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.

This week:
“I’m a 25-year-old charity worker and a carer. I moved to Bristol in 2022 after leaving a very stressful job as a full-time care manager, supporting adults with learning disabilities. It was so rewarding but I constantly felt like I was fighting fires and I didn’t have the time I needed to enjoy my life. I also had issues with setting boundaries and I felt I needed a fresh start in many ways. Just before I moved to Bristol, I went through a breakup, which made the move even scarier. I have really noticed a change in myself since moving and it’s made me realise I am stronger than I thought and that I can live on my own. I took a massive pay cut moving here and Bristol is a very expensive place to live so it has definitely been a learning curve. I’ve had to be a bit more conscious about my spending — not that I’ve always been successful! I definitely have a bit of a complicated relationship with money, often living beyond my means if I worry I’m going to miss out on anything. This is something I need to work on and I am hoping that keeping an eye on my spending this week will give me an idea as to how I can budget a bit better.”

Occupation: Advice worker and carer 
Industry: Charity
Age: 25 
Location: Bristol 
Salary: £21,756 from my main job, roughly £6,000 from my care job.
Paycheque amount: £1,539 from my main job and £500-£600 a month for my care job, depending on how many nights I do. 
Number of housemates: None (but I have to share my bathroom with one other girl).
Pronouns: She/her  

Monthly Expenses 

Housing costs: £550 for my rent, which includes council tax and water.  
Loan payments: I pay probably between £100 and £200 a month on credit card repayments and I put at least £50 in premium bonds a month. I am going to use that money to pay my dad back after he lent me £1,000 last year.
Savings? £4,600 in a Lifetime ISA — not as high as I’d like but a few pounds dribble in there every month.
Pension? I pay in £29.03 monthly, which I believe is 4%. My employer puts in 8%.
Utilities: I’ve got an electric meter and I was super lucky that it had £220 on it when I moved in so thus far I haven’t had to pay anything! 
All other monthly payments: £51.34 phone, £28.50 internet. Subscriptions: £9.99 Spotify, £6.99 Amazon Prime, £5.99 Netflix and £3.99 Discovery+.

Did you participate in any form of higher education? 

I did not! When I was 17, I moved in with a boy (yikes) and was working full-time and still at college. At that time, there wasn’t anything that was drawing me in and I didn’t want to spend money on something I wasn’t really excited by. I worked in care for a number of years and through that I got my NVQ levels 2 and 3 in health and social care. I was working towards my level 5 but I had to leave care for my mental health.  

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

I wouldn’t necessarily say my parents educated me. I don’t remember really speaking to them about money when they were together but when me and my sister left with my mum and she had to buy her own house, I definitely picked up on some stress. She wasn’t particularly open about it but I could sense it. I am very grateful to say that I never went without when living with my mum and she did all she could to spoil me and take me on holidays every year. 

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

I left my mum’s house when I was 17 and moved in elsewhere as a lodger. Nowhere would give me a tenancy as I wasn’t 18. 

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

For the first six months after moving out of home, my dad gave me £100 a month to help out. He has also given and lent me money over the years if I’ve been really stuck. Mostly I would say I have been largely financially independent since I moved out at 17.  

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

I had a paper round for a few years when I was 13 and then went on to some temporary jobs. My first ‘real’ job was as a customer service and admin assistant at a shopping centre in my home town. I got it because I wanted a bit more independence and I was very depressed as a teenager, which I thought could be helped with some routine — and I was right! This also led to me being able to move out at such a young age.  

Do you worry about money now? 

Absolutely, every day. 

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

When I was 18 I was given premium bonds that my grandparents had saved for me, which must have come to about £600-£700. Also, a few years ago my dad gifted me £5,000 for Christmas, which I used to pay for an intensive driving course. I guess I blew the rest!  

Day One 

10am: Wake up and have a fairly lazy morning. I have just got back from spending a bit of time away in Scotland, visiting my mum and at a festival. Last night was my first night in my own bed for a few weeks!

11am: I spend the morning watching Parks and Recreation and trying out a new knitting pattern my mum gave me. I really got into knitting maybe a year ago and it has proven to be so good for my mental health and concentration.  

2pm: I eventually drag myself out to do errands. The worst thing about being on holiday is the mountain of laundry you have to tackle and the completely barren food cupboards and fridge you have to sort when you get back. I live in a really small studio flat and if I were to have a washing machine, it would take up literally all my space. Luckily I don’t mind the laundrette as much as some people as it gives me a bit of time to sit and catch up with reading. I head there and put a load in the washing machine and tumble dryer, £7.

2.30pm: While my washing is on, I head to Sainsbury’s, which is pretty much next door, to get some food. I pick up smoked tofu, yoghurt, oat milk, a pile of veggies and a trashy magazine to read while my laundry dries, £22.20. I know that I’ve made a decision to be vegan and I’m happy with that but it is hard not to be bitter when my yoghurt costs 3x what the dairy yoghurt costs (and the same with my milk). 

5pm: Get home and sort out my flat a bit before I make dinner. I make a pretty basic mac ‘n’ cheese but shove in loads of spinach and kale because I genuinely cannot remember the last time I ate a healthy meal.

9pm: I’ve arranged a date tonight. I’ve been single pretty much since I’ve been in Bristol and it has been really important for my self-growth as I was a serial monogamist in the past. This date is someone I’ve seen a few times before. It’s absolutely not serious and I’m glad about that! He told me he was going to run late because he was closing at work and finally surfaces at 9pm, saying he’s just finished up with his “few pints with work friends”. UGH, men. We go to the pub and he has a glass of wine waiting for me, which is something. We stay for a few drinks and I buy two rounds, £20.10.

11pm: We’re back at mine watching The Mighty Boosh, I’m asleep not long after.

Total: £49.30  

Day Two 

8am: I wake up early but don’t have to do anything for a while so laze a bit longer.
10am: Wave off the boy and actually start to get myself ready for the day. I shower, wash my hair and fix myself a bagel for breakfast. 

1pm: I head into town. Today is a Monday and I feel so lucky not to have to work on Mondays. Bristol town centre is a complete nightmare over the weekend so it’s so helpful to be able to do this in the week. I am on a mission to find a magic fairy wand. My niece turns six this coming weekend and she has been very explicit that this is what she wants. It needs to light up but it doesn’t need to make noises as she is confident she can do this herself. She really is the sweetest little thing so I need to get my auntie hat on and find one. 

1.30pm: I go to Claire’s, find a wand and after a thorough inspection that the light works, I buy it, £10. I then head to a card shop and get a card as well, £2.99. Auntie duties done!
2.30pm: I wander over to a coffee shop by the river. I put a post on a community page on Facebook recently, saying that I want to find a friend to look for a flat together. I like living by myself but I have such a small amount of space and it would be nice to not be sleeping in my kitchen. I also don’t feel like going into a houseshare is for me. I get a coffee for £3.50 and chat with this girl for maybe an hour. She is so lovely and she’s currently in a studio flat too so understands not having space. We  agree to send each other flats as and when we see them and arrange bookings. I leave feeling really good about this!  

4.30pm: A friend/someone I’ve been dating (?), K, messages and says he is going to be taking advantage of the sunshine in the park and asks if I’d like to join. I am always keen for a bit of sun so head up there via a corner shop to stock up on tobacco and oat milk, £21.48. We spend a few hours chatting and I do some knitting, then he leaves to go to a pub quiz.

7pm: I spend the evening watching the Below Deck yacht reunion and knitting. I cook myself a mega sandwich with fried breaded tofu, vegan cheese and steamed veggies. I cook the tofu in my air fryer. I know it sounds basic but it is one of the best things I have ever purchased — I don’t even care that it takes up most of my kitchen. 

11pm: I’m in bed and trying to sleep. I’m back at work tomorrow and although I love my job, I do feel quite anxious so this keeps me awake a while. 

Total: £37.97 

Day Three 

7.30am: I wake up and get myself ready to go back to work. I’m equal parts anxious and excited. I am super bad at organising myself so I don’t leave the house on time and have to get a Voi scooter to work, £2.09. It is quite humbling being a 25-year-old woman who has to scoot to work, considering only last year I was a manager with a car and a good salary. But hey, I’ve made my choices. 

9am: Get to work and have a quick meeting with my manager. She fills me in on anything I need to know that has happened while I was away. Nothing major, luckily. I get to work catching up on emails and checking in on my clients.

2pm: I only have one more meeting today and that’s with a client. I support people with quite sensitive health conditions but I can say that working with people is definitely right for me. I spent my first few years of working at a big organisation where I felt like all my hard work was making someone who was already far richer than me even richer. Since then I’ve only really wanted to do work that benefits people or the community in some way. 

5pm: Work is done! My friend S has just got back from a weekend away and meets me from work so we can go for a walk and have a gossip. We go via Aldi to get some cider tins (because what is a walk and a gossip without tinnies?). S jokes that these are on me so I obviously make him pay.
8pm: We have gossiped! We start to walk home. I head to Tesco a little bit tipsy off my two tins (I don’t know why my tolerance has never really got higher but oh well, I’m a cheap date). I buy a sausage roll as I’m starving, a bar of chocolate and some Weetabix, £3.60. We think about getting the train home but it is a 20-minute wait and I am terrible at waiting for anything so we walk. 

9pm: Wave goodbye to S and head home. I spend a little bit of time watching Schitt’s Creek before falling asleep.  

Total: £5.69

Day Four 

8am: I oversleep again (you’ll learn this is very common for me). I get up and ready and then attempt to find a Voi scooter. However, my phone is playing up so I just have to walk at a fast pace! 

9.05am: I’m only five minutes late and no one seems to really notice. We have a staff meeting this morning, which I actually quite enjoy. As I have ADHD, I am allowed to knit in meetings at work because keeping my hands busy has proved to work wonders for my concentration. I know it should be standard practice but I feel very lucky to work for such an understanding charity.

3pm: Unfortunately, today has actually proven to be quite a write-off concentration-wise and I start beating myself up about not being able to do any work. To combat this, I ask my manager if I can go home an hour early and use up some TOIL. The sun is out and it’s beautiful, and I feel it’s a much more productive use of my time to go out and enjoy it as opposed to sitting and getting cross with myself. 

4pm: Leave work and stop at the corner shop to get a couple of bits. I buy oat milk (obviously), garlic naan and red lentils, £4.39.

5pm: I go to meet K in the park again. He arrives with snacks and I arrive with knitting, and we sit and enjoy the sunshine for a few hours. He then suggests a trip to the pub so we go to one nearby. He very kindly buys a couple of rounds and some food for us so as a token gesture I buy one round, £11.80.  

8pm: All pubbed out, we head back to K’s for a bit and he opens a bottle of wine. We play board games and watch a bit of telly and I head home around midnight. Straight to sleep — I am exhausted! 

Total: £16.19

Day Five

7.30am: Wake up more on time than I have so far this week. Feeling like my head is a fair bit clearer today so I’m more optimistic about work. Have my staple breakfast of a bagel and a cup of coffee and set out to the office.  

12pm: Today is shaping up to be a pretty normal day at work. I meet with a few clients and get some admin done. I’ve been able to make progress in catching up with what I couldn’t manage yesterday so that’s a really good feeling!

1.30pm: I have some instant miso soup on my desk but can’t bring myself to eat it so I head to the corner shop for a very nutritious (ha) lunch of Ritz crackers and vegan cream cheese. I also get a bottle of orange juice, you know, for health, £7.38.

2pm: When I get back my manager has approved my annual leave for next week. I’m going to London for the weekend and the annual leave means I can get an earlier train so I pay a really small amount to change my ticket, £1.65. 

5pm: Work is done and I am off to meet one of my favourite ever people, S, who I used to work with. She asks if I can pick up some tins for her so I go via the garage at the end of the road and pick us up two tins each and some Rizla, £9.01.

5.20pm: Hop briefly on a Voi, it took me absolutely ages to find one! But I’m desperate to see my pal so on I go, £1.49. I get to the park and S is waiting for me with open arms. Another pal I used to work with, T, is there too. S and I haven’t seen each other in a few weeks so we have lots to catch up on. She fills me in on how it is at the old workplace and I tell her all about my trip to Scotland. It really is so lovely to see her. 

6.45pm: I head home before I go out again to a gig. I then have yet another meal that is completely derived of any nutrition: beans on toast. I don’t know about anyone else but for the first few years of renting I always lived with a boyfriend or a close friend and I am so bad at grocery shopping for myself that often I do resort to eating really poorly. This is something I really want to work on. Hopefully if I move in with that girl it’ll encourage me to put a bit more effort in.
8pm: I arrive at the gig and find S. He’s nervous about his gig and I reassure him it’s going to be great and there’s loads of people there. S gets the first round and when he’s performing I get us a round, £16.75.

10.30pm: I stick around and listen to the rest of the bands and have a bit of a dance. Overall it’s a lot of fun! I always leave gigs thinking, I need to go to more gigs, so make a mental note to do this.

11pm: Watch a bit of TV, eat some more toast and go to sleep.
Total: £36.28 

Day Six 

8am: Awake and rushing around, trying to get to work on time. Go-to breakfast scoffed, hair washed and I’m out the door. I jump on a Voi to make my lateness less late, £1.64. 

1pm: Again, I have my miso soup looking at me but someone offers to do a food run and I can’t resist. She brings me back a toastie with mushrooms, tomatoes and vegan cheese, £6. It’s nice but my appetite has gone a bit so I eat only half of it. My only other meeting for the day has been cancelled so I use the time to catch up on my admin.  

5pm: Work is done for the week! What a wonderful feeling. I walk home and arrange to meet my friends for a drink at a nearby bar. I buy a pint for £4.95 and start chatting away. I’m with my friend S and his friend M, who I absolutely love even though this is only my second time meeting her. We start talking about plans to book a holiday to Dublin, which is very exciting.

6pm: I realise I’m starving and order some food with my next pint, £12.95. I eat oyster mushroom calamari and it is so tasty!  

8pm: We’ve moved on to another pub now and my friend gets a round in. We keep chatting for a while, deciding what we’re going to next. 

10pm: We walk into town and my friend is umming and ahhing about whether she is staying or going. We stop at Tesco and I get some orange squash and a chocolate bar while she is deliberating, £2.60.

10.15pm: She decides to get the train home and me and S make our way to the pub. It is so busy and we realise we aren’t into it so we go back to mine and watch telly instead.  

11.30pm: Sleep.

Total: £28.14

Day Seven 

9am: Wake up and make me and S a coffee. We hang and chat for a bit before he takes himself home for an admin day. I have to prepare myself for the biggest birthday party of the year today: My niece, M, is turning six. 

11am: I’m showered and ready, and head round the corner to the corner shop and buy a bottle of wine, £9.99. I love my niece but I know I’ll appreciate the wine throughout the day. 

12.40pm: My middle sister, E, finally turns up to pick me up. She was supposed to be here at 12pm but I’m used to this from her. She picks me up and drives me to my other sister, C’s, house. I never really get to see this sister and her family much so it’s nice to have a bit of a catch-up.  

5pm: The party has been a success. My niece loved her present and told me she’d had the “best birthday ever”. C is always really considerate and there is always vegan cake for me and E. E leaves and drives all the way back home before realising she has my house keys in her car. In a panic I call S and he drives me all the way to go and get them. I offer him £30 for petrol but he is being kind and lets me wait until my payday next week before paying him back. We have a good old sing-song in the car, retrieve the keys and head back to mine. 

7pm: I cook a red lentil dal for me and S to say thank you for the lift. It’s pretty good if I do say so myself. S has work tomorrow so goes home around 9pm. I’m pretty worn out so I take myself to bed not long after. 

Total: £9.99 

The Breakdown 

Food & Drink: £158.35
Clothes & Beauty: £0 
Home & Health: £0
Entertainment: £0 
Travel: £5.22
Other: £19.99

Total: £183.56


“I think this was a pretty standard week for me. I definitely spend too much at the pub but hey, I’m 25! I need to prepare my meals a bit better and stop buying little treats every time I go out. This is definitely something I am working on. I enjoyed recording my spending as it forced me to take a realistic look at things. Going forward, I need to get better at living within my means and budget better so I can pay off my credit card. This week was not necessarily standard for travel costs as every other week I go back to my hometown to volunteer and my train costs can add up. Overall, I’m pretty happy with my spending this week.”

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