Money Matters

A full-time student running an e-commerce business on £18k

What does a full-time university student running an e-commerce business on £18k spend in a week? Let's find out.

Money Diaries header

Welcome to The Money Diaries with Sage, where we dive into the finances of business owners and discover how they deal with money matters on a daily basis.

We’re asking entrepreneurs how they’re managing their finances over a seven-day period, to give you a picture of what incomes and outgoings really look like from their perspective. 

Today is the turn of a full-time university student who is running an e-commerce business.

And make sure you check out Reader’s Response at the end of this article, where accountant and best-selling author Carl Reader reveals his thoughts and shares some top tips for our entrepreneur.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Meet our entrepreneur and check out their Money Diary

Final thoughts on the week

Reader’s Response

Meet our entrepreneur and check out their Money Diary

  • Industry: Design and online retail.
  • How long you have been an entrepreneur? Two years.
  • Day job: Student, but this is my full-time job.
  • Location: Southport, Merseyside.
  • Salary: This is a tough one to answer, as I only got ‘big’ midway through 2021 and it really fluctuates, but I made about 18k last year.
  • Household: I live with my mum and sister.
Money Diaries day 1

Day 1 – Monday

Opening balance at the start of the week: £660

Today, I wanted to get myself organised from the weekend (I was in the Lake District) and do as much as possible to get myself in order before this weekend, because it’s my birthday.

I received a Klarna payment of £53.95—this is when someone pays using a finance option.

This took 11 days to clear, so I think I’m going to take it off as a payment option as it’s becoming too confusing for me.

I had a sponsored Facebook advertisement that came out of my account for £17, and I went to The Range to buy some ribbon, which was £2, to pack some orders.

I stocked up a lot on supplies over Christmas, so I haven’t had to spend much on that.

I announced to my customers on social media that I was restocking on Wednesday.

Money earned: £53.95

Money spent: £19.09

Money Diaries day 2

Day 2 – Tuesday

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are pretty quiet as I’m at university on these days.

I spent today doing uni work and teasing to customers on my Instagram that I was soon opening my orders. I nipped out to get lunch and I spent £6 in Sainsbury’s.

I try to balance work and uni work, but it’s hard to not get hyper-fixated on one over the other.

Money earned: £0

Money spent: £6.05

Money Diaries day 3

Day 3 – Wednesday

So, Wednesdays are when my payout from the previous week come into my account, if they paid via bank transfer rather than PayPal or Klarna.

I opened my shop for orders today and for the rest of the week.

I had 15 orders, taking in £496. This is half my capacity of bespoke orders for the week, so not bad at all for January.

For some more context, £45 of this will be spent on postage for the 15 orders and cost per poster.

For example, an A4 design will cost £1 in ink, 50p in paper and £2 in packaging and marketing material. I tend to print out all the labels at once, then they’re ready to go when I’ve got the parcel ready.

Each purchase takes about an hour to prepare, not including the time it takes to get to the post office, etc.

I won’t see the £496 until the week after next.

The Money Diaries with Sage

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I got my hair done and spent £38 with Royal Mail on postage to send my products out. I also spent £5 at Marks and Spencer—I got a water, coffee and wrap for my lunch.

And I spent £56 at Boots—I bought a birthday present for my friend, and impulsively bought some fake tan on offer and a new hairbrush.

I had the morning off to get my hair done, then pottered round town before going back to work for the evening.

I like to be done working before six, so I can take parcels to Royal Mail before the last post goes out.

Money earned: £337.68

Money spent: £192.00

Money Diaries day 4

Day 4 – Thursday

So it’s my birthday on Friday!

That means my spending for this week isn’t really as typical as it would be. But in the interest of transparency, I spent £22 on passionfruit martini ingredients and £35 on balloons in a card shop.

I worked all day, other than going out in the morning, so I could rest for the weekend, but I’ll admit my excitement was distracting.

I spent most of the day sat at my desk listening to podcasts and designing customer orders, and £37 came in through Klarna.

Money earned: £37.15

Money spent: £57.00

Money Diaries day 5

Day 5 – Friday


I went out for lunch, which set me back £28, then I had a Facebook advertisement payment come out for £13.

I got my fingernails and toenails painted, which came to £60.

Although I tried not to work today, I did have to spend some time working on my way out. I just had to print an order I’d done the night before and take it to the post office.

I withdrew some money from my PayPal from some of payments I had coming in.

Money earned: £103.48

Money spent: £101.08

Money Diaries day 6

Day 6 – Saturday

Not my finest day of spending but today was my birthday night out.

I did no work at all. I was hungover, and then prepared for my friends to come round.

I spent the day getting ready. I had hired a DJ who I paid £170 on the night, and I bought a few drinks, which cost me £40.

A customer messaged me today saying that a product I sent her was of bad quality. They said the ink had run, which I didn’t notice, so I refunded her and will send her a replacement.

This is making me a bit nervous that my printer is on its way out.

It’s only a £200 printer but I could do without that extra cost, and I think the next printer I will get will be a step up.

I think I’ll get a £600 one I’ve had my eye on that will be more ink efficient. The refund was £56, but it won’t show in my balance, only next week’s pay out.

Money earned: £0

Money spent: £210.00

Money Diaries day 7

Day 7 – Sunday

Reflecting on the week, I was majorly distracted by my birthday, which made me lack on social media and customer interaction.

However I shared a birthday post, and that did get quite a lot of interaction, which could and probably will positively impact sales and traffic next week.

The £34 I spent today was, of course, on a hangover curry.

I spent the afternoon feeling sorry for myself and mentally preparing for next week, when my gym membership (£35), my phone and iPad bills (£115), Tate membership (£12) and monthly rent (£250) is all due.

Money earned: £0

Money spent: £34.00

Closing balance at the end of the week: £686.96

Final thoughts on the week

My takeaway is that I’m actually quite good at not spending my money.

I don’t go out every day or buy little bits and bobs usually, but because it was my birthday, I was very aware I would be spending out so reined it in as best I could.

I bought a lot of packaging, marketing, and materials after Christmas, which is great because I don’t have to worry about that for a while, and it’s of course cheaper in higher quantities.

I definitely have the worst spending on the day I get my pay out, on silly things I didn’t decide I wanted until the day I had the money, so I suppose it does burn a little hole in my pocket.

In the future I think on my payout day, I’ll prioritise putting the money in savings immediately.

One bit of advice for small business owners is to get wholesale accounts wherever you can and use those to get good deals on things like food, alcohol, and even balloons (for birthday parties!).

I have a balloon wholesale account and a Costco account, and you really can save a bomb.

Now my birthday is out the way, of course in the driest month for sales, I’m going to plan smarter ways to direct money and make sure to stick by them.

  • The weirdest thing I spent money on: Paying a DJ.
  • Something I bought to treat myself: Getting my hair done.
  • An unexpected cost that cropped up: Refunding an order.

Reader’s Response

And to wrap up… what are Carl Reader’s thoughts on the financial habits of our e-commerce entrepreneur?

Check out the video below to find out…