Londoners: let’s make things better. A lifehack is a little idea that brings about a big improvement, and we’ve assembled the best of them. From cheap travel tips to fine dining fiddles, Eddy Frankel and Jonny Ensall suggest 20 easy ways to get ahead in the city.
1) Terrify yourself into fitness
Need to up the pace while jogging? How’s a horde of marauding zombies chasing you for motivation? A team of London developers have just released the third version of Zombies, Run! – an app that rewards real-life distance running with virtual survival.
2) Deter those f**king foxes
[Photo: Andrea Pucci]
The scuffling! The screaming! The horror! If you’re lucky enough to own a London garden, you might be unlucky enough to have foxes procreating in it at night. Spice things up a little too much by sprinkling chilli powder around your borders and they’ll come nowhere near your bedroom windows. Peace at last.
3) Become an Underground genius
Tube hacking is about more than just avoiding the Waterloo & City line at all costs, it’s about knowing the quickest way out of a station, predicting the best carriage to be in for swift exits and holding an encyclopaedic knowledge of station facilities and accessibility. You probably don’t have all that, but the Station Master app does, all for £1.99.
4) Overtake the slowest of walkers
No, not a blow to the back of the head with a blunt instrument. There’s another way to get past groups of chattering Oxford Street tourists – simply by keeping a bike bell on your person, and surreptitiously ‘dinging’ it as you approach the snail-paced strollers. Victory for fast walkers!
5) Find tickets to sold-out events
[Photo: Where The Art Is]
Touts are the worst. If only there were a good fan-to-fan exchange for tickets to be resold at face value? Oh, wait, there is: Twickets. Simply tweet your details to @twickets if you’re selling, or download their app if you’re buying. For sold-out plays, you can often buy cheap tickets on the day simply by turning up early in the morning at the theatre. (Here’s a list of productions offering tickets.)
6) Get 47% off a Big Mac, sort of
A Big Mac costs £2.79. A double cheeseburger costs £1.49. Order the latter, but swap the relish for burger sauce and lettuce and – hey presto! – you’ve basically got a Big Mac. Or at least a Big Mac minus the sesame seeds and interstitial bread (aka the bits you don’t need). Why not order two? You’ve earned it.
7) Repair all the things
Sugru is one of the greatest lifehacking tools ever invented (right here in London, in fact). It’s essentially Play-Doh which bonds to almost anything and dries out to act like rubber. You can use it to waterproof your shoes, repair frayed cables, hang up your kitchen utensils or just permanently glue a colleague’s mug to their desk, you legend.
8) Enjoy a free beer
Still paying for your pints? MatchPint is an app that gives you 568 millilitres of beer for nothing when you watch sports at a participating pub, simply for giving the venue a star rating and a review. Behold the two greatest words that have ever been put together: free beer.
9) Just walk in to exclusive restaurants
Even the most hyped restaurants will have tables available at awkward times: 2pm at ★★★★★ Dabbous, for example, if you fancy a late lunch at one of hardest places to get into in London. For celeb-spotting, try the Ivy’s phoneline and press three for same-day lunches. The wonderfully fancy Wolseley also reserves a whole third of its seats for lunch walk-ups. You might have to wear a top hat, though. Maybe.
10) Fix your bike like a pro
The London Bike Kitchen in Haggerston will teach you all the DIY bike maintenance skills you need for a very reasonable £60. The price includes membership, allowing you to come back any time and use their workshop for £10 per hour for members and £12 per hour for non-members. It’s like that old saying we just made up: fix a man’s bike and he’ll ride for a day. Teach a man to fix his bike and he’ll ride for a lifetime.
11) Unsend that stupid email you just wrote
[Photo: reddit/ mango__reinhardt]
We’re all human. Unless you’re a robot sent from the future. In which case you’ll doubly enjoy the past-changing potential of Gmail’s ‘Undo Send’. A nifty Google Labs feature (find it under the ‘Labs’ tab in ‘Settings’), your messages wait 30 seconds after you’ve sent them, so you can change your mind about that ranty/sexy/libellous e-missive. Phew.
12) Drink coffee for cheap – or free!
Feed your caffeine habit with a cheap, or free, cup of joe in the morning. Branches of Giraffe do takeaway coffee for 50p on Wednesdays before 10.30am, while tea and coffee are both free from Waitrose if you own a myWaitrose card. Or you could try striking up a conversation with your local Pret a Manger server. Staff are allegedly authorised to give free coffee to their favourite customers: ain’t that sweet?
13) Get an annual Travelcard (even if you don’t have £1,800)
[Photo: Robbie Khan]
Buying an annual Travelcard can save you hundreds of pounds – if you have the money up front, that is. Commuter Club offers a way of paying for the big ticket in monthly instalments. It’s basically a straightforward loan which could save you around £150 a year. Want out? Then send your Travelcard back at any time with no penalties. It’s almost tube good to be true.
14) Make the Southbank your office
[Photo: Southbank Centre]
Face it, ‘working from home’ just means watching ‘Loose Women’ in your pants. The Royal Festival Hall, the British Library and the Barbican all offer free facilities including wi-fi and power sockets. Whether you’re genuinely working, or just updating your Tumblr blog of otters that look like Benedict Cumberbatch, you’ll get much more done.
15) See London’s latest art shows for free
A refined aesthete, appreciating the latest art over a glass of wine: does this sound like you? If so, hit Vyner Street in Hackney on the first Thursday of every month, or Eastcastle Street in Fitzrovia on the last Thursday of every month, when the galleries have late-night openings for cultural connoisseurs. Not that you’d ever just turn up for the free drink. Oh no, no, no.
16) Hail a free cab
Car service apps are on the rise, with several companies such as Uber, Wheely or Kabbee competing in the market. The even better news: they all run ‘refer a friend’ perks, where you and your mates get credit for signing up. So join up, refer it to a pal and you’ll both get £10-£15 worth of credit. With free rides for as long as people keep signing up, it might just be worth making more friends. Oh, and why not start with this…
17) Save money on rail journeys out of London
You can fly to Mexico and back for less than the cost of most English train journeys. But, if you already have a Travelcard, you could save more than £10 on a trip out of town. Simply buy your train tickets in person and ask for your journey to start from the outer boundary of your Travelcard. Ingenious.
18) Wake up feeling like a human
[Photo: Mitone Cooke]
If you’re feel groggy in the mornings, it might be because you’ve been yanked out of deep sleep. The Sleep Cycle app wakes you up at the lightest point of the dozing cycle. Nifty, but for working out your 40 winks exactly you need sleepyti.me, which counts backwards through sleep cycles and tells you what time to go to bed. There’s even a way to combat jetlag: Jetlag Rooster calculates how much (or little) light you need each day to start feeling normal again. So there’s no excuse, lazybones.
19) Get someone with some actual fashion sense to buy clothes for you
If you’re more Coco the Clown than Coco Chanel then you could always get someone to choose your clothes for you. Try Topman Oxford Street’s personal shopping suite, or else sign up a minion to assemble your new outfit at Harvey Nichols or (less intimidating) John Lewis – with no minimum spend and at no extra cost.
If your wardrobe really is a lost cause, then turn your car-crash outfits into hard cash – or store credit, if you’re looking for a better deal – at vintage shops like Strut on Broadway Market and Bang Bang on Goodge Street. Fabulous!
20) See the biggest movies before they’re officially in cinemas
Sign up at Show Film First for 2-for-1 film tickets and invites to preview screenings. Or (self-promotion alert) buy a Time Out Card for a mere £49 and you could get to attend even more yet-to-be-released movies, all for free. Imagine catching blockbusters before your mates, and without spending any money: you’ll be smug and rich, two of the most endearing qualities a human can have.
Comment below and tell us your lifehacks!