When you secure a job in London, several costs are associated with your move, beyond rent and groceries. A railpass or London Travelcard will be one of the major ones. Starting at £1,361.70 for a six-month travelcard that takes you through London’s Zones 1-6, it really starts to add up… especially considering that the lump sum—a total coming to around $1,770.00—must be paid upfront.
When I got my internship in London, I was fortunate enough to also find housing with a friend in a small town about a 35 minute train ride outside of the city.This amazing advantage saves me around $600-1,200 in rent per month.
On the flip side, this meant that my travel expense skyrocketed to £2,138.20 (or about $2,780.00) for a six-month pass covering just my commute into the city. Yikes.
Side note: For a six-month travelcard covering my commute from this suberb plus Zones 1-6 of London, it came to a staggering £2,675.00… or $3,477.50. More on why I did not choose that in a future post.
Luckily, my internship was situated close enough to London’s Euston Station (the drop off point for my commuter train) that I could walk and did not need the travelcard covering the full shebang of my commute and Zones 1-6.
How I Still Managed to Save £300 on My Commute
Since I do not have a car, train travel will be my #1 mode of transportation. The UK does a lot to help out students and youth with the high expense of train travel throughout the country by issuing a 16-25 Railcard.
A 16-25 Railcard is for anyone between the ages of 16-25 and gives you a 1/3 discount on pretty much any regular priced train ticket. At only £30 per year, it quickly pays for itself and then some.
This railcard was my key to saving nearly £300 on my 5-days-per-week commute into London.
The Nitty Gritty Math
Although the railcard saves money for youths, it does not apply to season passes or London Travelcards. Because of that technicality, I completely scrapped my plan to buy a six-month pass and instead opted to pay for daily return tickets each week.
While this creates a lot more tickets to keep track of in your wallet or purse, the savings are immense.
As mentioned above, the traditional six-month pass was going to cost £2,138.20 and cover my journey from my residence to London Euston.
Now, a standard one-day return ticket (meaning it covers a journey in and out of London at peak commuter times) typically costs £21.50. For a 5-day week, that comes to £107.50.
With the 16-25 Railcard, you can apply the 1/3 discount bringing a daily return ticket down to £14.40. The weekly total then becomes £72.00… a significant reduction.
I will be commuting into London for 26 weeks (or 6 months). So, I took the weekly cost of £72.00, multiplied by 26 weeks and came up with my new (and reduced) total: £1,872.00.
In exact terms, this brings my original travel expense down by precisely £266.20. Subtract the initial cost of the Railcard and it comes to £236.20.
Give or take a couple of days off for bank holidays and days I can work from home and my total savings hovers at right around the £300 mark. That is $390… and about 3 months worth of groceries.
Of course, this trick will not work for anyone above 25 (although you can purchase a 3-year version of this pass all the way up to the day before your 24th birthday). But for a recent graduate just starting out in an unpaid internship in the heart of London, the savings allow me to eat without feeling guilty… a plus in anyone’s book.
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