Money Diary: A Final-Year Journalism Student On 16k

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 am originally from West Yorkshire but moved to Nottingham in 2017 to go to university. Growing up, my mum had very poor finances and there were occasional times where she’d sit and cry over the fact that she had only £28 to her name. I’m fortunate that my mum has never struggled with any form of debt or arrears, but she’s often had a very, very low bank balance. This naturally developed my knowledge of how to cut costs. From a young age, I took control of the weekly food shop, advised her how to save money and helped to guide her knowledge of finances. Things have changed in the last few years but the underlying fear of ending up in poverty again terrifies me.
 
I am almost 23 and in my final year of studying broadcast journalism. I originally went to university to study nursing but I dropped out, due to a lot of personal and external circumstances impacting my ability to study. After a few months of finding my feet, I enrolled in broadcast journalism as I felt this was a less taxing degree and much more enjoyable. I also had a student house in Nottingham which I was liable to pay rent for, so I thought I might as well continue with university.
 
I struggle a lot with depression and anxiety, which can come in waves at different times of the year. I experience some form of anxiety almost every day but it doesn’t really impact my ability to function. I wouldn’t say I am currently experiencing any form of depression but it occasionally surfaces and this is when my life, motivation and finances are the most impacted.
 
After dropping out of university in 2018, I ended up in a fair bit of debt as I had to pay back overpaid student finance loans and pay rent out of my own pocket. Since then, I have struggled financially, despite receiving a maximum student loan plus bursary. 
 
From July to December 2019 I had a zero-hour contract in retail and racked up tons of shifts. I used my wages to get out of my overdraft and put some savings away. Since I was earning the money, I felt less inclined to waste it. I had a massive mental health dip in December 2019 and I had to get to a very low point to realise that things needed to change. I’ve reformed my approach towards how I socialise; I realised how bad it was that I could easily spend £200 a week on nights out (on outfits, taxis, alcohol, entry fees, hangover food the next day, etc.). So I massively reduced my alcohol and partying, and started to find cheaper and less damaging ways to enjoy life.
 
I’m lucky that before the pandemic I started my new job and was furloughed, meaning I was still getting some income. I am in a fortunate position now where I don’t feel guilty for spending money because I know when to stop and I know what my limit is. I live in a house converted into a flatshare with another student. However she is not currently around, therefore my boyfriend has been able to visit me as a 'bubble'.
 
Industry: Broadcast journalism
Age: 22
Location: East Midlands
Salary: £8.30 per hour part-time job + annual student loan of £8,800
Paycheque amount: Approx. £500/month wages, £8,800/year student loan, £1,250 yearly bursary
Number of housemates: One

Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: £400 per month, bills included. One-year contract.
Loan payments: I have not yet graduated.
Utilities: Bills included in rent.
Transportation: Student Academic bus pass – one-off payment of £380.
Phone bill: £35. My mum pays this. I used to buy my phone outright and my mum paid SIM only for me, which was about £10/month. But last year she came into a better financial position and offered to pay a contract for me. 
Savings? I put about £200-300/month into my savings. I put away half of my wage on payday and I have a direct debit set up of £17.50/fortnight into my savings account. I have two savings accounts, one in an ISA with rubbish interest rates (which I need to sort out) and one smaller 'emergency fund' bank account.
Other: £4/month Amazon Prime Student, £7/month Audible, £5/month Student Spotify, £16.99 phone and laptop insurance. I’ve tried to cancel these subscriptions many times but I listen to audiobooks and podcasts a lot, so it’s worth it. The Amazon Prime subscription always pays itself off, as I am unfortunately a slave to 7pm same-day delivery.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series