Money Diary: A Freelance Writer Living In London On 14k

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 freelance writer living in London....
"I am a part-time writer earning about £300 a week before tax, and spending all of it. I also co-edit an indie mag, which is fun, but financially a complete disaster. Reaching the age of 26 has brought home to me a number of things:
1. I may never achieve sick pay, holiday pay, a steady income or lasting love.
2. I am incapable, both mentally and economically, of living with anyone other than my mother.
Keeping track of my ££ for this Money Diary has come as a nasty shock. Last year I got a credit card (big mistake), and bouncing between that and my debit card has allowed me to live my life in denial. Now it’s 2018, I’m in £1,150 of credit card debt and I’m feeling afraid. But there’s still something deep down in my soul that cries out against weekly budgets and monthly Oyster card passes and packed lunches. I just love Pret, and Uber, and buying rounds. And if I’m never going to be able to afford a pension plan, then maybe I might as well numb the pain with a chipotle chicken toasted tortilla for lunch?"
Industry: Journalism
Age: 26
Location: London
Salary: £14,400 (if I take no holiday and pay no tax)
Paycheque amount: £1,200
Number of housemates: 5
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: £630
Loan payments: Haven’t started that yet
Utilities: £35
Transportation: £30-40 (TfL); Uber costs: > £30
Phone bill: £25
Savings? £1 – you can’t take out the last £1 for some reason
Total: approx £760
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1 of 8
Day One (New Year’s Eve)

9am: Wake up and go to brunch with someone who is about to ghost me. We think momentarily about ordering porridge but then decide it’s New Year's Eve and if you can't order £12.50 eggs on NYE, when can you? I insist on paying, not only for both our breakfasts but also for an overpriced juice drink neither of us actually wants. Panic silently as the waitress approaches our table that my debit card will get declined, so put it on my credit card. £32

4pm: Go and pick up NYE coke...about £70. I actually only have £33 [in my bank account], so I have to get the rest out on my credit card and pay the £3 charge.*

6.05pm: Pop out to buy a packet of fish fingers, a Coke and some salt and vinegar McCoys to line the stomach. £3.50

9pm: Get to the pub. Immediately buy a round of tequila shots for myself, two friends plus someone who is not really my friend but has just come back from living in Japan, so I feel, inexplicably, that I love him. I am full of cheer. £32.89

10.15pm: Beers and a shot. £11.50

11.05pm: Jägerbombs. £23

Sometime around 11.30pm: Go to the bar and realise I have lost my purse. Feel warm glow of certainty it will turn up so don't look for it. In retrospect, I realise losing my purse at this point in the night saved me at least £100 and was probably one of the top five things that happened to me in 2017.

12.30am: Order an Uber to another pub. Sadly my lost card is still connected to my Uber account so it doesn't affect my ability to order Ubers. People ask to split-fare with me but I shout "No! no!" as if I am some sort of king/oligarch and am insulted by the very idea of splitting. £26

3am: Another Uber. To Tottenham. This time my order is rejected because I've run out of money. Somebody else pays.

5am: Uber to Dalston. Again I can’t pay.

9.30am: Taken home by kindly friend in an Uber. He pays.

Total: £201.89
2 of 8
Day Two

2.30pm: I am woken up by my housemate, who brings me a Coca-Cola and some chipsticks in bed. £1.10

4pm: Wake up again. Feel less close to death, so decide to meet my friends for brunch. I order a moussaka for reasons that now don’t make any sense to me. My purse has been found! I put brunch on my credit card. £14.50

9pm: While watching Gogglebox, my housemate and I decide to order a pizza. The pizza arrives all broken and slopped into one corner of the box – it must have got squished on the way. Is it a bad omen for 2018? We eat it anyway. I pay £7.50 for half the pizza and one Coke.

Total: £23.10
3 of 8
Day Three

9.15am: Get the Tube in to work. Can’t make eye contact with anyone. £3.40 (Why so expensive? Just checked on the TfL website for the purposes of this Money Diary and my journey should actually have been £1.40.)

12.15pm: Go out to review a café for work. This, by the way, was the original purpose of my credit card. I have a furtive credit card balance-check at my desktop before we go. One big barrier between me and financial responsibility is that I have still, somehow, not sorted out mobile banking. This means that every time I check my balance I either have to go to a cashpoint, or log in with a card reader on a computer. Which means, obviously, I never check it. But today, Nationwide tells me I still have £150 left before I hit my limit. Joy! I put lunch on my credit card. £31.20

6.05pm: Decide to go home to my parents' house for dinner. Payday is three days away, I can’t afford to buy dinner and there are long, dark girl hairs all over the kitchen floor in our house. I buy some tomatoes and a Ribena on the way back, which now, looking at my statement, I see cost me £5.75 (?!). I pay another £3.40 Tube fare to get there.

Total: £43.75
4 of 8
Day Four

9.15am: A day of saving! Get the Tube to work and on the way buy another tomato, to go with the raisin bagel I found in my parents' bread bin and have brought in for lunch. 40p

6pm: Tube to a friend’s house for dinner. Have two glasses of wine and make a rash, money-motivated decision to move out of my house and back in with my parents. I love my parents! I hate overhearing my housemates having sex with their boyfriends in the shower!

8.30pm: Overground home to break the news to my housemates. They seem quite pleased. I promise to pay rent until we all mutually agree on someone to take my place. I call my parents. My mum is not pleased, and reminds me I only moved out six months ago – do I really want to come back? It scares me how much I genuinely do.

Total: £7.20 (£6.80 travel)
5 of 8
Day Five

9.30am: There is no food in the house, so I buy a Pret chicken sandwich on the way in to work. I eat it cobra-like in the 1.5-minute walk between Pret and my office and then hide the packaging. £2.99

1pm: Go out to buy a Sainsbury's meal deal. Somehow find myself inside a Thai restaurant, ordering a noodle soup and a Diet Coke. Credit card declined! I pay cash. Back in the office, I check my balance again: turns out I'm actually £200 over my limit. Why did Nationwide lie to me on Tuesday? £7.95

Total: £17.74 (including £6.80 return Tube fare)
6 of 8
Day Six

11am: Payday. I now have 300 quid to play with – all of which I owe to friends/ landlord/ the bank. But I try not to think about that. I'm working from home, and it's my first morning back living with my parents so I go out and buy breakfast stuff and make brunch for my mum. She's stopped returning my WhatsApps and I generally feel she likes me less than I like her. £20.90

7pm: I'm late for my friend's birthday, and high from payday, so I get an Uber. £12

10pm: I leave my friend’s birthday after exercising enormous amounts of self-control and *not* drinking more than four drinks or buying coke. Get another Uber home to reward myself. £13

Total: £45.90
7 of 8
Day Seven

11am-9pm: Spend the day in bed with my dog and my mum. Feel cosy and frugal. Reflect on the new year, and imagine with smugness what the new, credit-card-debt-free me will feel/act/look like. I pay off £50 on my credit card bill. I even think seriously for a bit about setting up mobile banking. £50

10pm: Order a takeaway. Put it on my credit card. £29.30

Total: £79.30
8 of 8
The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £221.08
Entertainment: £73
Clothes/Beauty: £0
Home Supplies: £0
Travel: £74.80
Other: £50

Total: £418.88

Ed note: Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.

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