Money Diary: An NHS Manager In Belfast On 40k & Training For A Marathon

·12-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 am a 32-year-old NHS manager living and working in Belfast. I qualified and got my first graduate job 10 years ago. I moved back home with my parents for two years after university, which meant I was lucky enough to be able to save a house deposit. I bought my first home aged 24 when house prices were a little bit lower, and still live here.

Reduced outgoings during the pandemic allowed me to get on top of my finances, paying off some credit card debt, my car loan and finally getting some savings behind me. The challenge for me will be keeping up with my new good habits and sticking to a realistic budget as lockdown restrictions are lifted. I hope to use some of my savings for home improvements such as a new bathroom and eventually a new kitchen, and then start to save for the longer term."

Industry: Healthcare
Age: 32
Location: Belfast
Salary: £40,894
Paycheque amount: £2,360
Number of housemates: None, just me.

Monthly Expenses

Housing costs: £405 mortgage.
Loan payments: None. I paid my student loan off in January this year.
Utilities: £40 gas, £30 electricity, £25 internet, £90 rates (the NI equivalent of council tax, which includes water), £18 property maintenance fee.
Transportation: £60-100 on petrol. £30 car insurance (I set this aside each month and pay annually to avoid interest).
Phone bill: £18 SIM only.
Savings? I separate my savings into Monzo pots. £600 to a 'home improvements' fund. £75 towards Christmas. £75 towards holidays. £100 towards a new car. £100 invested into a stocks and shares ISA. £35 into Premium Bonds (just for fun).
Other: £52 gym membership. £38 private health insurance. While I work for and love the NHS, I feel it will be a long time before it recovers from the pandemic so for me the reassurance of private health insurance is worth the monthly fee. Plus it comes with perks such as a free coffee each week from Caffè Nero and free cinema tickets! £10 Spotify. £12 contact lenses.

<strong>Day One</strong><br> <br>7.30am: Wake up at boyfriend C’s house. He lives 10 minutes away from my house so I have time to drive home, have a quick shower and a breakfast of eggs on wholemeal toast before logging onto work from home at 8.30am.<br> <br>12.30pm: Just finished a work training course on Zoom. The topic was on 'coaching' – a communication technique centred on helping people to come up with their own solutions to problems. Stop for a quick 30-minute lunch break. I reheat a portion of salmon, prawn and vegetable pasta from last night and then spend the rest of lunch blasting some housework. Yawn. <br> <br>4.30pm: Finish work, spend another hour finishing off some cleaning and C arrives over. We have Mexican lasagne for dinner (chilli beef layered with tortilla wraps and topped with cheese – try it!). He cuts my grass while I do the dishes then we head to our nearest beach, about 15 minutes' drive away, for a walk. On the way home we stop at Tesco as I want to pick up ingredients to make Biscoff truffles for C’s brother-in-law's birthday tomorrow. I buy Biscoff biscuits, Biscoff spread, cream cheese, white chocolate and a couple of other snacky bits for £8.75. C picks up a bottle of gin and a birthday card as a gift. <br> <br>8pm: Finally flop on the sofa with a cup of tea and a white chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cup, which was part of earlier unnecessary spontaneous snack purchases. Watch an episode of <em>Unforgotten. </em><br> <br>9pm: Early bedtime as I’m shattered. Plan to read but fall asleep the minute the lights are out.<br><br><strong>Total: £8.75</strong>
Day One

7.30am: Wake up at boyfriend C’s house. He lives 10 minutes away from my house so I have time to drive home, have a quick shower and a breakfast of eggs on wholemeal toast before logging onto work from home at 8.30am.

12.30pm: Just finished a work training course on Zoom. The topic was on 'coaching' – a communication technique centred on helping people to come up with their own solutions to problems. Stop for a quick 30-minute lunch break. I reheat a portion of salmon, prawn and vegetable pasta from last night and then spend the rest of lunch blasting some housework. Yawn.

4.30pm: Finish work, spend another hour finishing off some cleaning and C arrives over. We have Mexican lasagne for dinner (chilli beef layered with tortilla wraps and topped with cheese – try it!). He cuts my grass while I do the dishes then we head to our nearest beach, about 15 minutes' drive away, for a walk. On the way home we stop at Tesco as I want to pick up ingredients to make Biscoff truffles for C’s brother-in-law's birthday tomorrow. I buy Biscoff biscuits, Biscoff spread, cream cheese, white chocolate and a couple of other snacky bits for £8.75. C picks up a bottle of gin and a birthday card as a gift.

8pm: Finally flop on the sofa with a cup of tea and a white chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cup, which was part of earlier unnecessary spontaneous snack purchases. Watch an episode of Unforgotten.

9pm: Early bedtime as I’m shattered. Plan to read but fall asleep the minute the lights are out.

Total: £8.75
<strong>Day Two</strong><br><br>6.30am: Alarm goes off. We get up and go for a three-mile walk around my local village. It’s a gorgeous day and I always feel better starting work after some fresh air. C heads home to work and I make a cup of tea. <br><br>8am: It’s payday so I turn my laptop on and do some finance shuffles, including moving money from my main bank account to my various Monzo pots, and topping up my Premium Bonds account. I opened this a couple of weeks ago as a place to store short-term savings as interest rates are abysmally low. Fingers crossed I win something! In addition to my normal salary this month, I got paid an extra £453 for some overtime I worked last month. I split this between my various savings pots and set some aside for a little treat.<br><br>8.30am: Log on to work, today’s diary tasks are getting through the million emails my manager has sent me since I logged off yesterday and doing some work on a project I am working on. Make a donation via JustGiving to a colleague who is doing 5km a day in May for charity. £10<br><br>9am: Manage a grand total of 30 minutes' work before stopping for breakfast. Honey-flavoured Skyr, blueberries and granola with another cup of tea. Back to work. <br><br>12.30pm: Stop for lunch. I do a quick workout in the sunshine before making eggs on toast (again) for lunch. I desperately need a grocery shop and should have bought something other than snacks at Tesco last night.<br><br>5.30pm: Meet a friend for dinner. I order chicken and pineapple curry which comes with basmati rice, flatbread and mango chutney dip. We share a side of parmesan and truffle chips, allllll the carbs. My share plus a sparkling water comes in at £20.60.<br><br>7.30pm: I head to C’s house, on the way I stop at a hipster pop-up doughnut shop that has opened. He has been talking about wanting to try it so I buy him a doughnut filled with vanilla creme patisserie. £2.50<br><br>8pm: C and I walk to his sister's house for a glass of prosecco and slice of cake to celebrate his brother-in-law's birthday. We bring a bottle of prosecco I already had at home, along with the birthday gift and truffles made yesterday.<br><br>10pm: One glass of prosecco turns into four, we walk home and I fall asleep almost immediately.<br><br><strong>Total: £33.10</strong>
Day Two

6.30am: Alarm goes off. We get up and go for a three-mile walk around my local village. It’s a gorgeous day and I always feel better starting work after some fresh air. C heads home to work and I make a cup of tea.

8am: It’s payday so I turn my laptop on and do some finance shuffles, including moving money from my main bank account to my various Monzo pots, and topping up my Premium Bonds account. I opened this a couple of weeks ago as a place to store short-term savings as interest rates are abysmally low. Fingers crossed I win something! In addition to my normal salary this month, I got paid an extra £453 for some overtime I worked last month. I split this between my various savings pots and set some aside for a little treat.

8.30am: Log on to work, today’s diary tasks are getting through the million emails my manager has sent me since I logged off yesterday and doing some work on a project I am working on. Make a donation via JustGiving to a colleague who is doing 5km a day in May for charity. £10

9am: Manage a grand total of 30 minutes' work before stopping for breakfast. Honey-flavoured Skyr, blueberries and granola with another cup of tea. Back to work.

12.30pm: Stop for lunch. I do a quick workout in the sunshine before making eggs on toast (again) for lunch. I desperately need a grocery shop and should have bought something other than snacks at Tesco last night.

5.30pm: Meet a friend for dinner. I order chicken and pineapple curry which comes with basmati rice, flatbread and mango chutney dip. We share a side of parmesan and truffle chips, allllll the carbs. My share plus a sparkling water comes in at £20.60.

7.30pm: I head to C’s house, on the way I stop at a hipster pop-up doughnut shop that has opened. He has been talking about wanting to try it so I buy him a doughnut filled with vanilla creme patisserie. £2.50

8pm: C and I walk to his sister's house for a glass of prosecco and slice of cake to celebrate his brother-in-law's birthday. We bring a bottle of prosecco I already had at home, along with the birthday gift and truffles made yesterday.

10pm: One glass of prosecco turns into four, we walk home and I fall asleep almost immediately.

Total: £33.10
<strong>Day Three</strong><br> <br>6.30am: Alarm goes off and we roll out of bed for a walk around C’s village. It’s a beautiful morning and we see lots of wildlife including squirrels and a really tame robin. Vow to bring some bird seed or nuts next time.<br> <br>8am: Arrive home, have a quick shower before logging onto work. Eat a breakfast of porridge with a topping of maple and pecan peanut butter and the last of the blueberries from the fridge. <br> <br>1pm: After a four-hour Zoom meeting I finally get lunch. Chicken mayo sandwich and a packet of Skips in the garden, followed by 30 minutes' sunbathing before another afternoon of meetings.<br> <br>3pm: Stop work for a short break and make a cuppa. Two friends have recently had baby boys so I place an order for two gorgeous knitted baby loungewear sets from a local business. £59<br> <br>4.45pm: Log off work and head to the gym for Blaze, a HIIT class which involves treadmills, punch bags and strength work.<br> <br>5.45pm: Head to see my mum and dad after the gym. They live about 10 minutes' drive away. Have a cuppa and a chat. Take Mum a packet of Turkish delight (her favourite) purchased in the snack haul earlier this week. She has bought me some new plants for my garden but refuses to take any money from me. <br> <br>7pm: Home, shower and prepare dinner from ingredients I had in: chicken, chorizo, veggies and pasta in a crème fraîche and sun-dried tomato sauce. Topped with cheese, obviously. <br> <br>9pm: All cosy on the sofa and decide to buy a new book for my Kindle. Amazon offers me a three-month free trial to Kindle Unlimited. Result. <br> <br>10pm: Lights out. <br> <br><strong>Total: £59 </strong>
Day Three

6.30am: Alarm goes off and we roll out of bed for a walk around C’s village. It’s a beautiful morning and we see lots of wildlife including squirrels and a really tame robin. Vow to bring some bird seed or nuts next time.

8am: Arrive home, have a quick shower before logging onto work. Eat a breakfast of porridge with a topping of maple and pecan peanut butter and the last of the blueberries from the fridge.

1pm: After a four-hour Zoom meeting I finally get lunch. Chicken mayo sandwich and a packet of Skips in the garden, followed by 30 minutes' sunbathing before another afternoon of meetings.

3pm: Stop work for a short break and make a cuppa. Two friends have recently had baby boys so I place an order for two gorgeous knitted baby loungewear sets from a local business. £59

4.45pm: Log off work and head to the gym for Blaze, a HIIT class which involves treadmills, punch bags and strength work.

5.45pm: Head to see my mum and dad after the gym. They live about 10 minutes' drive away. Have a cuppa and a chat. Take Mum a packet of Turkish delight (her favourite) purchased in the snack haul earlier this week. She has bought me some new plants for my garden but refuses to take any money from me.

7pm: Home, shower and prepare dinner from ingredients I had in: chicken, chorizo, veggies and pasta in a crème fraîche and sun-dried tomato sauce. Topped with cheese, obviously.

9pm: All cosy on the sofa and decide to buy a new book for my Kindle. Amazon offers me a three-month free trial to Kindle Unlimited. Result.

10pm: Lights out.

Total: £59
<strong>Day Four</strong><br> <br>6.30am: Alarm goes off, up and the usual walk. I find my mood and productivity are much better when I start the day with a walk.<br> <br>7.45am: Porridge, peanut butter and a square of Lindt sea salt dark chocolate for breakfast. <br> <br>4.30pm: Have barely lifted my head all day. Out of office on – I’m off work next week! <br> <br>7pm: Chicken curry from the freezer for dinner. C and I head to Tesco where we get a huge grocery shop. We buy chicken, salad, bread rolls, bacon, eggs, avocado, yoghurt, milk, cheese, crackers, crisps, dip, olives, vegetables, dark chocolate, wine, cleaning products and more. Total comes to £63.45 for my share. This is a more expensive grocery shop than I’d usually do but includes some treats for our week off and supplies for a family picnic tomorrow.<br> <br>9pm: We have a little supper of cheese, crackers and a glass of wine while watching more <em>Unforgotten.</em><br> <br>10.30pm: I’m falling asleep on the sofa so it’s time for bed and some cuddles.<br> <br><strong>Total: £63.45</strong>
Day Four

6.30am: Alarm goes off, up and the usual walk. I find my mood and productivity are much better when I start the day with a walk.

7.45am: Porridge, peanut butter and a square of Lindt sea salt dark chocolate for breakfast.

4.30pm: Have barely lifted my head all day. Out of office on – I’m off work next week!

7pm: Chicken curry from the freezer for dinner. C and I head to Tesco where we get a huge grocery shop. We buy chicken, salad, bread rolls, bacon, eggs, avocado, yoghurt, milk, cheese, crackers, crisps, dip, olives, vegetables, dark chocolate, wine, cleaning products and more. Total comes to £63.45 for my share. This is a more expensive grocery shop than I’d usually do but includes some treats for our week off and supplies for a family picnic tomorrow.

9pm: We have a little supper of cheese, crackers and a glass of wine while watching more Unforgotten.

10.30pm: I’m falling asleep on the sofa so it’s time for bed and some cuddles.

Total: £63.45
<strong>Day Five</strong><br> <br>6.30am: I wake up even though I have no alarm set. It’s the weekend but I am a creature of habit. Lie in bed and read until 7.30am when I make us tea and coffee in bed.<br> <br>9am: We go for a walk, calling at the local shop to buy hot dog rolls for a BBQ we are planning tomorrow. Also pick up a packet of wine gums for C’s dad and a cheeky scratch card. £4.50 spent. Win £2 of this back on the scratch card.<br> <br>10am: Brunch of ciabatta, avocado, bacon and poached eggs with an iced coffee, all from yesterday's grocery shop. <br> <br>1pm: We head to the park to meet my family for a picnic. We bring sandwiches and drinks for everyone. Spend a glorious two hours in the sunshine.<br> <br>5.30pm: I head to my friend T’s house for dinner. On the way I stop at a local florist and buy her a bunch of flowers. £5.50. I also bring two share bags of crisps that were bought with yesterday’s groceries.<br> <br>10.30pm: After a lovely evening catching up and eating paella, I head home.<br> <br><strong>Total: £10</strong>
Day Five

6.30am: I wake up even though I have no alarm set. It’s the weekend but I am a creature of habit. Lie in bed and read until 7.30am when I make us tea and coffee in bed.

9am: We go for a walk, calling at the local shop to buy hot dog rolls for a BBQ we are planning tomorrow. Also pick up a packet of wine gums for C’s dad and a cheeky scratch card. £4.50 spent. Win £2 of this back on the scratch card.

10am: Brunch of ciabatta, avocado, bacon and poached eggs with an iced coffee, all from yesterday's grocery shop.

1pm: We head to the park to meet my family for a picnic. We bring sandwiches and drinks for everyone. Spend a glorious two hours in the sunshine.

5.30pm: I head to my friend T’s house for dinner. On the way I stop at a local florist and buy her a bunch of flowers. £5.50. I also bring two share bags of crisps that were bought with yesterday’s groceries.

10.30pm: After a lovely evening catching up and eating paella, I head home.

Total: £10
<strong>Day Six</strong><br> <br>9.30am: C and I meet two of his friends for a nine-mile run, taking in some of the sights of Belfast city centre. Afterwards we sit in the sunshine and have an iced coffee, which C’s friend M treats us to. Our turn next week.<br> <br>1pm: We stop at Lidl on the way home and pick up fresh orange juice, two packets of ice lollies and some salad bits. £8.37<br> <br>7pm: We spend the afternoon sunbathing in the garden, then light the BBQ. We have chicken kebabs and steak with salad, share a bottle of red wine and toast marshmallows over the fire pit. Sunday evening bliss. <br> <br><strong>Total: £8.37</strong>
Day Six

9.30am: C and I meet two of his friends for a nine-mile run, taking in some of the sights of Belfast city centre. Afterwards we sit in the sunshine and have an iced coffee, which C’s friend M treats us to. Our turn next week.

1pm: We stop at Lidl on the way home and pick up fresh orange juice, two packets of ice lollies and some salad bits. £8.37

7pm: We spend the afternoon sunbathing in the garden, then light the BBQ. We have chicken kebabs and steak with salad, share a bottle of red wine and toast marshmallows over the fire pit. Sunday evening bliss.

Total: £8.37
<strong>Day Seven</strong><br> <br>8.30am: First day of a week of annual leave and C and I have food and drinks booked in town. We start the day with a five-mile run. We are both training for the Belfast City Marathon (my first) in September so have to keep the miles up.<br> <br>10am: Breakfast in the garden. Toast and lemon curd with a chopped up peach on the side. <br> <br>1.30pm: We get the bus into town. During the COVID pandemic, public transport in NI was made free for NHS staff. I rarely use public transport and used it even less during the pandemic but it's nice to benefit from it today.<br> <br>2.30pm: We start our afternoon with a drink in the restaurant’s beer garden. I have a gin bramble. We move inside for our meal, we are eating in a seafood restaurant. I have mussels to start and shellfish linguine for main. We share a bottle of white with our meal. C has a voucher for the restaurant which he kindly puts towards our bill. £34 for my share of the rest, which includes a 10% tip.<br> <br>5.30pm: We move on to another bar, where we have another three rounds. £30 for my share.<br> <br>7.30pm: It’s been a while since I have had as much alcohol, so feeling warm and fuzzy we get the bus home. <br> <br>8.30pm: Against our better judgement we decide to walk to McDonald’s to soak up some of the alcohol. I have a double cheeseburger and a mini McFlurry and we share fries. I eat half then feel a bit sick. £5.50 for my share. <br> <br><strong>Total: £69.50</strong>
Day Seven

8.30am: First day of a week of annual leave and C and I have food and drinks booked in town. We start the day with a five-mile run. We are both training for the Belfast City Marathon (my first) in September so have to keep the miles up.

10am: Breakfast in the garden. Toast and lemon curd with a chopped up peach on the side.

1.30pm: We get the bus into town. During the COVID pandemic, public transport in NI was made free for NHS staff. I rarely use public transport and used it even less during the pandemic but it's nice to benefit from it today.

2.30pm: We start our afternoon with a drink in the restaurant’s beer garden. I have a gin bramble. We move inside for our meal, we are eating in a seafood restaurant. I have mussels to start and shellfish linguine for main. We share a bottle of white with our meal. C has a voucher for the restaurant which he kindly puts towards our bill. £34 for my share of the rest, which includes a 10% tip.

5.30pm: We move on to another bar, where we have another three rounds. £30 for my share.

7.30pm: It’s been a while since I have had as much alcohol, so feeling warm and fuzzy we get the bus home.

8.30pm: Against our better judgement we decide to walk to McDonald’s to soak up some of the alcohol. I have a double cheeseburger and a mini McFlurry and we share fries. I eat half then feel a bit sick. £5.50 for my share.

Total: £69.50
<strong>The Breakdown</strong><br><br>Food/Drink: £173.17<br>Entertainment: £0<br>Clothes/Beauty: £0<br>Travel: £0<br>Other: £79<br><br><strong>Total: £252.17</strong><br><br><strong>Conclusion</strong><br><br>"I’ve had a really lovely week with time spent with C, friends and family. My spending has probably been a little higher than normal this week, particularly the amount spent on groceries, but I wanted to have plenty of nice treats in stock for a week off work. <br><br>Before lockdown I was guilty of saying yes to any and all social events, which often left me using my credit card at the end of the month. I need to be more aware of this as things open up again, thinking about whether or not my budget stretches before saying yes to expensive activities. However I am a strong believer that life is for living and you should have a balance between being prepared for the future while enjoying the present."
The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £173.17
Entertainment: £0
Clothes/Beauty: £0
Travel: £0
Other: £79

Total: £252.17

Conclusion

"I’ve had a really lovely week with time spent with C, friends and family. My spending has probably been a little higher than normal this week, particularly the amount spent on groceries, but I wanted to have plenty of nice treats in stock for a week off work.

Before lockdown I was guilty of saying yes to any and all social events, which often left me using my credit card at the end of the month. I need to be more aware of this as things open up again, thinking about whether or not my budget stretches before saying yes to expensive activities. However I am a strong believer that life is for living and you should have a balance between being prepared for the future while enjoying the present."

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

Money Diary: A Human Rights Lawyer On 18.2k

Money Diary: A Charity Worker In Oxford On 30k

Money Diary: 18-Year-Old Geography Student On 6k

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting