Support officer, 29, on £1.6k a month who has given up on ever buying a home
In our How I Manage My Money series we aim to find out how people in the UK are spending, saving and investing money to meet their costs and achieve their goals.
This week we speak to Drew Noel, 29, who lives in Cardiff, with friend and flatmate, Joe, 30. Drew has been served a no-fault eviction notice as his landlords are selling up. Drew is finding it tough to find alternative accommodation and would like to see rental and quality controls in place, which stop properties unfit for habitation being put on the market for extortionate prices. He’s had to live in mouldy and rat-infested flats in the past and thinks the new “build-to-rent” blocks springing up all over Cardiff and beyond are misguided and overpriced.
Income: The take-home salary from my job as a project support officer for a non-profit organisation is £1,640 a month. I’m also a musician and in a band called Blue Amber, but any money I make from that, which isn’t a lot, goes back into the band for recording and administration costs.
My monthly outgoings: Rent, £370; council tax, £66.50; gas and electric, £75; water, £15; broadband, £14; mobile phone bill, £12.50; contents insurance, £10.32; tech insurance, £14.50; music streaming, £10; film and TV streaming, £19; online storage, £1.50; practice space for the band, £30.
I try to add £150 a month to my cash Isa, but this is not always possible. I put £83.84 from my salary into a workplace pension each month.
I allocate myself a £45 food budget at the start of the month but will pick up food throughout the month where needed. I also set aside £80 a month for general living costs. I rarely eat out but may pick up a takeaway or two throughout the month, which would cost £40 in total.
After studying fine art and English literature at Aberystwyth University, I had a couple of low-level retail jobs while living with my parents to save money and go travelling. I then relocated to Cardiff and worked in a record store for a year and a half, often earning below £1,000 a month. Despite this, I was still able to enjoy the city and pay all my bills as I was living in a house share. I joined the civil service in 2018, earning £1,360 a month after deductions.
I now work as a project support officer for a non-profit organisation in Cardiff. I have been with the group since December 2019 and was furloughed on 80 per cent of my wage from April to November 2020. My job involves database and finance management, organising training and meetings, acting as a first point of contact and assisting with public realm projects, such as street cleaning and environmental work. I find my job really interesting and earn £1,640 a month after deductions.
I live in a two-bedroom top floor flat in a converted house with my flatmate, Joe. Our rent recently increased from £345.50 each a month to £370 each per month. This spring we were served with a no-fault eviction notice and have to vacate the flat by February next year. Our landlords have decided to sell the property. We haven’t been given much information as to why, but it seems to be that they find the property too much of a hassle. It’s a story I’ve heard repeated a lot recently. They are very keen to sell.
To say it has been difficult to find another property to rent would be an understatement. Demand for rental properties in Cardiff is through the roof and there just aren’t enough places available for a reasonable price. Many properties aren’t well maintained, but agencies and landlords still expect you to pay over £1,000 a month.
To top it off, my flatmate is a freelancer working in film and television. Despite the fact he earns more than I do, landlords still don’t like taking on tenants who are freelance or self-employed. It’s an incredibly outdated and ridiculous reason not to accept someone as a tenant, let alone for a viewing.
I’ve lived in a few properties in Cardiff, and the fact so many terribly maintained properties are being let for such large sums is exploitative. I spoke to a landlady recently who had put her property up for rent and was overwhelmed by the 60-plus enquiries she got in less than 24 hours. We booked a viewing but didn’t even have a chance to go before the property had been let.
The quality of properties in the rental market is often poor. Friends of mine viewed a property where a landlord wanted a month’s rent and a deposit before even giving a viewing of the property. During the storms earlier this year our fence blew down and our landlord did nothing to fix it.
At present, I do not have enough money saved up for a deposit on a home. I try to put £150 into my Halifax cash Isa a month, but this is not always possible. I have a few hundred pounds in savings, which is nowhere near enough to buy a property.
As much as I would like to own my own home, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it probably won’t happen, at least not in the immediate future. While I can’t afford to buy now, I’d love a two-bedroom flat. I’d probably look to buy in and around the Cardiff area, in areas like Roath and Canton. Last time I looked, properties in these areas were around the £150,000 to £200,000 mark. My family isn’t in a position to help me with a deposit, and, as I’m not putting enough money into savings, I’ll have to stick with renting for now. I’d also have very little of my monthly salary left if I did buy.
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly motivated by money. I’d like enough that I can live comfortably, enjoy the city I live in, occasionally go on holiday, do activities with my friends and invest in my music. I’m not striving for a particular job that will provide me with a set salary. I’m happy with the company I work for, they look after me, and I don’t want to sacrifice that balance for the sake of a quick buck. I shouldn’t have to either.
In an ideal world, however, I’d love to just focus on my creative outlets and make money from that. I perform in my band, Blue Amber, am a session musician, poet and DJ. Yet, currently in this country there’s little to no government support for creatives, whereas some countries provide a basic income for artists and musicians. Now we have a generation of artists who can’t afford to focus on their creative outlets for fear of going broke.
I do not know when, or if, I will ever be able to retire. I put money into a workplace pension but with prices continuing to rise, I just can’t see myself retiring. Older generations were very privileged in that they were able to put an end date on their careers, but I am not in a position to be able to do that.
I’d like to put some money aside to invest in my band or use it for travel. I haven’t been on holiday since 2018. Right now, however, my focus is on finding alternative, affordable accommodation.
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