Money Diary- A Typical Week in London
It’s no secret that London is up there with the most expensive cities in the world, and that there’s temptation around corner. I’m frequently asked how I find it, financially. So I figured that to satisfy curiosity and provide an example, I’d write a money diary. This was, of course, inspired by the spending diaries of Refinery 29 and Irish journalist Rosemary MacCabe whose honesty I always appreciate.
(This is my first time ever doing this, so please be kind. I know that I spend too much money on coffee. But you would too if you lived in a city this exhausting.)
Here it goes.
Already I feel like I’m cheating on this. I try to pay for all I have to pay for as soon as I can. So with that being said, I paid my rent, bills, Oyster monthly pass and yoga studio membership last week. I also did a big grocery shop online, and it arrives this morning. When it does, I unpack and start to prepare some food for the rest of the day.
I make breakfast and sit down with my flatmates to eat. I have my usual; blueberries, yogurt, granola and a little bit of almond butter. They have biscuits and hand-rolled cigarettes for breakfast. We sit and talk about gun control in America, the hangover of the British Empire and the late great rapper, Biggie Smalls. I don’t do pointless small talk, I don’t care how early it is.
After breakfast, I head to Pilates in Shoreditch. I have a monthly membership, so I don’t have to open my purse once I get there. After the hour long class, I jump on the bus and head to Victoria Park. Again, I have a monthly Oyster card, so I just tag that. I meet friends for a picnic in the park. I’ve brought some homemade salads- kale and pear, potato and beetroot and mint. They bring some cheese and charcuterie from their local Italian deli. We stay for a few hours and then walk back to Bethnal Green. I spend the rest of the evening meal prepping, doing laundry and feel fairly smug about the fact that I had a lovely, productive day and didn’t have to part with any cash.
Daily total: £0.
I wake up feeling tired and cranky, which is a mood that remains for the rest of the day. It’s lashing rain, so I get the bus to Shoreditch High Street Station and then jump on the Overground to where I work in Islington. Because I have my Oyster card, all of my public transport use is prepaid (I was about to say “free”, but it’s most certainly not. It’s £130 for my Zone 1-2 card). When I get off, I’m already feeling like I deserve a little pre-work pick-me-up. I go to Pret and get a latte and chocolate and hazelnut croissant. Because I bring my own reusable cup, I get a 50p discount and the final bill is £3.75.
I head into the office for 9am with a packed lunch, so don’t intend to head out for the rest of the day. But come lunchtime, I need another coffee. This time I head to nearby cafe and it’s £2.20.
After work, I had intended to go to a talk hosted by the General Assembly aimed at young self-employed creatives (of which I am). The event is free, and I know I’d enjoy it, but by 6pm I’m absolutely wrecked and decided I’m not in the mood to either socialize or absorb knowledge. So I skip it and go home. On the way, I collect a parcel in Tesco (it’s a collection point) and spot some marked-down beetroot burgers. £1.40. By the time I eat them, they’ll be expired, but I like to live by the “It’s best before not die on” and hate food waste.
I have dinner at home. The aforementioned parcel was a Virgin Media box. We haven’t had broadband in the flat for the past week and a half. I have to call Virgin to complete the installation and spend 38 minutes on hold. I’m really not in the mood for this, but know that it’s a necessary evil and soon I’ll be in bed catching up on a week and a half’s worth of The View. My call finally gets answered, and about 5 seconds later, poof! The line goes dead. I’m absolutely livid. I call back and spend 42 minutes on hold. During this time, I make and eat dinner. Once the almighty internet saga is sorted, I have a shower and go to bed. Ready for this day to be over.
Daily total: £7.35.
I had high hopes for today. But I wake up at 4am with a headache, fall back to sleep and have a dream about Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney. I then sleep in, do my makeup at the bus stop and eat breakfast at my desk. I bring my lunch, but head out to the nearby cafe for a latte and buy 6 mini white chocolate beignets to bring back and share. The damage is £5.
After work I head to yoga. I have 30 minutes to kill before class, and I’m tempted to buy another coffee. But in the interest of saving money, I decide to perk up on sweet, sweet sunshine and go to a disused public yard to chill and get some fresh air. A few minutes in, I notice I’m sitting very close to two people injecting heroin. I’m not feeling particularly nervous, but just to be on the safe side, I move. I’ve only just sat down when I realize I’m now photobombing an Instagram photoshoot in front of a graffitied wall. Urgh, if it’s not one thing, it’s the other here in Shoreditch. I give up on my plan to acquire fresh air and go to yoga early.
The class is a 90 minute Vinyasa Flow, and is a lot more advanced and intense than I was hoping for. At one point, while settling into an attempted shoulder stand, the teacher says doing a “holding baby” pose. I mishear and think she says “having a baby”, and thought to myself “yeah, this is what I imagine it feels like alright”. It’s after 9pm before I’m home, so make a quick dinner using what I’d prepped on Sunday.
Daily total: £5.
Another day struggling to get out of bed (are you sensing a pattern here?), another breakfast al desco. I’ve brought pitta breads and tuna to make a lunch with, but my colleague tells me that “that’s just a snack, not a lunch”, and I somehow convince myself she’s right. Come 1pm, I’m starving and craving a Nando’s, but instead go to a cafe and get a tomato, mozzarella and basil panini for £4.60. On the way back to the office, I get a latte (discounted to £2 because I use my reusable cup) and get a bar of Green & Black’s white chocolate (£2.49), my favourite thing in the whole world, to keep at my desk. I’m trying not to have coffee or sweets at home, so figured this is my last chance of the day. After work, I go home and make a big pot of chili. Some goes in the freezer, some I eat now with quinoa and avocado.
Daily total: £9.09.
I have breakfast at home (like I usually do, except for this week), but get a latte from the coffee cart outside Shoreditch High Street Station (£2.70). I eat the lunch I had intended to eat yesterday, with the new addition of some olives that I brought from home. After work, I just miss the yoga class I had hoped to go to, so I wait until 7.30pm for the next one I like. Normally if I was killing time for this long, I’d probably sit in a cafe. But because I knew that would mean writing down another expense, I don’t. I sit on a bench and use this time to do some emails. I know that if I go home, I won’t want to leave again, so I stay put.
The class is taught by James Chapman and is super relaxing. No handstands! No splits! No dislocated uteruses this time! By the time I’m home, it’s 9.15pm and I’m very grateful for that chili I just have to heat up (and cook up some corn on the cob to have with it). Had I not had anything quick to eat, I most certainly would’ve ordered Deliveroo and added about 20 to this day. But I didn’t, so yay for preparation.
Daily total: £2.70.
I’m working from home today on some freelance stuff, and also have a doctor’s appointment I’ve arranged for today. And thanks to the NHS, it’s free. (Hooray for democratic socialism and universal healthcare. America, take note.) I was hoping to make a lunchtime meditation class in The London Buddhist Centre, which is just down the road and by donation, so an easy one to get to, but I just don’t really have time. Instead, I work from home until my appointment and have to run some errands. At one point, I find myself running late so I hail a cab and it costs me £5.60. That evening, I pop to Sainsbury’s for some groceries. Hummus, ricotta, brioche... you know, just the essentials a simple country gal like me was reared on. The total is £12.40.
Daily total: £18.
I’m up and at ‘em early to run a few errands around East London. I then jump on the Tube for the long but worthwhile journey to Kew. I have an annual membership for The Royal Botanic Gardens and try to visit as often as I can. I call the fresh air and silence my dose of Vitamin Q (as in Kew. Get it?!). When I get off the Tube, I go to a cafe for a latte and scone, because I haven’t had breakfast and am ravenous. My plan was to bring a picnic to keep costs down, but that didn’t happen, so instead, I find myself buying breakfast, lunch and dinner out. Urgh.
The coffee and scone costs £6 and lunch is £11. The Kew gift shop is one of my favourite places to spend all my money, so today, I can’t help myself. I find a straw hat (for the heatwave), a pair of sailor socks (for eh, in case I go sailing), a gift for my friend Claire’s baby (that isn’t actually born yet) and some goodies. During our recent Internet outage, our neighbours gave us their WiFi code. We agreed it was the modern-day cup of sugar. The connection wouldn’t actually pick up, but I appreciated the gesture anyway and wanted to thank them. Kindness is hard to come by in a city like London. I spend £33.75 in the gift shop, which includes my membership discount. After I leave Kew, I meet a friend for dinner (that we have a coupon for at Pizza Express so it costs me £11.90 for a pizza and glass of rosé). I head back to theirs after dinner. A lovely day... but dammit, I was SO close to having a cheap(ish) week.
Daily total: £62.65.
Weekly total: £104.79.