Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we’re tracking every last penny.

This week: “I’m a 31-year-old born-and-bred Londoner, working in HR within the finance sector. I have been with my current employer for almost two years and while my job has its challenges, my team is fantastic. I have no plans to move on from my current role and see myself here for at least another five years. My biggest goal is to become a homeowner in the next 12 to 18 months but the reality seems bleak. I earn below what the average Londoner earns but I’m determined to make it happen. I hear a lot about people with multiple streams of income and this seems like a good next step (but I have no idea what I would be good at).

I got married last year and had 470 people at my wedding. This put a huge strain on my finances and mental health and I am still living with this. The finance side of it is under control but I am still traumatised from the planning and execution of it all. As a result of this and certain cultural expectations, I am living with extended family. This is not ideal and I am constantly torn between renting privately and staying put and saving for a deposit. The only silver lining to my living situation is that I have the financial luxury to travel. I went to Thailand a few months ago and I am itching to book my next holiday. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the world in all its glory and I hope to do more of this before I get tied down with a mortgage.”

Occupation: HR assistant 
Industry: Finance
Age: 31
Location: London 
Salary: £33,000
Paycheque amount: £2,000 net 
Number of housemates: Five, including partner.
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £400 boarding. I live with extended family and £400 covers everything – food, rent, bills etc. 
Loan payments: £10,000. I racked up most of these costs during my wedding. Luckily it was covered by a family member and I pay them back £200 per month. I also pay back £90 on my student loan.
Pension? I pay 3% into my pension and my employer pays 5%.
Savings? £4,000 in a LISA and £8,000 in an ISA.
Utilities: Included as part of my boarding costs.
All other monthly payments: £100 phone. Subscriptions: £10 Netflix.

Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

My mother is my world and she was unable to attend uni herself so it was always a dream for her to see me graduate. I’m not at all academically inclined (I hated studying) but I gained a first-class honour and surprised them all! I received tuition loans at £3,000 a year and a maintenance grant at around £5,000 per year.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?

I was always encouraged to save. My earliest memories are of my grandad giving me £5 a week to put in my piggy bank and save towards something big. Looking back, I understand now that we had money struggles, however my mum (and my grandparents, who helped raised me) were careful not to let this slip.

If you have, when did you move out of your parents’/guardians’ house?

I didn’t move out until last year when I got married. I understand this isn’t the norm for most people but in my culture it’s very much normal. I’m not happy with my current living situation, however it’s only short-term to allow my partner and I to save money. 

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?

I have taken care of all my personal needs since starting work at 18. As I didn’t move out of my mum’s until last year, I was very fortunate to only pay for boarding while living with her (the occasional bills, food shop etc). Although it’s not required, I still do this with my husband because I believe it’s fair.

What was your first job and why did you get it?

I started working in retail at 18. My mum didn’t want me to work any earlier than this as she wanted me to focus on my studies. However, I wanted financial independence and to be able to treat my loved ones with my own money. I remember receiving my first paycheque and giving it to my mum and grandparents. They refused it but I felt so empowered that I was able to do this.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, all the bloody time. I have always wanted to own my own place. Living in London has made that nearly impossible and the rising cost of living isn’t helping. With remote working becoming more popular, I might consider moving slightly outside of the city, however anything within 100 miles still seems extortionate. I am in constant conflict between trying to save, survive and have a social life.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?

Yes, before I got married I was given £10k, which all went towards my wedding. Big weddings are the cultural norm where I’m from and I hated every part of it because my priorities aligned strongly with being a homeowner first and foremost. In hindsight, I had 170 (I have a lot of extended family) of my loved ones who all enjoyed the wedding and it was great to give them that as I had received so much love from them all growing up.

Day One

8.50am: I am working from ‘home’ today, which means walking five minutes to the nearest coffee shop and setting up camp for the next seven or so hours. This morning I pick up two pieces of brown seeded toast with butter for £2.10. I don’t have much of an appetite as I’m recovering from flu so I think lunch will be the banana in my bag and lots of water. 

1.30pm: Break for lunch after an unproductive morning. My role is very reactive and it feels like I can never complete a task before jumping onto something else. 

1.45pm: End up going for a walk and eat my banana. I am a serial window shopper so find myself browsing a home store that specialises in all things kitchenware. I dream of a big open-plan kitchen with a breakfast island. One day soon, God willing.

2.15pm: Head back to the coffee shop and set up shop again for the next few hours. Order myself a green tea and some chocolate coffee beans, £5.30. Balance is key.

5.30pm: Finish work and head to the high street. My husband has started playing football again so I treat him to a sports gilet and a small duffel for his kit. I love buying him practical gifts and things he would never buy for himself (he currently takes his kit in a shopper bag), £45.

6.30pm: My nieces are over and want to watch a movie so I purchase them some snacks to enjoy from the convenience store outside the flat, £4.

8pm: I have a habit of falling asleep during movies so naturally my nieces are not very happy. I drag myself to bed and scroll on my phone mindlessly for the next two hours until my eyes start burning. 

10pm: My husband comes into the bedroom with a chamomile tea (non-caffeinated) and demands I drink it. He thinks it helps me sleep better but really it does nothing. I drink it anyway to make him feel like he is helping. He also tells me he is worried because I have developed bags under my eyes and he thinks I might be taking on too much. He seems genuinely concerned so I promise I will go for a blood test in the coming weeks as I have been feeling unusually fatigued for quite some time.  

10.30pm: Drink half the cup and proceed to the bathroom for my nighttime routine (cleanse face, brush teeth, tie hair up as high as possible, resembling a tadpole, and moisturise face and neck).

11pm: I’m not one to stay awake past 11pm on a weekday so off to la-la land it is. 

Total: £56.40

Day Two

8.30am: It’s Friday, thank goodness. I shamelessly live for my weekends and it’s a sad reality but until I decide to get up and do something different from my 9-5, I won’t complain.

9am: I shower, have breakfast and sit on my laptop for the next three hours, struggling to find purpose in my professional life. A huge part of the job is dealing with people and their problems and today I am not in the mood to take on other people’s issues. If you’re an empath like me, you end up fully absorbing all the stress of others. I am good at my job because of my emotional intelligence but sometimes it’s the very thing that leaves me completely burnt out. 

1pm: I contemplate eating lunch as I’m not really in the mood for food. I have an exciting weekend ahead so decide to utilise my lunch hour to do some last-minute bits.

2pm: Work drags for the next three hours. 

5.30pm: Work finished for the day! Woohoo. I am going to Istanbul tonight with my siblings and mum for the weekend. I am super excited to spend time with my mum and two sisters and this long weekend is just what we need. We travel together at least once a year and most of our trips are long-haul but now that I am married, I have a new travel buddy in my husband so it’s great to find time to do short trips with my girls.

5.45pm: Stop by the salon to get my eyebrows waxed, £16.

6.15pm: Tube it to my mum’s, £2.60.

6.45pm: Decide to get a cab because train fares to Stansted are an absolute joke. My sister kindly pays.

8pm: The airport is quiet. We breeze through security and realise we have two hours before our flight takes off so duty-free shopping it is! 

9pm: Purchase a bottle of water, £2.30.

9.30pm: Browse the limited open shops. I have forgotten to pack shampoo so my mum kindly buys me a small travel-size bottle.

10.30pm: Get seated on the plane and realise there’s no in-flight entertainment as it’s only a three and a half-hour night flight. Decide I will most likely nap throughout.

Total: £20.90

Day Three

5.45am: The flight was smooth and checkout was a breeze. Istanbul is cold but I have my warmest winter coat so no complaints from me. We decide to grab some chicken nuggets from McDonald’s before we go to our hotel, £4. It’s an hour’s journey and when on holiday, it is perfectly okay to eat fast food at stupid o’clock.

2pm: We nap for a few hours before waking up, showering and heading out. It’s lunchtime but we’re not too hungry so we sit on a pretty terrace overlooking the Hagia Sophia Mosque and Blue Mosque (incredible architecture). We drink Turkish tea, fresh juice and also have some sütlaç, which is a type of creamy rice pudding, £20.36. So tasty! 

3.30pm: We’re queuing to get into the Hagia Sophia Mosque, which is around a 20-minute wait. 

4pm: We grab some hot dogs from a nearby street vendor, £7. I am in awe of the architecture inside the mosque. It’s also free to get in so win win! 

5.30pm: We continue exploring and come across a quaint village-like area with a few tourist shops. Turkey is renowned for its counterfeit goods and they’re everywhere. I am a designer fiend so this is all quite off-putting. 

8pm: Dinner is a late one in a mall (everything closes quite early so most tourists flock to the nearby malls in the evening). We find a food court and split up because we have varying taste buds. I go for a traditional Turkish chicken and veg stew, which is okay but lacks in flavour/salt, £8.

10pm: Get a taxi back to the hotel, £7. Thank goodness for a comfy bed because I pass out almost straightaway.

Total: £46.36

Day Four

1pm: We wake up super late and miss breakfast. We all feel super refreshed so decide not to beat ourselves up over it. 

1.30pm: Get ready and head out for brunch. Find a local café specialising in Turkish cuisine. We order a bunch of different items including stews, meats and salads. The food is so good. I pay for us all, £51.

2pm: Head to tour the Topkapı Palace (beautiful!) and then stop for some Turkish tea and more sweet treats. This time it’s strawberries and cream and the biggest slice of baklava. Mum pays.

3.30pm: Head to the Grand Çamlıca Mosque, which is currently the largest mosque in Turkey. The mosque sits at the highest point in Istanbul so we know the views are going to be incredible. I have the best nap of my life in the cab and wake up to the dreamiest views. Taxis in Istanbul, in comparison to London, are cheap. It costs £15 including tip for a 50-minute journey! I pay.

7.30pm: Head back into the main city and to Taksim Square. Mum pays cab fare.

8pm: Quick dinner before heading to a well-known dessert chain, famous for their cheesecake. I’m not a foodie but my sister is so I pretend it’s the best thing my taste buds have ever experienced, just to shut her up. The tiramisu on the other hand is heavenly. My sister gets the bill.

Total: £66

Day Five

8am: Wake up early to make the most of the hotel breakfast before we check out (this is included in our room price). Turkish breakfasts are wholesome.

12pm: We leave our bags at the hotel as we have a late flight and plan to spend the day at the Grand Bazaar. The bazaar is massive, with over 4,000 shops. People like to hard-sell here, which can be off-putting as I don’t plan on buying anything, but it’s part of the culture so we go along with it. 

12.30pm: Enjoy some fresh OJ and pomegranate juice, £3.50.

1pm: Eye up a small Turkish teacup and saucer set. It’s only one piece so I decide to buy it to add to my collection of mini cups and saucers (I have a slight obsession). I get tired of haggling so probably overpay at £15 but I don’t care because it’s pretty.

2pm: Grab some Turkish delight to take home. Mum pays.

3pm: My sister is eager to try a famous steakhouse for lunch. We order a HUGE rack of lamb, sides and two burgers. The meat is good quality and the restaurant is very pretty so all in all a good choice. The bill comes to £126 and my mum transfers me £50 even though I refuse. I pay £76.

4.30pm: We take a scenic walk back to the hotel, which is much-needed after the meat overkill.  

5.30pm: Head to the airport. Sister pays for cab fare.

6pm: Our flight isn’t for a couple of hours so we check out the designer stores. Tax-free only works out a little cheaper so I decide against impulse buying. 

7pm: Grab some snacks before we board. The airport prices are extortionate, £4.70 for a can of Coke and £9 for a sandwich! I use up any cash we have left on this (and then some).

11.45pm: Land in London and decide on getting the Tube directly to my mum’s as I will stay with her tonight and go home tomorrow. The flight was good as there was inflight entertainment so I watched a movie, The Handmaid’s Tale (I cried several times) and ate some great food.

Total: £108.20

Day Six

8am: As we got back late last night I’m working a half-day today. I decided on a morning shift so I drag myself out of bed, make a green tea and start working.

1pm: My body gives up on me and I fall asleep on the sofa.

5pm: Wake up, dazed.

6.30pm: My husband arrives to pick me up. We spend the evening catching up with the siblings before heading back to ours. My mum kindly packs me some freezer meals for those ‘can’t be bothered’ days.

10pm: It’s freezing in London so I decide to get into bed early as I feel tired (despite my nap). Make a mental note to do a food shop after work tomorrow and then fall asleep straightaway.

Total: £0

Day Seven

8.30am: Wake up half an hour before I’m due to start working. I’m deffo not going to the office this week as it’s -1 outside.

12.30pm: Break for lunch. It’s been a heavy morning and I can’t be bothered to make myself something to eat so I Uber Eats a Tortilla. My go-to meal is a naked burrito and tortilla chips with guac, £12.

5.30pm: Finish work then head to the supermarket to buy groceries for the week. I end up with salad, stir fry bits, breakfast stuff and home stuff like washing detergent. I also buy toiletries. You can never have too much hand wash or shampoo or toothpaste, £40.

7.30pm: Look for flights to New York on Skyscanner as it’s always been a dream of mine and I need something to look forward to. 

9pm: Showered and in bed, ready to sleep. I am beyond exhausted so I put my phone down and count sheep until I fall asleep. 

Total: £52

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: £249.26
Clothes & Beauty: £61
Home & Health: £15
Entertainment: £0
Travel: £24.60
Other: £0

Total: £349.86


“Considering I spent a long weekend abroad, I don’t think my spending costs were too out of the ordinary. The only thing that continues to shock me is the amount of money I spend on food. Groceries, coffee shops, eating out, the odd snack here and there. I tend to do a lot of this mindlessly and I’m not really sure how to be better at this. I guess in the grand scheme of things, this can be considered my current luxury. I am fortunate to be actively working towards my goals so I won’t beat myself up over it too much. For the future, I think I will put aside a travel pot and start transferring some money into it each month. Travelling brings me so much joy and I want the freedom to be able to travel as much as possible. I am hoping a travel pot will also make me more conscious of my overall spending. Coffee vs plane ticket? No-brainer.”

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