You know those couple of weeks where you don’t even know if you’re coming or going and you have so many thousands of micro odd jobs to do, you don’t even know which one to do first? I’m right there in the midst of it. Work is moving into its busiest period, I have A LOT of events to go to (I know, sooooo tough), I’m trying to squeeze in seeing all my friends in the space of the last few weeks before Christmas as well as attempting to finish buying presents. Oh and we need to start saving for a kitchen, so there’s that.
To add to it, I decided I’d do an entire article documenting all my spending! Writing down every tube fare, coffee and Deliveroo order. The main reason being that if I write things down, I am generally more mindful of my spending. So imagine if I not only wrote it down, I also put it out there for thousands of people to read??
In partnership with NatWest, I’m hoping this will help normalise the conversations around money, that it’s okay not to know your money yet, but by knowing and understanding how we’re spending it could all help towards financial freedom in the future!
So here goes!
It’s 4 days until payday and I have around £118 in my bank (and no big bills coming out), which I‘m quite pleased about! Ideally I’d like a little left on payday to move into our building saving fund, so it would be good to have some leftover this month.
I am in my office for most of the day which is about a 20 minute walk from my house, I know I’m meeting a friend for coffee in the afternoon, so I don’t let myself buy a coffee on the way in. I made my lunch (sandwiches) to stop my temptation of buying food at work (the cafe at my co-working space is so overpriced for really, really mediocre food), but I also currently have an addiction to Naked Noodles (Singapore noodles flavour is my favourite) as we don’t have a microwave and I like to have some sort of hot food at my desk in winter! I buy this on route (85p).
Coffee with my friend: £2.30 ( I ordered a cortado which was the size of a thimble so in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best value for money drink I could’ve ordered).
Chris bought some food essentials (bread, milk etc) and we always split the cost of all of this, we earn almost the same so it makes everything easier and is the way we’ve always been together – it suits us! Where this is the case, I’ll just add my half of the bill here for ease (£2.52).
Watching TV at home I get a Black Friday email with a 50% off code for Snapfish, so I order all the large photos I was planning to frame for family as Christmas gifts (£4.81).
Ping! We sold a few items on eBay to help bump up our Christmas fund – just £30 but it helps to cut down spiralling costs. We sold an old kitchen table which we moved in with – it was bulky, heavy and took up too much room, the buyer picked it up so our kitchen feels much more roomy, too!
I worked from home in the morning, then headed into central London (£5.20 tube fare) to an IT Cosmetics Thanksgiving lunch. In my job, I’ll often have work events at this time of year – it means I generally have to cram my work around them and a lot are in the evenings but it does mean I save money on food and don’t have to think about a packed lunch!
I get home from work and plan our food shop. We try and keep it low and use up everything we have in our cupboards, and as I’m out a lot this week we shouldn’t need to spend too much (I’m hoping!).
Chris spotted a rat in our bathroom so might need to call Pest Control which may play havoc with our finances this week…but fingers crossed it was a one-off – that happens, right?!
I am up early to get a train to Southampton (Tube: £7.60, train £48.70 – I pay but will be reimbursed at some point next month) to do a guest lecture at Solent Uni, super proud of myself for remembering to make a sandwich this morning and bringing my eco coffee cup! But forgot my water bottle so buy a plastic one on the train (annoying)…I also buy a coffee (total: £4.15) but there’s no discount for bringing your own cup, obviously, and he makes a cappuccino by pouring water in my cup with a sachet and I have to stir it myself. I don’t mind a sachet coffee but not when I’m charged £2.30 for it!
Talk goes well, always slightly surprise myself that I know what I’m talking about sometimes, to be honest! I get back to London 15 minutes before a meeting at Peggy’s nursery, and realise we still haven’t done our weekly food shop yet so buy ingredients for nachos this evening and stir-fry tomorrow. I go to Tesco Express near nursery for convenience (which I tell myself to never do!) and it costs £20.50 (which I split with Chris), which is half our usual weekly shop total! Frustrated with myself but then, there could be worse things to spend my money on…
TOTAL: £70.70 (but £48.70 to be reimbursed at some point!)
Head into Tottenham Court Road via tube (total travel £11.60) as have an appointment with Ikea to look at kitchen designs, we’ve been cooking one-pot meals on portable hobs for a few years now and I cannot wait to turn it into a more homely space! We buy coffee (£2.62) at Warren Street with 10p discount each for bringing our own cup (I have a rule that I can’t buy a fancy coffee whilst out unless I have my own cup, it works!) and after the appointment, we grab a quick katsu curry for lunch (£8.05 each) – one day until payday and we have a little bit of money in our account – that’s something to celebrate, right?!
We head home to work on content but pass a beautiful toy store called Pollock’s Toy Museum on the way and in my effort to support small businesses I convinced Chris to come in with me, we find a few presents for friends’ children, they cost a little more than we could’ve found online (£16 each) but it’s good to support independent shops where we can. And a few more items are ticked off our present list, at least!
In the evening I head to a friend’s house – we were supposed to meet in town for dinner but we both have babies to put to bed so I asked if she would mind just a casual catch up at her house instead, she offered to cook pasta and it was perfect.
It’s PAYDAY!! I’m freelance, but I still pay myself on payday as I find it helps me budget for the month. I then put aside money for tax straight away so I don’t get caught scrabbling around for my tax bill at the end of January. We transfer all our non-negotiable outgoings (mortgage, insurance, council tax) into our joint account on the 1st of every month. All of our bills and direct debits come from this account – it’s so important to know exactly how much we always need in this account, plus it’s nice to have a bit of contingency as we don’t really have any savings (everything currently goes into the renovations).
Sold an old designer scarf on Vestiaire Collective a few weeks ago and the money finally hit my account! So we have an extra bit to play with, which will go towards Christmas gifts.
Chris did the rest of the food shop in Lidl (at 7am to beat the rush!) which comes to £22.84 (£11.42 each), which sounds great but it’s because we had already spent £20 in Tesco the other day, so it’s more than our usual weekly shop and we’re barely in to eat. I also owe Chris £5.75 for an extra reusable nappy we bought this week.
We film an IGTV at home, and eat leftover butter bean stew (we always cook in bulk if we can to make meals go further) and have a much needed quiet night.
I drive to my sister’s for the weekend with Peggy whilst Chris is in Liverpool watching the football (the car was already full of petrol – so luckily didn’t have to fill it up). Their road does a lovely Santa and carol service and Peggy loves hanging out with her cousins.
My sister doesn’t let me pay anything towards the Deliveroo takeaway, so I have to just remember to return the favour once we have a working, child-friendly kitchen!
For once, we have no plans! I bring the Christmas decorations down from the loft and we go through our present list. We start our Christmas shopping in October to help us budget and give limited gifts (we don’t, for instance, buy for each other, or even Peggy this year as she still doesn’t understand), so we only have a few left on our list.
By 5pm we all go a little stir crazy and decide to go out for a local dinner (£28 between us) – it’s so child-friendly and Peggy is always so well behaved there (the chefs even play peekaboo with her behind their aprons!). We order just mains and Peggy shares ours (the children’s meals are £7 and you can bet she will screw her face up as soon as it arrives).
Sunday night is when my eBay items end (I don’t sell as often as I used to, but try and do a few around this time of year to help with spending) – we’ve uploaded a few items that I no longer wear but are in good condition – a necklace, some old designer shoe dust bags (they sold for £1 each but better than in the bin!), so I put a few together using up old jiffy envelopes and transfer out the money to use for our Christmas shopping we’re planning to do in the morning.
It’s our first proper morning of Christmas shopping! We have Peggy on Mondays so walk into Wood Green to get some gifts. We’ve tried to keep most of our shopping local and go with a specific list and we are not allowed to deviate from it. In fact, we find everything in TK Maxx (£24.50)! I also buy some essentials from Boots (£4.75), a birthday card for my niece and a special ‘nan’ card as she would appreciate that sort of thing (£2.48).
As a mark of triumph, we go to Pret and buy a coffee each (£1.85), then I leave Chris and head back to my office and finish my gift guides.
I get up early and get the tube to Marylebone for Bicester Village (tube £5.60, train booked in advance), I have been meaning to catch up with a friend for ages and as it’s coming up to Christmas, she suggested meeting here and ticking off the last of our Christmas presents at the same time – perfect. I know I need to be careful and strategic with my money – it becomes very easy to get caught up in the excitement (and bargains).
I have a plan – the main objective is to see my friend, and I would love it if I came home with a few Christmas gifts sorted at the same time. I only let myself spend money in The White Company (£50.58) – a few gifts for family and then I did pick up a sleeping bag for Peggy which wasn’t essential but after a recent sickbug we learnt she could do with a spare(!).
All this and on the train home by lunchtime (did I mention Bicester is B.U.S.Y around Christmas?!) Best to get in and out is my advice.
Pick up lunch on way to my office (£6.99) and know we need to work late to catch up on deadlines (I know, I know, shouldn’t have gone to Bicester!), I just don’t have the energy to make a mushroom risotto for over an hour after the wrestling act that is putting Peggy to bed at 7:30pm, so we order a Five Guys takeaway (£14.47). We buy drinks from our local newsagent so the overall cost is less (Five Guys can add up) and share a large fries which is cheaper than getting a small portion each. I feel terrible about the indulgence but accept that sometimes we all do things to make our life easier and today has been a bit of a write-off when it comes to expenditure. I don’t have them often.
Wowza. That escalated quickly.
Wake up feeling rough, must’ve caught a cold from Peggy – ‘tis the season! It’s also the season for burst pipes, leaks and a household mouse apparently (yes, as well as a rat). We call our local plumber to sort the leak but decide to delay Pest Control for a bit until we know it’s a regular occurrence (only one mouse spot so far and the rat seems to have disappeared) and as I spent all my money in Bicester, we might need to hold off (priorities, Alex!). We eat leftover bolognese for lunch and work from home.
The plumber didn’t charge us! As he fitted the pipe originally it fell under his warranty (which is why it’s always a good idea to find recommended tradespeople!).
I head into town to meet my mum (£8) – I have tickets to the preview of A Christmas Carol (through work) at The Old Vic, so this will count as part of her present. We plan to meet at The Foundling Museum first – I have a National Art Pass so it’s free for both of us. We grab dinner at Wahaca nearby (one of my go-tos for affordable low-key dinners) which my mum refuses to let me pay for (possibly why I’m so anal about paying everyone back, my own family will never let me)!!
Phew. Feel like I clawed a bit back from yesterday.
We head straight to Lidl at 7:30am (£13.24 split with Chris), we’re out so much this week and next, that we barely have anything to buy, so we add a few frozen Christmas canapes (mini toad in the holes!) to our trolley so it doesn’t hit us all at once come the big week.
In the evening I get ready for a work Christmas party, I haven’t bought anything new for parties this year, I wear a Sandro dress from last year and and an old Zara velvet blazer and get the tube to the party (£5.20), thankfully there is free food and drink (pizza and prosecco!) which means I can think about a taxi home, but it’s the other side of London so I compromise and get the tube home to as near as I can and get a taxi from the station (although I end up paying a premium rate due to the time of night – £20).
At this point in the Christmas period, I feel I might need to be drip fed berocca. I head to my office (make my own coffee in a flask for the walk!) and now the gift guides are finished, I start to feel work slowly unwinding a bit. I have a work event in town (transport organised by the brand) and buy some overpriced eucalyptus for a friend whose house we’re going to later (£6.50). Chris’s parents have offered to babysit so we grab a bottle of cider we have at home to take with, catch the tube to East London (£5.60) to the party and the weekend begins!
TOTAL over 12 days (with Southampton reimbursement): £276.48
Average: £23.04 a day
Wow. That seems a lot! I don’t think I’ve spent this much money in a while, to be honest. I did expect to spend a lot more than usual due to presents and parties, so we had a bit put aside (from selling things) but the final figure still shocks me as it seems such a huge amount of money.
It IS the most expensive and busiest time of the year, but maybe next year I’ll be thinking about doing more home-made presents!
What I have mainly learnt from writing this diary, is how much of privileged life I lead, that I even have this much money as disposable income; 10-15 years ago this wasn’t the case and it makes me feel proud of what I have achieved for myself. But it does make me think, even when I think I’m not spending much, it can all add up – especially for someone confident with my outgoings, like me! I had fallen out of the habit of writing in my ‘Kakeiboh’ journal, and am definitely going to continue writing down everything to help me feel more knowledgeable with what my outgoings are.
In this busy season, it’s important to allow for extra expenditure and keep an eye on your bank balance, all of the Christmas parties are done for me now – and hopefully I’ll spend the rest of December hibernating indoors in order to save a bit for the end of the month!
You can see more on the process and how it made me feel on IGTV here:
This post was made possible by teaming with NatWest, who want start more conversations around money and spending to help everyone become more financially confident this Christmas.