My Take on the Refinery29 Money Diary Series: Week 1

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I'm not going to lie, I love the Refinery29 money diary series, so I thought I’d take a page out of their book and do my own!

Since I’m now only living on my PhD stipend and savings, I’ve recently taken a more active approach to budgeting and saving money where I can. I tend to take a monthly view of my finances, so I’m excited to go through and see where my money goes each week.

I must say, I'm a bit nervous about how much I spend and it feels a bit weird to be so transparent with my finances on the internet (normally, if you do a Refinery29 Money Diary it's anonymised) but, hey ho.

About Me

Editorial credit: ADragan / Shutterstock.

Job: PhD student

Industry: Computer science

Location: London

Monthly take-home: £1,607

Additionally, I’m currently taking about £200 per month from my savings to cover extra expenses.

Monthly Expenses

Rent: £875 per month

Savings: In the years I worked before going back to university for my PhD, I put away a good chunk of money for emergencies (about a years’ worth of expenses) and investments. Given my tight budget, I'm not currently putting more money into savings.

Gas and electricity: Approximately £27 per month.

Water: £11 per month, paid annually.

Spotify: £4.99 per month student premium account.

Internet: £7.25 per month

Council tax: None (student!)

Phone: £20 every few months (I have pay as you go and it’s super cheap. Since I don't pay it every month, I'm not counting it towards my monthly total)

Streaming services: I use my parents’ accounts still (thanks, guys!)

Amazon Prime: £3.99 student membership per month

Gym: £25.99 per month

Cleaner: £24 per month

Total: £979.22

Day One

8:30 am: Wake up slowly. L (my partner) and I are meant to go to the gym, but he agrees to put it off until the afternoon. Instead, we get ready for the day while he makes us some coffee.

9:00 am: Get down to work (in the living room) with L. Since I’m still on holiday after a big PhD deadline, I’m focusing primarily on this blog. Primarily working on writing and revamping my design today. Drink my coffee.

12:00 pm: I’m getting hungry, so I go to the kitchen to make some lunch. Today it’s one of my favourite comfort foods: pasta with a vegan cheesy sauce I make using nutritional yeast and vegan butter. During my lunch, I watch an old episode of the Simpsons on Disney +.

1:00 pm: Back to work. Do more work on the blog. This afternoon, I’m focusing on Pinterest.  

4:00 pm: Receive an email telling me I officially passed the first year of my PhD and my funding has been renewed! Excitedly text my parents and my best friend. Dad calls to congratulate me and we talk for a few minutes.

4:30 pm: L wants to take me out for a celebratory drink down the road. He has also just submitted a paper to a conference so we’re both celebrating. In the end, we have a few more drinks than we planned. We split it: £29.37 each.

7:00 pm: We’re hungry, so we head to Waitrose to get some pizzas to eat. Mine is £4.99 which is a bit expensive, but it’s tasty. L pays for the pizzas. We also pick up some more drinks from Tesco for £10.00 and harass our flatmate into drinking with us. We eat our pizza and continue drinking in the living room.

10:00 pm: Have a snack and get ready for bed. Watch a couple of episodes of Parks & Rec before we fall asleep.

My monthly Spotify subscription also came out of my account this month, but I’ve included that above so I’m not counting it here.

Total: £39.37

Day Two

9:00 am: We sleep in a little bit and we’re a little bit hungover. Very slowly get out of bed and make ourselves some coffee.

10:00 am: It takes us a bit longer than usual to get down to business today. Do some more blogging in the living room.

12:00 pm: Make myself some lunch and lounge on the couch watching some tv.

1:00 pm: Do some more writing and promotion and tweaking things for the blog. My friends and I buy a group gift for our friend’s birthday which is this weekend (£35 each).

5:30 pm: Stop work for the night. Have a snack with L, hang out and watch some Parks & Rec.

7:30 pm: Two of my friends come over for dinner and drinks. We order takeaway (£37.98, I pay for L and I). My friends bring around some home-spiced rum and wine which we drink.

12:00 am: They leave rather late. L & I get ready for bed, watch some Bob’s Burgers and go to sleep.

Total: £72.98

Day Three

9:00 am: We sleep in a little bit again since we went to bed so late. Luckily, we’re not hungover. We get up, get ready, and start working.

12:00 pm: I eat lunch. I’m feeling pretty anxious so I’m not getting much work done. In the end, decide to take a nap to ease the anxiety. Cancel my dinner plans with my friends.

3:00 pm: Wake up from my long nap and do a little bit more work.

5:00 pm: Stop doing work. Go to Tesco to get dinner materials (£8.00). Spend the rest of the evening relaxing with L.

Total: £8.00

Day Four

9:00 am: Wake up and am feeling a lot better. Get down to work more quickly than the past couple of days. L ends up going to the gym, but I stay home to work (it’s my week off so I’m giving myself some extra leeway).

12:00 pm: Lunch time. Then it’s back to work. I have a lot to catch up on after a couple of lacklustre work days.

5:30 pm: L is out for the evening and I decide to have a bit of a self-care night. I end up getting takeaway again for £12.49, but feel less bad about it since I usually get three meals out of one main from this particular place (seriously, this Ethiopian place has MASSIVE portions).

Afterwards, I watch tv with my flatmate. Ultimately, I end up staying up until L gets home (almost 1am!) and then we go to bed.

Total: £12.49

Day Five

9:00 am: Our alarm goes off and we find out that the cleaner is going to be 3 hours late. Since we have some time, we spend a little more time in bed before getting to work.

12:00 pm: I head to the post office to get a card for my friend’s birthday (£2.95).

12:30 pm: The cleaner arrives. I continue doing work but try to stay out of her way. Receive some stressful messages from our landlady and deal with that for about an hour.

4:30 pm: The cleaner is finished and L and I decide to take the rest of the day off. Grab a beer, make dinner, and do some painting / watch tv for the rest of the evening.

Total: £2.95

Day Six

11:00 am: Somehow, we sleep in SUPER late. I guess we needed it. Get up and make coffee and do a little bit of work to make up for some of the lost time earlier in the week.

3:30 pm: Stop work and hang out slash start getting ready to go out since we’re bored. I also upgrade my iCloud subscription (finally) and pay £0.79 for extra storage.

6:00 pm: Head out to the birthday dinner. Have a lovely time catching up with friends. Dinner is £24.25 each and L pays for drinks after. Transport costs £4.80.

11:00 pm: Head home, hang out a bit and go to bed.

Total: £29.84

Day Seven

10:00 am: Wake up and have a leisurely morning.

We decide to have a bit of a duvet day and watch Harry Potter movies.

We make all our meals at home today, but go to Tesco to get some snacks in the evening (£6.90).

Total: £6.90

Weekly Breakdown

After going through each day individually, the Refinery29 Money Diary goes through a weekly categorial spending breakdown. Here's mine:

Food & Drink: £128.99

Entertainment: None

Shopping: £37.95

Transportation: £4.80

Other: £0.79

Total: £172.53


Every Refinery29 Money Diary entry seems to end with a conclusion/reflection section, so here goes nothing!

This week was slightly unusual for me (definitely drank more nights than normal!) because I wasn’t doing any PhD work. I also went out to eat way more than usual now that I’m starting to feel more comfortable leaving the house again. Furthermore, I don’t buy gifts for friends every week. It was unsurprising to me that I spend basically all of my money on food as that’s what makes me happiest. In terms of splitting things with L, I think I paid for a bit more this week, but it generally evens out over time between us so we don’t keep track of it exactly.

Minus my monthly expenses, my stipend allows me £141.76 every 7 days. I’ve budgeted about an extra £200 per month from my savings, which gives me £45.16 every 7 days, so I’m still within my monthly budget. Obviously, the less I take from my savings the better but, especially for this being an expensive week, I’m pretty happy with my weekly spending.

Want to know how I budget? Check out this article.

How do you think I did? Do you want to see more posts inspired by the Refinery29 Money Diary series? Let me know in the comments below!

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