Money Diary: A 25-Year-Old Cambridge PhD Student On An 18k Stipend

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 25-year-old first-year PhD student living in Cambridge. I’ve lived here for the last three years, having originally moved here for a two-year fixed term position on a graduate scheme at a local pharmaceutical company. A year after moving to Cambridge, my partner (I) moved to the city and we moved into a flat together. He is also studying for a PhD but has been stuck at home since the start of the pandemic as his work is mostly computational. My lab works on DNA repair and I’m particularly interested in a protein found in sperm, which makes for some interesting introductions when I meet new people.
 
During the early stages of the pandemic, my normal project work in my previous role was de-prioritised so I volunteered on the COVID-19 screening team, an experience that was both rewarding and emotionally draining. It was a tough but welcome adjustment to start my PhD last October.
With regards to money, I am definitely a saver rather than a spender and tend to get quite anxious about buying 'unnecessary' things for myself. This is an attitude I’m trying to change as I think it would be nice to treat myself a bit more. I had been planning to make a big splurge this week on a belated 25th birthday party for myself, which had been keeping me going for the last few months. Sadly I decided to cancel the event due to the high case numbers at the moment as I didn’t think my pals and I would be able to properly relax and party. I’m still planning to go ahead with this at some point in the future when it feels safe to do so."
 
Industry: Academic research
Age: 25
Location: Cambridge
Salary: £18,000
Paycheque amount: £1,500 (no deductions as it’s a PhD stipend)
Number of housemates: One, my partner I.
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: £1,150 total rent, split equally with my partner. We’re lucky as our flat is in a great spot in central Cambridge but since we’re both PhD students we don’t have to pay council tax. All utilities are split equally between I and me. £70 for water and electricity. £46.50 for broadband.
Loan payments: None (student loan repayments are currently paused due to student status).
Savings? £22,000 in a savings account (I’m planning to put £4,000 of this into a LISA this year). I’ve always been quite frugal and after finishing my undergrad I worked at a pharmaceutical company for a couple of years and was able to save a lot. I’d planned for a significant amount of this to go toward a trip abroad prior to starting my PhD last September but this got derailed by the lockdowns. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been able to save a lot more than normal mostly due to lockdowns restricting social activities and travel.
All other monthly expenses: Phone bill £10 per month for a giffgaff SIM. Subscriptions: £5.99 Netflix, £3.99 Amazon Prime Student, £10.62 Protect Your Bubble gadget insurance.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series