How A Fashion Designer In Essex Made It Work On £2,500 A Month

MaaHoo Studio/Stocksy

Welcome to How I Made It Work — Bustle UK's financial series which aims to demystify money and the process of achieving financial stability. This time HIMIW hears from a 30-year-old fashion designer on maternity leave in Essex who has had a job since the age of 14 and attributes her careful approach to money to growing up in a single-parent family. Read on to find out how she made it work.

Age: 30

Occupation: Fashion designer

Location: Essex

How would you describe your current financial status? Stable.

What is your current salary and how long have you been earning this amount? £30,000 [roughly, £2,500 a month], 1.5 years.

Do you receive regular financial help from friends, family, or a partner? How do you think this has impacted your relationship with money?

My husband and I put money proportionally into a joint account for shared things, but I pay my own way, I cover my own costs myself. At the moment I’m on maternity leave so I sometimes need some assistance from him for any unforeseen or unplanned expenditure (we’re still new to this parenting thing!), as well as for holidays we have booked for later in the year. But once I return to work on my full wage I plan to pay him back for my portion as I normally would.

It has made me a lot more careful with what we spend jointly as well as what I spend personally, as it’s felt a bit difficult being more skint than I usually am and using my entire wage for the month without even a few quid to put by at the end. Clinging on for payday so hard isn’t great. I don’t think I want to be in this position again.

I’ve saved where I could though, for example on not travelling into central London every day, not buying lunch out every day, and we don’t go out for dinner as much in the week as we used to or get takeaways as much. I’ve shifted our weekly shop to discount stores by being able to visit them, as I would normally shop online from the regular supermarkets that deliver and this has halved the bill which is great. I probably haven’t bought as many treats for myself either such as clothes, shoes, and treatments. Also way less nights out and bubbles brunches.

I think it has helped me focus on what’s most important for us as a family rather than just me or as a couple, and to think about what we might need to afford in future in terms of big ticket spends, as I’ve had to really think more about what I spend our joint money on as well as my own money. Also [I've realised] that maternity pay is really not a lot.

I’m always the one to say, “No, we have food at home!”

How would you describe your relationship to money?

A bit cautious, I’m wary of money. I’m terrified of going into debt and owing money to anyone. I’ve never had a credit card or store card. I feel like if I did I would go crazy or forget to pay it off and then things might spiral out of control. I don’t like the feeling of not having “enough money” ever so I always have a buffer of money available, it’s not loads but it’s just in case of an emergency. I also hate wasting money — I’m always the one to say, “No, we have food at home!”

Do you feel you are currently in a stable position financially?

Because I’m on maternity leave I don’t feel as stable as I did when I was on a regular wage. But I’m not minus in my account and I'm still paying my own way, covering any personal costs, and contributing my portion. I’m also in a strong partnership so if I was struggling I could talk to him about it. I've got a steady job that I am confident will be there when I return. I felt stable before and hopefully I will again, although childcare will be an added cost.

How did you achieve stability?

I think living within my means and having the buffer helped and being able to save up for the more expensive things helped. A fixed-wage job gives me financial security knowing I will be paid the same amount at the same time every month.

Holding down a job to enable me to live the way I want has been instilled in me

Have you felt financially stable for most of your life, a few years, or is it a very recent thing?

I’ve always seen and been aware through being brought up by my single mum that you (and any of your children, I guess) need to be able to be financially dependent on you, and that you need money to survive and to buy things you both need. If you want things you have to work to pay for them, and be able to cover what you need to and have extra for everything else. I worked from the age of 14 and holding down a job to enable me to live the way I want has been instilled in me ever since.

Do you own any properties? Yes, we own our own home.

How did you come to own the property?

When we got married both our parents gifted us some money towards the wedding, which we decided to save. We paid for our own wedding and put the gift towards the deposit on our house. We chose a house that was part of the Help To Buy scheme and added what we had saved to the gifts from our parents.

Did you have any help from partners or family members to put down a deposit or pay the mortgage?

Yes, as above. We could have bought a smaller property ourselves with just our own savings as a deposit but as we had been given the contribution we decided to invest it. I wouldn’t be able to own property if I didn’t have my husband's portion (which was more than mine due to the nature of his work) of the deposit or my parents contribution, which I’m aware makes me lucky and I’m very grateful for that. I understand that not everyone has access to that.

What does financial stability look like to you?

If you can afford all the things you need to without being in the red at the end of the month, and if you can also put a little aside to save for anything extra, luxuries and holidays, things that you want, dreams you want to fulfil etc, that is financial stability for me.

There is something to be proud of in working hard and earning a good living

What advice would you give to young women who are worried about achieving financial stability?

You can do it. There is something to be proud of in working hard and earning a good living to be able to support yourself, and as a mum I hope to pass this on to my little girl. I think that the wage you earn needs to match what you need it to be in order to live how you want, and if there’s disparity then think about how you can set about improving it, be that getting a side hustle, a 5-9 you can manage alongside your 9-5, finding out how you could be more valuable to your company, applying for that promotion etc. I know it might seem easy for me to say as I’m married so the burden is shared. But if I wasn’t I would be renting and paying as much as my contribution to my mortgage is, and still paying my own way otherwise for everything else like I do now. You can make it work.

What advice would you give to young women who want to improve their relationship to money?

Keep track of your outgoings compared to your wages. If there is disparity then figure out what needs to change and do that where you can. Tweak what you need to. Do you need that purchase this month or can they wait til next month when maybe you have a little more put by? I believe in living within your means and I feel good about not being in debt or owing on store cards.