Money Diary: A 23-Year-Old Working In The Music Industry On 9k

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 woman who, after moving between Cornwall and London for the past five years, has settled (for now) in Surrey with her boyfriend of three years. She says she was incredibly lucky to land a music industry job a month after moving here, purely through her own graft, and even though it's not well paid, it's her first salaried job since starting working at 15, and it's a foot in the door of the industry.
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Moving in with her boyfriend was great but the wage gap between them is a little tricky to navigate at times, as he earns more than 3x what she does a month. She's independent, and after getting herself into debt at 19 and having to work really hard to pay it off, she's very cash-conscious and doesn't want to owe anyone money. She does however want to get a mortgage by the time she's 30, so is trying to save and supplement money where she can (like selling 3/4 of her possessions on eBay) while trying to occasionally have fun. She wants to travel more, and go up to London for exhibitions, parties, and to hang out with friends, but rarely has enough money.
Industry: Music Tech
Age: 23
Location: Surrey
Salary: £9,000 (I will be getting a 40% wage increase in August!)
Paycheque amount: £741 after National Insurance
Housemates: 1 – boyfriend, who is a pilot
Monthly Expenses
Rent: £425
Bills: £131.90 for council tax, internet, and utilities.
Loan payments: Over £54,000 in student loans (three years of full loans with a one-year break in between). I don’t earn enough to pay them back yet, and at 3% interest I don’t know if I ever will.
Transportation: £0. I walk everywhere – trains to London are paid on my Oyster as and when, and we split the cost of fuel for boyfriend’s car if we go on a long trip.
Phone bill: £10 credit top-up every month if I decide I really need it (I won’t top up this month).
Savings? £900 emergency fund saved from my previous job as a chef where I earned £10 an hour and worked six days a week.
Other: £20 that I invest in a stocks-and-shares investment ISA every month (£5 a week). I luckily have access to a Netflix account belonging to the mum of my old roommate so that costs nothing, and I watch a lot of vlogs.
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Day One

6.40am: Alarm goes off and there is absolutely no way I can get up.

7.20am: Eventually get out of bed, take a five-minute shower and make a breakfast smoothie consisting of frozen bananas and berries, oats, pea protein powder (from Aldi!) and water. Take a vitamin, get dressed, and put on some red lipstick.

8.20am: Say goodbye to my boyfriend, who is still asleep and has no reason to get up any time soon because it’s his fifth day of no scheduled flights. Head to work. My walk takes about 35 minutes, then I take five minutes in the office toilets trying to look like I haven’t just walked here. Receive two(!) compliments on my appearance, which I guess is down to the lipstick.

Set my laptop up and start trawling through emails and drinking coffee with soy milk that I brought with me from home.

12pm: Starving, so I take an early lunch to eat an orange and some pasta with olives that I made the night before. Catch up on music industry news and listen to the new Azealia Banks track (so good). Transfer £40 to my boyfriend for my half of the food shop we did while hungry (bad move). Should last us at least two weeks though.

4.30pm: End-of-week office meeting. Everyone’s had a successful week and we all say lovely things about each other. We discuss the site’s dev updates while necking beer bought by our boss before leaving slightly earlier than usual. Walk home in a tipsy sunny-Friday-evening mood listening to Frank Ocean.

5.40pm: Get home to find my boyfriend at his usual spot, playing computer games. Decide the weather is too nice so I grab a fold-up chair and sit in the driveway reading the collected works of Dorothy Parker until my upstairs neighbour comes home and needs to park her car. Decamp to the sofa to watch Vine compilations and Brian Jordan Alvarez videos on YouTube.

7.30pm: Boyfriend makes dinner, which consists of the pasta I didn’t take to work. I eat that then snack on some pickles, vegan cheese, and crisps. Spend the rest of the evening on the internet, do the dishes, and get in a fight with said boyfriend. Head to bed angry soon after.

Total: £40
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Day Two

7am: Wake up earlier than I need to but I’m angry still so think 'Fuck it' and get up anyway. Take a shower and make some coffee, then cook mushrooms on toast for breakfast, and eat it browsing Twitter. Boyfriend has his first flight for the week so leaves for the airport.

9am: Get a message from a friend who’s on her way back from skiing in Saalbach and wonders if I want to hang later before her flight home, saving me from my hermit existence. It’s hard making friends in a totally new place, so I’m always down for seeing the friends I grew up with.

10am: Do a little yoga, watch an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race and start filling out an NHS low-income form which will help pay for the first dentist check-up I’ve had in six years. Realise that because I live with my boyfriend I’m not eligible. Annoyed, and consider lying, but realise it’s probably not worth it, so decide to just wait until my wage increase in August.

12pm: Put a frozen pizza in the oven and paint my nails while I wait for it to cook. I’ve gotten pretty good at DIY, making this little money, and I’m gonna look nice even if my teeth are falling out. Eat half the pizza in front of a documentary about the Rajneeshees then spend the next three hours cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, and considering joining a cult as a viable way to make friends.

4pm: Eat a banana so I’m not tempted to order food, then meet my friend at the train station and head to Prezzo. Friend orders a pizza and buys two gin and tonics; one for me and one for her. I don’t eat, and she tells me that she’s fallen in love with a Slovenian ski instructor. Get very loud and discuss everything in great detail, then we part ways for who knows how long.

7pm: Walk home in weather that feels both balmy and threatening. Eat the rest of the pizza cold and take off my makeup, then finish watching the cult documentary. #selfcare

Total: £0
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Day Three

8am: Wake up to a rainy Sunday morning. Make a coffee and put two hot cross buns in the toaster. Boyfriend and I eat them on the sofa, watching a video about magnets (not my choice but sort of interesting), then I decide we need to do something, seeing as we both have a day off at the same time, which never happens.

11.30am: Drag him out of the flat with the plan to spend the day at Kew Gardens. Even though it’s raining I’ve wanted to go for ages, and I doubt we’ll get another chance together any time soon.

1pm: Arrive at Kew. Boyfriend is in a grump due to the weather and the traffic on the way there. Not letting him suck me into his bad mood, I offer him my baseball cap to keep the rain off and we nab a free parking spot outside. I buy a student ticket (my ID runs out in October), saving me £9 on the standard price. £8.50

3pm: We walk around the park for hours, take lots of pictures and, for the first time in ages, actually get to have fun together without having to do anything else. It’s the first time I’ve been here and I love it, particularly the Palm House. We’re hungry but the food is overpriced, so boyfriend buys two coffees (I make a note of the price to pay him back later) and we wander round a bit more until our feet ache too badly to keep walking.

6.30pm: Get home muddy and wet (but happy to have had a lovely day regardless) and decide in our hunger to order a takeaway, which is stupid considering I was only paid nine days ago and have less than a third of it left. Transfer my guy £23 for petrol, coffee and the takeaway and sink into the sofa feeling tired, full, and very guilty for the totally unnecessary food spend (even though it tasted amazing).

9pm: Disregard the fact I’ve done no lunch prep for the week and instead listen to the new Cardi B album before dozing off.

Total: £31.50
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Day Four

6.45am: Wake up a little before my alarm, take a shower, make a smoothie and get ready, watching Unreal on my boyfriend's free-trial Amazon Prime account.

1pm: Eat my lunch (of a bagel that I grabbed on the way out the door this morning) and check my emails. See ASOS is having a sale, and I need a swimming costume for my holiday to Spain next month (which is almost free because I’m taking the place of my sister's now-ex). Find a cute '70s-style floral swimsuit on sale and buy it in two different sizes (who knows what will fit right when you’re 5"2). I use my emergency fund, which is exactly what I’m not meant to be using my emergency fund for, but justify it knowing I’ll return at least one. £35

6pm: Arrive home after a marathon of an afternoon and find boyfriend's done a bougie Sainsbury’s shop. See that this includes sweets (avoid those) and cookies (do not avoid those). See that he also bought some veggie sushi for me, so eat this for dinner watching a weird sci-fi show and end up falling asleep on the sofa.

Total: £35
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Day Five

5.40am: I get up far too early because I have to start training for the charity 5k I’m doing in June. Walk the 10 minutes to my boyfriend's gym and use his code to get in. The constant slowing down to a walk and speeding back up to a run feels stupid but it’s too early to care what other people think right now.

7am: More awake than I’d usually be at this time, so coast through my morning routine. I eat an apple and PB on toast while watching another episode of Unreal. Walk to work in my secondhand Nike trainers, which I got for £6 on Depop, and realise that the soles have worn down after I slip on a mossy bit of pavement. There’s no way I can afford to replace them with a new pair so make a mental note to avoid moss and buy a new pair in August.

1pm: Crew at work decide to go to the pub for lunch, and I join on the promise of a free drink. Quickly eat my lunch of hummus, olives and crumpet at my desk (I still have yet to properly meal-prep this week), then walk down to the pub and have a glass of white wine.

4pm: This afternoon involves multiple meetings, trawling through pages of tracks looking for specific genres for a project and replying to technical queries from customers, but I get everything done and leave the office on time, walking home in the misty rain listening to Aretha Franklin and Cakes da Killa.

7pm: Make a kale salad and some wholemeal noodles for us both then accidentally knock all my earrings on the floor, which disappear under the sofa. Locating them turns into a deep-clean of the flat when I notice how much dust is under the sofa. Go to bed feeling tired and gross at 10pm.

Total: £0
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Day Six

7.40am: Super quick shower and assemble weird OOTD which I pull on while waiting for an egg to boil. Find mould on the two crumpets I’d planned on eating so substitute them with two rice cakes, then run out the door wearing hurriedly applied Lime Crime lipstick and a baseball cap to hide my hair from the rain.

9am: Get to work, drink my coffee, and see an email from my mum about the birds she saw when she was out walking. Feel a little sad and wish I didn’t live seven hours away from my family. Have a meeting and get through a lot of work, which is especially good as our boss is back from his LA work trip tomorrow.

1pm: See that the direct debit for my investment app has been taken, and get an email about a £1.30 library fine. The library was great when we had no internet in the flat and I was looking for a job, particularly because the librarians ignored my emotional breakdowns after sending application after application for a month and hearing back from no one. Eat the same lunch as yesterday, minus the crumpet. £6.30

6pm: Get home and boyfriend is making pizza, so I sit on the sofa and we talk for a couple of hours. Watch another episode of Unreal, then spend the rest of the evening reading Man Repeller articles while he plays computer games. DM my friend who’s just moved nearby to come for dinner tomorrow night – she’s just finished her master's and is doing an unpaid internship so has less money than me, and I’m pretty sure she’ll appreciate the offer of free food.

Total: £6.30
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Day Seven

7am: Wake up feeling terrible but push myself to get ready and go into work regardless. No appetite so no breakfast, and I leave for work a little earlier because I can tell it’s going to take me longer to walk there today.

9am: Have not felt this bad in forever. Work through it because I need the money but keep losing focus and my face aches so bad. Take some painkillers and let my friend know that dinner is postponed.

10am: Colleague notices I’m not as ‘perky’ as usual. Tell him I feel like I’m getting sick and he suggests I go home, in a nice way. Decide going back to bed would be quite nice and tell them I’ll leave after I finish the project I’m working on.

12.20pm: Almost finish but get a blinding headache and realise my body’s thrown in the towel. Sheepishly gather my stuff and say my goodbyes then walk the half an hour back to my flat feeling nauseous and dizzy. Take a hot shower, climb into bed, and stay there for the rest of the day. I guess you can’t spend money when you’re asleep...

Total: £0
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The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £63
Entertainment: £9.80
Clothes/Beauty: £35
Travel: £0
Other: £5

Total: £112.80
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