Welcome to Money Diaries. This week, we hand over to a drag performer and freelance journalist with a very variable income and a fondness for one particular global cuisine.
I’m a freelance writer and drag queen who has a terrible history of saving money but a colourful history of spending it. When I’m not on deadline, or working for the magazine for which I’m contributing editor, I can be mostly found eating, rehearsing and performing for drag shows or gigs with my queer punk band. Or shopping for things I genuinely can’t afford. One time I got a Raf Simons hoodie on finance (it was £550) and it took me seven months to pay off.
I’m originally from Lancaster, a beautiful town in northwest England, and went to a high school which was wonderful — if a little Catholic and a lot homophobic — but had no funding for PSHE lessons. So how am I supposed to know how to save money?
I have lots of incredibly loose theories about money which really don’t stand the test of reality, but I live by them nonetheless. Some of them are:
1. Why move to London — the epicentre of amazing food — to pack a packed lunch for lunch?
2. What am I saving for right now anyway? A house? As if.
3. You can’t take it with you. And I’ll be damned if my kids get it.
4. Extravagance is next to godliness (I just made that one up).
Industry: Drag performer, freelance journalist Age: 25 Location: London Salary: Anywhere between £12,000 and £20,000, depending on the year (£16,000 average) Paycheque amount per month: Variable, between £800 and £3,000 Number of housemates: 3
Housing costs: £532.50 Loan payments: N/A Utilities: £120 (more expensive right now because we are still paying backlogged fines from ignoring council tax bills…) Transportation: £240 Phone bill: £41 Health insurance: N/A Savings? I haven’t left my overdraft since I graduated four years ago. I do have £0.19 in an ISA somewhere. Other? No.
Total: £933.50 (what????)
Day One 10.35am: On the way to my morning editing job I always get the same coffee and croissant from the same place, because I’m disorganised with my personal food habits and so I literally never have breakfast at home. Even if I did, I’m kind of ‘off milk’ at the moment and nobody would undergo such sacrilege as to have a bagel every morning so I skip that and just buy breakfast out. Obviously if a flatmate has bought a bagel I’ll steal one and have both that and a croissant. Anyway. £4.80 12.15pm: A friend at work is having a tough time, so I take them out for a cup of Earl Grey. Turns out she’s never had it before. So I read her a bit, and then we enjoy the tea… and spill the tea. Yes hunnnnni. £2.52 1pm: I also don’t ever pack lunches. I decided a few years ago that I’d rather be broke than be someone who packs lunches because it’s the ultimate sign of adulthood and I’m a drag queen so why should I not be glamorous? There is genuinely not one possible glimmer of glamour to be found in and around the world of Tupperware. If you are a person who takes a packed lunch to work with you, I admire you. But we can probably never be lovers, sorry. Anyway, a classic Pret for me: halloumi and falafel wrap, sweet and salty popcorn, honey and yoghurt granola pot. £6.93 2.09pm: Another coffee. I sit down to write an article in a bougie café in Angel. There’s no fucking plug socket so I have to move. £2.80 (wasted). 2.35pm: Finally find a Starbucks, even though chains are the devil. Buy an orange juice so I’m allowed to work in there. £2.80 7.39pm: We’re in rehearsal (myself and the rest of our drag troupe) every night this week for our upcoming show. Scan the streets of Angel for anything decent. Swiftly settle on a glorious, girthy burrito. Obviously I would never dream of packing dinner. That would be impossible to return from in my eyes. £7.70 Total: £27.55
Day Two 9.10am: I have a work meeting with a makeup brand. They pay for breakfast as they’re a literal multinational company and I’m a struggling queen. I have an organic muffin which is, frankly, dry as hell. And an iced black Americano. 12.25pm: Having lunch alone as I’m on deadline for an article. I decide to do what I always do and stupidly not check the prices on the menu. I order a coffee, a sausage sandwich and a side salad (lol that’s a lie, it was a brownie) at a really expensive place in Soho. £16.10 (oh god what have I done?) 5.15pm: Seeing a friend for a quick coffee before rehearsal because she’s just hooked up with a super great girl she’s had a crush on forever and we want to debrief. I pay because, despite my harsh judgements on those who use Tupperware, I’m really a kindhearted queen. £5.20 8pm: Dinner at rehearsal again. It’s either another burrito or a Pret. So a Pret it is. Same again, halloumi and falafel wrap, sweet and salty popcorn, granola pot. So uncreative. Also realising now I haven’t had one vegetable today. Omg or yesterday… unless pinto beans count? Anyway. £6.64 Total: £27.94
Day Three 9am: Coffee, no croissant as I’m in a rush and the croissants look particularly dry today anyway. £3.20 (for a fucking coffee, I know… London. FML.) 11.30am: Coffees for me and my boss because we want to catch up on life outside work and smoke loads — there’s nothing better than a cigarette and a coffee. I pay. £6.08 12.23pm: Bacon sandwich. With a fried egg. Oh my god I’m gonna get scurvy. £4.95 1.24pm: Ran out of rollie tobacco and now it’s so pricey because of new laws that are supposed to stop us all buying it. But we’re buying it Tezza, we’re buying it for sure. £13.99 2.20pm: I totally forgot I’d agreed to meet a friend for lunch, and I already had lunch with that bacon sandwich earlier. But we go to Wagamama and I love Wagamama, even though I hate their corporate pink washing around Pride. Get a chicken and prawn yaki soba and a ginger beer. I make the decision to eat again on account of there being some (very few, but some) vegetables in the noodle dish. £12.25 8pm: Boyfriend buys me dinner because an invoice that’s due is taking its sweet time. As ever. Anyway, we leave rehearsal and have another burrito. At this stage I’m questioning who I am and whether, in fact, I will soon just be a burrito… with scurvy… and no money. Total: £40.47
Day Four 8.58am: Today I am dead broke. But I refuse to pack a lunch, or eat breakfast at home. I buy my morning coffee as ever. I am deeply, painfully moved as I tap my contactless card over a reader which says £3.20… for a coffee… again. 1.35pm: Lol McDonald’s for lunch. I truly mean it when I say that I literally never, ever have McDonald’s for lunch. Except the one week where I have to tell everyone what I had for lunch. It was a double cheeseburger, three chicken selects with sour cream dip, fries and a DIET (!!!!!) Coke. Not gonna lie, it was a pretty special lunch. £6 8.18pm: My invoice has been paid!!!! As a celebration we have, of course, another burrito. I would like to talk candidly here for a sec: I honestly urge you not to rehearse for any shows in Angel, dear friends and readers, because — unless you’re willing to trek to Upper Street — there honestly is only a Pret and two burrito shops. It’s literally a joke. Anyway. £8.60 Total: £17.80
Day Five 11.33am: Another friend is having a difficult time at the moment. We decide to meet for late breakfast at that place in Soho I went the other day which cost me too much, but I’m feeling flush. I have granola and apricots, she has a green tea, I have one coffee. I pay. £20.81 3.25pm: Pret lunch. But shocker! This time I have a banana and a ham and cheese sandwich. £3.80 4pm: I have a drag show at the Soho Theatre tonight at 11.30pm and I’m bored of my look. So I make a snap decision to go to the most iconic shop full of sequins and glitter, Taurus, and buy a headdress and some Lycra elbow-length gloves. Iconic. £55 7pm: I’ve just chaired a talk at Tate Modern about queerness and mental health, and have to rush back to the theatre to get in drag for tonight’s show. I grab a duck bahn mi from a street vendor and run to the Tube. I drop the bahn mi on my right foot. I scream a curse word and carry on running like the trouper queen I am. £7 7.30pm: Need more cigarettes if I’m ever going to be able to sing properly for the show. I buy a big bottle of water too, and a newspaper as a prop. £19 12.30am: Three beers. So. Many. Beers. All free for performers. I live my life on drinks tickets. Total: £105.61
Day Six 1.44pm: I sleep till 11am, then rush to Hackney to play a gig with my other band. It’s pouring down and we are genuinely playing in an alleyway. Iconic. Anyway, we have to wait around for literally four hours. So my bandmates and I buy beer, bagels and prosciutto and it’s joyful. We sit in a leaky warehouse in Hackney Wick while we watch some straight dudes play instruments on loop (with the aim to do so for 10 hours). Visionary… £12 Afternoon: We end up getting quite drunk and time goes somewhat hazy. But we found an in at the café near where we are playing and get loads of free beers. It’s great. We play the gig and head home soaking wet. 9pm: We are having a house party tonight, and so before it all kicks off I cook a fresh carbonara for my flatmates, with delicious salad. I also buy beers for the night. £22.25 Total: £34.25
Day Seven 1pm: I’m heinously hungover, and also on deadline. I have coffee and a bagel at home. I feel remarkably proud of myself. 6pm: A friend and I go for ritual hangover KFC. It’s the best thing in the world. I feel alive again, until a man in the park near our house starts screaming homophobic slurs at me. Happens all the time. £6.80 9pm: Flatmates have cooked a roast which is taking ages to cook, but is amazing when it’s done. We have chicken, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus and honey and mustard carrots. We drink wine and watch reruns of Friends, and the Spice World movie. It’s literally the best hangover cure ever. Although I missed my deadline. £4 Total: £10.80
The Breakdown Food/Drink: £176.43 Entertainment: I am the entertainment Clothes/Beauty: £55 Travel: £0 Other: £32.99 Total: £264.42