Money Diary: A 29-Year-Old Cruise Ship Medic On 22k

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 29-year-old paramedic who left the NHS three years ago to work on cruise ships – I always loved travelling, and this was the only way I could find to get paid for it. I spend four months at a time working and living on a ship. Ship life is hard work and a bit crazy, and while I’m on board I work pretty much every day of my four-month contract. I came to sea to travel but didn’t count on how much I would love my job, the lifestyle and fellow crew – I’ve been lucky enough to work and make friends with some amazing people from all over the world while travelling to some beautiful places. It’s hard work at times but more interesting than at home, and it’s been a refreshing change after getting stuck in a bit of a rut in the ambulance service. Taking this job meant taking a pay cut but my living expenses are drastically reduced when I’m at sea (no rent, minimal bills and most of the food on board is free) so I’m actually finding it easier to save money. I try to save around half my paycheque every month while I’m at sea, and while my expenses increase when I return home, I try to pick up a few ambulance shifts to avoid spending my savings." 
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: Nottingham, although work takes me all over the world (Caribbean at present).
Salary: Varies depending on how much time I spend at sea and how many bank shifts I pick up at home. Around £22-25k a year.
Paycheque amount: £2,300 (tax free) while I’m at sea. At home it depends how many shifts I do – can be anywhere between £500 to £2,500, but usually around £800 a month.
Number of housemates: At home: my parents and two cats. On the ship: 1,300 crew and around 4,000 passengers. I have my own cabin, I don’t share a bathroom and I have windows – these are big privileges on ships. I also have a boyfriend, M, who I met on ships – we are doing the long-distance thing as he now lives and works in Canada, so I spend some of my vacation time travelling over there.
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: There is no rent on the ship as living expenses are taken into consideration when they calculate our salaries. At home my parents are awesome and don’t charge me rent as I’m usually only around for a few weeks at a time. I use my family allowance to get them a free cruise once or twice a year, and also pitch in with food shopping and general expenses.
Loan payments: I’m in the very lucky position of not having any debt. When I went to university there was (and still is) a shortage of paramedics, so the NHS covered my course fees and I got a monthly bursary. I also worked part-time through my studies so between all this I managed to get through university without a student loan. I’ve always been quite anxious about getting into debt and am fairly good at saving, so for big purchases I prefer to use my savings rather than taking out a loan.
Utilities: My biggest monthly expense is probably the ship internet, which is $60 (£46) for 30 days – it’s unlimited but the quality is very variable. Some days we can stream Netflix, other days it doesn’t work at all. I don’t have any other bills on the ship, but I do tip my cabin steward between $75-100 (£57-76) a month – this is custom on a ship. My current steward is amazing and does a lot for our medical team. He makes my bed every day, changes the linen and towels, cleans the cabin and takes my uniform to the laundry. This contract in particular has been so busy that some days I barely see my cabin, so coming back to a freshly made bed every night has done wonders for my mood. He does a great job keeping our medical centre clean and tidy, and he doesn’t get paid much at all, so the tips from the officers he serves make a huge difference to his monthly wages and the money he sends home to his family in the Philippines.
Transportation: I pay £40 car tax a year (my mum paid this last month as it came in the post while I was away – must pay her back when I get home) and around £250 for a year’s car insurance. My brother is using my car at the moment while his is in the garage.
Phone bill: £26 a month for a SIM only plan, but worth it for 3’s Go Roam package – my phone works in about 60 countries including the USA which is really useful when travelling so much.
Savings? Around £50,000 split between an ISA, a Help to Buy ISA and a general savings account. The plan is to buy a house in the near future but this hasn’t got very far recently – despite saving a decent deposit, the banks see my income as unstable due to contract work, and when I’m only at home for a short time there just isn’t the chance to get everything organised.
Other: Spotify family £14.99, shared with my parents and brother (I pay for this and my brother pays for Netflix). I donate £8 to Mencap and £10 to Stonewall every month. £180 professional registration fees every two years – I have a direct debit, so pay £45 every six months. I also pay £9 for College of Paramedics membership fees.

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