Cheap living for creatives

Cheap living for creatives

By Cathy IdeasTap 22/09/11

Being a penniless artiste may do wonders for your kudos but it won’t do a lot for your creativity. Let’s face it: the less time you can spend worrying about money, the more time you can spend working on your art. We spoke to a couple of creatives to find out how to live – and succeed – on the cheap…

Alternative accommodation

Setting up house in a creative city can be hugely expensive – but remember that there are other options than sharing a house with friends or resorting to squatting. “I’m currently living as a property guardian,” says theatre director Ed Stambollouian. “Property guardian companies secure out-of-use buildings through occupation – so instead of paying for security, they rent out properties to people for a knocked-down rate. If you’re flexible and willing to live light, I’d recommend it: you get to live in massive spaces in great locations for a low price.”

Photographer Erin Keohan has similarly found property guardian schemes invaluable. “I couldn’t afford to rent in the usual way in London so we needed to think out of the box.”

Collective workspaces

Sharing a studio can be a great way to cut down costs as well as network. “You save an immeasurable amount and somebody will always lend you something if you don’t have it,” say Christopher and Moxie from Print Club-based T-shirt company I Love Boxie.

Depending on the nature of your work, you might not even need to hire a workspace at all. “Make the Southbank Centre your office,” theatre director Alice Lacey suggests. “Free WiFi and you can sit in there all day for free. I met a TV executive who’s based there – it saves her money on renting an office.”

Skills swap

“We built our website for free and did so many other things in return for helping other creatives with T-shirts and writing. We have an unofficial creative economy, where everybody helps everybody else out,” adds Christopher. Remember that your skills, creative or otherwise, are valuable to others – so think twice before forking out for professional help.


Make like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and get scavenging. “Freeganism is a cheap way of eating – it involves hanging around restaurants and cafes and hoovering up tasty morsels left on plates,” Alice explains. You may find that local eateries and shops are willing to give away surplus stock – an art director friend of mine was recently gifted a crate of overripe mangos by her local restaurant.

It’s not just about free food, either. Cult design company Tatty Devine started making jewellery after finding a treasure trove of free leather on the street – so ask nicely for permission to recycle and challenge yourself to use your findings imaginatively. Sharing materials with other creatives will reduce your spending and your waste too.

On your bike

Cycling is an easy way to save money. There’s plenty of advice on cycle routes around – look up your local area on – and many councils offer subsidised bicycle schemes too. No gym memberships necessary.

Don’t ask, don’t get

That friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook may just have a spare room or an older camera model going cheap. Social media is all about self-promotion and a bit of bolshiness can go a long way – plus it’s free.

Life outside of London

“The only really cheap way to live in London is not to. London can be a stressful city to live in if you can’t afford it – that’s not conducive to making art,” adds Alice. “It’s also competitive for funding, so you might be better off moving to a place which isn’t jam-packed with other young creatives and where arts activity is sought after.”


Do you have any advice on how to save money?

If you do need funding to help get your creative project off the ground, you can apply for £1,000 cash through our fantastic Innovators brief.

Image: 57 reasons to rob by niecieden available under a CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

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