Money plays a big part in our lives, but no-one really talks about it. Until now. Meet Mel, a 29 year old from the North West who often finds herself falling victim to spending temptations.
Have you ever wondered how much your friends, family or colleagues spend on a weekly basis? We got in touch with a group of ClearScore users and asked them to anonymously track their spending for one week and share their diaries with us. We then caught up with them after the week to find out more about how they feel about money and what they learnt from paying such close attention to their spending.
Lives in: North West of England
Occupation: Risk manager
Yearly salary: £32,500
Average monthly take-home salary: £2,115
Can you tell us a little bit about your financial situation and what influences your day-to-day spending?
My relationship with money has always been a bit contradictory.
Part of me is really sensible with money. I always make sure I have enough to cover any bills, and I'm really cautious about paying off credit. When I was younger, I got into a lot of debt, and I’m keen not go back there. After a recent promotion, I refreshed all my finances to try to get everything super organised. I did all the things you’re told to do: set myself some goals, re-named my savings pots, and I used ClearScore to help get a better interest rate on my credit cards.
But the other side doesn’t have quite the same level of self-control. Instead, I just spend all my money on who knows what. I know I should be putting more money aside, so I can save and pay off my debts, but I can’t stop myself from spending. I'm nearly 30 now and I'm constantly fielding questions from my nan about when I'm going to get a mortgage.
How much do you think you spend each week?
Weekly estimate = £125
This is a total stab in the dark. I honestly have no idea (other than that whatever I spend, it’s definitely too much).
The spending diary
- Rent (including council tax): £455
- Utilities: £137
- Mobile phone contract: £19
- Loan payments: £319. I'm still in quite a lot of debt paying off my loans from years ago.
- Credit card bills: £105
- Car finance: £248
- Car insurance: £130
- Personal insurance: £25
- Netflix: £7.99
- PlayStation network: £14.99 (the essentials)
Total monthly outgoings = £1,460.98
Took a trip to my favourite shop, Ikea, to pick up a picture frame. But temptation struck – everything was just calling out to me. I got a little bit distracted by their fake plants and ended up buying a small forest. I really didn’t need these - does anyone actually need fake foliage? I didn’t even look at the price until I got to the till, by which point I couldn’t be bothered to trek and put them back. So home with me they all came. £48
Can’t go to Ikea without stopping for food. It’s part of the experience. £2
Did my monthly food shop at Morrison's as I thought it would be cheaper than where I normally shop. It wasn’t, I just bought more. £75
Went to Hobby Craft to get some things to decorate a cake for a friend's birthday. I only went in to get one packet of icing, but there was an offer on so I ended up with more icing than I needed. I'm just hoping I don’t become the designated cake maker now. £12
Monday’s total = £137
Long day at work called for a four-pack of beers from the shop. £5
Tuesday's total = £5
I've tried to adopt the habit of bringing my own lunch into work over the past few months. Surpisingly, I’ve actually been quite good, but today I did pick up a Diet Coke and some Soreen to spice things up. £1.71
Wednesday's total = £1.71
I worked from home all day to make sure I didn’t spend any money. Locking myself away is a little extreme, but it saves on fuel and other random purchases.
Thursday's total = £0
Had a meeting in Starbucks so I had to get a coffee. £3.50
It all went a bit downhill after that. I recently won some festival tickets (yay) but they didn’t include accommodation so I booked that today. Definitely one of the most expensive Fridays I’ve had. £273.50
Friday's total = £277
Every weekend I do some volunteering, which is a really rewarding (and free) way to spend a day. The only thing to pay for is parking. £1.50
My partner and I turned down an invite to go out this evening because of money. We went to my partner’s parents’ house instead. We couldn’t go empty handed so we went to pick up one bottle of wine. We came out with two. And a load of snacks. Not exactly the money saving night we planned. £25
Taxi home. £6
Saturday's total = £32.50
Topped up the car with petrol. £20
Went out for lunch today but my partner paid – there is such a thing as free lunch. £0
My house is full of food so the last thing I needed to do was go to shop and buy more. But guess what I did? £10
Apparently Ikea didn’t provide enough homeware so I bought some posters from Amazon. £10
Sunday's total = £40
Any reflections on the week?
I always convince myself that I have the money, by just not looking at my balance until I’m short. Looking back on the week now, I can be more honest with myself.
It’s clear that so many of the things I bought I didn’t really need, particularly when it comes to buying extra food. Tracking my spending was really helpful though because I became increasingly self-conscious about what I was buying so I was actually a bit more restrained than normal.
It's also made me think more about my general attitude to spending. A few years ago I came into some money and was faced with the decision of whether to spend or save it. I went for an all-out, no-expense-spared holiday travelling around the US. And it was hands down the best experience of my life. I could have paid a chunk of my loan with this money or it could have been used for a house. I know those are the more sensible options and sometimes I do wish I’d done that.
I'm nearly 30 and am no-where near being in a position to buy a house. But I don't like doing things just because my age dictates it. I’m still spending most of my money on experiences and for the next 6 months I can’t see this changing. While a house would obviously be nice, house prices these days are just so expensive. If I put all my energy into that I'm scared I’ll be denying myself amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences. At the same time I want to pay off my debts and get serious about my finances for the future. It's not really possible to do both.
This week has definitely made me think about my general attitude to spending. Maybe a good start would be to stop going to Ikea.