Money Diary: A Recently Redundant 24-Year-Old On Housing Benefit

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 social media manager who was recently made redundant from her job. She's just about scraping by, freelancing in writing, editing and social media while looking for a new role. Stable jobs in her industry (mainly the arts) are relatively elusive and when she has been invited to interview, she's been told that they received hundreds of applications for the job (in one case thousands!), which makes her think her current employment prospects are pretty bleak. She says she doesn’t really have a choice, though, just to keep going and doing the best she can.

She currently works from home part-time as editor of a magazine and picks up some extra freelance work to make up her income. She also gets housing benefit from the council to help pay her rent while she's looking for more stable, full-time hours, which has been such a lifesaver as she says there’s no way she’d still be living in London several months later with just her part-time income. She thinks there’s still a huge amount of stigma around claiming benefits, which is stupid, although she does mostly keep it quiet.

Industry: Media
Age: 24
Location: London
Salary: I don’t have a salary, but my monthly income would probably come to around £9,500 a year.
Paycheque amount: Varies each month, but probably around £800 on average.
Number of housemates: 3

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £435 rent and that comes out of both my income and housing benefit. My housing benefit is usually just under £400 or so, depending on what I make that month.
Loan payments: £0 – I was the first academic year to have to pay the £9k a year fees for uni, so I have a ridiculous amount of student debt, but thankfully have never reached the threshold to have to pay any back yet.
Utilities: About £25
Transportation: Usually around £50
Phone bill: £12
Savings? Lol, nah
Other? No

Day One

11am: I have a job interview today! Feeling a little nervous as I really, really want the job, but I’ve been to a fair few of them recently, so pretty used to how it goes now. Use contactless to get the Overground into central London, then an underground train to the office. £2.40

1pm: The interview went really well (I hope!) and feeling pretty smug about it. Buy a couple of things from Boots (£2.90) on the way home, then use contactless to get the train (£2.40). I spend the rest of the day finishing up some freelance work while trying not to obsessively overanalyse everything I said in the interview earlier. It works. (Mostly.)

Total: £7.70
Day Two

9am: I’m doing a freelance social media shift today for a client I used to work for and I get to work from home, which means I can basically get away with spending nothing today and I feel pretty happy about it...

6pm: ...aaannnd, maybe not. Get a reminder from ASOS that the things I bought in the sale at Christmas are now due to be paid for (why did I think using the ‘pay later’ option was a good idea?!). Really annoyed at past, wine-filled, festive-season me. £58.99

8pm: Microwave some leftover pasta from last night for dinner (bleak) then head to the local shop. I make it a rule to leave my flat and do something, even if it’s small, at least once a day. Past experience has shown me that staying indoors and obsessively worrying about money while firing off CVs to employers that will most likely ignore my incredible talents is an absolutely terrible thing to do for my mental health. Buy milk, chocolate and a cider and spend the evening watching TV with flatmates. £4.98

Total: £63.97 (urgh)
Day Three

11.30am: Feel really tired today because I couldn’t sleep last night so end up having a lie-in and don’t start work until 11. I used to work 10-6 in my office, so I try to make sure I’m doing something productive during the same hours at home. That said, it’s so easy to just snooze the alarm and I’m very much a night person, so this happens a lot.

2pm: Flatmate sends me a link to a neon pineapple lamp, which would look great in my room. Seriously debate buying it to make today’s diary more interesting. Decide against it.

7pm: Make pasta for dinner again, because pasta is cheap and I’m underemployed. I’ve heard nothing from the couple of jobs I’ve interviewed for recently, which is making me start to think I didn’t get them. Spend the rest of the evening thinking wistfully of the time I had my life together and didn’t feel guilty every time I left the house to spend anything.

Total: £0!
Day Four

10am: I spend the morning editing some articles and do my daily trawl of all the job websites and look on social media to see if anyone’s posted anything about work. Nothing relevant today.

2pm: Fire through some emails and spend the afternoon editing some articles. Feeling pretty run-down today and finding it hard to concentrate. My flat doesn’t have a living room and there’s nowhere to sit in the kitchen, which means I spend most days sitting in my room working because I can’t afford to go out too often to work in coffee shops. Reminisce about how having a desk in an office was a real privilege that I will never take for granted again.

8pm: Go to shop (again). Buy milk and wine. At home, my flatmate, who is also looking for a job, is also having a panic about money as we had to pay rent this week. We drink some wine together and express our utter disbelief that we are not extremely employable and decide that everything will turn out fine because it has to. Money doesn’t buy happiness, of course, but oh my god, would it make me less anxious literally all of the time. £7.98

Total: £7.98
Day Five

1pm: It’s Friday, which is the weekday I usually allow myself to leave the house and spend real money. Get the Tube into central London (£2.40) to meet a friend to do some work. Buy a toastie and we split some popcorn. I also get a coffee. £8.60

6pm: I get the bus home, which takes considerably longer than the Tube but is also almost half the price. Enjoy a scenic trip across all of London on the way. £1.50

8pm: Get home and my flatmate is determined that I will join him in getting a takeaway so I almost immediately say yes, because it’s Friday and I convince myself I deserve it, or something, because I’m not going out tonight. £13

Total: £25.50
Day Six

10am: I get up, eat some toast for breakfast, then catch up on a bit of work from earlier in the week.

2pm: I meet one of my friends that I haven’t seen in ages for coffee and I end up getting two coffees and we share a cake, which she pays for. £4.80

9pm: Later in the evening at home, I discover that all my flatmates are going out and I have to immediately rule out joining them because I’ve spent too much money this week. However, after three glasses of wine, going out suddenly seems an amazing idea and I suddenly don’t feel so broke anymore. My "no, I can’t come" very quickly turns into a "maybe I’ll come" and I suspect it’ll very soon be a "yes". RIP my bank account.

11pm: I’ve been conned into going out now and there’s no turning back. I get an Uber, but my friend pays.

1am: Somehow, I have been in this club less than two hours and two drinks have cost me an incredible £24. I have abandoned all hope of saving money. There is no helping me now. Buy another drink, which this time only costs me £8.60 so I literally have no idea how the price of drinks in this place works. £32.60

3am: Get an Uber home to find I’ve lost my house keys and my jacket. Well done drunk me. Luckily my flatmate is in and lets me in and I go to bed poor, defeated and without a way to open my front door. £8.38

Total: £45.78
Day Seven

11am: I have the worst hangover I’ve ever had since...last weekend probably. I make more pasta and google "how expensive is it to replace house keys?" while severely regretting my life decisions. Turns out they aren’t too expensive, so that’s okay, but I really miss my jacket. Go back to bed because I am a mess.

6pm: Make myself leave the house because I feel all hungover gross and need some fresh air. Buy some bread and coffee. Spend the rest of the evening watching terrible TV and trying to control my Sunday night blues. Turns out you still get them even when not working full-time. Really hope, as I do every Sunday, that next week will be the week I finally get a job. £4.98

Total: £4.98
The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £81.74
Entertainment: £0
Clothes/Beauty: £61.89
Travel: £12.28
Other: £0

Total: £155.91
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