Money Diary: Living In London On £30 A Week

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, a 34-year-old freelance writer and actor living on around £30 a week in London.
Industry: Freelance writer / actor
Age: 34
Location: London
Salary: Very variable as I recently went freelance but my rough monthly take home has been £950 after tax for the last couple of months
No of Housemates: 0 – unless you include the cat Monthly Expenses

Rent: £585
Council Tax: £74
TV licence: £13
EE broadband: £20
BT Sport: £20 (this is a package I have for work)
Sky Sports bundle: £35 discounted rate but about to increase to £50 (also package for work)
Equity membership: £10 (I’m an actor and this basically protects my acting name)
Spotlight: £10
T-Mobile: £35
Drama school loan: £20 Total: £822 – Which leaves me with £128. Divided by four weeks that's £32 a week. When money is this tight you have to organise spending down to the last penny.

Day One

7am – I have breakfast which is homemade muesli and granola with homemade almond milk – all made last week. I buy a bag of Almonds for £2.99 from my local grocer and it lasts me two weeks’ worth of almond milk, almond butter and almond flour – all of which I will use this week but not have to buy. 11am – I have two slices of homemade banana bread, also made last week – usually, I will eat half fresh and freeze the other half for the following week, these are the last of the fresh slices. I also have fresh brewed coffee using my percolator. 1.30pm – I head to the pub with my sister and order a soda and fresh lime. I’ve reduced my alcohol intake to barely anything this year as a lifestyle choice, which really helps when I don't have much spare cash. Then my sister buys me a Beck's Blue (alcohol free) anyway. £0 3pm – I wander the shops with my sister and try on a dress in the sale for £20, breathing happily when it doesn’t fit quite right. 3.20pm – I do my weekly shop. I get the cat food from Tesco Express as it's the only place that stocks the brand she likes, as is a cat's way she will ONLY eat the expensive, gourmet range of wet food which is usually £4.17. Luckily it's on offer – I grab one box for £3.50 as we still have half a box left. I have tried shopping in the large Tesco nearby to reduce food costs in the past but I found the saving was very small and the food quality so poor I threw half of it away (which I hate to do), so I do my weekly shop in our main supermarket… Waitrose.... I know, but it’s actually not that expensive anymore. I buy: Large bottle of sparkling water: £0.45
Bag of sweet potatoes: £1.50
Bag of pink lady apples with seven in a bag: £2.00
6 x free range eggs: £1.00
Bag of celery sticks: £1.00
Two Romaine Heart lettuces: £1.00
Bag of kale: £1.00
Fine green beans: £ 1.50
Chicken goujons pack: £2.20 (I would normally buy a pork belly or whole chicken and cook that for the week as it’s cheaper and lasts longer but I have a mad craving).
Houmous: £1.20
Broccoli: £0.75
3 x limes: £1.17
1 x pepper: £0.60 Total = £15.37 3.45pm – By the time I get home I am starving and too hungry to make anything so I have the second frozen pizza from a Goodfellas pizza I bought last week with a bit of salad followed by an apple with homemade almond nut butter. I sit in sun on my roof terrace reading a book. My studio flat might be a shoebox but the outside space that my landlord tells me not to use is a godsend. 6pm - Back to the pub to meet a friend, have a soda with fresh lime and a Virgin Mary for £2.75. I head home at 8pm and crash on the sofa, too lazy to cook. I have some cheese and chorizo that I bought last night. It’s here that I should add that, every few weeks, I spend my entire week’s money on food stocking up the cupboards with lentils and couscous and quinoa and a whole host of stuff for sugar free baking as I am trying to live as cleanly as possible. This week I still have good stocks of everything so I could afford the £15 shop to get enough to work with. Daily Total: £21.62

Day Two

7am – I have the homemade muesli and almond milk again. 11am – I head to the Co-op across the road to buy lunch stuff for the boat trip I am on today. A friend is bringing her houseboat into London for a month and a bunch of us are meeting her at Angel to help/sunbathe. I buy rolls x 18, a block of cheddar, two bags of donuts and some iced buns…so much for clean living. I bring two of the small bottles of sparkling waters that I have in my fridge and two limes to drink – £7.96. Have an awesome day seeing bits of London I haven’t seen before. I have a weekly 1 and 2 travel card left over from last week when I had work in Vauxhall. I get travel cards if necessary but bus it where possible. That travel card will run out on Weds, so I will bus Thursday and Friday to this week’s temp job. Get home at 9pm and collapse in front of the TV – too tired to cook and not that hungry after I ate two iced buns…so just have a bit of cheese and chorizo again. Daily Total: £7.96

Day Three

7.45am – Breakfast of muesli and almond milk again, prepare lunch of couscous, pepper and celery in homemade salad dressing of olive oil, cider vinegar and Dijon mustard, take lettuce and hummus with me as well as one frozen slice of banana bread, one apple and the nut butter. 9am – Working in Covent Garden. 12pm – Snack on apple and nut butter. 1pm – Head into the sun to read for 30 mins. Strictly NO window-shopping despite being in Covent Garden. Round the corner is a glasses shop with a pair of glasses I covet and that’s not to mention the rest. My sister did tell me about makeup shop Kiko as I am super into bright lipsticks at the moment and these are £3.90 a pop. However, I don’t have enough to indulge today so I promise to treat myself to one on Friday when I can pay myself next week’s money. 6pm – Stop at Co-op on my way home to get more porridge oats for £0.75 and pick up a bar of dark chocolate for £1.50, which I have to pay for separately as I don’t have enough cash left but do have £2 in my account. I try to work with cash so I can see what I am spending but when I have £32 obviously I can’t withdraw the £2. 6.30pm – I go for a two-mile run when I get home, I’m trying to get fitter and get into a routine of running and yoga. I live near a yoga studio that does £2 community classes on a Monday and Tuesday day. This week I can’t go as I’m working but I have also downloaded Fitstar yoga in a bid to do more yoga at home. I don’t like gyms, never have. I much prefer gentle exercise and being outside, even in winter, which is lucky because running is free – well, minus the cost of running gear. 7.30pm – Dinner of chicken goujons, sweet potato fries, roasted broccoli, fine beans and crispy kale in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Followed by two squares of dark chocolate… this either sounds really virtuous and or a bit miserable, right? I make up one bottle of almond milk, a fresh batch of granola and some nut butter using the last of my almonds. Daily Total: £2.25

Day Four

7.30am – Muesli that I have now decided is DEFINITELY granola with almond milk again. 9am – Work. 10am – Banana bread again (I’m not moaning – this is delicious). 1pm – I wander Covent Garden telling myself I am looking for a birthday present for my Mum but spend 30 mins trying on shoes…walk longingly away from some sandals in the sale that are reduced to £19. I make a fatal error of walking into Mango and heading straight for the new collection, find a jumpsuit for £50 and fall in love. Nearly weep as I walk away to go back and eat my homemade lunch… same as yesterday… same as tomorrow… 5pm – Apple and nut butter – just for a change. 5.45pm – Dinner with old work colleagues. I have pizza, ice cream and a coffee with money donated to me from my sister when I said I was going to have to go and just drink water. My sister has been a bit of a superstar the last few months, she even surprised me one day with a monthly care package of toiletries and the sort of necessities that cost the most (washing detergent etc.) £22. Daily Total: £0

Day Five

7.50am – I wake later than usual and wolf down my breakfast before leaving because I can’t afford not to. 11am – Banana bread. 1pm – Venture into Covent Garden again and find Kiko – buy the lipstick I want and a nail polish on sale even though I can’t afford it – here begins the regular dance I do with the bill money sitting in my account to come out and the weekly money I have set aside in my “savings” account. I spend £4.90 – which is technically next week's money. Eat same lunch as yesterday. 6.15pm – I get home and should go for a run but can’t get hold of the client I am supposed to have a work call with to find out what time we are speaking. She eventually pushes it back to Thursday but by then I am hungry and settled on the sofa. Same dinner as day three. Have sparkling water and fresh lime to drink. 10pm – I do some yoga stretches for my back before bed. Daily Total: £4.90

Day Six

8am – Having woken up even later than yesterday I totally forget that today I am supposed to get the bus to save on money. There is enough money on my Oyster so I don’t realise till I get out the tube at Leicester Square and curse myself, as this is more money I will have to borrow from next week. I had planned on borrowing £3 for Friday’s bus, as I knew I had enough on my Oyster already to cover Thursday’s bus to work. 1pm – Home made lunch of egg and couscous salad with chorizo (don’t make enough dressing and it’s a bit dull) – top up my Oyster with £5 and get the tube home because by now I cannot be bothered to get the bus and have a work call, which gets pushed back to Monday but I don’t know that till I am home. Chicken goujons for dinner again. Daily Total: £5

Day Seven

8am – Wake late again, forget completely about the bus plan – get tube, £8. 1.30pm – Eat the same lunch as yesterday; only forget to boil the egg so it’s just chorizo salad. 5pm – Want to go out after work but no one is around, head home and have a sparkling water with fresh lime on my roof terrace. I am supposed to pack for two weeks' dog walking, I don’t. I watch sport on TV. Daily Total: £8
Total weekly spend £49.73, which means over the next two weeks instead of £32 a week to spend I will have £23.14 – which is totally doable but also unnecessary. The good news is that I am dog sitting outside of London for those two weeks so I don’t need to spend on travel. Some weeks are easier than others – I have been budgeting at this level for a few months now but work has picked up. My money hasn’t caught up yet as I am waiting for invoice rounds but just the promise of money coming means I have been a bit more careless with spending than I would have been. As soon as you sense money coming you start spending it.