Refinery 29 UK

Money Diary: A 25-Year-Old Art Sales Executive In Surrey On 30k

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we’re tracking every last penny.This week: “I like to think I am good with money due to the financial changes my family faced as I grew up. I initially had a very privileged upbringing: I grew up in a beautiful house, went to a private school, went on holiday three times a year and never wanted for anything. This changed when my dad lost his job during the recession in 2008 and our family pretty much lost everything but our house. My two younger sisters and I were moved to a state school (which I loved and learned more in two years for GCSE there than my entire private education!) and my parents sold our home to free up capital to buy a much smaller home and have money to live off while they tried to find other work. My parents really taught me the value of money and how to always keep emergency funds available as you never know what is around the corner. They did everything to keep earning money, working in hotels, supermarkets and retail, and are now both happily retired. I studied fashion at university but after three years of earning £15k and being constantly burned out I decided to move into the art industry. I have been at my current role as a sales executive at an art company for the past eight months. The art world has some parallels to the fashion world (some people are such characters, they could be in a sitcom) and I am really enjoying the change. I am also so proud to finally have a salary that reflects my skillset.” Industry: ArtAge: 25Location: SurreySalary: £30,000Paycheque amount: £1,898 after deductions.Number of housemates: One, my partner D.Monthly ExpensesHousing costs: £700 for my half of the rent, which includes bills. We chose to live in Surrey rather than London to have a more spacious flat and be closer to D’s family.Loan payments: Around £200. Student loans get taken from my paycheque each month. I have around £40k of student loan debt.Savings? £9,000 in a savings account that I built up over the past two years. £750 in a Monzo pot that I plan to increase to £1,000 and gift to my youngest sister when she turns 18 this year (I did the same with my other sister). £1,100 in a holiday pot that D and I put into each month. £800 in a handbag pot – I treat myself to one really special thing each year and this year I’m saving for my dream Loewe bag.Utilities: Broadband £10 per month, home insurance £40 per year, TV licence £78 per year. D and I have always split everything 50/50. All other monthly expenses: £6 Netflix share per month, Disney+ share £39.95 per year (we share this with D’s brother in return for his Amazon Prime), my mum kindly pays for our Apple Music family plan, £9.98 for Adobe Photoshop subscription. Charity: £10 per month to British Heart Foundation, £10 per month to The Black Curriculum, £10 to MindOut LGBTQ mental health service. I previously paid for monthly gym and cinema memberships but cancelled them.Day One7.10am: Alarm goes off. Crawl out of bed, leaving my boyfriend D sleeping, and run a bath. We have a bath/shower unit but the shower head pressure is not very strong so on days where I wash my hair I always have a bath. Do a full body stretch as the bath fills. I sleep curled up like a hedgehog and try and stretch every morning as I’m concerned it may affect my posture. Wash hair, skincare routine, dry hair.7.50am: Head to the kitchen and make breakfast. I am one of those psychopaths that doesn’t drink coffee so I have a large glass of water, granola with fresh raspberries and then wholemeal toast with peanut butter. Obviously crunchy peanut butter. 8.40am: Do my makeup and get dressed. 9am: Open up my work laptop and dial in to our daily London team Zoom meeting. The company I work for has other teams in Paris, Los Angeles and New York but we rarely do Zooms together due to the time difference. In the Zoom we each discuss three things we did successfully the day before and three things we plan to do today. Today is Monday. I have met the whole London team once when we were taking down a show at the gallery, which was pretty weird after meeting them all first via the internet – a bit like going on a date after texting each other for three months!9.30am: Go through my email and WhatsApp messages that have piled up over the weekend. It is basically my job to sell the art (both original and prints) to collectors and to build relationships with those collectors so that they spend more money with us. I also do a lot of research on our artists and their work so that I know what I’m talking about when I pitch certain pieces to my collectors. I love storytelling and always try and find humour or interesting facts to help sell the piece.12pm: Our lunch hour runs from 12 to 1 which took me a while to get used to as usually I would try and have my lunch as late as possible, sometimes 3-4pm, so that most of the day was out of the way and the afternoon would fly by. I make scrambled egg with sun-dried tomatoes on a bagel and ask D if I can make him something but he’s not hungry yet. We are very lucky to have separate spaces when working from home (him in the living room and me in our small spare room). Have a packet of Sunbites and an apple and flick through YouTube, settling on watching Paris Hilton on Hot Ones, where she is interviewed while eating gradually spicier hot wings – hilarious! 1pm: Get back at my desk and write some template emails on our upcoming launches that I need to send later this week. It can be quite tough selling art without the buyer seeing the physical piece in person so we always make a PDF, photographing the piece and what it would look like in a home environment so the buyer can understand the scale of the piece. This week we have a £150,000 abstract painting by a British artist to pitch to our collectors. I did a module on history of art in my fashion degree and have always read books about the art market and what contributes to the value of a piece but I sometimes find my peers can second-guess my knowledge due to me ‘coming from fashion’. I love to prove people wrong so I am determined to sell as much as possible and build many connections with strong collectors. 4.15pm: Starting to feel my attention span dwindling so I grab D and we have a tea break together. Yesterday I made lemon and poppyseed cake so we also have a couple of slices with our tea. D chats about what he’s working on (he works in the music industry as a freelancer) and then we head back to work for the final couple of hours.6.25pm: Shut my work laptop and take my makeup off. I always feel more myself without makeup on. D and I head out for a quick walk around our local park so that we actually stretch our legs. 7.15pm: Start to cook dinner – tonight I’m making breadcrumbed cauliflower bites, sweet potato fries and homemade BBQ sauce. D became a vegetarian three years ago so I tend to not cook any meat as I’m too lazy to make two different meals. I eat meat whenever I go home or we eat out. 8.40pm: We demolish dinner (not as good as nuggets and fries but it’ll do) and then chill for a while. D plays on his PS5 which I had to help hunt down for the past two months because you couldn’t buy it anywhere! I add to my Pinterest boards of what clothes I’m looking for and what street style looks I like.10.10pm: Head to our bedroom and watch Step Brothers, which even though we have seen it a million and one times, if it’s on TV we have to watch it. Laugh ourselves silly trying to sing “Boats ‘n’ Hoes” and collapse into bed.Total: £0Day Two6am: D’s alarm for his run goes off, blasting “All Star” by Smash Mouth. It started off as a joke but four months later and with each day I hate the song more and more. Pull the covers over my head and try to get back to sleep.7.30am: My alarm goes off. Stretch, shower and skincare. A colleague at my last workplace had the best skin I’ve ever seen in my life – she was 40 but looked late 20s! She finally divulged (after several weeks of me asking) that her secret is La Mer skincare and 10 minutes of facial exercises morning and night. I can’t quite stretch to £285 for a moisturiser but I do try and do five minutes of facial exercises morning and night, which I like to believe helps!8am: Make breakfast of granola and banana with a couple of pieces of toast. Paint my face and get dressed.9am: Whizz through our daily Zoom and dive into sending emails to my collectors. One books in for a FaceTime appointment later today to discuss several pieces we have for sale. 12pm: Make spaghetti with pesto for lunch and give D his plate to eat at his desk. He works really hard and has definitely found lockdown harder than me as he gets cabin fever. I think his work helps distract him. I’m more introverted and while I do really miss my friends, I’ve found lockdown fine. Eat a cereal bar and then head back to work.4.30pm: Host my FaceTime appointment with my collector who ends up being interested in two small paintings priced at £40,000 each. I send them an invoice and reserve the pieces for 48 hours. Fingers crossed they pay up as this would make me on track to get my annual bonus. Sometimes it can be hard to work in an environment when people can pay almost triple my annual salary at the drop of a hat and hear them casually chat about how they are thriving during the pandemic but I guess it’s just part of the job.6.20pm: Finish up work and go through my cooking books and write our weekly shopping list. I would really recommend Mob Kitchen Veggie and Bosh! Plant Based for fun veggie recipes. I try and make two new recipes a week and we choose if it’s a Toot or Boot (Drag Race fans will know). We drive to our big Tesco and D does the shop while I wait in the car and read. He decided when the pandemic hit that he would do all the shops as I am in a high risk category (I have a lung condition and had my COVID-19 vaccine last week). I found this really thoughtful and I think it also helps him to feel useful at a time where we all feel a bit useless.7.30pm: D finishes the shop and we drive home. We clean all our groceries before putting them into the fridge and cupboards (D’s a bit of a germophobe so we started doing this last March) and D surprises me with the latest issue of LOVE magazine, which is one of my favourites. 8pm: Too lazy to cook tonight so we add vegetables to a couple of frozen pizzas and shove them in the oven. Transfer D my half of the shop: £45.96. We try and make our food last nine days to reduce the amount of trips. 10.20pm: Chill in bed watching old episodes of Family Guy. Now that it’s available on Disney+ it kind of takes the fun away from watching random episodes, wish there was a shuffle button! TV gets a bit boring so we cuddle…among other things…Total: £45.96Day Three7.09am: I have one of those weird mornings where I wake up one minute before my alarm. Bath, stretch, skincare and dry my hair. 8.15am: Eat breakfast of avocado on toast and a soft-boiled egg. Gaze out the window. We’re in a ground floor flat which has a small patio and during the first lockdown I would spend ages watching the birds visiting us. One day I spotted 11 different species – who needs the zoo?!8.50am: Quick makeup and get dressed.9am: Daily Zoom and then catch up with emails. Still no payment from yesterday’s invoice but they have another day to decide. 12pm: Make lunch of stir-fried veggies and noodles for D and I. We chat about whether we think there’ll be a fourth lockdown. We were very cautious when the shops reopened previously and still aren’t comfortable with going back to our ‘normal’ routine. 3.30pm: We have a Zoom meeting to discuss NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in the art world as a digital collage made by American artist Beeple recently sold for £50m. I personally prefer to own physical things but can understand why the market for digital art is doing so well. 6pm: Finish work and throw on my gym gear to do an upper body workout. I usually end up just dancing around the room – it’s hard not to when “Love Machine” by Girls Aloud and “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child is on my playlist! 8pm: Make the viral TikTok feta pasta dish and it is worth the hype! D and I chat about our day and talk about digital art and how it compares to digital music streams. D is very old school and still buys CDs and vinyl every week. 9.15pm: We have been taking it in turns to choose film series to stop us getting bored – we’re in the middle of doing all the Pixar movies and tonight’s is Wall-E. D previously made me watch all 11 Star Wars films (yes, 11) so I’m enjoying my series choice. The first 20 minutes of Wall-E are so beautiful and say so much without saying any words. 10.50pm: We laugh at how the movie might have predicted our future. Feeling pretty tired from my workout, we head to bed.Total: £0Day Four7.30am: Another day waking up a minute before my alarm, my body clock is on point this week! Shower, stretch, skincare. 8am: Make breakfast of granola with fresh strawberries and peanut butter on toast. Look out the window and my robin is paying me a visit. I like to think the robin that visits me is my late grandad checking up on me (I know that sounds crazy and I don’t fully believe it but it brings a bit of joy to my day). My grandad was my hero and adored birds and art. He passed away when I was 16 and I wish I could have spent more time learning about his extraordinary life and that he could see how far I’ve come doing something I love. 9am: After makeup and getting dressed, I dial into the daily Zoom and get on with my emails.12pm: Make pizza baguettes for lunch. FaceTime my sister who is currently in her final A-levels year. I cannot imagine how stressful the past year has been for her and I am so proud of all the work and revision she has done, even though her grades will be based on mock exams and teachers’ views. She wants to become a surgeon and sadly wasn’t offered an interview at her dream uni (Oxford), which really broke our hearts. However, she’s kept her chin up and eyes on the prize and I’m sure will do even better wherever she goes. She was working part-time at a café to help save up for uni but that obviously ended last March so I have been saving some money to surprise her with on her 18th birthday. When I was at uni, I had too much pride to ever ask for help when I needed money and would often go without eating. I know my parents would have given me money but I just did not want to burden them when I knew they had my sisters to support.4pm: Continuing with my emails when suddenly GOOD NEWS strikes! My collector paid for the two paintings and is having them shipped to their house in Switzerland. We don’t work on commission but I love the buzz of making a good sale. The artist is really up and coming so it’s a good move to buy now before his prices increase. 6.20pm: Finish work and fill in my cash flow spreadsheet. I like to keep on top of what I spend and to reach my savings goals. I have a fair amount saved but am not entirely sure what to do with it. Three years ago I would have spent it all on building a fashion business but now I don’t feel it’s the right time. I’ve talked about maybe saving for a property but D is busy saving towards expensive music projects and equipment so I’m not sure what to do.7.30pm: Make dinner of portobello mushrooms with peppercorn sauce with rice and veg. We chat about our days and then discuss which singers have the most recognisable voices of all time. Shirley Bassey, Iggy Pop, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Phil Collins, Freddie Mercury, Sia, Johnny Cash…the list goes on.9.20pm: D plays Mario Smash Bros on the Switch while I browse on my iPad. Realise my shampoo is running low so buy my usual one and conditioner from Noughty. I used to get eczema around my eyes and neck during the colder months and tried LOADS of different creams to help it but weirdly what has really helped was changing my shampoo. £13.98 11.20pm: Lie in bed and watch some Family Guy. Try and distract D…it works.Total: £13.98Day Five7.10am: Alarm goes off. Today is not only Friday but also payday! Bath, stretch, skincare, dry my hair and then curl it because why not.8.20am: Make breakfast of granola. No robin today but the sun is shining. Do my makeup and get dressed.9am: Daily Zoom and then back-to-back meetings of sales and marketing reviews. Big meeting about which collectors are not on our database that we wish to target. 12.10pm: Lunch of leftovers from last night. Pre-pandemic I would always make massive dinners so that D and I had lunch ready the following day. I’m quite proud that I had a two-year streak of never buying lunch at work. Head back to more meetings.4.50pm: Really struggling to concentrate so grab a cup of tea and cake. That Friday feeling is kicking in! 6.10pm: Work is done! Put on some workout gear and decide to do a dance workout I found on YouTube that teaches you the choreography for Lady Gaga’s “Rain On Me” music video. It’s a lot of jumping on the spot but I’m loving it. Can’t wait to dance to this in a gay club with my friends, whenever that may be.7.30pm: Too tired to cook so pop in Tesco’s pesto melts (mozzarella and pesto in breadcrumbs – delicious!) and make a potato salad and side salad. We chat about our days.9.15pm: D plays on the Switch while I sort my paycheque into my various money pots. I am a few hundred pounds away from my dream Loewe bag (it’s £1,100) and I really enjoy saving for something for months. Remember that my friend suggested that Loewe in Bicester Village outlet may have the bag I’m after but for a better price. Find the number online and send them a WhatsApp message. Get an automated message back with a catalogue of what stock is available – and they have the bag! In a different colour but still. I was after one in beige and they only have burnt orange but I can definitely see that working with my wardrobe. Plus the price is £600 – I would be saving money! Right? I never make impulse decisions so decide to sleep on it. 11.15pm: We head to bed and watch some old Simpsons episodes. Really looking forward to having a lie-in.Total: £0Day Six9.20am: Wake up and feel really well rested. We chill in bed for a bit before having a quick bath and get dressed.10.30am: Make us breakfast of scrambled eggs, mushrooms, toast and Quorn sausages. My robin is here so today will be another good day.11.40am: D heads to the living room to do some recording so I chill in bed and catch up on Drag Race UK and US. I am really forcing myself to watch the US season this time, the UK queens are so much more likeable! It’s the final for the UK and while my fave did not win, I think the top three queens were incredible.1.40pm: Eat a light lunch with the leftover salad from yesterday and some veggie fingers. 3pm: FaceTime my friend who had to move back to Poland due to being made redundant last year. She’s managed to find some work as a translator so I’m really happy for her. I tell her about my Loewe bag and she says to stop dawdling and just buy it. 5pm: Read some of my book. I’m reading My Dark Vanessa which is well written but is also very unnerving as it covers paedophilia (it’s about a woman who had a relationship with her teacher while at school and is about her journey of understanding that she was groomed by him). Still thinking about the bag.5.45pm: STILL thinking about the bag. 7.10pm: Make dinner of sesame-crusted tofu and veggie fried rice. We chat about how much we miss going to the cinema – we used to go every Saturday night and it’s now been a year without going.8.30pm: We play some Mario 3D World on the Switch but I give up after a while because I’m rubbish at video games. I bought Animal Crossing in the first lockdown and played two hours every day for a couple of months but haven’t played since. I don’t like any of my villagers and can’t bear the thought of de-weeding my entire island (if you know, you know).10.15pm: Feeling peckish so nibble on some dark chocolate with sea salt. Delicious! We flick through the channels. Obviously still thinking about the bag.10.50pm: Bite the bullet and pay for the bag! Would really recommend the Bicester Village virtual shopping service, it’s so easy. So excited to receive it! I try not to feel guilty on making one big purchase a year for myself because I work hard and don’t buy fast fashion, don’t smoke, don’t drink coffee and only drink alcohol socially so I save money in other ways. I also sold an old Gucci bag on eBay, which put £200 in the pot. £600 11pm: Snuggle in bed watching an ancient episode of Kitchen Nightmares USA.Total: £600Day Seven8.40am: Wake up due to the flat above us moving furniture around (or what sounds like) but don’t feel too drowsy. D and I relax in bed then jump in the shower together. 10.20am: Have some granola and strawberries for breakfast. No robin today but a trio of goldfinches flew by! Text my dad about it as his favourite birds are goldfinches. 10.30am: Do a quick Chloe Ting lower body workout from YouTube, my ass is on fire. 12.15pm: Chill in the living room and scroll through Instagram for a while and my close friend posts that she has just got engaged! Call her immediately and cry tears of joy; she and her partner have been together since their teens and seeing them go from strength to strength makes me so happy. After the call I order a box of macaroons from our cute local chocolate shop to be delivered to her house this week. £24.99. Seven of my friends have got engaged during this pandemic year, made me almost wish the same was happening to me. 1.30pm: I’m starving and have the strongest craving for McDonald’s. Realise I haven’t had it since before the pandemic started (it’s more my go-to for drunk night out food) so I place an order on Uber Eats. £13.98 with tip. D isn’t a junk food fan so I just order for me and devour Chicken Selects, fries and a Maltesers McFlurry. Absolutely delicious. 2.30pm: Do a quick flick through my work emails. I always try and keep work outside of hours to a minimum as I did too much of that in the past.3pm: FaceTime my parents and catch up with them and their week. Really looking forward to the future when I can just pop home and have a cuddle. Plus I miss my mum’s Sunday roasts like nothing else! 4.15pm: Spend the afternoon drawing and watching an old episode of Blue Planet. I always try to do something creative at the weekends just for me. I kind of feel that there’s pressure on social media to monetise your hobbies but I really enjoy designing and making clothes just for myself. I would love to have my own studio and brand but not at this point in time.6.45pm: D offers to make dinner of toad in the hole (but with mushrooms instead of sausages) with roast potatoes and veg. Cooking is really not his forte – he once gave us both food poisoning – but he likes to give me a break from cooking every week. It tastes great and we also have some mint choc chip ice cream for dessert. 8.10pm: We snuggle up and continue with our Pixar marathon – tonight we’re watching Up. I’ve never seen it and am in floods of tears within the first 10 minutes. We enjoy the film, it’s probably not in my top five Pixar movies though. 10pm: D plays GTA and I sort my weekly cash flow spreadsheet. Then I scroll through my Pinterest wish list and delete the Loewe handbag pin. So excited to receive it in the next few days!11.40pm: Head to bed.Total: £38.97The BreakdownFood & Drink: £59.94Entertainment: £0Clothes & Beauty: £613.98Travel: £0Other: £24.99Total: £698.91Conclusion”Other than the handbag purchase and engagement gift, I feel this was a fairly average week in terms of spending. We maybe buy one takeaway a month so our food costs are very low. We do like to go to restaurants so that was a way I saved money during the lockdowns. Overall reading this back has made me feel very grateful for where I am and lucky to have D by my side through this crazy time. I really enjoyed writing about my week and think I’ll start keeping a journal to collect my memories and thoughts.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Money Diary: 23-Year-Old Legal Assistant & StudentMoney Diary: A 27-Year-Old TEFL Teacher In SpainMoney Diary: A 26-Year-Old SEN Teacher On 17.5k