How I Save: The PR exec in Clapham spending on deliveries of food and cocaine
Attention, fans of nosing around other people’s finances: How I Save is back.
For those not in the know, How I Save is a weekly series that tracks a person’s spending for a week, looks at their saving habits, then gets them some expert advice on how they can save and spend better (although often just tracking their outgoings for a week helps them sort out their finances).
It’s always anonymous, because people can get judgey about money.
This week we have a special lockdown edition of How I Save, looking at how the coronavirus pandemic has affected Amber*’s money situation.
Amber is a 26-year-old working in PR and living in Clapham. Here’s how she saves and spends.
How Amber saves:
I earn £37,500 a year and in my savings account right now I have £1,192.
I only have this much money saved because we’ve just had payday. I move over £500 each month when I get paid but end up taking it back out because I hit my overdraft.
I’d like to buy a house one day, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.
I don’t really save. I try to put money away on payday and have tried sticking to budgets, but they always go wrong. I think I go too strict, where I’ll give myself a tight food budget then end up buying takeout because I haven’t got enough food.
I thought I would save loads of money in lockdown but it’s been the opposite. I’ve ended up spending so much money on gin to drink at home, loads of food, and stupid stuff I don’t need.
How Amber spends:
A week of spending:
Monday: £39 goes on Etsy for some nice candles for my room, then £24.95 for some earl grey gin that looked nice.
I do my big food shop today. I’m having to go to a Sainsbury’s local instead of the Aldi, so it’s been more expensive – £42.48.
I end up doing an Indian order-in for £24.59 – but that’s enough for my lunch tomorrow, too. I’m working from home so haven’t been buying my usual Pret sandwiches.
Total spent on Monday: £131.02
Tuesday: My bra has had its underwire poking out for ages, so I buy some new bras and underwear from M&S – total spent comes to £69. I’ve also just spotted a mystery Apple bill for £6.49 – I’m not sure what that is.
Total spent on Tuesday: £75.49
Wednesday: I got out £150 cash so I could get some coke. I would have just done £50 but I messaged my dealer and he said it was only worth coming round if I got more than a couple of grams. I don’t know why I did this, honestly. I would only normally pick up if there’s a big night out. I think I just wanted to see if I could pick up in lockdown and thought if I got a lot, it would last me for the rest of the month.
He delivered it wearing gloves and a mask.
Total spent on Wednesday: £150.
Thursday: I didn’t spend any money today, just ate what I picked up earlier in the week.
Total spent on Thursday: £0
Friday: I know I have a pile of books to read but I still go on Waterstones and order more, along with a jigsaw puzzle, because that’s what you’re supposed to do in lockdown. £39.72.
I get pizza for a tenner, which I think is pretty good.
Total spent on Friday: £49.72
Saturday: I went to the park and on the way got a takeaway pint for £6 – mostly for the novelty of it. I get a £1.30 99 cone when I see the ice cream van, because that was exciting.
Total spent on Saturday: £7.30
Sunday: Had a no-spend day until the evening Zoom quiz, when I realised I didn’t have any tonic water for my gin. I ordered some through an UberEats off-licence, along with some packs of crisps to avoid the small order fee – it comes to £16.58.
Total spent on Sunday: £16.58
Total spent this week: £430.11
How Amber could save:
We spoke to the experts over at Plum, the smart app for managing your money to find out how Amber can save better (and what we can learn from her spending).
Here’s what they said:
Hey, Amber, thanks for sharing your week in lockdown with us!
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging and surreal time which has had a big impact on all our finances in some way. Many people are on a reduced salary or have lost their jobs due to the lockdown. Others, who are able to safely work from home, may have found their spending has dropped and they’ve been able to put aside more than they expected.
Thanks to this reduction in spending, at Plum we’ve seen the amount of savings go up by 5x since the beginning of the year. But the pandemic has affected everyone differently.
Let’s take a closer look at how you’ve been getting on…
We talk a lot here at Plum about intention vs action. From your diary, it does sound like you have good intentions when it comes to saving, which is a good place to start.
But actions speak louder than words. If your saving strategy means you end the month hitting your overdraft, it’s frankly not working for you. Stop torturing yourself and find something that actually does the job so you can start smashing those financial goals.
We’re going to let you into a secret. You don’t actually need discipline to start building up a savings pot! Plum links directly to your bank account and stashes away small amounts when you can afford it. We use an algorithm to make sure you’re saving, which we’ve proven is much more effective than human willpower alone. Money is stashed away in your Plum account so you’re less likely to spend it.
Our next suggestion would be to start smaller when it comes to your goals. A house deposit is a noble aim for sure. But we’re sensing this probably isn’t your top priority right now, and that’s evident in the lack of dedication to it that you’re currently demonstrating. So find a smaller target that actually means something to you. An emergency fund is a good place to start, or maybe something more fun like a holiday. Once you’ve got into the habit of saving, the sky will be your limit, we promise!
It’s not been an easy few months for anyone. So although you haven’t saved as much in lockdown as you hoped, we sense that you may be spending to retain a sense of normality, which is completely understandable.
What is harder to understand are the spontaneous purchases… £16.58 on tonic water and crisps is a lot, by anyone’s standards! And the less said about the £150 you spent on a delivery of illegal drugs during a global pandemic, the better.
Regardless of whether these purchases bring meaningful value to your life, cutting them out would certainly make a big impact on your ability to curb spending.
It’s never too late to build some positive habits around money, if you really want to improve. A good place to start would be understanding your spending habits a bit better. Plum’s Diagnostics tool can compare your spending to others in a similar financial bracket, so you can clearly see where you’re spending more or less.
A realistic budget will help you to get a handle on the wild spending too. It doesn’t need to be overly strict, but you need to separate out your ‘fun’ money from everyday expenses at least. That way you can indulge your spontaneous side without going too extreme.
Every day is a new day, and with a good salary and no outstanding debt you’re in a strong position to start building a better financial future for yourself. But it won’t happen by magic. You’re going to have to really want it to translate that desire into tangible actions!