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 28-year-old Detective Constable with the Metropolitan Police. Due to London weighting, she earns well but gives a big amount to her pension (for which she is aware she will be grateful down the line!). She also gets free travel across London, however, considering she's often had to step in and deal with incidents when she's off duty, it's a perk well earned!
Industry: Police Age: 28 Location: Central London Salary: £32,727 including £6,711 London weighting Paycheque amount per month: Approximately £1,700 before overtime – I pay 11% pension and have a lot of automatic deductions such as insurance and Police Federation subscription. Number of housemates: One, my brother. I’ve lived in many a London house-share and this is the best so far as you no longer need to leave passive-aggressive Post-its asking strangers to clear up after themselves. You can just having a slanging match and still be cool. Win.
Housing costs: Rent £600 Loan payments: Student loan £100 per month approximately which comes directly out of my paycheque; £142 per month car lease; try and pay as much of my credit card off as I can per month (varies). Utilities: Council tax £80 each; TV licence £30; gas and electric £20 each. My brother pays for the internet and water. Transportation: Free in London thanks to job. Phone bill: £50 per month with Spotify unlimited included. Seems extortionate when I write it down! Health insurance: Nope. Savings: £20 a month with Police Mutual, anything I don’t spend just stays in my current account. Other: Netflix £7.99 a month which the rest of the fam sponge off of; car tax £11; Equity membership £10 – I worked as an actress a long time ago and have kept the membership so no one else can use my name, just in case I want to go back to it.
Day One 6.30am: Wake up to get into work for 8am. Post-shower I make myself a Tassimo capsule coffee, which saves me a fortune and I can’t taste the difference between that and four quid Costa. I take it to work in my flask, feeling pleased to start the week with money-saving habits. Let’s see how the week ends… I buy a pint of milk from Tesco for my work porridge. Sachet already in my locker. 45p. I get on the Tube into town to go to work. I am lucky enough to have a TFL Oyster through work; because we are technically never off-duty, we are often called to incidents on the transport network when travelling and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve stepped in when necessary. I know it saves me a fortune and I am grateful, but I feel it’s well earned! 8am: I get to work and it’s busy, there are new cases in from overnight. I quickly have my pre-bought sachet porridge and a cup of tea. I pay £6 a month for tea, coffee and biscuits at work and paid this last week on payday. 12pm: Pop out for some air as I literally haven’t even had time to wee for the past four hours and my head hurts. I buy a £1.89 pack of sandwich bags from the local Waitrose as I’ve run out; I know there is a cheaper way of doing this but I feel I won’t make it to Aldi tonight. I also buy a card for a friend who has had some bad news, £2. I then go to Superdrug to grab some cotton balls for 99p (so much cheaper in the baby section FYI) and liners for £1. Very tempted to grab a gorgeous tray of sushi from Itsu but I resist. Working in central London, with such a plethora of yummy takeaway places, can be expensive. I eat my Tupperware lunch at my desk, which is a coconut and lentil dhal I made in bulk yesterday, sachet rice I already had at work, and half a bag of salad from the depths of my fridge. I spend the rest of the day in custody dealing with a suspect. 8pm: I feel famished so grab a bag of popcorn and a Diet Coke from the canteen vending machine, £1.50. 11pm: I clock off seven hours later than planned. I get the bus home, yes for ‘free’. Bed. Total: £7.83
Day Two 6.30am: Wake up as I’m in work for 8 again. So much to do from yesterday’s job. I’m cranky. I go downstairs to discover my brother has used the last Tassimo pod. In this mood I could actually kill him. Breathe deeply. Quick shower, clothes and a bit of mascara and I’m out the door. I have very dry curly hair, which can be a pain but has the added bonus of only needing to be washed twice a week. I don’t mess about on an early morning; I’d rather spend longer in bed. 7.30am: I feel immensely proud that I resist the temptation to go to Caffè Nero on the way to the station. I get to work and have a tea club coffee, which is actually very nice – we went through a phase of having Nescafe Azera when it was on offer and now we can’t go back to granule instant. Tea club price has gone up as a result but is still miles cheaper than coffee shop coffee. Porridge at my desk with yesterday’s milk and pre-purchased sachet. 11am: I spend the morning writing up yesterday’s job and discussing it with my supervisor. My lovely colleague has brought in homemade banana bread; I have a piece for elevenses. I get called out to a scene for a new case and don’t get back until 2.30. I get back to the office and eat my pre-made dhal and rice that I’ve again brought in from home. 4pm: Leave work on time for once and go to my shellac pedicure appointment – £17 on Groupon, pretty good for the price, paid for when I bought it last week as a payday treat. I walk home along the river as it’s a beautiful evening. I take a picture of the Tower of London in the autumn sun and send it to my mum; she’s a real Londonphile and she’s visiting this weekend, I hope it whets her appetite! Of course, not living here full-time, her version of London is Big Ben, Knightsbridge and chimney sweeps that look like Dick Van Dyke – she doesn’t get the near-payday hell of eating beans in front of Netflix because you already had all the £20 cocktails. 6pm: I get home too tired to go to the shop for anything new so make pesto pasta with extra garlic, mushrooms and broccoli, putting the leftovers in Tupperware for dinner at work tomorrow. Watch Doctor Foster (how good?!) and go straight to sleep. Total : £0
Day Three 10am: I wake up late as not in work until 2pm. I do a 15-minute HIIT workout from YouTube first thing. I have a shower and do housework and a load of laundry. I speak to my mum on the phone about weekend plans. I buy a DVD of a Kubrick film on Amazon for us to watch. It’s supposed to be a masterpiece and we love all things 18th century. I’ve watched the trailer and the costumes look to die for. £6.11 including delivery. 12pm: I have a piece of toast and a cup of tea and leave the house for work, taking the Tube to Mile End to collect some records for a case. This ends up taking three hours longer than I anticipated. 5pm: I end up feeling so hungry on the way back to the office I go to Tesco, despite having dinner in my bag. I need to learn to carry a snack. I buy a pot of mango and a can of Diet Coke, £2.24. I spy a Warehouse opposite the Tesco and return a dress that I was carrying with me with the vain hope of passing a store, so that’s £12 back on my card. Back in the office, I type up a mountain of work and have a cheeky tea club custard cream. Being a detective is far more desk-based than the TV makes out! 6.30pm: I have the rest of last night’s pasta that I brought to work. My colleague comes back from the local Chinese with her dinner. She got a free bag of veggie spring rolls and she doesn’t like them so offers them to me. I’m not one to turn down free takeout despite just having had my dinner. I drink camomile tea until I finish work. 9.30pm: I finish work and get the bus home… this work week is feeling very monotonous. I have a small glass of white wine in front of Celebs Go Dating, cotton candy for the brain. Then bed and sleep. Total: -£3.65 (!)
Day Four 6am: I’m up early again as I have an appointment to get a phone downloaded for a case, as there may be evidence of the offence in text messages. Get the train to the police station. Crack and get a large skinny latte from Caffè Nero on the way. £2.80 8.30am: Phone call with the lab and I’m on my way back to work. I suddenly remember it’s my friend’s birthday this weekend and I’m seeing her on Sunday. I pop into Cards Galore and buy her a card and a silly mug as a present. £9.48 9.30am: Head to the London Fire Brigade HQ to collect a tape that may be evidential. Hope to maybe see some firemen I can secretly objectify but unfortunately it’s all HR, bosses and the like. On my way back to work, my brother calls me in a panic – he’s going to Poland tomorrow for a wedding and has forgotten to get currency. Since I work in town, currency exchanges are plentiful and I pick him up some zlotys. £199.98 – he will pay me back tomorrow when he gets paid. 10am: Pick up my watch that I dropped off yesterday at the repair shop opposite work. £10.95 for a new battery. 1pm: I didn’t have a chance to pack lunch today because of the quick turnaround from yesterday’s late shift, so it’s to Pret for a comfort lunch of ham sandwich, vegetable crisps and a Diet Coke. £4.58. I drink camomile tea all afternoon until I clock off at 4. 4pm: My brother calls me in yet another panic because he has split his trousers and doesn’t have time to buy new ones before his flight tomorrow morning as he finishes work at 7 at the earliest. On the way home I visit Primark and buy him two pairs, £17 added to his debtor’s tab. I head home with my job laptop to do some work out of hours. I’ve got a big case going to court soon and next week is the start of our 10 days on over a weekend, which can be stratospherically busy with yet more new cases, so if I don’t get this week’s case files sorted it will just pile up. 7pm: I meet a friend for a drink in my local pub. I get the first round, two pints of cider £10.40. Aaah London prices. He gets the next round and the subsequent cheeky curry, even though I do offer to go Dutch. 10pm: Feeling a tad tipsy, I brush my teeth and hit the hay. Out like a light. Total: £255.19
Day Five 7am: My alarm goes off after a terrible night’s sleep. I never sleep well when I’ve been drinking. I roll out of bed feeling knackered and make myself a Tassimo coffee before brushing my teeth furiously as I am emanating garlic! Get the Tube to work. Stop off at Sainsbury’s and buy an orange juice and a pain au chocolat for breakfast, £2.10. 8am: Yet another job comes my way… I discuss the case with my supervisor and then it’s back to custody I go to consult with his solicitor prior to interview. 12pm: I take the opportunity to grab lunch while the suspect consults his solicitor. Salmon and cream cheese bagel and a can of Coke (I need sugar today) from the amazing 24-hour bagel shop across the road, £3.60. I had a ready meal in the fridge at work but when you have a job like mine you just need to grab food when you can. No time to enjoy a hot lunch! 8pm: I finish work four hours late having had copious cups of tea while preparing the file to charge the suspect. Day over, I head home on the bus to meet my mum who is already at mine. She has already gone to Sainsbury’s to get wine, pizza, salad and fruit for dinner. I am so grateful for the TLC after this busy week. We eat dinner and watch undiscerning Friday night TV before bed. Total: £5.70, and my brother paid me the £216.98 he owes me.
Day Six 8am: I’m up early on a Saturday to go to the hairdressers for a much-needed cut. Take the Tube into town. 10am: I leave my appointment feeling fresh and £37 lighter. It's normally £47 for a cut and finish but I had a £10 off voucher. Nip to Primark on the way home to return some trousers I bought that looked shit. Only £5 back on my card but every little helps. 11am: I meet my mum and my aunty and uncle who live in London for a walk around Borough Market. I could spend millions on beautiful cheeses, meats and veggies but settle for £5.10 on some vine leaves and olives stuffed with almonds. 12pm: We all head back to mine for coffee and lunch in the sunshine. I couldn’t call my metre-square yard a garden as such but it is nice to have some private outdoor space. On the way back I buy a bracelet from a jewellery stall. £8 1.30pm: We say our goodbyes as my mum and I have tickets to the RSC’s production of Queen Anne at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Tickets were £15 each but I bought them ages ago. 5.30pm: We leave the performance, which I thought was excellent – nice to see two women in a political power struggle for a change, and it is a little known but very interesting period in history. I didn’t know Anne was responsible for the union between England and Scotland and make a mental note to do some research on her reign. Since we’re in town we take the opportunity to have a stroll around Soho/Regent Street and end up in Liberty’s Christmas Shop, despite it being late September. It’s an utter delight; the bauble collection is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I buy a wonderfully kitsch sprig of mistletoe made of felt – more charming than it sounds, I promise. I always try and fail to buy some every year and it will last forever, so think of the money I’m saving over the years… stupid purchase I know, but I couldn’t resist. £8.95 7.30pm: We end up in an Italian restaurant in Soho we always go to. Sadly it’s pretty crap. I worked as a waitress for years before my current career and I understand that it gets busy on a Saturday night but we had to get up for drinks, dessert, sugar, etc. and chase our order, when it should have been full table service. First world problems, I know. For the first time in my life, I don’t leave a tip. Mum pays and I feel really guilty that we’ve had a shit meal when she’s my guest so we go to a pub where I get a round of drinks to end the night. I have water and buy her a glass of wine. £6.50 10pm: Get the Tube home and watch Brit Cops in our PJs. I know it’s sad but I love watching these shows and it does make me miss the rush of response policing. That is until one of the officers is violently assaulted by a drunk, and the voiceover at the end says that he got a community order as punishment. Abysmal. Go to sleep. Total: £60.55
Day Seven 8.30am: I’m up early for a Sunday. I notice that I have some bananas that are pretty much gone and make impromptu banana bread. I brew coffee and make my own version of shakshuka for breakfast, with cupboard and fridge ingredients. 11am: After a leisurely breakfast we head to the Museum of London Docklands, getting the DLR to Canary Wharf. I’m fascinated by industry in east London and it’s a great afternoon. Free entry. 3pm: My neck is killing me. I probably slept on it weirdly, so I buy Ibuprofen gel from Boots, own brand is so much cheaper. £2.99. We grab panini and coffee for lunch, Mum pays. 5pm: I see her off at Euston and make my way back home to get ready to meet my friends at the theatre. We’re watching My Dad Wrote A Porno live and I can’t wait! Beans on toast at home with an apple for dinner. 7pm: I meet my friends at the theatre and buy a pint of beer at the bar, £5. The performance is hilarious and my stomach hurts from laughing. 9.30pm: My friend and I head back to mine for a catch-up after the performance, I stop off at Sainsbury’s Local on the way and I buy a bottle of wine, crisps and hummus. £8.75. We put the world to rights and she goes as she has work in the morning. I’m off tomorrow before my 10 days in a row. I go to sleep at about midnight wondering what work will bring. Total: £16.74
The Breakdown Food/Drink: £53.02 Entertainment: £6.11 Clothes/Beauty: £+9 from returns Travel: £0 Other: £75.25 Total: £125.38