costs 35p).

You then simply show the text at the box office and you or your mate can go for free! Remember to keep the SIM activated by making the occasional call – just call 453 (for free) to check your balance every now and then.

You’ll have to top up the free SIM with £10 credit – but this gives you 300 free texts and you’ll use the credit to receive the Orange Wednesday texts anyway.

Learn to freeload

Nabbing free food at free local events is Bristol teacher Kath Kelly’s best money-saving technique. And Ms Kelly is the woman who managed to live off just £1 a day for an entire year!

So start hitting those gallery openings, book readings and lectures at local universities.

poundYou can buy Kath’s book – How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day – from Amazon for loads of advice.

It’s packed with money-saving tips and funny stories about how she lived for an entire year on just £365 whilst still having fun. She even managed to go away on holiday!

Here are some of her hot tips:

  • Start picking fruit from bushes and trees
  • Cycle or hitchhike
  • Keep your eye out for all freebies in shop windows and on notice boards
  • Stop ignoring those market researchers – they often have useful free samples
  • Buy reduced food from delicatessens at the end of the day
  • Use the free internet at your local library
  • Give up your mobile phone
  • Shop at church jumble sales
  • Hand out small gifts when possible – it’ll help create goodwill

Grab a copy of your local Time Out Magazine for a list of free events that are going on like readings, art gallery openings and lectures. Many offer free nibbles and sometimes even buffets!

For a detailed list of art galleries and events, hop on to Blouin Artinfo – all things art can be found here. Follow the trail of starving artists, as they’ll be heading for the free food too!

Look up your local library: They’ll have loads of book readings that should hopefully come with lots of free nibbles.

In addition, many colleges and universities host free lectures and talks on all kinds of topics. Visit the website of your preferred college/university to see a list of upcoming lectures.

There’s usually a separate area with events or lectures, like the section for Gresham College. There are sometimes free drinks and nibbles too, and it’s a great way to meet people and make new friends.

Go shopping for free food and free drinks

foodSave money on going out, by not spending any at all! Start ‘mystery shopping’ and reviewing local pubs or restaurants.

You’ll have to write a review – but you can get a free meal, free concert entrance or night at the theatre out of it! If you’re lucky you might even get paid, if you’re writing for online publication.

You don’t need to be a published writer – just someone who’s willing to go out and explore local events… for free.

If you turn your reviews in quickly and they’re decent, they’ll want to keep using you. You’ll need to put in some effort to get the free theatre tickets, meals and drinks… but it’s worth it!

Check out details online forums like My Village, and get all the information on mystery shopping in our full article here.

Staying in

Once you’re exhausted from all your free nights out, nab loads of free DVD, games and download rentals. LOVEFiLM is currently offering a free one-month trial where you can rent movies, games and downloads for 30 days free of charge.


Free food

We’re always going on about how you can get your hands on free food. Volunteering at an organic farm is a great way to start, as well as learn how to cultivate sustainable food and do your bit for the planet.

imagesWorld Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an international organisation that started here in the UK in 1971. It has now grown world wide and places willing volunteers with organic farms in need of assistance.

Have a look at their UK branch for a list of farms in need of volunteers in your local area. Most of the farms offer accommodation and food if you’re working for several weeks at a time.

You’ll need to become a member of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms for £20 to gain full access to participating farms. With all the cash you’ll be saving on food it’s well worth the investment.

Another great way of getting free food is by joining Community Supported Agriculture. These farms are owned by the people who work on them, with the expenses and work shared among the community.

Current CSA farms allow people to:

  • Receive a weekly box of vegetables throughout the year
  • Help with the running of an organic farm
  • Ensure their local farm shop continues to thrive
  • Sponsor an apple tree and harvest its fruit
  • Rent a plot of farmland and have vegetables grown on their behalf
  • Buy shares in a cow and receive interest in cheese
  • Rent a vine from one of Britain’s few vineyards

Country living doesn’t need to stay in the countryside any longer. Getting started is easy as the CSA site has a brilliant free action manual.

Free pampering

pampering2Get a free haircut by getting a trainee hairdresser to snip your locks. The students are supervised throughout, so don’t panic about having a disaster haircut.

Check in local colleges to see if any hairdressing students need models – or call up training centres to see which days are open to the public.

In London both Vidal Sassoon and Toni & Guy have training colleges that are open to the public on certain days – but there’s often a lot of competition for places, so book early.

Try some free acupuncture treatment with a training college or university. Check that they’ve been accredited properly by searching for the college on the British Acupuncture Council website.

Once you’ve found one near you, ask if they need someone to have acupuncture treatment in any of their classes.

Companies like Clicks Research offer all kinds of products for the entire family. Test shaving cream for dad, shampoos, teeth whiteners… you name it, it’s all free!

All you have to do is use the free products they send to you and let them know what you think.

To sign up, you need to fill out a rather lengthy questionnaire detailing the types of products you and your family would be interested in testing.

Once they have a match of products, they send them and you start testing. Once you’re contacted you must reply quickly, because there are loads of people looking to score those freebies.

Even more freebies

Free-tagsWe Moneymagpies love our freebies! There are several great sites where you can find tonnes of great things. Get all the latest freebie giveaways in our Free stuff article.

With sites like Gumtree, for example, all you have to do is search through the freebies on offer then arrange to pick up your items with the owner.

There are also swapping sites (like Swapit) where you can get rid of things you don’t want. By doing this, you earn points which you can then spend on things you do want. This site is particularly good for exchanging children’s toys.

Freebies are just a click away with sites that put links to freebies in one easy place for you. You can find free trials, coupons and vouchers that you can print off and use to get a discount. Check out sites like these:

  • British Freebies
  • Free Stuff Junction

Get more tips in our article 50 ways to live for free.

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