The Easy Street beckons

So you got your new job and have managed to get your feet under the table. Your work colleagues have accepted you in to the fold and you are beginning to contribute to your work environment. Life as a new employee should be pretty easy, especially with all that nice money coming in.

The easy street beckons, only you are not there yet.

You may be earning a good salary on paper but there is one little problem. They have yet to pay you.
Mr Banks

A Salaried Employee

In the old days the distinction between being middle class and working class was how you got paid. The manual workers toiling away in the building sites, fields and factories would get handed their weekly wage in a brown paper envelope at about 4:30 on a Friday. Those middle class souls in their starched shirts and bowler hats would get a white envelope handed to them at the end of the month with nothing more inside it than a slip of dot matrix* printed paper. Their nice monthly salary was heading straight into their bank account.

When it came to telling someone’s class it was simply a matter of how and when you got paid.

In the modern world it is now very rare to be paid weekly. Pretty much every job that involves an office will pay monthly. Whether you work in a call centre or an executive penthouse office the chances are you will still be hanging on in there till the end of the month just waiting to get hold of the readies.

There is just one minor issue; you always get paid in arrears.
Oyster Card

You have to pay to go to work

The real problem is that going to work costs you money. It might just be the bus fare, the cheap sandwich at lunch and a few coffee’s from the vending machine but it all adds up. To make matters worse your colleagues are all used to earning money and just chipping in for shared costs. To them it’s only a tenner for the staff lunch at the end of the week and couple of quid on the departmental lottery syndicate. To you it’s the difference between eating semi passable ready meals for your evening sustenance or cold 5 pence tins of beans out of Lidl’s because your power card has run out.

To make matters worse you will have to go and get some new work clothes, perhaps invest in a bus pass or in the worst case scenario actually move to an entirely new city. That means a deposit for a flat and at least a months rent in advance, plus all the associated costs of actually turning up somewhere for the first time and putting down some roots.

You had to lay out a decent chunk of cash before you even started work and now they are not going to pay you for a month and your overdraft has run out. Life as a student was so much easier, and cheaper.

That’s the first thing you have to understand when you first start proper full time employment is that you now have overheads. Believe it or not, it’s probably going to be the one reason you can never go back. Wait till you get the car, and the mortgage, and the kids.

Hanging on in there

But wait, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The very good news is that eventually your employer will actually pay you some money and when that happens then you will have quite a bit more to work with. Two or three months onward and there is a reasonable chance that you have cleared your short term debts and can actually start thinking about spending some money. 6 months in and you have it under control, with your own pad, a nice little run around car and enough spare cash for the occasional night out.

Just keep hanging on in there. As each month passes by you should find yourself in a stronger position. You just have to get over the finish line.

Now you have to do this all by yourself. There is no point asking your work for an advance as in most decent sized companies the payroll system is so utterly rigid as to be completely incapable of actually paying anyone outside of a normal monthly routine. It is also a terrible faux pas in a modern office to ask to be paid in advance and will only seriously irritate your manager.

Likewise you must never ask your colleagues for a loan. Most office workers, while feigning sympathy, will probably do it but they will forever look down on you for having the cheek to ask. One of the personal things that you are expected to do as a grown up is manage your own money so appearing to not be capable of doing so will only attract scorn or derision. There is no harm in scrounging a free pint at the staff night out or quietly letting your work buddy buy you a few lunches but direct requests for cash are out of the question.

This may be one of the few times you can legitimately sub your parents and you better pay them back out of your first month’s salary. Unfortunately not all of you are so fortunate.

So how do you cope?

Well here are some top tips for surviving work on a budget.

1. Celebrate when you get paid and not before

Getting that new job might be a thing genuinely worth celebrating but resist the temptation to go out and get hammered when you receive the offer of work. You are going to need that money so keep it safe.

2. Take your lunch to work

A cheap loaf of bread and something to stick in the middle is a far cheaper option than the gourmet sandwich out of Pret. Try making your own lunch and taking it to work. Tin of soup is a very good option – just watch out for those kitchen skanks.

3. Get a travel ticket

Often single tickets are more expensive than monthly passes so if you are travelling to work by public transport then get that pass as soon as you can. You may be hunting down the back of the sofa at the end of the month just to find enough coppers to buy some food but the one thing you cannot afford to do is not turn up for work.

4. Car share

If you can, see if there are any colleagues who live nearby and blag a lift. You must always be on time and never cause them to be late but if you are then most don’t mind giving you a run to work. Some companies will even encourage this behaviour.

5. Be really dull

Yes that great new band might be in town or you get the chance to celebrate your mates birthday with a proper drinking session but that just can’t happen. Nights out will eat your cash faster than anything else. Don’t face a week of super noodles just so you can get a really stonking hangover.

6. Flat share

If you have to move to another city then stop looking at those nice new flat’s for rent and understand you still have to be a student for a while. Find a flat to share so that not only the rent but also the bills get split. You may have to spend a couple of months with a really creepy guy who might be peeking at you in the shower but that personal pad of your own is getting closer by the day.

7. Don’t do payday loans

Just don’t. The interest rates are so utterly ridiculous that if you are stupid enough to do it then you probably won’t last in professional life anyway. Go get that application form for the job in McDonalds cause that’s your next stop.

8. Watch the debt

Now that you are in full time employment you can increase the amount of debt you have. The bank will now give you an overdraft and a credit card but please try not to abuse it. A debt facility is a very useful thing for an emergency so don’t go blowing it on a new pair of shoes.

Just dealing with it

In short it’s about just sucking up this difficult time and making the most of the limited resources you have. If you can stick it out, and it is well worth doing so, then you will find yourself in a good position once you have a couple of pay packets in your bank account.

The temptation is to continue a frivolous student lifestyle and then get in to debt. What you don’t want is your first pay packet to barely make a dent in that debt and get yourself in to the terminal cycle of not being able to cover you outgoing’s and debt repayments out of your regular wage.


It can be a very difficult time for a young person financially when they first start work. Work costs money and you will find that your outgoing’s go up simply because you now have to go somewhere and feed yourself every day in an office environment.

Understand that you will get paid by your employer eventually and by anticipating this difficult time and conserving your resources you should be fine by the time that finally rolls around. Don’t get caught in the trap of debt and don’t think that just because you now have a job you can immediately start spending.

The transition phase from student to grown up has almost fully completed. Hold out for one or two extra months and accept that you will be poor till you are paid and you will be fine.

* A Dot Matrix printer is an old type of printer. What they had before they had lasers**.
** Laser printers, not laser guns.