My struggle with the dollar to pound conversion rate
The lone aspect of quotidian life in London that will haunt me for the rest of my life will be the costs. Prices in London are astronomical, and they have an insidious, covert way of putting a dent in your bank account. Here's how.
When I see the price for a coffee as "3" or for a sandwich as "6," I am generally unphased. This is because I am used to living in New York City where a coffee is typically around $3 and a sandwich $6. Hence, upon first glance, prices in London aren't that bad! In fact, they are numerically pretty much the same as the big apple! This is nothing to be relieved about since New York is also extremely expensive, but that is a whole other story. Anyway, the real snake-in-the-grass comes at the conversion rate. Three pounds is five dollars. Which means that I just paid $10 for a small sandwich. While the prices seem familiar, the exchange rate is what gets you in the end. The result? Your dollar-denominated bank account dwindles away faster than you think.
As students on budgets, my friends and I have found little places with good deals in order to "survive." For example, a small independent coffee shop next to my student housing complex has both student discounts and frequent buyer punch cards. These perks make coffee, a daily necessity, significantly cheaper, and thus the place has become integrated into the morning routine. After my coffee stop I head to class, which typically lasts until 1. When I get out, its Lunch time! Lunch is typically when I splurge most because as a punctual student, proximity to campus is a higher priority than price/value. After evening classes I do homework at the library until I get hungry. I then eat dinner at one of many ethnic buffets that I have found, and I make sure to get the bang for my buck! With this routine, even the least student friendly citiy can be manageable.
Transportation can also be a money sinkhole in London, especially since the subways close at midnight. Consequently, one should walk when they can, take buses when they can't, and hail cabs if and only if accompanied by other people. As a general word of advice, do not under any circumstances download the app "uber"! Although personal drivers are convenient, believe me when I say the service will drain your finances slowly and painfully.
All in all, my daily life in London is similar to how it was in New York. I simply have to budget in a more responsible manner. This not only involves finding reasonable places to dine and ways to travel, but also mentally keeping track of the exchange rate so I know how many dollars I am spending. Even after months of living in London, I find myself doing the simple pound to dollar conversion many times per day. Sorry not sorry!