I went on a night out in London with £5 and this is how far I got
There were desperate times and some very desperate measures
Balancing the urge to go out and the guilt of spending money is a never ending battle. You blink and £50 is gone. It’s the world’s most horrible magic trick, getting robbed by your intoxicated self. I’ve seen friends buy jägerbombs at the expense of their weekly food shop. Watched boys barrel around with a crate of VKs on their shoulder knowing their rent’s due next week.
But what if there’s another way?
I’d bought a ticket to a DJ night in Brixton (£11) when I was feeling flush. But by the time two Saturdays after pay day rolled around the biggest budget I could scrimp together was a humble, lonely, fiver. Was I cancelling? Was I fuck. So, here’s how a night out in our big bad capital city of London went with a measly five pounds in my pocket:
8.20pm – pre drinks
Rather than head downstairs to the Co-op filled with spirits and mixers, I squirrel my way round the flat looking for dregs of literally anything. At the back of a bottle collection in the lounge there’s Gordon’s so old it has an antique label and soda water, which is entirely flat.
Together, they taste both poisonous. But the more I sip the less I shudder.
8.30pm – the masterplan
I’m not even ready yet and I’m already thinking about strategy. My hair is greasy, my makeup’s not done but I’m rummaging for a hand san bottle in my bed side table to cipher gin into. I’m pretty sure I saw a girl do this on TikTok and successfully sneak booze into Reading and Leeds. But as I wash out the antibac gel I’m seriously starting to worry about leftover chemicals.
10.40pm – journey juice
We decide to get the bus to Brixton because it’s cheap. But, fundamentally, I don’t want to blow any of my budget this early and have sufficient drunk confidence to fuck about with the contactless payment long enough that the driver tells me to just give up and get the fuck on.
Tip number one: Incompetence can be weaponised to your advantage.
Obv, I swig my journey juice gin and soda on the top deck until I reach the bottom. Serious concerns that I’m peaking too early. But no drip can be left behind when it could be your last drop.
22.58 – through the doors
To give you some context, I was a nerd at school. I don’t break rules, I’m scared of authority and am about as far from a rebel or a chancer as you can physically be. So, when we start queueing up for security pat down and bag search my heart is pounding way more over my contraband hand sanitiser than anyone else in this line who’s got a mystery powder shoved in their pocket.
As is usually the way with anxiety, everything is absolutely fine. The bouncer seems more interested in my lip gloss than my anti bac and, giddy with glee, I skip on down to the bar.
Fuck the system, I guess x
23.10 – cloakroom
Paying £3 to put your coat on a hanger? You’re all billionaire mugs standing in the world’s longest queue for the privilege of being robbed blind. Nope, my jacket is getting tied straight round my waist where I can see it. Have a slightly sweaty midriff, though.
23.14 – teetotal
Tonic is ordered without a hitch at the premium price of £1.50. I scuttle off to the loo to pour my first bit of anti bac gin into the glass, which (now I’m battered from the journey juice) actually tastes pretty good. In the name of the budget, I nurse it for the 46 long minutes until midnight. But tbh, I’m flying. So, it’s probably for the best.
00.00 – charity
My friend says he’ll buy me a drink. I say that’s cheating. He says he’d have done it regardless of my ridiculous challenge. I accept because I’m not thick. But the barmaid (sorry) is. She gets our order wrong and gives us apple juice. We complain, she gives us a rum and coke.
Apparently, the juice actually had rum in too. Begin to go cross-eyed.
00.05 – smoking for thrills
I don’t smoke. I gave up vaping (Juul) last April. But I know the value of a Marlboro gold in the smoking area. So, with only £3.50 of my budget left, accepting this cig from a stranger basically makes me a millionaire. If I could add cold hard assets into my Monzo account, I’d be up by roughly 64p. Years off my life? Don’t mind those.
00.30 – on the dancefloor
Dancing, nay careening, the evening away on a very main character elevated surface to the left of the DJ booth, I’m still nursing the drink my friend bought with me half an hour ago. But, with extra. I keep pipetting drops of gin from the hand san bottle into my glass making it stronger and stronger with each swig. Emotions? Wily and sly. Taste buds: Shrivelled.
00.41 – back at the bar
This is the point in the night where I fuck up. I accidentally order lemonade (my go to) instead of soda (the evil budget alternative) from muscle memory and wind up paying £2.50 (!!!). The budget is fully out of whack. There’s only one lonely pound left rolling around in my digital pocket. I scuttle off to the loo to add gin to my lem and cry.
00.45 – lonely cubicle
Sat on the loo seat spiking my own drink I begin to wonder what life’s really about. I’ve spent less than it costs to get a Maccies, sure. But I’ve also lost my friends to the dance floor during my pursuit. It’s a lonely life at the conniving money-saving top.
01.44 – betrayal
After re-locating my group and downing my evil concoction out of relief, I spy one of my boyfriend’s housemates drifting through the crowd like a guardian angel who offers me a drink. Except, when he comes back and I reach out my grubby little urchin mitts, he swerves me and hands the vodka lem to another girl. One he fancies. My meal ticket has betrayed me.
02.00 – bleak swigs
I can’t afford another mixer but I’m not letting my smuggled spirits go to waste. At 2AM I’m squirting the hand san straight into my mouth without flinching. And, as the bottle finally empties and I fling it onto the floor in triumph it’s time to really, really, dance. I’m upbeat and unstoppable.
This is probably the point in the night you’d usually order shots out of recklessness. But my broke budget has saved me from myself. My head is well and truly gone. But my liver might stand a chance.
02.50 – lying
It’s time to leave the club. I can’t walk (safety). The Uber I thought I was sharing has left (bastards) and so, the night bus is my only chance of getting to bed before dawn. I wave down the 345 and tell the driver my phone’s dead so I can’t tap in. He knows I’m lying but looks straight ahead at the traffic so I can get on anyway. Feel a mixture of guilt, thanks and relief. Off we go.
03.15 – begging
I have £1 left and I’m absolutely fucking starving. This isn’t even enough for chips on Clapham High Street but when you’ve got nothing— you have nothing to lose. With the confidence of someone who’s been practising Lucky Girl Syndrome for weeks, I ask the man who’s making pizza to just give me whatever he’d give someone with £1. A scrap of dough? A crumb?
He. gives. me. cheesy. garlic. bread. Suddenly believe in God.
10.00 – the morning after
I have a pounding headache and no recollection of the phone calls I made after 3.30 but this was potentially the perfect night out: Drunker than I’d ever been. Fed by the kindness of others. But, alas, it has no longevity. You can’t keep getting through by lying to everyone for kicks. At least, you probably shouldn’t.
Never going out again without a booze-filled bottle of hand sanitiser, though. That maths does itself.
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