Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last penny. “I’m a 31-year-old New Zealander living in London. My partner, M, and I moved to London last year. We met each other just before COVID and had both planned, separately, to move to London but our plans were put on hold when the world shut down. We ended up buying a house that year, and two years later we moved to London together! We live with a couple of housemates in a lovely flat (we lucked out both with the housemates and the flat). We rent out our house back in New Zealand, which helps contribute to the costs. This week: I worked in the public sector in NZ, and have just started working as a policy contractor in London, although most of my work is remote. When it comes to money, I consider myself quite savvy. I’ve been a saver and budgeter since I was young. About five years ago, I got really serious about buying a house and saved enough to buy a small townhouse on my own. I sold it a year later to move to the UK. The money I got back from it enabled me to purchase my house with M and also start properly investing. I am an enthusiastic investor and have money in a few ETFs, index funds, and companies. I’ve made some mistakes and learnt a lot, but I’ve worked hard on my money mindset and behaviours. M and I have a shared vision to become financially independent in our 40s, so we are aggressively paying our mortgage off and investing in order to reach this goal. We don’t want to sacrifice enjoying the present though, so we have had a lot of conversations about balancing this goal with present fulfilment.”
Occupation: Policy Contractor Industry: Public Sector Age: 31 Location: London Salary: £55,000 (my contract rates fluctuate – this is what is expected in total this financial year). Paycheque Amount: £891 per week Number of housemates: Three (including my partner). Pronouns: She/her
Housing costs: £2,060 for our New Zealand house’s mortgage and bills not covered by rent, £1,200 for London rent. My partner and I share finances. We apportion an amount to our own accounts and then combine the rest. I currently earn less than my partner and my contribution (and our budget) shifts depending on my contract rate. Loan payments: I have approx £3,000 left to pay on my £35,000 student loan (but I’m not currently making payments towards it). Savings: I have £1,500 in cash savings and we jointly have £4,000 in an emergency savings account. I have investments worth approximately £30,000. Utilities: Joint cost of £205 for house bills (electricity, gas, council tax etc). Pension? Yes, as a contractor I currently have no employer contribution and I contribute 15%. All other monthly payments: Joint payments: £2,500 additional mortgage payments, £300 emergency savings, £500 to a travel account, £100 towards a wedding account, £60 towards Christmas costs. My individual monthly expenses: £21 phone, £29 gym, £50 transport, £300 investments into a stocks and shares ISA. Subscriptions: £12 Spotify.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? I went to a New Zealand university and obtained my Bachelor’s and also did an additional year for my Honours (a separate degree in New Zealand). I took out a student loan for the fees and worked multiple jobs to pay for my living expenses, although I had to top up with a living costs allowance that was added to my student loan.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Of what I remember when I was young, I observed my parents being quite stressed about money. I recall times when my mum’s card declined at the grocery store and we had to leave everything there. Our holidays were spent camping around the country, which was a lot of fun, but looking back I realise they were also intentionally affordable. As I entered my teens, my parents became a lot more savvy with money and started to invest in rental property and they began to talk to us every now and then about the importance of saving and also making your money work for you.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents/guardians house? I moved out when I was 18.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? I became financially responsible for myself when I moved out at 18. Now, as my partner and I share finances, he in essence does contribute to aspects of my financial life.
What was your first job and why did you get it? My first job was as a waitress at a local cafe when I was 15. I got it mainly because I had just been loaned a horse and I had to pay for its upkeep.
Do you worry about money now? Yes and no. As a contractor there is always a level of uncertainty as to what my next role will be, whether there will be a gap between roles or how much the contract rate will be. This creates a higher level of awareness and sometimes stress.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? Yes, my dad gave me $10,000 NZD (approx. £5,000) after I graduated to put towards my student loan, although I ended up putting this towards a year of living overseas. Whoops! I also moved back into my parents house when I was 28, as I had sold my house and was ready to move to the UK when COVID hit. I had almost a year without rent and that was a huge financial gift! Last year my partner also supported me for a few months as I looked for work, which I’m incredibly grateful for.
6.30am: Wake up half an hour earlier than usual. My partner, M, is still asleep beside me, mouth endearingly hanging open. I lie there and lose track of time thinking about the upcoming admin of replacing our flatmate who recently told us she’s moving into a place with her boyfriend.
7am: We head out to drop some clothes into a donation bin. We’re downsizing rooms in our flat and are going from a wardrobe each to sharing one – yikes! Thank god for recent binges of
Sort Your Life Out giving us decluttering motivation. We reward ourselves with some much-needed coffee from a local cafe, £6 from joint account.
8.30am: Turn my computer on and wait half an hour for an update to complete – why is this still our reality in 2023?
10.30am: Make myself a berry smoothie. Other than the slow update, it’s been a productive morning so far. I’m five weeks into this role and finally feel like I understand what I’m doing!
1pm: Pretty full after snacking, so M and I have bits of leftover roast chicken for lunch. I wait patiently for him to finish his drumstick before I hone in on the juicy bits he leaves on the bone #zerowaste.
4.45pm: We head to the gym. And I enjoy the warmth as we walk.
5.30pm: Heart is not in the gym today, so leave M to it and head home early. It’s a 50 minute walk altogether though, so still getting my steps in.
7pm: Tidy up the house for the first flat viewing happening tonight at 8.30pm. Their bio sounded good. Fingers crossed. We only put the ad up a couple of days ago and within 24 hours we had over 50 messages of interest. So I made a spreadsheet to help sort out our options. Quite proud of it actually. Love a good spreadsheet.
8.15pm: The viewer messages to say they’re feeling sick and are not coming. I chuck on
Sort Your Life Out to ease my frustration at the late notice (although I’m grateful they didn’t want to pass their bug on). I use the time to also start on notes for a workshop I have coming up for my small side hustle.
9.30pm: Crawl into bed and open my latest read. It’s set in Ancient Greece, more specifically the golden age of Athens, and my classics heart is happy. I got this book from the library as I’m trying to limit my book buying habits, so far it’s working!
10.30pm: M finishes up painting his minis (figurines) and spoons me to sleep.
7am: Wake up and make M and myself a coffee. Get back into bed and catch up on some news stories before getting up and logging into work.
10.30am: Finish a meeting and make myself a berry smoothie. They’re my go to as they’re simple to make and delicious! I often chuck some protein powder in, it makes it thick and smooth. Also #gains.
12.30pm: Feeling a bit nervous about the viewings tonight, so I go for a walk at lunch. It’s warm out! Someone messages to cancel their viewing – my intuition was on point. I message someone on our waitlist to see if they’d like the spot. They say yes! I snack on some crackers and cheese for lunch.
5pm: I have been meaning to make banana bread with bananas I had in the freezer. I got them out to defrost the other day and keep putting it off. I drizzle some salted caramel sauce over the top before putting it in the oven. Yum.
5.30pm: The viewings start at 6.30pm and I message M and ask how far away he is. He’s heading back from the gym so I start on dinner while listening to the
I Will Teach You to Be Rich podcast. I shape the meatballs for the subs and pop them in the oven with the banana bread, prepping the salad while they cook. I put the sauce on and when the meatballs are ready, glaze them in it.
6pm: M turns up just on time. I finish putting together the meal, take out the banana bread, and grab a couple of Dash cans (such a good substitute for a weekday glass of wine) to go with our meal. OMG these subs are so good!
6.30pm: My flatmate and I call the first viewer. It’s so awkward doing video viewings. She seems really lovely though, so my awkwardness dials down a notch or two. I think about how odd it is that you see someone for less than half an hour and then have to decide whether to live with them.
9pm: Viewings finished! Some great contenders, and we have another round in a couple of days. I hope that one of these people is the one, it has been so much work going through all of the messages and organising times (although, thank god for Calendly). We’re all knackered and veg out on the couch. My flatmate and I watch an episode of
The Bold Type.
10.30pm: Period shows up just as I get ready for bed. Hmm, it’s early. Now my lethargy over the last few days makes sense. I pop my period panties on, they’re so great for the first couple of days, and slide into bed. Hello, old friend.
7am: Wake up to a gloomy day – where did the sun go? Terrible night of cramps, thanks uterus.
7.30am: M brings me in a decaf coffee and hot water bottle. He’s the best. Terrible thing about having my period…no real coffee. But it does make the cramps more bearable, so I’m willing to make the sacrifice.
9am: Finally pull my head out of the book and drag myself to my desk to get started on work.
12pm: Wow, I’m out of it today. Feels like cotton wool has replaced my brain. M refills my hot water bottle and brings me a toastie with leftover roast in it – a roastie?
2pm: I plug away at work while my flatmate and I have
The Bold Type on in the background. Such a wholesome show.
5pm: M and I have a date night organised – we’ve booked a kintsugi pottery class, so I jump in the shower and chuck on a dress. In and out in five minutes. Getting ready to go has gotten a lot faster since I stopped wearing makeup. Time win!
5.15pm: M and I head out and pick up some chocolates for the tube journey, £4.75 on the joint. We’re in North London and heading to South London, so we need snacks. Have a miff (mini tiff) with M over nothing, because functioning is difficult when your insides are making a bid for freedom.
6.15pm: We grab a drink and share a burger before heading to the kintsugi class. We often share a meal between us and find it’s more than enough. I grab us two more beers to enjoy through the class, £44 from joint account.
9.30pm: Kintsugi is definitely harder than it looks, and M and I are far from talented. But it was a fun activity to do together, and I love having something tangible that I made with my own hands. We wrap the pieces up to take home. The tickets were paid for months ago.
11pm: I love doing activities, the variety is one thing I love about London. But I don’t enjoy the trek home, £6.20 for the tube on the joint. I’m glad we bought some chocs. We finally get home and crash into bed. I’m out like a light.
Total: £ 27.48
7.30am: Wake up and grab my book. M brings me in another decaf. The cramps have definitely improved this morning, but better to be safe than sorry.
9am: I reluctantly get up (this book is so good) and give the house a quick tidy before the next lot of potential flatmates show up.
1pm: One no show and one who is running late, but we have a few that were good. I’m so glad. Socialising and repeating questions and answers takes it out of all of us though, so we once again veg out on the couch while we discuss our options. We also discuss how this process has made us realise how lucky we are, our flat is truly so great! M then heads out to the gym, my flatmate leaves for a birthday celebration, and I stay on the couch and nap.
2.30pm: I meet M at Aldi and we do our grocery shopping for the week. We preplan our meals so that we only buy what we need. Spinach, tomatoes, broccolini, mushrooms, potatoes, pork belly, minced beef, bacon, burger buns, bread, pizza, cheddar and feta, yoghurt, red kidney beans, crackers, rice thins, salt and bin bags. We then pop to Tesco to pick up things we can’t get at Aldi, £41 from joint account.
4pm: I’m ensconced on the couch with a Dash in hand watching the new season of
The Wheel of Time. As a fan of the books, I can’t help but groan at all of the changes, but I’m trying to accept it for what it is.
7pm: I prep a dinner of champions – pizza topped with spinach, chorizo, leftover roast chicken, and of course…more cheese. I also pour a can of Most Wanted sparkling pinot grigio into a glass. I’ve become a convert of canned wine, particularly in summer. It takes up less space in the fridge and as M doesn’t often drink wine, I don’t have the temptation of finishing a whole bottle off myself. Also, it’s a bonus that aluminium is better for the environment. When the pizza is ready, we sit on the couch and eat dinner while we watch a couple of episodes of
8.30pm: M and I walk down to the local pub to grab a drink with a few friends. It’s a balmy night, and we take a moment to appreciate the dusk light. The pub is busy, and we stand outside with our friends and chat about life. It’s so simple, but this is one of my favourite things about our London life. Drinks come to £13 on the joint account.
11pm: We’re back home and in bed. M and I talk about the viewings and our favourites. We mostly are in agreement, so we’ll talk to our flatmate and see what we all decide tomorrow. We turn the light off and even though it’s pretty hot, we spoon to sleep.
7.30am: Wake up to sunshine filtering through the blinds. I make M an instant coffee and myself a pot of coffee. Fully caffeinated coffee! And a whole pot to myself. Bliss.
8.30am: M pops out to pick up some baked goods for breakfast – a croissant and a pain au chocolat. Thanks Tesco. The crumbs in the bed are worth it! £2.20 from joint account.
10am: Have a quick call with my family in New Zealand. It’s Father’s Day there and it’s days like this that I really miss not being there with them. He’s had a great day being spoiled by my mum and brother though, so he’s not totally neglected.
11am: M and I head out to enjoy the sunshine. Even after a year of living here, I still feel like I’m in a book as I walk through the streets of London. So much brick! We meander through the market, soaking up the sights, smells and noise, picking up a mille-feuille and a gözleme to share, £13 from joint account.
12pm: We head to the park and polish off the food. The weather is amazing once again, so we lie on the grass together, watching the sun filter through the leaves and talking about how much we enjoy moments like these. Moments where you don’t have anywhere else to be.
1pm: We join some friends at a book fair event and pay £8 each for a ticket. M and I brought a Dash from home (we have a monthly supply of them that we got on special) and I buy a beer to share while we listen to a panel discuss race and class in Britain. It’s stonking hot in the pavilion, but the conversation is fascinating, £13 from my account.
2.15pm: M walks me to the overground. I’m meeting a friend near where she lives. It’s busy out – London comes alive on warm days. My friend and I end up at a beer garden, nestled on a bench in the shade, nursing half pints of cider that taste exactly like apple juice. I’ve been buying half pints more and more, as I drink them slower and end up spending less. Three hours, lots of D&Ms, and two half pints each later, I hug her goodbye and get back on the overground, £6 from my account.
10pm: I read a few chapters (almost finished!) before turning the lights off and saying goodbye to the weekend. I can’t wait until four-day work weeks become the norm. Just before I turn my phone on aeroplane mode, I receive a message from the person we offered the room to – they want the morning to decide and will send us their decision by midday tomorrow. I really hope they decide to say yes! I also check Monzo and see that the overground trip today cost £3.60.
7am: I have a video call with my siblings. We are organising our parents’ joint 60th birthday party in New Zealand next year. But we are struggling to all agree on where it should be hosted and what the budget is. We decide to expand our search and meet back again in a week. I can’t wait to see my family again, although I’m not looking forward to the £1,500, 30-hour flight!
7.30am: I settle down with a pot of coffee and open my work emails. I’m starting work early today so that I can finish early to attend my first egg donation appointment. I don’t want children, so it feels good to be able to potentially support someone else’s journey. Firstly I’ve got to find out if my eggs are viable!
10.30am: The person we’ve offered the room to has said yes! Phew, I’m stoked. Now begins all of the paperwork for the letting agency.
11.30am: My payslip comes through and I notice that the tax code has changed and the tax paid is a lot higher than I calculated it would be. Guess I’m going to have to call HMRC. Fun.
2.15pm: I call HMRC to be informed I’ll likely be on hold for 50 minutes. Woohoo. I keep the phone on speaker while I work.
3.15pm: I need a shower before I leave for my appointment, but I’m still on hold. I’m going to have to chance it. I take my phone into the bathroom and jump into the shower. I’m halfway through washing the soap off when I hear a human voice pipe up from the phone. S***! I wrap a towel around my half-rinsed body and grab the phone.
3.25pm: I was right, they’d mistakenly changed my tax code. It’s fixed, but now I’m running late. I quickly jump back into the shower, finish what I’d started, chuck some clothes on and run out the door.
4.05pm: My pants are off, legs in stirrups and a wand currently exploring my uterus. Two women stare intently at a screen and narrate the state of my ovaries. They’re counting something. It’s not painful until they have to dig around to try and get a better picture of my left ovary. I mentally send my vagina a message of support.
4.30pm: I’m told I’m a follicle or two off their threshold – so that’s what they were counting! I may have to come back again next month, the doctor will let me know on Friday after they check my bloods. For the 100th time I wish donating eggs was as simple and fun as donating sperm.
5.30pm: I get home and M is at the gym, so I start on dinner. I make the filling and roll out the pastry for leek and pork pasties, prep the pancetta and brussels sprouts, and chuck together a side salad. I check Monzo and see the tube fee of £6.20.
6pm: We put
New Girl on in the background while M paints his minis and I update my CV and LinkedIn profile. I love the flexibility of contract work, but it can feel like I’ve barely started before I have to look for my next role. I’ve also heard roles become a lot more scarce around winter, so I’m trying not to get stressed about the possibility of not finding one before then. Fingers crossed.
7am: M brings me a pot of coffee and I take a look at today’s new stories.
8am: I login and check my emails, I think it’s going to be a slow day today. I hate being bored at work, the days feel more painful.
10.30am: I make a berry smoothie and do a quick online search for some bathroom items we need.
1.45pm: I pop out to TK Maxx to see if they have the bathroom items and end up finding a shower caddy for a better price than online. Money win! I also like being able to see the quality of the items in person, £47.96.
2.30pm: I have a leftover pork pasty for lunch.
4 pm: I log off and head to the gym. Once again it is gloriously warm – I definitely become a nicer person when it’s sunny. The session today is a lot better and I even do a personal best on the leg press; I love my thick, strong thighs!
6pm: I’m ready for a pamper shower sesh. I put on some music (thanks to the money diarist who recommended the ‘Grinding in a sweaty HS cafeteria’ playlist). I’ve also recently started my curly hair method journey so it takes me longer to prep my hair, but I’m noticing my waves are becoming more pronounced. When I’m done, I wrap my hair up in a t-shirt and put on a face mask. M remarks that it looks like my face is melting off. Nice. I follow the face mask up with serum and my night moisturiser. I’m trying to be more intentional with skincare, but I so often forget.
7pm: M cooks a beautiful meal of eggplant parmigiana and I spend the evening organising our Christmas trip. We are going to visit some Polish Christmas markets with my sister who lives in Scotland. I book a couple of nights in Warsaw and a couple in Wroclaw. I book the accommodation, flights and bus tickets between cities. I’m so excited! We haven’t been on an overseas trip this year as M had an injury, so it means a lot to be able to organise something. It is the reason we moved across the world! £543 for our portion from joint account.
10.45pm: I’m knackered and have a wee internal sob that it’s only the beginning of the week and the weekend feels so long away! M reads me a chapter of
Harry Potter before we turn the lights off and drift off to sleep.
Food & Drink: £78.60 Clothes & Beauty: £0 Home & Health: £47.96 Entertainment: £8 Travel: £286.78 Other: £0
“This week was a pretty typical week other than booking a trip and buying bathroom items. I really enjoyed recording my spending. I’m a big spreadsheet and budgeting nerd, so it was right up my alley. However, with the extra detail, it became really obvious that my partner, M, and I have become a lot more intentional about our spending. We’ve worked really hard to create a budget that sets us up for future financial independence whilst not compromising on enjoying our life now. I can take behavioural changes for granted, so I felt really proud reading back through my money diary, as I think it was really apparent what our values are based on our spending habits. I also know that we’re in a really lucky position with jobs that pay well and give us the ability to align present and future goals, which I know isn’t a reality for many people. What jumped out to me though is that my favourite moments in the week don’t cost much, or in many cases nothing at all, e.g. walking in the sunshine, reading my book, having a drink with friends. This was a nice reminder for me that enjoying the present doesn’t always have to mean having lots of discretionary money.”
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