Each week we take a look at a different person’s financial habits for our series, How I Save.
We’re hoping that by tracking and sharing how much people really spend and save in the space of a week, we’ll open up the conversation around the taboo topic of money – and make it easier to admit that most of us have no clue what we’re doing.
Last week we followed a 25-year-old copywriter in London with £18,000 saved.
This time around we’re nosing around the outgoings of Sage*, an industrial chemist living in Liverpool.
How Sage saves:
I earn £24,500 a year as a basic salary, not including overtime. Probably around £28,000 including overtime.
In my savings account right now I have £7,256.
I’ve saved this much money by working quite a lot of extra hours and being quite sensible with money.
I’m saving to get some work done on my house, as I need a new roof, porch and driveway. I also like to set money aside for holidays.
The main way I save is by working overtime, doing my weekly shop in Aldi (such a bargain!) and I’m a vegetarian, so my food expenditure is comparatively low. Each payday I also put a few hundred pounds into my ISA, which is my savings account. Any money in my current account covers bills and any extra spends.
I sometimes struggle with saving because I have a busy social life, so I’m paying for meals out and driving to different places.
Also owning my own house, there are always things that need buying, like new appliances etc.
How Sage spends:
My monthly expenses are approximately £1,000, including my mortgage, council tax, utility bills, internet, phone and gym membership.
A week of spending:
Monday: I’m lucky in a way that this is my week of 12 hour days, so any extra expenses shouldn’t be too high, as I don’t get much of a life when I’m working 12 hours! Although today is the day that my mortgage leaves my bank account, so goodbye, £643.
My day starts at 3:30am, when I throw back a protein shake before I head to the gym. I make my protein shake at home to prevent me from being tempted by the grenade ones that they have in the gym vending machines, which are super tasty but super expensive. I also buy my protein powder from Home Bargains (they do the proper brands for so cheap, I can’t recommend this shop enough).
After the gym, I head straight to work – all of my commute is my car. The total distance from my house to work (including the gym which is on the way) is about 8 miles, so I spend £20 of petrol every two weeks. But as I topped up my tank last week, I’m still good to go as I’ve got nearly half a tank left.
I work on an industrial estate with no shops near (apart from a garage with a shop) so I bring my own breakfast and lunch.
I finish work and go straight to Aldi for my weekly shop as I didn’t get a chance to go over the weekend, which is when I would usually go. I buy two pizzas (67p each),to stock up my freezer, mushrooms (87p), a bag of spinach, watercress and rocket (58p) and a box of Bakewell slices for my Dad, who has been helping me do some work on my house, so he can have a treat with his cups of tea. Total spend is £3.58.
My advantage is with me not eating meat, it saves me a fortune. I usually bulk buy my Quorn from Tesco once a month to stock up my freezer and spend about £20
My weekly shop usually varies from £3 to £12 depending on the week, if I need to stock up on things.
Today is also the day that my mobile phone bill is paid which is £10. Although, this is the last time it will be this cheap as I have just bought a new phone, so from now on, my bill will be £43.
Total spent on Monday (excluding mortgage): £13.58
Tuesday: I thought that today would be a no-spend day, seeing as I meal prepped for work. Another homemade protein shake before work, and then my fruit and granola for at work.
Then my friend sent me a WhatsApp reminding me that the final balance for our trip to Disneyland Paris in June was due, so I sent her £477.60. At least that’s off my mind now!
There were no other spends today, I cooked my dinner at home wanting an early night seen as I am up super early all work.
Total spent on Tuesday: £477.60
Wednesday: Another day that I thought was going to be a no-spend day! Again, I went to the gym on my way to work and had my fruit and granola from home, and I cooked my own meal at home in the evening.
However, I checked my bank account and my internet payment had gone out which is £22.50, but all in all not a bad day spending wise.
Total spent on Wednesday: £22.50
Thursday: Usual routine again today, except that I finished work a bit early to attend a hospital appointment and ended up spending £3 on parking.
But definitely not a bad day spending – it is making up for my big spending earlier in the week!
Total spent on Thursday: £3
Friday: Finally, a complete no spending day today….hooray!
I did my usual routine of the gym before work, all with my homemade protein shake and meal prepped, before heading home. Despite being run off my feet all week at work (it has been a crazy busy one, and I’ve been in the lab on my own for most of it), I have managed to resist running to the shops to stock up on any sweet treats. The fact that I have given up chocolate for Lent has definitely helped me resist.
I also got stuck in terrible traffic on my way home from work which is very unusual, so I could see my car guzzling the petrol. I don’t need to top it up just yet, but probably will need to get some petrol at the start of next week.
Total spent on Friday: £0
Saturday: I was in work on overtime today, from 6am until 2pm. No gym for me today, as a girl has got to rest!
We didn’t order any breakfast to be delivered which is good, as this is often what happens on a Saturday, so I saved myself a bit of money there.
Once I finished work, I headed to the library as I had to return some books (I rarely buy books these days, now I live within walking distance of a pretty good library) and then to Aldi to do my weekly shop. It was a much bigger expense this time than earlier in the week, as I needed to buy laundry detergent, and to top up my herbs and spices. These extra items will last me ages though. Total spend was £12.15, which still is pretty good for a weekly shop.
Total spent on Saturday: £12.15
Sunday: My mum came to visit me today, so I took her out for breakfast seeing as my Dad was working, which cost £20 (they only live about a 15 minute drive away).
We then spend the rest of the day putting together some flat-pack furniture for in my guest room to maximise my storage space. I then did some housework and cooked us both dinner, so another small spend day!
Total spent on Sunday: £20
Total spent this week: £548.83
How Sage could save:
We spoke to the experts over at Plum, an AI assistant that aims to boost your bank balance, to find out how Sage can save better (and what we can learn from her spending).
Here’s what they said:
Hey Sage, thanks for sharing your week with us!
You’ve reached some major money milestones already through buying a house and building up a nice chunk of savings for emergencies.
As a next step, it would be great to see you bringing a bit of law ‘n’ order into your financial lifestyle. Nothing major, but it looks like a more structured approach to your finances would do a lot to make you feel more content about your saving and spending.
Let’s take a closer look!
Your monthly outgoings are high relative to your salary, so it’s impressive that you’ve built up a sizable stash for the future. When it comes to setting aside a substantial amount each month, you’re smashing it!
There are a few little tips and tricks we’d recommend to ensure saving still happens, however busy your social life gets.
First, sign up with an app like Plum that stashes away small amounts every few days. This way, you’ll carry on saving and still feel like you’ve got enough for a big night out! You can change your saving mood to Shy, if it’s an expensive month and you only want to put aside a little. Or alternatively, when you’re feeling flush with cash, you can go all out on Beast Mode. And you can also split your savings into separate Pockets, like one for your trip to Disney, and another for less exciting things like new appliances.
You put away a few hundred pounds each month into an ISA which is a great way to make sure your savings grow.
Alternatively, for your long-term savings, you could look at investing some of this in stocks and shares. This is a good strategy if you don’t need immediate access to cash, as with investing, your money is vulnerable to fluctuations in the market and you need to be able to ride out the storm if there are any temporary downturns.
The safest approach is to diversify, or splitting your money between a few different saving products.
Another good way to save a bit extra (which could even mean you don’t have to take on extra shifts) is by switching your bills to better deals. You can do this automatically through apps like Plum or by searching on price comparison websites. We estimate that the average person could save £417 a year just through bill switching, which is pretty amazing!
The first thing to point out is you are AMAZINGLY frugal. That weekly shop estimate is very low, so it’s hard to recommend places where you could be spending less.
What you could do instead to free up a bit of your guilt about spending is to do a monthly budget. A little bit of organisation would go a long way to reassure yourself, as you’re spending a lot of energy worrying that you’re spending too much (when in fact, it looks like for the most part you stay absolutely on track!).
You shouldn’t need to worry about paying for your internet bill or petrol so you can get to work – this can be budgeted into your essential monthly payments at the start of the month. You can plan in advance for your regular payments (i.e. bills) and even one-off expenses, like that holiday you’ve got planned.
Technology is a great one for automating what can feel like a boring task. See if your bank has a budgeting tool in their app or split your money using Plum into separate Pockets.