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 32-year-old single mother working in HR in Brighton. I’ve been with my current company for eight years and undertook a HR qualification with it after I had my second child. My day-to-day work is variable — sometimes I find myself doing something like IT support — but this suits me as I prefer being busy and enjoy learning new things. I met my ex-husband at the start of my career, when he earned double my salary, but we’ve always split everything completely fairly and supported each other. He showed me the importance of building a good credit rating as I was completely terrified of debt and credit cards before I met him, although maybe that’s gone too far the other way now! We separated earlier this year, but we are co-parenting our two children 50:50 and I’m pretty proud of us for making it work and staying friends (so far). However, this has had a massive impact on my finances, as I now have the sole financial responsibility of running a family home in an expensive area. As a couple, we worked really hard to climb the property ladder to enable us to buy our (small) three bed terraced house, so I really want to try and make it work if I can. I do often think about moving out of town to fulfil my dreams of off-street parking and a second bathroom (and perhaps not such a huge mortgage), but I love where I live and right now, it’s still worth it.”

Occupation: HR manager
Industry: Construction
Age: 32
Location: Brighton
Salary: £50,000
Paycheque Amount: £3,200
Number of housemates: Two, C (7) and H (3) 
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £1,200 for the mortgage on our three-bed terraced house. This is about to go up to £1,600 in December thanks to my fixed rate ending, which I’m low-key freaking out about.
Loan payments: None
Savings?: £8,000 in an ISA, plus £750 in a “Christmas” fund
Pension?: I’m auto-enrolled in my company pension which has minimum contributions, so they pay 3% and I pay 5% (I think).
Utilities: £180 for gas and electric; £50 for water; £55 for broadband; £73 on three different types of home and health insurances and £186 on council tax because I keep forgetting to apply for single person’s discount. Oops.
Loan payments: None
All other monthly payments: I’m very lucky that I get my phone contract paid through work. I do have to pay £908 a month in nursery fees plus another £130 a month for school clubs, but this is split with their dad, so my share is £500 a month. We also agreed to continue the monthly savings for each child’s JISA, so that’s £25 a month for my share. Subscriptions: £6 on Spotify; £20 per month for NowTV; £10 to a local charity.

Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? 
My parents, unbeknown to me, saved hard whilst I was at school to be able to send me to university without having to take on a student loan. This was a massive surprise and a huge undertaking for them, and one I’ll always be incredibly grateful for. I worked in retail throughout my degree to supplement this, but I recognise it was a great privilege to leave university without debt. 

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
My mum works in finance and is very sensible with money. My dad is more of the “Spend it now, earn some more later” mindset. Things were pretty tight when I was younger, but they worked hard to get to where they are now and a good work ethic was always a focus. The minute I turned 15 I got a job on their instruction and have never been out of work since. My mum always advised me to have a bit of savings, and my dad always advised me to enjoy life, so between them I think they got the balance right.

If you have, when did you move out of your parents’/guardians’ house?
I moved out at the age of 19 to go to university and never moved back. 
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
At 22, when I moved from university straight into a flat with friends (although my mum did send me the odd £50 when she suspected I wasn’t eating enough). When I was 24 I purchased my first property with my then-partner, who later became my husband, and from then all our finances were shared. Since my separation everything is on me! No pressure.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got a weekend job at a toy shop, taking on full week shifts during the school holidays. It went without saying in my house that as soon as I had my NI number, I was going to get a job, and I used the income to go out with my friends and put fuel in my car.  

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I would be daft not to. I feel very lucky to earn what I earn, but since becoming single it is pretty concerning to know that everything falls on me. I know I’m careful with money when I need to be, and I know my parents would always help if needed, but I also know if I lose my job, my children are potentially homeless, which plays on my mind a lot. 

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? No. 

Day One 

6:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off and I have a quick shower before the kids wake up. I throw on some black jeans and a silk shirt that I’ll definitely spill coffee on later.

7 a.m. — Wrestle H into his clothes while the eldest gets dressed. I do my makeup at the kitchen table while they both eat breakfast and chat about dinosaurs. 

7:55 a.m. — We rush out the house to do drop off. We live very close to school and nursery but parking is a nightmare, so this is always my least favourite part of the day as everyone gets very shouty. Today is no exception. 

8:30 a.m. — I am home with a cappuccino from the amazing coffee shop near me and a mild child-related headache, £2.60. 

9:15 a.m. — Attend an appointment with my therapist, who I’ve been seeing for six years now. I find it hard to justify the cost of therapy as it feels selfish (mum guilt is real),£125.  

10:45 a.m. — Finally get to the office, make a round of coffee for everyone and get started on the outstanding items from a recent office move. This was incredibly stressful and just so happened to coincide with my separation (so fun). 

1:10 p.m. — Break for a quick lunch of crumpets, crisps and a banana. Super beige but free!

1:18 p.m. — Remember that H needs new shoes and manage to find some tiny DMs for half price. Briefly rage at the cost of tiny shoes (which are double the cost of mine most of the time) and order them anyway, £34.99.

4:25 p.m. — I give up working on a new induction document and drive home in time to meet my friend who does my nails. We have a great catch up which mainly consists of us laughing at the terrible state of my love life, £40. 

6 p.m. — My nails are finished so I prepare a quick dinner of pasta, courgettes, walnuts and burrata because I have no children to feed tonight and I’m feeling fancy. 

6:30 p.m. — Oh god I’m so full. I am so full. Why do I do this? Roll into the shower and start getting ready for my date later. My life would be so much easier if my makeup was permanent. 

7:32 p.m. — Get a taxi to the pub to meet my date, A, because the weather is gross, £11.20.

7:45 p.m. — Order a large wine just as he shows up, rather damp. Order him a pint too, £17.60. 

8:15 p.m. — We acknowledge the fact that we both have work in the morning and should be sensible, then he orders another round. 

9:20 p.m. — Completely forget about work in the morning and get more drinks in, £17.60. 

11:30 p.m. — The pub is closing and we leave about two hours after we intended to. I decide instead of spending money on a taxi I’ll find a bus stop, completely forgetting no buses go near my house from here. This results in a 45-minute walk home in heels but costs nothing.

Total: £248.99

Day Two

7 a.m. — I do not feel good.

8:30 a.m. — I sit at my desk quietly with a coffee and have a surprisingly productive morning given the wine headache. 

1 p.m. — I admit defeat, drive to M&S and buy sushi, crisps, iced coffee and cookies, £12.50. No regrets. 

4:20 p.m. — I get an email reminding me about school holiday camp. Have a quick chat with my ex, L, over the plan and book C in for two days. He loves it, thank god, but I do always feel guilty for working full time when the holidays come round, £75. 

6 p.m. — I make another lazy pasta dinner with sad looking vegetables and way too much cheese because I have accidentally agreed to go to the pub and need carbs. 

8 p.m. — Walk round the corner to the pub (I have a lot of pubs on my doorstep, tough life) and buy a bottle of wine for the three of us, £24.

11 p.m. — After a lovely few hours of catching up, I call it a night. I do not want to see any wine for at least 24 hours. Get home and my friend K rings for a “quick chat”. 

1:30 a.m. — Two hours into our quick chat, I realise the time, and I tell him I’m going to sleep because one of us (sadly me) has work in the morning.  

Total: £111.50

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up feeling anxious, sad and lethargic, which I assume is due to two nights of drinking.

7:30 a.m. — Shower, makeup, office. Drive past my favourite coffee shop because I’m feeling like I’ve spent a lot of money this week. 

9:10 a.m. — My period arrives early and immediately explains my anxious sad vibe. You’d think I’d remember this happens every month, but apparently not. 

9:47 a.m. — Mark my diary as WFH and drive home. Immediately get changed into comfy leggings and a jumper, then continue working on onboarding our new staff. Accidentally work through lunch.

4 p.m. — My online food shop arrives and I get charged, £77.80. I’m still trying to get the hang of ordering for just me, so I’ve definitely ordered too much, but this shop will last me the week. 

6:30 p.m. — Drive 40 minutes out of the city to see my bestie, stopping off for tights because she texted me in a panic that she didn’t have any for work next week. I also pick her up some flowers and chocolate biscuits because why not, £18.

8 p.m. — We put the world to rights over a Chinese takeaway, £16 for my half of crispy chilli beef, fried rice and spring rolls. 

11:15 p.m. — Set off home and spend the drive on the phone to K, who stays on the phone until I get home.

Total: £111.80

Day Four

9:35 a.m. — Wake up to a text cancelling my Saturday plans. Annoying. I am not sociable enough (aka I don’t have any friends) to make new plans for the day, so I’ll be bobbing about solo. Message my friend about feeling lonely and she offers me her young children for the day. On second thought, maybe I’m good. 

11:15 a.m. — I spend the morning doing yoga and tip runs so I reward myself with a coffee from my favourite coffee shop. This time I’m unable to resist their dark chocolate, oat and pretzel cookies, £4.30. 

1:30 p.m. — Lunch of scrambled eggs on toast. I suck at making meals for one person and end up with a mountain of eggs that I obviously eat and then regret.

5 p.m. — After watching Better Call Saul all afternoon, I decide to make the most of my child-free weekend and finally paint my ceiling.

5:20 p.m. — Drive to the shops for paint, a telescopic roller, dust sheets and new cutting in brush because obviously the last time I painted I left the brush to harden and ruined it because I’m a useless adult, £56.50. 

7:30 p.m. — I’m covered in paint but my ceiling looks excellent. Spend a good half an hour in the shower exfoliating away old tan and paint, washing my hair and imagining hypothetical scenarios in my head (just me?). Rinse out and tidy away the paint equipment because at some point I need to stop spending money on paint brushes that I inevitably ruin through laziness.

8 p.m. — Look at the food in my fridge, decide cooking is too much hard work and throw some freezer tapas in the oven. 

11 p.m. — Have another catch up with K. He fills me in on how his holiday is going and makes me think about booking a holiday for all of five minutes before I remember I have no one to go with. 

12:05 a.m. — Go to bed feeling a bit low. 

Total: £60.80

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Wake up to my very quiet house and think about what the kids are doing. Text my ex to check in, and he sends me a video of H dancing in his pyjamas, which gives me all the feels. 

11 a.m. — Drive to the shops to pick up breakfast pastries and fruit for my colleagues. I suggested a Monday breakfast incentive in a management meeting a couple of years ago and have done this every Sunday since. It is annoying, but it is also my fault, so I can’t moan (this goes on the company card). I also buy wine, lamb mince and plain flour, £21. 

11:45 a.m. — Have an early lunch of avocado and eggs on toast with a cappuccino from home because I’m going to watch football later. I’m not exactly a fan, but I like the opportunity to hang out with my dad. 

12:30 p.m. — Dad picks me up and we drive to the match. This is only my third time of watching them play and I’ve never actually seen a goal yet, so fingers crossed. We have an awkward dad chat about how I’m finding being single, and I (perhaps over-confidently) tell him I’m fine and not to worry. 

3:05 p.m. — Goal!

6 p.m. — We end up winning 3-1, I have three wines and dad drops me home mildly tipsy and starving. I walk down to the shop at the end of my road and pick up a pizza because I cannot justify a takeaway after a bit of a spendy week, £5. Stuff my face while watching Better Call Saul. 

9:25 p.m. — Remember my coat is both broken and too big now as I bought it just after I had H. I begrudgingly order two new coats to try (plus two jumpers) off ASOS, £182. 

10:15 p.m. — Sunday scaries are a thing. I go hide in bed, where I lie doomscrolling and reading my current book, The Satsuma Complex, which is maybe an acquired taste but worth a go.  

Total: £208

Day Six

6:50 a..m. — My alarm goes off for work and even after a really good night’s sleep, I’m not up for it. Go through three outfit changes because none of them look right on me anymore, before I give up and put black jeans on. 

12:30 p.m. — I emerge from a three-hour meeting and disappointingly all the action points from the minutes are for me! Stuff a sandwich in my face and leave work for a GP appointment because my ear is playing up. 

2:45 p.m. — Turns out my inner ear tube is blocked, there’s nothing that they can do, and I just have to wait for it to clear. Frustrating but at least there’s no infection. I spend £1.10 on parking.

5 p.m. — Pick up C from after-school club and hear all about his day. He tells me he learnt all about planets and space but can’t remember any of the planets, and his friend has cool trainers. The life of a seven-year-old. 

5:10 p.m. — Pick up H from nursery and he runs out to give me a big hug. He then informs me that he is a red dilophosaurus, roars in my face and asks for pesto pasta. The life of a three-year-old. 

5:20 p.m. — We get home and they play while I make dinner, as well as making some gluten-free cookies. I’m still learning how gluten-free flour works in baking so this is a bit of an experiment, but luckily they work really well! Too well, in fact, and I sit nibbling them while I finish making dinner.

5:45 p.m. — Pesto pasta is served as requested, but I hide a ton of courgette in it. They eat it and I feel smug. Then, cookies, because life is about balance (and chocolate). 

6:35 p.m. — Cuddle the small ones on the sofa while they watch some terrible Spiderman programme. Kids’ TV really is awful. Flick through Hinge briefly. I’ve had a couple of dates from Hinge but I’m not in the mood to make awkward small talk about my favourite films and what I do for fun, so I close the app.  

7:55 p.m. — The small ones are asleep and I can try on my ASOS haul. Everything is massive. I lost some weight after having H (5 stone) and I still can’t quite get my head around the size I am now. I pack it all up to send back. I then moan to my friend and get zero sympathy for being a muppet and not accepting my new shape, which is fair. 

10 p.m. — K is back from his trip and rings me to chat. We end up making plans to hang out tomorrow. 

11:15 p.m.: — We both have work tomorrow this time, so call it a night.

Total: £1.10

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off, I get myself showered and put on a black wrap dress and boots and get the boys sorted.

7 a.m. — Do my makeup at the kitchen table while they heatedly debate what next door’s cat eats for breakfast. I don’t take sides, but I suspect my three year old’s theory of “macaroni cheese” is flawed.

8:15 a.m. — My mum arrives to do the school run for me because she is a wonderful person. The children are delighted to see her and couldn’t care less about saying goodbye to me, of course. 

9:05 a.m. — I get in late to work because traffic was so bad. The drive should take me 18 minutes. Today it was 50 minutes. I’m hugely grateful work are flexible with hours and when I don’t have the kids, I always try to get in super early to compensate!

12:15 p.m. — After a morning of systems training and IT frustrations, one of the guys at work asks if I want to go to M&S to pick up some lunch. I think about my sad crumpets in the cupboard and immediately go buy a chicken and avocado sandwich and crisps, £4.50. I’m weak. 

4:30 p.m. — Finally finish dealing with a myriad of completely non-HR-related issues at work and escape early to get ready for tonight. 

5:45 p.m. — Make dinner of halloumi, giant couscous, roasted vegetables and homemade guacamole. After the last few days, I feel a need for nutrients. 

6:20 p.m. — Ring K who is still at work and apparently has not had a great day. Ask if he wants to cancel as we’re already seeing each other tomorrow for dinner, but he insists he wants to see me, so we agree to just go for a quick drink. 

7 p.m. — Walk down to a bar on the seafront, where I order a large white wine and he has a coffee. I insist it’s my treat as obviously wine is more expensive than coffee, and the bill is a rather surprising £21.50. Check the menu and see the price for the glass of wine is actually for a medium, not a large as I had thought. So my large wine cost me £16.50. Ouch. 

10 p.m. — We walk back to mine and he heads home. I get into bed and start watch Netflix while I take my makeup off.

11:45 p.m. — Sleep. 

Total: £26

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: £224.40
Clothes & Beauty: £256.99
Home & Health: £181.50
Entertainment: £0
Travel: £12.30
Other: £93.00

Total: £768.19


“I had no idea this was such an expensive week! I had a couple of unusual costs this week, like buying new coats and having a therapy session, but it definitely shows how easy it is to run over budget. I don’t have a very active social life and yet still managed to spend quite a bit of money on going out, although that is symptomatic of where I live. Some days it feels like I can’t leave the house without spending money, and it was quite sobering that that seemed to be the case this week. I really want to try and aim for a couple of ‘no spend’ days per week to see how much this impacts my finances!”

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Money Diary: An Advisory Assistant Manager On 66k

Money Diary: A Superyacht Stewardess On €42,000

Money Diary: A Sales Executive on £21,700