My Money is a new series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Angela Jansen from South London records her spending over a week and shares tips for saving.
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Angela is 31 and works in Westminster as a civil servant after moving to the UK from Canada nine years ago. She currently makes £53,000 a year, however her role has recently been expanded and the unit she manages has grown significantly, so she’s also receiving a temporary duties allowance of £10,000 a year. She lives in South London and has one flatmate, her cat Hunter.
Angela’s week: Lounging in bed, a lot of Netflix and a chorizo omelette
I have the day off, which is quite unusual. I typically only take time off to travel, but I have a few days of leave I need to use up by the end of the year so I have booked myself a long weekend. I lounge in bed and make myself a cup of tea and my favourite breakfast, a toasted bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon (£1.47 per portion).
After breakfast I head out to Asda to pick up a few bits. I don’t normally shop at Asda, but they have a really great skincare range and I am running low on my daily moisturiser (£10). I also pick up some things for my charity Christmas box – every year I fill a shoebox full of toys and supplies for a child in need. Last year I made a box for a boy, and this year I’m doing one for a girl, so I pick up hair ties, a toothbrush and toothpaste and a stuffed animal (£9.97).
Lunch is leftover veggie stir-fry (£1.35 per portion) which I never get tired of. I spend the afternoon doing some life admin and my meal prep for the week. I used to buy my lunch at work almost every day, but was spending between £6-£8 per day, which just wasn’t sustainable. Now I do all my meal prep at the beginning of the week and it saves me so much money! I make three big salads (£1.90 per portion) and teriyaki salmon with rice and spicy Szechuan green beans (£3.03 per portion). The beans are so delicious that I’d be happy to eat them on their own, but I tend to pair it with a protein.
I dig into my salmon and green beans and spend the rest of the evening relaxing on the sofa and catching up on my Netflix shows.
Total spend: £19.97
I’m back to work today, so after my customary cup of tea and bagel with smoked salmon, I head into Westminster. As I live in Zone 6 in South London I have an hour commute, but I comfort myself knowing that many people who are connected to the tube still have an hour commute. I pay using my monthly railcard and make a mental note to renew the railcard as it’s going to expire soon.
As I’ve been out of the office for a couple of days, I spend the morning catching up with my team and sorting out my emails. Turns out things were quite busy while I was away, so there is lots to review. I manage to pop down to the gym for a quick workout at lunch – we have a gym in the basement of our building, and I pay £22 a month for access.
Once I’m back at my desk, I eat one of my salads and spend the rest of the afternoon deep in spreadsheets. The thought of having to work with spreadsheets is enough to send some people running for the hills but I really love it.
After work I head over to catch up with a friend. She has offered to make supper, so I buy us dessert on the way over, which is a massive donut (£4.50). She also messaged me to say she got a job offer earlier that day, so I buy a bottle of wine to celebrate (£7.70).
We spend the rest of the evening eating delicious food, drinking wine and chatting. I’m very grateful that she has offered to let me stay the night, as it means I don’t have to do the commute home!
Total spend: £12.20
I get into work earlier than usual as the commute from my friend’s flat is only a half hour, which is a win! I pick up a banana (50p) to add to my packet of porridge which I keep in my drawer for busy mornings (20p).
The day is incredibly busy with several big deadlines and a half a dozen meetings. I manage to squeeze in a half-hour break to eat lunch with a former colleague – we try to catch up once every couple of months. She updates me about her life while I eat another of my meal-prepped salads (it has a different dressing today so I don’t get bored), yoghurt and fruit.
I rush out the door at the end of the day in order to make it to my HIIT class on time. I use Classpass, which costs me £35 a month and gives me access to hundreds of studios across London. I love it, but if you miss a class you pay a penalty of £15, which I hate doing. I manage to make it with four minutes to spare, which is just enough time for me to change before the class starts.
After class I take the train home, have my meal prepped salmon and beans for dinner and do jobs around the flat until it’s time for bed.
Total spend: 50p
I wake up and realise that it’s payday, which is always exciting! On the commute into work I do my personal banking. I have multiple savings accounts for different goals, such as travel, gifts and long-term savings. I’ve given my savings accounts nicknames on my mobile banking app so I’m less tempted to dip into them for other things. I also pay for a new monthly travelcard, which costs a whopping £246.
Work is really busy again, and I eat my last salad at my desk in between conference calls and meetings. Before I know it, the day is over and it’s time to head home. I don’t know where the day went!
I make myself fish and chips for dinner (£1.25 per portion) and I spend my evening on Skype with my uncle, who lives back in Canada. We speak at least once a fortnight and it’s always great to speak to him and hear about everything going on at home.
Total spend: £246
I let myself sleep in this morning as I’m working from home. Most of my team is working from home today, and I’m travelling twice next week, so I don’t feel guilty.
Today is the day the money for my mortgage and my bills goes out of my account, so I’m exactly £1,000 lighter, but this covers my mortgage, utilities and council tax. It’s reasonable for London and one of the perks of living a bit further out, but still a lot of money.
I work most of the day but take a break to make myself a chorizo omelette for lunch (£1.15 per portion). I also manage to get out for a walk, as otherwise my step count would be shockingly low for the day.
My evening is spent making a birthday card for a friend and snuggling with Hunter while binge-watching YouTube.
Total spend: £1,000
I wake up early in order to get my grocery shopping for the week ahead done. I know the rest of my weekend is going to be busy, so I want to go to the big grocery store while I have some time. I spend £25.47 on ingredients for my weekly meal prep, and another £10 on a soup pot for a friend (she will pay me back when I next see her).
I take everything home and have just enough time to unpack the food before one of my best friends shows up. I make us American-style pancakes with strawberries, banana and maple syrup for breakfast (£1.33 per portion) which we eat while catching up on life. After breakfast she insists on going for a walk, despite the fact it is pouring outside, and we both get soaked.
After our walk she heads home and I make myself pumpkin Thai soup for lunch (72p per portion). I had a pumpkin that I didn’t want to waste, so I thought I’d try a new recipe. It’s pretty good, and I have enough for at least another five meals.
In the evening I travel to north London for a friend’s birthday party. I bring a bottle of prosecco from the cupboard to contribute to the party (free as it was a gift to me) and give her my homemade birthday card, which I think she likes! I get to catch up with a lot of friends I haven’t seen in a while and have a brilliant time.
I make sure to leave with enough time to catch my train home, but tube delays mean I miss my last train home. Annoyed with Transport for London, I decide to wait 55 minutes for the hourly train that runs through the night instead of shelling out for an Uber. I have to get a taxi the last bit of the way home (£6).
Total spend: £41.47
I allow myself to sleep in given I got back so late. But I don’t have time to have a relaxed Sunday morning, as I’m off to Hampton Court Palace with two friends. I make myself a bagel with cream cheese, and hop on a train to meet them.
My friend very kindly picks me up from the station and we drive to Hampton Court Palace together. I’m a member of the Civil Services Sports Council, for which I pay £4.25 a month, and it gets me all sorts of benefits, including free entry at the historic royal palaces. So instead of paying £78.30 for the three of us, it’s completely free!
We spend three hours wandering around the palace. I’m always impressed by the quality of the audio tours and the beautiful gardens, and my friends really love it too. But we start to get cold and hungry, so find a local pub to have a Sunday roast. We go to a little place along the Thames and I have the roast chicken with extra gravy and a hot water and lemon to warm up. My share of the bill is £15.50, which includes a tip.
It takes all my willpower not to fall asleep in the back of my friend’s car on the way back to the station. Thankfully I manage to stay awake, and I catch the train home. I am absolutely shattered by the time I get home, so after doing a bit of tidying and some more meal prep, I spend the rest of the night laying on the sofa watching TV.
Total spend: £15.50
How does Angela feel about her week?
My spend looks quite high this week, but that’s because I had to pay my mortgage and bills. I’m actually really pleased with the rest of the week.
I managed to prepare most of my meals, get to the gym, and see lots of friends, all while keeping the costs down, even in the face of a transport disaster on Saturday night!