Money Diary: A Non-Profit Advisor On £80,000

Money Diary: A Non-Profit Advisor On £80,000

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.

This week: “I’m a 36-year-old woman living in the east of England working in the international development sector. After working in the UK for a few years, I moved abroad to gain experience and worked in crisis zones like South Sudan and Afghanistan. Now that I’m back in the UK, I work from home. I live on my own, and I’m learning to get comfortable with the idea that I may never have a romantic partner, so I try and make sensible financial decisions as I think I’ll always be a single-earning household. Recently I’ve had to navigate the social care system as my mum is unwell and can no longer live independently. This has been unbelievably stressful, sad and eye-opening about the cost of care. I don’t have a weekly or monthly budget per se, but I try to be money savvy: Martin Lewis is my oracle and I’ll use cashback sites when making purchases and will do my day-to-day spending on a card that gives me cashback which I then funnel into spending money for holidays. While I’m a saver and have always put money aside every month, I also do spend when I see something I like — hello, cashmere jumpers in the winter months, high-end makeup, and fancy hotels and Airbnbs.”

Occupation: Advisor
Industry: Non-profit
Age: 36
Location: East of England
Salary: £80,000
Paycheque Amount: £3,695
Number of housemates: None
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £653 mortgage. I make a £47 overpayment to round up my mortgage payment to £700.
Loan payments: None.
Savings?: I have about £255,000 across high-interest savings and stocks and shares accounts. Each month after payday I put around £500-£750 into savings for the long term (the amount varies depending on what is happening that month). I also put £550 split across separate spending pots for Christmas and holidays and annual costs like car insurance/car tax/home insurance.
Pension?: Yes, I have a pension with my current job that has £67,000 in it. I’ve recently upped my contributions to be more tax efficient and because I’m worried how much everything will cost when I finally retire. I now pay in 15% each month and my employer pays in 7%. I also have a pension from a previous job that has around £50,000 in it. Combining the two has been on my to-do list for about three years now…
Utilities: £93 gas and electricity; £23 water; £137 council tax; £24 broadband.
All other monthly payments: £5 automated charity donation; £2.99 Apple storage; £4.90 phone; £19.20 newspaper delivery. Subscriptions: £10.99 Spotify; £4.99 Netflix; £47.50 yoga; £60 annual Calm membership and £38 annual hiking app; £17 window cleaner every 12 weeks and £40 allowance for my mum in a temporary care home every six weeks or so.

Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? 
Yes, I went to university for my undergraduate degree and was the first in my family to go to university. I took out the maximum student loan available to cover my three years of study and have since paid back my loan. My parents kindly paid for my accommodation in second and third year using some money they inherited when my grandfather passed.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
Growing up my parents didn’t really talk about money, but my mum handled the finances for the household. She had an A4 notebook and little plastic cash bags to apportion out her and my dad’s spending for the month into little pots, and then would do a reconciliation at the end of each month. I now know that when I was small my dad was unemployed for about a year and money was really tight, thus the paying attention to every pound. My mum always encouraged me to keep a tally of my spending and if I got a credit card to always pay it off in full.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents’/guardians’ house? I moved out at 19 to attend university. During COVID-19 I stayed with my parents for six months or so as my dad was undergoing significant medical treatment. 

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life? After I graduated I moved to Manchester for my first job and became financially responsible for myself. When I moved back home temporarily during COVID-19 I did not pay rent to my parents, so I acknowledge that I was able to save more during that time. I did offer to contribute but they refused to accept. By this time their mortgage was paid off and it was such a weird time with lockdowns and treatment for my dad. As a family we were shielding, so expenses were very low.

What was your first job and why did you get it? I got a paper delivery round when I was 13 for about £10 a week!

Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I know that on paper I’m very comfortable and I have a well-paying job. However, I am in a phase of life now where I am responsible for my mum’s care and welfare, alongside thinking about my own future and potentially having a child on my own. I view my money through the lens of taking care of myself and any children I have and taking care of my mum. I get worried because the cost of care is horrendous, and I want my mum to be safe and happy. As a single person with no siblings, I do worry if something were to happen to me who would care for me or my mum.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
Yes, I’ve inherited income three times due to loss. I received about £15,000 when I was a teenager following the death of my grandparents. I put this money into a savings account and never touched it until I bought my house a couple of years ago. I then inherited £40,000 when my dad died and around £156,000 when my godfather died. I have not spent any of this money and have some complicated feelings around my inheriting it. I recognise that this is a huge amount of money and know that I am very privileged to have such a big financial safety net. I would give this money away in a heartbeat if it would give me more time with the people I loved.

Day One

5:50 a.m. — I stayed at my best friend’s last night and her kids are awake. I hear them chatting and my friend F ssshhing them to be quiet. They “whisper” which is incredibly cute because it’s not at all quiet.

8:30 a.m. — I get up and after two hours of puzzles, TV, games and chats we all have pain au chocolat for breakfast (Tesco frozen ones — absolute game changer).

9:30 a.m. — Quick shower, skincare, and then go for a walk with F in the park near her house. We catch up on everything and discuss how my mum’s health is. Book in for a vinyasa yoga class during the week using a pass I paid for earlier in the month.

12:30 p.m. — Lunch at F’s made by her lovely husband G before I set off back to mine. Squeeze the kids and give them some chocolates which seems to soften the blow that I’m off. Stop for a coffee from McDonald’s to keep me going on the drive while I listen to last week’s Leading podcast, £1.99.

5:25 p.m. — Finally home! Put washing on and unpack. Water the plants and put the recycling out. Pop to little Tesco and get milk, juice, a Korean noodle meal for dinner and some flowers, £11.55.

7:15 p.m. — Watch Taskmaster and have the Korean ready meal with a G&T, followed by some chocolate. Plan this week’s meal plan after doing a scan of the freezer and fridge.

10:15 p.m. — Do a rapid skincare routine and head to bed but an hour later I’m still awake, so pop a melatonin and read for a bit. Get to sleep around midnight.

Total: £13.54

Day Two

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I snooze it and doze for a bit before scrolling social media for 10 minutes. 

8:30 a.m. — Have a glass of juice and a quick shower before my normal morning skincare: cleansing with an Inky List cleanser, spritzing with a facial spray then hyaluronic acid and an Olay moisturiser.  Fire up the Nespresso and have a coffee while I get dressed.

9:30 a.m. — Drive to the post office to post my godson’s birthday present, £3.49. Drive on to my auntie’s to collect from her the shoes I ordered for mum that don’t fit and need to be returned.

10:50 a.m. — Arrive at the care home where my mum is staying. We chat and I talk to her about a few things I’m worried about. I fix her phone, and tell her about the trousers I’ve brought for her to try on. (Spoiler alert: Neither of the two pairs of trousers fit and have to be returned, argh.) 

11:45 a.m. — Leave mum and whizz around to do some jobs. I return the shoes that don’t fit then head to Tesco where I buy sourdough, pasta, a reduced ready meal that I can freeze, ricotta, yoghurt, nuts and crème fraîche and some veg. Use some Club Card vouchers so only pay £6.79.

12:45 p.m. — Arrive home and make a quick lunch of scrambled eggs (Gordon Ramsay’s method which is excellent).

2 p.m. — Walk to a first date with a guy I met on Hinge. He’s chatty but I just don’t fancy him. Sigh. We each pay for our own coffees — my flat white is £3.60.

3:15 p.m. — Walking home from my date I buy flowers for my friend T’s birthday, £5. When I get home I clean the bathroom, hoover, read a bit of the paper and put a couple of things up on Vinted. Snack on a few crisps to keep me going.

7:30 p.m. — Walk into town for T’s birthday celebration with a group of friends. I have a plant-based burger, a delicious cocktail and some birthday cake. The food, cocktail, service and three hours of gaming comes to £34.10.

11:15 p.m. — Do my skincare: cleansing with micellar water followed by a facial spray then Revitalash on my lashes (it genuinely does work) and The Ordinary retinol followed by Jordan Samuel Moisture Recovery Cream. Make up a hot water bottle and put on a sleep story on the Calm app when I get into bed.  

Total: £52.98

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — I have a lie in and it feels so good! Make a coffee and two pieces of peanut butter and banana on sourdough while flicking through the rest of the paper I didn’t read yesterday.
10:30 a.m. — Drive to see my mum. My mum’s personality has changed a lot over the last few months due to illness, so it’s hard to see her changing and not showing the same love and care and interest in my life as she used to. I know in my heart she loves me beyond measure but it is so hard to navigate these changing roles where I now feel like the parent. As I go to leave I walk with her to the bathroom and after two minutes hear a huge crash. I am terrified she’s fallen but its okay — it’s just the toilet seat that has fallen to the floor. I tell the carer in charge and leave her with the other residents.

12 p.m. — Drive over to my mum’s old house. Check on the post, and see if I can find some trousers that might fit her, and some shoes. 

1 p.m. — Drive to my aunt and uncle’s house and have a roast dinner with some family. After lunch we chat about my mum and care planning and options.

4:30 p.m. — Drive back to mine and catch up with Martin Lewis’ latest email. Go through the steps where I’ll make £185 if I switch my current account. I have a burner current account for switching purposes.

5 p.m. — Book a wax for later this month, £35.

6 p.m. — Go for a walk around my local area listening to The Rest Is Politics. Fall in love a bit with Rory Stewart. I’m a recent convert to the podcast but really enjoy how it helps me to engage a different part of my brain.

7 p.m. — Settle on the sofa for some Netflix. Have a glass of wine, some toast and some chocolate. 

10 p.m. — Same skincare routine as last night (just without the retinol) and head to bed to listen to rain sounds on the Calm app to fall asleep. 

Total: £35

Day Four

8:15 a.m. — I wake up naturally and lay in bed scrolling. My mum calls me and I feel the fear of what might be wrong. She’s upbeat — which is good — although a bit confused. While we are chatting her breakfast arrives so it’s just a short call. 

9 a.m. — Make a coffee and put a load of washing on. Buy some Katherine Ryan tickets for next year with my friend C. Yes! £30.50 for my share. 

9:40 a.m. — Another call from my mum. Confusion about where she is and what is happening today. Reassure and reorient her. 

10:40 a.m. — Walk into town for a browse around the shops as I’m on the hunt for a swimsuit. I buy a card for my mum to give my auntie for her birthday and I get a card for my friend L’s upcoming birthday, £3.78. I also pick up free apples from M&S (the Sparks app gives you freebies from time to time!). 

12 p.m. — Meet my friend T for coffee. She buys the coffee and I get the pastries and we sit in the sunshine in a local park. Lovely, £4.20.

3:30 p.m. — I walk home and the search for a swimsuit continues online. Order one and a T-shirt from H&M, £38.99.

5 p.m. — Another call from my mum. This time she says she can’t remember where I live, which is heartbreaking. I remind her. I decide to clean the inside of the windows in my house as a distraction from the sadness and have an apple. 

7 p.m. — Make a tomato, pepper and ricotta pasta for dinner and watch Sex Education on Netflix. 

9 p.m. — Do the dishes, defrost some fruit, and sit with the crossword from the newspaper to help my brain switch off. Then do skincare, melatonin and time for bed.

Total: £77.47

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off. After some time off work this early start feels terrible. I have a glass of juice and a quick shower. Fire up the Nespresso to take a coffee to my desk. Take out sausages and cauliflower cheese from the freezer for dinner tonight. 

7 a.m. — First call of the day where I participate in a roundtable call to get updates on the situation in Gaza. Afterwards, I eat some granola with the defrosted fruit and yoghurt and power through my emails.

10 a.m. — Make another coffee and have a call from Mum. We chat for 5-10 minutes — she’s confused and says she doesn’t have any toiletries. I tell her where to look for them in her room and reassure her we’ll make a list of what she needs when I visit tomorrow. Call the care home to ask they can arrange hospital transport for an appointment she has later this month before I head back to work.

12 p.m. — Make a lunch of scrambled eggs on sourdough. Package up a return and voice note my friend F. 

4 p.m. — Finish work for the day and panic plant the dahlias I bought three weeks ago and forgot about. Say a few prayers that they will thrive. I then walk to my yoga class and on the way call a pub to make a lunch booking for the upcoming weekend.

7:15 p.m. — Walk home from yoga and deal with a flurry of texts about my mum. Visitors letting me know she’s run out of deodorant and other toiletries. Encourage them to check the cabinet as I’m convinced she had all these things when I was there a few days ago. Panic-buy deodorant and toothpaste in Tesco to take to her tomorrow, £2.70. 

7:40 p.m. — Put sausages and cauliflower cheese in the oven and have a quick shower while it cooks. Catch up on a few Hinge messages and voice note my friend E. Feel stressed and like all the calm from yoga has evaporated. 

8:15 p.m. — Eat dinner and watch Netflix. 

9:30 p.m. — Do all my post-dinner organising: wash up, fill up my water bottle for tomorrow, fill up the Nespresso and defrost some fruit. 

11 p.m. — Skincare, rain sounds on the Calm app and bed.

Total: £2.70

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I get up quickly to avoid scrolling on my phone. Wash my face and apply my hyaluronic acid and moisturiser. 

8 a.m. — At my desk with a coffee and make some large-scale budget adjustments to a project I’m working on. Exchange a few work messages with my work bff on Teams and have the standard granola and fruit with yoghurt.

12 p.m. — Take my lunch break and drive to my mum’s house to pick up all toiletries she has there just so I can take nice bits later and keep a stock at mine to avoid a panic like yesterday. 

1:15 p.m. — Make a quick lunch of beans on toast and then get back to work. This afternoon is meetings and a final review of a funding proposal.

4:30 p.m. — I finish work and fill my car up with petrol, £45.33. I also get some bits in Sainsbury’s like milk, sparkling water, fruit and juice, £10.49.

6 p.m. — Arrive to see my mum. We talk together about some of her heath concerns and watch the news. I help her to try on several pairs of trousers that I brought from her house and find one pair that fits — great success! 

8 p.m. — I have a work call with a colleague in the US about an urgent project we’re both working on. I try not to take calls outside of work hours but sometimes the flexibility is really helpful as it means I can take a longer lunch break to run any errands, et cetera. 

9:20 p.m. — Make a very late dinner — pepper, tomato and ricotta pasta again. 

11 p.m. — Do my skincare and do a quick scroll on Vinted. See some trainers I have been wanting for a while at a good price. Make an offer and its accepted — woohoo! Transfer £105.57.

Total: £161.39

Day Seven

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off and the struggle is real to get up. I lie in until 6:40 a.m. which is the absolute latest I can stay in bed and still be on time for work. Do a rapid skincare and have a juice and make a coffee to take to my desk.

7 a.m. — Jump on my first call of the day on Yemen. Work on some quick email responses in the background to try and figure out a summer trip to visit our team in Afghanistan where I will facilitate a strategy refresh.

9 a.m. — Order Nespresso capsules for £39.90. I have a panic about what to have for dinner as I hadn’t put anything on the meal plan. Take some curry out of freezer and pray it defrosts in time.

2:30 p.m. — Today is flat out and I work through lunch and have some crisps, an apple, and two pieces of toast for sustenance. Not my finest meal planning.

3:30 p.m. — Wrap up work and drive to the post office to process a return (free) and then pop into the little shop opposite to buy chewing gum, a pack of reduced price cookies and a scratch card for my mum as a treat — she likes a flutter, £3.70.

4:10 p.m. — Arrive at my mum’s care home for a care review and I’m early. Decide to do a 20-minute walk around the neighbourhood to clear my head and move my body. Afterwards I participate in the care review and then go and then hang out with my mum. 

6:45 p.m. — Arrive home and speed clean my bathroom and hoover. Text my wider family to share the care updates from my meeting while dinner cooks (cooks feels generous, I reheat curry and make rice). 

7:45 p.m. — More Sex Education on Netflix and I try and switch off. Have a glass of wine and some of the cookies I bought before having an early night.

Total: £43.60

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: £115.32
Clothes & Beauty: £179.56
Home & Health: £0
Entertainment: £30.50
Travel: £45.33
Other: £15.97

Total: £386.68


“It’s so interesting to see all my spending totalled up as quite often I worry that I am spending a lot, but on reflection I think this is relatively low (bar the late night Vinted trainers!). I do think my food spend is quite low this week. I tend to do a big shop every other week so in between will pick up bits and pieces, and this week was a ‘bits and pieces’ week. I do regularly meal plan and love a well-stocked freezer to make sure I can always cobble something together. The trainers were a treat and the Katherine Ryan tickets were a present to my future self. Particularly with the situation with my mum it’s become important for me to have things booked in to look forward to. In the future I should probably make more time for exercise and be careful to regularly reassess the time I have for myself, my mum, and other important relationships.”

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