Money Diary: A 28-Year-Old Library Assistant With Long COVID On 12k
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 28 years old and currently work as a library assistant in Leeds. I was brought up by my mum in a low-wage, single-parent, working-class household. My mum's side of the family is from Jamaica and Birmingham, my dad's family is from west London, where I grew up in a cooperative block of flats with cheap rent for the area. I went to Leeds University and got a BA but while undertaking my MA I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Since then, I have only been able to work part-time, freelance, zero-hour or short-term contracted roles.
I currently live in a small flat with my partner. He moved to the UK from Romania a couple of years ago after we met on OkCupid in 2019. He gave up his job so we could move in together during the pandemic but I contracted COVID-19 a few days later and he had to spend the first month taking care of me. Since then, he's been on Universal Credit and is living off his savings while resurrecting a YouTube channel he used to make some money from and job searching. I have had pretty bad long COVID since August 2020 and I'm still waiting for NHS treatment. Luckily, my jobs are flexible and I can work from home fairly often. I don't feel able to go for a better paid position or take on more hours just yet because I am still a bit limited by my health. Before the pandemic I did have vague ideas about moving abroad but this would rely on my writing projects bearing financial fruit and sadly I haven't been able to make much progress on them because of the long COVID brain fog."
Occupation: Library assistant Industry: Education Age: 28 Location: Leeds Salary: Just over £12,000 Paycheque amount: It ranges from £900 to £1,200 depending on the time of year (I work fewer hours in the summer). Number of housemates: One, my partner R.
Housing costs: £262.50 covers half the rent of our one-bedroom flat. Utilities: £60 council tax, £12.50 Wi-Fi and £50 for bills. Loan payments: None. Although I have a student loan, I’m not earning enough to pay it back. Savings? Around £10,000 in a current account and something ridiculous like £30 in an ISA. Pension status: I pay a defined contribution into a 'People’s Pension' plan, which is 3% of my salary. All other monthly expenses: My phone bill is £20 and laptop insurance is £3.99.
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? I went to private school (I obtained a fully paid bursary place) and it was drummed into me that university was the logical next step. I was able to afford it without too much trouble due to a life-threatening accident I had, which resulted in getting £14,000 compensation. It paid me through uni and meant I didn't have to work much while I was studying or worry about how much I was spending on going out.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Conversations about money were often sad, stressful disagreements. My mum was a single parent from when I was seven (although my dad did contribute to our expenses). My mum was often struggling for money, worrying about it and figuring out how to make ends meet. My sister and I would get upset when we couldn’t do or buy the same things as our friends. When I started private school, I was suddenly surrounded by people who never thought about or discussed money or the price of things because they were comfortably off, meaning I felt very out of place at times.
If you have, when did you move out of your parents' or guardians' house? I briefly left home for a few months at 17, living in a friend's guesthouse and then at my grandparents'. I fully left at 18, when I went to university.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself? Does anyone else cover any aspects of your financial life? At 18 I finally had access to my compensation money so I was able to budget to buy my own food, pay my uni rent, etc. When I became unwell in my early 20s and was too ill to work for weeks or even months at a time, my ex-partner paid some of the rent for a bit and covered some of my necessary expenses here and there. My dad is also currently paying for me to have a few weeks of low-cost counselling (£12.50 per session).
What was your first job and why did you get it? My first job was working as a proofreader for a friend of a friend’s business. I got it as I was running through my compensation money quickly and I also wanted more work experience to put on my CV.
Do you worry about money now? No, I don’t allow myself to anymore. The endless pursuit of having as much money as possible makes people unhappy and after all the horrendous mental health crises I’ve been through, I try not to stress over anything. Even though I’m not earning as much as I have the potential to, I have enough to live on and for that I’m grateful. I live a very self-contained, simple life and as long as I have what I need to pay rent and eat well, I’m happy.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? No.
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