Money Diary: A Policy Contractor on 55k

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 31-year-old New Zealander living in London. My partner, M, and I moved to London last year. We met each other just before COVID and had both planned, separately, to move to London but our plans were put on hold when the world shut down. We ended up buying a house that year, and two years later we moved to London together! We live with a couple of housemates in a lovely flat (we lucked out both with the housemates and the flat). We rent out our house back in New Zealand, which helps contribute to the costs.
I worked in the public sector in NZ, and have just started working as a policy contractor in London, although most of my work is remote. When it comes to money, I consider myself quite savvy. I’ve been a saver and budgeter since I was young. About five years ago, I got really serious about buying a house and saved enough to buy a small townhouse on my own. I sold it a year later to move to the UK. The money I got back from it enabled me to purchase my house with M and also start properly investing. I am an enthusiastic investor and have money in a few ETFs, index funds, and companies. I’ve made some mistakes and learnt a lot, but I’ve worked hard on my money mindset and behaviours. M and I have a shared vision to become financially independent in our 40s, so we are aggressively paying our mortgage off and investing in order to reach this goal. We don’t want to sacrifice enjoying the present though, so we have had a lot of conversations about balancing this goal with present fulfilment."
Occupation: Policy Contractor
Industry: Public Sector
Age: 31
Location: London
Salary: £55,000 (my contract rates fluctuate - this is what is expected in total this financial year).
Paycheque Amount: £891 per week
Number of housemates: Three (including my partner).
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: £2,060 for our New Zealand house's mortgage and bills not covered by rent, £1,200 for London rent. My partner and I share finances. We apportion an amount to our own accounts and then combine the rest. I currently earn less than my partner and my contribution (and our budget) shifts depending on my contract rate.
Loan payments: I have approx £3,000 left to pay on my £35,000 student loan (but I'm not currently making payments towards it).
Savings: I have £1,500 in cash savings and we jointly have £4,000 in an emergency savings account. I have investments worth approximately £30,000.
Utilities: Joint cost of £205 for house bills (electricity, gas, council tax etc).
Pension? Yes, as a contractor I currently have no employer contribution and I contribute 15%.
All other monthly payments: Joint payments: £2,500 additional mortgage payments, £300 emergency savings, £500 to a travel account, £100 towards a wedding account, £60 towards Christmas costs.
My individual monthly expenses: £21 phone, £29 gym, £50 transport, £300 investments into a stocks and shares ISA. Subscriptions: £12 Spotify.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I went to a New Zealand university and obtained my Bachelor's and also did an additional year for my Honours (a separate degree in New Zealand). I took out a student loan for the fees and worked multiple jobs to pay for my living expenses, although I had to top up with a living costs allowance that was added to my student loan.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
Of what I remember when I was young, I observed my parents being quite stressed about money. I recall times when my mum's card declined at the grocery store and we had to leave everything there. Our holidays were spent camping around the country, which was a lot of fun, but looking back I realise they were also intentionally affordable. As I entered my teens, my parents became a lot more savvy with money and started to invest in rental property and they began to talk to us every now and then about the importance of saving and also making your money work for you.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents/guardians house?
I moved out when I was 18.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself?
I became financially responsible for myself when I moved out at 18. Now, as my partner and I share finances, he in essence does contribute to aspects of my financial life.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a waitress at a local cafe when I was 15. I got it mainly because I had just been loaned a horse and I had to pay for its upkeep.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. As a contractor there is always a level of uncertainty as to what my next role will be, whether there will be a gap between roles or how much the contract rate will be. This creates a higher level of awareness and sometimes stress.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
Yes, my dad gave me $10,000 NZD (approx. £5,000) after I graduated to put towards my student loan, although I ended up putting this towards a year of living overseas. Whoops! I also moved back into my parents house when I was 28, as I had sold my house and was ready to move to the UK when COVID hit. I had almost a year without rent and that was a huge financial gift! Last year my partner also supported me for a few months as I looked for work, which I’m incredibly grateful for.