Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Life: My Money Diary

I have been loving the money diary posts on Man Repeller and Refinery 29 of late. Having a snoop into someone else's spending habits is akin to those "what I ate today" posts which I used to be addicted to reading. Seeing how others eat and spend is either reassuring or...less reassuring when those "what I ate posts" fail to include the entire box of Hotel Chocolat chocolates, brought as a gift, eaten at 11pm because, don't kid yourselves, sashimi isn't filling.

I kept track of my spending for five days, including a weekend, 100% honestly so as not to show you the food equivalent of a day where I just had green juice and a salad. I am actually pretty sensible with money over all - I pay my mortgage, I pay my bills, I pay friends back (even if it means literally throwing a £2 coin into their handbag as I hate owing). But with a penchant for frequent holidays, a savings account with £0.26 in it and having the attitude that money is sort of the "prize" for being an adult (it is though!) I thought it could be interesting to see where it all actually goes.... Read: my credit card statement just arrived from my trip to NYC, either the exchange rate was truly dire or I had more than a "couple" of drinks in each bar and I've been thrown into a temporary state of spending awareness.

How we live and how we chose to spend our money is so personal, and yes, I'm incredibly lucky that I have money to "waste" on sushi and Starbucks and I don't need my #privilege being pointed out but I hope this be taken light-heartedly and maybe your spending habits are like mine or maybe they're entirely different. As a Brit, talking about money is extremely awkward so I'm obviously not sharing what I earn or my mortgage payments - this is just pure day-to-day disposable income. If its not blindingly obvious from my lifestyle, I'm single, I live alone and I work in the City. Maybe I should spend my Sundays batch-cooking quinoa for the week ahead and maybe if I had a partner to do that with it might be fun but right now doing that sounds about as appealing as eating the stuff dry.

My gym membership fees come out of my pay cheque so I'm basically saving money by going for a 7am spin class, right? I have breakfast at my desk because eating any earlier than 9.30am is a no-no for me and the work canteen is pretty cheap (sadly the coffee is awful). I usually try to get out for lunch but couldn't escape from The Desk today so grabbed a wrap from the canteen (cheaper than Itsu by far). Popped into Boots after work for cotton wool and hay fever tablets and spent my evening watching the Rio Olympics on a big screen with a £3 M&S sandwich because watching other people do sport is hungry work.

Started the day with a free Heart Core barre class and feel pretty good about y'know life and stuff. Pop into Taylor Street Baristas on the way to work for a soya cappuccino which counts as breakfast. Lunch is a falafel salad from a place near the office and I pop into one of those ubiquitous City card shops to buy a card for my penpal (yes it's 2016 and I have a penpal). The graduates at work are moving on to new departments next week so we have drinks and nibbles for their departure - a Diet Coke and (several handfuls of) Mini Cheddars equals dinner (oops but free!).

Due to aforementioned gym membership I try not to spend extra money on workout classes but the weather forecast is good and yoga at Dalston Roof Park sounds like an amazing way to start a sunny Friday and something I won't regret in November. I walk the 40 minutes there and hop on the train to work after. I rarely get public transport so just do pay-as-you-go on my Oyster Card or use a contactless credit card. A friend tells me that Adriene Mischler of Yoga With Adriene is holding a class in London in October so I book in a panic - crazy expensive but I don't really watch TV or care about the Kardashians so she's pretty much a celebrity to me. Lunch eaten outside from a Japanese cafe near the office. Food shop on the way home from work as I need to blog a recipe - buy avocados and salad ingredients in the hope of making something photogenic (the result) and having leftovers for the weekend.

I start Saturday with a £12 yoga class at Camden Beach - this feels like money well spent for a fun 90 minutes (and comes with a free juice). Spend the rest of the day brushing sand off of me. Jump on the tube to Leicester Square to meet friends for lunch at The Barbary. Lovely food, charming service but absolutely tiny portions. £26.39 on some sharing dips, a slice of halloumi, a tiny salad and a Turkish coffee to keep me awake during the theatre. "Small plates" are not a budget savvy way to eat as you'll spend more and eat far less than an equivalent actual meal. Especially if you are veggie. Will save small plates rant for another time. Not a fan. After lunch we see Romeo + Juliet at the Garrick - the ticket was bought over a year ago so it's sort of free and I'm not counting it as today's spending as I can't remember how much it was. I walk home after a wander around Soho and pick up a veggie salad in Itsu during their half price happy hour, forgetting in my hunger about the salad wilting in the fridge at home.

Head to Peckham for brunch with friends. Buy coffee on route because starting the day with alcohol feels wrong so it might as well be caffeine. We go to Frank's Cafe on the roof of a Peckham car park, my friend buys our brunch in celebration of having moved back to London but I buy a round of drinks for £20 (end up having three Bloody Mary's). I buy a later round of drinks at The Pedlar in Peckham Rye (espresso martini for me). Take the train home at 6ish and buy a Diet Coke on the way because I'm feeling a little sleepy. Spend evening writing blog posts and watching the Olympics which is free (daytime drinking makes me surprisingly productive) and eating the leftover salad from Friday.

Phew! So in total I spent £184.73. In five days. The following Monday and Tuesday brought it up to £203 for the week which I guess is a pretty average week's spending. I'm glad to have not made any impulse purchases, something I used to have a problem with and I also used to drink 2-3 cans of Diet Coke every day which I no longer do so yay for my bank balance and tooth enamel. My A-Level economics teacher used to say that every pound we spend is a vote so I'd like to think I've voted for mostly convenience, spending my free time doing things that make me happy and experiences over "things".

Do you keep track of your spending? What do you spend most of your cash on?



  1. I got a credit card recently and I'm so determined to pay it off every month (I purely got it for the Avios points) so I've started a spreadsheet to see what I spend. I've realised how much I spend on coffee and food, but it's the big spends that throw me. Like I bought a new hand luggage suitcase which was £60 but I needed it and now my average spend for the week has gone to shit!
    Would love to do that Yoga With Adriene class but you know, that suitcase was expensive so I guess not!
    Charlie, Distracted

    1. This happens to me too - I do really well not going over budget on everyday things, but the 'one offs' happen too often and throw me out.


  2. I love this post. You're 100% right. It's exactly like WIAW in terms of being nosy and enjoying seeing into other people's lives. It's so interesting. I'm uber jealous of your London lifestyle ("oh just rooftop yoga with a free juice" nonchalant hehe - that's so cool!!) and your ability to eat out literally ALL THE TIME. That said, it would be really dangerous for me. I often joke that I wish the Pizza Express that is like five minute drive from my house would be a Nando's instead as I'm not a big pizza eater but chicken? But I just know how easy it would be to eat there all the time and waste so much money.
    On a daily basis I spend money on doing small shops for food at Tesco as there's on just next to the office and I find it easier to pick up bits I need on an ad hoc basis rather than do a big shop, plus it means a nice lunch time walk. Other than that, it's the occasional coffee (though at the weekend I eat probably at least once).

  3. This was such an interesting post. I live in a rural town with my husband and cat, so my spending habits are completely different to yours. For one, I would never have the time to head out to buy food every day. I'd spend my life travelling to shops in the car!
    Also, I love that you still have a penpal! I used to excitedly await letters from the two I had when I was younger, and the stickers and other odd items we used to send each other. I had one penpal in Chester, and one from Romania. I think they both just fizzled out in the end which was a shame.
    I do keep track of spending, and most of it tends to go on renovating our house at the moment. Big purchases, so I need to keep it super tight right now. We tend to eat out at a restaurant maybe once a month and head to the pub quiz each week for an escape from work!

  4. Lily this was brilliant! Thanks for being so honest and sharing - it's pretty reassuring to see it's not just me treading the fine balance between free (well, prepaid) gym and "oooh unique class yes it's overpriced but I don't do this all the time... OK maybe twice this week but never again"!

    I used to track my spending really closely but fell out of the habit and I think that's why my 'one off' Asos orders / extra fitness classes have started to add up without me realising. You've definitely inspired me to go through my statements and work out what's really going on :)


  5. I admit to being nosey about other peoples' habits, so I enjoyed reading this! When I was self-employed for a bit last year I used to track my spending using the app Spendee, and logging everything got a bit addictive in the way that My Fitness Pal can do, haha! One thing I have noticed about not living in a major city is that I spend way less of my disposable income on material things as I'm not walking past shops constantly that can tempt me... I spend more money on 'experiences' and also am saving some money which is good.

  6. Credit card bills after a holiday are the WORST, talk about insult to injury in the come down after a trip and needing to go back to work etc!

    At the moment I'm in between homs/locations a lot and the biggest spend is definitely food- I seem to end up in a supermarket every other day and am buying lots more cooked meat/fish and bagged salad than I would like because we're on limited space and capacity. I think it's the annoyance factor that I don't have a great deal of choice on the spend that bugs me. At least twice weekly I wish for an Itsu to pop up near the office, but it doesn't seem to have materialised!

  7. We definitely did NOT just have a couple of drinks at each bar in New York...but still blame the exchange rate! X


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