A 28-Year-Old Starting Life Over In Leicester On 25k

Laveta Brigham

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 am a 28-year-old who has very recently […]

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 am a 28-year-old who has very recently come out of an abusive marriage and am going through the process of a divorce. It took me a long time to gather the courage to admit the reality of my situation and decide to start my life over on my own terms and in my own space. I’ve never really lived alone before as I lived at home throughout my degree and beyond, then rent-free with my ex-husband who owned the house, so this is a very new venture for me and I’m still learning the ropes of financial independence. I was put on furlough leave in March this year and then my contract wasn’t renewed in July. However, I realise I’m very lucky to have only been out of work for a month and secured a new (permanent!) contract in August, especially given my commitment (stubbornness) to working only in the third or education sector. The 18-year-old social justice warrior in me lives on!”
 
Industry: Higher education
Age: 28
Location: Leicester, East Midlands 
Salary: £25,217 
Paycheque amount: £1,732
Number of housemates:

Monthly Expenses
 
Housing costs: £490. I managed to knock down a tiny discount on a one-bed with allocated parking. Very proud of myself for this.
Council tax: £86 with single person discount.
Loan payments: £0. I took out a personal loan from a family member to pay for my tuition fees and finally paid off the full amount of £10,125 earlier this year.
Utilities: £30-40 gas and electric, £20 for internet. Not sure how much I will pay for water as I haven’t been here long enough to get a water bill just yet but not looking forward to that one…
Transportation: £411 annual car insurance. £68.75 biannual road tax. Usually around £40 per month on petrol depending on how far I’m travelling for social purposes. I would walk to work but currently WFH until 2021. I own my car outright. 
Phone bill: £9 SIM only. I bought my phone outright earlier this year. 
Savings? I had saved up a decent amount at the start of the year which took a hit when I paid off the remainder of my student loan, then took an even further hit as I moved out and got my own place. Currently I have £1,788 in an instant saver, £201.06 in a ‘save the change’ pot and £430 in an emergency pot which I may or may not eventually use for dental braces or a holiday. Trying very hard to build up my savings with the view of purchasing a house within the next five years. Yes, part of my five-year plan, ha. 
Other: £23 for contact lenses. £10 to charity. £40 per therapy session – I usually have around 1-2 sessions per month. Netflix: use my sister’s. Amazon Prime: use my cousins’ (thank God for brilliant family). I sell some of my clothes on Depop and Facebook Marketplace which usually brings in between £10-30 some months – not a lot but certainly helped me treat myself to a coffee when I was out of work.

Day One  
 
8.30am: Alarm goes off after a few snoozes. Get up, shower, dress and settle at my desk with coffee and buttered toast with pineapple jam.
 
11am: Pretty quiet morning at work so far considering it has been pretty busy since I started last month. Nothing pressing requires my attention so scroll through ASOS while I take a morning break and my insulin shot. Add a pair of adidas trainers and leather trousers to my basket but swiftly exit before I can cause any unnecessary damage.
 
1.30pm: Break for lunch and heat up some tomato and basil soup. Also eat two satsumas because: vitamins. 
 
5pm: Sign off from work bang on 5 and video call my mum over WhatsApp to have a natter. Not sure what I want to eat for dinner and harangue her for ideas. 
 
7.30pm: End up making myself some spicy noodles with tenderstem broccoli and a soft-boiled egg. Eat this while listening to an episode of one of my favourite podcasts: Hidden Brain.
 
9.45pm: Have somehow found myself watching an insufferable rom-com about interracial marriage on Netflix and now I am having a sob. I feel like crying over my relationship is just part of my evening routine at this point. 
 
10.40pm: Nighttime routine of skincare, some meditation to balance out the emotions, insulin injection and hot water bottle.
 
Total: £0 

Day Two 
 
8.30am: Wake up and hop in the shower. Get dressed, make myself a coffee and grab a Soreen mini loaf. Settle at my desk for 9.
 
11am: It’s been a busy morning of coordinating diaries, creating proformas and editing the website. Take a break to make another cup of coffee and my mid-morning insulin shot. 
 
12.45pm: Feel hungry so stop for lunch. Nothing exciting, have some tomato and basil soup again but this time with a cheese, cucumber and onion sandwich. Really trying to keep grocery expenses down as previously I know this was one of the highest monthly expenses. I thoroughly enjoy good food and cooking but with my new limited kitchen space/finances this has got to change! 
 
4.20pm: Receive an email rejecting me for a scholarship I applied for to study a master’s this year. Feel somewhat disheartened but also reassure myself it probably would have been a lot to take on at this time. 
 
5pm: Join an online seminar on the topic of race and policing in the UK. Grateful that I am able to access these events and be part of these discussions due to working in HE. 
 
7pm: Fancy fish and chips for dinner so make a healthier homemade version by baking frozen battered cod fillets and parboiled potatoes coated in olive oil, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder, of course. Make a salsa of sorts to eat alongside it with sweetcorn, red onion and cucumber. Not quite mushy peas and curry sauce, but it’ll do. 
 
8.15pm: The lady I’ve been messaging on Facebook Marketplace about a mirror has accepted my offer of £25 and I can go to collect now. Get my mask ready and head out. When I arrive, I realise it has more scratches than described so she knocks it down a little. It’s huge and heavy but I manage to haul it into my little car and into my flat alone. Can I consider this a win for feminism? £22 
 
10.40pm: After spending some time cleaning the mirror, it’s the usual nighttime routine and bed. 
 
Total: £22

Day Three 

7.45am: Wake up a little earlier than usual today and feel better for it as it means I can take my time in the shower. Blast some old school RnB to prolong the good mood.

9am: At the desk with coffee and mini Soreen loaf in hand. Guess I’m a creature of habit after all.

12.40pm: Heat up some of the leftover potato wedges from yesterday’s dinner for my lunch with a spinach and halloumi salad. Add sweet peppadew peppers – they’re a game-changer. 

3.50pm: The doorbell goes and it turns out to be a delivery of a gorgeous autumnal bunch of flowers from my best friend to lift my spirit during this challenging time. It certainly works and I shed a happy tear or two before spending way too long trimming, arranging and photographing them. She appreciates the photography. Decide to pay it forward and order a bouquet for my sister to say thank you as she has been an absolute lifeline for me lately. Make use of the discount code that came with my flowers. £23.80 

5.20pm: Finish work a little later as I feel I took too much time out earlier attending to the flowers. 

6.15pm: Head to a retail park to search for a new rug for the living area. Find a shaggy Berber-style one with tassel fringing in Homesense, £89. Also pick up a clothes dryer rack from Dunelm, £14, and a croissant from M&S Food for breakfast tomorrow, 99p.

8.20pm: I’m starving by the time I get in and cannot be bothered to cook after arranging my new huge rug so order some chicken wings and fries using Deliveroo. Not ideal but sometimes you just need buffalo wings in your life. Feels nice to be breaking my inadvertent pescatarian streak. £10.97

Total: £138.76

Day Four 
 
8.30am: Wake up and feel relieved it’s Friday. Starting a new role remotely has been intense as it feels like I have to be switched on all the time and it doesn’t afford the natural breaks an office space allows.
 
9am: Settled at my desk with usual coffee. The croissant I bought yesterday feels like a special little Friday treat.
 
1.30pm: Break for lunch after a busy morning. Today’s lunch is baked potato with beans and cheese. Mix tuna and mayo in with the ‘salsa’ from earlier this week to eat with it. Very impressed with my concoction.
 
2.40pm: Try hard not to fall asleep at the screen after my hearty lunch. I have a deadline today and I’m struggling. Coffee to the rescue.
 
5.50pm: Finally log off work after meeting my deadline. Tempted to lie on the sofa for the rest of the evening but force myself out for a walk as I feel like I have had way too much screen time.
 
7.20pm: Back in and feel refreshed. Met a very friendly husky in the park and feel overjoyed. However, I am absolutely ready for dinner. 
 
7.30pm: Bake the last of my battered cod fillets. Slice this up and add to sautéed peppers, onions and broccoli. Boil some egg noodles, stir in soy sauce and honey and voilà! We have some kind of fish stir fry? Delicious though.
 
8.20pm: FaceTime a friend and try hard to remember what it was like to have a social life. I keep in touch with friends regularly but after leaving my husband, the physical distance between where I live and where my best friends live has become glaringly obvious. 
 
Total: £0

Day Five 
 
9.40am: Wake up and decide to go for a walk around my local park. Nothing like a bit of greenery to boost the serotonin levels, despite the rain.

10.30am: Make a breakfast of smashed avocado seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and chilli flakes. Have this on toast with crumbled feta. Glorious. 
 
3.45pm: After splitting my time between snacking on crisps, scrolling through Instagram on the sofa and cleaning the bathroom, I get in the car and head into town. I would walk but the rain is unforgiving at this point.
 
4.10pm: Why does rain cause traffic jams, always? Pay for an hour’s parking. Eat your heart out, Londoners. £1
 
5pm: I’ve browsed through a few shops but my priority was to return a dress to Zara which looked ridiculous on my 5’2 frame. Decide against a Starbucks. +£19.99
 
5.30pm: Head to Lidl for a big grocery shop. It comes up higher than I expected but I suppose I’m still buying ‘cupboard staples’ at this stage so hopefully the next shop will come up cheaper. £57.34
 
7pm: Head home by way of one of my favourite food spots. Realise I haven’t really had lunch and am starving. Get a large bowl of sticky chicken in sauce, rice and veggies. £9.49
 
11pm: The rest of my evening flies by with Netflix, video calling my sister for an extended catch-up on life and general pottering around. Usual routine and lights out by 11.30.
 
Total: £67.83

Day Six
 
10.35am: Wake up after a nice lie-in. It is Sunday, after all. Scroll through my phone for a bit and order a novel off Amazon for my (currently virtual) book club. It will arrive later this afternoon – yay for Prime?! This month we’re reading The Family Upstairs. £4.50 
 
11am: Do some stretches as my back has been hurting a little from moving furniture recently. Make myself a wonderful brunch of an omelette with sautéed red onion, yellow pepper with garlic and parsley. Eat this with seeded toast and avocado. 
 
12.40pm: Potter around my flat. Decide I may as well vacuum and do some cleaning. Can this be considered exercise? Really want to drive out to see my family but they are currently self-isolating as one member tested positive last week. I’m not clear on current rules around meeting people outside of immediate family so can’t make any plans despite really wanting to catch up with friends over coffee. 
 
2.30pm: My book has arrived! Spend the rest of the afternoon curled up on the sofa in my blanket, utterly absorbed.
 
5.30pm: FaceTime a friend who is going through a very busy period at work. He offers his opinion on my new rug (he doesn’t like it).
 
7pm: Dinner is smoked mackerel fillets with seasoned potatoes and broccoli. Ring my mum for a natter while I cook my meal. Eat dinner while watching Kim’s Convenience on Netflix – a very light-hearted show which has helped me to relax. 
 
7.30pm: Got distracted by Depop and end up buying a pre-loved co-ord set. I’ve wanted one in a charcoal grey colour for a while and this one looks great. Knowing it’s pre-loved helps to ease my guilt of buying clothes. £12 + £3.95 P&P.
 
9.30pm: Hop in the bathroom for a long hot shower. Feel great afterwards and even braid my hair. 
 
10.30pm: Nighttime routine. Scroll through Instagram in bed aimlessly for a while, watching cooking videos.
 
12.10am: Mind is awash with thoughts of my marriage. How is it possible to miss someone so dearly when they ruined you? Why am I not asleep yet? 
 
Total: £20.45

Day Seven
 
6.30am: Wake up feeling anxious and afraid from a nightmare involving my ex-husband. Try my best to fall back asleep. Eventually do so, listening to a calming soundtrack on YouTube.
 
9.20am: Realise I’ve slept through my 8.30 alarm! Have an internal battle whether to call in sick or get up and get on with it. “Never too late to save the day” I repeat to myself as I launch myself up, grab the laptop and start working straight from bed.
 
10.15am: Take a quick break to freshen up, crack open the windows for some air, get dressed and make breakfast. Realise my blood sugars are dropping so I need something in me ASAP. Fry an egg to go on top of seeded toast and coffee. Also have two Jammie Dodgers. The combination of grease and sugar is just about enough to take the edge off my crappy night and start to the day. 
 
11m: Very Serious Committee Meeting at work which I am servicing. Psych myself up to focus for the next hour and a half.
 
1.30pm: Break for lunch and heat up some soup (tomato and basil, again). Not too hungry due to my large and late breakfast. Eat this while journalling some of my thoughts. Decide to message my therapist and book in a session. £40
 
4pm: Meeting with deputy director of my team. Resent late afternoon meetings but this one flies by as she is a super cool academic and we end up chatting way past 5pm on topics of race relations in society. 
 
7pm: Log onto Zoom for a catch-up with a close friend who lives abroad in western Europe. We chat for ages about careers, relationships and respective governments’ approaches to the pandemic. End up having a sob because I’d forgotten what it felt like to receive love and care so easily from people in my life and am overwhelmed. 
 
9.10pm: Realise I am absolutely starving and heat up leftover mackerel fillets and potatoes. Boil some more broccoli. Season with garlic powder (did you expect anything else?). Finish off with a couple of squares of orange dark chocolate. YUM. Unwind with Netflix and watch some of Enola Holmes. Henry Cavill is dreamy. 
 
10.45pm: Nighttime routine and bed. Feel content that I managed to salvage my Monday despite a rocky start.
 
Total: £40 

The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £78.79
Entertainment: £4.50
Clothes/Beauty: £15.95
Travel: £1
Other: £188.80

Total: £289.04

Conclusion

“I feel like I had some one-off purchases this week which contributed to a higher total as I’m still in the process of settling into my flat. Same goes for the grocery shop. I probably could have cooked at home every evening too but with the uncertainty around seeing friends, sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up…right? Overall, I feel I am doing okay and seeing my spending mapped out has helped me to realise I can be okay financially. Being okay emotionally is still a journey I’m working towards. I am also considering getting a credit card for the monthly grocery shop and to help build a credit score.” 

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