A Project Manager In Bristol On 34k

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 project manager living in Bristol […]

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 project manager living in Bristol with my husband, T. We have both been working from home since the beginning of lockdown, which has saved us a lot on commuting. I like working from home but do miss the social aspect of the office at times. I am a qualified social worker and progressed from social worker to my current role, managing a team of family support workers and therapists. I grew up in a single-parent household and I am eternally in awe of my mum raising four of us on her own. We had everything we needed despite being a low-income family. I have always had jobs, since the age of 12 – big up the paper round! I think this has made me respect every earned penny and I probably overthink my purchases when it comes to clothes etc. However I fully believe in enjoying life and am happy to spend money on experiences because life is short and I don’t want to regret missing out on it.” 

Industry: Social care  
Age: 31
Location: Bristol
Salary: £34,400 + £1,500 yearly overtime for overseeing another project.
Paycheque amount: £2,112.24 after pension contribution and student loan (£125 p/m).
Number of housemates: One, my husband T.

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: £812.36 split with T.
Loan payments: Student loan only which is deducted from pay.
Utilities: Council tax £134 p/m, water £31.15 p/m, TV licence £13.20 p/m, gas and electric though Bulb £54 p/m, internet £22.99 p/m, all split with T.
Transportation: Combined car and home insurance £49p/m, car tax £14p/m, petrol approx £40 p/m, £66.99 annual breakdown cover, all split with T.
Phone bill: £10 p/m SIM only. I bought my phone secondhand from giffgaff marketplace a couple of years ago.
Savings? £5,500 shared savings with T in premium bonds. £3,500 personal savings in premium bonds, £1,500 of which was a student loan refund. Our savings prior to this went on our honeymoon which was part funded by a credit card which we have just finished paying off. We put £250 each in joint premium bonds per month and £150 each per month in another savings account to go towards either a big cost item/holiday, in which we have £0 currently as used for a camping trip earlier in the month. I put away £250 per month into my own savings. We are planning on pooling our savings for a camper van in the new year which we hope to do up ourselves, as much as we can.
Other: 18-month internet contract I set up for my mum at the beginning of lockdown so she could video call family and watch decent TV during lockdown £23.50. £34 p/m MoveGB subscription – considering quitting now most things aren’t running but I have a good price and the online classes are good. £90 annual Social Work registration. Netflix £7.21 split with T. Spotify £14.99 split three ways with T’s family. Local veg box subscription £13.50 p/m split with T.

Day One

7.30am: Alarm goes off. Stab it quiet and snuggle into my pillow.

8am: Get up, shower. Bake some cornbread with green tomatoes. Find weevils in the plain flour and switch to wholemeal and hope for the best. (Note: I nearly never bake and certainly not at this hour, not quite sure what possessed me this morning.) Make a smoothie for breakfast: spinach, banana and cinnamon.

9am: Log on for work. 

10am: Eat a coconut flour choc chip cookie and cuppa tea.

11.30am: Have a catch-up with a manager on another service, it feels nice to offload as it can be a bit isolating being a manager sometimes. 

1pm: Heat up some leftover cauliflower and parsnip soup for T and I and eat with the cornbread. It’s a bit sweet but decent enough. I buy two pairs of glasses that I’ve had on a home trial from Glasses Direct as my prescription has changed again, £68.50. Also book onto netball circuits for tomorrow evening, £4.

2.30pm: Have supervision with one of our therapists, who hands in her notice. Gutted to lose her but I understand her reasons.

5pm: Finish for the day, get on the phone to my car insurance company to negotiate our renewal price. Manage to get £87 less than what they initially offered for car and home insurance through sharing price comparisons, ideal!

6pm: Do a live yoga class through MoveGB at home.

7pm: Make veg fried rice with my beloved rice cooker. Bottle up a batch of kimchi that has been fermenting for a week. Have some with dinner.

7.30pm: Eat dinner with T while watching The Social Dilemma. Delete my Insta, probs be back in a couple weeks.

9pm: Watch two episodes of the American Office. After initially denouncing it inferior to the British Office we gave it another go and are now obsessed! Eat a choc brownie T got sent in the post today from a colleague he did some graphic design work for.

10pm: We both head to bed and research paddleboards to add to the one we already have.

Total: £72.50

Day Two

7.30am: Alarm goes off. I’ve come to accept I’m not a morning person and never will be. Still have that optimistic alarm though.

8.45am: Wake up… Stare at the wall in a crispy eyed daze for a few minutes.

8.50am: Ok M’up, M’up.

9am: Sit down to my computer with a slice of cornbread and tea.

1pm: Lunch, more cauli soup and cornbread. Buy the paddleboard we were looking at last night. We use money we got from letting our house out on Airbnb earlier in the month while on a camping holiday. Eek we’ve known we were going to get one for a while, aside from our car this is now the most expensive thing we own! £529 split with T from joint savings.

2.45pm: Friend pops over to pick up some wood for a project.

5pm: Finish for the day. Walk to the postbox to post back my glasses home trial while listening to The High Low podcast.

5.30pm: Talk to my Muma and plan a visit next week.

6pm: Read some of my book More Than a Woman by Caitlin Moran, everything this woman says is just brilliant. Eat a choc chip cookie with a herbal tea.

7pm: Go to netball circuits. Half an hour of circuits and half an hour of netball skills, all socially distanced. We’re not allowed to play games indoors at the moment.

8pm: T picks me up after the gym and we head to Sainsbury’s and buy a four-pack of beer, some southern fried Quorn burgers, some reduced vegan risotto (28p!), lemon cheesecake, three loaves of reduced bread (20p each!), mushrooms, spaghetti, shallots, cheese and jalapeño Mini Cheddars (so good!), tinned toms and tinned beans. £15.93

8.30pm: Get home and make katsu curry with the Quorn burgers and leftover rice.

9pm: Watch First Dates with dinner which always makes me grin, followed by The Office.

11pm: Bed.

Total: £280.43

Day Three

7.30am: Alarm…usual ignoring.

8.20am: Get up and make a Mexican-inspired carrot soup with black beans. Marmite on toast for breakfast with tea.

12pm: Have a short break with choc chip cookie. Apply and get accepted for a credit card for us to use for joint spends so we can earn rewards on our everyday spending. This will then be paid off in full each month which we know we will be able to do, to avoid scary interest charges.

12.30pm: New paddleboard arrives, chuffed with it and can’t wait to give it a whirl!

1pm: Have a meeting with commissioners. There is a new member in the meeting, it’s not as amicable as our previous meetings and I feel a bit caught off-guard by the sudden scrutiny. Manage to stutter my way through. Catch up with my manager after, who shares that he felt it got a bit rude at points but that I handled it well. 

3pm: Lunch with T: soup from this morning and more cornbread. Watch an episode of The Office, fast becoming Dwight’s number one fan. Find myself constantly appalled yet kind of vouching for him.

5.30pm: Finish for the day, stare at my pores for half an hour and give them a few unhelpful squeezes.

6pm: Drag myself out for a run with T, the prospect of which feels more and more horrifying as winter approaches. Manage a 3.5km gentle jog around the park while listening to The High Low.

7pm: We walk to a mate’s for dinner with the beer and cheesecake bought yesterday. They live really close which is cool as we can help each other out and share things.

11.30pm: Fab evening with lasagne, cookies, table tennis, darts, beers and board games.

11.45pm: Bed.

Total: £0

Day Four

8am: Wake up, catch up on messages and more wall staring. Get up and have a look at what’s been delivered in this week’s veg box: onions, potatoes, carrots, kale, leeks, celebration squash and a Romanesco cauliflower (have to google what it is as have never seen such a strange-looking lump).

8.30am: Shower and breakfast, Marmite on toast with a cup of lemon and hot water.

11am: Coffee and cookie break.

1.30pm: Lunch is the 28p bargain vegan risotto which is surprisingly good, with a lemon and ginger tea. 

2pm: Meeting about a social value report I am writing for a commissioner.

3.30pm: Cheese and jalapeño Mini Cheddars…yesss.

5pm: Yay weeeeeekend! Eat a choc brownie and melt into the sofa. Watch a Korean lifestyle YouTube vid from Plan D – a brilliant recommendation from another money diarist…the food, the foooooood. Follow this up with some paddleboard internet surfing.

7pm: Make Alison Roman’s shallot pasta with T, another money diary fave.

8pm: Eat dinner and start watching Rebecca on Netflix. I read the book during lockdown and the film is beautiful but I think it misses a lot of the feel of the main character in the book.

8.30pm: Still hankering for something so put some Quorn nuggets in the oven, because I’m an adult and it’s allowed.

11pm: Bed!

Total: £0

Day Five

9am: Wake up, no alarm! Cuddles.

10am: Shower and breakfast: beans on toast.

11.45am: Get ready to go out paddleboarding.

11.55am: 10 minutes of searching for a face mask…every outing.

1pm: Spent an hour checking out a few different sections of river. It’s a bit windy so settle on one we know well, given the weather. 

2pm: Arms are a wreck from blowing boards up then hauling them down to the river with the wind trying to rip them from my arms. 

3pm: Had to massively lower expectations about how far we were paddling today. Probably only manage 1km fighting against the breeze but it gives us a nice gentle push on the way back. Starts raining just as we get out of the water and downpours just in time for us being packed away and in the car.

3.15pm: Arrive at local pub with a good appetite. Order rose and harissa mussels with chunky bread and chips to share with a glass of white wine. T orders bubble and squeak, pork pie and a pint of Guinness £36.85 split with T.

4.30pm: Get home and shower, shattered.

5pm: Get a fire going and watch Olive Kitteridge on Now TV.

8.30pm: T cooks a French onion miso soup, a fave from an Anna Jones cookbook. Eat it while watching The Office.

11pm: Bed.

Total £18.40

Day Six

8am: Wake up, discover it’s really 9am as the clocks have gone back, woohoo!

9.30am: Put a wash on and have breakfast: mushrooms on toast. Tend to my plants and read some articles from the Saturday Times magazine. Particularly enjoy a story about a chap called Wim Hof. I make a note to self to try his breathing exercises, which he claims can cure hangovers, next time I’m feeling a bit worse for wear…

11am: Hang washing out and clean upstairs while catching up on some High Low podcasts. T tackles downstairs. It means the grim ones are evenly split, bathroom and kitchen.

1pm: Shower and a face mask: Glossier Mega Greens. Not convinced if face masks do anything but I like the idea they do!

1.30pm: T heads out to get his hair cut and I heat up some leftover onion soup with toast for lunch, followed by a decaf coffee and Mini Cheddars. I eat my lunch watching Plan D cooking up a storm. Make a list of ingredients to get so I can experiment with more Korean flavours.

2.20pm: Chop most of the stuff from the veg box into the slow cooker for a veg stew and make a batter for dumplings. Discover I have no baking powder so hope for the best. T makes some powerballs from oats, chia, linseed, honey, peanut butter and cocoa and rolls them in coconut.

3.30pm: Settle down to an afternoon of reading More Than a Woman.

5.30pm: Scoff half a bag of tortilla chips.

6.15pm: Dumplings look like fictional space ships, round and flat. Eat dinner and watch Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year with T, which we really enjoy. Watch part two of Olive Kitteridge and The Bridge on Channel 4. 

11pm: Head to bed with More Than a Woman and a passage in the book triggers a sudden onset of anxiety. Spend the next hour googling jobs, I think as a coping mechanism.

12am: Eventually go to bed.

Total: £0

Day Seven

7.15am: Wake up before the alarm still feeling anxious.

7.45am: Download a meditation app and do a 15-minute meditation. I’m not sure if it worked but it gave me space to think about what caused the anxiety and reflect on my thoughts and feelings.

8am: T goes to Sainsbury’s and buys bananas, granola, almond milk and and two avocados, £5.23. Eat some granola with a cup of tea. Spend some time calling traders from the Green Homes Grant scheme about insulation for our loft but seems they are all inundated.

11.30am: Make a round of teas for the office! Tea for me, coffee for T.

1.15pm: Lunch is leftover stew with an episode of The Office.

5.30pm: Finish for the day.

6pm: Yoga class at the studio booked through MoveGB. Feel really good after.

7pm: Pop into Co-op to buy a pack of spaghetti. £1

7.30pm: Get home and make a Thai veg curry with cauliflower rice.

8.30pm: American Office.

10.30pm: Bed and book!

Total: £6.23

The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £40.56
Entertainment: £264.50
Clothes/Beauty: £0
Travel: £0
Other: £72.50

Total: £377.56


“This is the last week of the month. My spending tends to be payday-oriented, with more money being spent in the first couple weeks after payday, so aside from the paddleboard this is normal for this time of the month. In the first couple of weeks of the month I would be spending a lot more on food. I’ve also noticed that our American Office watching is probably a bit out of hand!”

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