Money Diary: A Student Service Adviser On 35k

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'm 31, living in London and working in student services in Higher education. I spent my twenties travelling the world and working in different countries, so my finances were very boom and bust. During this time I never paid into a pension or saved for a house. I sometimes feel a little like I'm playing catch up but the Covid pandemic made me realise that life is too short not to do what makes you happy. I used my twenties to be carefree and adventurous, and as I enter my thirties I feel ready to be a little more ‘serious’ while still treating myself and my loved ones. I live with my partner B, and we are from similar backgrounds and earn similar salaries, so we split everything down the middle but we occasionally treat each other too. Currently we are saving for a house long-term, but short-term we are saving for big holidays this summer to Spain and South America. We definitely don’t want children and this gives us a lot of breathing room when it comes to our finances."
Occupation: Student Service Adviser 
Industry: Higher education
Age: 31
Location: London
Salary: £35,000
Paycheque Amount: £2,060 after tax and deductions
Number of housemates: One, B
Pronouns: she/her
 
Monthly Expenses
 
Housing costs: £600 for my share of rent for a one-bedroom flat.
Loan payments: £116 every month to pay off student loans.
Pension?: I pay £159 monthly and my employer matches it. I have around £4,000 from a previous pension I need to consolidate. 
Savings?: £5,072 in a Lifetime ISA, £1,100 in a current account, £800 tied up in stocks and crypto, £170 in a shared account I share with B which pays for food shopping and shared expenses.
Utilities: My share of the bills includes: council tax £89, internet £14, electricity £14, water £15.
All other monthly payments: £10 phone data plan. Subscriptions: £37.50 yoga membership, £7.99 for Disney+, £3.99 for 4oD ad blocker, £10 to The Trussell Trust.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I was the first person on both sides of my extended family to go to university, so it was definitely never expected of me. By the time I went to university, I was living in a single parent household so I had free grants on top of my loan which was a lifeline for me. I would have really struggled without the grants.
 
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
We never really had conversations about money. My mum is very frugal, she has ‘just in case’ pots all over the house, my dad was the opposite so hopefully I am a happy medium. My mum is a cleaner and my dad was a postman, so every year we could only afford one thing: a holiday or doing something to improve the house – but never both. Money was tight but we weren't poor. I always had new school uniforms and was very spoiled on my birthday and at Christmas. I didn't realise I was working class until I made friends with people who lived in huge houses and ate dinner at the dining table (as opposed to turkey dinosaurs in front of the TV).
 
If you have, when did you move out of your parents'/guardians' house?
I moved out for my first year of university when I lived in student halls in London. I thought I knew everything but I was so naive and very irresponsible with money. I was always spending it on clothes and nights out. But I think you’re only young once and I'm glad I got it out of my system.  
 
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
Honestly, I don't think I became financially responsible until after university when I landed a graduate role as a student adviser. During university, my mum bailed me out a lot and I feel guilty about that now, but I try to make up for it by spoiling her a lot and being more responsible and mature in my thirties. 
 
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at a café when I was 17. I worked eight-hour shifts every Saturday, and turned up on time even if I’d been out until 4am. With my first paycheque I bought a floral smock top from Urban Outfitters (this was at the height of the '00s indie wave).
 
Do you worry about money now?
Absolutely. Historically I have had a lot of anxiety relating to money, which might be based on the fact that when my parents went through a nasty divorce, my mum almost lost our house. That left a huge impression on me. Recently, my anxiety was crippling and really affecting my mental health. Luckily, through my job I had access to six free counselling sessions. Through CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy], I'm trying to think more rationally about money and life in general, and I'm trying to accept that the world won't cave in if I go on a holiday every now and then or go for dinner with friends. 
 
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
Last year, my mum gave me £5,000. This was because she received a £15,000 pay out from my late great aunt’s life insurance and she split it three ways with me and my sister. I put £1,500 into a LISA, I used £2,500 to pay my taxes (during lockdown I worked freelance as an online tutor) and put the other £1,000 into my holiday fund. Other than that, I have never received inheritance. 

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