Do you spend your pay packet before it even hits the bank?

If you’re anything like me, you’re list of pre-payday ‘must haves’ far exceeds your weekly budget and the prospect of saving looks less likely than a week’s worth of solid sunshine. Blimey, even the Loch Ness Monster has more chance of reappearing than my savings account.

The fact is, London is an expensive place to live. In fact, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer Human Resource Consulting, it’s the fifth most expensive city in the world. Moscow takes the crown of glory, followed by Seoul and Tokyo. So, we’ve got the extortionate rent and mortgage inducing skinny latt?s – minus the vodka and chopsticks. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry… if only I could afford the aloe vera laced tissues.

Not only do we fork out for food and drink, the transport system milks us of any remaining pennies. I grazed my knees running for a bus on the weekend; a bus that stopped at the wrong stop due to ‘engineering works’ in Kilburn. I’d taken the bus because the tube was running with delays, which undoubtedly meant the great metal beasts would be transformed into simmering sweat baths. I’m sorry, but if I want a sauna I’ll pay the criminal ?50+ a month for a gym membership. As I lay in a sprawling bloody heap on the pavement, skirt over my head with all my royal goods on show, I pondered the value I get for my ?22 a week travel card. Who are you calling bitter?

So, in a ‘glass half full’ moment of generosity (somebody’s gotta do it) I’ve come up with a list of freebies on offer in London over the next few weeks. I’ll leave a tip jar at the end of the column… donations to the ‘struggling pint sized Aussie cause’ are most welcome.

1. The Scoop – Free Summer Theatre at The Scoop this year comes from The Steam Industry Company. August and September see productions of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Euripides only comedy, CYCLOPS! I’m talking theatre under the lights of Tower Bridge for nada… you’ll be in with that hot new date – guaranteed.

2. Borough Market – pay the stallholders a visit and walk away with bags full of the best fresh produce in London. The food will cost you – but your stomach will thank you… or, if you’re truly skint, take a sample at each stall and you’ll be so stuffed you won’t have to eat for days. Go on; unleash the inner Jamie Oliver.

3. Fruitstock Festival – this two-day gem in Regent’s Park was my best summer outing last year. Held on the 5th and 6th of August it’s a mix of free music, sun, entertainment and even a flirting area. The sponsors, Innocent Smoothies will also be there with smoothies aplenty. Unleash the modern-day hippy within and maybe find love while you’re at it.

4. Punk in Pictures – 30 Years of punk photography at Redferns Music Picture Gallery. I went to the launch last night and amongst the wine and piercings there was a collection of impressive images by the likes of Erica Echenberg. It’s a cultured day out for the rockers at heart.

5. The Parks – you name it… commons, heaths and inner city flashes of nature galore. There’s often free music in Regents Park, St James’ Park and Hampstead Heath. Take a picnic, friends, wine and Bob’s your sunburnt uncle. Just don’t try to rollerblade at Regent’s Park – I tried on the weekend and it seems that wheels of any description are not permitted. That is, unless you’re a stick wielding senior with a buggy and a chaos causing lack of eyesight.

See, London is full of the good stuff. My top tip of the summer however, is to avoid the cheap restaurants in Covent Garden. A run in with the staff on one such ‘French Balcony Bistro’ left me with an empty tum and a depleted wallet. I know you can’t expect much in tourist central but lets just hope the plane food dulls our visitor’s senses – or they’ll run home screaming ‘culinary cock ups’.

The busker with the long hair in Covent Garden central however, provided the best night’s entertainment I’ve had in a long time. All the good old tunes for the price of a tip. The nearby drunkard attempting triple pikes and 70s dance moves sure enjoyed the show. One thing’s for sure, he pulled more moves than the English football team; fuelled by a bottle of booze and not a multi-million dollar contract in sight.

As they say; the best things in life are free – and until I save the cash for a place in Asuncion in Paraguay (cheapest city), something for nothing in London will do just fine.