Pay-Day Diary: A Journalist Living in London On £27,000

What do young men spend their money on? Turns out: Lucozade, McDonald's and cocaine.
August 17, 2018, 8:15am
Illustration: Eliot Wyatt

Generally, young men are not good with money. Recall, for example, your male friend who manages to sustain a lowkey coke habit but comes begging for a bag of plain rice nine days before every payday, so that he might continue to live. Or your other male friend who "budgets" by exclusively eating Tesco coleslaw, then blows all his savings on a £540 pair of headphones.

In the grand tradition of other Money Diaries – shout out Refinery29, Man Repeller, i paper, etc – we've asked some guys to track their spending over the course of the week after payday, to see how bad their spending habits really are.


I'm a 26-year-old journalist living in south-east London. Not really sure what happened in the past year, except our landlord sold the house we'd been living in for the past three years, my housemates moved in with their girlfriends and I've been left to surf through London's dire renting system.

My family are broke, so they're not going to help me, and now I'm broke as fuck too, from moving house two more times and also from trying to lose my mind at every possible opportunity – you know, to forget about all the debt/stress in my life. Which is obviously the dumbest thing you can do and leaves me more anxious than I started. So now I'm fixing shit and trying to save. No more expensive depression-numbing lunches, weeknight seshes or hollow impulse buys. This is the first week.


What do I do? Journalism
How old am I? 26
Where do I live? London
What is my salary? £27,000
How much do I take home each month? £1,750
How many housemates do I have? Uh… I live in a guardianship, so 35?

Monthly Expenses

Rent: £600
Travel: £131
Netflix and Spotify: £18
Gym: £25
Phone: £15 (but usually ends up being ~£30 because of data)
Savings: Lol. Minus £550 in one bank account, minus £300 in another, £2,000 worth of debt to pay off, plus all the usual uni fee stuff that I'm guessing just gets cleared when you never pay it back?

Photo: Pixabay / CC0

Day One: Sunday

12:50PM: Wake up and walk to a superstore Lidl for a weekly shop (it's two miles away, but I'm trying to save money). Grab a bottle of water for the road. 70p

2:00PM: Get overwhelmed in the Sunday rush and leave with loads of items, none of which actually combine to make any kind of edible meal? Still: I do have a multipack of sweet & salted popcorn :) £14

5:20PM: Grab one (one!) big beer and have it by myself (alone!) in the park while reading a book £2.00

8:20PM: I've left my e-cigarette at a friend's house, but I'm also watching Wolf of Wall Street, which means I immediately want to smoke a double-deck of cigarettes and order some blow. I go for the fags instead and order the cheapest pack in the hope it'll make me want to quit smoking even more. £7.80

Total: £24.50

Day Two: Monday

9AM: Bought a bike last week so I can cycle to work and save money, but I'm feeling too mentally disassociated this morning to consider curb-side death, get the tube instead. £2.90

9:35AM: CBD oil is great, and they sell it in Holland & Barrett, and I've run out, and I'm stressed, and it's on offer. I get two for the price of one. Gwyneth Paltrow me the fuck up, please! £30


9:45AM: Ughhhh, ffs. Felt too shitty this morning to remember to bring any of yesterday's shop to work, so grab some more bits in Tesco. £4

7PM: Tube home. £2.40

7:45PM: Pick up some baby spinach and a beer, but have a single fishcake (sans spinach) for dinner instead? Later my housemates are drinking red wine and talking about credit card debt. One of them is £14,000 in the hole. Suddenly my (£2,000 debt) life feels like it's been blessed from above. £2.95

Total: £38.25

Photo: Kim Holger Kelting / CC By 4.0

Day Three: Tuesday

9:15AM: Wow, what the fuck is this red wine hangover? I decide to move my debut bike to work until tomorrow and get the tube again. £2.90

9:50AM: Sweet, sweet Lucozade Orange. Thank you. The god nectar. £1.25

6:45PM: So, I've just moved onto what seemed like a quiet road, but is actually the road THE GARBAGE TRUCKS TAKE EVERY SINGLE MORNING. There are also two 24-hour bus stops, a business school for adults, roadworks – basically a load of noise pollution that wakes me on average five times every night and makes me angry at the invention of petrol every single morning. It's time for ear plugs. £2.79

7:00PM: Tube. £2.40

7:45PM: I'm not stressed anymore, but two more beers won't hurt, just to ease back into life, right? I think this is called habit forming. I allow myself this before entering tomorrow's new world. £3.90

Total: £13.24

Day Four: Wednesday

9:25AM: I've cycled 45 minutes into work, arrived half an hour early and showered. I feel like I could take on the world, fuck with me. I love being healthy. I should do this more often. I get a Lucozade Orange because my mind is still like a child's and relies on feeding reward centres. £1.25

3:15PM: Someone on my desk passes around a pack of Tangfastics, but by the time it reaches me there is one lone cherry left. This is not enough. I crave sugar, now. My body needs it. Go to the shop and get a Kinder Bueno (in no way a substitute?) and Jelly Tots (average). £1.65


7:00PM: It's still nice out so I grab a large Fanta from McDonalds and sit by the river reading a book. £1.39

7:45PM: O̶h̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶Bo̶n̶j̶e̶l̶a̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶h̶u̶g̶e̶ ̶u̶l̶c̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶v̶e̶r̶y̶ ̶d̶e̶p̶t̶h̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶l̶i̶p̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶h̶u̶r̶t̶s̶ ̶w̶h̶e̶n̶ ̶I̶ ̶t̶a̶l̶k̶.̶ £4.50

Total: £8.74

Photo: Pixabay / CC0

Day Five: Thursday

9AM: Thanks to the wishes of people who can't deal with the heat of the Central Line, summer has ended for a day and it's raining. Not biking in this. I really need to stop spending money on the train, though, so I think about bunking it – I get the DLR and can jump off at Shadwell, but it's also raining too much to walk from there. £2.90

9:45AM: Better get my Vitamin C up… grab some orange juice. £1.25

7PM: Bunk train home, then eat a pizza I've been saving for a rainy day like today. Feel like being a complete sloth in this weather, so go out to buy snacks. Return with a bag of minstrels and some Waitrose health water thing to balance everything out. £3.85

Total: £8

Day Six: Friday

9AM: It's Friday and the fruit and yoghurt I brought to work for breakfast has run out, so I treat myself to a chocolate croissant and another Lucozade Orange. Also get train for free again. £3

1PM: Shouldn't really be spending any more money, but haven't had a haircut in two months so this feels necessary. #selfcare. £30

7PM: Get McDonald's for dinner as a sad treat because I'm not going out. £4.49


9:25PM: Pick up some more health water to counteract the McDonald's and get my daily dose of Zinc and Vitamins. £2.85

Total: £40.34

Day Seven: Saturday

11:25AM: I wake up early (8AM) and walk from my place in Greenwich through Canary Wharf and out the other side into Limehouse. Domino's are doing a lunch special – a small pizza for £1.99. I haven't eaten yet. I'm an adult so there are no rules. I eat pizza for breakfast. £1.99

12PM: Get a bus from St Paul's to Covent Garden, where I buy a large Fanta Orange from McDonald's to drink in the cinema (which I don't pay for because I have a yearly Limitless pass for Odeon). £2.99

3PM: DLR back home. There are inspectors at the other side, so it's good I have tapped in. £2.40

7PM: Split a gram of coke at a friend's barbecue. £30

3AM: Split another gram of coke at a friend's barbecue. £20

4:15AM: Uber home. £8.18

Total: £65.56