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Money Diary: A Recently Let-Go Accountant In London On 93k

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: “Hi! I’m a 28-year-old finance professional living in London. I work in a very niche area of finance so once I qualified as an accountant, my skills were very in demand and I got poached by a boutique firm. I used this opportunity (with some encouragement from my boyfriend, P) to negotiate myself a salary uplift and sign-on bonus. Last year I bought a two-bedroom flat by myself. For full disclosure, I lived with my mum and sister while working. There is some cultural/personal context to this which I won’t go into but I paid rent (albeit slightly reduced). It meant that I could be around (I also did the majority of cooking, general life house stuff, DIY). I recognise there was some element of luck and privilege to be able to do this. I saw the impact of my parents’ divorce on my mum so I’ve always been keen to be as financially independent as I can, even though I’m in a relationship. As the eldest child in a first generation immigrant working class family, there have been lots of obstacles but I’ve been truly living my dream. All this came crashing down last month when, as a complete shock, I was hauled into a meeting and asked to leave my job. After some very upsetting weeks and chatting to various lawyers, I decided to give up fighting my bosses and just leave. I was reluctant to do this as it meant that I had to waive my right to pursue any sexism and racism grievances I had raised. However the negotiation process and the nature of the job (long, intense hours served with a dollop of white public school boy nepotism) had impacted my mental health quite significantly. I am lucky that the payout will be enough to live on for a little bit while I figure out what I want to do with my life. This is a very unusual position to be in! I am currently in a long-distance relationship with P, who works for an infrastructure startup. We met nearly six years ago through a chance Tinder date. After two years of various dates in random cities worldwide, P and I finally got together in a very snowy and romantic Christmas/New Year visit to New York and have now been together for four years. P’s company transferred him to the US permanently so he is currently going through the Green Card process. Hopefully, some time in the future I will join him. Pre-COVID, both P and I’s jobs involved a lot of travelling and it worked well as we always managed to see each other frequently. There was a rather memorable flight where I spent 14 hours sitting next to P’s boss… Since COVID, P has only been able to fly back twice (adhering to all rules, of course). P’s job is considered essential as it’s in infrastructure. So we’ve spent quite a lot of the past year apart. I moved out of my mum’s into my own flat during the first lockdown so learning to live alone has been a new and exciting (and sometimes lonely) experience. P has been back in the US since the beginning of the year so my mum and sister who live together and not too far away are my support bubble.” Industry: Finance Age: 28 Location: LondonSalary: £55,000 plus bonuses which are variable year on year. Last year I earned £93k all in. Normal paycheque amount: £2,929 (after tax). Bonuses are paid as a lump sum once a year.Number of housemates: Just me. Yes, all by myself. Monthly ExpensesHousing costs: £1,292 is my monthly mortgage payment on my two-bed flat. Loan payments: No loans apart from my student loan payment which is £246 per month (and a couple of grand around bonus time). I have a credit card that I use for work expenses and any large house purchases over £100. The points and lounge access are super helpful when travelling with work/to see P. The balance gets paid in full at the end of the month. Utilities: £36 a month for water, £37 for gas and electric, £30 for broadband, £88 council tax, £40 for home and contents insurance (this is paid annually so I save £40 a month for the remaining 11 months of the year in anticipation of my renewal).Transportation: £0 as I’m no longer commuting to work.Phone bill: £16 SIM only deal which also includes a subscription to Spotify Premium. Savings? Circa £10k split across a few accounts: one untouchable old school building society account with passbook, a stocks and shares ISA (this is a longer term fund with an emphasis on investing in socially responsible businesses) and two regular savers. My savings were depleted after buying my flat last year and I’m trying to balance slowly furnishing it with having an emergency fund. Pension: I contribute 8% as a salary sacrifice before tax and my employers contribute 6%. Other: Monthly: £25 for dental insurance (I had very bad problems with my teeth and ended up having a root canal a few years ago – this policy covers things that my work health insurance does not), £13 for life insurance (bit morbid but once I completed on my flat I got my financial affairs in order. The policy covers the entire mortgage plus a bit extra in case anything happens to me. I also wrote a will which gives me a lot of reassurance that I will not leave a big financial mess for my family. Although I have a death-in-service policy through work, getting a separate one (in hindsight) was a great idea). £12 for Netflix, £4 for Amazon Prime, £10 for Dropbox, £5 on an interiors magazine subscription, £6 for Microsoft Office, £150 charity donation (every month I pick a charity/cause to donate to – some Christians believe in tithing, which is the practice of giving away 10% of your income. This is something that I was brought up doing. Although I am no longer religious, I try to give away 10% of my earnings each year. I top this up with a lump sum when I get paid my yearly bonus).Day One8am: Alarm. Instead of picking up my phone and looking at the news, I have started to read a book to ease myself into the day. Watching The Social Dilemma and running an interiors IG account has made me super paranoid about my overuse of social media. Today is my last day of gardening leave so I try to fill my day up and not think about work. I finish listening to the rest of Call Me By Your Name. 9.20am: Complete a dumbbell workout. Feel weird about not having to join the weekly work call and wonder what my colleagues are up to – I then remember the anxiety of joining the call and having to fight to be heard and impress everyone and have a cry. 10am: Calm myself down with a breakfast of oat yoghurt, honey, frozen blueberries and homemade granola. 11.45am: Finish my morning stroll which is soundtracked by Bicep, SOPHIE and Caribou. 1pm: Listen to a David Olusoga lecture about forgotten Black historical figures as I cook my scrambled eggs, avocado and sourdough toast with lime and sriracha. Think back to my uni days when I took an economic history module that focused on the Industrial Revolution and the lecturer got very flustered when I asked why he had forgotten to mention slavery for the entire 10 weeks.2pm: My chain of thought is interrupted by P calling. He is six hours behind and so is just startin
g his day. We chat about what I’ve been up to while I try to use the spare apples from my subscription box to make some apple butter (recipe from the Everything I Want to Eat book).4pm: Nearly burn said apple butter…5pm: Second walk of the day! So happy that it’s not yet dark. Get home to post (yes, lockdown is that dull that post arriving is the highlight of my day). It is my yearly mortgage statement and some bills. Still feel unbelievably lucky that I’ve been able to buy my own home.6pm: It was payday last week and today is the beginning of the month so the accountant in me decides to reconcile her bank account. I check all my direct debits have left their various accounts. I move some spending money into my Monzo account plus check my credit card balance and credit score. I also do some calculations/scenario planning on what I need to live now I’ve just got my last paycheque. Until I get the settlement in full and know exactly what tax will be deducted, it is hard to plan really. 7pm: P calls again to chat while he eats lunch. I demolish some leftovers: pork roast with garlic potatoes, roasted beetroot, sprouts and carrots. I have a little wobble as I start second-guessing my decision not to send a leaving email. P reassures me that I’m doing the right thing so I close my work laptop for the final time. 8pm: Spend some time editing and filming an IG reel then upload it to my home interior IG, revealing a new chair I bought last week. 10pm: Review some notes for my governors’ meeting in a few days’ time. I then box up my work laptop ready for collection tomorrow. I do my evening wind-down: teeth, skincare (lips and face) and journal some thoughts for the day in my diary. Pop my phone on DND and read Normal People until I fall asleep. Total: £0 Day Two6.48am: I am woken up by the sound of squawking. Rouse myself from my slumber and look out of the kitchen window to see some foxes getting it on in my garden. Nod my approval and stumble back to bed. At least someone’s getting laid. 9am: I couldn’t get back to sleep so pick up Normal People. I would have got my daily walk in early but the courier is coming to collect my work laptop and I have no idea what time they’re supposed to turn up so I sit in bed and read for a bit. 10am: The courier arrives and I have a massive cry at the finality of it all. Work somewhere for years and then get tossed aside without a word. I decide to go for a long walk to clear my head. I cry/walk/laugh at the Scam Goddess and You’re Wrong About podcasts. 12.45pm: Feeling refreshed from my walk so complete a 30 minute HIIT workout. Put on some UK garage to pump myself up. 2pm: I’m far too hungry to make lunch for myself so take a walk to the local café. I eye up all the pastries and sandwiches while in the queue and then panic when I get to the front and revert to what I always order. Tap the Monzo and walk out with an iced hazelnut latte and a turkey club on a bagel. £10.25 (but £0.75 roundup goes to my spare change pot on Monzo).3pm: P calls to let me know he has just got to work. He might be working on an infrastructure project in the UK so may get to come back. I try not to get my hopes up too much. 3.30pm: I realise I need to beat the deadline to submit my team for Fantasy Football. Rather awkwardly, I’m still in my work’s league and I’m beating quite a few important people (including the managing partner). What is the etiquette? Do I leave of my own accord or are they petty enough to kick me out? 5pm: Answer a few emails, complete life admin, then get interrupted by my mum asking for help to complete her online shop. As the account is attached to my card, tell her not to bother switching the card details and let me pay for it. £49.05 7pm: Start making dinner while listening to a Clubhouse room called “Life Does Not End at 30”. Definitely the gospel I needed to hear. Enjoy my fajitas: chicken and red pepper, roasted plantain and homemade refried black beans and guacamole. 8pm: Get another email about a job opening that I was considering in the charity sector. The role is to help people who are in a similar position to my younger self break into the corporate world. Inspired by the Clubhouse room, I take this third email as a sign that I should apply. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much so decide not to tell anyone (apart from everyone now reading this).10pm: Say goodnight to P and then do my evening wind-down. I read Normal People as I drift off. Total: £59.30Day Three 5.30am: Wake up in a sweat adamant that I’ve missed my meeting this morning and check my phone to see that it is in fact still hours away. Listen to And Still I Rise and fall asleep again. 8am: Spend two hours in a governors’ meeting. I became a co-opted governor (i.e. someone who has no affiliation with the school) 18 months ago and every term there are a few meetings to attend. Governors are there to be critical friends to the school. The headteacher and staff’s dedication to the kids and the school has completely blown me away since the pandemic began. We discuss the school’s upcoming budget with the local authority. Schools are under immense pressure to make cuts while maintaining the same level of provision yet with the added cost and complication of implementing COVID-19 measures. Trying to do all three things is like squaring the circle and even as an accountant, by the end of the meeting my head hurts. I make a coffee afterwards and have a slice of toast with the apple butter and a banana.10.30am: Decide to work on my core using my dumbbells and then hop on my exercise bike for half an hour while watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. 2pm: I eat some leftover fajitas and then write a Valentine’s card for P and pop it in the post on my walk to the park. Although P and I speak every day (sometimes more than once), we still write each other letters every week or so. It’s nice to send a handwritten note to let someone know that you’re thinking about them. 4pm: To relax, I run myself a hot bath while listening to this week’s episode of The Receipts. 6pm: Chat to P and make myself an early dinner of salmon with soy and tahini roast potatoes and cabbage. 8pm: I spend some time working on my job application, then admit defeat. I open a bottle of chardonnay and spend the evening reading my interiors magazine, scrolling through Pinterest and watching RHOBH. I get inspired and order some Command hooks, paint testers and linen fabric samples (for making curtains). £1710pm: Do my evening wind-down: skincare, journalling etc. I then do a 30 minute yoga/meditation video to relax before bed. I finish Normal People and fall asleep. Total: £17Day Four9am: As I don’t have work currently, I’m trying to maintain a routine. Today is a rest day in terms of exercise so I decide to listen to a classic album in bed: Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope. I make a smoothie bowl: mango, banana and papaya topped with toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds and oats. 10am: P asked me to review his portfolio. Although we keep our money separate, we try and make decisions about the future with the other person in mind and try to help each other where we can. As the accountant in the relationship, I help with number stuff where I can. Post arrives: some bottles of fancy tequila and this month’s copy of Vogue (P kindly gifted me a subscription for Christmas).12pm: I make myself an early lunch: focaccia, grilled garlic mushrooms and hummus. Follow up this sophisticated lunch with a pot of jelly. It’s very weird but I’ve recently started getting into jelly as a snack. It makes me feel like a 5-year-old when I eat it but it also slaps? 2pm: I go for my daily walk. I stop at the butcher (I pick up minced beef, sausages and smoked bacon, £6.93) and then pick up the wine samples for my natural wine class later. Even though I’m naturally introverted, living alone means I now relish small things such as chatting to people in shops. I paid for the class last week but as this shop is not on my normal walking route I make the most of the opportunity to pick up another bottle of wine. I chat to the shop assistant ab
out some purchases I made over Christmas (a bottle of vermouth and a bottle of sauternes) and choose a bottle of merlot to take home. £153.30pm: I grab my diary and start making a massive to-do list of everything I’ve ever wanted to do but put off because of work. I tell myself that no idea is too stupid and to dream big. Some of the things include: making a film about my dad’s life, running my own spirits business, learning to play bass guitar and finally passing my driving test. Say them aloud to the universe so they can come true. I spend some time sketching out brand ideas for my business as well as reprioritising the flat to-do list. I then watch a documentary called See Know Evil about Davide Sorrenti. 7pm: I make myself some dinner so I don’t do my wine tasting class on an empty stomach. I make a prawn, pea and tomato risotto. I haven’t quite adjusted to cooking for one and don’t understand why supermarket portions don’t cater to single people? Measure out a risotto portion for one but then panic when it doesn’t amount to much. Slowly tip in more and more rice and stir. By the end, I have actually made enough risotto for three but it’s delicious so pop the leftovers in the fridge. 8pm: Take part in my natural wine tasting class – there are five wines to taste and make notes on. I am not so keen on the Georgian orange rkatsiteli or the light Chilean carignan but there is a sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley which is out of this world. I lived in France for a short while a few years ago and I still miss that part of the world very much. 10pm: Break my winding down rule to watch Drag Race UK before bed. I cannot get over how much I love this cast of talented queens but in particular I love Bimini and Tayce. Chat to P in bed and tell him about my wine class and he fills me in on his day. Finally fall asleep around 1am. Total: £21.93Day Five9am: I decide to give the flat a good deep clean – hoover, floors wiped, bathroom scrubbed, kitchen spotless, laundry on. Listen to the new Arlo Parks album while I do this.10am: Hop on the exercise bike while watching an episode of Modern Family. Feel like lifting so do some barbell/dumbbell sets afterwards.11am: Reread my job application an inordinate number of times and start second-guessing EVERY LITTLE DETAIL. My confidence is pretty on the floor after everything that happened with work and I start talking myself out of applying. Eventually I manage to reason with myself and press send. I throw the laptop away (figuratively of course) and run away to the supermarket to keep my mind off it. 1pm: Give up 38 great British pounds and 52 pence in exchange for following items: caster sugar, bleach, rubber gloves, dark, milk and white chocolate, agave nectar, tamarind paste, portobello mushrooms, pomegranate, avocados, cherries, jelly (mango and blackcurrant flavours), hazelnuts, tomatoes, unsalted butter, veg pizza, oat yoghurt, vegan Ben & Jerry’s (cookie dough of course), eggs, a sourdough loaf, and a partridge in a pear tree… £38.52 3pm: Do some brainstorming for content ideas for my home IG and exchange a few emails with a brand about a collaboration. Have a phone call with one of my ex-colleagues who is now a very good friend and fill her in on what’s been happening. There aren’t many women in my industry so it’s super nice to have someone to have a proper gossip/cry/laugh/chat with. 4pm: P gives me a call to say he’s just been chatting to his immigration lawyer. New York 2023? Do we elope and get married in secret? Who knows… 6.30pm: I am sitting reading my new book, Luster, with a glass of wine when I get a call from one of my close uni friends. I almost ignore it as I’m enjoying my book too much but after five rings, I toss the book aside and pick it up. Obey her instructions to come outside. She and another friend (who live together) are waving manically from the car and have left me a bottle of lemon-infused gin with a note on the doorstep. They are blasting Bree Runway from the car so we have an impromptu dance-off. For a moment it feels like old times and the pandemic melts away. Then with a cold gust of wind, we are reminded that it is indeed winter, they are dancing on the road and giving the recycling bins a show and we should all head back inside. Once I’m inside, I give them a phone call and we chat while they’re driving home – they were a bit worried about me after everything that happened so came to check I was okay. Girlfriends/the Sisterhood is just the best! 7pm: It would be just so rude to disturb all the new food in the fridge. Wouldn’t it? I let it get settled in for the night and order Thai food on Deliveroo. I boil some jasmine rice while I’m waiting for it (beef massaman, spring rolls, chicken satay and prawn crackers). £25.70 including tip. 9pm: My dad calls and we spend some time chatting while I nurse my cocktail. I make a gimlet (with a twist – Thai basil) with the gin that my friends dropped over. We end up chatting for far too long about politics, having kids (?) and photography. I also chat about my idea to make a film about our family history and we plan to do it when lockdown ends. Towards the end of the call, he asks if work is okay and I tell him I’m on a “sabbatical”. I don’t want either of my parents to worry so it’s easier to explain the situation this way (for now). 11pm: Watch Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. I’m too tired to journal so head straight to bed. Total: £64.22Day Six10am: It’s the weekend! P and I have a longstanding date to watch Drag Race (US) together so I have to avoid social media because of the spoilers. I make breakfast: wholewheat pancakes, toasted hazelnuts, chocolate spread and cherries and read various magazines. This weekend, it’s The World of Interiors and the FT (the FT is a habit I got into reading because of my job). 11am: It’s cardio time! I do a skipping/abs workout. Sing “Rain on Me” loud enough for the neighbours to hear. When will we dance in a club again? Please God, when?! 12pm: I make a start on my DIY projects for the weekend and rummage around the shed for various bits. Pull out the hand sander and paints for some frames that I need to prepare for mounting. I also grab my sewing machine as I have decided to challenge myself to make curtains for the living room as the drop is too long for standard curtains. Record some content for my home IG. 1.30pm: A letter from P plops onto the doormat. I tear it open and see it’s a collection of cards written every day from a week in January. Although I want to savour each one, I cannot stop myself from reading them all at once. I have a little cry as I read because I miss him lots. I throw together a quick salad: pomegranate, halloumi, spinach, rocket and avocado with a lemon and pine nut dressing. Add some hummus for good measure. 2pm: I put my favourite birthday present ever to use and make some vegan ice cream: oat milk, plant-based cream, agave nectar and vanilla essence. My sister bought me an ice cream maker last year and I’ve never been more grateful in my life! 3pm: Go for a walk with the intention of listening to an audiobook. However I end up chatting to my mum and my godmother. They both have a sixth sense of calling one after the other (coincidence? I think not…). 4.30pm: P is finally up so we watch Drag Race and do a face mask together. We follow this with a couple of games of backgammon and yahtzee – we decide on a sudden death game to decide the winner and I end up winning the final game of backgammon! 7pm: Finalise my clear-out of clothes/random items – split some into a donation pile and decide to make the most of low eBay fees this weekend and stick up a few other random items. 8.30pm: I am far too hungry so make myself a giant burger using the minced beef and top it with grilled onions, gherkins, jalapeños, cheese, mayo and ketchup. 9pm: Practise making some cocktails: I settle down with a pisco sour and an amaretto sour as a nightcap and snuggle up on the sofa. I flick through Netflix, looking for something new to watch and settle on…Mean Girls. I then watch Ma Rainey’s Black
Bottom – Chadwick Boseman is absolutely sensational in it! Sometime after midnight: Evening wind-down. I climb into bed and read Luster until I fall asleep. Total: £0Day Seven 9am: Wake up and get started on making brownies for my mum and sister. Resist the urge to lick the bowl before breakfast. I spend some time shooting some angles of the flat in the morning light for IG while the brownies are cooking. 11am: Brownies are done! I make some brownie packages for my mum and P’s family which I will pop in the post tomorrow. I get back into bed with a cup of tea and watch an episode of Pose. 12.30pm: Finally roll out of bed to make myself a full English: I use the bacon and sausages from the butcher, plus scrambled eggs, avocado, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and homemade hash browns. I decide to get dressed up nicely and put some makeup on.2pm: Brave the increasing snowfall to walk to my mum’s and deliver the brownies and ice cream. Halfway through my walk, I realise that I have locked myself out of my flat. Luckily my mum has a spare key. Mum offers me some curry chicken which I happily accept. While she is packaging it up, I have a chat to my sister about work, her new painting class and It’s A Sin. She has finally finished watching so we share our thoughts on it – we both loved it (but also it was heartbreaking to watch). 4pm: Meander back home and try not to spill the curry in my backpack as it becomes increasingly slippy. The combination of snow, steamed up glasses and mask is a struggle! 6pm: Gatecrash P’s weekly family Zoom call. My heart melts as he’s chatting to his nieces. Have a bit of a Freudian slip and end up referring to “a wedding”. It’s the first time either P or I have mentioned getting married in front of his parents so P’s mum gets very excited. Whoops. 8pm: Chat to P separately for a bit while having dinner. I decide to freeze my mum’s curry for a day when I really can’t be bothered to cook and need a good home-cooked meal. I eat the rest of the risotto then have a brownie and ice cream afterwards. 10pm: Do some journalling, my skincare routine and also make a to-do list for next week. I’ve found reflecting/planning my week on a Sunday much more constructive. I then go and lie down for a bit. 12am: P calls and wakes me up so we can watch some of the Super Bowl together. He is eating a huge burrito and although it’s post-midnight for me, I’m very jealous. I stay awake long enough to watch the halftime show, which was totally not worth it. We say goodnight and I finally fall asleep.Total: £0The BreakdownFood/Drink: £145.45Entertainment: £0Clothes/Beauty: £0Travel: £0Other: £17Total: £162.45Conclusion”It’s been such a strange time. Since I’ve been on gardening leave I’ve had a lot more time to cook and take care of myself, which I’ve really enjoyed, especially as my mental health/wellbeing was down the toilet for most of January. I’ve also had the time to plan ahead financially and do some scenario-planning around the time I can take off before getting a new job. It was also super nice to put my work skills to use and do some analysis to help future P and I succeed! I spent a lot of money on food and booze (!) but as I’m not going out to restaurants or buying coffees as I normally would, I’m happy that I’ve been able to support local businesses where possible. Lockdown has saved me spending on things such as eating out and holidays and I’ve been able either to save the money or put it back into the flat. I try not to drink during the week but hey, it was fun doing the wine class! It’s also nice to help my mum out with groceries and stuff even though I don’t live at home anymore. There were no big flat purchases or surprises this week as I’ve been holding off until I know what I can spend properly. After initially thinking that all was lost, I’m using this as an opportunity to find out what my true life calling is – until then it’s DIY, my exercise bike and me.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Money Diary: Criminology Student & Part-Time CarerMoney Diary: A Business Owner In Liverpool On 17kMoney Diary: A PR Exec In Yorkshire On 21k