Each week we’re taking a look at how people spend and save their money with our series, How I Save.

We’re keen to open up the conversation around money and take an honest look at how people manage their finances, by asking a different person to track their spending for a week, talk us through their savings tactics, and then we get them some expert advice on how they could boost their savings.

This time we’re looking inside the ingoings and outgoings of Ben*, 23, a digital marketer living in Southend-on-Sea.

Note: We never recommend following any How I Save participants’ spending habits or hold them up as a shining example of what anyone should be doing. That includes casual drug use, which we’re not endorsing, just detailing honestly.

How Ben saves:

I earn £35,000 a year. In my savings account right now I have £2,701. I did have more, but as my flat is a new build it took a while for the council tax to be worked out, so I’ve just had to pay the best part of six months of council tax.

I’ve saved this much money by moving out of a HMO (house in multiple occupation) and into a flat I share with my partner. This has ended up with me having less outgoings, so I save the difference in bills, also I’ve recently started a new job with better pay, so that helps.

I’m saving to have a safety net, I’ve spent most of my adult life living paycheck to paycheck, so when I got a new job and moved in with my partner, I had the perfect opportunity to start saving and give myself a safety net, so I wouldn’t spend the last week of the month eating nothing but 40p ramen noodles.

The main way I save is I recently moved into a flat with my partner. Because we’re now splitting bills, I have some extra money to stash away for a rainy day. I’ve also started a new job this year that pays a bit more, so I’ve ended up being able to put a bit more money into my savings account recently. Also because of lockdown I’m working from home, this has saved me £120 a month in train fairs and £3.50 a day that would usually go to a meal deal at lunch.

I struggle with saving because I have no impulse control. After living on tight budgets most of my life, I’ve become a wild spender as an adult now that I have the freedom to spend

How Ben spends:

Monthly expenses:

  • £700 for rent, utilities, WiFi, BT TV.
  • £100 for my phone, Spotify, PlayStation+ .

A week of spending:

Monday: I’ve been working from home so my usual work expenses are out the window. I spend all day doing work, then at lunch I make a £40 donation to a Black Lives Matter fund, after seeing everything happening I found a charity pool being shared about and put some money in on my lunch break.

After work I did the big shop, covers me and my partner for a week with lunch bits, dinners, snacks and booze, totalled up at £60.07. I’m not a very efficient shopper. I go to Sainsbury’s as its a short walk, so no chance for decent deals but that’s all my food for the week covered, brought my own bags so I saved about 60p there.

Total spent on Monday: £100.07

Tuesday: WFH again another day that was mostly quiet until after work. I thought I’d have a day spending no money, then when I checked the post I had got my first council tax bill in six months. I live in a new build and they have only just worked out what band my building is in, so I make a £469.19 payment to the council.

Then to cheer myself up I spent £20 on some new sweatpants from ASOS. I then at 11pm remembered that I needed to get presents for three family birthdays at the weekend and Father’s Day in a few weeks so I opened up Amazon and spent £89.45 on assorted gifts for everyone.

Total spent on Tuesday: £578.64

Wednesday: Around lunchtime I realise I can’t be bothered to make myself lunch, still bummed about my council tax bill so I decide to get myself a Subway on Deliveroo, needed to get it to £10 for minimum delivery, so I had a footlong sub, pack of crisps, a drink and some hash browns to get it up – cost £14.75 including the tip for the driver.

My partner pops to the big Sainsbury’s at lunch and asks if I need any extra presents, I send her £25 for a few extra presents for my mum’s birthday. When my partner gets home, she reveals she got an extra PlayStation controller so we can play games together, so naturally I spend £37 picking up a few two-player games on the PlayStation store.

Total spent on Wednesday: £76.75

Thursday: Again, working from home, no plans for anything after. I planned not to spend any money on Thursday, until I saw the Supreme drop list for this week. Usually I’m not a hype beast, but I saw an orange top that would go with my favourite trainers, so spent £54 on a Supreme T-shirt. In the evening

I go for a stroll around the block and pop to the corner shop for something to do, they had Rio (tropical Fizzy pop) in stock for the first time in forever, I buy four cans to shove in the fridge and a Milky Bar as a treat – it came to £3.85 for my haul.

Total spent on Thursday: £57.85

Friday: Fridays are usually my splurge days. Luckily after my spending this week I decided to rein it back in.

I just needed to order some more E-Liquids for my vape online and that cost me £20.99 including delivery. Also at lunch my partner came home to see me and have lunch, so I got us a Subway, we split the bill – so only cost £8 for my footlong meal deal. Somehow managed to not buy anything else all day, that’s a win in my book!

Total spent on Friday: £28.99

Saturday: Drove down to my parents who live a while away to drop off presents and have a quick chat in the garden. My partner is driving and declines my offer of paying for petrol, so I buy us both a meal deal for the drive at £7 for us both.

After dropping off presents I then decide to be naughty and pick up some weed (there’s nothing else to do at the moment) I spend £50 on some weed and 40p on some Rizla.

On the way back from my seeing my parents we stop off at a Mcdonalds as we haven’t had one in ages, I offer to pay for it and that costs me £17.99, when we get home I pop to the corner shop to buy some loo roll – £3 for a four-pack of Andrex.

Total spent on Saturday: £78.39

Sunday: Probably the quietest day of the week for me, no plans and I wasn’t leaving the flat so should have been a no spending day, but I take a boredom trip to the corner shop and buy some coconut flour for 99p as it was on discount aisle and I was interested in if it makes cakes taste different, I haven’t tested it yet.

Total spent on Sunday: 99p

Total spent this week: £921.68 (£452.49 without council tax)

How Ben could save:

We spoke to the experts over at Plum, the smart app for managing your money to find out how Ben can save better (and what we can learn from his spending).

Here’s what they said:

Hey Ben, thanks for sharing your week with us.

It’s always interesting to read different people’s approaches to personal finance. From your diary, we’re getting that saving hasn’t always felt easy for you, but since your life circumstances changed recently, you’re trying some new strategies that already seem to be working well. Great!

It often takes a change of circumstances to help us find new habits that suit us, and it seems like you’ve employed some positive strategies to start feeling good about money again! It’s amazing to hear that you still want to improve your financial situation further, but don’t forget to take a moment and recognise all of your incredible achievements so far.

Let’s take a closer look.


Although you’ve struggled to have adequate money set aside in the past, you were able to pay a large unexpected bill with savings to spare. So while you despair at your perceived lack of impulse control… we suspect you actually possess strong willpower within you!

Either way, we can all benefit from a helping hand when it comes to managing our money. Tucking money away automatically will really help you build up a nice amount in no time at all. Plum sets small amounts away into a separate account every few days (out of sight, out of mind!), and you can also set up things like a payday boost to remove further temptation.

Safety nets are essential, but they’re not the most engaging thing to save for. By setting up separate Pockets you can split your savings between them so that you can also work towards something more exciting as well.


The benefits of lockdown may not be obvious, but that £120 from train fares alone is a nice bonus. You’re not alone in spending less during the Coronavirus outbreak. We found that people had saved five more with Plum during May compared to the start of the year! And if you’ve bought a few things to get you through the boredom, that’s not a big problem as long as it’s within reasonable parameters.

Which brings us to our main recommendation. The key to controlling spending easily is… you guessed it… a budget. It sounds like you’re a free-thinking type of guy, but a budget doesn’t have to be too restrictive! Think about splitting your spending money each week so that you have an allocated amount for different “impulse” expenses. That way you can still spend guilt-free.

*Name has been changed.

How I Save is a weekly series about how people spend and save, out every Thursday. If you’d like to anonymously share how you spend and save – and get some expert advice on how to sort out your finances – get in touch by emailing [email protected].

If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.

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