I never thought I would want to be below average

Having read this article by Mr Money Mustache, I’ve become quite fixated on figuring out what the average monthly spend (for a house sharing, child free Londoner) would be so that I could work out what the 25% spending level I should be aiming for might be. I scoured the interwebs for hours on my mobile (with its spider web crack that makes reading a pain) and on my laptop at work and came up with the following. Please note that the numbers below assume an average take home amount of £2000 after tax, saving just over 10%, eating out or having lunch a few times a week and going out once a week, a weekly round trip taxi, and getting around zones 1-2 by public transport.

Category Average Previous spend Current spend Ideal spend
Rent 757.20 650 833.33 800
Utilities (gas/electricity, water, council tax, mobile tariff, broadband, TV) 65.76 100 55 50
Goods/services (electronics, cleaner, household items) 74.95 100 78 50
Public transport 130 216 130 40
Groceries / food at home 156.11 400 250 160
Going out / entertainment 409.5 700 225 125
Taxis 53.91 100 20 0
Clothes and shoes 23.51 100 0 50
Sports & travel 56.33 329.50 15 22
Savings 250 100 0 1000*
TOTALS 1977.27 2795.50 1603.33* 2297*

Commentary

The asterisks indicate that the current and ideal spends are short of the amount I earn because:

  • Current spend involves servicing debt with around 30-45% of my income
  • Ideal spend includes long term (~30%) savings but not short term freedom/emergency/travel fund savings

If we ignore the savings, it appears that the average Londoner is spending around £1 700 and I was spending a ridiculous £1 000 above that.

Rent: Why have I set my target at around £800? Well it’s important to me to live in a decent space that can not only host dinner parties, barbecues, film & video/board games nights in but also allow me to pay forward the generosity that people have shown me in letting me crash in their rooms and on their sofas. We can have 3 or 4 people stay over comfortably even when all 3 of us are home and 8 or so if we break out the airbeds too. It’s also important for me to feel safe when I’m walking/cycling home at all hours so I’m not going to be able to spend much less on a room in London.

Going out/entertainment: Why do I have that at all in my aspirational budget and why do I think I’m spending so much now (when most people would think I should spend nothing on this at all)? I’m a social person. I love the arts, music, film, museums and galleries, dancing, sport as entertainment etc. At the moment I think I’m just used to spending a lot and I haven’t yet figured out how to say NO but I’m working on it. My excuses are it’s difficult not to eat out when I’m crashing at other people’s / working ridiculously long hours / seeing a new person of interest / going to the pub after football and basketball / paying for work lunches and drinks / not wanting my family to know I’m in dire straits. In the future I still expect to pop into the pub once a week after football, attend the feminist and BFI film festivals, see a couple of cheap live gigs/support my creative friends as well as keep Netflix and Spotify going and £25-30 a week is around a quarter of the average.

Sports and travel: £22 a month is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on travel given how frequently I aspire to and how far I’d love to go. I intend to keep the same structure I have at the moment – work an additional shift (or job) or 2 a week – to fund travel for the duration of my debt repayment and possibly longer. I don’t track side hustle money in my regular budget as in theory I don’t need to side hustle.

Clothes and shoes: I know that £50 might seem quite high and not in line with the recommendations of personal finance sites to buy used clothing. But I’m pretty tall, with long limbs and a larger than average bust and huge feet. So I have to buy a lot of my stuff – jackets, bras, and shoes particularly – from specialist stores that know they have me against the ropes. I don’t mind terribly and hopefully once I’ve built my capsule wardrobe then my spending in this category should go down to £10 a mont or so.

At the end of September I’ll have enough data to accurately show what my current spend is with a final goal of being able see how my spending evolves over the course of my debt repayment journey.

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