From spendaholics to spendthrifts, six very different women tell all about their finances
Ever wondered what the girl who sits next to you at work earns? Or how big your boss’ credit-card bill is? Psychologist Paula Hall says us women are dying to find out, but unlike men, we’re too embarrassed to ask. So we persuaded women of all wages to spill the beans…
Kathryn Jones, 41, is a director of marketing and communications. She lives in Kettering, Northamptonshire, with her husband Paul, 45, a stay-at-home dad, and their children Dylan, 10, Aidan, eight, and Euan, five. She says: “When our third child was born in 2006, Paul and I realised it made sense for him to give up his job as a software developer as I was the bigger earner. I know to most people my salary sounds massive, but I work long hours for it and with three children and a five-bedroom house, it barely covers our living costs. I take home £4,170 a month, but over a quarter of that – £1,280 – goes on the mortgage. Then food and bills come to £420, and £100 goes on the kids’ music lessons and sports.
We make sure we have a holiday every year, and sometimes take two or three, but we tend to stick to camping in the UK – usually Devon or Cornwall – to save money. £1,000 normally covers a two-week trip.
Luckily, we don’t have any debt, but I’m an impulsive shopper when it comes to clothes and jewellery. A few months ago, I was so unwell and miserable that I ended up splurging £600 on designer clothes online. I felt terrible afterwards – I could have spent that money on my family. And Paul wasn’t impressed.
Being the breadwinner can sometimes cause tension in our relationship, mainly because I resent that he gets to see the kids so much. But Paul’s really good at making sure that when I get home I get to spend quality time with them.
I’m sure he’d deny it, but I can’t help thinking that deep down Paul is a bit embarrassed about being the one at home, and sometimes he feels guilty that he’s not working. But now Euan is at school, Paul is looking into starting his own data analysis company.
Money has caused a few arguments. Paul is more careful than I am. Once I made the mistake of saying: ‘I can buy what I like, it’s my money.’
Paul was really hurt and pointed out we had made a joint agreement. I understand that it’s ‘our’ money, and it’s just a technicality that I’m the one earning it.
We have a joint account so it’s never a case of me giving Paul an allowance – I normally have to nag him to spend any money on himself! But I’m glad he’s more sensible. I have the potential to be a total shopaholic, so he balances out my impulsiveness.
Yogeeta Mistry, 36, is a senior executive sales leader for Avon. She lives alone in Birmingham. She says: “Five years ago I was a staggering £33,000 in debt – owing money on four credit cards and with a bank loan, too. What had I spent all that cash on? Clothes, shoes and shopping holidays to New York.
It started when I was 18 and got my first credit card. Being able to hand over a piece of plastic in exchange for a new bag was seductive. It wasn’t even expensive designer stuff – more H&M than Hermès – but the debt built up.
For 14 years I buried my head in the sand, but I couldn’t take the stress any longer, so I started looking online to find out how to sort myself out. Around that time my mum opened one of my bills and told me I had to stop spending.
So I did. I cut up all my credit cards, moved home, and rearranged my debts on to 0-per-cent-interest credit cards, paying back as much as I could each month. At first it was around £200 of my £1,200-a-month salary, but as my earnings went up I was paying £1,000 each pay day.
Living at home was embarrassing, but it was a sacrifice I had to make. In May 2010 I finally cleared the debt, and by February this year I’d saved up £23,000 and put it down as a deposit on a £90,000, two-bed house in Birmingham. It was such a relief to be independent again.
Now I’m lucky to take home around £3,300 a month, which I can spend on myself. I have just one credit card now, which I pay off in full each month. I also invest in ISAs and shares and have even attended finance seminars to help improve my money management.
I still enjoy shopping, and treat myself to the occasional £200 bag from Jaeger or £200 DKNY watch. I believe I work hard and I earned them.
One of the new skills I’ve learned is bartering, and recently I saved £50 when I spent £450 on a new fridge and washing machine because I agreed to pay with cash. People are very happy to take your money, so don’t be afraid to try to get some of it back!”
Anahid Basmajian, 31, is a marketing and communications manager for a retail charity. She lives in Beckenham, Kent, with her boyfriend Julian, 31, a sales manager.
She says: “I work hard for my money and take home around £2,900 a month, so why shouldn’t I treat myself? I recently spent £250 on six pairs of shoes and didn’t feel guilty in the slightest.
Especially as I seem to spend a lot of my money on other people for their weddings. I’m going to three this summer and with the hen do, gifts, accommodation, travel and outfit, they cost around £800 each.
Every month I spend £150 on blow-dries, manicures and pedicures. It makes me feel special. Despite my salary, I still have around £1,000 debt on my credit card. I’m aiming to clear it by July, but it’s hard when my regular outgoings – rent, bills, travel and so on – add up to £1,450 a month.
My dad died when I was 13 and I think that’s given me a ‘live for the moment’ attitude to life. My mum, Margaret, never remarried. She’s retired and lives on her £100-a-week pension, so I like to treat her to things – like the £400 new cooker I bought her last month.
Julian and I have been together for two and a half years, and need £30,000 as a deposit for a house. We started saving two months ago and I’ve set aside £200 – not bad. Julian’s spending is similar to mine so he can’t criticise!”
Ellie Boltman, 27, is a freelance dance, cheerleading and Zumba teacher who lives in Finchley, north London, with her parents Marion, 55, and Frank, 59. She says: “I could probably earn more if I wasn’t freelance, but the way I see it, I’d rather be careful with my money and be my own boss.
I normally take home around £2,000 a month and half of that goes straight into a savings account to pay my tax bill and save for a house with my boyfriend Alex, 26, a commercial estate agent.
I used to rent with friends, but moved back in with my parents last September to cut down my outgoings. Luckily they’re really relaxed and don’t mind Alex staying over. Still, it’ll be easier when we have our own space and don’t have to worry about hogging the sofa or spending too much time in the bathroom.
But when I do have spare cash I love to splash out. Shoes are my weakness and I recently spent £170 on a pair of designer wedges, I just had to have. Luckily I’m not a girlie girl so I don’t buy make-up and only spend £50-£100 a month on other clothes. But I do treat myself to an expensive holiday once a year. This summer, I’m going to Israel for two weeks at a cost of £1,500.
It’s good to splurge now and then, or life gets boring. There’s nothing like a bit of retail therapy to lift you out of a bad mood! But knowing your limit is crucial.”
Tara Robson, 29, is a nanny who lives in Loughton, Essex, with her fiancé Anthony, 31, a marketing director. She says: “Since getting engaged in May 2011, my attitude to money has changed dramatically. Our wedding in August will cost us £15,000, so I’ve turned into a bit of a bridezilla when it comes to saving. I take home around £1,760 a month, £880 of which pays the mortgage and bills. I used to spend the rest on myself, but not any more! £480 a month goes into our wedding account – which will also cover our honeymoon to Los Angeles.
I used to think nothing of spending £80 on a Friday night out with the girls. Now, I take £40 out at the beginning of the evening, and when it’s gone, so am I! I’ve given up alcohol anyway to save money and lose weight in the process, so often I just avoid nights out altogether.
Anthony and I never used to talk about money, now it’s all we seem to do, which I find frustrating. Particularly when he logs into our joint bank account to monitor our spending.
Before I started ferociously saving, I racked up £2,500 on a credit card, paying towards our holiday to Florida last year and also our Christmas presents.
At the moment, I pay off the minimum – about £30 a month. Once we’re married, the first thing we’ll do is clear that debt. I want all my money to be just that – mine!”
Kathy Cakebread, 24, is a data entry assistant. She’s single and lives in Chatham, Kent, with her parents Ian, 57, a support services manager at a university and Karen, 54, a housewife. She says:
“I wish I could be more independent and buy my own place, but on a £720-a-month salary, that’s not an option.
I graduated from Canterbury Christ Church University with a degree in film, radio and television studies in 2008. I want to be a journalist but jobs are scarce, so I’ve taken a part-time data entry job to earn cash before I start a media course in September.
I live within my means – I don’t want to owe anyone money. The way I see it, if I can’t afford it, I can’t have it.”