Money Diary: A 22-Year-Old Law Student In London On 12k

·16-min read

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 22-year-old law student living in London. I’m starting my job as a corporate trainee solicitor next year, which will inevitably be intense so I’m trying to enjoy my free time while I still have it! This is easier said than done as exams are looming. I’ve lived in London since January 2021 and got a great COVID deal on rent, which will sadly be coming to an end this month when our landlord puts the rent up by £300. I live with my two flatmates, R and M, who I didn’t know before we lived together but we get on really well. I receive a single lump sum grant from my future firm, rather than a monthly salary. I found this a bit overwhelming in the beginning so I now transfer myself a monthly amount so that budgeting is easier and I can keep track."

Occupation: Student (future trainee solicitor)
Industry: Law
Age: 22
Location: London
Salary: £12,000 (grant)
Paycheque amount: N/A
Number of housemates: Two
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £606 rent.
Loan payments: £27,750 student loan with none paid off.
Savings? FTSE All-Share ISA savings: £14,000.
Pension: Not currently.
Utilities: £67 council tax, £13 TV licence, £22 broadband, £47 gas and electric, £22 water.
All other monthly payments: £20 phone contract. Subscriptions: £5.99 Spotify, £40 running coach, £20 Pret.

Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

I had a tuition loan but agreed with my parents that they would give me an allowance for maintenance and pay my rent. The maintenance loan I would have qualified for would have been very low and it made more sense, in the long term, for my parents to help me while I was at university and not need to help me as much in the future because of the savings I could make from not paying off a maintenance loan at the ridiculous interest rates. I was also at a university where I didn’t have time to do part-time work. I'm aware of how fortunate I am that my parents were able and willing to help me in this way.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money?

I was always aware of the value of money but it wasn't until my grandparents died and my parents inherited that we actually discussed the importance of investing money and having long-term savings. These conversations were always very open and I feel it came at the perfect time as I had just started part-time work and had my own income.

If you have, when did you move out of your parents'/guardians' house?

I moved out at 21 during lockdown and I’m really glad I did. I love my parents and we get on really well. I also really miss my dog, who is still with my parents, but it was definitely time for me to move out and live more independently.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life?

I receive a grant per year from my future employer, which I receive in one lump sum. I received £12,000 last year as well when I was living at home and working part-time in a supermarket. Combined with the total lack of things to spend money on in 2020, this meant I was able to save a decent amount of money. It is only since I moved out in Jan 2021 that I have become financially responsible for myself. I know if I ever needed it, my parents would be able to help me (within reason).

What was your first job and why did you get it?

I got my first job at 15 in a local pub. I was paid £3.18 per hour plus tips but I was given no breaks or food on shift. Looking back this was absolutely appalling but I loved it. I got the job as I wanted to have my own income and a sense of independence but there was no massive financial pressure for me to start working at this age.

Do you worry about money now?

I get really bad money anxiety, which is linked to more generalised anxiety. I have been trying to become – and am getting – more relaxed about it. I know this often holds me back from enjoying myself and taking care of myself more generally. My anxiety around money is not always rational, in the sense that I'm careful and have a strong set of savings, so I'm making a conscious effort to be kinder to myself without being reckless.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?

No.

<strong>Day One</strong><br> <br>6.20am: I'm woken up by my Lumie light. I researched Lumie for months before finally committing to spending £78 on a clock. I can honestly say it has changed my life. I run six times a week and often have to fit this in before I go into university so being able to wake up early without feeling like I've been hit by a bus makes a huge difference. I head out on an easy six-mile run.<br> <br>7.15am: I get back, shower, and eat breakfast. I do my food shop on a Saturday so I'm currently well stocked. I have a cup of tea and make porridge with almond milk, apple, flaxseed and peanut butter. I practically run out the door to catch my bus.<br><br>7.40am: I get on my bus to university, £1.55. The journey takes 40 minutes compared to 20 minutes on the Tube. I started getting the bus as a way to reduce my weekly spending but I now genuinely massively prefer starting my day above ground and the view is always a perk. <br><br>8.20am: I grab a soya flat white from Pret and use my subscription. I definitely get my money's worth with the subscription but make a note to self to start using my reusable cup again as I've really gotten out of the habit during COVID.<br><br>1.30pm: I'm studying to train as a corporate solicitor and I worked really hard to secure a training contract during my final year of university so I have a job to go to in September. My future firm provides me with a grant of £12,000 each year to live off. I try to give myself a monthly 'salary' as this makes it easier to budget and helps me feel better about spending as I feel more in control. I'm in classes five days a week and make an effort to always take a packed lunch as it’s such an easy way to save money. After a morning of work, I eat my lunch of leftovers (chicken sausages, grains and salad) before heading back to the library.<br> <br>5pm: Get the bus back home and we’re packed like sardines, £1.55. Still better than a sweaty Tube!<br> <br>7pm: I heat up some leftover veggie chilli with roasted potatoes and broccoli before heading to my netball match.<br><br>7.30pm: I get the bus to netball, £1.55. I'm in a social team with my best friend, L, and some of her friends who have quickly become my friends too. The league costs £65 for 10 weeks so is much cheaper than the subscription fees of a club. I'm always so glad I've gone when I get back from netball but getting out in the dark and cold isn't always easy. We win 20-5 and see Prince William on the way home! <br><br>9pm: Get my bus home and collapse into bed, £1.55.<br><br><strong>Total: £6.20</strong>
Day One

6.20am: I'm woken up by my Lumie light. I researched Lumie for months before finally committing to spending £78 on a clock. I can honestly say it has changed my life. I run six times a week and often have to fit this in before I go into university so being able to wake up early without feeling like I've been hit by a bus makes a huge difference. I head out on an easy six-mile run.

7.15am: I get back, shower, and eat breakfast. I do my food shop on a Saturday so I'm currently well stocked. I have a cup of tea and make porridge with almond milk, apple, flaxseed and peanut butter. I practically run out the door to catch my bus.

7.40am: I get on my bus to university, £1.55. The journey takes 40 minutes compared to 20 minutes on the Tube. I started getting the bus as a way to reduce my weekly spending but I now genuinely massively prefer starting my day above ground and the view is always a perk.

8.20am: I grab a soya flat white from Pret and use my subscription. I definitely get my money's worth with the subscription but make a note to self to start using my reusable cup again as I've really gotten out of the habit during COVID.

1.30pm: I'm studying to train as a corporate solicitor and I worked really hard to secure a training contract during my final year of university so I have a job to go to in September. My future firm provides me with a grant of £12,000 each year to live off. I try to give myself a monthly 'salary' as this makes it easier to budget and helps me feel better about spending as I feel more in control. I'm in classes five days a week and make an effort to always take a packed lunch as it’s such an easy way to save money. After a morning of work, I eat my lunch of leftovers (chicken sausages, grains and salad) before heading back to the library.

5pm: Get the bus back home and we’re packed like sardines, £1.55. Still better than a sweaty Tube!

7pm: I heat up some leftover veggie chilli with roasted potatoes and broccoli before heading to my netball match.

7.30pm: I get the bus to netball, £1.55. I'm in a social team with my best friend, L, and some of her friends who have quickly become my friends too. The league costs £65 for 10 weeks so is much cheaper than the subscription fees of a club. I'm always so glad I've gone when I get back from netball but getting out in the dark and cold isn't always easy. We win 20-5 and see Prince William on the way home!

9pm: Get my bus home and collapse into bed, £1.55.

Total: £6.20
<strong>Day Two</strong><br> <br>6am: I’m woken up by my Lumie again and head out the door for seven easy miles. I pay my coach £40 per month as I take running relatively seriously and have been able to hit some good times recently. She's incredibly supportive and a seriously fast runner herself. The structure and practice of running has done absolute wonders for my mental health over the past 12 months.<br> <br>7.45am: I shower and eat my porridge topped with apple, flax and almond butter for breakfast.<br> <br>8.15am: Get the bus to uni, £1.55. Listen to the <em>Today </em>programme on Radio 4 to try and update myself on what’s going on in the world.<br><br>8.45am: I pick up some flowers to give my classmate P for her birthday, £7. I love buying people gifts and think it is definitely my love language! I also grab an oat flat white from Pret using my subscription. I go through phases with different milks and currently alternate between soya and oat.<br><br>6pm: It's been a long day of classes! I get the bus home and mentally prepare myself to do an online exam which I need to get done before Thursday. £1.55<br><br>7.30pm: Exam done! It actually went pretty well so I decide to call it a day. I do some hip mobility work for 15 minutes as I have the hips of an 80-year-old grandma. I heat up some green Thai curry with brown rice that I had in the freezer.<br><br>9pm: Catch up on <em>Made in Chelsea </em>in bed.<br><br><strong>Total:</strong> <strong>£10.10</strong>
Day Two

6am: I’m woken up by my Lumie again and head out the door for seven easy miles. I pay my coach £40 per month as I take running relatively seriously and have been able to hit some good times recently. She's incredibly supportive and a seriously fast runner herself. The structure and practice of running has done absolute wonders for my mental health over the past 12 months.

7.45am: I shower and eat my porridge topped with apple, flax and almond butter for breakfast.

8.15am: Get the bus to uni, £1.55. Listen to the Today programme on Radio 4 to try and update myself on what’s going on in the world.

8.45am: I pick up some flowers to give my classmate P for her birthday, £7. I love buying people gifts and think it is definitely my love language! I also grab an oat flat white from Pret using my subscription. I go through phases with different milks and currently alternate between soya and oat.

6pm: It's been a long day of classes! I get the bus home and mentally prepare myself to do an online exam which I need to get done before Thursday. £1.55

7.30pm: Exam done! It actually went pretty well so I decide to call it a day. I do some hip mobility work for 15 minutes as I have the hips of an 80-year-old grandma. I heat up some green Thai curry with brown rice that I had in the freezer.

9pm: Catch up on Made in Chelsea in bed.

Total: £10.10
<strong>Day Three</strong><br> <br>6am: Wake up and do my speed session (2 mile warm up, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute x 3, 2 mile cool down).<br> <br>7.15am: Shower and refuel with my usual porridge and tea and rush out the door.<br> <br>7.45am: Get the bus to uni. £1.55<br> <br>8.15am: On the bus I enter a 10km race I discussed with my coach last week. I have a voucher from a previous event I did with the same company so it only costs £3.50. I'm hoping to run a sub-40 minute 10km so get a bit nervous after entering. I grab a soya flat white before heading to the library.<br> <br>1.30pm: I eat lunch with friends in the uni common room. I have my usual packed lunch of leftovers – today it's grains, salad and halloumi.<br> <br>7.30pm: I finally get on the bus home, £1.55. I've been putting more hours in at uni as we have our first exams soon. I went to a very academic university for my undergraduate and always put quite a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to exams. I'm trying to stay on top of weekly classwork so when it comes to revision I don't feel too panicky. <br><br>8pm: I get off the bus a few stops early to grab some bits from Lidl. Lidl is a bit further out but it is so good for snacks and cupboard staples. I still prefer Tesco for fresh food but grab some cashews, soya milk, dark chocolate and oats, then walk home. £5.50<br><br>8.30pm: I make a veggie chilli and sweet potato wedges with salad for dinner and crash out.<br> <br><strong>Total: £12.10</strong>
Day Three

6am: Wake up and do my speed session (2 mile warm up, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute x 3, 2 mile cool down).

7.15am: Shower and refuel with my usual porridge and tea and rush out the door.

7.45am: Get the bus to uni. £1.55

8.15am: On the bus I enter a 10km race I discussed with my coach last week. I have a voucher from a previous event I did with the same company so it only costs £3.50. I'm hoping to run a sub-40 minute 10km so get a bit nervous after entering. I grab a soya flat white before heading to the library.

1.30pm: I eat lunch with friends in the uni common room. I have my usual packed lunch of leftovers – today it's grains, salad and halloumi.

7.30pm: I finally get on the bus home, £1.55. I've been putting more hours in at uni as we have our first exams soon. I went to a very academic university for my undergraduate and always put quite a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to exams. I'm trying to stay on top of weekly classwork so when it comes to revision I don't feel too panicky.

8pm: I get off the bus a few stops early to grab some bits from Lidl. Lidl is a bit further out but it is so good for snacks and cupboard staples. I still prefer Tesco for fresh food but grab some cashews, soya milk, dark chocolate and oats, then walk home. £5.50

8.30pm: I make a veggie chilli and sweet potato wedges with salad for dinner and crash out.

Total: £12.10
<strong>Day Four</strong><br> <br>7.15am: It's rest day! I let myself have a slight lie-in before getting up and making my usual tea and porridge and heading out the door.<br><br>7.40am: Hop on the bus to uni. £1.55<br><br>8.10am: It's my flatmate M's birthday tomorrow so I get her a card from Oliver Bonas from me and R. The card is <em>Drag Race</em>-related so I hope she'll love it. £2.85<br><br>1.45pm: We have to wolf down lunch between classes and my cold veggie chilli is not exactly enjoyable. <br> <br>7pm: We have classes until 6.30pm so we decide to head to the pub. Everywhere is full so we settle on the local Wetherspoons. I order a glass of wine, which quickly becomes two. It is ridiculously cheap but still not sure how I feel about my wine coming from a tap. £5.66<br><br>9pm: Bus home from the pub. £1.55<br><br>9.40pm: I transfer R for our joint present to M. It's a gorgeous jumper from Whistles which she's been eyeing up for ages, £17.35. Quickly heat up some dinner which I had stored in the freezer (chickpea and cauliflower curry) and head to bed.<br><br><strong>Total: £28.96</strong>
Day Four

7.15am: It's rest day! I let myself have a slight lie-in before getting up and making my usual tea and porridge and heading out the door.

7.40am: Hop on the bus to uni. £1.55

8.10am: It's my flatmate M's birthday tomorrow so I get her a card from Oliver Bonas from me and R. The card is Drag Race-related so I hope she'll love it. £2.85

1.45pm: We have to wolf down lunch between classes and my cold veggie chilli is not exactly enjoyable.

7pm: We have classes until 6.30pm so we decide to head to the pub. Everywhere is full so we settle on the local Wetherspoons. I order a glass of wine, which quickly becomes two. It is ridiculously cheap but still not sure how I feel about my wine coming from a tap. £5.66

9pm: Bus home from the pub. £1.55

9.40pm: I transfer R for our joint present to M. It's a gorgeous jumper from Whistles which she's been eyeing up for ages, £17.35. Quickly heat up some dinner which I had stored in the freezer (chickpea and cauliflower curry) and head to bed.

Total: £28.96
<strong>Day Five</strong><br> <br>6am: Wake up and head out for a tempo session (2 mile WU, 4 miles, 2 x 1 mile, 2 mile CD). It goes really well and I feel really strong.<br> <br>7.15am: Wolf down my porridge and pin up a birthday banner for M. I try and leave as quietly as possible so she can enjoy her birthday lie-in.<br> <br>7.45am: Get my usual bus to uni, £1.55. I'm feeling pretty exhausted and want to be able to enjoy M's birthday night out so when I get to uni I grab a strong oat Americano from Pret.<br> <br>5pm: Get an earlier bus home than usual to get ready for the night out, £1.55. Feeling very ready to relax a bit and have a couple of drinks!<br><br>9pm: Me, R, M and lots of M's home friends get the Tube to Shoreditch after food and drinks in the flat, £3.50. Feeling quite tipsy. <br><br><strong>Total: £6.60</strong>
Day Five

6am: Wake up and head out for a tempo session (2 mile WU, 4 miles, 2 x 1 mile, 2 mile CD). It goes really well and I feel really strong.

7.15am: Wolf down my porridge and pin up a birthday banner for M. I try and leave as quietly as possible so she can enjoy her birthday lie-in.

7.45am: Get my usual bus to uni, £1.55. I'm feeling pretty exhausted and want to be able to enjoy M's birthday night out so when I get to uni I grab a strong oat Americano from Pret.

5pm: Get an earlier bus home than usual to get ready for the night out, £1.55. Feeling very ready to relax a bit and have a couple of drinks!

9pm: Me, R, M and lots of M's home friends get the Tube to Shoreditch after food and drinks in the flat, £3.50. Feeling quite tipsy.

Total: £6.60
<strong>Day Six</strong><br><br>12.55am: R and I decide to head home on the bus, £1.55. Drinks in the bar were ridiculously expensive so I didn't end up getting any but still feeling pretty drunk.<br><br>8.45am: Wake up with a slightly sore head. Go and get my five easy miles done on some trails around a local park. I think I manage to sweat the hangover out.<br><br>9.30am: Refuel with porridge and tea. The sorry state of my cupboards reminds me that today is food shop day.<br><br>10.30am: I sit down and plan out what meals I have in the freezer and what I fancy for lunch/dinner each day this week. Meal planning has massively reduced my shopping bill and eliminated the daily trips to Tesco and panics over what I actually want to have for dinner. <br><br>11am: Head to Tesco to get my fresh bits (spinach, new potatoes, tomatoes, apples, broccoli, pepper, veggie sausages, avocado, eggs) and then walk a bit to Lidl to get some cupboard bits (almond milk, peanut butter, tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and halloumi). The total for both shops comes to £15.45.<br><br>12pm: Walk to meet my best friend, L, for a coffee and catch-up. I order an oat flat white, £3.20. She's recently got into online dating and always has some brilliant stories. We walk round the common for nearly four hours and the time absolutely flies! <br><br>4pm: Have a very late lunch of eggs and avo on toast with tomatoes and call my mum. I had a really rough patch with my mental health in April of this year and had to ring my mum several times a day. We now catch up every few days and it's always a reminder of how far I've come.<br> <br>8pm: I make a smoky bean stew from Deliciously Ella's app and it's delicious served with halloumi and brown rice.<br><br>9pm: Craving something sweet so head to the corner shop and grab a bar of Dairy Milk, 80p. These are the kind of purchases I never used to allow myself, which sounds stupid as it's only 80p but I couldn't deal with any unplanned or unbudgeted spending. <br><br>10pm: Catch up on telly and crawl into bed. <br><br><strong>Total:</strong> <strong>£21</strong>
Day Six

12.55am: R and I decide to head home on the bus, £1.55. Drinks in the bar were ridiculously expensive so I didn't end up getting any but still feeling pretty drunk.

8.45am: Wake up with a slightly sore head. Go and get my five easy miles done on some trails around a local park. I think I manage to sweat the hangover out.

9.30am: Refuel with porridge and tea. The sorry state of my cupboards reminds me that today is food shop day.

10.30am: I sit down and plan out what meals I have in the freezer and what I fancy for lunch/dinner each day this week. Meal planning has massively reduced my shopping bill and eliminated the daily trips to Tesco and panics over what I actually want to have for dinner.

11am: Head to Tesco to get my fresh bits (spinach, new potatoes, tomatoes, apples, broccoli, pepper, veggie sausages, avocado, eggs) and then walk a bit to Lidl to get some cupboard bits (almond milk, peanut butter, tinned tomatoes, kidney beans and halloumi). The total for both shops comes to £15.45.

12pm: Walk to meet my best friend, L, for a coffee and catch-up. I order an oat flat white, £3.20. She's recently got into online dating and always has some brilliant stories. We walk round the common for nearly four hours and the time absolutely flies!

4pm: Have a very late lunch of eggs and avo on toast with tomatoes and call my mum. I had a really rough patch with my mental health in April of this year and had to ring my mum several times a day. We now catch up every few days and it's always a reminder of how far I've come.

8pm: I make a smoky bean stew from Deliciously Ella's app and it's delicious served with halloumi and brown rice.

9pm: Craving something sweet so head to the corner shop and grab a bar of Dairy Milk, 80p. These are the kind of purchases I never used to allow myself, which sounds stupid as it's only 80p but I couldn't deal with any unplanned or unbudgeted spending.

10pm: Catch up on telly and crawl into bed.

Total: £21
<strong>Day Seven</strong><br><br>8am: Wake up and quickly make some porridge and a cup of tea. Eat it in front of the TV, which always feels indulgent.<br><br>9am: Head out for a 12-mile long run, which passes really quickly and feels really smooth. I really do just love running, which a lot of people don't understand but I could not recommend it more. The first few are always tough but once you get in the groove it's just incredible.<br><br>10.30am: Make a protein shake as part of my effort to fuel properly and not lose weight as my mileage increases. I struggle as I find them far too sweet and synthetic-tasting and can actually make me feel a bit nauseous.<br><br>12.45pm: After a shower and general sort-out I have an early lunch of avocado, Marmite, tomatoes and poached eggs on a bagel.<br><br>3pm: I have a sudden craving for sparkling water so nip to the corner shop, 60p. R messages and asks me to grab her some vinegar and bicarb of soda for cleaning her blender, which apparently is starting to get very smelly. I get them both and she transfers me the money.<br><br>5pm: Start researching where I want to travel when my course ends in February. I have six months off and have been saving quite religiously to go travelling but the stress of borders opening and closing makes it much harder to plan. Since I'm going into a job with a high starting salary (and equally high average weekly hours) I've told myself I can basically drain my savings when I go travelling as I've waited so long to do it and will regret not taking every opportunity once I start my job.<br><br>7.30pm: R and M decide to order pizza for dinner and I can't resist, £12.50. I order a mozzarella, rocket, pesto, parma ham and cherry tomato pizza and it is delicious. We get into one of those silly moods where everything makes you laugh hysterically. Moments like this remind me to relax with money and not turn down social activities simply because I hadn't budgeted them in.<br><br>10pm: Bed.<br> <br><strong>Total: £13.10</strong>
Day Seven

8am: Wake up and quickly make some porridge and a cup of tea. Eat it in front of the TV, which always feels indulgent.

9am: Head out for a 12-mile long run, which passes really quickly and feels really smooth. I really do just love running, which a lot of people don't understand but I could not recommend it more. The first few are always tough but once you get in the groove it's just incredible.

10.30am: Make a protein shake as part of my effort to fuel properly and not lose weight as my mileage increases. I struggle as I find them far too sweet and synthetic-tasting and can actually make me feel a bit nauseous.

12.45pm: After a shower and general sort-out I have an early lunch of avocado, Marmite, tomatoes and poached eggs on a bagel.

3pm: I have a sudden craving for sparkling water so nip to the corner shop, 60p. R messages and asks me to grab her some vinegar and bicarb of soda for cleaning her blender, which apparently is starting to get very smelly. I get them both and she transfers me the money.

5pm: Start researching where I want to travel when my course ends in February. I have six months off and have been saving quite religiously to go travelling but the stress of borders opening and closing makes it much harder to plan. Since I'm going into a job with a high starting salary (and equally high average weekly hours) I've told myself I can basically drain my savings when I go travelling as I've waited so long to do it and will regret not taking every opportunity once I start my job.

7.30pm: R and M decide to order pizza for dinner and I can't resist, £12.50. I order a mozzarella, rocket, pesto, parma ham and cherry tomato pizza and it is delicious. We get into one of those silly moods where everything makes you laugh hysterically. Moments like this remind me to relax with money and not turn down social activities simply because I hadn't budgeted them in.

10pm: Bed.

Total: £13.10
<strong>The Breakdown</strong><br> <br>Food & Drink: £43.71<br>Entertainment: £0<br>Clothes & Beauty: £0<br>Home & Health: £3.50<br>Travel: £23.65<br>Other: £27.20<br><br><strong>Total: £98.06</strong><br> <br><strong>Conclusion</strong><br> <br>"I definitely spent more this week than normal, partly because of M’s birthday. Most of my spending is travel but that’s not an expense I can do anything about so I’m not too worried about it. Being able to track my spending this week has made me realise that I am pretty sensible and should be easier on myself, especially as we approach exams and I need a bit of self-care."
The Breakdown

Food & Drink: £43.71
Entertainment: £0
Clothes & Beauty: £0
Home & Health: £3.50
Travel: £23.65
Other: £27.20

Total: £98.06

Conclusion

"I definitely spent more this week than normal, partly because of M’s birthday. Most of my spending is travel but that’s not an expense I can do anything about so I’m not too worried about it. Being able to track my spending this week has made me realise that I am pretty sensible and should be easier on myself, especially as we approach exams and I need a bit of self-care."

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