Money Diary: A Primary School Teacher In Leeds On £33.8k

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last penny.

This week: “I’m a 28-year-old primary school teacher, living in a suburb of Leeds. I now live alone after buying a house with a partner and subsequently breaking up. I took on all the house expenses, which allowed him to move out and get a new place (while the re-mortgage completed), as I will be staying in the house on a solo mortgage. Taking on the expenses of the house on my own has been a stretch, but it is so satisfying to work on a house that is your own and I feel so grateful to be in this position. I am trying to take my spending more seriously as I have a lot less disposable income now. This is hard in the summer holidays with so much free time to fill. I’m hoping this money diary will be a good chance to reflect on my outgoings.”

Occupation: Primary school teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 28
Location: Leeds
Salary: £33,850
Paycheque Amount: £2,012.50
Number of housemates: None
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £731.19. After we split, I took over all the costs of the house, including the full mortgage payment. I am in the process of switching from a joint to a solo mortgage, which will reduce this payment, with the help of my parents.
Loan payments: £49 student loan.
Savings?: £1,500 emergency fund for the house, £10,000 in an ISA and about £900 in a separate savings account for an upcoming trip to Mexico.
Pension?: 8.6% of my gross salary. I don’t think about my pension much — I was automatically enrolled at the percentage I currently pay and have been paying into it for five years.
Utilities: £28 water, £134 gas/electric, £124 council tax, £22.44 house insurance, £24 Virgin Media.
All other monthly payments: £29.99 gym.
Subscriptions: £9.99 Twinkl; £8.99 Amazon Prime.

Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I got student loans to cover the fees, as well as some living expenses. The loan didn’t completely cover my housing, so my parents also contributed each month. I also worked waitressing shifts over the holidays to cover my extra living costs.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?
My parents are very money savvy, particularly my dad, and they’ve always extolled the virtues of saving. My mum is more relaxed about spending and encourages me to spend on things like holidays and time with friends. Neither of them are materialistic and prefer to spend money on activities, which I’m trying to emulate by reducing my spending on clothes and so on.

If you have, when did you move out of your parents’/guardians’ house?
I moved out when I was 18 for university. The summer that I finished, I moved back in for about five months.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?
I became financially independent aged 22 when I moved back to Leeds, where I was waitressing, as well as volunteering in a school while I secured a school-based job in Leeds.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was waitressing at weddings and events during college and university holidays. I applied for the job as a friend worked there and absolutely loved it for nearly five years.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes! Since I have taken on the costs of the house myself, I worry lots about money, especially as my parents are helping me to take on the mortgage on my own. I feel a huge responsibility towards them and want to be respectful with my spending. I’m hoping this diary will allow me to reflect on my spending and make changes, while still maintaining my social life.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?
My parents contributed £10,000 to the deposit of my current home when my ex-partner and I initially bought it. As the house is not quite within my affordability on my own, they have offered to contribute more towards the house so that I can afford the mortgage solo. While this fills me with anxiety, and feels like a huge debt to repay, I am so grateful for their offer. This money will come from my mum’s inheritance from my lovely grandad.

Day One

9am: Wake up and make a brew for my friend A. who stayed last night.

9.30am: We head downstairs and make breakfast (veggie sausages, scrambled eggs and hash browns) and talk about our plans later: a pub crawl to celebrate my birthday.

11.30am: Feeling criminally lazy and it is also raining so we Deliveroo groceries from the Co-op. We buy bits to make mini bruschetta, parmesan, crisps, lemons and orange juice, £27.14.

12pm: We start getting ready for the day, fake tan, do our makeup and drink Buck’s fizz to get in the mood.

12.30pm: We make bruschetta, tzatziki and other nibbles for the other girls who are coming over.

2pm: The other girls arrive. I give the obligatory house tour to a couple of friends who haven’t seen the house before. I feel so proud of my little home.

2.15pm: I pour some drinks and we catch up. Everyone is so excited; we haven’t done this pub crawl since university, so we’re reminiscing.

3pm: My friend and I order two Ubers and head to the first pub. Not thinking, I’ve come out without ID. The bouncers unfortunately let me straight in which hits hard. I feel haggard. Spend £9.97 on a drink.

3.20pm: I buy a round for three of us: two pints of lager and a white wine. It’s chucking it down and we decide to settle in rather than brave heading to the next place, £19.80.

5.30pm: We make it to another pub, where a friend buys me a drink. I’m sticking to the pints for now. Again, we get cosy and catch up on each other’s lives. There is no better feeling than a room full of your favourite babes.

8.30pm: We finally make it to another pub, after an obligatory trip to Greggs for a vegan sausage roll (bought by N), and a quick stop at Sainsbury’s for a vape, £8.

9pm: It’s my round, £21.90.

9.20pm: We’re at Wetherspoons. We’re all flagging a bit and decide to get some food. I order chips for the table, £12.09.

12am: We head to town. Karaoke, tequila shots and talking to boys. My phone has died (whoops!), so E buys two rounds of drinks for us.

1am: We get a taxi home.

Total: £98.90

Day Two

8.30am: Wake up violently hungover. Eat a bag of crisps and regret all my life decisions.

9.30am: A few of the girls stayed over. We all get into my bed for the debrief of the night and message the other girls to check in. It feels like we’re back at uni. We chat and snooze for the rest of the morning.

1pm: One friend heads home and the remaining three of us venture out for brunch. I get a full English and an iced coffee. It hits the spot and we’re feeling better, £14.70.

3.20pm: We check our bank accounts for the damage. I transfer E to cover one of the rounds of drinks she bought at the end of last night, £10.

7pm: After an afternoon of chatting, N leaves to drive back home. E and I agree that we need a Dominos for tea. We get a margherita pizza and cheesy garlic bread, £24.08.

9pm: We eat our food with trashy TV playing in the background and head to bed early.

Total: £48.78

Day Three

9.15am: Have yoghurt and berries for breakfast with E before she heads home. Pretty sure that eating berries cancels out the weekend. Health is wealth.

10am: I head out for a walk. On the way back, I collect my prescription from the pharmacy, £9.65.

10.20am: I pop to the shop to buy garlic bread and salad to go with dinner, and top up on fruit, £8.70

11am: Make a brew and sit down with my to-do list, which is split into work (school) and house stuff. This week, I want to do a deep clean of the house and finish decorating my living room, which requires painting my built-in cupboards and waxing the floor.

11.30am: I start the cupboards. Take all the doors off, clean them, remove the handles and paint each one. Then I paint the frame of the cupboard. This takes many hours. I stop for lunch (a spicy veg stir fry) and get back to it.

6pm: My sister G comes round after work — she stays with me one evening each week. I make us a fresh broccoli pesto served with pasta and the garlic bread. We catch up on her week and wind each other up.

9.30pm: G and I take showers, do skincare and head up to bed.  

Total: £18.35

Day Four

8am: I say goodbye to G and make breakfast of scrambled eggs and a cup of tea. I pop Molly Mae’s latest video on while I get ready. These lazy mornings are everything.

8.30am: Head to the corner shop for milk and to get out of the house. I always feel more productive at home if I’ve already been outside, £1.85.

9am: Check my phone and transfer money to a friend, P. We are off to the cinema on Thursday and she’s booked the tickets, £17.

9.10am: E and I are messaging about our Mexico trip. I book us tickets for the Frida Kahlo museum in Mexico City. E books our hotel in Tulum for the second part of our stay, £92.50 for my share (taken from my Mexico savings pot).

10am: Day two of the cupboard reno. I complete a second layer of paint over each section, agonising over the corners but still managing to get some up the wall. I put New Girl on in the background — I always need background noise to keep me motivated.

1.30pm: Get the bus into town and listen to a podcast, £2.

2.30pm: I head to Boots and at the till, I realise I’ve spent over £50. Not ideal, but I bought tinted moisturiser (on offer, so basically free!), mini shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, sun cream and mascara, £53.

3pm: Meet C in town after she finishes work. We make our way to Franco Manca and order garlic bread, olives and a drink each. We catch up about the pub crawl and she tells me about her nightmare personal trainer who spent the whole session flexing in the mirror, £13 for my share.

4pm: We head to TK Maxx. I resist the urge to buy new holiday clothes as I’m still reeling from the accidental Boots haul, but it’s so tempting. C buys fancy new haircare and I congratulate myself on my newfound frugality.

4.20pm: I buy a plant pot and the most beautiful and unnecessary lemon print dishes from Homesense. I justify this as an essential house expenditure — they will make me feel so inspired to wash up, £17.

6pm: Get the bus home, £2. When I get in, I make a satay sauce for a Quorn stir fry with lots of veggies that need using.

6.40pm: Sit down to work so it isn’t overwhelming when I go back. I re-plan my maths units and feel really accomplished.

10pm: Skincare, a few pages of a book I’m rereading, Everything I Know About Love — it is still perfect.

10.30pm: Sleep.

Total: £198.35

Day Five

7.30am: Get up and go to my favourite yoga class. I can’t go in term time as I’m in school by half seven, so I love going when I can.

9am: I feel amazing after yoga and wish that I could go every week. I walk to the big supermarket to pick up some home storage boxes to organise the cupboard and a new bra, £25.72.

11.50am: Final bits of painting complete. Screw all the door handles back into place and the cupboard is finally finished. I’m so pleased with it. I post a picture on my Insta story to show the girls — I have not stopped going on about my project so I need to share the result.

12.15pm: Brunch of scrambled eggs, veggie sausages and beans on toast.

12.30pm: Make a cup of tea and watch a romcom. What a luxurious afternoon.

2pm: I turn on the laptop and take a look at my first topic for the upcoming term: World War Two. I check and sort my resources. I’ve taught this topic before but I want to add some more local area links.

3.40pm: I am down the rabbit hole, planning a local area trip to make the learning more relevant for the children.

6.15pm: I close the laptop, buzzing with excitement about my newly resourced topic. What a saddo.

6.20pm: I wipe all the surfaces, pull out all the furniture and hoover the living room properly. Tick Big Hoover off of my to-do list and get all the serotonin.

8.30pm: I make a quick salad wrap for dinner and watch TikToks in the bath as a reward for the deep clean.

9pm: In bed with my book and a cup of tea.

Total: £25.72

Day Six

8.30am: Enjoy a lie in with a cup of tea and my book.

9am: Get the list out. Living alone, it’s easy to have days where I don’t see anyone until my friends finish work, so I try to keep myself motivated during my ‘work day’ with house decorating.

9.15am: Yoghurt, berries and banana for breakfast before I head upstairs to reorganise my wardrobe.

10am: I’ve pulled out all my clothes and I’m trying to be ruthless. I don’t have any drawers at the moment so I assemble a little shelf to sit in the bottom of the wardrobe for pyjama storage.

1pm: Lunch time: I heat tomato soup from the freezer and enjoy with a pile of buttered toast.

1.20pm: I clean the living room floor and wax the floorboards before grabbing a shower and putting on a bit of makeup.

5pm: I walk to the cinema as I’ve not moved much today. It turns out to be along a pretty main road and I regret my choice.

5.45pm: Head to KFC to get food for the cinema. Call P to get her order too. I get popcorn chicken and a burger meal, £9.98.

8.30pm: Spend the drive home discussing the movie. P drops me off and we continue messaging each other and debriefing.

9.30pm: Get in bed with my book for an early night.

Total: £9.98

Day Seven

9am: Breakfast (eggs) and a cup of tea while I watch some Peep Show. It’s time to consult the list.

9.15am: I wax the living room floorboards and feel like a DIY sensation.

11.10am: I use filler to smooth out the cracks in the walls in the hallway. This will be my next room to sort out now the living room is done.

12pm: I head to the gym. Faff about on the treadmill doing my incline walk, but really, I’m there to watch a guilt-free hour of TikTok.

1.30pm: Shower and grab a lunch of cheese and crackers, cucumber sticks and homous.

2pm: I browse a print website. Two of my lovely friends bought me vouchers for my birthday and I’m excited to start buying personal touches to make the house feel homier.

2.15pm: Stress myself out with indecision and take screenshots to send to a friend for advice.

3pm: A couple of hours of work before I get ready for this evening. I respond to some emails about maths and add to my to-do list. I am leading maths for the first time and want to do a good job.

6pm: C won free tickets to a gig tonight. I walk an hour to the venue and listen to NewlyWeds with Sophie Habboo and Jamie Laing. It makes me laugh out loud.

7pm: I meet C and her friends at a new music venue that’s opened. Three of us agree to a round and C buys the first.

7.20pm: I start to get hungry and the girls have got cheesy toasties from the food van, which look amazing. I get a croque monsieur, £7.

8.10pm: We head inside to watch the band. They have the coolest saxophone player — she is everything! We rank the musical instruments from most to least sexy. All agree that acoustic guitar, à la the Kens in Barbie, is the worst. I buy a round of drinks, £16.50.

11pm: Four of us jump in a cab and head to town. We go to a bar and get a round of drinks.

12am: It’s my birthday! C grabs my ID and gets me a free birthday shot from the bar — she’s so jammy. It’s my round and I order three margaritas, £24.

12.30am: C and I head to another bar and she gets us espresso martinis. I get chatting to a nice but boring man while C speaks to his mate. Textbook.

1am (ish): Say goodbye to C, who is staying out, and get an Uber home, £22.45. Make instant noodles and take them up to bed.

Total: £69.95

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: £220.71
Clothes & Beauty: £78.72
Home & Health: £26.65
Entertainment: £17
Travel: £118.95
Other: £8

Total: £470.03

Conclusion

“This week was so much fun! Obviously, the pub crawl and holiday spending are out of the ordinary, however, I do struggle with budgeting when I’m off. With free time to fill, I always seem to find ways to spend. Living alone also means that I plan more with friends in the week, which means dinners, plans out or taking a bottle over to a friend’s house. I definitely spend too much on socialising and will have to consider how to curb this moving forward. In term time, it’s a lot easier to eat better and spend less!”

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