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 am 24 years old and moved to Wiltshire just over a year ago to move in with my partner who is studying nearby, after a stint of doing long distance when I worked in London. It was definitely the right move – not just because living together has been great but the work feels more rewarding and I feel like my new service really looks after me. I work in an IAPT service which provides free psychological support to people experiencing various mental health difficulties across the UK – if you are looking for support yourself, just search IAPT and your area and your local service will appear. We are currently working from home due to COVID and running all of our appointments by phone, which I prefer in some ways as I have gained a couple of hours in my day from not commuting! But I do miss the social aspect of my role from seeing less people face to face.
My living situation with my partner is currently in a one-bed furnished flat – the rent is really good value but being cooped up over lockdown has really impacted our mental health and made us realise how desperately we want to buy our first home as it would be impossible to rent a bigger property with our incomes as they are. Thankfully, we realised we had already saved enough to do so thanks in part to my frugal approach to money. I have always kept track of my budget with a spreadsheet and tend not to spend much week on week, though I do occasionally treat myself."
Industry: IAPT (mental health) Age: 24 Location: Wiltshire Salary: £24,907 Paycheque amount: £1,605.38 Number of housemates: One, my boyfriend Housing costs: £575 Loan payments: £180 – car payment on a car loan of £4,000 at 0% interest. I am just under the student loan payment threshold. Savings? I try to save £300 a month (though have saved much more during COVID). £4,462.57 in savings accounts, £15,078.03 in my LISA thanks to lots of penny-pinching (we are just about to buy our first house!). My partner works part-time and is studying for his undergraduate degree (this is why he contributes a lot less). Utilities: Energy £52.22, council tax £105. Partner pays for water and food. Transportation: £20 a month due to lockdown and not travelling home. Phone bill: £12 – I am still on my dad's family plan and buy my phone outright so it keeps costs low. Other: £16.50 contact lenses (keep meaning to cancel as I haven't been cycling to work so no longer use them. I was in a bad cycling accident a few years ago which led to my glasses cutting deeply into my face above my eyebrow and two new scars and have used these ever since to avoid it happening again. That was with a helmet!). 1 of 8 Day One 8am: Roll out of bed after a sleepless night (thank you, hormones) and curse my body's natural alarm clock for waking me up so soon. I decide to make waffles with our waffle maker to help myself feel better about the lack of sleep – I really pushed back about investing in one as I thought we wouldn't use it but honestly, it has made my weekend mornings so much better. The anticipation builds as I wait for them to cook before finally! They are ready. I open the waffle iron up, hoping to see the perfect golden waffle…and it is stuck to the waffle iron. I can hardly get it out and it ends up resembling scrambled tofu that's mated with waffles. It looks yucky but it is at least edible. My partner emerges an hour later and I glare at him, envious of his perfect night's sleep and lie-in. I tell him not to comment about the failed waffle I am eating. He grunts at me – clearly neither of us is having a great Sunday morning! 9.45am: My alarm goes off telling me to go and get my flu jab. After a wee sulk I force myself out into the cold and drive to the flu jab place offering weekend jabs for NHS staff. Normally I would cycle but feeling as tired as I am, I opt to drive. 10.30am: Arrive back home and decide to practise some self-care and cheer myself up by watching This is Us on my partner's sister's Prime (shameless piggybacking) and finishing off my travel scrapbook for our trip to Germany much earlier in the year. Oh, the days when we were allowed to travel. I pat myself on the back for taking some decent pictures this time. 12pm: Feeling a bit low from missing my family and tiredness so I call home for an hour and watch the family dog and cat play around on camera. Feeling better, I help myself to mac 'n' cheeze leftovers while watching another This is Us episode. The leftovers are courtesy of one of the best vegan macaroni cheeses I have been able to find, by someone called The Protein Ninja. 2pm: Decide now is the time to finish decluttering some of my old degree folders, getting my notes ready to scan in as PDFs tomorrow to try and sell online. I am quite sceptical about whether this is worthwhile but after seeing it advertised on my newsfeed and posting an inquiry in a psychology Facebook group it seems like it might be quite profitable! Two people have already contacted me to ask if they could buy them and I haven't even tried to sell them yet – makes me feel better for hoarding them the past two years. 4pm: My brother calls and we chat as I finish making stock from the vegetable scraps I have been saving up over the week and cooking a chilli 'non' carne soup for dinner. I have just started making my own stock and although it is a bit faffy, it does taste good and makes me feel better for reducing food waste. 7pm: Dinner finished and another This is Us episode down, I decide to play The Sims for the first time in months. I realise they have a sale on and promptly purchase three of the packs, including one I have wanted for so long (£40.97). Spend the rest of the evening playing and watching His Dark Materials. 9.30pm: Off to bed! Total: £40.97 2 of 8 Day Two 7.30am: My body's alarm clock wakes me up and I groan at missing out on another 15 minutes sleep before dragging myself up for a shower and pancakes made from the leftover failed waffle batter. 9am: Log into work from my home office aka the desk at the end of my bed and complete reviews for some clients I am supporting on our online CBT programme. 10am: My first appointment of the day cancels so I open up the library book I am using for continued professional development, called Mind Over Mood. I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with critical, negative or worrying thoughts. 11am: My mum replies to a message about a massage hamper us kids are putting together for my dad's Christmas present, me and my brother are chipping in £30 each and my teenage sister is putting in £10. I buy the £50 gift voucher for the spa he likes and message my siblings to update them and ask my brother to transfer his half. We will buy some extra bits to go with the hamper later using the remaining money. I also finally pause my contact lens subscription for the next three months as it is unlikely we will be going back to the office any time soon. £25 11.30am: Call one of my online CBT clients for our telephone review, it's great to hear how they have been getting on. I then have a lunch of reheated mac 'n' cheeze because batch cooking is life, before returning to work for a 1:1 telephone session with a client and then cycling into the office for some much-needed time with the photocopier. Cycling not only saves me money and keeps me fit but it actually earns me money through the Better Points app, which rewards you for journeys using your own two feet. 6pm: Arrive home via the post office where I sent off some items I sold on eBay. I heat up the remaining ‘soup' – which has turned into chilli overnight – and spend the evening watching more This is Us and playing Sims. 9.45pm: Off to bed. Total: £25 3 of 8 Day Three 7.30am: Wake up and manage a 10 minute meditation in bed because 1) we are still avoiding turning on the extortionate and very poor underfloor heating system and 2) I am trying to push back against my perfectionist nature and allow myself to practise things in ways that are accessible for me. I manage to squeeze in some yoga too before breakfast of homemade apple crumble. 9am: I spend the morning reading through my Mind Over Mood book and seeing clients. 12pm: Lunch meeting with some of the trainee PWPs to help them with transitioning into running our initial contact assessments. 1pm: More back-to-back clients with a focus on low mood this afternoon before signing off at 5pm to start cooking dinner: spaghetti and 'nutballs'. It turns out surprisingly well and I get the partner seal of approval. We spend the evening playing Settlers of Catan and watching This is Us – it's nice to spend some quality time with my partner as we tend to get caught up in binge-watching. 10pm: Off to bed. I managed not to spend anything today! Total: £0 4 of 8 Day Four 7.30am: Wake up and do my meditation. I have a shower and make some porridge. 9am: A day of our initial contact assessments: six back-to-back appointments (each 45 minutes long with 15 minutes for notes) and a gap in the middle for lunch. My second client doesn't answer their phone for the assessment. This is not uncommon and I can't help but feel a mixture of relief – as six attended appointments is exhausting – and annoyance, as these missed appointments are one of the main reasons our waiting list is currently looming into January (four to six weeks ahead). Prior to COVID we used to see eight clients a day for back-to-back 45 minute appointments but they changed this to reduce staff burnout during telephone work. So much better. 5pm: Finish the day with five out of six of my assessments turning up. It's a mixture of people who I will discuss in supervision for further one-to-one support and others who we made a plan of techniques to try out. Surgery days are always hard as you rarely know who you will get and what techniques you'll need to draw on. Thankfully today wasn't too intense due to the cancellation. 6pm: My friend cancels our virtual workout session and we rearrange for tomorrow. My partner is in charge of dinner today (we have an agreement that he cooks once a week so that I don't begin to resent something I enjoy – he hates it but it keeps me happy). He makes one of our favourite noodle recipes: vegan chow mein. I spend the rest of the evening playing Sims and watching TV. 10pm: Can't believe I managed a second no-spend day! I head off to sleep around 10pm. Total: £0 5 of 8 Day Five 7.45am: I wake up after a restless night's sleep to a rude awakening by my alarm. A big sign for me that I haven't slept well recently! I manage to ghost through getting ready, showering and having my usual breakfast of porridge. 9am: Ready at the home office for my three morning assessments. I speak with one person receiving intense bullying at work and refer them to our employment support service, and an older man who is doing much better after introducing lockdown-safe social activities into his week. 12.30pm: I make it out for the first time since Monday for a walk. It's so sunny and crisp outside – I berate myself for not doing this more often when I make it back home for lunch (leftover chilli). I do some work admin as I eat, then meet with my line manager for a discussion about my workload. We agree it would be manageable for me to add four more assessments into the next couple of weeks. They fill up by the next day. 2pm: My treatment session client cancels so I open my Mind Over Mood book and look into techniques to help with shame. I finish at 5pm after speaking with some of my online CBT clients, signing up a new client and preparing for my assessment sessions next week. 5.30pm: My friend calls for our evening workout and we manage a 15 minute full body workout by Chloe Ting before calling it quits. Gosh I've lost so much arm strength. I then have an evening to myself, enjoying my leftover spaghetti and nutballs and control over the TV as my partner is at work (he works in a supermarket). I finish up reading my new library book, A Bit of a Stretch, having taken a good week to psych myself up for it. I devour 70 pages in one sitting – getting started is always the hardest part. Borrowing books from the library has been another way I have tried to save money and it has helped me get back into reading as I no longer feel guilty for getting a new book. Total: £0 6 of 8 Day Six 6.45am: My partner's alarm for his shift goes off. I try and fail miserably to fall back asleep even though I barely slept in the night. I manage a meditation and my usual breakfast as I wake up. 9am: Ready for my six sessions of surgery assessments today. I meet with one very low client with diabetes and try to encourage them to take small steps back into their interests, come up with a plan to support a pregnant lady with PTSD and listen as another discloses their sexual assault for the first time. I feel honoured they trusted me to hear this. 12.15pm: Rush through a working lunch (leftover spaghetti and nutballs) as I work through email admin, sign virtual leaving cards and transfer some money for their collections (£20). I then tune in for my next assessment client, only for them not to turn up. I use the time to call home, feeling very homesick after finding out they are in tier three and I will have to pick between seeing my partner and my family for Xmas. I haven't seen them since September and will be unlikely to see them for another two months. 5pm: Finish the day with two more clients attending their sessions (stress and relationship breakdown) and note-writing. Prepare myself for a productive evening eating the last of the leftovers, doing a virtual workout with a friend and planning the weekend. 10pm: Productivity failed! Ended up just watching lots of This is Us and doing a family video call that I expected to last for 30 minutes but went on for two hours. My family does love to talk! I did manage a virtual workout with my friend however, so at least there is that. I have a deep chat with my partner as we fall asleep. Total: £20 7 of 8 Day Seven 7.45am: Thank you, oh so accurate body alarm clock for waking me up early on one of the few days I can lie in! I refuse to get up and lie in bed for a few hours watching It's Me or the Dog with my partner. We can't wait to move and get a pup of our own. We finally get up around 11am, shower and eat breakfast while I proofread my partner's law report – a dull start to a Saturday but he did such a good job with it! 11.30am: Plan meals for the following week (including a Japanese feast from Miguel Barclay's £1 vegan meals to celebrate the end of lockdown). My partner has said he needs to keep food at £30 a week to be in his budget but just looking at the amount of things we need to stock up on, I know this week will likely be £50, eesh. 12pm: Do my weekly budget calculations on my spreadsheet – it is looking positive so far, thanks to selling a lot of things on eBay and my partner giving me some money back for the solicitor's fees. But I forgot to postpone my Graze subscription. £3.99 1pm: Have the last of the chow mein with my partner while watching This is Us and then proceed to spend the rest of the day prepping my old uni notes to be sold online. 7pm: Log onto my laptop to join the meditation course I signed up to last week only to find I haven't been sent the link. I manage to join half an hour late, thanks to technological issues and trying the previous week's link just in case it worked, missing out on the starter meditation and struggling to engage in the other half. I make plans to rewatch the session recording on Monday to make sure I get my money's worth! £17.50 9pm: Head to bed, feeling unsure whether or not this was a Saturday well spent… Total: £21.49 8 of 8 The Breakdown Food & Drink: £3.99 Entertainment: £40.97 Clothes & Beauty: £0 Transportation: £0 Other: £62.50 Total: £107.46 Conclusion "This week I spent more money than I would normally, due to Christmas and leaving gifts and treating myself. On average, once bills etc are paid I would probably only spend £20 a week (if that). I am quite minimal and normally save items I would like to buy for my Christmas/birthday list as I never know what to ask for and prefer to make sure that I am bought things I will use. But other than Graze, there are no things here I regret spending money on or would have done differently. I think keeping this diary has made me realise how little I actually tend to spend day to day – it's made me wonder if I am odd or if most people are like this and don't attempt to submit a money diary because they worry it might be boring!"