Every stage of your month after payday

Turns out money doesn’t last that long

Your relationship with money is confused and confusing.

You know that your approach ought to be scientific. You know that money is a number and therefore it would be very easy to manage your incomings and outgoings logically. You could use a spreadsheet. But in reality, this relationship is emotional – your spending patterns are a fiscal manifestation of your state of mind. At the beginning of the payday cycle, you spend with abandon. You are happy; you are liberated, for money has bought your freedom.

By week three, though, you exist in a perpetual hangover from this earlier profligacy. You do not realise how much this has been bothering you – how tired you are of being poor, how much it has been grinding your bones to dust – until you get paid, about ten days later and feel lighter and more free.

These are the stages of your month in money.

Week one

Week 1

It’s payday – it’s actually payday. You checked your HSBC app as soon as you woke up to confirm it; you need this money so much that you are pathological in your certainty that something will have gone wrong. You hiss “yesssss” like a 10-year old boy making a penalty in the playground’s makeshift goalposts: you have been paid. You’ve edged out of your deep overdraft by £230. This is as rich as you ever will be.

And immediately, the amnesia descends. Yesterday, you walked three miles home to save the £1.35 on the bus journey. You have blisters. But tonight, of course, there is no stopping you. You get an Uber both to and from your destination; your destination is a roof terrace, or somewhere that serves “free” snacks with its drinks (that you are paying for). You have a fucking espresso Martini. You go for a slap-up dinner with your squad (one of those places with a single word for its name, like Sin or Kin or Vim). Later, you head to the sort of pompous club where you’re pretty sure you just paid £15 just for entry. You don’t know who the DJ is.

Every ten minutes you’ll offer someone a shot. Every trip to the bar, you semi-aggressively wave your card around and slur, “I’ve got this, I’ve got this”. You wake up with enough receipts to fill a pillowcase. You toss them; it barely registers. You are financially invincible. You ride high into the next week, and make some measured online purchases. You saw a bomber jacket on ASOS you quite liked, but at that point it was, of course, impossible. Well guess what? You’re in the money now.

Ninety minutes later, you’re so deep in a click-hole that you haven’t blinked for ten minutes. You copped the bomber jacket in all four colours. You have added a pair of jeans, sunglasses, six T-shirts and something a bit rogue, like some corduroy dungarees, or a netted vest.

There is a flicker of self-doubt as you slowly, laboriously type in your card details to buy that pair of fake Yeezys you’re buying from a badly-translated Chinese eBay seller. But hey, payday only comes once a month.

Week two

Week 2

All good things come to an end, and the last few days have sure been good. But now it’s time to pay your rent. After you’ve transferred the money, you swallow. OK, so you’ve spent little more than you thought. But you’ve got plenty left, relatively, speaking. Anyway, you’re going out for dinner. It takes your mind off it; so much so that you thoughtlessly spend £60. You wake up the next day. This time you tear up the receipt before you throw it away. The symbolism is reassuring.

You have a quiet rest of weekend; on Monday, you feel a bit calmer. You resume spending £7 on Pret most days; you go to see the new Jungle Book at the IMAX. You go to the pub, twice. You’re not really concentrating on how much you’re spending. You get the daily balance text from your bank; you barely read it. It’s all just numbers.

Another Saturday night out looms; it trips a financial alarm bell. But it’s quite quiet. It’s not until the following morning, £80 poorer thanks to your dealer and your Uber driver, that the guilt really sets in. You’ve fucked this again, haven’t you?

Week three

Week 3

Scrimping begins in earnest. It’s unfortunate, as it coincides with the comedown that is another by-product of Friday’s exuberance. Poverty and misery – this is your twenties. You realise, once again, as you have realised every month, quite how terrible you are at budgeting.

Now, lunch is cling-filmed cheese sandwiches or tins of Tesco own-brand soup heated up in the microwave. You have taken to stealing milk and teabags from the work kitchen to take some of the pressure off. You are eating your housemates’ cheese from the fridge. And yet everyday, you’ll make some sort of astonishing financial error. You’ll spend 17p on some Sainsbury’s Basics noodles for dinner, and then buy a bottle of wine at the pub. You give up spending £2.50 on coffee; later, you accidentally buy a £4 packet of Quorn. What the fuck are you doing. 

Obviously, you’re still finding the money to go out. You are just being clever about it: as in, you are taking a plastic bottle full of Glen’s out with you for drinking in the queue or the pub loos.

Week four

Week 4

You’re broken. You are a husk. You are emptier than the cupboards in your kitchen. You can’t afford shower gel, so you’ve spent the last week washing with your housemate’s leave-in conditioner. You assume she has noticed, but can probably afford to buy some more, the bitch. You are having invasive, uncharitable thoughts about people who have managed not to budget as abysmally as you have.

You’re trying to sell those bomber jackets on Depop so you can top up your Oyster and actually get to work for the rest of the week. No one wants them. Now you are anxious about your fashion sense too.

You ask your little brother if you can borrow £40. His WhatsApp is weary and compliant. You have developed this skill where you can open and delete that text from the bank in a single fluid movement, and without actually opening your eyes.

You stare at the lone, slightly off jar of Ragu in your fridge. Poetically, your stomach growls. You Google Wonga. Then you Google Wonga horror stories and feel a bit sick. You are tired. You are so bored of your own ineptitude. You promise next month you will do the spreadsheet. You promise yourself you’ll never be so frivolous again.

On Friday you buy eight shots for £20 and get a £30 Uber.