How I Save: The journalist in London who’s saving for a house deposit and braces

Lily* is trying to save up for a house deposit (Picture:

Welcome back to How I Save, our weekly personal finance series exploring how people spend and save their money.

Each week we ask a different person to tell us what’s in their account, then ask them to track their spending for a week – down to even the tiniest purchases.

We then get some expert tips that they (and we) can learn from.

This time we’re chatting with Lily*, 28, a journalist living in south London.

How Lily saves:

I earn £34,000 a year. In my savings account right now I have £6,767.50 in a Help to Buy ISA and £1,447.52 in a normal ISA.

I’ve saved this by putting away roughly £200 or £300 a month, although this month I’m trying out £500.

I also got a big lump sum back on my student loan payments and I’ve got into selling on eBay too, which doesn’t bring in loads of money but helps stop me from taking my savings back out again. I’ve made about £350 since June through eBay.

I’m saving for my first home, which I’m aiming to buy next year. I also need smaller expensive things like a new laptop and Invisalign braces but they’re on the backburner for now.

I don’t have a real saving method, but I’m always conscious of my spending and can be obsessive. If I splurge one week I will try and save more the next – although it doesn’t always work.

The main thing I do is put my money into savings on pay day, so I know it’s already out of harm’s way.

I struggle with saving because I’m a lazy cook and feel like I’m always too busy to make food, so my real kryptonite is spending money on meal deals, takeaways, and meals out.

I previously had two credit cards, which impacted my credit score, so this year I also stopped saving for a few months until one was paid off (my credit score has now recovered, thank God).

I’m incredibly fortunate that my work and living situation hasn’t changed, so I’m generally saving more money by going out less and having to get the Tube every day. Impulse internet purchases are on the rise though!

Lily finds herself overspending on easy food options (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

How Lily spends:

Monthly expenses:

Looking at that all makes me feel a bit ill.

Please note that the below week was recorded before the second national lockdown.

A week of spending:

Monday: Leftover Sunday roast for lunch, so nothing spent. Paid £3.10 to post an eBay package in the evening and got some £4.99 hayfever tablets at the same time.

Ended up going for dinner at a Middle Eastern place two doors down with my boyfriend. I felt guilty about eating out unnecessarily so ordered a cheap meal – Lamb wrap at £7. Tap water to drink.

Total spent on Monday: £15.09

Tuesday: More left over roast for lunch. Bought a makeup storage unit from Amazon for £11.90 during the day and went halves on some flowers for a friend who had a bereavement. I used my eBay money to pay for this, so £21.49 taken from my PayPal account.

Later my boyfriend and I met friends for dinner (outside!). Had a burger and shared two bottles of red wine, with my portion of the evening coming to £28.95.

Total spent on Tuesday: £62.34

Wednesday: Went to get a Tesco meal deal for lunch and also bought toiletries and a discounted cheesecake, so total spend £7.37. Made dinner out of food we had at home, nothing more spent.

Total spent on Wednesday: £7.37

Thursday: Ended up finishing the cheesecake in bed for my lunch… a terrible idea, but I guess it saved me money because I didn’t go to Tesco!

It was going to be dinner at home but I finished work late at night – so £11.11 on Chinese.

Total spent on Thursday: £11.11

Friday: Went to an optician’s appointment, which saw me spend £179.94 on glasses, sunglasses (2 for 1), eye wipes, drops, and the test. Would rather have put it on my credit card but I’m waiting for a replacement card in the post. Big life costs stress me as I feel like I have no control over my finances.

Met a friend outside of London and went to a pumpkin patch – the best afternoon ever. Spent £3.48 on snacks at the train station, £3 on entrance to the patch and £9 on three pumpkins (£6 of which my boyfriend and housemate will pay me back for).

Had an £11 soup and cider afterwards, which was less than I’d usually spend at dinner due to Specsavers costs still looming over me. Fare there was £7.10 and spent £8.45 on a train ticket home.

Total spent on Friday: £215.97

Saturday: Did a big food shop at Lidl as no food in the cupboards is the number one reason I spend so much in the week. My portion came to £25.69.

Went to a (beer garden) birthday meal in the afternoon and spent £14 on food and £8.85 on drinks. Tube travel was £4.10 and on my way home I realised I forgot to buy makeup wipes, which were £2.50 from the corner shop by my flat.

Total spent on Saturday: £55.14

Sunday: Really wanted this to be a nothing spent day – Spent $11 on a US GoFundme for a trans teen who lost their family to Covid.

Total spent on Sunday: $11 (£8.23)

Total spent this week: £375.25

How Lily could save:

We spoke to the experts over at Plum, the smart app for managing your money, to find out how Lily can put aside more (and what we can learn from her spending). Please note that tips from Plum do not constitute financial advice.

Here’s what they said:

Hi Lily, thanks for sharing your week with us! Let’s dive into your spending diary and see what’s going on…


Feeling guilty when you spend money is something that’s universally felt. The reason behind this is that we often feel that money we’ve spent could have gone towards something better or more important.

However, there’s no better cure for spending guilt than creating a monthly budget. A bit of organisation goes a long way, and creating a simple budget to guide your spending could help fight those blues.

We’re huge fans of 50/30/20 rule but nowadays there’s a lot of money management apps that can sort that out for you. For instance, Plum will give your personal finance a fitness check and will deliver a monthly report that contextualises spending by looking at your habits by category.

We can’t help but notice that you’ve got quite a lot of subscriptions action going on. Maybe it’s time for the end of the year review? Plum can help manage your unwanted subscriptions, and could automatically save you some extra money by finding you a better deal on things like broadband too.

With Black Friday a day away and festive season just around the corner, you’d need to be a superhuman to say no to the odd temptation. However, we have a little secret to share… if you find yourself feeling the urge to make an impulse buy, just go sleep on it first, or better still, wait three days until you make the purchase. This way, you’ll have more time to think and lower the chances of making an impulse buy.


Aiming to put away £500 a month into your savings account is a huge commitment – one that we want to applaud you for.

However, setting realistic goals is important so make sure you’re not over-stretching yourself.

Saving for a first home and other expensive things can feel quite overwhelming. One thing you can consider is automating the process of saving money. An auto-saving app like Plum can analyse your income and spending habits and calculate the perfect amount to set aside for you every few days, without you needing to think about it.

With just a few simple steps, you’ll be holding those keys to your first home in no time.

*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

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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