Live Like a King on Fuck All

For the committed Deserter, sneaking out of work for a fry-up, fabricating an all-day ‘conference’ in a seaside town or leaving work at 4pm to see a periodontist who just happens to be practising near a riverside pub is, quite simply, not enough.

A taste of such delights merely leaves an appetite for more and before you know it you’re emailing your boss about going down to four days a week, then three, and so on until there are no more days left to reduce. This will of course lead to a drop in income but, cruelly, more time in which to spend it.

The temptation initially may be to stay in bed, and many do indeed spend their early days of freedom under the duvet. But ultimately the Deserter is driven to seek new and exquisite pleasures in ever more unlikely places; to use their time wisely, even when boracic. Yes, contrary to expectations, perhaps, when not working the Deserter is up and raring to go each morning, around eleven.

All-day conference

But while there is plenty to enjoy for nowt, some things just cost money. Not our rules, the rules of Cameron’s Britain. So, in an effort to solve the age-old time-rich/cash-poor conundrum, we offer the first in an occasional series of ways to supplement your income and/or make a little go a long way.

In short, how to live like a king on fuck all.

Mystery shopping

Shopping may indeed be a mystery to many of us but this is shopping with a twist for those that are a) skint and b) fussy buggers who like nothing better than to bang on about cleanliness, service, food and drink.

As a mystery shopper you turn up to places incognito with a brief to eat a lunch or get a haircut, fill out a form about your experience and then get paid a fee (on top of any expenses). On offer are visits to leisure centres, hotels, bars, restaurants and, my favourite, the bookies, where you get paid to place free bets and have a go on the machines.

In the interests of research I signed up and treated Dirty South to drinks and lunch at a pub in London, gratis. We feasted, got drunk, befriended our waitress and awarded her a £50 voucher. A top afternoon.

The downsides are that the forms are laborious and the payments are small. You’re not going to make a living being mysterious in shops, but you will get a wide selection of freebies.

Try Marketforce, Marketchecker or Grass Roots.


‘There’s a strange car in our drive,’ I said recently to Mrs Raider.

‘I know,’ she replied. ‘I’m letting it out. £8 a day.’

‘What are we going to do with the money?’ I asked

‘I thought we could go down the pub,’ she said, which goes a long way to explain why I married her.

Note: You do not actually need to own your own house to sign up, you just need a drive. Or, if you’re feeling cheeky, someone else’s drive.

Try Just Park, Your Parking Space or Park On My Drive.


Pick up someone’s unwanted clobber via Freecycle and not only are you helping to prevent landfill, you’re doing them a favour. The danger is that you’re also cluttering up your gaff with free desks, bicycles, washing machines and drum kits you don’t need, let alone want. The truth is, Swingball’s shit in the kitchen.

However, ever since Deserter mucker, Roxy, picked up Otto, her silver Toyota Corolla, on Freecycle we admit to firing up the listings from time to time to have a nose through what’s being offered, despite the bag of liver she found in the glove compartment. One to browse when you’re at work. (Gumtree and Craigslist also list freebies.)

But, darling, they were all free.
But, darling, they were all free.


To eat out on a budget, get a Tastecard. For £30 (£80 on their site, but Google a deal) you get 50% off or 2 for 1 in more than 7000 restaurants. It’s a no-brainer, and they’re not even giving us anything to say that. (Please send us £100, you fucking tightwads)

Yes, the restaurant choice is limited, and yes, it includes a lot of chains, but you can usually find something decent when the urge takes you and at £30 you can pay for the card in a couple of meals. As Half-life put it to me recently, ‘Anyone who pays full price at Pizza Express is a cunt.’ Though even he accepted this was unlikely to get past the top brass at Taste as a marketing slogan.

The only downside is dining in the occasional empty restaurant or having to avoid eye-contact with the other cheapskates in plastic shoes.


I was recently invited out for the evening by some younger folk, who, showing a wisdom beyond their years, planned to spend it in a Peckham car park, near an off-licence. We’re all for this as a form of entertainment, but of course it can be jazzed up a little.

With the advent of spring, parks once again offer a charming respite from the hurly burly, particularly in the company of a mate and a six-pack.

At the National Theatre, the bars don’t open until 5pm so we like to kick back with a bottle of shop-bought wine on the Baylis Terrace, a lovely, little-used spot with a river view to boot. And when you’ve finished, there’s happy hour at Concrete (5-7pm, Tues-Sat).

A charming respite from the hurly burly
Parks offer a charming respite from the hurly burly

Happy hours provide great succour for the impoverished drinker, but at Deserter we generally favour permanent discounts. Wetherspoons pubs divide opinion, but at around £2.20 a pint (50p less if you’re a member of CAMRA) it is basically offering the student-lite experience of half-price drinking. For dissenters, it’s worth remembering that not all Spoons are created equal. At The Rocket in Putney you can sit by the river, for example, The Fox on the Hill at Denmark Hill boasts one of London’s finest pub gardens and The Capitol in Forest Hill is simply one of the wonders of the western world.

Micropubs, too, offer better value drinking than most regular pubs, though thirsty Deserter reader, Brand New Guy, got in touch with an idea for a Young’s pub crawl that beats them all. He writes:

‘Sign up online to receive emails from all the Young’s pubs you know. They send round almost identical emails when they do promotions (Father’s Day, ‘rugger’, that sort of thing) offering you a free pint. In each one.’

And there you are – an instant, ready-made pub crawl. ‘And all it’ll cost you is your Oyster one-day limit,’ he adds. Cheers, BNG! Use this handy tool to get started.

The Fox on the Hill, Denmark Hill
The Fix on the Hill

Finally, I sought the counsel of the Deserter crew for extra tips on living the good life on a budget:


‘Vape pure grass in a loose leaf cartridge for the v2 Pro Series 3 and you’ll save a fortune on tobacco’, texted Roxy. We’re not entirely sure what she’s on about but, by Christ, the last time we saw her she was having the time of her life.

Dirty South

‘Crisp sandwiches,’ said the Dirty one, without missing a beat. ‘All the goodness of roast beef and mustard, with added potato, bread and butter.’


‘That’s easy,’ said Half-life, leaning across the bar and topping up his pint. ‘If they didn’t want you to help yourself, how come I can reach the taps?’


Want more? See Live Like a King on Fuck All 2

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Image credits: Main image by Tom Gill used under this licence; Bikes by Steve Bowbrick and Charming Respite by CAVE CANEM used under this licence; All-day Conference by murielle29 used under this licence