Money Diary: A Charity Worker In London On 38k

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 28-year-old journalist living in London. I’m from overseas but moved to the UK to attend university and eventually London in 2017 after graduation. I’m currently hopping around anonymous flatshares as all my friends are currently either coupled up, moving back home or have pursued more lucrative careers and now live alone. I’m not currently seeing anyone as I had a huge pandemic breakup that I’m still not really over so I'm taking a dating break to sort the rest of my life out and focus on work. When it comes to money, confused is the first word that comes to mind. A few big life events have meant that I've had to drain my savings a few times since I left home. This caused me to develop an unconscious belief that there is no point in savings or financial plans, so why bother. I’ve managed to shift this mindset a bit in recent years, but still think I have some work to do. My resolution this year has been to educate myself more, and find ways to manage my finances in a way that still allows for me to be happy with my life."
 
Occupation: Journalist
Industry: Charity
Age: 28
Location: London, UK 
Salary: £38,000
Paycheque Amount: £2,258 monthly after pension deductions
Number of housemates: Three (I barely know them or see them)
Pronouns: she/her
Monthly Expenses
 
Housing costs: £420. I know this is insanely cheap for London but I have a box room, no living room and the place would definitely be condemned if anyone ever actually came to take a look at it.
Loan payments: £0
Savings?: £2,096.37. I use a combination of Chip (which has an AI autosaving feature and the highest interest rate for an easy access savings account I could find) and a regular saver with my bank, where I’ve locked in an automatic £300 transfer from my checking account monthly. I want to save £7,200 (or six months essential living expenses) as soon as possible. 
Pension?: I have £4,733.21 after having recently consolidated my current pension with two others from previous workplaces. I contribute £180 per month, I get an additional £45 in tax relief and my employer generously pays £222.56. Once I have my emergency fund saved, I plan on upping my contribution to £220 per month.
Utilities: £72.56 for household bills. £4.85 in renter's insurance.
All other monthly payments: £20 for my sim only phone plan. Subscriptions: £10 to a chosen charity, £9.99 for Spotify, £14 in various newspaper subscriptions, £35 for ClassPass.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I have an undergraduate degree in Politics and Economics. An otherwise distant wealthy relative offered to cover tuition fees if they deemed the university impressive enough. I got in to a prestigious school, and they followed through. For living expenses, my estranged parent was legally required to give me some money until I was fully employed through child support payments according to my parents' divorce settlement. I genuinely forget how much it was, but I remember it did not cover my rent. I covered the rest of my living expenses by working part-time and scouring the internet for small grants and loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
I was set up with a bank account at six years old and a credit card at 13 years old, but mentions of money were very much about struggle or conflict. The parent who raised me went through a breakdown when I was around nine which meant I started to take care of paying the bills, doing the food shop, and being the one to ask my estranged parent for the child support payments (who suffered with addiction issues). In my teens, my wealthy relative stepped in at random, times to cover a payment here or there. This meant that from the outside, everything looked fine so other adults didn't feel the need to step in.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents/guardians house?
I moved out to come to university in the UK at 18, but went back for two summers and worked there. I slept on the couch and none of my stuff was there anymore though. I technically lost residency in my home country when I took my post-grad job here. 
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
I would say second year out of university, so 2017. My estranged parent forgot to cancel their child support payments to me and I didn't remind them to cancel them.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I used to be a musician at weddings and bars throughout my preteen and early teen years. I was underage and was paid under the table. My parents used to take chunks of it, and they were the ones that put me forward for the gigs. The first job I got legally and on my own was at a gelato shop when I was 17 for a summer.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, but far less than I ever have. I had significant credit card debt from university which at its highest was about £8,500 on a high-interest credit card. I paid off the credit card debt in the summer of 2019, and then got laid off the first day furlough ended that autumn. I was unemployed for the next seven months, despite working my ass off to get a job (no one was hiring in that cursed third lockdown). In December 2021, I finally paid off the debt I'd accrued during unemployment and started to save. I really try to not allow the embarrassment of debt to take hold, but I work in the media and non-profit sector in London and went to a prestigious uni, so the people around me are pretty much all way better off than I am.
 
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
No.
If you are under 25, in your first full time job role and are interested in submitting a money diary, please send a bit of information about you and your situation to moneydiary@refinery29.uk. We pay £100 for each published diary. Apologies but we’re not able to reply to every email.

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