Money Diary: A 26-Year-Old On 22.5k As A Speciality Coffee Shop Manager


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 currently work in management in the speciality coffee industry, but I am trying to move into an administrative office-based role to reduce my working hours and to have a better work-life balance; my job is extremely demanding for a very small reward.

I have been with my partner for 6.5 years and we have lived together for just under 6 years. He lives and works in Surrey Mon-Fri and we live on the southeast coast. We have been living like this for nearly eight months now and are both struggling to cope with the distance. I am in the process of job applications to relocate to London, where we would be able to live together full time and both work.

We combine every penny of our outgoings and rather than split it in half, we pay a percentage each based on our salaries. My partner earns more than me so he pays more, and we are both left with the same amount of disposable income each month. We have no debt and are incredibly careful with our finances, but we also have no savings, which is terrifying. We are hoping once we move, and eventually get salary increases, we can start to save some money and think about our future goals – currently we are just existing month to month."

Industry: Hospitality
Age: 26
Location: Southeast
Salary: £22,500
Paycheque amount: £1,550
Number of housemates: Mon-Fri 0 / Weekend 1 (boyfriend)

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £1,075 (split between boyfriend and me)
Loan payments: £0. Student loan is deducted from my paycheque before I see it
Utilities: Council tax £118, electricity and gas £60, internet £24 (split)
Transportation: £480-£500 (split)
Phone bill: £42.52 (split)
Savings? £0
Other: Car insurance £43, car tax £24, Denplan £49, Netflix £5.99, Spotify £11.99, contact lenses £10, gym £22 (all split)

Day One

8am: Late start at work today so I slept in. Much needed after getting up at 5.45am for a few days. Marmite peanut butter on toast at home with a cuppa in front of Suits (the worst programme ever made, I am ashamed).

10.30am: Somehow ended up eating half a Galaxy bar. Breakfast dessert is a thing, right?

10.41am: I should probably leave for work yet I am still pottering around in my dressing gown. It’s so fluffy, I look like a mob wife.

11.15am: Finally make the drive to work. So close to my first cup of coffee for the day!

2.56pm: Just lost nearly four hours to work and have no idea how, hospitality can be full-on. Got a mini salad bowl and an iced black coffee for lunch, I’m at work so it’s FREE (the main perk in this industry). My stress levels are mega high at the moment and my appetite has taken a bit of a hit.

3.05pm: Not having a great day mentally so have booked a yoga class on the beach for 7.30am tomorrow with my best work pal. We have gotten really close over the last few months and we are neighbours, which is also amazing; we meet up and have cups of tea and chats like old ladies. We also go for walks on the beach with cups of tea. I will miss her very much when I move; she is moving too, which softens the blow a little.

3.30pm: Boyfriend sends me GIFs he’s made of my family dog to cheer me up. Office life for him is evidently very stressful and time-consuming!

4.13pm: Running work-related errands: banking, buying chalk pens, buying ice, returning an ASOS parcel (okay not entirely work-related). Somehow a large bag of Maltesers falls into my basket. £1

4.45pm: Receive an email and get offered a second interview for the job I’m applying for!

4.46pm: Feel sick from eating Maltesers and not enough actual food.

8.32pm: Finally escape work after doing some very fiddly baking. Decide that Ottolenghi must write recipes just for a laugh. Drive to borrow a yoga mat from another colleague, take cake and a raw treat for his wife to say thank you. Somehow find myself in a supermarket and end up buying cheese spread, tortilla chips, Oatly crème fraîche, spread and some of my favourite Alpro yoghurts as they are on offer. Will make some spelt pasta with cheesy spread, green beans, peas and spinach when I get in. Will definitely add nutritional yeast to my pasta for extra cheesiness. £9.55

9pm: FaceTime boyfriend who, with good intention, tries to solve my work issues of the day. All I wanted was a vent and a cuddle, I can only have the first half so we hang up feeling frustrated and sad about the distance.

11.30pm: Appetite still in a funk so ate a bowl of cereal and a yoghurt, no pasta for me. Do some yoga stretches in front of the TV to distract myself from my intensely busy mind and aching back.

11.31pm: The existential dread creeps in and I decide I have spent too much time alone this week. Try and look forward to tomorrow morning's class and boyfriend being at home for three days for the bank holiday.

12.23am: STILL. AWAKE.

Total: £10.55

Day Two


6.25am: Text friend, we both agree we are exhausted and need a rest so decide on a beach walk with a cup of tea instead. Only had five hours sleep which is definitely not enough, so try and enjoy lying in bed for 45 minutes. My eczema has flared up recently, probably due to stress, so go and hunt for steroid cream and antihistamines. I’m currently on a waiting list to go through patch testing to find out what I’m allergic to exactly and what causes it, but the doctor who does it at my local hospital is off sick so I'm still waiting, nine months later. I went private once but it was £250 for one appointment so I won’t be doing that again! Since coming off the pill my scalp eczema has calmed down a little, so I can cope day to day.

7am: Realise lying in bed to look at my phone is not a good enough excuse to skip yoga so go and find my book. Reading the most recent continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. I love a Scandi noir.

8.25am: My friend comes over and I make us tea and toast, we scoff the toast and take our tea to the beach. Meet the most beautiful golden retriever having the time of her life digging a hole in the sand. Life seems infinitely better after meeting this perfect creature. My main motivation for somehow saving for a house one day is so I can have a golden retriever. My family dog now lives four hours away, which breaks my heart. My mum made a WhatsApp group just for sharing photos and videos of my dog with myself, my boyfriend and my sister, which is nice.

10.45am: Stroll into work finally. Being a manager has its benefits, I mostly choose my hours around whatever I think is required. I’m also on salary rather than hourly wage, which means fewer proper shifts.

4.45pm: Skipped my lunch break because I had lots to do, so eat yoghurt, granola and rhubarb compote. I drink a few cups of filter and a flat white during the day but of course I don’t pay for these which is pretty great. We are hosting a 'cupping' (a tasting) this evening so I finish up what I’m doing and begin to prepare and set up for that.

5pm: PAYDAY! Immediately transfer boyfriend £500 because a lot of our outgoings go out of his account.

7.45pm: Cupping went well and we had some solid engagement. It was men only though, where’s my gals into speciality coffee at!

8pm: Mop the floor, drive home and pull into our road just as my boyfriend gets home! So relieved to see him after the week I’ve had. I make us last night's cheesy pasta that didn’t happen with green veg, he makes us an Aperol Spritz (we add gin obviously) and we sit on the sofa, catch up and have a cuddle.

Total: £0

Day Three

10.30am: Wake up after a really good sleep feeling fantastic. I have been anxious my entire life. I have an array of coping mechanisms, had intensive psychotherapy for years as a teenager (thank you NHS), and I challenge myself daily as a reminder of how not scary everything is. Unfortunately it is still completely exhausting battling with it every day and not allowing it to win and dictate my life. I will take this day of mental peace and ENJOY IT.

10.35am: Boyfriend gets up and brings me a glass of water, then brings me tea and toast in bed. We cuddle for a while and then he gets up to do a few chores, I lie in bed for a bit longer enjoying the peace.

12.52pm: Rush out the house to take boyfriend to the barber's for his haircut. I drop him off, park and walk to my favourite weekend spot for a flat white. It’s closing soon so making the most of it.

1.10pm: I know the owner of the shop reasonably well because of my job; somebody has stolen their card reader and we have a spare. In return for lending it to them, my flat white is free!

2.15pm: Boyfriend comes back from his haircut so we walk to get the card reader. On the way back, stop in a whole foods shop and buy fresh turmeric, a slice of sourdough focaccia and two bars of packaging-free soap (so wholesome). My boyfriend has decided he wants to drink fresh turmeric tea to reduce joint inflammation. £6.47, I pay.

2.30pm: Decide to do makeshift pizza with the focaccia so stop at a fancy greengrocer and buy fresh tomatoes, a lemon, white beans, salad, a Tunnock's caramel wafer, a pomegranate San Pellegrino and a ginger beer. £9.84, boyfriend pays.

2.40pm: Go back to the coffee shop and have an oat flat white each and some shortbread. Kindly gifted by the owner again.

6pm: Make our focaccia pizza and watch Netflix’s new series Street Food. We love Asian food so really enjoy this. I struggle to finish my dinner so give it to my boyfriend.

8.30pm: Have a shower and wash my hair. Boyfriend fiddles about with his laptop while I'm doing this and comes to keep me company in intervals.

10pm: Head straight to bed, shattered. Enjoy cuddling very much.

Total: £6.47

Day Four

10am: Rush out the house to go to the next town to have my hair cut. Stop at a cash machine and withdraw £40. If she wasn’t so brilliant I would cut it myself, plus she’s a lovely person and I genuinely enjoy talking to her for an hour or two so it's worth it. She has some stressful stuff going on in her life so we discuss this and have a bit of a laugh. Thankfully she doesn’t laugh at my styling tip, which is: "Tuck my hair behind my ears when it's damp."

11.30am: Walk down to the seafront to meet my boyfriend and we have a coffee. Annoyingly I can’t not spend that hour being slightly irritated by how badly run the coffee shop we’re in is. This is a terrible habit of mine! I have an iced oat latte and he has a ginger tea. £5.15, I pay.

12.30pm: Drive to Sainsbury's to get some shopping for the week and to get the bits we need for the bank holiday. We’re having a few friends over for my birthday and are doing an indoor BBQ. Cheers weather! Buy far too much to list here, but obviously stock up on the essential Marmite peanut butter. £80.57 spent and boyfriend pays; I transfer him £40, despite him telling me not to.

2pm: Unpack our shopping, do a bit of cleaning and I make beans on toast for myself and have a cup of tea. Decide to go to a slow yoga class because I have been verging on a panic attack today – I have a really important job interview next week and I am TERRIFIED. Of going, and also of not getting the job. If I get this job I will have to relocate but my partner and I will finally be able to live together again so there’s quite a lot of pressure, we are both struggling to cope with the distance. Book my yoga class online, £12.

4pm: Decide to download and watch Jurassic World for something lighthearted to do. It’s actually quite enjoyable, we had low expectations! Boyfriend cooks himself pasta with some vegan béchamel from the freezer with peppers, green beans and peas. He saves me half the sauce for after yoga.

5.45pm: Leave boyfriend at home, drive to yoga and park up. I go to hot yoga which means it gets a bit sweaty. I arrive armed with a bottle of water (reusable obvs) and my non-slip towel. I love the teacher who does this class and it is a little bit hard, but so relaxing.

7.05pm: Leave yoga feeling so much better and calmer for slowing my heart rate down. The sun has come out and the wind has dropped so I decide that we should go for a walk on the beach when I get home.

7.20pm: Boyfriend cooked my pasta for me while I was out! What an angel. I heat it up with the sauce, add some veggies and wolf it down. We go out for a walk on the beach, walk home via Co-op and buy chocolate buttons. He has the Bourneville ones and I have Dairy Milk ones. Also buy an oat milk, £5.20.

8.30pm: Finish watching Jurassic World, retire to bed and snuggle.

Total: £102.35

Day Five

9am: Have a bit of a lie-in, boyfriend brings me tea and toast in bed again. I laze about all morning in my dressing gown, watch TV and just generally try to ignore how stressed out I feel.

12.30pm: Pop out for a coffee to try and break my thought pattern a bit. We buy two filters. £4, boyfriend pays.

1.30pm: Head home and start preparing the food for later from stuff we bought yesterday. We make potato salad, slaw, roasted peppers and guacamole. These will be served with some Linda McCartney burgers and I will ice the cake a bit later. I usually make my own birthday cake because baking is my thing, absolutely fine with that!

4pm: Have a minor meltdown about how on earth we’re going to afford to move to London when we have no savings. Swiftly move on from meltdown and thankfully one of our friends arrives who is the most chipper and life-affirming man. We sit and eat most of the guac while catching up and waiting for the others.

5.20pm: A few more friends arrive and we somehow all squeeze into our tiny flat, my boyfriend gets the food on and makes me an Aperol Spritz so I can hang out. I get some very thoughtful cards and gifts.

11.40pm: Our friends who live across the street ended up staying and we exchanged stories about our youthful antics (not even that old yet). Somehow the flat is cleaner now than before people arrived and we flop into bed. So nice to have an extra night together.

Total: £0

Day Six

6am: It’s my birthday! Not feeling enthused despite the exclamation mark. Get a bit upset when my boyfriend leaves, which I don’t usually do. We stay very strong but with how stressed and anxious I am at the moment, I just wish he were around.

7.25am: Meet up with my neighbour who is also my best work pal, we drive to work together. We are short-staffed today of all days, we both have a feeling it’s going to be hard.

10am: Finally get time to scoff a piece of toast.

12.05pm: Manage to squeeze in a 15-minute break, I feel nauseous constantly but sweet things are bearable. Eat toasted banana bread with yoghurt as a birthday treat, also have an oat flat white.

5pm: I have been in a foul mood all day, we had such a rude customer too. Why today! We drive home and I have a quick shower to freshen up and vegetate on the sofa for 20 minutes. We have hot yoga, which is covered by my membership at the studio. I pre-booked so no payment today.

6.30pm: It’s dark and hot and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep for a few minutes. It’s a hard class but I feel so much better by the end. We have Thai food plans and decide takeaway on my sofa sounds more appealing.

6.45pm: Pick up our tofu pad Thai, £17.50 but friend pays as a birthday treat!

8.30pm: We watch First Dates and eat our food, I’m very glad to have company this evening.

9pm: I call back another friend and catch up with her, then I call my mum for a chat, then finally call my boyfriend before I go to sleep. End up being awake too late, considering my 6.30am start tomorrow.

Total: £0

Day Seven

6.30am: Get up and shower. I never eat until I get to work, often this gets pushed back to about 10am but I think my stomach settles better this way anyway.

7.25am: Meet up with work pal and we drive to work together.

4.20pm: Somehow the entire day passes, I didn’t stop for lunch because I still feel nauseous with stress. I nibbled on some bananas, dry pretzels and toast. Also had a batch brew and a cortado, which are free. There’s three of us closing so we dash about and get it done insanely fast. Have a meeting with our boss before we head home.

5pm: I’m the last to leave so I mop the floor. I’m finally starting to feel starving and end up stopping in M&S on my way home and leave with a pot of hummus, a big bag of crisps and a mini selection box of chocolates... £6.85

5.30pm: Eat lots of hummus, crisps and a few chocolates and feel subsequently sick. I have to go back out tonight for an event, I have zero energy to speak or even stand up but I have to go. Going alone is also not fun. I shower and wash my hair so I can have it down and feel more put together than I actually am.

6.45pm: Leave the house and drive to the event. A friend of mine is there because we work in the same industry; she has brought me a birthday present and card, which is so sweet. The event goes on for a bit and I muster the energy to chat. There’s lots of pizza and beer but I’m gluten intolerant and driving, so not a great deal of fun for me. Feel annoyed I couldn’t stomach real food all day because I am HUNGRY.

9.30pm: Finally get home, wolf down some very plain pasta and a piece of toast, then force myself to stay awake to let it go down. FaceTime my boyfriend for a while and eventually go to bed, probably too late again.

Total: £6.85

The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £74.22
Entertainment: £0
Clothes/Beauty: £40
Travel: £0
Other: £12

Total: £126.22

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