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Money Diary: A Trainee Clinical Psychologist On £39,000

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.
Content Warning: This diary contains a reference to disordered eating.
This week: “I’m a 26-year-old trainee clinical psychologist living in London. I previously wrote a diary two and a half years ago just after starting the course, and soon I will be qualifying. I moved to London for my course and I now plan to stay, apart from leaving to go travelling for three months when I qualify. I currently live with housemates but will probably move out after travelling. I haven’t finalised the details of this yet. In my previous diary my serious boyfriend at the time dumped me (lol). Since then, I have had a series of “situationships” — the joys of London dating — but I’m seeing someone at the moment and so far, so good (though it’s very early days!). I worry about being single because it makes it virtually impossible to buy property here, but I don’t worry about it too much because I have a great housing situation and like the flexibility of being able to travel when I want without a mortgage to pay. I have previously experienced a lot of anxiety and guilt around spending, and resent spending money on things I deem unnecessary — it can bizarrely make me feel very greedy. However, I think I’m managing that better now, and feel more comfortable treating myself and the people around me, though it can panic me sometimes when I’m stressed in general. I have saved a lot of money over the last three years, mainly thanks to my very reasonable housing situation, and also generally having quite low-cost taste and only buying second hand clothes!”
Occupation: Trainee clinical psychologist
Industry: Healthcare (NHS)
Age: 26
Location: London
Salary: £39,217.50 (mid point of Band 6 NHS salary plus weighting due to location)
Paycheque Amount: £2,300 (depending on expenses)
Number of housemates: 2, J and B
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: £528 for a tiny rented room.
Loan payments: About £90 student loan. I’ve never checked the total because it’s too sad.
Pension?: I pay 9.8% (about £320 per month). I think the NHS pays 20.6% — I never look at my pension because it confuses me but this seems nice of them.
Savings?: I have around £60,000 split across various accounts. I moved all my money around into good interest rate accounts after advice on my last diary! I have saved a lot the last two and a half years by having cheap rent and a tiny room, allowing me to save to travel when I qualify, which I will probably spend up to £20,000 on. The rest I hope will eventually go towards a wildly optimistic plan for a deposit some day.
Utilities: My share of the bills is approximately £40 energy, £8 wifi, £45 council tax and £12 water. However, we rent out our parking spaces, and when this is split we earn about £60 each, which I think of as balancing out a lot of these bills.
All other monthly payments: £5 donation to BEAT; £10 phone contract; £21.60 student gym membership (which I will no longer qualify for soon!). Subscriptions: £3.66 for my share of house Netflix account; £7.99 Disney+.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I did an undergraduate degree in psychology, which included a placement year. I received the minimum student maintenance loan and tuition loan throughout my degree and my parents gave me £50 per week to live off, which I topped up with savings by working full time during the holidays.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
We didn’t really discuss money and I never worried about it (super lucky). My parents set up accounts for us and I was (and still am) a bit clueless. Although we were financially comfortable, I’d say my parents are very sensible financially and have instilled somewhat of a fear of spending in me. We’re definitely ‘supermarket own brands’ vibe and spending lots of money was viewed negatively.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents’/guardians’ house?
I moved out to go to uni aged 19 but moved back in for university holidays and on my placement year. I then lived at home for seven months after graduating during COVID-19 and moved in briefly between housing contracts just before starting my course two and half years ago.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
I would say when I first moved to London two and a half years ago. I was 90% financially responsible for eight months prior, but my dad helped me with sorting car insurance/MOT and would occasionally fill up my car with petrol. Although I wasn’t dependent on him for this it was very kind. Now I’m still on the family Spotify plan, but other than that, no one covers any of my finances.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked as a chambermaid for a family friend — all about those connections and short working hours, which were ideal.
Do you worry about money now?
I don’t worry about not having enough money as I’m in the fortunate position of having savings and good prospects when I qualify (super lucky position to be in). I doubt I’ll ever be able to buy property in London on my own, but that doesn’t worry me as such. I have a lot of guilt around spending, though this is improving, so most of my money worries day to day are feeling I’ve spent too much which can makes me feel guilty. For example, I spent £700 on laser hair removal 18 months ago and had a few sleepless nights even though I knew I could afford it, because I just felt guilty for having spent so much. So I have anxiety around money and what spending means to me, but not about running out of money as such. That would definitely change if I lost my job, or if my housing situation significantly changed.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
I got £2,000 when my grandmother passed away when I was 21. My parents are planning to give some money to my sibling when they get married soon and have said they will match this contribution (when I turn 30 as marriage is looking unlikely, lol) but I don’t know what this will be. Similarly, when my sibling was made redundant a year ago my parents gave us both £500 towards rent (I just got a share because of sibling equality which was extremely generous and unnecessary). They set up savings account for us both when we were very young which they paid into and paid any birthday/Christmas money I received into. I’m unsure how much this amounted to, but I’d estimate £6,000 total, which I assume was a majority of their contributions.