It’s widely accepted to talk about fitness, healthy food, and self care. But conversations about financial wellness—which is crucial to well-being—are in large part still very hush-hush. Even in a time when no topic seems to be off-limits, talking about money still too often carries a stigma, but Well+Good’s Checks+Balanced series aims to help end that stigma. Each month, one person shares their income, living expenses, and what they spend on their favorite healthy habits.
This month, *Alicia, shares how she saved enough money while living in New York City to quit her job and move to London. Now living there with her husband, whom she met shortly after her move, she offers a rundown of their shared expenses, and how she affords her favorite wellness habits.
Keep reading to see how Alicia saved enough money to move from New York City to London and what her expenses look like now.
Alicia, 31, digital marketing specialist, London
Income: $70,000/year. I'm from New York City and was living there and working in public relations when I started to experience symptoms of burnout. I really wanted a change for my life and started to dream about living in London, where my dad's side of the family lives. I decided to start saving enough money to really pursue that goal. I was making $64,000 a year and did everything I could to save.
I saved $1,000 a month by cutting expenses any way I could, including drastically limiting how much I went out for food and drinks, went shopping, or took anything other than the subway for transportation. I allowed myself $200 a month for expenses like going out at night or shopping. It also helped that I worked in college and graduated with some money in my savings account.
After a couple of years, I had $30,000 saved up and I asked my boss if I could take a leave of absence for three months so I could go to London and try it out. He agreed and I went from July through August 2016, staying with my half-sister, who lives there. Toward the end of my stay, I met my future husband. We kept dating after I moved back to New York and my goal was to save more money and reunite with him over there. In 2019, I quit my job, brought all my furniture to my parents' to store, and officially moved to London.
Now, I work full-time in digital marketing at a local government authority in London. I also recently launched my own company, a digital marketing business geared toward female entrepreneurs of color, helping them build their businesses and understand digital marketing. Combined, I make $70,000 a year, with the majority of that money coming from my full-time job. My husband is a teacher and he makes $55,000 a year.
Mortgage: $1,000/month. My husband and I have a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house close to Central London. We split the mortgage right down the middle, $1,000 a month each.
Recurring expenses: $181/month. I pay $85 a month for what's essentially a property tax, so that's one of my biggest monthly bills. My phone bill here is a lot cheaper than it was in the States, only $12 a month. Other than that, I pay $18 a month for Internet, $18 for heat, $20 for water, and $20 for electricity. All those bills, my husband and I split equally, so that's what I pay for my half. As for transportation costs, during the pandemic it's been almost zero because I've been working remotely. I also pay $8 a month for Disney+. I use my sister's Netflix account, my husband's Amazon Prime, so I don't pay for those. I also got Apple TV free for one year when I bought a new laptop, which was a nice perk.
Business expenses: $3,000/year. Launching my own business was definitely an investment. I paid to have a logo designed, website domain provider, a copy mark trademark, and registering it to be an official business—about $3,000 total. Part of what helped me pay for that was I being on an episode of Supermarket Sweep UK and won £3,000 ($4,174). The most expensive part was registering it as an official business.
Food: $350/month. Since I make money more than my husband, we have decided that I will pay for our food. I do my grocery shopping at Tesco, which is a chain grocery store. I don't have any dietary restrictions, so I just eat what I want for the most part. I love Italian food—especially pizza. My husband does cook, but I do the majority of the cooking and meal planning. We go to Tesco every other week, spending $100 each time. We do eat out quite a bit, so I budget $150 a month for that. There's especially really good Indian food in London, so that's something I love to get.
Fitness: $22.50/month. We bought a Peloton during the pandemic, which was $2,495. With the shoes and tax, I think it came out to close to $3,000. We paid it in full when we bought it to avoid having a monthly bill for the bike. The subscription is $45 a month, which we split in half, each paying $22.50. Other than the Peloton, I really like to dance and use YouTube to find free dance videos to follow along to for exercise. I also live close to the park, so sometimes I'll go running. I really want to buy some roller skates and start trying that out, too. I also just bought a hula hoop, which has been really fun to use.
Beauty: $800/year. I don't wear much makeup, but I do care a lot about my hair and eyebrows. I get my eyebrows threaded every six weeks, paying about $9 each time. For my hair, I like buying a lot of natural products, like conditioners and oils, and many of the brands I like, such as Melanin Haircare, aren't easy to find in London, so I buy them in bulk from the U.S. Before the pandemic, I used to go to the salon every six weeks to get my hair braided, and it was $180 each visit. In terms of makeup, I don't buy it very often—maybe a few palettes a year. For example, there's an Urban Decay Naked palette I like. All together, I probably spend $800 a year on my eyebrows, hair, skin care, and makeup products.
Self care: $20/month. One of my biggest forms of self care is baking. I love making cool cakes and experimenting with different flavors and textures. I also watch Netflix to relax and numb my brain. Besides that, something I like to do for myself is buy bubble tea. It's a small, affordable luxury that makes me happy. I also have a one-line-a-day journal that I like because it's less overwhelming for me than keeping a traditional journal. I think it will be really interesting for me to look back and read what I wrote in a year from now.
Travel: $4,100/year. Since the majority of my family is in the U.S., travel is something I have to budget for. The pandemic has made it very expensive to travel because you have to pay for COVID-19 tests before leaving and entering the UK ($100 per test) and I have to quarantine for 10 days after I return to the UK, so I have to budget for that. My husband and I are traveling to New York this summer and will stay with my family for free, but we still have to pay for our flights, food and entertainment, COVID-19 tests, and quarantine stay. We've budgeted $3,000 each for these expenses. Additionally, to live in the UK, I have to keep my visa current, which is $1,100 a year.
Budgeting and tracking where my money goes is important to me, and I have an Excel spreadsheet that helps me stay organized. Having savings provides the freedom to not be afraid to try the things you really want to do. That's how I try to live my life, at least. If something is important to you, you have to go for it.
*Last name withheld.
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