A Week In North Queensland, Australia, On A $103,500 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a locomotive driver who makes $103,500 per year. She spends some of her money this week on a steak sandwich.

Editor's Note: All prices have been converted to the U.S. dollar using conversion figures at the time her diary was submitted. Some text has been adapted to U.S./American English.

Occupation: Locomotive Driver, Class 1
Industry: Primary Services
Age: 40
Location: North Queensland, Australia
Salary: $103,500, plus a longevity bonus of approximately $7,534, pre-tax, per year.
Paycheck (Every Two Weeks): $3,980.76 pre-tax

Monthly Expenses
Housing: My husband and I are paying off a "Queenslander" style home. It is a high-set house and approximately 60 years old — that means lots of renovations and maintenance. Our mortgage repayments are $793 every two weeks, which comes out of our joint account. (My husband earns roughly $96,000 pre-tax per year.)
Rental: I also pay $175 every two weeks for a rental closer to my workplace. I work a 7/4 roster, meaning I spend seven days away from home, and then have four days off. During my seven days at work, I have a somewhat "indicative" pattern, meaning my shift start times should slowly wind back later every day. (For example: Shift 1 would be a 6 a.m. start; shift 2 is a 10 a.m. start, etc. It rarely works like this, however.) My shift lengths are up to 12 hours. Our home is on a quarter-acre block and has views of the ocean and Great Barrier Reef. It is idyllic, with palm trees and tropical flora and fauna.
Loan Payments: $118 every two weeks for a Honda Quadbike/ATV vehicle.

All Other Monthly Expenses
Car Payments: $396 every two weeks for novated leases
Electricity: $793/month over two homes. Electricity prices have risen by over 100% in the last year. We are researching solar panels for our marital home, but we really need a new roof also.
House & Contents Insurance: $95/month
Rates & Water: $2,061 per quarter
Private Health Insurance: About $160/month
Phone & Internet: $95/month
Satellite TV: $90/month. Allows us to watch millions of cooking shows, Live Rugby League, and for me to indulge in countless reality shows.
Netflix: $11.89/month
Spotify Premium: $11.89/month
Audible: $11.89 per month
Mobile Phones: $182/month
Charitable Donations: $96/month
Savings & Emergency Account: $158/every two weeks

8 a.m. — I wake up, make myself a French press coffee, and have a smoke. I'm leaving my marital home today to go to my work rental. It is always hard to leave my husband, dogs, and three-legged cat. But I start at 6 a.m. at work tomorrow, and I have a metric fuck-tons of stuff to do to get prepared for my seven days away from home. I make sure I have all my work gear, hop in my car and head the 3.5 miles into town from my beachside hamlet to shop. I buy: beef cheeks, vegetables, salad stuff, camembert cheese, milk, eggs, energy drinks, fresh lasagna sheets, red wine, two cases of Mid Strength Beer, and a carton of cigarettes. Bad habits, but I don't really GAF. $162

9 a.m. — I fill my Jeep with petrol, and use my Fleet card to pay ($53.22, expensed). My car is leased through a salary sacrifice deal that covers all fuel, servicing, registration, and insurance. My car is packed up, so I head the 110 miles west to get to my work rental. It's tiny, but it is all mine — and it has a much better stove than my real home. After I arrive and unpack, I start prepping and cooking beef cheek lasagna with homemade béchamel sauce. I also boil eggs, make up a salad with camembert, baby spinach, capsicum, mushrooms, pine nuts, and Spanish onion. I throw stuff in the bread maker and prepare bread rolls. I drink a few beers while I prep, and listen to Árstíðir on Spotify.

5 p.m. — I've finished most of my meal prep. I've also mashed potatoes and roasted a leg of lamb that I had in my freezer. I boil some potatoes, mash them with garlic and butter, and make some pan gravy. I steam broccoli and cauliflower, too. Everything I prepped today goes into meal-sized containers to be frozen, so that I can take them to work as I need them. I get a call from my mum. She's been unwell and is getting a lot better, but I am still worried about her. I live a three-days' drive away from her and my dad. They are in their early '70s and I wish they were nearer by.

6:45 p.m. — I shower, get into my jimmy-jams, and hop into bed. I listen to an audiobook I downloaded on Audible called Ghost Empire. It's narrated by the author Richard Fidler and is all about the Turkish/Ottoman Empire throughout the ages. I adore it.

Daily Total: $162
4 a.m. — My work phone (which is NOT a smart phone) rings like the bells of Hell. It is my automated wake-up call, alerting me to my 6 a.m. start time. I've slept like shit. I make enough French press coffee to fill my gigantic Hello Kitty mug, and my travel mug, too. I buy my ground coffee from an Aussie company called the Killer Coffee Company. Their coffee is the strongest you can get in Australia, and it isn't bitter. I smoke a ciggy, pack my work gear up, get dressed, and hop in the Jeep to travel the 32 miles to my depot. I give myself an hour to get there, as the roads that I drive on are often closed due to accidents. Well, accidents or wide loads with police escorts who push you off the road (and into a ditch) while you wait for equipment twice the size of a house drive by you.

5:40 a.m. — I have already finished my travel mug of caffeine, so I stop in to the café that operates out of the work camp my depot is in. I buy a double-shot latte and hope that I'll make it through this day. $3.57

4:55 p.m. — After an epic shift in which I drive a massive coal train about 78 miles to load 120 wagons with 12,000 tons of top-quality coking coal, I get relieved by the next crew. My crew mate drive about 50 miles in a crew car and talk shit the entire way back to the depot. I sign off, get in my Jeep, and head back to my rental unit. It has been a good day. The bloke I worked with is a very good work friend of mine. Never a sexist or misogynistic comment to be made! I listen to Hilltop Hoods on Spotify on my drive home. I stop at the local pub and check a Keno ticket I found in my wallet. I've won $20.64, and I pocket the cash. I can't even remember putting the bet on, but I am happy to have the dosh.

8 p.m. — After a shower and dinner of cheese and hot salami toasties with a couple of beers (purchased in my grocery shop), I cave in and buy the smallest thing I can on Agar.io, an online game, to unlock the ad-free option. It gives me 7,000 coins and a new "skin." I play for an hour or so with a work mate who got me addicted. It is "bro" heavy, but I manage to take out quite a few wankers and level up several times. After that, it's off to bed. My shift tomorrow starts around 10 a.m. I listen to an Aussie podcast called Casefile: True Crime and eventually fall asleep. $5.55

Daily Total: $9.12
8 a.m. — Wake up and I still don't have my wake-up call/shift notification. I get online and check to see WTF is going on, and see that my shift has been pushed back until 11 a.m. My company is allowed to "lift my shift up" by up to two hours, or "lay my shift back" by up to four hours. This gives them a six-hour window in which to alter my start time. I am a bit annoyed, but to be honest, after working in the coal industry for over five years, I am kinda used to it. I eat a boiled egg squished onto toast with avocado and Sriracha. I also decide to subscribe to a sticker/planner box called Pipsticks. I drink coffee, smoke, play Agar.io and wait for my phone call. $11.11

1 p.m. — I am busy shunting wagons to prepare a hospital train. All the overloaded wagons that cannot travel at regular track speed — combined with wagons that have faults, such as stretched couplers and flat wheels — get marshaled into a consist. The consist travels incredibly slowly to places where the wagons can be safely repaired. I have delicious beef cheek lasagna to eat, plenty of smokes, and great workmates to make the shift less evil. When I get home to my unit at 10 p.m., I shower lavishly, moisturize, drink a bunch of water, and go to sleep listening to the Sleep With Me podcast.

Daily Total: $11.11
6 a.m. — WTF, body clock? I've slept about four hours. I have been suffering from night sweats, and I really thought it was early-onset menopause. However, I consulted my regular GP on my days off last week and, apparently, it is a side effect from medication I take. Lucky? I also got my GP to give me new prescription re-orders. I cook some baked beans, fry an egg, and eat them on toast with grated cheese, avocado, and Sriracha. I wash and change my sheets, take another shower, and try to get some more sleep for my 4 p.m. start.

10 a.m. — Apparently, sleeping isn't an option, so I go for a walk. It is a little warm out and I am sweating. I stop at the service station and grab a bottle of still water. I chat to the lovely ladies for a little while. They are having a huge day; lots of mining equipment with police escorts are traveling along the highway past the servo. I make a mental note to leave early when I get my call, and head home. After a shower, I spend some time making my journal pretty. I chuck The Man from Snowy River in my DVD player and spend a few hours doing "self-care" shit. $1.98

6 p.m. — Finally get my wake-up call, head into the depot, and sign on. Today, I need to head down to the port where the coal gets loaded onto ships bound for international destinations. My offsider and I travel over 111 miles to the port. We finish unloading all the coal, and start making our way back up towards the mines. I am very tired after my lack of sleep. I drink a bunch of cold water, bounce up and down in my chair, and open the window for the cold night air. It is a fucking epic journey. Finally, we get to a place we can pull up and kip out. A red signal means you do not move until the Network Control tells you otherwise. I manage to get a 20-minute nap in. When I wake up, we get a proceed signal and drive the rails back towards our depot. I drive my car back to my unit, and fall straight into bed. No time or desire for a shower. Give me sleep, please!

Daily Total: $1.98
11 a.m. — I am inexplicably awake. I take a walk, listening to the Jezebel podcasts Big Time Dicks and DirtCast. I have an intense interest in U.S. politics, since so many of my very good friends live in the U.S. Unlike a lot of my conservative workmates, I think Trump is completely amoral. I find him vulgar and base. (Considering that I am the biggest swear bear in the universe, that says a lot.) I realize that Australia has a plethora of issues, I am not in ANY way claiming otherwise. I meet a friend from work at the pub and have a steak sandwich with salad and chips. I drink a very refreshing lemon, lime, and bitters. We chat about silk face masks, holidays in Thailand, and where to buy the best Asian groceries. I walk home, shower, fall into bed, and wish for oblivion. $15.87

11 p.m. — Baby Jesus, I am so fucking tired of lasagna. It is a very tasty recipe, but I have been chowing down on it all week. I decide to mark the remaining lasagnas with the date they were cooked, and throw them in the deep freezer. I check recipes.com.au and a couple of other Aussie sites to find other meals that freeze well and don't taste bland. I have a fully-stocked pantry filled with Indian and Asian spices. I am lucky to live in a place that's so close to Asian countries; we also have quite an international population base, with refugees from other countries settled in our community. My job tonight involves me picking up a diesel train, loading it with coal, and returning to a crossing loop that can be accessed by car. Our relief crew won't sign on for another four hours, so Network Control parks us up out of the way. I fall asleep listening to Ray LaMontagne's album "Supernova." I was introduced to his music by a fellow train driver who is 64 years old. Music spans generations, I swear it.

Daily Total: $15.87
10 a.m. — SQUEEEEEE! So excited and happy! My husband has finished his seven-day shift roster (with a different company, and in a very different role), and has arrived with our two furry dog children. Our kitteh is being looked after by a local friend. I am so fucking tired, and he knows it. He throws me into the shower, massages my shoulders, and then cooks me a delicious Canadian bacon and cheese sandwich. I am still wired and not very sleepy, so he comes to bed with me and pats my back until I go to sleep. My last shift isn't until 6 a.m. tomorrow.

3 a.m. — Eeergh. My shift will be a 5 a.m. start, and it will be stupid long. I brew some coffee, complain that I have to work, but eventually get dressed in my usual uniform: high-visibility, rail standard clothing with my size 5, steel cap boots. I drive to work, get in a crew car with my mate, and venture the absolute furthest I can go and still be in my rail network. We stop at a service station to fuel the car, and I buy some awful food that actually tastes delicious! I also buy an iced coffee. $13

4 p.m. — Huzzah! I am eventually back at my depot and about to sign off to travel home. I hand in all my paperwork, but then I find out it is time for my supervisor to deliver my six-month personal performance record. It goes okay; I get a passing score. I have things to work on, such as tucking my shirt in. Whatever! I drive back to my rental, pack up all my gear, and convoy behind my husband back to our marital home. Another blowout of a week.

Daily Total: $13
8 p.m. — Damnation! I am home, but I got a bit squiffy and bought a Victorian era writing slope off a reputable eBay seller. I have valued them online by a fellow train driver workmate who was an estate salesman/auctioneer. He assures me that I got a very, VERY good deal. I cannot find another one in the same condition for less than $785 shipped. I spend four days at home, and then I head back out west. $238

Daily Total: $238
Editor's Note: All prices have been converted to the U.S. dollar using conversion figures at the time her diary was submitted. Some text has been adapted to U.S./American English.

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