When I first started dreaming of spending some time abroad, my thoughts immediately shifted to Scotland. For some reason the grandeur, the historicity, and the landscape have always caught my attention and when it finally came into reach for me I knew I needed to take the opportunity to travel and live here. Nevertheless, many people tried to discourage me because of one issue: money. Although in theory we all wish that we could have as many life experiences as we want, the truth is that unfortunately so much of what we do really boils down to finances. Due to the fact that the Scottish Pound Stirling is worth twice as much as the Canadian dollar, people were rightly concerned about the prices I would encounter over here. However, what they didn’t realize is that it is actually quite cheap to live in Edinburgh, especially if you are under 25. Below I would like to share with you 5 hacks for helping save money if you are a young adult who lives in this incredible city:
- Figure Out What’s Free
The best thing to do when you move to any town or city is to scour around for fun and free activities and Edinburgh has plenty of them. Whether you’re interested in nature hikes or a walk on the beach, art galleries or museums, church history or military history, there is something for everyone in this city. If you are having a difficult time knowing what is free or cheap, just ask the locals – they are sure to point you in the right direction. Personally, I recommend you start your tour at Gorgie City Farms.
- Get a Young Scots Card
The Young Scot’s Card is an incentive that is available for all young people between the ages of 16-26. This card is absolutely free to get and gives you access to online and in-store deals including cheaper cinema passes and student rates at many attractions. Furthermore, the Young Scots have an impressive interactive website where you can win virtual points for completing surveys or learning about different topics and these points can be collected to win small prizes or enter yourself into draws. Additional Tip: If you have a student card, bring it with you. Students almost always get the cheapest rates including at some restaurants and stores. If you don’t have a student card, the Young Scot’s Card works as a nice substitute about 80% of the time.
- Buy a Rail Card
If you are under 19, you can use your Young Scot’s card for cheaper rail fare, but only within Scotland. However, if you buy a Rail Card from Virgin Trains this will give you 1/3 off of any train voyage within the UK (including England and Wales). The card costs around £30 but if you plan to do a lot of land travel, it is totally worth it. On top of that, if you plan ahead, you can easily save even more money with advanced tickets (just make sure to get a return and not two singles or search online for the cheapest deal).
- Buy a Historic Scotland Membership Card
For only £39.50 with your Young Scots Card, you can explore almost all of the Scottish castles and several other places of historical interest for free. This card also gives you a 20% discount when you visit the cafes and gift shops at the castles, and discounts on a few other historical sites that are not castles (eg. The Scottish Mining Museum and Palace of the Holyrood House). There are even a few places in other parts of the U.K. that will accept this card. At first £39.50 sounds like a lot of money, but it really isn’t. To put it into perspective, if you visit Edinburgh and Stirling Castle once you basically have just paid for your ticket and by the time you throw Craigmillar into the mix you have gotten more than your money’s worth. What I usually do is plan a day trip around a castle so that way I only have to pay the transportation to get there and back and the rest of my afternoon is already planned for me.
- Know Where to Buy Your Groceries
Just like in Canada and many other places in the world, Edinburgh has a wide range of grocery stores all with different prices. At first, you will likely hear many locals telling you to stay away from Tesco because the groceries are pricey, but personally I have found that Tesco almost always has the best deals. Iceland is also a really great store with cheap prices – especially if you fancy exotic meat. Furthermore, you can get a 10% discount at ScotMid with your Young Scot’s Card. Nevertheless, sometimes your best bet is simply to go to a local baker. If you have a sweet tooth, you can often find goodies for much cheaper at one of the many bakeries in the area and best of all it will be homemade – not that packaged stuff. If you are craving sweeties from home (aka: North America) this is where you need discipline because the prices are always ridiculously high for imports. However, if you are lucky, you might be able to find some of those same chocolate bars and confectionery at the local Poundland.
Living in the UK can be expensive and it can be difficult to navigate at first, but if you make good friends along the way, you will likely find more and more ways to save money and to come back with some dough still in your pocket. I have only shared a few of my favourite ideas with you, but I hope they have helped. Have you lived in Edinburgh before? What do you recommend in order to save money? I look forward to hearing from you.