Money Diaries

A Week In Alexandria, Sydney, As A Communications Assistant / Bartender On $65,000

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last dollar. Anyone can write a Money Diary.
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Today: A Communications assistant/bartender/writer eats KFC with her boyfriend in the park, watches Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version) at home and buys a non-alcoholic mojito with some extra pineapple juice after a bar shift.
Occupation: Communications Assistant / Bartender / Writer
Industry: Marketing & Hospitality 
Age: 25
Location: Alexandria, Sydney (Gadigal Country, Eora Nation)
Pronouns: She/Her
 $65,000 approx.
Net Worth: $28,582.76. $680 in my everyday account, $65,574.20 in savings (long-term, short-term, emergency fund), $10,691.91 in my superannuation, $7,320.61 in investments (ETFs and shares). 
Debt: $55,683.96 in HECS-HELP Debt 
Paycheque Amount (Weekly): Monthly $4,800 on average (can vary due to my casual bartending job and writing gigs) 

Monthly Expenses 

Mortgage/Rent: $0. I'm currently living with my two siblings in a two-bedroom apartment that one of them owns rent-free. 
Monthly loan payments: Currently $0. Around the end of this financial year, will be the first time my income will surpass the minimum HECS repayment threshold. I'm planning on making some voluntary repayments as well before the end of May to give myself a leg-up. 
Gas: $24.60
Electricity: $24.60
Phone Bill: $45.08 (not a shared plan)
Internet: $31.67
Water: $20.04
Strata Fees & Council Rates: $137.04
Health Insurance & Medical Expenses: $71.91
Subscriptions: $17(ish). I don’t typically stick to the same streaming service on a monthly basis. I decide on which platform to subscribe to in a given month based on the list of shows or films that I really want to watch, and then immediately cancel the plans before the end of every billing cycle. And some months I don’t subscribe to anything. This sometimes annoys my Mum to no end as she uses my Netflix account. Evil Laugh.
Savings Contributions: around $3360. With my expenses being relatively low, I'm very lucky to be able to save 70% of my paycheck to be divided into my long-term and short-term savings accounts, and emergency fund.

Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

Yes. I graduated with two degrees from two different universities; a Bachelor of Business and a Bachelor of Arts. I covered my first degree with HECS (which has painfully built up over time). I paid for my second degree upfront every semester during COVID and before the insane indexation rate in 2023 (I did the courses part-time which allowed me to work more, hence make more money to pay for tuition). I learnt my lesson. 

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?

Haha. It was, and still is, a favourite topic in our family. Mum taught me to save and network, Dad taught me to invest. I grew up with two extremely ambitious and entrepreneurial parents who had many different careers that enabled them to grow their wealth (both are Jacks of all trades). They grew up lower-middle class, and I'm super proud of them for everything they managed to accomplish, including early-retirement. They instilled in me the mentality that money = independence. To strive to the point where one day, money doesn't become a constant factor to worry about and gain back my time to do the things I care about. Though with that being said, the disagreements we often have is the generational financial expectations they have for their kids (when to buy a house, my income, how much to spend etc.). I'm well aware that this is mostly from a place of concern. The financial mobility they enjoyed sometimes just doesn't feel attainable now. 

What was your first job and why did you get it?

17-years-old, Maccas! I also started freelancing at that time as a transcriptionist. It was awesome as I was itching to earn, I also worked out of necessity. I had just moved to Sydney (I grew up overseas), and was in a peculiar situation at the time. I was admitted early into university while contributing to rent and utilities before I was a legal adult. My older sister and I lived in a tiny apartment where we shared our bills. I didn't make too much but with my wages and youth allowance, I was able to 'just' get by. Whenever I was struggling financially my sister would sometimes luckily help out and I would pay my share the next month. It was hard but a huge learning curve.  

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, I didn't. I had a roof over my head, food, a great education. Gratitude for what we have was a strict lesson my parents would remind their kids every day. 

Do you worry about money now?

I go back and forth on this question. I worry that I won't be able to reach my financial goals as I get older. Like buying a home, paying off my debt, or experiencing things that I want to do in my 20s (like travel). These worries can be extremely limiting. I think it's also important to preface that I'm not in any immediate financial strain as well. If I had to deal with a major life emergency tomorrow such as losing my job, moving out, or a medical emergency, I believe I can cover it.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?

Probably at 17, as explained previously. The fortunate advantage I have living rent-free is that I get to aggressively save and invest to create a buffer for myself.  

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

I was given $1000 from my parents when I moved to Sydney to start. I receive a small amount of dividends from investments and around $200 in credit interest from my savings per month.

Day 1

6:00am: First alarm goes off. 
6:15am: And then another. I picked up my phone to check my to-do list and debated on whether looking at your phone first thing in the morning is considered a healthy thing if it's only for 15 minutes. My stomach began to rumble. It’s a running theme in this diary.
6:43am: I got out of bed and drank some water. Made some tea and started to prepare food for lunch. Been pretty good at making my meals from home so far, though I still consider myself a lazy cook, making lazy meals. The menu was ramen; boiled the noodles, two hard-boiled eggs, some bok choy and corn, then placed some dried shallots to add later. I cut up some peaches for a snack and ate the last banana we had. 
7:25am: After packing everything, I snuck in five minutes to just sit with myself and sip my tea before starting my walk to the train station. Along the way I realised that I was still hungry and bought a chocolate croissant from a nearby Woolies ($3.50). $3.50
7:50am: Got on the train and switched platforms in Central. It takes me almost 40 minutes to get to the office during rush hour. I tapped off with my Opal card ($4.97) and made the 10-minute walk to work. $4.97
8:41am: I checked myself in and reached my desk, then proceeded to wolf down the croissant before greeting my co-workers. The chats can wait. We talk about our weekends before our quick division meeting — everyone seems to have had an adventurous few days… except for me (I work on the weekends). When we finished, I looked through my emails and began my tasks. 
10:01am: My body demanded caffeine. I made my way to the Nespresso machine in the office. Love free coffee. It's slightly weaker than barista-made ones, but just the right amount of kick to not make me feel guilty about my caffeine-dependent life. At some point, I really want to cut back. Did it once, could do it again… later.
11:30am: Attended a meeting with another division in our company to talk about how we managed our media assets and communicated with our distributors. Felt really nice to talk to my co-workers in person instead of email. Made myself another cup of tea, and added a bit of honey that I had stashed in my locker. 
12:28pm: Lunch! Ramen time. I asked my co-workers if they would like to join me and eat in the outside sitting area. Everyone was fixated on a TV screen hung on our office wall. A new music video is being played by a famous artist that I don’t know too much about. I shrugged and headed out. They joined me a few minutes later.
1:25pm: Back to work I go. There was a cancelled meeting, so moving on!
3:34pm: The afternoon slump had come. I stretched my legs and shoulders, and occasionally jogged in place. Miracles of a standing desk means performing minor yoga at work. I made my last cup of tea for the day, then remembered that a coffee and three cups of tea is the max. I got disoriented and dizzy the last time I exceeded that limit. Self-exploration. 
3:55pm: I stepped outside into the sun for 10 minutes to recharge a bit and wake myself up. We have a beautiful terrace in our office. Last stretch.
5:05pm: Packed up and briskly walked out the door. Finally! I reached the train station and got a text from my partner, J, asking if I would like to meet up with him. Yes! I tell him to meet me around my suburb for snacks. 
5:35pm: The train wasn't too crowded. I started to crave popcorn chicken and chips. I looked out the window to see Circular Quay and Walsh Bay, thinking about the time I used to work around that area. The opening tune to ‘Road to Hell’ from the musical Hadestown popped into my head. “Once upon a time, there was a railroad line. Don’t ask where, don’t ask when. It was the road to Hell, it was hard times.” Isn’t that right NSW Transport?
6:05pm: I got off the train ($4.97) and met up with J. He drove here and we spent 10 minutes trying to find free street parking. We then headed to KFC and bought our snacks. I got a Gobucket (because that’s the only thing I ever buy from KFC) and J picked an original tenders box ($19.40). I paid. $24.37
6:15pm: We went to a nearby park to sit down and chat while we ate. We caught up on our day and our plans for the week. He is currently studying arts in uni and talked to me about finalising a documentary film that he directed. We eventually finished up and walked back to the car. 
7:20pm: We continued talking almost till 8pm We had endless conversations — about old YouTube videos we grew up watching, the holidays we might want to take this year, new food places to try, and yes, about money. He calls me obsessed sometimes. We both have very different perspectives on the way we spend. 
8:02pm: I waved J goodbye and headed back to my apartment. No one’s home yet. Cool. I unpacked my work bag and immediately showered. 
8:34pm: Perks of an empty apartment is that I get to sing some songs as loudly as I want. I did that while washing the dishes. Afterwards, I stumbled on a Youtube video about the dangers of ‘glow ups’, featuring an influencer’s own personal journey. I hate seeing people feel down about themselves, but it gave me a lot of things to think about.
9:41pm: I received a text that my sister is sleeping over at her best friend's place for the night. Decided not to have dinner, eating fast food sometimes makes me lose my appetite. My brother comes home and brings ice cream. Very tempting. 
10:24pm: I had an early night. I watched a few YouTube videos, then passed out. 
Daily Total: $32.84

Day 2

7:00am: Snoozed the alarm. I’m working from home today. Got to have a few more Zzzs.
7:25am: I picked up the phone to turn off the last alarm, and began to scroll. Saw an article on the topic of financial security in marriage, more specifically the benefits and privileges of it. Save.
8:46am: Finally got out of bed and ate breakfast. I realised that there isn’t much, so I decided to snack on some cherry tomatoes and make a cup of tea. Saw some leftover chips and devoured those too. That should last me two hours, I think. 
9:00am: Turned on my laptop and started working. I looked through my emails and did a bit of minor reporting on our campaign coverages. Logged on to our media monitoring system to update some data. 
10:30am: I lied, I'm still hungry. Left my apartment to hunt for some food. I walked 10 minutes to Woolies to get a packet of croissants and bananas ($5.50), then stopped at my local cafe to buy an iced latte ($6.50). It is crazy hot outside. I should check the weather forecast more often. Learned that simply stepping out of my home isn’t a decent judgement of the weather. $12
11:49am: Quickly sent out a weekly report I’ve worked on since yesterday and followed up with a few freelance journalists we’ve been collaborating with. I’ve uploaded a few images of our content to our media platform. Then decided to post an early video snippet as well to hopefully gain a bit more interest in our campaign. Fingers-crossed. I munch on two croissants.
1:15pm: Time for lunch. I made a simple fried rice dish with fried egg and green beans. Sorted. 
2:32pm: Got through our pitching list to check who else I needed to contact, then did some small prep for a meeting I have at 3pm.
3:58: Finished the meeting, it went on for almost half an hour longer. No worries, I love chatting with my manager and co-workers. I eat the last ice-cream bar my brother brought home. I started singing ‘Ain't No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers. Maybe that would make the heat go away. I needed to keep my energy up somehow.
5:10pm: Done! I find myself caught in an article-reading frenzy — stories about the latest movie releases, Oscars buzz, and conversation pieces on the state of the industry. Read some news about theatre performances and some ABC radio interviews. Finished reading the article I saved that morning. It’s meh. 
5:45pm: I got a text from a close friend telling me that she wouldn't be able to join us later this week to see Waitress: The Musical in cinemas (I paid for my ticket in advance, two weeks ago). Bummer, she adores the soundtrack. I looked up several screenings for alternate days in a different cinema and sent it to her. How many opportunities do you get to see a Broadway production, without actually being there? I loved spending my money on experiences, especially with friends. 
6:12pm: I rolled out my yoga mat and started to do an at-home workout. Besides swimming, I haven’t moved my body like this for almost two weeks. Do a 10-minute warm-up and some weight exercises for 30 minutes while following a video. ‘It doesn’t have to be intense’, I would tell myself. ‘Just move.’ I died just a tad bit on the floor. 
7:25pm: Cooked some leftover ramen for dinner (made the broth less saltier), while I snack on a can of pre-seasoned chickpeas. Delicious. Think I can make a chickpea and roasted cauliflower salad for tomorrow. I reminded myself to go to Woolies again. I don’t typically go to the grocery store before 8pm It's sometimes still too crowded and I rather wait till there are less people. Think it’s a habit I got from COVID that still stuck. 
8pm: Walked back to Woolies. Why can’t I just buy things in bulk? Laziness maybe. How much stronger have I gotten just walking back and forth from getting groceries? Picked up peaches (they are still in season! Yay!), more chickpeas, some salad mix, tomatoes, toilet paper, and ice cream sandwiches (for the bro) ($45.49). $45.49
9:19pm: Finished a shower, and made tea. My sister came home. “Hi Dickhead!” I promise you that I love my sister/landlord very much. I turned on a documentary about the declining birth rate in Australia. I love docos. It's always fun to revisit a topic you often hear on the news.
10:30pm: I finished the documentary, and it reaffirmed my desire to NOT have children. Sleep tight. Goodnight. 
Daily Total: $57.49

Day 3

7:14am: Crap! I needed to get up. I walked to the kitchen and assembled my salad. Sliced an avocado, added the salad mix, over-roasted the cauliflowers, dumped the chickpeas in, forgotten the teriyaki sauce that would have made it perfect. Toasted a croissant and sliced up some more peaches. 
8:02: Reached the station and hopped on ($4.97), at some point the train just decided to give up. Over the announcements, the driver said that the train in front of us had experienced some technical issues and wasn't ready to depart our next train stop. After 15 minutes it moved. Grrr. $4.97
9:00am: I reached my stop, and hightailed it to the office. 
9:15am: Made it. Plopped everything down and just breathed. Got so much work to do. 
10:15am: It’s Coffee O’clock. Made my coffee super silky, I would say that I frothed the milk to perfection. A colleague agreed. I had the coffee with my croissant. Bliss.
11:30am: Attended a meeting and answered a few client calls regarding our campaign. Everyone wanted to know everything that’s going on in every second. Opened my email and got some feedback regarding my report from my supervisor. Not bad. Wasn’t sloppy yesterday. 
1:15pm: Late lunch. Oh well. Still felt annoyed that I forgot to add the sauce. Met up with my co-workers outside as usual. Talked about Thailand, the peculiar online trend going around about the skincare routines of pre-teens, and the beach. 
3:30pm: Craved something cheeky and sweet. Walked to the vending machine and bought a double chocolate chip cookie ($3.50). Made some tea and microwaved the cookie. The texture was cakey and the chocolate had oozed out. Delicious. $3.50
5:15pm: Time to get the hell out. Train don’t fail me again, just this once ($4.97)! On the way home, I received an email from the publication I freelance with. The editor asked me if I was available to review an upcoming film next week. I looked at the brief she sent. The movie has an interesting premise, and it seems to have something different for me to try and dissect. I said yes. Next week is gonna be a challenge for sure. $4.97
6:00pm: There is no place like home. I walked in to find my sister cooking dinner. She offers some. Yes, please! More fried rice. Food just tastes so good when you don’t have to cook it.
7:15pm: Got nothing to do and opened up an article from The Guardian that I’ve been meaning to read. I checked my phone and opened my banking app. I completely forgot that it’s payday. Received my pay from both jobs. Yum.
10:30pm: Decided to watch Poor Things on Disney+ on my brother’s account. Been long overdue. After I finished I crashed immediately. 
Daily Total: $13.44

Day 4

10:00am: Slept in as it was my day off. Saw a YouTube video on a miso butter pasta recipe and felt keen to try it out myself. I checked my fridge to see what I already had and what I needed. Spaghetti and furikake.
11:30am: Procrastinated on going outside for more than an hour by watching more YouTube videos and doing a bit of cleaning. Did a load of laundry and cleaned the stove as it was starting to look really sad. 
12:30pm: Slapped on sunscreen, waited 15 minutes, then walked out the door. I headed to a different cafe for an iced latte ($6), and thought about the cheapest one I’ve ever gotten in Sydney. I went to the local library to grab three printed programs for a festival that is coming soon. One for me, and two for my co-workers. Was in a social mood and texted my friends just to check up on them. Walked to Woolies and picked up the remaining ingredients I needed for the pasta dish, extra tomatoes ($19.10). $25.10
2:00pm: Time to cook, and the pasta was awesome. I customised it with some broccoli, turmeric, and herbs. Chef’s kiss. I ate the dish and started packing to go watch Waitress: The Musical. Hung my laundry out to dry and washed the dishes. I brushed my teeth and got out the door an hour later.
4:30pm: Arrived in Randwick by bus early ($3.20) and just walked around for a bit. Went to a chemist and bought some deodorant as I was running low ($4.49). Browsed around for restaurant options to recommend the others. $7.69
5:10pm: Met up with my sister by the light rail station and her friend. We decided on a Vietnamese place and they ordered dinner while I just talked with them. Didn’t feel that hungry after the pasta. 
5:30pm: Moved on to find dessert. We ended up at a cafe and I ordered a chocolate croissant that was half-priced ($2.80). Score. We talked about languages; the ones we spoke, the similarities and differences between languages, and slang. Very insightful. $2.80
5:55pm: We got to the cinema, I was waiting for another friend, R. She arrived and ordered some food before we headed to our seats. 
9:45pm: Finished the musical screening and loved it! It's one thing to hear the soundtrack and another to watch it being performed. What a cool and heartfelt feel-good show. We walked out of the cinema and R told me that she still felt hungry. I offered to join her and keep her company. I waved goodbye to my sister and her friend. 
10:15pm: Went to a Japanese restaurant that was still open and R ordered takeaway. We then walked back to her car and she ate while we chatted a bit. We haven’t seen each other in a while, so glad we could hang out. 
10:35pm: R drove me home and we hugged each other goodbye. I showered and drank some tea to end the night. Lights out at around 11pm.  
Daily Total: $35.59

Day 5

8:30am: Woke up surprisingly with not too much fuss and made some breakfast, and a smoothie. Working from home till 1pm for my marketing job. Work went by uneventfully. 
1:00pm: Work done! Made myself lunch, a salad with leftover beans. Decided I needed a nap as I was also working my bartending job that night. Slept for an hour and a half. 
2:30pm: Got up and started to prepare dinner. I should exercise but I’m just not feeling it today. I did some light stretching for 10 minutes as I woke up stiff in the back. Felt slightly more alive-ish. 
3:45pm: Hopped on the bus to head to the city ($2.90). Walked around Hyde Park just to get my energy up a bit more. Went to a cafe and got another iced latte ($5.50). It was freezing today, why didn’t I just order a hot drink? Walked to Dymocks to browse around for any interesting titles to add to my reading list. $8.40
4:20pm: I headed to the theatre I work in, and sat in the breakroom to read and journal. Re-reading Come And Get It by Kiley Reid. I also jotted down some notes for that upcoming film review article for next week. My co-workers gradually joined me and had a casual chat. I was doing a 4-hour shift, it shouldn’t be that bad. I changed into my uniform and apron. 
4:45pm: Clocking on!
6:30pm: Had my 15-minute break. The audience numbers aren’t that big at the moment, but substantial enough to potentially cause a few headaches. Hospitality life. I hopped back on. 
8:45pm: Wohooo I’m done. I put on some casual clothes and went to one of our bars to order myself a drink. The tables have turned. Got myself a non-alcoholic mojito with some extra pineapple juice ($7.50). I don’t drink, and yes, I see the irony. Opened up my phone and J told me that he was around the city. He offered me a drive home. Yes, please. $7.50
9:10pm: J picked me up and drove for 20 minutes to my apartment. Felt like a queen. We lingered in the car for a while just to chat. He told me that he was having a rough time in uni. :( 
9:50pm: J left and I headed back to the apartment. Showered. Made tea. Read. Then passed out by 10:45pm.
Daily Total: $15.90

Day 6

9am: First alarm. It’s the weekend, I can be productive later.
10am: Got out of bed and texted my friend, S, who lives nearby. We made plans to meet up at 1pm to have a cooking session at her place. I looked through the leftover items in my fridge. We can make paella! The only thing missing is some seafood mix. I made some toast for breakfast and started doing chores.
11am: After cleaning the apartment a bit, I headed back to Woolies to buy more groceries including the seafood mix ($23.92). Fought the urge to buy a coffee as I’ll be needing it more tonight. I had work at 4pm in the theatre again, and it's a long one. I started packing up all the ingredients I had for the dish – spices, vegetables, some broth etc. Made myself a small lunch as well by steaming some dumplings, adding dipping soy sauce and sesame oil. That will do. $23.92
12:30pm: Chores done. I walked for 15 minutes to S’s apartment. She greeted me at the door and we laid out all the things we needed. Turned on some low comfy music and cooked. I did a few taste tests along the way and tried describing to her and judged whether the flavour was just right for both of us. She’s currently fasting for Ramadan, and the dish was for her dinner. When we finished we divided up the portions, I brought some for my own dinner tonight as well. It was divine. 
1:50pm: I made tea and we both just caught up on life, talked mostly about ‘adulting’ and how badly people can sometimes drive in Sydney. 
3pm: Left S’s apartment and took the bus back to the city for work ($2.90). My bus completely missed my stop as there was so much construction on that street. Understandable but very annoying. I ended up walking 15 minutes to work. $2.90
3:50pm: Got dressed and immediately walked to the barista at work to beg for caffeine. Every staff member gets free coffee. Love my job. I started prepping my station for service and we opened.
8pm: Breaktime. I ate my paella and tried to cram in a few minutes of reading time on my book. Busy, busy, busy. I got a huge break as I’m closing the bar tonight. 
11pm: My gosh it's finally over. Hopped on the bus to head back home ($2.90). As soon as I was back, I took a shower, had tea, and slept. Zzzzz. $2.90
Daily Total: $29.72

Day 7

10am: Sunday! Let's go. Bartending again at 12pm. Was craving toast with kaya jam and butter that morning. Ate breakfast and re-watched an episode of The Bear Season 2, Episode 7: Forks. So good. Reminded me how much of a unit we are at the theatre. 
11am: On the bus I go ($2.90). Stopped at the food court near my workplace to pick up a takeaway lunch, lo mein with some beef ($11.50). Been pretty good at meal prepping this week so I had decided to reward myself. $14.40
11:30am: Got to the theatre and ate my lunch before getting ready. Sunday shifts are an earlier end to the day, at 5 p.m. 
12pm: Headed upstairs for a briefing and we dispersed. 
3:30pm: Another break, another free coffee. Feeling good. 
5pm: Done-zo! I changed into my casual clothes and packed up my dirty uniforms to be washed back home. Took the bus ($2.90), and got home 35 minutes later. Unpacked my bag, had an early shower and thought of what I was going to meal prep for tomorrow. Satay chicken with rice and broccoli sounds good. Maybe some more dumplings for breakfast? Took out some chicken and marinated it. Steamed my veggies and cooked the satay. While that was going I washed some rice and used the rice cooker. Easy. Told you, lazy cook. $2.90
7pm: Vacuumed the apartment a bit more, my brother arrived back home from hanging out with friends. Got on Disney+ and realised that the Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version) was released. Guess that’s my night sorted. I don’t think I can call myself a Swiftie. I grew up listening to her music, and do agree that she is a stellar lyricist. I’m a great admirer of good writing. Always. Yipee!
10:30pm: Finished. Decided to sleep as I’m in the office tomorrow. Ready to do it all over again. *Sigh*
Daily Total: $17.30

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