Money Diary: A Recently Divorced 33-Year-Old On 33k

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 we're with a newly divorced project manager living in southeast London in a tiny hobbit flat that just fits her and her craft supplies. She is single...ish. Which basically means she's in that weird bit of a new relationship where they don't talk about where it's going.
"I'm a big believer in budgeting for everything, which works well at the start of the month, but I tend to let it go awry on the odd night out! The end of the month will usually see me eating from supplies and frantically trying not to use my credit card. When I get paid I set a budget for each category that I need to spend money on, and transfer the money into the pots for each. I try to save in advance for things like car insurance and Christmas presents. Some months are more successful than others. Some months I’ll stick to my budget, and others I’ll end up blowing the entire fun pot on one night out. I try not to be too hard on myself when I deviate from the plan; I just pick up, dust off and move on.
I’m partial to a bit of gin and frivolity. I rent, and doing it on my own is pretty expensive. I'm battling a bit (a lot) of debt and trying to get the balance right between living, having fun and paying down the debt so that I don’t go into my 40s in the same financial situation. I’m aiming to pay around £500 on debt a month and, since the start of the year, have managed around this figure most months. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’ll probably never own a property, but I want to be able to start properly saving for my future financial security.
Industry: Finance (digital project management)
Age: 33
Location: Southeast London / Kent borders
Salary: £33,000
Paycheque amount: £2,152
Number of housemates: 0 – I’m too old and grouchy to share with strangers, no matter how much money it would save me.
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: £775 rent. God bless the prices in the southeast (not). A teeny one-bed flat with good commuter links in an area where I feel safe walking home alone from the train station after dark.
Loan payments: £244.27
Gas and electric: £35.28
Water: £10.05
Council tax: £69
Internet: £19.99
TV licence: £12.37
Transportation: £100 in the 'Car Fund' to cover insurance (pay upfront for a year), breakdown cover, tax, MOT, service and repairs. £100 in petrol – commute to work is driving.
Phone bill: £32.99
Savings: Ha. No seriously, I have a £70 emergency fund which I am building up to try and stop me using my credit card, and some small amounts squirrelled away for certain things when I need them. Last month the emergency fund got a battering because my washing machine and GHDs broke in the same month. I put £20 a month into the fund. I split my wages on payday into various ‘pots’, so I currently have around £900 saved and allocated for various things like food, fun, health, car, clothes and presents. It sounds really organised, and in a way it is, but they aren’t real savings because I dip into the pots as and when I need to spend from them.
Other: Netflix: £5.99; Contacts: £17.50; Gym: £25.95; Credit card repayments: around £250 a month.
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Day One

4am: What is this pain in my throat. Please don’t let it be a cold.

6am: Gym alarm goes off. I ignore it and go straight back to sleep.

7am: It’s a cold. I get up, get showered and get ready for work. I feel like death, and as much as I’d love to take a day sick, there’s a product launch next week which is obviously way more important than me having a cold, and I’d probably be hung, drawn and quartered if I dared to call in sick. I can tell the cold is a bad one. A proper blocked ears, streaming nose, painful throat, achy back, headache one. Knowing I’m going to have a really busy and full-on day, I stop at the pharmacy on the way to work and get Nurofen cold and flu (£5.99 – gasp!), aka the big guns of cold medication, then pop into the garage for a cheese and bacon turnover (£1.65) and a bottle of juice (£1.20), because, well, feed a cold is a thing, isn’t it? I don’t even usually eat breakfast, I just skip straight to lunch, but I have a feeling I’m going to need the strength today. Get to work, get told by a few people I look like shit on a stick (gee, thank you Susan) and get cracking.

12.30pm: Time for more tablets and I eat the lunch of cucumber, hummus and fruit that I’ve brought from home. Then I eat tomorrow's portion, too. Work, as expected, is busting my metaphorical balls and I just want to be in bed.

2pm: Wonder how much tea and coffee is too much tea and coffee as I help myself to my billionth cup of the day from the work supplies, in an attempt to soothe the cheese grater that is my throat. I think I might have caffeine anxiety.

3pm: Feed a cold continues and I realise I need more food. Pop to the shop and buy a packet of chocolate Hobnobs (£1) and promise myself I will only eat half of them.

4pm: Feel sad because I have eaten all of the Hobnobs and there aren’t any left. Also feel sad because I’m still not in bed.

7pm: Finally finish an 11-hour day in the office. Unfortunately, I don’t get paid for the overtime. Fortunately, I do get to take the time back in lieu, and I’m not overworked this much, that often. Tonight is a work meal out so we head across the road to the restaurant where I continue to justify the disgusting amount of crap I have eaten today with feed the cold. I eat a pizza that is big enough to sustain a small country for an entire day and a chocolate fondant for afters. I’m sure the pizza was meant to be a sharing one, but to be honest I don’t care. One of the girls whips out a voucher when the bill comes and I end up paying £18 for my meal.

9pm: As much as I’ve had the worst week, and am stressing my head off at work, I feel terrible. So home to bed with some Night Nurse while everyone else goes on for after dinner drinks. Rock and roll.

Total: £27.84
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Day Two

7.30am: After eating today’s lunch yesterday, I stop at the garage and grab a meal deal (£3) of sandwich, popcorn and smoothie. A lunch that’s almost nutritionally void, but will fill a hole.

10am: Someone has put doughnuts in the team room. Be rude not to.

2.30pm: Have eaten lunch, abused the work hot drinks, and decided that it would be a good idea to get another packet of Hobnobs (£1). It was not a good idea; once again I eat them all. It does distract me from the spreadsheets I’ve spent all day examining though, which is nice.

5pm: No gym tonight, and no exciting plans even though it’s Friday. Head home for the evening, but still have a few more hours to work when I get there.

8pm: Give up work for the night and go on a fridge forage for dinner because I haven’t been food shopping, and frankly I can’t be arsed. Debate a takeaway, because Friday, but feel guilty after the shite I’ve eaten (I’m not usually this bad, it really is an exception!). End up frying off a load of chicken, chorizo, mushrooms which were really past their best, onion and spinach with some garlic and chilli. It tastes lovely and I make a mental note to do it again. The mushrooms were borderline safe to eat, but I hate throwing out food. To me it’s like burning money, and I only do it when I have no choice.

10pm: Spend the rest of the evening doing some crochet work on a blanket because crafting is what all the cool kids do on a Friday night. A mate just asked me to make one and she’s paying me to do it – apparently that counts as a commission, but I feel like a fraud. I’m not even sure it’s worth paying for. Anyway, early night with more Night Nurse.

Total: £4
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Day Three

9am: No work today, so a lovely lie-in and a chance to rest out the cold. Still can’t be bothered to do food shopping so make a random breakfast of boiled eggs and Marmite on rice cakes. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Wonder how long I can put off food shopping if I raid the freezer, and contemplate if Yorkshire puddings and couscous is a valid lunch combination.

11am: I’m out of tissues and throat sweets. Would rather not go to the fresh hell that is Aldi on a Saturday morning but really have no choice, I have nothing food-wise that will make anything remotely healthy. Battle my way through the crowds of angry BBQ shoppers and spend £18.47. This should last a week and includes lunches. Get home and eat last night's leftovers with some green bits added and a huge bag of popcorn for lunch.

3pm: Head over to the boy’s for a chilled-out afternoon. Get there and am informed that he has no food in so we need to go to Aldi. What did I do to deserve this. Two Aldi trips in one Saturday. Buy some tissues for his house, 86p.

6pm: We are meeting the boy’s friends later for a curry so decide to have a little drink before. Head to a bar and the boy buys a bottle of wine. Wine has antiseptic qualities, right? Anyway, even if it doesn’t, it makes me feel better. He pays.

7.30pm: Slightly tipsy from wine and drugged up on Nurofen and Lemsip, we head over to the curry house. The boy and I do our usual sharing order: two chicken very spicy curries (we don’t discriminate, any kind is good!), one rice, one naan, one spinach bhaji. Food is lovely, much more wine is consumed, and I don’t know if it’s the spice, the tablets or the wine, but I’m feeling really good. Sadly the service is appalling, slow and rude. We end up spending almost four hours on the meal, which has only been poppadoms and mains, and one of the girls has a quiet word with the manager when the bill comes. She worked some magic because when the revised bill comes it’s only £24 a head. Bargain. Everyone decides to call it a night but I fancy another drink, so have a G&T when we get back.

Total: £43.33
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Day Four

10am: Proper lie-in today, and the boy wakes me up with a bacon sandwich: "Because you are poorly, and probably hungover." He is, of course, correct and my head is killing me. I, of course, blame the cold and not the wine. Nevertheless he did good, and it’s very appreciated. I take two paracetamol and down a gallon of water in the hope it will make me feel human again.

11am: We head into town for an escape room (£20) and it’s a miracle that my head has cleared, the hangover has subsided, and I’m quite on the ball. We smash the escape room and have a ton of fun. It’s the fourth room we’ve done together and the boy commends me on my unusually strong performance. I remind the boy he’s sleeping with me, not managing me. Ha.

1pm: It’s a lovely day out and we decide to go for ice cream and waffles before we head back for a lazy afternoon. A table in the sun, a mountain of sugary goodness and awesome company. Bliss. We do ‘rounds’ with food, and it’s his round, and costs me nothing. I’m on a total sugar buzz; I’m like a small child in these places and always order way too much. We share a cookie dough, a chocolate fudge sundae and waffles with strawberries and Nutella. So bad, but so very good. I really struggle to eat healthy with the boy, can you tell? I swear he’s a feeder, but right now I’m not complaining. We eat the lot.

2pm: We pass Primark on the way back to the car and I can’t resist. I pick up a few bits that I don’t need, I just want. I immediately get buyer's guilt when I leave the shop and vow to take the items back in the week, £27.

2.30pm: We head back to the boy’s for a lazy Sunday. I try on the Primark haul and nothing fits. Good old Primark sizing! So everything really does need to go back. I decide it’s for the best, as I usually do my clothes shopping in charity shops, and I could probably get more for my money. The afternoon is spent listening to music, playing board games and generally slobbing about. We don’t leave the house. We don’t even leave our pyjamas in the end, and just enjoy a lovely, much-needed relax. He cooks fajitas for tea, win.

Total: £47
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Day Five

7am: Monday morning, the week begins, and it’s going to be another busy one. The cold has properly shifted, yay. Fill the car up with petrol on the way to work, which will last me about two weeks, £47.50.

2pm: How on earth did that time disappear so quickly? Realise I haven’t eaten lunch yet and I’m starving. Resist the urge to head to the shops for something yummy, instead stick to the pita, hummus, cucumber and grapes from home. I ate terribly last week, so need to make up for it now! My purse, and waistline, will thank me for it.

7.30pm: It’s boxercise time! £5 for the class. It’s one of the only forms of exercise I actually enjoy doing. I have to really force the gym but this is fun, so I don’t mind spending the money on it. Still feeling really sluggish from last week's poor food choices. Vow to do better this week and blame it on the rubbish cold.

9pm: Home, shower, mountain of salad for dinner and bed. Not an exciting dinner but it’s quick. Day is done and so am I.

Total: £52.50
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Day Six

6am: Up for gym. Why. Why? Why do I do this to myself? I really don’t want to go but force myself to get out and put in an hour before work.

1pm: It’s lunchtime groundhog day. I eat the pita, cucumber, hummus and grapes. I try to bring lunch to work most days, because I really hate spending money on lunches, and it builds up so quickly. I’m usually successful, but it does mean my lunches get repetitive.

3.30pm: Text from the boy asking what I’m doing tonight, hmmm. This is strange, we don’t usually see each other during the week, he’s up to something.

4pm: The boy tells me he has won tickets to see a play in the West End tonight, if I fancy it. If I fancy it? Course I fancy it! Tell work I need to leave immediately and am vague about the reason, just that I need to go now. Hot-foot it home to try and make myself semi-presentable in time to catch the train.

5.50pm: The roads are kind for us both on the way home from work and we manage to make it to the train station with some time to spare. Buy a can of G&T for the journey. Impromptu train adventures should always be accompanied by a G&T. £1.50

6.20pm: Make it into London with time to spare. Pick up the tickets and decide to grab a quick bite to eat before the show. Find a Pret and get a sandwich and banana. Not great, but time is tight and it fills a gap. I treat the boy to say thanks for the ticket (£13.27). Boy then pays for a G&T in the theatre.

10.15pm: Show was amazing! We make our way back to the station to get the train home (£6.20). Boy buys a bag of chips to share on the walk back, I curse myself for being unable to resist the fried potato and vinegar, yum. Fall into bed late, exhausted and very happy.

Total: £20.97
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Day Seven

6am: Alarm goes off for gym. I turn it off and go back to sleep.

7am: Alarm goes off for work. Wondering if I can just ignore that one too? Boy gets up and starts getting ready, and I reluctantly decide that I do actually need my job so also get up.

9am: Coffee. Need Coffee.

10.30am: I’m too old for weeknight adventures. Another coffee.

12.45pm: Lunchtime, three guesses what I’m having. In fairness though, I have Moroccan hummus today instead of plain. Living the life.

1.30pm: Payslips are out. Spend an hour doing payday maths so I know how much I have to spend on what next month. I allocate the bills money and the monthly spending money on a spreadsheet. Geek. I’ve found that in the main it keeps me on track when I know how much money I have to spend on certain things at any point in the month, rather than just seeing one total figure in my bank. It’s five weeks before next payday though, so it means I’ve got less money than normal to put towards overpaying the debt.

5.30pm: Force myself to go to the gym. I’m worn out, and to be honest I’m not sure how effective the workout is, but doing something has to be better than vegging on the sofa, which is what I really want to do.

7.30pm: Home for dinner, and tonight it’s a chicken and chorizo paella dish. Easily made by just frying the meat with red pepper and spring onion, adding paprika, turmeric and paella rice, covering with water and baking in the oven. Serve a slightly too big portion with some salad. I make enough for four portions, and it’s a really yummy and cheap dinner which keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

8.45pm: Ashamed to say that it’s bedtime, but I am old and weary and have had far too much excitement in my week to force my eyes to stay open any longer. Put a film on Netflix, and promptly fall asleep 10 minutes in.

Total: £0
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The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £83.09
Entertainment: £20
Clothes/Beauty: £27
Travel: £53.70
Other: £11.85

Total: £195.64

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