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: “Moving to Switzerland solo at 21 straight after university in the UK has massively warped my sense of what a reasonable price for anything is. It’s constantly ranked one of the most expensive places in the world. As a student in Wales, I’d happily shop in five different places because I knew sanitary towels were cheaper in Savers and face wipes were cheaper in Wilko; I had time to potter about. Nearly six years later and I don’t bat an eyelid at paying twenty francs for a roll of taxed bin bags.
I still like to have value for my money and old habits die hard. I only pay for a UK phone data package when I’m visiting instead of a monthly fee and I stretch the rules on easyJet’s lack of weight limit for its ‘hands free’ luggage drop so I can bring back all my liquids from the UK!
My husband (H) has pushed my limits on my value for money policy. He’s definitely opened my eyes to the finer things in life. Beautiful dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant for a grand? Well it was bloody delicious and the pairing wines were incredible. It’s just a shame I didn’t have anything tangible afterwards…just great memories.”
Industry: Finance Age: 27 Location: Geneva Salary: 107k CHF (Swiss francs) – roughly £85k. I received a discretionary bonus in January of 10k CHF (£7.9k). My husband earns 120k CHF (£95k) – we got married just last month. In my savings I have 25k CHF (£19.8k). University loan repaid and no debts. Paycheque amount: 8,230 CHF (£6,524) paid 13 times a year. A 13th salary is very common in Switzerland. It basically means that in June, I receive my salary 100% plus an extra 50% and the same again in December. So the ’13th salary’ is split over June and December. In Switzerland you have to do your own taxes and my monthly take-home works out at about 6.3k CHF (£4,993), after taxes.
Housing cost: Rent shared between us both is 2.5k CHF (£1,982) – water included in this. Utilities: Internet is 120 CHF (£95.14), electricity is 80 CHF (£63.42) quarterly. Transportation: Typically 200 CHF (£158.56). Healthcare:(legally compulsory in Switzerland) is 450 CHF (£356.76). Phone bill: 49 CHF (£38.85). Other: Cleaner 300 CHF (£237.84), Spotify 19.90 CHF (£15.78), Netflix 15.90 CHF (£12.61), sponsorship for girl in Uganda to attend school, £16.
9am: We check out of our hotel after a beautiful wedding weekend in France. As it is a public holiday in France, there’s nobody around and the poor cleaner has to help us. We inform her how much our booking cost and do the chip and pin machine ourselves. Thankfully we’re honest people and speak French. €396 (£352.48) for three nights’ hotel between two.
9.15am: We take our hire car and drive to Bruges to make the most of being close to the French/Belgian border. I’m excited as I’ve never been before.
11.20am: We find a super touristy spot in the main square of Bruges to have a sit down and drink. The café clearly saw us coming, €7 (£6.23) for a crap coffee, €6.50 (£5.79) for an equally disappointing cup of tea and €12 (£10.68) for a dry waffle! We try to laugh it off until we’re informed that cards can only be taken for spends over €50 (which we know is rubbish and self-imposed). We have zero cash and I’m held hostage in the café while H marches to a cash machine.
12.20pm: After seeing all of Bruges’ sights incredibly quickly, we sit down for lunch. Mussels and wine for meal, stew for H and water. €40 (£35.60).
1.15pm: €2.70 (£2.40) for car parking, we then head back to France to take a flight from Lille airport.
2.40pm: €36.76 (£32.72) to fill up the car with fuel before dropping it back to the airport rental office.
3.10pm: €56.20 (£44.56) in duty free for H’s aftershave, Armani Acqua di Gio. It’s on offer, one of the few things I can easily buy him and he only commented this morning that he needs another one for his travelling. Wife points in the bag.
3.20pm: €7 (£5.55) for a white Kit Kat and Coca-Cola. I was keen to try this Kit Kat, which I’ve never seen before, and am underwhelmed!
5pm: In-flight purchases of Scottish shortbread, Tropicana apple juice with Purdey’s and two bricks of cigarettes for H. £65.50. Purdey’s must be new to lots of easyJet crew as they’re always confused at the request!
5.40pm: We touch down in Geneva and airport parking for three days, two hours and 30 minutes is 98 CHF (£78.69).
We get home to rustle up some fajitas with pre-cut chicken from the freezer, cupboard ingredients and watch the rugby highlights while unpacking and loading up the washing machine. In bed at 11pm.
5.30am: H wakes up to take a flight to London. I don’t know how he does it, we only just arrived back home!
6.35am: I wake up and get ready for work, exhausted from the weekend and remind myself that today is Tuesday, so it’s one less day in the office this week.
8am: Leave 75 CHF (£59.46) for the cleaner coming later today and plod down to the train station and buy my ticket through my app. 5.20 CHF (£4.12)
8.25am: That dreaded feeling when you get added to a group chat for a friend’s hen party. I check the cost of flights to England and they’re 400 CHF (£317.12) which isn’t too surprising, as they’re organising the hen next month and Sunday night flights are always expensive, plus the summer price increase.
8.45am: I sneak into the office only to face a barrage of people wanting a deep conversation about pressing issues from my one day of absence and others wanting all the details from the wedding at the weekend. I just want to sit in silence at my desk and quietly read my emails.
10am: First of new team meetings which will take place on a monthly basis. Yawn.
12.45pm: I grab lunch from a nearby food hall of a department store. Sweet and sour chicken 13.50 CHF (£10.70), strawberry yoghurt 0.55 CHF (44p), pick and mix sweets 4.50 CHF (£3.57) to get me through a tough day back in the office. If you’re not scattering sugar all over your desk, are you really living your best life?
3.30pm: I power through the afternoon, using the pick and mix like a carrot before my face. Finish this email and then another cola bottle, finish this document and then a little penguin shaped sweet. I’m told that a colleague can no longer make a tax conference tomorrow and I should take her place. I remind my manager that I’m not in the office on Friday and am happy to go, if he is.
6.05pm: I’m late out of the office after making arrangements for my absence tomorrow. I panic buy for a friend coming over this evening for a catch-up. 72.50 CHF (£57.48) for two fresh pizzas, chilled Miraval rosé, selection of Swiss cheeses and meats to nibble on, salted popcorn and other little bar snackettes, together with a platter of mini pastries and tarts. All bases covered!
6.18pm: I buy my train ticket home and cheekily upgrade myself to a first class ticket and a bus ticket to get home to my front door. 10.50 CHF (£8.32). Only to be disturbed in first class by a kid blaring music through his crappy iPhone earphones.
7pm: I return home with just sufficient time to throw snacks in little bowls and am reminded that there’s an unopened bottle of Bollinger in the fridge from my work drinks last week, which I hosted to celebrate my recent wedding. Result!
Small victory and organisation all goes out the window when I smash a bottle of wok oil on the floor. Glass and oil everywhere, on the same day the cleaner has visited! I shoo the cats as I attempt to clean up the mess and welcome my friend.
After several hours of nibbling and catching up, my friend heads home and I’m tucked up in bed by 11.30pm.
6.35am: My alarm goes off and I’m out of the door at 7.35. I thought the conference would mean I get to start at 9am but it’s an 8.30 start – admittedly hardly a true hardship.
7.45am: I buy my usual train ticket for 5.20 CHF (£4.12) on my app while watching a child learn the hard way that a dandelion is not edible. I mentally check out as I listen to my chilled house playlist on Spotify.
8am: A cheeky vanilla and raspberry Danish pastry and small multivitamin juice at the conference. Also exciting: I’m not paying for my lunch today! There’s no such thing as a free lunch
unless your company is paying a grand for you to go to a conference and you have to diligently take notes and concentrate to the max.
12.30pm: A nice free lunch comprising of a white asparagus starter, chicken and pesto main and a fancy chocolate sphere with ice cream and edible flowers for dessert.
5.30pm: The conference was an intense day of back-to-back presentations; the last hour is painful as it’s not applicable to my field of work but I couldn’t just walk out. I hope my office isn’t expecting a full debrief on the day. I will just circulate the booklet of slides when I get back, a glorious 116-page document of mostly self-explanatory information.
5.49pm: A small victory with a free mini Fanta orange given away as a promo at the train station. It’s very welcome in the heat! I buy my train ticket home for 5.20 CHF (£4.12).
6.35pm: I get home to remember that I haven’t bought cat litter or got cash for the cat sitter as I’m away this weekend again. I quickly pop out to the local convenience store and pay 25 CHF (£19.82) for the cat litter, baked beans and milk. I also get 100 CHF (£79.28) from the ATM for the cat sitter for four days.
6.50pm: Once home I listen to the
High Low podcast while putting a wash on, nibbling on last night’s leftovers and packing my suitcase.
8.30pm: Getting messages from H while he’s at a two-starred Michelin restaurant and I’m pulling a washed white Kit Kat wrapper out of the washing machine. I’m definitely not jealous of his evening.
11pm: After reading some more of my current book,
Crazy Rich Asians, I take the bins out and panic that I absentmindedly threw my phone into the large bin container at the same time. I panic search the flat, fail to remember my Apple ID to use the ‘find my phone’ function, then find my phone on the arm of the sofa. Time for bed!
5.25am: I wake up and check that the automatic cat feeder is working, as the cats have been very vocal recently and it’s making me doubt that it’s dispensing the food correctly. It most definitely defeats the object if I am up at the same time as my demanding cats. It dispenses at 5.30 and is perfectly fine. Back to sleep for a little more than an hour.
6.35am: My alarm goes off and I get ready, packing the last few things in my suitcase. I wear my least favourite pair of work shoes, in case I need to bin these in London to make room for all the shopping I’m planning on doing and bringing back in my suitcase. It’s the first time I’ve been shopping or alone in London and I am very excited.
8.03am: I make my way to the station again and buy my train ticket on my app. 5.20 CHF (£4.12).
A busy morning managing my mountain of work and prioritising the most urgent before taking tomorrow off. My working week isn’t normally so short, I promise!
1pm: Once again in the nearby food hall, couscous and meatballs 13.50 CHF (£10.70), strawberry yoghurt 0.55 CHF (44p), multivitamin drink 1.80 CHF (£1.43), mini hair conditioner 3.95 CHF (£3.13) and sandwich bags 4.95 CHF (£3.92) for my aeroplane liquids because my usual bag is tired and doesn’t properly close now and annoyingly we’re out of bags at home. I have to check the UK government website for the exact measurements of the permitted bags and size.
5.35pm: I dash out of the office with my suitcase and backpack and am on a train to the airport. It takes a blissful seven minutes to get there, just enough time for me to neck my bottled water before security. Train ticket from Geneva Central to the airport, 2 CHF (£1.59).
6.15pm: I breeze through airport security, passport check and head to my gate for a peach iced tea and salt and vinegar crisps, 7.80 CHF (£6.18) is a mad price. I long for a Boots meal deal some days! Our flight is delayed by 50 minutes because there is too much traffic at Gatwick airport, which I find astonishing to believe, we’re hardly an unscheduled flight.
8.54pm: I have a ham and cheese toastie, cup of tea and sour cream Pringles for 10 CHF (£7.93) on the flight. It’s not a great dinner but satisfies me and I’ll be fine for the evening now.
10pm: I run like a crazy lady and make a train from Gatwick Airport to London Bridge. Train ticket £11.
10.40pm: I get a bottle of water at London Bridge station, £1.75, before hopping into a cab to the hotel in Canary Wharf to finally see H again. Taxi costs £30.
7.30am: H leaves the hotel and heads to the office. I snooze for a little before getting out of bed 15 minutes later.
9am: I manage to navigate my way to Canary Wharf Tube station and on to Green Park. £2.90
10am: I have a Jo Malone experience on Regent Street, complete with arm and hand massage before choosing my perfect scent. I’m blown away with the special treatment and service. I opt to buy a perfume and candle for £117.
11am: I spot Liberty on my way to Primark and spontaneously buy a cute card for H, together with a sympathy card which I need to send to a relative. £7.90
11.52am: After zigzagging in and out of many shops I pop into Kiko to buy a new lipstick. I come out with a lipstick, lip volumiser and lip scrub. £13.90
12.20pm: I’m slightly overwhelmed by the Primark store size and contents, so much stuff everywhere. I settle on a straw hat with ‘bride’ sewn on it in white and cute little bride hair slides for a grand total of £8.
1.55pm: After continued wandering in and out of shops, I get to Cakes and Bubbles café a little late for my reservation but I telephoned to let them know I was on my way so it’s fine. I have a table for one without a care in the world and select their famous cheesecake, glass of champagne and golden egg. It’s a wonderful experience; they even brought over a cake and candle, as they thought it was my birthday and clearly took pity on me being alone. £38.81
4pm: My feet are starting to ache from all the pounding of the streets and I head in the direction of the Tube again. I go via Fortnum & Mason to get Turkish delight for H and wedding breakfast tea bags for me. £13.45
5pm: I head back to the hotel via the Tube, £2.90, before getting showered and ready for dinner.
6.30pm: We grab an Uber to Pidgin and have a delightful evening with great company. We select the set menu for £50 per head with the pairing wines costing a further £50. As our guests recently got married, H and I pay for dinner as a little gift to them. £400 split between the two of us.
10pm: We get an Uber back on H’s account and turn in for the night.
9am: H and I pack up our cases and get ready for the day ahead.
10.15am: We check out of the hotel and make our way to Canary Wharf Tube station again, then to London Bridge. £2.40
11am: I have time to grab a cup of tea (£1.95 from Leon) before taking our train to H’s parents in Sevenoaks. £11 for the train ticket from London Bridge.
12pm: The train is painfully slow as there are engineering works which mean we go a slower route. We reach Sevenoaks and are greeted by H’s parents before heading to a nice local Italian restaurant. I have several glasses of prosecco with my lasagne and profiteroles. We thank H’s dad as he picks up the bill for the lovely family meal.
2.30pm: We spend the rest of the afternoon with the in-laws catching up and I try to avoid falling asleep on the sofa after the delicious food and wine. After copious amounts of tea, we mull over the brochure for the new house they’re buying and have a simple cheese, bacon and sausage toasted sandwich for the evening. The rest of the day disappears as we have an evening of larking around and in-jokes.
10.15pm: Knackered from all the recent travelling, I fall asleep like a baby.
10.15am: A very late start for me but I don’t need to worry about the in-laws judging as it’s a very relaxed atmosphere in their house. I wander downstairs for a cup of tea and hastily head upstairs in the knowledge that the grandparents are arriving in less than an hour and my bed hair needs to be tamed.
11am: Grandparents arrive right on time and we have a nice catch-up before the in-laws start rummaging through all H’s old possessions which they are sorting through due to the house move. We reminisce at forgotten photos, old books and school art projects.
12pm: I pack my suitcases and get mildly stressed that I will not have room to bring back everything together with H’s shopping for his favourite cheeses, sausages, wine, chilli sauces and other English treats. Everything ends up being packed well and I note that I need to buy a padlock at the airport due to this bag being checked in and wanting to get everything home without anything going astray.
1pm: We have a lovely home cooked turkey and ham pie with the usual trimmings before heading up to the airport with a lift from my father in law.
2pm: I buy a padlock for my suitcase, £2.99, and check in suitcase with easyJet’s bag drop for £7.
I breeze through airport security and go to the gate via the Harry Potter shop. The flight is unfortunately delayed once again and I am happy to learn that the seat next to me is free. I take the train home 15.50 CHF (£12.29) and fall into bed at 10pm after all the unpacking, washing and everything is organised.
Entertainment: £0 Clothes/Beauty: £186.59 Travel: £212.69 Other: £422.11
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