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’m a 29-year-old senior software engineer in London. I moved here after university with my partner at the time but it was an abusive situation and it took me 18 months to extricate myself fully. I didn’t realise that financial abuse was part of the violence and looking back it’s easy to see how I got to where I am now: in a lot of debt. I’m not sure of the exact number but I’ve paid off at least £30k in loans, overdrafts and credit cards over the last seven years. I have learned to have compassion for the woman I was then. It must have been a small way to feel in control and the joy of finally being able to purchase things for myself again without threats or fights or punishment must’ve felt huge. However, a lack of financial education (I didn’t know you could get a credit card from anywhere, not just your bank) meant this quickly spiralled. I fell into a pattern of taking out a loan to clear credit card debt but racking up the balance on the credit card again to make myself feel good.
For most of my time in London my salary has hovered between £40k and £60k. In the last two years my career focus and ambition has landed me some rapid career advancement, pushing my salary from £60k to £110k. At the start of 2020 I had £22k of outstanding debt and now it's below £8k. I chose to learn from failed past attempts and I recognise that for me, having savings and paying down debt at the same time is a good motivator. I’ve tried a number of techniques and this is the first one that has lasted in a sustainable way. I choose to be open so that it reduces the shame and stigma around women speaking about debt. I do still have a tendency for spending and the finer things in life so I love to find new tips and tricks and use a variety of money management tools to keep on top of all my lovely, silly purchases."
Occupation: Senior software engineer Industry: Tech Age: 29 Location: London Salary: £110,000 Paycheque amount: £5,552.29 after pension deductions and ride to work repayment. Number of housemates: Two fussy cats. Pronouns: She/her
Housing costs: £1,650 for a one-bedroom flat with small office space. My company is remote-first so I chose to spend a little more on my rent to have a separate workspace. Loan payments: £897.41 across six different loans/credit cards. I recently managed to get my credit score in a place where I was approved for a debt consolidation loan, which will bring down the monthly payments to £250. I will still overpay two years before settlement date but this gives me one set interest rate and flexibility for months where I have a lot of expenses. Savings? £12,590 in a savings account that requires 90 days notice of withdrawal. I have an ISA that I use for mid-term savings, like the artwork payment plan which is every four months. If the money is easy for me to access I know I will find uses for it. Having a notice account is the first time I’ve been able to properly save. Typically I save £1,000 a month but if I have a lot of expenses, like this month, I'll pause the direct debit and rely on roundups instead. The roundups average out around £100. Pension? I pay 8% and my employer matches minimum amount. I consolidated my previous employer pensions through an app and that is about £29k. Utilities: £137 council tax, £27.38 water, £54.90 gas and electric, £13.37 TV licence. All other monthly payments: £70 phone, £18.26 union dues, £6.99 bike insurance, £14.50 tech insurance, £85 spin membership, £222 set aside for art payment plan. Subscriptions: £9.99 Spotify, £9.99 Netflix, £11.99 YouTube Premium, £6.99 plant care.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
As an EU student in Scotland I didn't have any student fees but this meant I wasn't entitled to any bursary or support either. My parents helped me with rent and sent some money but I got a job after first year as money was always very tight.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
There weren’t many open discussions about money growing up. I was always terrible at saving my money for big purchases but it didn’t really faze me. My parents bought a house just before the housing bubble burst in our country and ended up in negative equity for many years. Most of my teenage years were spent with that looming over us and while I was away at university there was a real risk they’d lose the house. My mum would confide in me about it and it has left me with a real fear about ending up in a similar situation.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents'/guardians' house?
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
22, after graduating university and moving to London.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
Shelf-stacking in Tesco. My parents helped where they could at uni but first year was tough as they were in a hard spot financially themselves.
Do you worry about money now?
Not now. It makes me sad to think about where I was a few years ago. There were times I would budget and cry at how stuck I was. I always managed to squeak my way out but there was a period where I didn't look at my balance because I was scared of what it said. Sometimes I'd wake up in the middle of the night in a panic and I felt as if I couldn't name what was happening as it was too big and too scary. Nowadays I make a habit of budgeting every fortnight, looking ahead to the next three months and use a variety of tools (Emma app, Moneybox, cashback apps and a chaotic mix of spreadsheets and notebooks) to track where everything goes and how I can afford big-ticket purchases. I try not to attach a moral weight to my finances – if I decide my bougie spin studio is important to me then I cut something else to keep my free towels and fancy shampoo.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received €1,000 (~£820) when my grandmother died that I used to help me put together the 2.5x rental deposit I needed for moving out on my own with pets (this was a few years before better laws for tenants came in).
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