Money Diary: An HR Analyst On 43.5k In Quarantine Alone In London


Welcome toMoney 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 am an HR reward analyst with five years of experience. I currently work for a financial services company and have been in my role for two and a half years. When I first started I was on £39,000 but over the past two and a half years have received gradual increments to my salary.

I’ve always had a 'live within your limit' attitude towards money and as such have never had any big issues or been in debt (apart from my student loan). As my salary has increased over the last couple of years I have made a conscious effort to keep my spending habits the same, which has in turn helped me save more. I’m lucky to live in a cheap flatshare (by London standards), which has also helped keep my living costs low. I am aiming to save a 10% deposit towards a flat somewhere in greater London by next year.

I am currently quarantining by myself and have been for a month and a half – this has had some ups and a lot of downs. All my flatmates are either quarantining with their family or partners but I decided not to go home because my dad developed COVID-19 at the start of lockdown."

Occupation: HR analyst
Industry: Financial services
Age: 27
Location: London
Salary: £43,500
Paycheque amount: £2,500 after tax, pension and student loan deductions.
Number of housemates: Three – me and my housemates.

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £550 per month for my room.
Loan payments: I pay around £185 every month towards my student loan debt.
Savings? Cash ISA savings: £21,000. I have been saving quite intensely over the past two years as I am aiming to have a 10% deposit for a flat in the Greater London area by 2021. I also have around £1,000 in a separate savings account which comes in handy for emergencies, treats or holidays.
Other: Phone bill £50. Laptop/phone insurance £15. Netflix £8.99. Gym £14.99 (payments currently frozen due to COVID-19). Prior to lockdown I was saving £850 every month; however I have been able to save £1,100 and £1,200 respectively in the last two months, mainly because I am saving my travel cost (£180 per month) as well as on dining out, buying food/snacks at work and socialising. This period has really made me realise that the small things add up over time.

Day One

7.15am: Alarm goes off. I have purposely tried to continue waking up at the same time every day even though I have now been working from home for eight weeks and do not need to log on 'til 9am. I feel so anxious with everything happening in the world as a result of COVID-19 and I feel maintaining some sort of routine should help... Almost 10 snoozes later and it is now well past 8am. Too late to do my morning workout so I sluggishly drag myself into the shower.

8.45am: Breakfast! I have been going the extra mile with all my meal preps since lockdown, watching lots of cooking videos and trying new recipes. Today I am having a bagel, eggs, avocado, tomatoes and porridge (it will make sense why I like to have such a big brekkie).

9am: Log into work and look at my diary only to be reminded that I am in back-to-back meetings today – great!

11.20am: Wow, where has the morning gone. Feeling peckish so run down to grab a breakfast bar and cuppa. Need to be quick because I have a meeting at 11.30.

4pm: Lunch – yes, at 4pm. This is why I have to load up the calories for breakfast to keep me going. I am either in back-to-back meetings during lunchtime or just so busy that I simply forget to eat. At this rate I need to start setting a lunchtime alarm. For lunch I sauté some bell peppers, mushrooms and prawns and throw them in a wrap – yum!

5pm: I should be logging off now but thanks to my extra late lunch I still have a few bits to get done.

6pm: Logging off finally. Jump in bed and lie there for an hour listening to music.

7pm: Mum calls to give an update on my dad who has been in hospital with COVID-19 for the past four weeks. The consultant said they did a test and he is now virus-free but has in the process developed clots in his lungs which have weakened his lungs and consequently his breathing. Mixed feelings – I never imagined not celebrating that he was COVID-19 negative. The last month has been an emotional rollercoaster. I have also been living by myself for the past six weeks as all my flatmates have either gone home or are quarantining with their boyfriends.

8pm: Dinnertime. I try to keep it light for dinner because it is a bit later than I would like. Salmon it is. The bottle of rosé is looking very tempting but it is only Monday so apple juice will have to do.

9pm: Wash my face, brush my teeth and jump in bed. I am on season 4 of Mad Men so I watch few episodes before knocking out at midnight.

Total: £0

Day Two

7.15am: Alarm goes off! Snooze 10 times and miss my morning workout again. Only have enough time to take a quick shower and make breakfast before logging on.

8.45am: Breakfast is similar to yesterday's but today I add mushrooms and beans instead of avocado. I'm so pleased with how my breakfast looks that I take a picture and send it to my family WhatsApp group chat.

9am: Log on and it looks like it's going to be meetings galore again – why did I complain about having a quiet one last week? I work later on days that I have back-to-back meetings because I have to catch up on my projects.

10am: I have a catch-up with my manager and after telling her everything I'm currently working on, I update her on my dad's situation. Really grateful to have such a supportive and all-round amazing manager; apart from family and close friends, she's really been a shoulder to lean on with everything happening.

10.25am: Heart-to-heart with my manager is going well, then I get a calendar reminder that I have another meeting in five minutes – great!

11.30am: I have a 30-minute window where I have no meetings so I run down to grab a cuppa and call my mum to check in on her. She seems to be holding up alright and hasn't heard anything from the consultant today so we take that as a good sign of sorts. No news means there hasn't been a drastic change in his condition. Right?

3.45pm: Shit! How is it almost 4pm and I haven't had lunch again? As well as a lunch alarm I might need to start doing meal preps.

4pm: I make pasta and have a working lunch because I don't want to work too late.

5.30pm: Logging off for the day.

7pm: My best friend who is an NHS physiotherapist calls to check in and we talk for an hour. Her job coupled with my dad's current situation results in most of our conversation being about COVID-19. I feel even more anxious, argh!

8pm: Porridge for dinner because I'm too lazy to make anything else and it's too late to have anything heavy.

10.30pm: I spent the past two hours watching skincare routines recommended by aestheticians and dermatologists. My skin has been breaking out for some time now so maybe switching things up will help.

11.30pm: I order a few new skincare products before falling asleep. £40

Total: £40

Day Three

7.15am: My alarm goes off and I get up. No snoozing, no rolling around, nothing.

7.30am: I get changed into my workout kit and proceed to do a 45-minute workout – I feel great!

8.30am: Quick shower and breakfast before logging in.

11am: It's been an extremely long morning. I had a 90-minute handover call with my colleague who is leaving in three weeks. One of the projects she's handed over to me requires an initial conference call with over 30 stakeholders before she leaves. Finding a one-hour slot in the diary to accommodate 30+ people within the next three weeks should be interesting.

12pm: I get a 50% off email from Uber Eats and considering I haven't ordered food in a while, decide to use it. £8

12.30pm: Thai red curry – yum!

5pm: Done with work for the day and feeling particularly peckish.

5.30pm: After much indecisiveness I have settled on fish and chips. I get a group FaceTime from my mum and sister while prepping dinner; although still no updates on Dad it's nice to catch up and have a lighter conversation for a change.

7.30pm: Wash my face, brush my teeth and jump in bed. Watch more episodes of Mad Men before I fall asleep just before midnight.

Total: £8

Day Four

7.15am: My alarm goes off and like yesterday I wake up without snoozing; unlike yesterday, instead of changing into my workout clothes I just sit on the edge of my bed, scrolling through my Instagram feed.

7.40am: Twenty-five minutes of procrastination later, I drag myself up and into my workout clothes followed by today's 45-minute routine. Definitely not as energised as yesterday and would rather jump back in bed but the show must go on.

10am: Work work work! And I haven't had breakfast yet – at this rate I will be eating lunch at 6pm and dinner at midnight.

10.30am: Breakfast, finally. I listen to the Bobo and Flex podcast as I slowly make my way through breakfast. I listen to so many podcasts and have found myself discovering new ones over the quarantine period.

11.15am: Back to work and I get a calendar reminder that we have a team meeting in 15 minutes. Shit. I'm really not looking forward to this because two members of my team are leaving soon and this is going to be one of those meetings where we talk about redistributing workload and who picks up what. Essentially it means more work for everyone, coupled with the fact that we are going into our peak busy months – yay (not).

3.30pm: As expected the amount of work and deliverables for the team over the next few months has almost doubled and due to the current climate, getting new recruits approved for our slowly diminishing team will be difficult.

4.30pm: I log off a little early today because I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Decide to go for a nice long walk to stretch my legs and clear my head.

6pm: Walk over and I'm feeling so much better – walks have a way of doing that for me.

6.30pm: Dinner is roasted potatoes and salmon. I'm pleased with how my food looks so take a picture and send it to my family WhatsApp group chat (this is becoming a thing).

7.30pm: I settle into bed with a glass of rosé while watching Mad Men. It's a great show and I'm determined to get through all seven seasons. I fall asleep at 11pm.

Total: £0

Day Five

7.15am: Alarm goes off and I wake up in the best mood because it's Friday! I obviously don't have any exciting plans given the current situation but I'm excited to relax and not think about work for a couple of days.

7.30am: I get changed into my workout gear and do a 45-minute workout. It's legs, bums and tums today. Ouch.

8.30am: Showered and making my usual big breakfast. Today I swap porridge for Weetabix.

1pm: Just had part two of the handover call with my colleague and afterwards I feel like banging my head against a door. The work just keeps piling up.

3pm: Give my manager a call to discuss my workload and she explains that our director is in talks with his boss about recruiting at least one person to replace our two team members who are leaving. I breathe the biggest sigh of relief and hope for the best.

5pm: Finally finished with work for the week and decide to go for a walk.

8pm: Following a call with my friend and FaceTime catch-up with family, I make dinner – stir-fry it is.

9pm: Quick shower before settling into bed. Tonight, I decide to take a break from Mad Men and proceed to watch several episodes of Location, Location, Location.

12.30am: Bedtime.

Total: £0

Day Six

9am: Lazing around in bed, scrolling through my Instagram feed while listening to The High Low podcast. I'm psyching myself up to do my weekly food shop because over the past six weeks I have had to stand in line for between 20 and 45 minutes.

9.15am: Yay! I get a notification that my skincare goodies have been dispatched. It's the little things these days.

10am: I get a call from my mum and it's the best news I've had all week. The consultant confirmed that my dad will be strong enough to come home this weekend, although they still need to keep a close eye on the clots in his lungs.

11am: I spend the next hour calling a few of my closest friends to give an update on my dad. They've been emotional support systems over the past five weeks and I feel it's only right to keep them in the loop.

12.30pm: Surprisingly I was only in line to get into Waitrose for 15 minutes – really holding on to the little wins nowadays. Shopping list in hand, I'm in and out within 25 minutes, woop! £52

3pm: I make a prawn curry with rice for lunch and as usual send a picture to my family. Take it a step further this time and share the picture on my Instagram. It's only right to share the amazingness that is my cooking with the world.

5pm: Boozy FaceTime catch-up with two of my girlfriends and we talk about everything from work to what we're watching on TV and our mental health. I really miss my friends and I'm grateful for technology in times like this. We chat for almost two hours and my heart is full.

7pm: I call my mum to get an update on my dad and it looks like he will be coming home tomorrow! Mum informs me that several oxygen cylinders were delivered to the house earlier in the day as Dad will still require oxygen when he's back home. She also informs me that she's spent the last few hours cooking his favourite meals in anticipation of his coming home. I think it's safe to say that cooking is one of my mum's love languages; she does the same thing every time I go home.

8.15pm: Best friend calls and we have a catch-up while I make dinner, which is a bean and rice burrito.

10.30pm: I haven't done much today but I'm knackered, probably all those hours of catching up with loved ones. Fall asleep with Location, Location, Location on in the background.

Total: £52

Day Seven

9am: Wake up feeling refreshed and in the best mood because it's very likely that Dad will be coming home today.

9.30am: Scrolling through my Instagram feed and there are a few inquiries about how I made my prawn curry from yesterday. Watch out, Gordon Ramsay.

10.30am: I have my usual breakfast but in bed while watching YouTube videos.

1pm: Still in bed and unmotivated to work out so I decide to order a skipping rope from Amazon. It might be a nice switch-up from my usual 45-minute workout routines. £5

I finally get out of bed and decide to go for a walk because it's a sunny day. I grab a banana and water in case I get peckish or thirsty.

2.30pm: Back home from my walk and I decide to try a ramen noodle recipe that I found online. It's great!

5pm: My phone rings and it's my dad calling! I let it ring a few times because I'm both very excited and extremely nervous. Since Dad went to hospital, he hasn't been able to communicate with the family because of how poorly he was and when he has it's been my mum he chose to spoke with. He informs me that he's currently in the ambulance on the way home. Tears fill my eyes but I hold it together. We talk for just 10 minutes because he has to call other members of the family.

9pm: Spent the last few hours on FaceTime with my family, it was surreal seeing my dad and talking to him. He's lost so much weight, has a massive grey beard and gets out of breath very quickly. More than anything I'm feeling grateful that my dad at 68 was able to beat this horrible virus. Even though he has a long road to full recovery, I am hopeful.

9.30pm: I text a few of my closest friends to give them the news.

10pm: It's been a crazy day but in the best way possible – my heart is full, and I'm feeling so many emotions. I don't feel like watching anything so settle into bed while listening to The Friend Zone podcast.

Total: £5

The Breakdown

Food & Drink: £60
Entertainment: £0
Clothes & Beauty: £40
Transportation: £0
Other: £5

Total: £105


"Given the current climate I haven’t spent a lot of money this week. Most of my spending over the last almost two months has been on food shopping and I’m making a conscious effort to cook most of my meals. I would normally meet up with friends on the weekend for brunch, dinner or drinks, especially with the weather getting warmer. I would have also started buying clothes for my summer wardrobe. I haven’t spent any money on travel in almost two months, either, which is an extra saving of £180 a month. As a result, I have been able to save over £300 more this month than I would normally.

Overall, even though life as I know it is completely different and I still have moments of extreme anxiety, I am incredibly grateful to be healthy. Watching my dad become so sick has made me realise that material possessions and money matter a lot less if you don’t have the good health to enjoy them.

I am also immensely grateful to the amazing NHS workers who looked after my dad and who continue to look after thousands of people in the country."

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