Money Diary: I Earn 27k – Here’s What I Spent On Christmas Shopping

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 34-year-old living in north Northamptonshire. I work as part of the care service as a personal adviser, holding a caseload of young people aged 16-25 who are currently in the care of the local authority or were looked after when they were under 18. I moved to Northamptonshire four years ago with my partner, P, to be closer to his two daughters with his ex. We’ve since had two more children together and I have just returned to work after maternity leave. We have lived in a four-bedroom, semi-detached house owned by my parents for the past two years. After my grandmother died they wanted to invest their inheritance and property has a good return.
At Christmas I take charge of all the shopping and try to be really organised and avoid panic-buying. I have a notebook where I keep logs of what I’ve bought and numerous lists on my phone of what I still need to buy. This year I’m trying really hard to avoid Amazon as it’s hard to justify supporting a multinational company that pays so little tax when I’m taking food vouchers to kids struggling to survive on universal credit. I usually pay for everything with savings and space purchases out through the year but with maternity leave I still have lots to buy and there is a lot of credit card use and, for the first time, Klarna. I try not to be too consumerist and have gradually tapered the amount we spend over the years. Currently, we’re down to 15 stocking presents of about £5 for my stepdaughters and one big gift from their dad and me. As a stepmother, I find it quite challenging balancing my values around ethical shopping and avoiding plastic tat against the values at their mum’s house and have really had to rein myself in to avoid ruining the magic for the girls."
Occupation: Personal adviser
Industry: Social work
Age: 34
Location: Northamptonshire
Salary: £26,879
Paycheque amount: £2,239.92 before deductions. The actual amount varies depending on my mileage that month (I get 45p a mile reimbursement for business miles). This month after deductions (tax, student loan, union fees, pension) and plus mileage I was paid £1,746.05
Number of housemates: Five: my boyfriend, P; my stepdaughters M, 9, and F, 7, who are here around half the time; daughter B, 2; and son E, 8 months.
Pronouns: She/her
 
Monthly Expenses
Loan payments: Around £40 for my overdraft excursions each month, £100 on a loan I took out when maternity was more expensive than anticipated and around £200 on my credit card (minimum payment usually). My student loan comes out of my pay each month at £65. 
Savings? 3p according to the banking app I’ve just checked. Maternity leave and no mileage through the pandemic has meant living paycheque to paycheque.
Pension? I pay into the local government pension scheme at 6.5% and have six years accrued now, five at this job and one from when I first graduated and worked in a school for a year.
Housing costs: £425 for my half of the rent, P transfers me £425 for his each month.
Utilities: £155 gas and electric, £78 water, £167 council tax and £17 contents insurance. P transfers £250 towards these bills but he also pays Wi-Fi, TV licence and Netflix. I pay my personal car costs, including £43 for insurance and £11 for road tax.
All other monthly expenses: £15 SIM-only contract. Childcare for the little two is currently £180 per week for two days full-time childminder (£90 per child). I’d intended to have E starting when B gets her 30 free hours after Christmas so this cost wouldn’t be so high but I got pregnant quicker than I thought so I'm paying this until January. I use the government scheme which tops up what you pay in so I pay £144 myself and HMRC pays the other 20%. I also put £25 a month into a savings account for each child so they have something when they’re older. Subscriptions: Disney+ £7.99.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I studied nursing at a Russell Group university and if I could go back I wouldn’t do it again. I’ve never practised as a nurse and was so depressed and anxious by my final year that I scraped a third. I should have probably dropped out at the end of my first year to focus on my mental health but should, would, could. My parents paid my rent through university, the NHS paid my fees and I had a maintenance loan for living.  
 
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
I don’t really remember many conversations, I was encouraged to save for what I want and had to earn my pocket money but money wasn’t particularly openly talked about it. Money was definitely tight when I was young, up until about the age of 12 when my mum retrained and started working full time. I think before then my grandparents helped out in some ways maybe.
 
If you have, when did you move out of your parents'/guardians' house?
I’ve been in and out more often than the hokey cokey. I went at 18 for uni, came back at 21 when I graduated. Left at 22 for travelling then came back. Left again at about 23 to move in with friends and came back at 24 when the partying and drinking there got too much. Moved away at 25 for a live-in job and lived half at work, half at home, then went properly at 27 into my own flat and this time I haven’t been back!
 
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
At 21 when I graduated and got my first job. Mum and Dad have always been clear that they would never see me struggle and if life is hard their parents helped them so they would help us. They have loaned me bits of money in the past but nothing serious.
 
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My very first job was a paper round at 12, delivering papers around the village I lived in. I got it to top up my pocket money and fund my cool emo girl shopping trips into the nearest city.
 
Do you worry about money now?
All the time, money is my biggest stress and I have a worry about it at least once a day.
 
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
Yes, my grandparents saved some money for us as children. I used mine when I went travelling at 22 and then the remainder of it and some I inherited from an uncle to leave a very toxic job situation at 29 and relocate to Northamptonshire.

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