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Money Diary: A Communications Manager On £38,000

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last penny.
This week: “I’m a 26-year-old manager working in communications. I grew up in Scotland and moved to London after the pandemic for work. Since publishing my previous diary this time last year, I’ve gotten engaged, had a promotion, and sadly lost a close family member. My last diary attracted a lot of flak as my fiancé, H, who works in finance, earns roughly eight to 10 times my salary. I appreciate it is controversial but I think we have a system that works for us. Living costs aside, we tend to split things down the middle and both like to treat each other. And to answer some comments from last time: No, H is not a sugar daddy/older than me, nor did I know how much he made when we met — trust me when I say, I’m not hot enough for that. Generally, I like to think I’m decent with money although I’m aware I’m now in a privileged position. I haven’t increased my monthly budget since moving in together and I put all my savings straight to my ISA. At the same time, I know I won’t be young and living in London forever so I do want to make the most of it.”
Occupation: Account manager
Industry: Communications
Age: 26
Location: London
Salary: £38,000 plus bonus up to 10% dependent on company and individual performance.
Paycheque Amount: £2,376 monthly after student loans, tax, and pension.
Number of housemates: One my fiancé, H.
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: My boyfriend, H, owns our two-bedroom flat and I pay him £500 a month towards the mortgage, bills and our cleaner.
Loan payments: £66 — I’m lucky to be on the Scottish system which has much lower interest rates than England though I’m still nowhere close to paying it off.
Savings?: I have roughly £21,000 in savings split across a fixed term ISA, emergency fund, and my wedding, holiday, and presents funds.
Pension? I pay £126.05 but I’ve been debating whether to up this recently.
Utilities: Included in housing costs.
All other monthly payments: £17 phone contract, £20 to my local foodbank back home where I used to volunteer (I do this through H’s work so that they match it).
Subscriptions: £69 for Classpass, £95 annually for Prime.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I was the first in my family to go to university. It was always my plan growing up, however my mum tried to manage my expectations as not many people from our school went on to higher education. I did my undergrad in Scotland, so I took out a maintenance loan and worked two part-time jobs to cover costs. I then went on to study a master’s degree in England, which I covered through loans, savings and support from my parents.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
While my immediate family were fairly financially comfortable, I grew up in one of the most deprived areas of the country and saw many of my wider family struggle with money. We never wanted for anything but my parents emphasised the value of hard work and living within our means. When we were 12, my dad took me and my brother to open bank accounts and encouraged us to save for the future.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents’/guardians’ house?
I moved away for university at the age of 17, came back during lockdown and then moved out again at 23.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
I began covering my own costs when I moved to university at 17, although I always had the option of going back to my parents’ house. Up until moving in with H, I would have considered myself financially independent. However, I know that I pay way below market price now for my flat. I’m grateful for the opportunity to save but it’s important to me that I don’t become reliant on this. I know I could afford to live independently in London on my salary, although now that we are getting married I hope I never need to!
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started babysitting for family and neighbours at 12 for spending money. When I turned 16 I got a job at Tesco and worked every overtime shift I could to save for university.
Do you worry about money now?
I’m aware that I am in a very privileged position given H’s income, but from a personal perspective I do still worry about rising costs. Increasingly I wonder about whether it would be worthwhile working when we have children given that the costs are the same as my salary, but I worked hard for my career and I really value it.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
My parents gave me £13,000 towards the cost of my master’s. This was money they’d saved up over decades to pay off their mortgage, and I feel both incredibly grateful and guilty they gifted it to me. I have since offered it to them as a lump sum but they wouldn’t take it. Sadly, a close family member passed away last year after living with my family — I am extremely grateful to be receiving a third of their estate in the next month, which will come out to roughly £20,000. I haven’t decided what to do with this other than high-yield savings as I feel some guilt that they worked hard all their life for it, and specified it was to give me a good start in life, which through other circumstances I’ve already had.