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Last week I worked 60 hours.
The week before I worked 80 hours.
The two months before that I averaged 40-70 hours.
I have spent all of this week asking to be paid for work done between September and November, I haven’t started my Christmas shopping yet, and I am avoiding doing my food shop because I don’t have the money to pay for it. I have made one tub of Greek yoghurt last five breakfasts. I am a little bit hangry, but am very lucky that I am currently temping somewhere that provides cereal (what I have been eating as my lunch).
I live frugally; I have bought one pair of shoes all year (yes, they were gold sparkly heels, but I needed them for hosting a festival). Since July, I have bought two items of clothing, both of which were in the sales. Admittedly, I did buy a new coat recently but only because mine was stolen and it was one degree celsius outside. A lot of friends and colleagues are coming up against the same issue – they cannot work any more hours than they already are but don’t have enough money to live on. Apparently our generation is worse off than the previous generation and this will be the case for the forseeable future, with rent and the cost of living increasing and wages decreasing or staying frozen (which means decreasing in real terms).
My new year’s resolution for 2017 is going to be to try not to live a hand to mouth existence. It’s going to be tough as I am just about to move to a flat (with better transport connections and full time, too!) so that’s an extra £200 a month to find. But I think there are several things I could do to try and make this resolution come true:
Temp more, freelance less. In a way this is a weird decision, as self-employed work tends to pay two to three times as much, but, this way, I will at least be paid weekly rather than having to chase my wages for two to three months.
Brave it and cycle instead of taking public transport. The thought of it scares me as I have witnessed aggression on the roads when I’ve driven cars and vans in London. I’m also probably not that great on a bike thanks to my dubious sense of direction – flashback to Centre Parcs circa 1998… I got lost and ended up on an exhausting two hour bike ride, then I got a plastic bag caught in the spokes of my wheel as I furiously pedalled to impress the gang of teenage boys ahead of me, and then I crashed. A kind passer by started to lift the bike off me then paused in amazement and said ‘ah look! A SQUIRREL!!!’ and I had to grit my teeth and ask him to continue to remove the bike from on top of me. Ah, scrap that, actually. I will just try to continue to walk as much as possible and pre-pay for transport at other times.
Don’t go to so many weddings! Three friends got engaged this year and there’s still the holiday season to go! For 2017, I may have to attend either hen do or wedding.
Don’t accept minimum wage jobs anymore, be it acting or temping. When deciding whether to accept an acting job or not, I use ‘the triangle’ – a thing that my friend Em told me about once: is it for the money, the project, or the experience? It should be for all three. If not, then at least two of the three. However, sometimes I have been guilty of only doing a job for one of the triangle points!
Leave London. This one keeps coming up. I love London but I can’t afford it. I sometimes fantasise about moving to York or Manchester. But, if I leave London, I cannot get a day job that will allow me to pop to a casting in Soho in the middle of the day, and will have to pay lots of money in train fares to London, and will either end up living far from family, far from friends, or both. Time to start looking at where is still on Oyster, but does shared ownership that I can afford…
Find a day job I can do anywhere so that I can leave London rental prices behind. I’m still working on this one…
Take a career break. Become an investment banker for a year. Or, marry one… I will let you know how that goes!
Nadia works as an actress. She also teaches acting and storytelling to adults at City Academy and is an associate for National Youth Theatre, directing young people and leading inclusivity training.