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: “I’m a senior medical writer living in Berkshire and following the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement with my husband (A). We hope to be financially independent by the time we reach our mid 40s. We’ve really tried to cut down on unnecessary spending over the last couple of years but without missing out on time with our friends and families. This approach has definitely helped us appreciate and be happy with the things we do have, without always looking for the next big spend.
I became financially responsible for myself after leaving my undergrad degree at 21, a year before A and I combined our finances. We both were very fortunate to receive inheritance money from our grandparents, which we were able to put towards a house deposit. I would however give it all up to have had my grandparents around while growing up.
I think my husband and I are in a solid position financially and are happy and motivated towards our savings goal!”
Occupation: Senior medical writer
Industry: Medical communications
Paycheque amount: £2,085
Housing costs: £900 mortgage (split with partner).
Loan payments: £117 student loan, taken from my salary pre-tax.
Savings? My husband (A) and I both get paid straight into our joint bank account and completely share all of our money (we don’t even have separate bank accounts anymore). As followers of the FIRE movement, we immediately transfer £2,000 to £2,500 (depending on our spending the previous month or any upcoming expenses) into a Stocks and Shares ISA. We currently have a nice-sized pot building up, and we hope to be financially independent before we hit our mid 40s.
All other monthly expenses: Gas and electricity £55, Netflix £10, phone £25, A’s phone £30, internet £20, water £19, council tax £192.
7am: Wake up slowly to the ‘smart’ lamp in our bedroom turning on. How is it Monday already? Roll over and snuggle into A’s back but it’s too late. He’s awake, and when he’s awake he can’t lie still and has to get up. The complete opposite to me in the morning.
7.20am: Overnight oats (oats, yoghurt, milk, honey, frozen berries and chia seeds) for breakfast — delicious! This morning we plan to go over to the woodland/grassland area just outside our town to go blackberry picking. The plan is to half-fill our freezer with blackberries for use in my breakfast for the next few months.
7.45am: Park the car and start looking for good blackberry bushes. There are loads around but most haven’t quite reached maturity yet so progress is slow. Pass some cows grazing by the pond and see one trying to eat blackberries directly from the bush (doesn’t this really hurt?). Finally we hit gold dust with one huge bush laden with perfectly ripe blackberries. We quickly fill up our pots then head back to the car.
8.55am: Back home with a coffee and ready to start work. We’ve both been lucky to have kept our jobs during the pandemic, with me working full-time from home and A doing about 50% of his original hours (but on full pay). I am very grateful to be in this position but do feel a bit guilty sometimes, wishing I could have had a little bit of time off (instead I was super busy and working extra hours when the rest of the world seemed to have stopped).
9.30am: Teams chat with my colleague about how best to prioritise the work we are currently doing for our client as he keeps changing his mind about what he wants first. Come to an agreement and start to write. I really enjoy my job as it allows me to keep at the forefront of medical research (we generally work with clinical trials) through preparing manuscripts and congress materials but without having to do any research myself, the part of my PhD that I ended up resenting.
12.30pm: Lunch! A is only working on Wednesday and Thursday this week so has prepared lunch. I quickly eat a bowl of penne, homemade tomato sauce and cheese before we head out for a lunchtime walk. We choose to go on a loop through the woods today as it’s feeling quite hot so it’s good to keep in the shade.
1.30pm: Rush back from our walk and I’m back at my desk within the hour. Monday always seems to zoom by as the afternoon is always full of meetings (although I do feel like I don’t really get much done).
4pm: Quick break for a peppermint tea and chocolate biscuit, and get distracted by the veggie patch. This is the first year we have had a proper garden (last year we’d just moved in and it was a complete mess) so I’ve gone a bit over the top with growing veggies and completely underestimated how much room everything would need. Unfortunately, I feel too bad for the plants to thin them out so it currently looks like a jungle. Am growing carrots, broccoli, potatoes, butternut squash, sweet red peppers and tomatoes.
5.30pm: Finished for the day. Sit on the sofa with A for half an hour and watch an episode of Fresh Meat (never gets old).
6pm: Help A finish off the lasagne (apparently I am the master assembler) and put it in the oven. One of my favourites so I cannot wait! Watch more Fresh Meat, checking on the lasagne every five mins or so until it’s cooked. Eat my portion within minutes.
7.30pm: We always get restless being inside all evening so go for a walk from the house. We discovered a new route the other week that loops through some fields the other side of our estate. There is a hill on the walk from which we get a beautiful view of the sunset.
8.30pm: Home again. Snuggle on the sofa to watch a film, then head to bed where we listen to The Planets audiobook before falling asleep.
7am: Wake up again to our smart lamp turning on. Mentally prepare myself for getting out of bed then head downstairs for my overnight oats.
7.30am: Off out again for our usual morning walk. I do find these walks energise me for the day ahead and, most importantly, prevent me from feeling like all I do all day is work.
8.45am: Home and help A prepare a shopping list as he will be doing the weekly food shop today as he’s not working. We’ve greatly reduced our food bill recently by always buying own-brand products and buying all our meat from the reduced section. We go out into town in the evenings once or twice a week and usually find enough reduced meat for the week (freezing it in the meantime of course).
11am: A is back from shopping and I take the opportunity for a distraction from work and help him unpack the bags. Very happy to see he’s bought a couple of bottles of supermarket own-brand cloudy lemonade — 70p for two litres and delicious! Grudgingly go back to work for the next hour until lunch. £44
12.15pm: Lunch! Eat my penne with tomato sauce and cheese again (am I a child?) and then head out for our lunchtime walk by the river. It’s so beautiful and peaceful today and we see some geese and their now almost fully grown goslings which we have been following since they were tiny. Wonder when they’ll start making their own way in the world?
3.30pm: Spend the afternoon taking in client comments on one of my manuscripts I am writing. Take a break for a peppermint tea and chocolate biscuit and a quick check on my veggie patch (this is definitely a recurring theme).
6pm: Finally finish work. Something came in just after 5pm from a client in the US so I had to work a little longer to finish it before logging off. Typical. Sit down and relax while A finishes prepping dinner. Start feeling bad he’s in the kitchen by himself so go and help with the washing up/tidying.
6.30pm: Burgers and a large pile of veggies. A favourite of ours, by which we ditch the chips! We had a lot of burger baps in the freezer (there were loads on offer the other week) so we’ve been slowly making our way through them.
7pm: Walk into town to look for supermarket deals. Today is a good day. In one shop find a pack of beansprouts and fresh noodles for 10p each. Then, in the next supermarket, two packs of chicken breasts for 80p each, and a pack of mince for £1.50. Walk home feeling really pleased with ourselves. £3.30
8pm: Tuesday night is family quiz night (at least since lockdown began). We each take it in turns to put together a quiz of about 70 questions using Kahoot! This week it’s my dad’s turn and, as usual, I do terribly but have lots of fun! My aim these days is to end up on the visual leaderboard which can be seen on the screen (top five).
10pm: Head to bed and listen to more of The Planets audiobook before falling asleep.
7am: Wake up, shower and head down for my overnight oats.
7.30am: This morning it is raining quite heavily so A and I decide against our usual walk. Instead, we settle down to play a couple of board games for an hour (A wins both).
8.30am: A heads into the office and I manage to kill 30 mins before starting work without actually doing anything. I am so inefficient and lazy when on my own!
9am: Settle down for work with my usual morning coffee. I have a relatively quiet day today, free of meetings, so hope I can get a lot of writing done, which always feels like a really good achievement.
12.30pm: A phones to let me know he’ll be home in about 15 mins. I start preparing lunch (beans on toast) so it’s ready when he gets in. We head out for a lunchtime walk but only get halfway down the road before it starts raining. Decide to turn back and play a quick game to fill the rest of my lunch break.
3.30pm: I am so distracted with my veggie patch this afternoon! Slightly concerned that there are loads of caterpillars hatching on my broccoli plants and the bug spray is doing nothing. Spend 10 mins picking caterpillars off the plants.
5.45pm: The rain seems to have cleared up so we head out for a walk around the block for some fresh air. I absolutely hate staying in the house all day as it always gives me a bad headache and I end up feeling really unmotivated. We are planning on going out for dinner at a country pub near Oxford tonight with my friend and her boyfriend who texted me the other day saying they would be visiting the area from London. Really excited as I haven’t seen her since before lockdown. Start discussing what we may order for dinner and what safety restrictions they may have in place in the pub.
7.30am: Arrive at the pub and find a nice table outside. This is the first time we’ve been to a pub or restaurant in months! After a rather wet day it is actually a lovely evening. Catch up with my friend and her boyfriend over hake with a chorizo crust and a glass of water. The bill comes to £84 so £22 per couple after the ‘eat out to help out’ government discount. Finally say goodbye to my friend, head home in the car and go straight to bed (listening to our audiobook before falling to sleep). £22
7am: Wake up, eat my overnight oats and head out for our morning walk. This morning we choose to walk around a local lake and then up to a canal. I love how quiet it is this time of day.
9am: A leaves for work and I quickly check on my veggie patch. Getting rather concerned about the number of new caterpillars that keep appearing on the broccoli plants. Spend some time plucking them off before starting to accept this is a losing battle. Give up and start work with my morning coffee.
12.30pm: A is doing a full day in the office today so isn’t home for lunch. I cook some penne with tomato sauce and cheese and sit outside with an audiobook while eating. Notice we have some mushrooms growing out of our lawn so start de-mushrooming. Keeping on top of gardens really is a lot of work! The hour seems to fly by and suddenly I’m back at my desk.
4pm: A returns home from work after a very successful day and we have a quick catch-up over cloudy lemonade and chocolate biscuits. Refocus then plough through the last hour and a bit of work before logging off.
6.30pm: Dinner tonight is chicken stir-fry using our supermarket discount finds from a couple of nights back. Add a packet of satay sauce and a pepper and dinner is ready in less than 10 mins. Now that is fast food!
7pm: Walk into town to pick up some milk and to check if there are any supermarket discounts. Find a few packets of basil for 10p each (we get through a lot of basil making our own pesto — so much better than the shop-bought stuff) and some milk. Head home taking a slightly longer route that loops through some of the fields near our house. £1.70
8pm: Spend the rest of the evening being lazy and watching TV before heading to bed. Feeling rather tired and so glad the end of the week is approaching.
7am: It’s Friday! Somehow it’s always so much easier to get up on a Friday. Out of bed, showered and downstairs and eating breakfast within 20 mins.
7.30am: Head out for our usual morning walk. Today we decide to go looking for some more blackberries so head to the woodland/grassland area nearby. We are spoilt for choice and head back with our pots overflowing. What a successful morning!
10am: Super busy at work. I have lots to get finished before the weekend as our client is on holiday for the following couple of weeks so we want to get a couple of pieces out to him before the end of the day. Have a quick team catch-up to check that everything is on track and that everyone is in agreement with the next steps.
12.30pm: Break for lunch with A for some hummus and pitta bread and then head out for a short walk. I don’t take my full hour today as I want to get back to work to ensure I finish on time. However I always need to take at least a half-hour break to clear my head or I get so unproductive in the afternoon.
5.30pm: Finally finished for the week and on time. We’re off to my parents’ this evening so throw some clothes into a bag and choose some board games to take down with us. A and I have really got into ‘modern’ board games over the last few years and have slowly been introducing my parents to them. It really annoys me when people assume we just play games like Monopoly — there are so many different and exciting games out there. Remember I was going to take a homegrown broccoli down for dinner tomorrow night so choose the largest one in the garden. Try and ensure it is as caterpillar-free as possible. Stop for petrol on the drive. £30
7.30pm: Arrive at my parents’ and my dad greets us with a G&T. This is why I love them! Have a catch-up and a peek at the pigeon that is currently nesting above their patio. Dinner and wine followed by a game.
10.30pm: Head to bed exhausted. It’s a very hot night so lie in bed for a couple of hours before falling asleep.
7.30am: 7.30am is my lie-in these days. However I never feel tired getting up at this time at the weekend. A and I head downstairs and watch some TV with a coffee while we wait for my parents to wake up.
8am: Eat a pain au chocolat for breakfast. What a treat! Laze around the house for another hour or so before deciding to head out for a walk.
9.30am: Go for a long family walk from the house. My parents live in quite a rural area so there are loads of beautiful walking routes on their doorstep. Have a lovely catch-up/chat while we walk.
12.30pm: Home for lunch of bread, cheeses and cured meats in the garden with a glass of iced squash. Relax for a while just listening to the birds and the sound of nature.
2pm: Spend the afternoon playing board games with my parents. We taught them one of our new favourites, which usually takes about two hours but can take up to four hours with newbies. Luckily it is too hot for anyone to want to do anything else. A wins but it is close between my parents and myself for second place.
6pm: Throw together a pre-dinner cocktail and help my parents prepare rib eye steak and jacket potatoes for dinner. Start to prepare my broccoli but notice there are loads of little caterpillars hiding between the florets which I completely missed yesterday. I am determined not to let it go to waste so spend ages making sure they are all removed before it is steamed.
8pm: Finish pudding (homemade chocolate mousse) and play a couple of short party games with a glass of wine before heading to bed.
7.30am: Wake up, shower and enjoy pains au chocolat with the family. This morning A and I are heading to the coast to meet up with a friend. He usually lives near us but has moved home with his parents for lockdown so we haven’t seen him over the last few months. Laze around my parents’ house for a couple of hours before heading off.
10am: A and I drive to the coast, listening to more of our audiobook on the way. When we arrive, our friend lends us a parking permit for the day so we avoid the extortionate parking fees.
12.30pm: Walk along the coast for an hour. We’re not quite brave enough to go in the sea despite bringing our swimming costumes (very optimistic planning). It’s surprisingly quiet given the massive crowds portrayed by the media and there is no problem social distancing from other people. Grab some fish and chips (£16 for A and me) and sit on the beach to enjoy.
3pm: Decide to stop off at an open air café for a drink. Absolutely shocked at the prices (this isn’t London!) of £10.50 for two pints. Enjoy them while overlooking the waves and staring down a rather curious seagull. Spend the afternoon catching up and making plans for a possible weekend getaway next year. £10.50
6pm: Where has the afternoon/weekend gone? Say goodbye to our friend and start our two-hour journey home while listening to more of our audiobook (of course).
8.15pm: Finally home. A starts preparing some pasta pesto while I check on my veggie patch. Going away for the weekend was not good for the plants in this heat so I give them a good water with the hose. Unfortunately, there are virtually no broccoli leaves left and the caterpillars have started to demolish the broccoli itself, too. Decide to rip them from the ground before the caterpillars spread to my other plants. At least I got one good broccoli.
8.45pm: Eat dinner while relaxing in front of a film. After an hour, I start to fall asleep on the sofa so head to bed.
Food & Drink: £97.50
Clothes & Beauty: £0
“This was a slightly higher than average spending week for me, given that I ate out with friends a couple of times (typical meet-ups involve catching up over board games with a bottle of wine). Luckily, most of our hobbies are relatively low cost so when we started focusing on following the FIRE movement I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything at all. I think this mindset really helps me appreciate and enjoy splashing out on meals out and activities much more when I do!
I found it just as interesting to track my activities over the week as my spending, and didn’t quite realise how much I’m getting outside in nature due to the current climate. On reflection, swapping a long commute to work with multiple walks a day has had a noticeable benefit for my mental health and is something I will definitely look to continue once we finally reach a ‘new normal’.”
Originally published at https://www.refinery29.com.