How I Save: The 23-year-old marketing manager who earns £35k but has £300 saved

You’re not alone if saving up money feels impossible.

Whether you’re stashing money for a deposit on a house, a holiday, or for the looming threat of an unexpected emergency, it can be tough to rein in your spending and put cash away.

It’s even tougher when you feel completely overwhelmed by the concept of budgeting, having had no financial education of any sort (oh, hey, that’s most of us).

To get a bigger conversation going around personal finance, we take a look inside a different person’s spending and saving each week for our series, How I Save.

After looking at how they use their money, we get some expert advice on how they can save better, and how we can learn from where they’re going wrong.

This week we’re going inside the bank accounts of Bianca (not her real name), a junior marketing manager living in London.

How Bianca saves:

I earn £35,000 a year. Less than a year ago I was earning £20,000, but thanks to a promotion and a new job I finally feel like I can live somewhat comfortably and save every month.

In my savings account right now I have around £300. It hurts to look at.

I recently had to buy a car for my new commute which is why I am left with almost nothing.  I live in London but work in Surrey, which means I commute an hour each way by car every day.

I’m saving to have money ‘just in case’. I do like to set aside money for holidays but don’t have any coming up at the moment.

The main way I save is by trying not to touch the money on by bank account after I’ve paid for my rent and bill’s and transferred living expenses to my Monzo account.

My boyfriend and I have a joint account that we use to pay for rent, bills, food that we cook at the flat or any meals we have throughout the month. This is around £950 but somehow, we always end up needing to add more (our rent is £1,400 total plus bills).

Then I transfer £350 to my Monzo card for canteen lunches, petrol, and any other extra expenses I might have like clothes, makeup etc.

Up until now, I struggled with saving because my salary was too low to allow me to save.

Now that I have some spare money at the end of the month, I need to be wise with money. I don’t consider myself a big spender and I barely go out so save on that, but I can’t help feeling guilty when I buy clothes (my guilty pleasure), makeup or something for the house.

How Bianca spends:

Monthly expenses:

  • £700 rent,
  • around £100 bills
  • £120 petrol
  • £53 phone bill

A week of spending:

Monday: I budget for £90-£100 maximum each week, but this changes massively from week to week.

I normally eat breakfast and lunch from my work canteen because it’s really cheap (breakfast is around £1 and lunch £3). I top up my card every two weeks with £40. I had topped up last week so didn’t have to this week.

Bought some groceries at Lidl for the week (£15) using our joint account

Tuesday: Breakfast and lunch at canteen, around £4. Booked a pilates class for Sunday morning (£20). I usually go to pilates once every week or every second week.

Wednesday: Breakfast and lunch at canteen, £4. Picked up a few groceries from Lidl for £10 and paid with joint account.

Thursday: I didn’t drive to work today, a one-way train ticket to Surrey was £11. I had a work meeting in the afternoon so they covered by travel back to London

Friday: I work from home on Fridays but had to go to the hospital in the morning (£7 for tube). I ordered takeaway for lunch for £10. It was the first time I did in months!

Saturday: Spent the day with family in central London and they were nice enough to pay for the meals, so only spent £7 on the tube and £2.50 for an olive bread stick.

Sunday: Spent £51 to fill up the car’s petrol tank. I do this twice a month and it covers transport to Surrey and back for the four days a week I drive to work.

Total spent this week: £145.50

How Bianca could save:

We spoke to the experts over at money tracking app Cleo to find out how Bianca could save better.

Note: the advice featured is specific to one individual and doesn’t constitute financial advice. Especially on a London budget.

Main vice:

At £20 under your own weekly budget, and £17.50 under your joint budget, I’m pretty sure it’s not you overspending on the joint card. Not that I’m pointing fingers, but I definitely am. It’s your partner. Tell them I said so.

Get a financial tracking app on the case to bring home this argument with glorious, statistical proof.

Where you’re going wrong:

The reverse commute is an unusual tactic for saving money, but even that isn’t throwing you off budget. You’re killing it (while simultaneously taking a lot of guilt for no reason)

Your idea of a splurge is a bread stick, you absolutely do not get to feel any shame.

A flaw in moving £350 to your Monzo card each month is you’ve only got £150 mentally to work with. £200 of that is already accounted for in your petrol and canteen budget.

You’re such a consistent spender that you can basically knock off 80% of your spends as predictable. Lets make the official move to calling these bills and cut the middle man.

Because you’ve not moving your savings out of your main account, every pound you spend on your card mentally cuts into your potentially saving. This has clearly worked for you, but you’re making yourself feel shit for no reason.

Let’s set aside some fun money and stop referring to clothes and things you enjoy as expenses.

Budget plan:

For this I’m ignoring the £950 loaded onto your joint card. Ready?

Safe to budget: £350 a month

These are your bills (and fake bills: aka your gorgeously consistent spends). Phone, petrol, lunches, fitness classes all land here (of which I’ve factored in three a week). Let this money hang out in your main account

Safe to spend: £100 a month/ £25 a month

A cushion for expenses, emergency tubes & unexpected costs

Safe to burn: £300 a month/ £70 a week / £10 a day

Get out the orange party card! You may only use this with reckless abandon. Snacks. Clothes. Tiny baskets for your house. Midweek takeouts, you name it.

Basically: stop paying for your regular payments with this card – as you clearly don’t need help tracking these. If this feels too much, or you find you’ve got leftovers, put it back in your main account to boost your cushion.

Safe to save: £500 a month

Move somewhere high interest as soon as your paycheck comes in and attempt not to touch until you’ve got a saving goal in mind.

Go have fun, you’ve earned it.

How I Save is a weekly series about how people spend and save, out every Thursday. If you’d like to anonymously share how you spend and save – and get some expert advice on how to sort out your finances – get in touch by emailing [email protected].

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