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Do you ever just want to go out and do something by yourself, without asking anyone else if they’d like to come along, or what they want for dinner, or what they want to do?
Well, one slightly overcast day in May, I took myself out for a solo date for dinner and a play at the Barbican, all with a combined price of less than £10. I managed to get both of these things for so little money because I was taking advantage of food and tickets that other people didn’t want.
How to dine out for less in London
For my meal, I used an app called Too Good To Go. It operates by allowing restaurants to advertise when they have spare food at the end of serving times, and then sell it through the app at half price.
When you use Too Good To Go you can search by choosing the time you want to be able to pick something up. You’re not necessarily going to be able to pick up lunch things at lunchtime or dinner things at dinner time; you might end up getting lunch things at dinner time or breakfast things at lunchtime. Luckily, where I work in the city there are a lot of lunch places that don’t even stay open for dinner so it’s pretty easy to find a decent meal around 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Too Good To Go.
My one piece of advice is to get on the app nice and early in the day to plan ahead. Some really popular places even start selling things from 9 p.m. the night before, so it’s worth a look.
Another app that works in a similar way is Karma – you can use my referral link to get £5 of free credit to try it out. I’ll get £2.50 on there too, btw.
So I managed to get a Thai curry for only £3.50, and I picked it up just before 6 o’clock. Too Good To Go is great because not only is it a total bargain – some of these places you’ll get masses of food for only a few quid – it also avoids food waste.
I ate my meal next to the lake in the Barbican, so that was completely free. I walked to the restaurant straight from my office so I didn’t need to pay for public transport, either.
How to get cheap theatre tickets in London
Now, how do you avoid waste when you’re buying theatre tickets? Become a seat filler.
Often, plays have been running for a while and they find it difficult to sell all of the tickets for midweek performances. Theatre companies offer these tickets to seat filling sites like ShowFilmFirst or Central Tickets at an extremely reduced price to avoid empty audiences.
Unfortunately, not all of the shows offered through these sites are great quality. I’ve seen some really gopping theatre and live music with tickets that I’ve got for free or almost free.
The trick is to go for names you recognise. Whether it’s an actor or theatre company you’ve heard of, or it’s being staged in a famous London venue, you’re unlikely to have to leave in the interval if someone’s reputation is on the line.
My boyfriend and I saw an amazing Royal Shakespeare Company play for less than £5 each last year, I couldn’t believe my luck!
It’s worth signing up to:
- Central Tickets – lots of theatre and comedy on here, often tickets range from £3-£7, but occasionally they’re free.
- ShowFilmFirst – mainly film, but I’ve also used it to see world famous bands at the O2 Arena, plays, drag shows and more.
- Today Tix – pretty much just theatre, but it’s got great prices for West End musicals. They have ticket lotteries to get really good (often front row) tickets for a steal and daily sales called Rush Tickets that are worth keeping an eye on.
All of these sites are free to join, I really wouldn’t bother with the ones that make you pay a membership fee, as honestly, the tickets on there are no better. I used to be a member of My Box Office and it was 99% rubbish in theatres on the outskirts of London and I never went to see anything!
The tickets I got for my solo YOLO were for a well-reviewed play with a famous actor at The Barbican. My tickets only cost £6.50, so with the £3.50 meal that makes my total for the evening only £10.
General theatre money saving tips
If you’re buying cheap seats for a big West End musical, I always recommend checking Theatre Monkey. Even though the website is like something hellish from 1997, it’s great for checking the value of your seats.
If you look up the theatre almost all the seat numbers have a review – for example, my Hamilton tickets could see the stage clearly, the legroom was okay and they were some of the cheapest tickets on there. Most London theatres are old, and some of the seats are incredibly cramped or have a restricted view. BUT if you check Theatre Monkey you could get something in the same price band, but without the downsides.
- Ticketmaster sometimes have amazing flash sales.
- Grab earlybird deals like the Old Vic’s PwC £10 tickets.
- If you’re lucky enough to be under 26, there are loads of cheap tickets to be had.
- This is highly specific, but @EmmaLouiseBetty on Twitter always shares the best theatre ticket offers. You can read her reviews and amazing ticket deals on Upper Circle.
I think if you’re living in London and you enjoy going out to see live theatre and it’s a real shame not to take advantage of offers like these, especially when you can get tickets so cheaply.