A Final-Year Journalism Student On 16k

Laveta Brigham

Refinery 29 UK Money Diary: A Final-Year Journalism Student On 16k 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 […]

Refinery 29 UK

Money Diary: A Final-Year Journalism Student On 16k

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 originally from West Yorkshire but moved to Nottingham in 2017 to go to university. Growing up, my mum had very poor finances and there were occasional times where she’d sit and cry over the fact that she had only £28 to her name. I’m fortunate that my mum has never struggled with any form of debt or arrears, but she’s often had a very, very low bank balance. This naturally developed my knowledge of how to cut costs. From a young age, I took control of the weekly food shop, advised her how to save money and helped to guide her knowledge of finances. Things have changed in the last few years but the underlying fear of ending up in poverty again terrifies me. I am almost 23 and in my final year of studying broadcast journalism. I originally went to university to study nursing but I dropped out, due to a lot of personal and external circumstances impacting my ability to study. After a few months of finding my feet, I enrolled in broadcast journalism as I felt this was a less taxing degree and much more enjoyable. I also had a student house in Nottingham which I was liable to pay rent for, so I thought I might as well continue with university. I struggle a lot with depression and anxiety, which can come in waves at different times of the year. I experience some form of anxiety almost every day but it doesn’t really impact my ability to function. I wouldn’t say I am currently experiencing any form of depression but it occasionally surfaces and this is when my life, motivation and finances are the most impacted. After dropping out of university in 2018, I ended up in a fair bit of debt as I had to pay back overpaid student finance loans and pay rent out of my own pocket. Since then, I have struggled financially, despite receiving a maximum student loan plus bursary.  From July to December 2019 I had a zero-hour contract in retail and racked up tons of shifts. I used my wages to get out of my overdraft and put some savings away. Since I was earning the money, I felt less inclined to waste it. I had a massive mental health dip in December 2019 and I had to get to a very low point to realise that things needed to change. I’ve reformed my approach towards how I socialise; I realised how bad it was that I could easily spend £200 a week on nights out (on outfits, taxis, alcohol, entry fees, hangover food the next day, etc.). So I massively reduced my alcohol and partying, and started to find cheaper and less damaging ways to enjoy life. I’m lucky that before the pandemic I started my new job and was furloughed, meaning I was still getting some income. I am in a fortunate position now where I don’t feel guilty for spending money because I know when to stop and I know what my limit is. I live in a house converted into a flatshare with another student. However she is not currently around, therefore my boyfriend has been able to visit me as a ‘bubble’. Industry: Broadcast journalismAge: 22Location: East MidlandsSalary: £8.30 per hour part-time job + annual student loan of £8,800Paycheque amount: Approx. £500/month wages, £8,800/year student loan, £1,250 yearly bursaryNumber of housemates: OneMonthly ExpensesHousing costs: £400 per month, bills included. One-year contract.Loan payments: I have not yet graduated.Utilities: Bills included in rent.Transportation: Student Academic bus pass – one-off payment of £380.Phone bill: £35. My mum pays this. I used to buy my phone outright and my mum paid SIM only for me, which was about £10/month. But last year she came into a better financial position and offered to pay a contract for me. Savings? I put about £200-300/month into my savings. I put away half of my wage on payday and I have a direct debit set up of £17.50/fortnight into my savings account. I have two savings accounts, one in an ISA with rubbish interest rates (which I need to sort out) and one smaller ’emergency fund’ bank account.Other: £4/month Amazon Prime Student, £7/month Audible, £5/month Student Spotify, £16.99 phone and laptop insurance. I’ve tried to cancel these subscriptions many times but I listen to audiobooks and podcasts a lot, so it’s worth it. The Amazon Prime subscription always pays itself off, as I am unfortunately a slave to 7pm same-day delivery. Day One8am: Wake up and basically fist pump the air because I’ve had my first uninterrupted full night’s sleep. I slept all the way through from 10pm-8am. This very rarely happens, as recently I’ve been waking up between the hours of 1am-4am every night and feeling very anxious and wired. I came to the conclusion that this may be due to the timing of my contraceptive pill so yesterday I took it at a different time of day – and it seems to have worked! 8.30am: Roll out my yoga mat and complete day 19 of a 30-day yoga challenge on YouTube. I’ve been avoiding day 19 for the last few mornings as it’s 31 minutes long and seems like a chore but today I am feeling more optimistic. 10am: Monday morning and another day of online university. I only have one lecture today which is fairly interesting but I have such an issue with my attention span and online learning. It’s a nice lecture but very focused on graduate careers. This sets off quite a lot of anxious feelings as I am really scared about what the future holds for me post-graduation.  11.30am: Anxious feelings starting to bubble away, I think due to the two coffees I drank this morning alongside the fact that changing the timing of my contraceptive pill probably meant that the 1am anxiety surfaced at 11am instead! I decide that the best course of action is to go for a 5k run. 12.30pm: I have a really good run and feel happy that my pace is getting quicker. A combo of downhills and an ’80s playlist is to thank for that! On my way home I consider buying some outdoor Christmas lights from a hardware shop in the village but I don’t have a face mask with me.  2pm: Boredom-scrolling my emails, I come across a marketing email from a small sports shop that I’ve purchased running trainers from before. A reminder that today is Cyber Monday and the last day to get great deals. I’ve been after a new pair of running shoes for a while now, my current pair are worn down – the soles are very slippery and feel unsafe on downhills or wet ground. I settle on a mixed terrain pair which are discounted to £53.50 and pay £6.99 for next-day delivery as I want to try them on my 10k run on Wednesday.  6pm: For the last few months, I’ve been taking part in full moon guided meditations, run by a girl I follow on Instagram. I am not heavily into this sort of thing but my interest in the zodiac stemmed from discovering that I am a textbook Capricorn and a lot of people who I am friends with are also Capricorns – I decided this was solid evidence that zodiac and planet alignment has some meaning. The guided meditations are 90 minutes long and it’s a small Zoom group with about seven other participants. We go through breathing exercises, yin yoga, journalling and meditation. It’s £6.50 per person but I happily pay this as I know she puts a lot of time and effort into these classes.  9pm: Wind down, feeling very much like a zen-hippy-yoga person, wondering when my life took such a shift. I don’t fall asleep straightaway, my brain is doing some ticking over again. Total: £66.99Day Two8am: Wake up, once again excited that I’ve managed to get a full night’s sleep. Thank you to the moon and whatever scientific conclusion I came to regarding hormones and sleep quality. I make my bed and complete day 20/30 of the yoga challenge and get some breakfast. I’ve run out of Marmite, which is a pain because it’s so expensive. 9am: I have no timetabled university sessions today but I have a lot of annoying bits of admin to do. Plus I have a big practical deadline in eight days so I have to fine-tune my work. The only time that my anxiety has worked in my favour was in October: I panicked so much over this assessment that I ended up filming and recording my interviews seven weeks before the deadline. This was one week before lockdown 2.0, meaning I managed to get really good content before restrictions kicked in. I really want to do well this year because last year I barely submitted any work in the autumn term and the highest grade I got was a low 2:2. 12pm: After sitting at my laptop for three hours, my eyes are starting to sting and my bum is hurting. My watch has told me to stand up so I make some scrambled eggs for lunch. 12.30pm: I completely forgot that I have a therapy assessment phone call today. I decide to go for a walk while having the call. It lasts about an hour and isn’t as bad as I anticipated. Also I got to go for a nice long walk. 2pm: Receive an Instagram DM from a girl who has been drawing a personalised The Simpsons-style digital print for part of my boyfriend’s Christmas present. She sends over the final drawing. I absolutely love it, it’s such a unique gift and ties into another present I’ve planned for him. The price of the print is £25, which I send her via PayPal. I then go to an online printing website and order it for £1.88. 5pm: After spending the afternoon putting up Christmas decorations, I feel quite hot and bothered. I am not feeling particularly hungry so for my dinner I just have Weetabix and a banana and go up to my room for the night. 7pm: I decide to put on some fake tan, which is something I usually do if I’m feeling a bit down. Smelling like cheap instant tan, I settle down for bed.Total: £26.88Day Three 7.30am: Sadly, my run of good sleep ended last night as I tossed and turned for most of the night. Not the worst night’s sleep, not the best. I get out of bed and realise I’m too hungry to do yoga first thing, so go downstairs to make some breakfast. 8.30am: I turn my phone on and the first two notifications are from NHS Track & Trace and HSBC – instant worry. Thankfully, the NHS notification is a generic message to alert me of the tier status in my area. The HSBC notification reminds me that £16.99 has come out of my bank account, which is an insurance direct debit for my laptop and phone. A reminder that insurance policies feel like a monthly robbery but knowing my luck, if I cancelled the insurance then I’d be screwed if there was an actual robbery! 11am: After milling about on emails for a bit and watching YouTube, it’s time to go for my 10k run. My new trainers arrived yesterday so I’m excited to see how they feel. I find that 10k runs are actually a bit less daunting than 5k, as I put less pressure on myself to be fast. This is also the first day of a charity fundraiser I am doing where I run 25 miles in December to raise money for a cancer care charity.  12pm: My 10k run actually ended up being a 5k run with a 15 minute sprint session. My body ached too much to do long distance but I was eager to test out my new trainers – which are great! They are a massive improvement from what I’ve been using.  2pm: Make myself a rather miserable-looking lunch of porridge with protein powder, granola and berries. My cupboards are absolutely bare but I don’t have the chance to do an Aldi food shop until tomorrow morning, when my boyfriend (M) can drive me there. 2.30pm: Get my first grade back of third year and it’s a mid first! This is the highest grade I’ve received so far in this degree. Feeling optimistic and motivated, I decide to crack on with some work for my upcoming deadline.  5.30pm: Switch my brain off for a bit and decide to listen to my newest audiobook called Filter This, a really funny book written by an Irish author. It’s all about the world of social media influencers and the fakery that can come with that lifestyle. 7pm: Since my cupboards aren’t providing much other than instant coffee and rice, me and M decide to get a Nando’s takeaway on Deliveroo. The total cost comes to £24 and my half of the order works out to £12. I offer to pay my bit but M reminds me that he owes me £18 so I end up paying nothing!Total: £16.99Day Four 6.30am: Didn’t sleep very well last night so I just decide to get up and start the day. Myself and M are going to the gym this morning so I have my (two!) advent calendar chocolates and get changed into my workout clothes.  8am: Arrive at the gym and pay my £6.50 entry fee. I usually pay a £30 membership here but it’s a contract-free gym and I cancelled this month’s payment as I know I won’t be visiting the gym as often, since I’m taking part in the running challenge this month. 8.20am: After doing a grand total of one exercise, disaster strikes and I run to the bathroom. To put it simply, changing the timing of your contraception can sometimes mess with your cycle and I have an unexpected visit from Mother Nature. I have to abandon my workout and go home to get changed. This is really frustrating as I feel like I wasted my entry payment. 10am: After a quick change, we go to Aldi and I pick up my shopping for the week, which comes to £20.45. I’m pretty happy with this as I’ve managed to get all the essentials for my meals as well as toilet roll (which is always a nuisance to buy!). 11am: While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook on my phone and see that a girl in one of my groups is giving away some TY teddies and Keel Toys. I notice she is giving away a perfect Keel Toy Rottweiler, which is the exact same teddy that my brother has had for over 17 years, but his version has no stuffing and only two paws left! My brother has autism and still has a very strong connection to his teddies, even at age 21. I message the girl and pay for postage for this teddy, as I know it would be a thoughtful Christmas present for him. While it won’t replace his current teddy, it will be nice to have a soft toy that isn’t threadbare! Postage is £2.90. 12pm: We go into the city centre to pick up a few Christmas presents and essentials. My first stop is Poundstretcher, where I get a big bottle of sensitive skin fabric softener, deodorant and some washing up scrubbers for £4.90. We then pass Primark, which reminds me that I need to buy some new pants so I spend £8.50 and get eight pairs.  12.45pm: After buying some presents for his sister, M wants to get a coffee and support his favourite independent coffee shop, which is trialling takeaway service. He kindly buys me an Americano with oat milk, which costs £3.60. 1.10pm: I’ve been scraping the sides of my foundation bottle so decide it’s time to buy myself a new one. I always go to Superdrug, as they offer 10% student discount. The foundation I buy comes with a free highlighter and I’m tempted to buy an eyeshadow and lipstick to fulfil a 3 for 2 offer but talk myself out of it. I also buy a new beauty blender as mine is basically a fossil at this point. Total shop is £16.18.  1.25pm: Myself and M part ways for a bit as I need to pick up part of his present. I spend about 15 minutes looking for it in the shop, only to find out that it’s no longer in stock. I quickly head to Amazon and see that it’s available, with discount and with same-day shipping – another win for Bezos. £7.99 1.45pm: After M has finished his part of Christmas shopping, we decide to go home for lunch as it’s rainy and there’s nowhere to eat as everywhere is takeout only. 2.30pm: M drops me off on campus where I have to film a short video for my uni work. This takes about 45 minutes. 3pm: I get the bus home and spend about an hour listening to a podcast and organising myself for a big practical day we have at university tomorrow. This is my first news day where I am a presenter so I really want to make sure I’m wearing the right thing and prepared for nine hours out of the house. 3.45pm: Check my course group chat and see that tomorrow’s news day has been cancelled. This miffs me off so I spend the next few hours milling around on my laptop and trying to work out what to do with my time tomorrow.  7pm: About an hour after my dinner, I have a lot of energy and feel quite frustrated about the fact that my plans for tomorrow have been cancelled. Despite the fact that the outside is rainy, cold and dark, I lace up my running trainers and put a high vis on. A short evening 3k run really clears my head up and feels almost meditative. I never run this late but doing so really helps me to ground myself and feel less stressed. 9pm: After a shower and listening to the boy in the flat above me hoover for 30 minutes, I finally drift off to sleep. Total: £67.42Day Five 8am: Slept like an absolute log, which I am more than happy with. M gets up and leaves so I spend about 30 minutes doing some morning yoga. I am actually quite glad that my uni day has been cancelled now! 9am: I stick my audiobook on and have my standard breakfast of two slices of wholemeal toast, one with Marmite, one with peanut butter, and an apple. I’ve been really trying to make more effort to have my breakfast in the kitchen and without the distraction of my laptop. One thing that I don’t like about this house set-up is that the kitchen is next door to my bedroom, meaning it’s hard to get a change of scenery. 9.45am: I have an online meeting with my module tutor about the essay element of my assessment. This is the final bit I’ve got left to do and I really don’t want my grade to be dragged down by getting this wrong. 10.30am: After a really reassuring online meeting and being told that I am well on track and need to “relax and calm down”, I feel much more confident. My essay is essentially complete, bar a few references, which I decide to do on Sunday when I can focus a bit better. 11am: It’s chucking it down and I really want to go for a run today. I manage 1.4k before the rain becomes sleet and my feet become blocks of ice – back home for lunch and a cup of tea. 2pm: I’ve sorted through some of my old clothes and put a bag together for the charity shop. While lacing up my boots, a shoelace snaps in half. Not ideal but thankfully I live across the road from a small shoe repair shop and pick up a pair of laces for £3.99. Once I’ve dropped my clothes off at the charity shop, I see a waterproof Nike running jacket for £5.99, which is exactly what I’ve been looking for online – usually retailing for about £40. 4pm: M takes me to a small garden centre nearby. While it’s freezing cold and slushy outside, it feels nice and festive inside the garden centre. I buy my mum a stocking filler at £4.99 and also treat myself to a cactus in a cat-shaped plant pot for £12.99. This year I’ve really taken to indoor plants and they bring me a lot of joy.  10pm: Plagued by the pain of cramps in my stomach and loud, annoying noises from the flat above me, I am struggling to relax and fall asleep. I resort to taking a natural sleeping tablet, which I never usually do because they give me strange nightmares, but the lack of sleep is really impacting me recently.  Total: £27.96Day Six 8am: I wake up in a bit of a daze but very well rested. I decide to make myself a cup of coffee and get back into bed to read my book. This isn’t something I usually do and I feel quite indulgent doing it but I’m sick of leaping out of bed the minute I wake up.  9.30am: Feeling quite positive, I decide to retry yesterday’s failed running route. The weather today is much brighter, slightly warmer and much less wet! I complete the planned 7.5k route and feel rather proud of myself. 11.30am: After my breakfast, I spend a bit of time on my laptop and heavily procrastinate sorting out my references for my essay. I know I’ve got hardly anything to do but it’s finding the motivation to fine-tune the details. 1pm: I am doing the social media posts for the basketball league at my university today, so I walk to the Co-op and buy myself a meal deal and chewing gum for £4.07, then a small Americano from Costa for £2.01. I use the spare change in my coin purse, which I wanted to get rid of. I then walk 50 minutes to the sports centre because the bus system is confusing and I want to get some fresh air.  7pm: I cover the social media for the basketball game, time flies really quickly and I thankfully get a lift home from M. 8pm: We watch a bit of YouTube and go to bed. I’m quite hungry as I haven’t eaten since my meal deal but I’m too tired to get up and make some food.  Total: £6.08Day Seven  8am: Wake up feeling relatively well rested but a bit agitated. M really wants a coffee but he is a bit of a coffee snob and doesn’t want to brave the joys of my instant coffee selection. We walk to the nearest coffee shop and I pay for both of us. I get an Americano with oat milk and M gets an oat milk flat white. £6.50 9am We drive to the gym and I’m let in for free as my membership has apparently rolled over due to the gym being closed through the month of November.  11am: After a really good (non-interrupted!) gym session, we come home to have some breakfast and get ready to walk around the Christmas markets in the bottom end of the city centre.  1pm: The Christmas markets are all small independent stalls, really well adapted to social distancing, and it feels so nice to be doing something normal and Christmassy. M buys some vegan loaded chips, which we share. I feel quite peckish so I stop off at Tesco to get a meal deal (I’m quite fussy). £3.99 2pm: Walking past Lush, I decide to treat myself to some bath bombs for when I go home. I buy three festive bath bombs for £16.50, which feels quite indulgent but I like to do this once a year as baths are really nice after a long run in the cold winter evenings. 5pm: I come home and make myself some dinner, half of my favourite flatbread pizza from Aldi, some veggies and hummus. I plan my day for tomorrow and settle into bed to watch YouTube videos for the rest of the night. Total: £26.99The BreakdownFood/Drink: £37.02Entertainment: £6.50Clothes/Beauty: £111.65Travel: £0Other: £84.14Total: £239.31Conclusion “I definitely think that paying attention to my spending made me realise what and when I can avoid spending money. There’ve been plenty of times this week where I’ve been bored and thought about browsing the internet for things to buy.I think, because of COVID, I’ve tried to make the most of what is accessible to me and support small businesses but also be aware of the fact that I still need to be careful with my money. It’s hard because on my current part-time job salary, I can afford to spend money on myself like the bath bombs, cactus and the new running trainers – it’s all about striking a balance between making the most of this period in my life and setting up a good foundation for my future.  I think £238 is actually quite a lot, considering this is a week where I would have said I hadn’t spent an awful lot. I suppose buying Christmas presents isn’t something I always do. Moving forward, I’m going to up my fortnightly savings direct debit to £30 and ensure that I am budgeting so that my sole spending money is my wages, rather than dipping into my loan. I feel quite comfortable financially at the moment but I want to make sure I’m keeping good habits in place for any future struggles.”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Money Diary: A Film Exec In London On 37.5kMoney Diary: A Student Biomedical Scientist On 16kMoney Diary: Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner

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