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 we're with a woman who, eight months ago, left a well-paid director job in London and moved to Mexico where she has settled in a quiet beach town. She has recently become a freelance writer and teaches English. She and her boyfriend are house-sitting by the beach so don't pay rent or utilities, plus they take a percentage from the four rooms they rent out. This combination of incomes allows her to work from the roof terrace, be at home with the puppy and spend time volunteering with a local dog charity.
Because her freelance income brings in pounds and the general cost of living is much cheaper in Mexico, she is able to work fewer hours and lead a much healthier life. There isn't much to do apart from go to the beach and there are no good shops to tempt her, so her spending habits have changed quite a bit, although the money still seems to disappear! She also spends a lot less on going out drinking – but sometimes does miss her old social life! She earns considerably more than her boyfriend so pays for most of the shared costs involving food and dinners out.
Industry: My freelance work is mainly in the publishing industry and NGO/voluntary sector. Age: 31 Location: Puerto Escondido, Mexico Salary: Difficult to be exact as it changes every month and I'm just starting out with the freelance work. Paycheque amount per month: Last month I estimate that I earned around £700 so I'd say it varies between £600-£900 depending on projects. Number of housemates: One (boyfriend) plus puppy.
Some of these expenses are split with my boyfriend
Housing costs: None Loan payments: None Utilities: The owners of the house cover the electricity, internet and water costs. The gas ran out this week for the first time and a new canister cost £12.15 but this should last between 3-6 months so monthly cost around £3. Transportation: Petrol for car around £8.50 and motorbike around £3.40 but my boyfriend pays for most of this as I can't drive either vehicle! Phone bill: It's back to pay-as-you go days for me so depends how much credit I want to put on – usually only around £4 per month. Health insurance: I paid £166 for a year's travel insurance cover before I left the UK which will expire in October. Savings: I had saved quite a lot before I left England and had been living off those until recently, when I started to earn again. It's nice to be in a position where I am no longer dipping into those savings but I am currently not putting any earnings aside each month. Other: We rent out four rooms in the house, each with private bathrooms, so we need to keep the house stocked with soap, toilet paper, air fresheners and bin bags, which comes to around £12 per month. My share is around £6.
We don't have a washing machine and with all the towels and linen from the rooms we do quite a lot of laundry, spending on average £13 per month. My share is around £6.50.
We recently adopted a puppy so spend on average £10 a month on her food plus additional costs in the first few months such as injections, toys and other expenses – roughly £25 per month. My share is around £15.
I stopped my Spotify and Netflix accounts when I left England but use my dad's Netflix log in – cheers, Dad!
Day One 6.45am: Dog wakes me up by putting her face as close to mine as she can. I get up, mop up as she is still toilet training, and take her to the beach where she eats a dead fish and I lose my keys while running to remove it from her mouth. I retrace my steps which takes me 10 minutes but I find the keys, which is lucky because I have already lost a set this month. I buy an avocado, a tomato and a banana on the way home. 55p 8.15am: Breakfast is half an avocado and a tomato on heated baguette and a black coffee which I don't have time to drink so pour into a plastic cup, feeling guilty about the environment. 9.10am: Arrive 10 mins late to volunteer with the dog sterilisation campaign and I've missed the team who have already gone to the venue in town. Take a collectivo taxi part of the way and walk the rest. 34p 3pm: 36 sterilised cats and dogs later, we are finally finished and sit down to eat. The venue have provided us with beers and a meal of Chilles de Nogada (battered green chillis in walnut creamy sauce topped with pomegranate seeds) cooked by a kind local woman. It looks and smells amazing but the chillis are stuffed full of beef. Disappointed but with no other food option, I decide I'm too hungry to be strict so eat around the meat and scoff a few tortillas covered in hot sauce. I drink two Victoria beers which make me feel slightly less hangry. 5pm: I arrive home still hungry and a bit lightheaded from the beers. My boyfriend works nights so it's just me and the puppy tonight. I heat up a bean and chickpea chilli I made last week and eat it with rice and guacamole made from the leftover avocado plus tomato, lime and coriander which I already have in the fridge. 6pm: We ran out of dog food this afternoon so I should really buy more but the local shop doesn't sell it, it's tipping down with rain and I can't face getting a cab to the supermarket in town and getting soaked again. I check the fridge and cupboards for any form of snack, even though I know there is nothing there. Consider popping to the shop for chocolate but the rain is relentless and I am lazy. Midnight: Boyfriend returns from work with two sickly sweet fairy cakes he says are for tomorrow's breakfast as he puts them in the fridge. I immediately take one out and eat it. Feeling guilty about the dog not eating dinner, I google what food is ok to give her. The only thing we have on the list is oats so I make her a bowl of oatmeal, which she inhales quicker than I ate the cake. Total: 89p
Day Two 7am: Dog wakes me up and a storm is still raging outside. Luckily she doesn't seem keen to walk on the beach and neither am I so back to bed we go, and I snooze until 9am(!) 9.30am: Make an espresso and regret eating my breakfast cake last night as my boyfriend eats his without sharing. Check the cupboards and fridge again but they still contain no food. 11.30am: Decide we can put off the big supermarket trip no longer but the car has a flat tyre and the rain is still torrential. We put on our waterproof jackets and flag down a cab who charges £1.70, which is more than usual so I'm pretty sure they've put the fare up due to the rain. My boyfriend pays the cab. 12.30pm: Boyfriend goes to pick up his phone from the repair shop leaving me in the supermarket hungry and recently paid, a dangerous combination. I head straight to the forbidden 'imported' aisle and buy overpriced edam cheese and pack of salted caramel popcorn but draw the line at paying £7 for a pack of risotto rice. I then consult the shopping list and buy pasta, cereal bars, yoghurt, baguettes, honey, nuts, seeds, dried chickpeas and dried black beans as well as items we need for the house, like a new mop, bleach, scourer, a five-pack of soap bars, a cheese-grater and a loaf tin. With 4kg of dog food and a chocolate muffin, which I eat in the queue, the total comes to £33.57. It's still tipping down so we take a cab home, another £1.70. 2.30pm: I unpack the shopping and it becomes apparent that, despite spending an hour and almost £35 in the supermarket, we still don't seem to have any actual food in the house. I eat a cereal bar and use half the edam to make two cheese and tomato baguettes, which I eat thinking longingly of British strength eight extra mature cheddar. 5pm: Boyfriend comes home – his restaurant is shut due to what turns out to be a hurricane so we have an unexpected evening together. I cancel my dinner plans and make granola for this week's breakfasts using the nuts and seeds I bought, toasted with oats, honey, coconut oil and salt. Reflect on the fact that I am now the kind of person who makes their own granola but justify it because I have yet to find good granola in Mexico. 9pm: Boyfriend makes a margarita pizza with ingredients taken from his restaurant because they can't be served tonight. I add capers to my half and cover the whole thing in super-hot chilli oil. I have a very high tolerance for spice but this is pushing it even for me, and my mouth burns for at least half an hour after we have finished eating. Total: £35.27
Day Three 7am: Woken by the usual puppy alarm clock but boyfriend gets up and does dog duty, leaving me to snooze peacefully until 8am when I force myself to get up and do some yoga on the roof. 9.30am: I make an espresso and get up to speed with election developments and WhatsApp messages. A message about how many billions are given to the Tories prompts me to donate £20 to the Labour Party. Wish I could join my friend canvassing in the UK but my support from here is limited to Facebook statuses and monetary donations. 10.30am: A friend who is leaving Mexico this afternoon texts me to say she is with friends in a café round the corner. They have already eaten by the time I arrive and plan on leaving promptly so despite not having had breakfast, I decide to save the food money and just order a juice of orange, pineapple, ginger and guanabana for £1.86 – expensive for Mexico! 11.30am: Stop at fruit shop on the way home and buy a pineapple and two bananas (£1.27) which I eat with natural yoghurt and my homemade granola. My student has cancelled her lesson today so I can stay at home and work on my freelance projects all day. 2.30pm: I walk to the fruit and veg shop that is further away but much cheaper and buy some tomatoes, a cucumber, red onion, yellow pepper, green chilli, four oranges and six eggs £1.90. They don't have basil so I walk to the other fruit shop. Neither do they. Basil options exhausted, I walk home. I make a panzanella salad and when my boyfriend returns from surfing we eat lunch on the roof. When my boyfriend is working we tend to have a big late lunch together around 3/4pm just before he goes to work. 6pm: After work I sweep and clear up the roof terrace which is a mess after the storm, then walk along the beach with my friend and our dogs. She buys me a can of beer and we drink on the beach watching the sunset. 8.45pm: I arrive at my friend's house for dinner. We are eating ceviche and each person attending has been assigned food to bring. I've been asked to bring the juice of 15 limes which will be used to 'cook' the fish, which suits me just fine as we have a juicer and a lime tree. The 15 limes produces a lot less juice than I expected so as I pass the fruit shop en route I decide to buy another six limes (17p) plus a bottle of water (55p). I bring two litres of beer that we had in the fridge but feel ashamed of my contributions when I arrive to a feast of ceviches, salads, vegetables, desserts and a choice of prosecco, red wine, white wine and mezcal to drink. 72p Total: £25.75
Day Four 9.30am: I do the morning dog walk so my boyfriend agrees to go to the shop for breakfast supplies (fruit and milk). We have banana and pineapple with yoghurt and granola and drink coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. £1.42 11am: We take the motorbike and drive 10 minutes into town, stopping at the garage on the way for petrol, which my boyfriend pays for £1.27. The dog needs her third injection so we go to the vet £8.47. I give my boyfriend 85p to buy crisps and a can of Coke while he waits for me at the salon. The bikini wax is more expensive than other salons but the woman is quick and efficient and tells me lots of facts about my skin and hair types, aftercare and ingrowing hairs, 80% of which I understand. £12.70 2pm: We watch the Champions League Final at home and I make the panzanella salad again with leftover ingredients to eat at half-time. 3.30pm: A friend stops by and I go with her to a restaurant where we share a jug of hibiscus juice while she eats a sandwich. My share is 45p. 8pm: After taking the dog for a walk and going for a run on the beach, I go to cook dinner but the gas has run out. This is the first time this has happened since we have been here and we need to wait until the van passes selling gas canisters. Of course this doesn't happen on the weekend so we have no oven until Monday. My boyfriend has the night off so we go to a nearby restaurant instead. 9pm: We order one meat and one vegetarian burger, two jacket potatoes – one with bacon and cream, the other with guacamole – two fruit water drinks and two beers. The total bill including tip comes to £10.80. 11pm: We buy two beers from the shop on the way home and we drink them on the roof terrace before going to bed. £1.10 plus 20p refundable deposit on each bottle if we return them, which I must remember to do. Total: £36.19
Day Five 8am: I don't sleep well and wake up with a bad pain in my neck so it hurts to move, and have come on my period. I want to stay in bed all day but the dog needs walking so I take her to the beach. 9am: I go to put the stove on to make coffee and remember there is no gas which for some reason makes me want to cry. My boyfriend goes to the café over the road and comes back with avocado and egg on toast and a strong black coffee – his treat and much appreciated. I put tiger balm on my neck, feel a bit better and head out to volunteer with the dogs. 1pm: It's the last day of the sterilisation campaign and the vet says he has time to do my puppy. I can't bear to watch so go to the shop and buy 12 beers for the vets and volunteers to say thank you. We drink them with cheese and salad sandwiches someone has made. £5.95 3.30pm: Friends come round with two litres of beer which we share on the terrace, keeping watch on the poor dog who is coming round from her anaesthetic. 8pm: Decide to treat myself to a takeaway as I'm home alone and we still don't have gas. I pop to the taco place up the road and buy two tacos, one fish and one prawn. They are huge and come topped with pineapple, coleslaw and guacamole, limes and three different salsas. I eat them in bed watching Netflix and make a mess. £3 Total: £8.95
Day Six 10am: We eat a late breakfast of avocado and tomato and a fried egg (done on the electric stove) on half a baguette each. There's only enough coffee left for one and I graciously let my boyfriend have it as he did the early shift with the dog. 11am: We need to be in for the gas, which could come past at any time, and I've got work to do so we work (me)/chill (him) on the roof terrace most of the day. 1pm: Boyfriend pops to the shop and returns with a passionfruit juice drink and sesame and nut bar for me and a can of Coke and pack of biscuits for him – his treat. 3pm: We hear gas van coming up the street blaring its catchy jingle which ends, inexplicably, with a cow mooing. We run downstairs and exchange the canister. It's the first time we've had to buy gas here so are not sure how much it would be and only have £12.70 in the house. Luckily it's £12.15. 4pm: I make a late lunch improvising with what we have in the house as we have no more cash, shops and restaurants don't accept cards and the nearest cashpoint is a 10-minute drive away. I make spaghetti with sardines in a sauce with tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilli and caper and add lime juice and grated cheese. 8pm: I'm not hungry after my late lunch and my boyfriend is working tonight so decide to skip dinner and instead attempt a lemon drizzle cake in the new loaf tin. Unfortunately lemons don't exist in Mexico so I swap them for limes from our tree and, failing to find caster sugar in our local shop, buy a pack of regular white sugar for 68p. Despite these changes and not having baking soda, the cake turns out ok, although is arguably more of a biscuit. When my boyfriend gets home around midnight we eat half of it. Total: £12.83
Day Seven 9.30am: Instead of making breakfast we take turns going to the fridge and cutting off bits of the biscuit-cake until there is none left. Having eaten just cake instead of proper food for the last two meals, I do some guilt yoga and resolve to start eating healthily. 10am: Boyfriend goes to the local shop to buy a big pack of coffee and juice which we drink on the roof while I work and he watches Netflix. £3.40 12pm: Man comes to fumigate the house with some kind of poison as the rainy season has brought about a million ants to our kitchen. £4.24 1.30pm: We hear the van coming that delivers big bottles of drinking water and race downstairs but just miss it. Luckily they hear my boyfriend's whistle and come back. We exchange our empty bottle for a full one. 60p 2.30am: I go to the fruit shop and buy an avocado, tomato, four oranges, three big potatoes and some coriander, then a box of red wine (£2.33) and bottle of lemonade. I make us tuna, red onion, avocado, tomato and cheese baguettes for lunch and a jug of tinto de verano (red wine with lemonade and lots of ice) and we eat on the roof terrace. £5.08 8pm: On the way home from the beach we stop in at my friend's recently opened shop which sells things for dogs. She has some beautiful handmade collars in typical Mexican patterns so after trying several designs on the dog we buy one. It's expensive but the dog looks so cute and I am happy to support my friend's business. £7.20 8.30pm: I make spicy bean burgers for dinner using the dried chickpeas and black beans I have been soaking all day. This is a risk as my boyfriend is not a fan of the three main ingredients – chickpeas, beans and chilli. I mash them with cumin, coriander (dried and fresh), chopped onion and garlic and an egg before frying the patties and serving with homemade chips done in the oven with salt, paprika and rosemary. They are a big hit and I make a mental note that I can feed him things he doesn't like (beans, lentils, etc) if they are disguised as things he does like (burgers). Success! Total: £20.52
The Breakdown Food/Drink: £58.01 Entertainment: £0 Clothes/Beauty: £0 Travel: £2.04 Other: £80.35 Total: £140.40