Money Diary: A 25-Year-Old Travel Writer In Bali On 36k

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 people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we're tracking every last penny.
As every person's financial situation is unique, going forward we're asking diarists to complete a series of financial-based questions to provide readers with more context to their relationship with money. Please remember before commenting that the diarists are from a range of backgrounds and cultures and their experience, education and mental relationship with money might be very different from yours. Money Diaries are designed to provide readers with diverse experiences of spending, saving and asking for more in the hope that by learning from each other, we can build a more positive financial future together.
This week: "I’m a 25-year-old travel writer from Bedfordshire but currently live in Bali, Indonesia. I quit my job and moved out here at the end of 2019 for a social media role that lasted all of two months before the pandemic. Instead of flying home, I decided to try my luck at freelancing, which was my vague plan anyway for 2021. I previously worked as a writer but I didn’t have any contacts in the travel industry. In my first month of freelancing, I made £100. Now I have six consistent clients and a few ad hoc extras each month. I feel a lot more financially secure freelancing rather than working for just one company like I did in the UK. I live in a villa with three friends who all work in similar industries. I also spend half my time at my boyfriend’s (H) villa. When it comes to money, I try to be quite frugal. I’m very fortunate that things are significantly cheaper in Bali than they are in the UK. I put all of my spare money into savings at the end of each month. I’m not entirely sure what I’m saving towards as I’m planning on travelling for at least the next few years. It could possibly go towards a house one day but I don’t know which country I want to settle in yet. My biggest expense used to be travel but that has obviously been cut down significantly over the last 18 months."
Occupation: Travel writer
Industry: Media and publishing
Age: 25
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Salary: Varies as a freelancer (£2,500-£4,000 a month) but around £36,000 overall.
Paycheque amount: £3,000 on average. I keep track of all my invoices and expenses and my accountant in the UK figures out my tax, student loan and National Insurance deductions, which I pay in full once a year out of my savings. 
Number of housemates: Three
Pronouns: She/Her
Monthly Expenses
Housing costs: 4 million IDR (£202) rent each. I share the villa with my three flatmates: S, K and E.
Loan payments: I’m still a UK resident despite living abroad so I’m on a Plan 2 repayment scheme. I pay this in full at the end of each tax year, which is around £70 per month. Obviously the interest I accrue each month is more than this. My total student loan is around £55,000 but it’s at the bottom of my list of concerns.
Savings? £30,602 in a Marcus account, £3,400 in a Help To Buy ISA, £1,300 in premium bonds, £1,200 in an immediate-access HSBC saver that occasionally pays me a grand total of £0.01 interest. 
Pension status: I have two small pensions from when I worked in London but I don’t currently pay into one.
All other monthly expenses: 100k (£5.09) phone credit, 500k (£25.43) electricity, 600k (£30.51) motorbike rental, 30k (£1.52) petrol, 100k (£5.09) drinking water. £30 travel insurance. £5 charity donation to BPAS, £10 to Rainbow Trust and around £45 each month to a local family in Bali. Subscriptions: £9.95 Adobe editing software, £38 gym membership. I also get my nails done once a month costing £12.64 and I try to have a massage each month too, costing £7.59.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? I went to university and got the maximum student loan and grant (RIP) as I come from a very low-income family. I also successfully got through an application process for a partial scholarship from a UK bank, which has a low-income support system at various universities across the UK. This gave me an extra £1,000 per year and an extra £500 at the end of each uni year if I got a 2:1. I also worked throughout university.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
A very messy and expensive divorce when I was young meant that I grew up in a single-parent household where money was very tight. Our car was repossessed and we almost lost our house. Money was always a source of stress and fear. It’s something I’m proactively trying to challenge now but I feel very uncomfortable if I don’t have substantial savings, which is why I’ve been putting money away since I was 16. My other parent has a substantial income and their approach was always to spend, spend, spend. I grew up being very careful and appreciative of money. I hate spending unnecessarily and have always shopped secondhand. Now that I’m earning good money and have savings I’m trying to gently challenge these fears by allowing myself to spend a bit each month on nice things.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents'/guardians' house? I moved out at 18 to go to university. I then moved straight to London for my first full-time job.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life? I’ve paid for everything except my phone bill since I was 18. I was on my dad’s family phone plan until I left the UK.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My job when I was 15 was buying clothes from charity shops, fixing them up and reselling them on eBay. My first proper job was in a call centre when I was 16. I wanted a consistent source of income when I was in sixth form and there was an expectation I’d get a job at this age.
Do you worry about money now? Unfortunately, yes. I have fairly substantial savings but I still worry about money at the back of my mind.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? I have £10,000 inheritance from a relative who passed away a few years ago. I also have around £2,500 in a savings account that my grandparents set up when I was born. I haven’t received or spent any of this money so I haven’t included it in my savings total.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series