Money Diary: A 26-Year-Old Solicitor In Birmingham On 30k


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 26 years old and have just come back to work from maternity leave. I’m a solicitor and work in conveyancing. Me, my husband T and baby F are living with my family while our house, which we recently purchased, gets renovated. It’s a big project! I left my old job because they asked me to relocate and this wasn’t possible.

I had quite a lavish wedding which means that I’m still paying off debt but we really needed our own space and so family helped out to get us our first home. I used to be very outgoing but since I’ve become a mother I no longer fit the crowd, so I kind of left my social circle so I can concentrate on myself and F and my career.

My friends are still clubbing and eating out every day and I just couldn’t do all that anymore. My family does take up a lot of my time and I vowed I would be healthier when I get back to work but the stress and pressure of performing at the best level means that I welcome a sugar rush and takeout." 

Industry: Law
Age: 26
Location: Birmingham
Salary: £30,000
Paycheque amount: £1,914 and £80 child benefit. 
Number of housemates: Six (Mum, Dad, brother, sister-in-law, husband T and baby F).

Monthly Expenses 

Housing costs: £465 mortgage.
Loan payments: £200 a month to a loan company, £140 credit card bills, £30 for my dad's credit card.
Utilities: £78 gas and electric, £98 council tax, £75 water.
Transportation: £160 petrol, £980 car insurance paid annually, £120 car tax paid annually, £100 for MOT and service. 
Phone bill: £26 SIM only.
Savings? All of it has gone on buying the house.

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Day One

6.20am: Instead of my alarm, this morning I’ve been woken by F. She’s caught some kind of viral infection and isn’t drinking or eating and is very clingy, which is abnormal for her as she is usually very independent and happily eats most of the food I offer her. I had to take yesterday off work to watch her. F needs a nappy change and some milk and Calpol before I start getting ready for work. I wake my husband T but he’s not well either and has taken a day off to look after F so I let him relax while I tend to her. T is a self-employed builder/electrician/gas engineer so he can basically come and go as he pleases. As we are renovating our first home he has to split his time between working on our home and on jobs he has received. 

7.30am: Driving to work, which takes me about 50-60 minutes, I usually listen to the radio. I remember that I forgot to pick up the curry and rice I made last night, so make a mental note to pick up something from Asda for lunch.

8.20am: I park in the car park right next to Asda, about a five-minute walk to the office. I get myself full fat milk, hummus, a bread roll, and a pain au chocolat. I’ll have cereal for breakfast and the hummus and bread roll for lunch. £3.55 

8.35am: I walk into work and go straight to the kitchen. I start at 9am but like to get here about 30 minutes earlier so I can have some coffee and breakfast before diving into the day. Every time I have sleepless nights with my baby, I’m so much hungrier – rather than leaving the hummus and bread for lunch, I’ve eaten it for breakfast, with the pain au chocolat. Looks like I’ll need to go to Greggs for lunch.

9am: Start work and have a mountain of emails and calls to reply to. One day out of the office feels like you missed out on a month of work. I have a new paralegal starting today which is quite exciting but also a little scary. The paralegal gets in at 9am on the dot and tries to have a longish conversation with me. I tried to cut it short without being rude but now I think I’ve made a bad first impression.

12pm: I’ve been sooo engrossed in emails and call backs and training the new guy on opening new files that I haven’t been to the toilet or had another coffee. I’m meant to be cutting down on coffee anyway because recently I’ve been having about five a day, so maybe this is a good thing. I’ve decided that seeing as I made bad choices this morning for breakfast, I may as well have a takeaway for lunch. I call the local chip shop and order 10 chicken nuggets and fries for collection with a Diet Coke. £4.80

1pm: Still have about 30 very important emails to get back to and instead I’m here looking for a new registration plate for my car. I’ve always wanted a personalised plate and for some reason I feel like this is the right time to buy it. Considering how much debt I’m in with credit cards and seeing as we are still renovating our house, I should be saving every penny, but what if this plate gets sold and I never find it again? I convince myself really easily, as you can tell. Being a solicitor has its ups and downs, a down being that I can argue myself into agreeing to bad choices. Currently trying to negotiate the price from £3,800 to about £2,000.

5.15pm: When the clock strikes, literally everyone runs to the door. Working in a law firm is full of pressure and deadlines and endless paperwork, so at the end of the day, very few voluntarily stay back.

6.15pm: As soon as I walk through the door my husband and baby demand my attention. Both very poorly needing love and care. Seeing as I can’t put the baby down today, I’m having another takeaway, this time curry and naan. I really need some sleep because I want to wake up a bit earlier tomorrow to sort the baby out and have a shower before work. Order JustEat for £8.20.

9pm: In bed with the baby putting her to sleep and fall asleep myself. Wake up at 1am and realise I’ve slept in my makeup and work clothes.

Total: £16.55
Day Two

5.45am: Wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. But procrastination takes over and I lie in bed for 30 minutes while my husband is sick in the bathroom and my baby wakes up to give me a hug. Looks like a shower is out of the question today.

7.30am: After feeding and changing the baby, I give her to my mum to take care of. Dressed and doused in perfume and makeup, I leave at 7.30 with half a cucumber to cut and put in a cheese sandwich from Asda to eat for lunch today.

8.15am: In Asda I see all the lovely bread rolls and croissants looking at me so I end up buying my cheese sandwich, a crusty bun, a croissant and a bag of Maltesers! Don’t judge me, I have lots of work to get through. £3

8.35am: I have my cereal with milk, which was a full gallon yesterday. Today half is left. Looks like my colleagues have mistaken the milk I got for myself for the milk the company provides for tea and coffee. I write my initials on it in a bid to deter them; five minutes later a colleague comes and uses my milk.

1.30pm: Stick to my plan for lunch and eat the croissant I got too. Which means I’ve now overloaded myself with carbs and feel sleepy. Work is not too busy but I really want to go home and hug my poorly baby and husband. 

4.30pm: Most of my important work has been done for today and I've eaten most of the Maltesers, too. I’m sure the packets are smaller than they used to be.

5.15pm: As I’m walking out of the office I get a call from my husband saying he’s very unwell and wants me to rush home. I literally run to my car and pray that there isn’t much traffic today.
7.30pm: I got home at 6.10pm and husband was lying on the sofa, burning up. He's not eaten or drunk and has been hot and cold and dizzy. I call the out-of-hours doctors and they tell us to come in straightaway so I have a quick change, eat half a chapatti with curry and rush out the door with him. We get there at 6.45pm and as always, I don’t like paying for parking so I park on a side road. His blood pressure is fine but temperature is 40.4 degrees. We have been escalated to urgent and given paracetamol to try and get his temperature down. He’s been sick twice and can’t even sit straight. Looks like this will be a long night.

10pm: We have been sent to A&E because his temperature hasn’t come down at all. I really wish I’d brought my headphones and some snacks or at least money for the vending machine. I look through takeaways on Uber Eats and ask husband if he wants anything. At 11.10pm we are finally seen by a nurse and husband's temperature has come down to 38.2. Now we have to wait for a doctor.

12.40am: The doctor examined my husband and said that he has flu and gave him antibiotics. We can finally go home. I am so utterly shattered and have no idea how I will function at work tomorrow but will need to get through it somehow. Stupidly decide to have a shower before getting into bed at 1.50am. I’ll try and sleep for the little time I have.

Total: £3
Day Three

6.10am: Baby has woken up and thinks it's morning. I pick her up and run downstairs so as not to disturb my husband. This is going to be a hard day.

8.45am: Walk into work and get myself some cereal. Colleagues have stopped drinking my milk thank heavens, so I have enough for today and tomorrow and for coffees.

9.10am: Work is fairly quiet today. I make an appointment for my baby at the doctor's – the only time they can give me is 4pm. I ask on the family WhatsApp group if anyone is free to take her and within five minutes everyone tells me they're either working or ill. Request to go home at 3.15 and will make up the time next week.

11am: Shattered! I need to sleep so badly. I could fall asleep on my desk.

1pm: I meet my work friend P to have lunch – we tend to have lunch together every day unless one of us is off. Today she has sandwiches and I'm having a takeaway again – this time a chicken panini with fries and a Pepsi Max. We spend most of the time talking about clients that are killing us and colleagues we love (read: hate). £4.80

3.20pm: Take my daughter to the doctor's and they say she has the flu from my husband. The poor child hasn’t eaten or drunk anything all day except a few sips of water and is burning up. I take her to bed to have a small nap and she just slumps into my arms and falls asleep in seconds.

9.30pm: My husband wakes me up to come and have dinner and I realise how long I've been sleeping. At some point during our nap my husband took her from me and went downstairs but I was in such a deep sleep that I hadn’t noticed. We have curry and chapatti and then, because I never seem to feel full recently, I have some croissants and biscuits with tea.

10pm: My baby is running a really high temperature so I give her some Calpol and she looks drowsy. I take her back to bed and she’s asleep within 10 minutes with a bit of milk.

11.30pm: I feel like my hair is not washed properly so jump into a hot shower. I get into bed and read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini before going to sleep at 1.30am. I read The Kite Runner by the same author a few years ago and it absolutely captivated me and has stuck with me since so I’m really excited for this.

Total: £4.80
Day Four

6.45am: I wake up and start getting ready. I feel much more rested and refreshed today and decide that I really need to sort out my unhealthy eating habits.

9am: I got into work at 8.45 due to bad traffic and quickly grab some cereal before looking at my new mountain of emails. Today will be another busy day as Fridays usually are. 

10.45am: P tells me that she hasn’t brought lunch in which means we’ll both be eating out today. I did have a note in my diary to start Slimming World yesterday. There is a group near my workplace; it would take me two minutes to walk there but it starts at 5pm and I left work early yesterday so couldn’t go. I make a note to start next Thursday. I lost two stone before my wedding and straight afterwards I overindulged in everything. I wish I’d stuck to it as the crippling effect this weight gain is having on my confidence is horrible to deal with. 

12pm: I drop what I'm doing and make my way out of the building to get P for lunch. Decide to have jacket potato with cheese and beans today. We always eat in the office kitchen because it's warmer and means we can spend more time gossiping than walking. £3.50

7pm: I got home at 6.15pm and as soon as I walked through the door, F just clung onto me for life. Honestly, being a mother is such an amazing feeling, knowing that you are your baby's entire world. My mum made kebabs today so I eat two kebab burgers and then collapse on the sofa in a food coma with F.

10pm: T comes home at 10 and we decide to go to my sister's for tea and to give my baby some air. F plays with her cousins like she hasn’t been ill at all for the past few days. Me and my sisters discuss a day out of town to do some shopping.

12.30am: We got home and F was fast asleep so she went straight to bed. T watched some videos on his phone and I read more of my book.

Total: £3.50
Day Five 

9am: I am awoken by F trying to pull out some grey hairs I have. I've recently noticed that I'm getting a lot of greys, especially by my temples. I feel like this is triggered by stress but need to do a full Google search to find out the causes. 

10am: We were meant to go out for breakfast but F has been coughing and has a runny nose and Mum already made eggs and toast, so we decide to just eat at home. T leaves for work at 11am and me and the baby decide to have a lazy day at home. 

2pm: Have an hour nap with baby (I totally mess up my sleep schedule on weekends and regret it all on Monday). I wake up and decide to go and finally pick up the Debenhams and Matalan packages from my Boxing Day sale splurge.

5pm: I pick up my niece to take her with me because I don’t really like going into town on my own. We get there for 5.40pm and head to Debenhams to pick up the first package. We run back thinking that if we can do this in 15 minutes we won't have to pay for the car park. We still get charged. £3.50

7pm: We've got both the packages and pick up three chicken burger meals (£7.10) and head back to my sister's to eat before I go home. F’s first birthday is at the end of this month so I've been doing a lot of planning. I feel like if I do a big birthday for her first, then I won't need to be so extravagant until she's, like, 5 years old. My sister and I discuss plans.

10pm: I get home and showcase all my purchases to my family and we decide which two dresses F can wear to her party. There will be a main dress, which is all pink and sequins and bows, and a more relaxed, casual dress that she can get changed into later so as not to annoy her. I take her to bed at 10pm and she falls asleep almost instantly.

11.30pm: After reading my book and talking to T for ages, I have a shower. Then I feel like having a snack so have two pieces of toast with jam and a cup of tea before heading to bed at 1.30am.

Total: £10.60
Day Six

6.30am: My alarm goes off. I’m going up north today with my sisters to do some shopping so I am really excited. I quickly get dressed, put my makeup pouch in my handbag and decide that as it's cold I’ll wear my knee-high boots. At 7am I call my sisters to say that I’m making my way to them. Both are still getting ready, so I go through my emails and social media and end up leaving the house at 7.25am.

7.30am: Head to pick up my sisters.

8.20am: We drive to Bradford with a pit stop at the service station for coffees (£1.75 for my Greggs pasty) and have loads to talk about. I also get fuel. £32.20

11.15am: We arrive at the market we decided to visit first and it is massive. We're going to need hours to get through all of this. I buy myself two cardigans (£10 each), sweets (£2.73), tights for my daughter (£6) and a dress for me (£5). Total is £33.73.

2.05pm: We are FROZEN in these outdoor markets so walk to the car and go to the nearest McDonald’s to warm up. Sisters buy the coffees. 

2.20pm: Next shop and I find a really nice shirt for my husband for £25. I’ve done really well with my spending today, considering my sisters have spent well over £300 already. The shop we are in has music on and I think my coffee is getting to me so I dance around while my sisters shop.

3.45pm: We arrive at my sister-in-law's who has made a full three-course meal for us. We dig into roast potatoes and chicken wings, chicken biryani, chicken curry with chapattis and chocolate fudge cake with tea. After eating we stay for an hour to chat and catch up.

6.10pm: We say our goodbyes and leave to go to my second sister-in-law's in Leeds. We thought that seeing as we have come this far anyway we may as well make the most of it. She makes us some tea and we catch up about life and kids before leaving at 8.15 to go back to Birmingham.

10.25pm: We get into Birmingham and decide to have a takeaway before going home so we pop to our local chip shop for chicken and chips. Again, my sisters pay as I drove.

11.35pm: Finally get home. I haven’t seen F for the entire day and miss her loads but don’t want to disturb her sleep. We all showcase our purchases to the family before I drop them home while my husband makes me tea. I get to bed at 12.30am.

Total: £90.93
Day Seven

6.30am: Wake up and for some odd reason I’m excited that it’s Monday and I’m going to work. I get dressed and do my makeup, then baby wakes up so I give her a feed and nappy change and then cuddle her and stay in bed until she falls back to sleep. Leave the house at 7.40am and start my drive to work. Get to the car park for 8.30am and see my paralegal so we walk in together while discussing our weekends. 

11am: The morning has just flown past. I had my cereal before starting work at 9am and then delegated a lot of work to my paralegal so that I can concentrate on more pressing matters. I’ve also had to see a client this morning who has dropped in without an appointment. She’s going on a cruise for a month so is trying to get as much in order as she can for the sale of her property and the new one she is buying. She is a lovely lady but it would save a lot of time if she just called me rather than coming to the office. 

12pm: Me and P go to lunch. I decide to have three chicken strips with fries and a diet Pepsi and we spend the next hour talking about our weekends and work. £3.80

4pm: T has called to say that we will be going to his sister's for dinner today because she needs some legal advice. Since I began studying law, all my family, relatives and friends have turned to me for advice on everything that requires paperwork and honestly I am happy to be there for them to turn to. 

7.15pm: I left work at 5.15 and drove home. I had until 6.45pm to get myself and F ready. T got home at 7pm and we got to his sister's at 7.15pm. She made loads of food so we just dig in. Afterwards she and her husband talk to me about selling and purchasing properties and businesses. 

10.30pm: Me and T dropped F home to my mum as she’d fallen asleep in the car and we go to Asda. I need all F’s snacks and food and need to do a house shop for fruit and milk and other food. F is still on baby formula miIk which is £13 for two boxes; I need at least four to get through two weeks. I also get some green tea and snacks for work. £72.88

Total: £76.68
The Breakdown

Food/Drink: £114.36
Clothes/Beauty: £56
Entertainment: £0
Travel: £32.20
Other: £3.50

Total: £206.06


"I’ve realised how much I eat out. I didn’t realise it was this bad. I also spend a lot of my money on food and hadn’t really thought this was a problem before. I really do need to make more food from home and use my weekends to do this. This week has been filled with my baby and husband being ill so we haven’t been out much but even so I’ve managed to have takeout most days. This week has taught me that spending a few pounds a day doesn’t seem much initially but does add up, and if you want to save the pounds it's important to watch the pennies."

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