Lauren*, 31, London, is an A&E nurse working during the Coronavirus pandemic. This is her money month…
As a nurse, I work different shift patterns of 37.5 hours each week. Shifts are either 14 hours, 12.5 hours or 8 hours and I am often required to work overtime. In normal working circumstances, shifts can be extremely tiring and often disrupt my sleep patterns – not to mention my social life! But during the last few months, work has, obviously, been incredibly stressful. Covid-19 has made work scary, upsetting and overwhelming at times. I myself got sick in the early weeks of the crisis and was in quarantine. I am now back at work as I am committed to fighting this and know, first hand, how awful this virus is and how much nurses are desperately needed at this time.
Money has often been a struggle for me, as when I was training I was not always earning enough to live on. Having said that, I like to think I am good at organising money, and now that I am qualified, it is a lot better roughly- £24k as a base salary– which gets topped up with overtime pay. You don’t get into nursing for the money though. This crisis has really proved how much nursing is a vocation for me, not just a job.
Current account: £907.06
Savings account: £1,500
Monthly wage: Each month is roughly around £2,000 after deductions of tax/student loan/pension from my permanent job. But this changes each month depending on the shifts I work; weekends, nights and unsocial hours have a higher hourly rate, so more of these means more money. I also get paid for any additional shifts I do. These come in the following months’ salary, which can be a bit hard to keep track of sometimes, but I generally keep on top of it and it works out about an £200 extra per month. I often stay overtime and so I get paid for these hours also.
Monthly wage post Covid-19: Prior to Covid, I was renting out my flat on Airbnb, and making about £500 a month (depending on how many bookings I had), which I can no longer do. This was quite a simple and reliable source of income for me, so I do miss it. Other than that, my wage remains relatively consistent. If anything, I am earning more at the moment from my permanent job due to the high demand for nurses.
Any other incoming payments: I work bank shifts at another hospital and try to do one per week. Each shift is approx £200 after tax, so this is usually an extra £600-800 a month, (though I get paid weekly which is helpful).
Rent/mortgage: £1,000 I bought my flat on a shared ownership scheme and so pay about £500 for my rent and £500 toward my mortgage.
Bills: Roughly £200 a month, sometimes £300+ when my quarterly payments hit, such as TV licence and gas and water.
Other: I am paying off a loan at £132 each month, which will end in a year. I sometimes pay a bit more of it off each month if I have the money. I am trying to pay money from any bank shifts into my savings account also.
Splurges: Before lockdown, my major vice was eating out and food on the go, like daily hot chocolates from coffee shops. I like to socialise and meet up with my friends so would probably go to a restaurant or café about once a week, which all adds up. My other splurge is getting cabs everywhere, which I think has increased since lockdown as there are so many discount deals for NHS staff!
Weekly budget: I usually give myself a budget of £50 a week for transport (which can be cabs, trains or buses), and about £30 a week for food shopping (I’m quite a simple eater at home – pasta, bread, milk and eggs and I’m happy). Every few months I do a ‘big shop’ and that comes to about £100 or so. I actually really enjoy budgeting and organising my money and have been using Monzo to help with this in recent months.
What I spent this month: I have been spending a lot on home improvements and furniture this month in addition to a few Amazon purchases. My TV has just given up, so I think I have spent about £700 this month in total. I’ve been spending more on take-aways in lieu of restaurants too.
What I was left with: About £600
Unfortunately, my relationship circumstances changed over the last few years, which meant I had to pay my rent/mortgage/bills alone while studying full-time and I really struggled. I was so lucky to have help from my family but it was still very difficult to get by. I was constantly in an overdraft of £1,000, which really got me down as I had no ability to save any money at all. Since starting my new job in September, I have worked really hard to get out of my overdraft and I am happy to say that I have now, and usually have some money in my bank account all month round. My only current ‘debt’ is the loan I took out when I was struggling for money, of which I have £1,600 left to pay off in monthly instalments. This should be paid off in a year (hopefully less).
MY MONEY THOUGHTS
What I want to save for: I live in a one bedroom flat and would like to move into a flat with a garden and two bedrooms at some point, but I am in no rush. Short term I would like to go on more holidays and spend money on experiences. I have spent the last few years constantly worried about how I will make minimal amounts of money stretch, and so I want to enjoy my earnings now that I can.
How I want to plan my money for the future (pensions/investments etc): I have an NHS pension which I pay about £300 a month into, and my employer contributes a good amount to. I have only just been able to start saving in the last two months and have £1,500 saved so far in an ISA.
My worst money habit: Spending small amounts here and there (coffee/takeaway/amazon) and it all adding up at the end of the month.
My biggest money worry: I worry that I will somehow become financially unstable again and need to rely on others. I also worry that I should be paying back what my family helped me with, even though they have said I don’t need to.
Current money mood: ? ⚖ ?
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS…
You deserve a holiday
You’re an absolute hero and you deserve a holiday ASAP! Saving up for big-ticket items can be an overwhelming task and it’s often the cheeky Amazon purchases and lunchtime snacks which slow our saving. The best remedy is to give every pound you earn, a purpose. Review your spending over the last couple of months and add up what you could have gone without, realistically. Set up a standing order which automatically transfers this sum into your holiday pot, every month.
Investigate your fear
If you’re feeling worried about your financial stability, the first question to ask is whether this is a legitimate fear or an emotional hangover from a time when things were trickier. A good litmus test is to ask yourself whether you have a decent savings buffer (or income stream such as Airbnb) to cover at least 3 months of living expenses.
Boost your fund
You’ve done a fantastic job to save what you have so quickly, but if on reflection you feel you need a little more stability, work out exactly what that looks like for you, set realistic monthly targets and start topping up your savings pot.
Learn about investing
Interest rates are at depressingly low levels, and may even go negative, so once you’ve got your emergency fund looking good, you could consider investing any additional savings. It’s really important to take a long term view (ideally 5 years), but if you’re not looking to buy your two-bedroom house for a while, this might be a great way to get your money working for you. To learn more about investing, this free masterclassis a great place to start.
Scout for discounts
You’ll be familiar with many of the discounts available to NHS workers but if you haven’t already it’s worth carrying out an audit of your spending and using a site like Health Service Discounts to power up your saving. The discounts are more generous than ever and include everything from holidays to utilities.