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 a 25-year-old restaurant manager and as of last week I’m jobless.
I moved to London straight after university for a graduate job in a global marketing agency. It was a very fun, young industry, with hundreds of perks. Nonetheless I wasn’t paid much and found my role rather unfulfilling. I realised my only real passion was for food and eventually quit my job, deciding to take a break. I used up a lot of my savings to travel around New Zealand for a month and got a job in a restaurant as a waitress for when I returned. I panicked before heading off on my trip that I would come back broke, so secured the first thing I could find. I’d never worked in hospitality before and reckoned this would be the best place to start. Obviously the pay was low but I was used to this in marketing so assured myself that things would improve, slowly but surely. And they had, until now…
I’ve houseshared ever since I moved to London. Living in Hackney means that in certain pockets you can find lowish rent, and generally I spend most of my disposable income eating and drinking out. Each month I usually splurge a little on clothes/shoes to treat myself. Recently I’ve become more aware of saving and spending less on unnecessary items, thinking about the long term, as one day soon I want to be a homeowner. But it’s hard, as I do like to live a somewhat lavish lifestyle.
The last Friday of the month is usually when I get paid, so my weekly spending budget starts every Friday. I like this system as it gives me a weekly payday – via Monzo, where I add my spending allowance – and it generally works. When it doesn’t, and I want to buy something out of budget, I use my credit card.”
Industry: Hospitality Age: 25 Location: Hackney Salary: £30k Paycheque amount: £1,900 Number of housemates: Three
Housing costs: £700 inc. council tax, water and Wi-Fi (a double bed in a spacious shared house). Loan payments: The tiny amount of student loan I pay back every month is already taken out of my paycheque. Utilities: Included in rent. Transportation: £150. I top up my Oyster every week with £30 and leave the rest of my budget for cabs. My boyfriend and I have all the taxi apps that exist and use whichever has the best offer in the moment when we need it. My current favourite is Kapten. Phone bill: £50 (an overpriced contract that finally ends next month). Savings? I put £250 a month into a long-term savings account which is invested, which I set up about six months ago. However, with the recent market downturn I’ve so far lost around £150 and will probably lose more in the coming months so I’m looking to reduce my contribution. I also have a savings pot in another bank account where I gather money for my LISA. My parents help contribute to that, which is a godsend that I’m extremely grateful for. Other: Phone insurance £16, Spotify £10, Netflix £6, cleaner £15 (she comes twice a month and cleans all our communal areas), contact lenses £20 (I could probably find a cheaper option, as I’m always seeing ads on the Tube, but I’ve used Boots for years and I’m too lazy to change).
11am: My boyfriend is a chef and today we both have the day off. We lounge in bed a while ’til we’re compelled to visit Tesco at the bottom of his building for breakfast. Though we’re both very apt cooks, neither of our fridges is ever well stocked with options – we mostly spend our time being fed at work – so we have to buy food for meals as and when we need it. I guess this results in less wastage? That’s what I tell myself anyway. We buy yoghurt (plain for him, soy mango for me), blueberries, Granny Smith apples, and two big bags of Kettle Chips as snacks for later. £9
We spend a lot of the day packing up my boyfriend’s room. He’s moving into my house in two days, which will halve my rent and significantly reduce his expenses, so that we can save money and eventually find our own flat later this year. We have an obsession with Tony’s Chocolonely (the best chocolate ever) and stop for a cup of tea and a few chunks. My favourite flavour is plain milk, though the almond-honey-nougat is delicious and if you’re looking for something a little different, the honeycomb-thyme flavour we discovered in Amsterdam in December is incredible. Before we set off for my house, lugging our collective crap over in a taxi which my boyfriend orders, I top up my Monzo. I’m going to try and keep things tight this week and spend as little as possible (or so I tell myself).
7pm: After we unpack some things and catch up with my housemates, my two best friends come over for dinner, with a bottle of Berry Bros & Rudd Good Ordinary Claret in tow. We snack on the aforementioned Kettle Chips and then order Vietnamese from our regular spot. I opt for something totally different – mushroom stir fry and egg fried rice, when I normally go for bun – but I’m not disappointed. It hits the spot.
9pm: Following a very long, divergent chat about biscuits, my friend and I go to my local corner shop and buy a variety – Gold bars, Fox’s cookies, ginger nuts and fruit shortcakes – to sample with some tea. Unfortunately our memories serve us wrong and they are all much less satisfactory than we remembered. A massive disappointment. My friend pays for the biscuits and I Monzo my boyfriend my share of the takeaway. £15
Total: £24 More
9am: A full day of work lies ahead, 10am ’til midnight at the earliest. I charge myself up with an oat chai latte from Pret on my way to the restaurant. An obscenely millennial choice I know, but I’m not sorry about it. The saccharine hit gets me through the morning and I remind myself that the warming spices must be helping to keep my body in balance…in some kind of way. £3. I later eat some below-average scrambled eggs and still-warm sourdough bread. I down a Berocca (despite there being no proof this will save me from COVID-19) and over the course of the morning taste sips of various beverages my barman is working on: rhubarb kombucha, kumquat honey with whiskey, a new non-alcoholic sour. The list goes on.
My boyfriend’s birthday is coming up and though I ordered him a gift a while ago, I later realised it will take 6-8 weeks to arrive, which means it’ll be late. During my short break before our afternoon family meal, I browse the internet for something else I can buy him. I settle on a walnut handled pocket knife, personalised with his initials, which I pray he’ll love. I pay for it on my credit card. Future me can deal with that. £75. We have meat ragù, freekeh and a mixed salad for dinner. Though tasty, as always, I need something sweet.
To satisfy my sweet tooth, I head to Tesco before dinner service gets busy and buy assorted sweets and chocolate for my team as well as some cocoa powder to make myself an oat milk mocha. I rediscovered mochas when winter hit last year and I just can’t get enough. I’m a chocoholic and they always hit the spot. £6
1am: After dinner service, once we’ve cleaned down and packed up, I have to write a summary report and update the weekly financials. Having found a near-empty box of chocolate Crunchy Nut Clusters (can’t resist) in the storeroom, I make myself a bowl to power through. Later, while everyone is drinking beers and chatting about the week gone by, I persuade my boyfriend to leave as I’m too exhausted to join the conviviality. We jump in a cab and I nap the whole way home. He pays.
Total: £84 More
10am: Our day of rest…or not. Today is my boyfriend’s last day in his flat and we’re helping his brother and his girlfriend to pack and clean the whole place. I deep clean like never before, starting with the kitchen, then the bathroom and finally our bedroom. It’s exhausting but also rather cathartic. I hate cleaning but I’ve decided the mindlessness of it is meditative and the outcome is undeniably satisfying. Food-wise, we finish the breakfast supplies we bought two days earlier and snack on more crisps to get us through. Not so healthy but truly inexpensive.
I head to Tesco to pick up a late lunch: pizza, salad, crisps and chocolate. Keeping things cheap and easy. We eat in my boyfriend’s brother’s new flat, a few floors down in the same building, and lounge on the sofa for a while before heading home to my – now our – flat. £10
7pm: Another cab for us. Which, again, I don’t pay for. We chill at home, relax, reorganise and have an early night.
Total: £10 More
Today I resist buying a hot drink on my way to work but cave when I see it’s scrambled eggs again for breakfast. I run out to Pret and buy a mango sunshine bowl, justifying it as a much-needed injection of vitamins. I proceed to make myself two oat milk hot chocolates over the course of the morning, using the cocoa powder I bought last week. £3
2pm: Lunch service is quiet – eerily so – and we persuade the chefs to make the front of house team some food. I get a small bowl of venison ragù and have it as a snack with some fresh sourdough. Honestly, the amount of bread I get through some days is insane.
5pm: What a shock. One of the restaurant owners calls a meeting to tell us they’ve made the devastating decision to close all four of their restaurants for the foreseeable future. With coronavirus spreading and little government direction, for the safety of people and the business, this is what has to be done. It’s heartbreaking for the whole team. We’re to call guests, clean and tidy, locking up before dinner. All the while drinking any already opened bottles of wine. I start with a small glass of cava before drinking a large glass of garnacha. None of this has sunk in. As we say our goodbyes, I order a cab. It’s finally my turn to pay. £19
7pm: Back at home we call our families, speak with the owners, chat it out with our housemates and friends, struggling to come to terms with this incomprehensible new position we find ourselves in. Unemployed. Redundant.
We settle on watching
Outnumbered on Netflix to cheer us up. Entertainment has to be escapist at this point in time.
Total: £22 More
10am: I decide I must stay positive and treat the next two weeks, at the very least, as a period of funemployment. Emphasis on the FUN. I’ve had several friends in this position between jobs, taking time to rest, reflect and relax, but in my situation I don’t know when I’ll next have a job so it’s somewhat less relaxing. Ironically, I joked about desiring such a luxury about a week ago, telling a friend how lovely it would be to have some time to myself to do very little. And here we are. I get up and head to my corner shop for breakfast supplies. I have a coffee, a Granny Smith apple and an Alpro dark chocolate pot. £5
I top up my Monzo, try and work on a new budget for the coming month and eventually give up, committing to simply spending as little as possible. My only rule is to be sensible without feeling too sad, letting myself have some treats (in terms of consumables, no more clothes) but living within my means.
My boyfriend has gone back to work to finish off a few things so I do some chores in the house and head to Bethnal Green for a long walk. I call my mum, pick up a coat I’d ordered (before I knew I’d be financially constrained, though it was on sale and it’s far too nice to send back) from the post office, and finally end up on Chatsworth Road in Clapton. I sit on a bench for a while FaceTiming a friend and eventually start shopping. Shopping alone relaxes me but I’m very good at it and can spend a lot of money in a very short timeframe. I visit my favourite deli Epicerie 56, which is now only letting in three customers at a time, for some small luxuries like cured meat and fancy drinking chocolate. I then head to the greengrocer for fresh fruit and vegetables and finally a mini market for some pantry essentials to get us through the next few days. £62
3pm: I check in with my boyfriend and we agree to meet at home in an hour for a late lunch. I head to Pak’s to pick up two months worth of tampons and a large tub of leave-in conditioner for my curly hair. I’m happy to go into long-term isolation but I want to be prepared. Or at the very least, feel like I am. £8
4pm: We eat a delicious spread of food – fresh sourdough, dressed green salad, burrata with extra virgin olive oil and a selection of cured meat – leaving me so stuffed that by the time it gets to dinner I just opt for a glass of Californian chardonnay and some leftover Fox’s cookies. Nutritious, no? We have a flat meeting to discuss next steps. With all my housemates working from home, we
want to make sure we’re all on the same page with cleaning and purchasing household items. I’ve been tasked with finding surface cleaner and dishwasher tablets tomorrow.
Later in the evening, I give my boyfriend the knife I bought him as an early birthday present, in the hope that it’ll cheer him up. It’s been an intense and surreal day, and the gift succeeds in making him feel better. Which in turn helps me too.
Total: £75 More
9am: I send my housemate money for electricity. We do it the old school way: cash to the guy at the corner shop, who tops up our dongle, which we plug in at home, et voilà! We have power! It’s been the same method in both my homes in London so I’m used to it. £20
10am: We make a nice breakfast of asparagus, eggs and toast, and lounge. It’s easy to lose track of time, letting hours go by unaccounted for when you’re endlessly at home. We potter about like pensioners, weeding the garden and tidying our room. I decide to cook lunch and make an
Alison Roman recipe that I’ve been meaning to try for a while. If there’s one good thing to come from all this, it’s that I will hopefully get back into cooking. I make her caramelised shallot pasta, forgoing the parsley as neither shop nearby has any, and serve it with a big green salad. The best thing about this recipe is that you take out half the shallot/garlic/anchovy/tomato paste and put it in a jar midway through, leaving it in the fridge for future use. I can’t wait to spread it on bread.
5pm: My boyfriend and I walk eastward along the canal to his old flat to pick up a John Lewis order that has been sent there. It’s a long walk but a mild evening and I can’t wait to collect the Microplane grater we bought. Believe me, it’s life-changing. It elevates parmesan to a whole other level… We go on the hunt for household goods, first visiting Tesco and then Sainsbury’s, which is packed full of angry, agitated customers, finally finding the cleaning products we require. It’s quite the mission and a long, sweaty trek home. We’ve decided to quit our taxi habit and walk everywhere instead, while we can. It’s good exercise, so I shouldn’t complain. £12
8pm: For dinner, we eat some of the perishable items my boyfriend brought home from the
restaurant. He rustles up a rich plate of warming food – much to the envy of my housemates – and we drink a wonderful Australian dry, red blend. I while away the evening chatting to friends and become deeply engrossed in my new book, Girl, Woman, Other, which I highly recommend.
Total: £32 More
Today I don’t really want to leave my bed. I make an oat mocha and eat half a grapefruit and an Alpro dark chocolate pot while reading my book, cosy under my duvet. I spend most of the morning like this. I’m unable to motivate myself to sort through the clothes I’ve cleared out of my wardrobe recently, to start selling them online. Instead, I distract myself by sharing lots of memes back and forth with my friends on WhatsApp and trialling Houseparty, an app which lets you video call in large groups with ease. It’s fun, and with social distancing looking like it might become a way of life for a while, it could be something we need to get used to.
3pm: For lunch we rustle up some vegetables and salad with fried halloumi and bread. Nothing special and after we’ve finished, I persuade my boyfriend to go for a stroll, instead of going back to bed. I get restless when I’m inside for too long, and we end up back on Chatsworth Road. We visit Epicerie 56 once again to stock up on cured meat and bread. They’re no longer letting customers inside, serving us through the window instead. What a time to be alive, huh. £8
7pm: My housemate’s boyfriend is a baker and we chat for ages about how the hospitality industry is crumbling. He has seen many of his team laid off in the past week and is working overtime to make the bakery’s novel attempt at delivery work out. Seeing how innovative many restaurants are being in the face of adversity is hugely encouraging. Let’s just hope the government can come through with some real support for the millions of people affected. To do our bit and support the cause, I Monzo my housemate some money in return for the baked goods his boyfriend brought to our house: coconut almond cakes and a vegan banana loaf. I wish I could support more of the restaurants and small businesses in need right now, but I also feel strapped for cash. I’m trying to do my bit by generally boycotting large supermarkets; those who still have a steady flow of income should support local, small shop owners. This period of time is unprecedentedly difficult. £4
7.30pm: We make egg fried rice for dinner – one of the most comforting foods in my opinion – and watch
Ugly Delicious in bed. I eat a coconut almond cake while low-key judging Dave Chang as he wanders around India, mind-blown by the way people eat with their hands and unapologetically ignorant about curry. Sometimes I find him rather problematic.
I have gone over budget this week, which I’m going to blame on the unforeseen circumstances I’ve found myself in and of course, the large food shop I did. But I guess it’s all been necessary. Hopefully over the next few weeks I will spend much less. I fall asleep dreaming about the banana bread I’m going to have for breakfast, slathered in salted butter. I’m finding that having a good book on the go and plenty of tasty food in the house helps a lot. I’m just trying to take things one day at a time.
Total: £12 More
Transportation: £19 Clothes/Beauty: £8 Entertainment: £0 Other: £95
“I’ve definitely gone over budget this week, which I’m going to blame on the unforeseen circumstances I’ve found myself in and partly on the large food shop I did. As my boyfriend has now moved in, next month’s rent will drop to £400, with the extra £50 helping to cover the cleaner – who will no longer visit us but we want to continue supporting her – and a few extras as a nod of gratitude to our housemates for being cool with the new set-up. It couldn’t have been better timed really, so that’s one thing to be grateful for.
With our last paycheque and a few measly savings, we should get through the next two months if we don’t live too frivolously. Then it’s just a case of waiting to see if the government will come through on their promise of 80% wage payments for those like us and go from there. During a normal week there’d be a lot more eating out (I usually dine at a restaurant at least once a week) and ordering in (normally on a Sunday evening), but I’m looking forward to cooking more, and with the current situation escalating, I reckon soon enough there won’t be much to buy, bar groceries, which should help to curb my spending.”
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