U.S. Markets open in 8 hrs 9 mins

Money Diary: A 23-Year-Old's First Week In A Graduate Job In Sheffield On 20k


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 23 and have just begun my first graduate job in the Sheffield branch of a global law firm.

"I finished university seven weeks ago, moved in with my boyfriend a few weeks later and up until now I have been job hunting. I didn’t expect to get the job I have – it’s not an area I ever considered or even thought I was qualified for – but I was headhunted into the role by a recruiter. I’m earning £20,000 but as I only began my role this week, I’ve obviously not had my first paycheque, meaning I am currently (and have been for the last seven weeks) living off the remainders of my savings from my student loan and previous jobs (about £600).

"I am extremely fortunate as a generous relative gifted me a significant sum of money upon my 21st birthday, which I have been saving until it is needed, meaning that my share of our rent for the year is covered. I recognise how very lucky I am and feel a bit guilty about it as I know most people do not have this opportunity. Overall, I have been feeling quite uncomfortable with how easy I have had things recently, as I was recruited into this role right out of university and my relative is effectively paying my rent.

"Additionally, I am bilingual and tutor a student about once a week in my second language (it’s a bit niche so not an awful lot of people are interested in learning it, sadly), for which he pays me £14 per hour, however he was on holiday for the diary week."

Industry: Legal
Age: 23
Location: Sheffield
Salary: £20,000
Paycheque: £1,428 (plus £14 per hour ad hoc for the tutoring sessions)
Housemates: One, my boyfriend

Monthly Expenses

Most of these are just my half, as my boyfriend and I split our household bills equally, except for the gym, phone and Green Party bills, which are mine alone.

Housing: £600 (paid for by extremely generous relative)
Loan payments: None yet as I have just graduated
Utilities: Electricity £26
Gym: £19.99 (my new work has a scheme where they pay for some of your gym membership, however I haven’t yet been signed up to this as this is my first week)
Water: £17
Internet: £11
Council tax: £103
Gadget protection insurance: £3.76
Green Party membership: £6
Phone bill: £17.43 – this includes unlimited data

We use my parents’ Netflix. I have no savings from my own earnings yet, however I do have the amount from my relative for rent. We live very centrally so I walk virtually everywhere, meaning no transport costs unless I am travelling outside of the city.

Day One

7.30am: Second day in new job, so for the second day in a row I accidentally wake up my sleeping boyfriend, whose new job doesn’t start for a few weeks.

8.55am: Arrive at work. I was incredibly nervous yesterday but today I feel so relaxed, I seem to have got fairly lucky with the team so far.

1pm: Finally finish a three-hour conference call which explains the firm’s IT systems for new starters. It’s all very, very complicated and definitely too much for day two in my opinion! I feel quite panicked and have a text freak-out to my boyfriend about how it’s all too difficult, only to be told moments later by a colleague that the vast majority of the course is actually irrelevant to my particular role. Feel simultaneously relieved that I don’t have to understand this difficult stuff but frustrated at a wasted morning.

1.30pm: Lunch with the team – I’m vegan and cheap so I bring my own lunch instead of eating at the work canteen. Today’s is leftover Mexican stir fry (all food purchased pre-diary). It’s a team tradition to go for a walk nearby together after lunch so I use this time to try and get to know my new colleagues.

2.30pm: Back to work. Lots of compulsory training modules – it seems like almost any mistake with a client can send you to prison! I resolve never to do anything at all ever without consulting my boss first.

5pm: Home time! I pop into Sainsbury's to pick up some bits for tomorrow’s packed lunch (falafel, hummus, pitta, berries), almond milk for me to use at the office and banana chips for my boyfriend (his favourite snack). £9.80

7pm: Boyfriend’s mum is visiting for a few days and we head to Pizza Express for dinner. She pays but I have a 30% discount, so we use that. Pro tip: The NHS Totum card is valid for three years so apply for one at the end of final year to be able to use it after graduation!

9pm: Home for a gossip and lots of cooing over photos of the latest addition to the family.

11.10pm: Bed!

Total: £9.80Refinery 29

Day Two

7.45am: I woke up too early yesterday so I thought an extra 15 minutes sleep would be nice – it was. No dairy-free milk in the flat so it’s toast and black coffee. Discuss dinner plans – we offer to cook (we usually only eat out or order as a treat) but boyfriend’s mum says that staying with us feels like a holiday for her (how sweet) so she wants to continue the holiday vibes and eat out. Fine by me!

8.30am: I am appalling at estimating how much time I need to get ready; I’m sitting around doing nothing for about 10 minutes. I’ll set my alarm even later tomorrow. I do feel a bit smug when I hear about friends working in London while living (understandably) miles out of the city, who have to be on the train before I’m even out of bed and get home long after I do. Definitely think we made the right choice to stay in the north.

8.56am: Arrive at work.

11.40am: Quick break after yet more hours of training. I feel very overwhelmed to be honest, it is all very intense.

1.30pm: Lunch with the team. I eat the food I bought yesterday. Scroll through Facebook and see lots of articles about climate change, which make me scared. It is one of the biggest things on my mind at the moment and I try my best to minimise my carbon footprint whenever possible. Thinking about the future really scares me as I feel that things are probably too late climate-wise at this point. Every time a friend has a baby, I feel happy for them but also so sad as I worry about what their future will hold.

3.20pm: The team have a break as work has dried up for now and we do a quiz.

5pm: Head home. I’m very lucky as we live only a 10 minute walk from the office, so there are no transport costs. I would usually go to the gym with my boyfriend about now but as his mum is here we don’t go. I love the gym and I feel all sluggish if I go more than about two days without going. I pick up a parcel for my boyfriend’s birthday (paid for pre-diary) which arrived this morning before heading upstairs.

5.30pm: I get changed and prep lunch for tomorrow using the falafels and hummus I bought yesterday. Boyfriend and his mum are home and we catch up.

7.30pm: Head out for dinner at a pub. I have a BBQ jackfruit burger with onion rings, it’s massive, I eat the lot, I feel like death. My boyfriend’s mum also orders us two cocktails each and pays for it all. What an angel. I could get used to this! This is definitely not a typical week for me.

8.45pm: On the way home I pick up some bananas, Oreos (essential) and cucumber to supplement packed lunches. £2.35

9.20pm: Order my boyfriend a personalised birthday card from Funky Pigeon to be delivered on the big day, which is in about 10 days' time. £3.99

11.30pm: Read my book and then go to bed.

Total: £6.34Refinery 29

Day Three

7.55am: Get up. I made my lunch and picked my outfit last night. Say goodbye to boyfriend’s mum who is going home today. His best friend, who lives abroad, is coming later in the day to replace her.

8.55am: Arrive at work. As I’m still very new I don’t have any tasks of my own yet, I am just shadowing the boss, so I can’t do anything until he arrives. I grab a free coffee from the canteen.

11.45am: Boyfriend texts that his friend has arrived. This is the first time the friend has been back in the UK since he left four years ago, so we feel honoured he chose to spend a few days with us.

12.57pm: Break as work has dried up a bit. I skim the Guardian headlines and feel incredibly depressed again – the lead article says that the world is running out of water. I feel so insignificant – we seem to be living in the end times yet I’m sitting in an office on a computer. I think I will have to avoid the news for my sanity.

1.11pm: Quick walk with the team before lunch. I brought my own using ingredients I have bought over the last few days.

5pm: Leave work and go straight home, greet my boyfriend and his friend then get changed. I have a dentist appointment, so I brush my teeth extra well!

5.40pm: I stop off at Sainsbury’s to get some extra bits for dinner – my boyfriend picked up the main items earlier and kindly offered to pay himself. We tend to split most bills but this time he wants to pay as it’s mainly for him and his friend. I get sweet potatoes and some cider, which comes to a nice even £5.

5.50pm: Dentist appointment including soldering the back of my wire retainer. Feel a bit lucky as the dentist hasn’t got the latest price sheets for extras such as the soldering, so she just adds an extra £15 on to the price even though she is sure it is more. Total price is £50, which is not too bad seeing as all the other dentist surgeries I looked at when we moved a few weeks ago started at about £50 for a standard appointment, instead of this surgery’s £35. I feel quite pleased with myself because this is the first time I have broken the back of the fixed retainer in the eight years since I got my braces off and the dentist tells me most people have to get theirs fixed once or twice a year.

6.20pm: I go home and my boyfriend and I cook a curry for the three of us. We spend the evening catching up and playing video games, then head to bed.

Total: £55Refinery 29

Day Four

7.55am: Up. Boyfriend and his friend stayed up to god knows when last night so I tiptoe around the flat as quietly as I can.

9am: Arrive at work. It's dress down Friday. I am seriously missing the gym after this week of visitors so I'm going to abandon the boys tomorrow and go.

1.30pm: Falafel wrap at a cute café with the team. £4.50

5pm: Leave work. Hang out with the guys, including drinking prosecco (a relative gave it to me to celebrate my boyfriend and I moving in together) to celebrate the end of week one at work, then we head out for dinner.

6.45pm: We go to GBK. Vegan burger, chips and a cocktail, £16.95. Then home for drinks, which the boys paid for. I can’t remember what time I went to bed.

Total: £21.45Refinery 29

Day Five

10.30am: Boyfriend and I call EDF. We are switching energy supplier for our new flat and EDF was the supplier for the previous tenant. They sent us a final bill which was incredibly high. We checked the meter and did some maths and worked out they had overcharged us by about £120. Over the phone EDF apologised and promised to send us out a correct bill. I would usually not want to cause a fuss and would have just paid it, but my boyfriend is a lawyer, so he knew what we were entitled to and how to get them to give us the correct bill.

11.45am: I change into my gym clothes; I've not been all week and I have missed it!

12.15pm: Gym. Spend 75 minutes there. I book into a free LBT class for Monday evening.

3.37pm: Big shop at Sainsbury’s with boyfriend, including dinner and booze for tonight. My half is £26.

3.53pm: I go to Lush. My not very guilty pleasure. I treat myself and get way more than usual; I tell myself it is to celebrate my new job going well but really I just have no self-control. I can confidently predict a significant proportion of my pay each month going on Lush. Various bath bombs, shampoos and scrubs come to £35.36 (oops).

7.30pm: Realise the avocado I bought to go with our burritos is not ripe (#firstworldproblems) so I dash to Sainsbury's to get another one. £1.75

8pm: Spend the evening catching up and chatting over dinner and drinks at home. I head to bed really rather late...

Total: £63.11Refinery 29

Day Six

12.40pm: Up late then drop our friend off at the station.

1.05pm: We head to Sainsbury's for dinner stuff. All the ingredients to make a vegan butternut squash macaroni come to £7.60.

5.15pm: I spend the afternoon gaming, reading and not doing much, then head to the gym with my boyfriend for an hour.

6.30pm: We go home, and I have a bath with one of the bath bombs I bought yesterday, reading and being very careful not to get my book wet.

7pm: Cook the butternut squash macaroni, which is probably our favourite dish. We make it every few weeks.

7.30pm: Dinner, then we watch The X Files, which we love. Head to bed around midnight.

Total: £7.60Refinery 29

Day Seven

7.55am: Up as usual, and I give my boyfriend a shopping list of stuff for him to get while I am at work.

9am: Arrive and the team has almost no work to do. Beginning to question why they hired me as it seems like they have too many people for what needs to be done?

12.30pm: The boss spent the past hour showing me more information about how to do the role. However, when I look around most of my colleagues are not working, they're on ASOS or reading news articles. Feel a bit frustrated as so far, the job has not been what I expected and I don't feel like I am bonding with my colleagues. I text my boyfriend and my mum for advice. I really hope things improve as I don't think I will want to stay here long-term otherwise.

1.30pm: Lunch with the team, food brought in from home. I try and join in conversation but once again, it's on stuff I have no knowledge of or interest in. I watch the clock.

2.25pm: Back to work, which is the same stuff I was doing this morning. Feeling really let down as the job is so far nothing like I was led to believe.

5pm: Home. I have a moan to boyfriend about job. He has been to Sainsbury’s during the day and got some stuff for dinner, so I send him my share. £7

7.40pm: Dinner is sweet and sour tofu from a Bosh recipe, after a long chat with my mum about work. Feeling a bit better and I feel like I have a plan for the next few months – that's what mums are for!

8.15pm: TV and video games with the boyfriend again, tomorrow we have a boxing class so no gym today.

11.30pm: Bed.

Total: £7Refinery 29

The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £80.95
Entertainment: £0
Clothes/Beauty: £35.36
Travel: £0
Other: £53.99

Total: £170.30


"Overall this was not a typical week for me due to having two guests – we would normally eat out only once every three or four weeks, for example. Additionally, big expenses like the dentist are not the norm for me either, however I have absolutely no excuse for the Lush binge! I am due to get my first paycheque in a few days so it is likely that my spending habits will change once I am earning a regular salary."Refinery 29

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Money Diary: A Radio Presenter In Newcastle On 20k

Money Diary: A Local At Edinburgh Festival On 31k

Money Diary: Two Women In Wales On 600k