Money Diaries

A Week In Canning Vale, Perth, As An Administration Officer On $66,300

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.
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Today: an administration officer who makes $66,300 a year and spends over $500 on a LEGO set.
Content warning: This article discusses abuse in a way that may be distressing to some readers. 
Occupation: Administration Officer
Industry: Pharmaceutical
Age: 37
Location: Canning Vale, Perth
Salary: $66,300
Net Worth: $1.42 million (A house worth $703,698, $353,000 in super, $178,865 in shares, a car worth $155,718, $20,00 in savings, an account for upcoming bills and holidays with $13,300 in it, and a tax return worth about $815).
Debt: My credit card averages $2,000 to $3,000 per month, but I pay it off in full each month.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $3,313
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $0. I own my three-bedroom villa outright and live alone.
Salary Sacrifice: $1,683
Holiday Savings: $1,100
Bills Fund For Health, Home, Car, Strata Insurance, Council Rates, Car, Water Rates & Football Membership: $850
Dinnerly: $210
Collector Fair: $100
Foxtel Broadband (Includes 12 Months Of Disney+): $100
Gym: $60
Gas: $25
Electricity: $40
Patreon: $30
Harmony: $40
Pet Circle: $65
Birthday/Christmas Presents: $50
Emergency Funds: $50
Mobile: $15 (Yearly Data SIM For $180)

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

I did two years at TAFE for an Advanced Diploma in Tourism & Event Management. My parents paid for the course enrollment and I paid for books, resources and transport to campus.

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

We didn't have many conversations about money. I was present when my mum would ask my dad for grocery money that he would give her in cash and I acknowledged the amount increased over the years. Anything else my mum wanted, she would pay with her credit card — she was a spender who would spoil our family with small things that weren't needed. I knew my dad was frugal but I hadn't realised until going through his business finances that he never paid himself a wage — he paid for their joint credit card to be paid off each month rather than a wage. They did encourage saving over spending when giving us pocket money.

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

My dad was a vet so I worked at his clinic doing reception/cleaning duties on the weekends during the last few years of high school and TAFE. It wasn't until after TAFE (when I was 20) that I scored a job at KFC part-time. My parents always wanted me to focus on schooling, but I felt left out when school friends all had jobs. I now fear that me getting a job so late had somewhat of an impact in the lack of socialisation I now have in my life.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No. I sensed my family was well off compared to my school friends. We got to travel domestically once a year and went to the UK for three weeks when I was 10. Birthdays and Christmas presents were plentiful thanks to Mum's need to provide us with gifts.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes. I'm in a great financial position. I have a set monthly budget for everything I buy and ensure I'll cut back in the days leading up to payday if my 'splurge' or groceries/petrol accounts are looking low or empty. But a lot of my worry is around the fact that I've spent so much effort getting myself into a great financial position that I've ended up sacrificing my social life. I don't have a lot of connections to people and suffer from loneliness.

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

I became financially responsible for myself at 25, when I moved into my own house. I have $2,000 in emergency money, as well as $4,500 in travel savings that I could tap into if I needed to. I could also always sell my shares if it came to it.

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

When my dad passed away nine years ago, my mum gave both me and my brother $100,000 each. I would give it back in a heartbeat for him, though. I put it on my mortgage and it encouraged me to be mortgage free. My grandfather passed away three years ago, with my brother and I receiving $85,000 each, which would've been our father's inheritance. I used $5,000 for solar panels on my house and invested $80,000 into shares (I already held $60,000 worth at the time). My shares dividends are re-invested into purchasing more shares

Day 1

6:30am — My cat, K., gets up from lying on my legs and dashes out of the bedroom. Snooze until K. rushes back, reminding me to feed her. Because in the 12 years I've had her, I've not once forgotten to feed her when I've been at home, but it's still her daily ritual to remind me. I get dressed. K. wants me to hurry up. After I feed her and clean her litter box, I go for a 30-minute walk around the local neighbourhood and zone out while listening to a podcast.
7:30am — I make a pot of T2 Brisbane Breakfast tea, toast a Turkish roll, and slather the slices with margarine, Vegemite and half an avocado. During breakfast, I pay off my credit card statement that's due Monday ($1,935.01) already accounted for and deducted from my savings. Then I get ready for work. I'm WFH today, but I have a meeting, so I do my makeup and hair. I log onto my laptop a little after 8am, identify some urgent tasks to do and make a start on them.
11:00am — My manager has asked me to meet her at my local cafe. She's going on long service leave for six weeks and she wants to reach out to each team member to make sure we're comfortable with our workload. I order a hot chocolate. Manager pays with her work credit card. We grumble about the cafe charging $7 for it.
1:30pm — I arrive home and see my Dinnerly box has arrived. I put all the ingredients in the fridge and heat up the last serving of pork Thai fried rice from my last box for lunch, adding a scrambled egg I cook up, before sitting back to the laptop and continuing with work. I have podcasts playing in the background that get paused every time a colleague calls with a query.
4:00pm — I turn off the laptop but keep my phone around in case anything urgent comes through. I prep dinner. Beef-loaded wedges. Oven bake a serving of wedges and cook up the beef, beans, capsicum, and barbeque seasoning using all the ingredients in the box. I usually select recipes that come with extra veggies, opting to pay a few extra dollars. One box will usually last me for eight to nine day's worth of lunches and dinners. By day five or six, I'm sick of rotating the same three recipes, but I have to remind myself that it's cost-effective.
6:00pm — I attend a gym class for an hour, — a great way to end the working week. I get notified that my pay has hit my bank account, yay! When I get home, I heat up a serve of beef-loaded wedges and sit down for dinner whilst doing my banking, splitting my pay into 'buckets' and updating my spreadsheet. This helps me keep track of what all the money sitting in my savings account is for. After savings are accounted for, I have $280 to splurge on myself on whatever I want this pay month. I do what I can to resist dipping into savings, especially when I allocate myself a set amount I can freely spend.
8:00pm — I start winding down for the evening with a shower, skincare, social media scrolling, and give the cat a fresh litter tray. Then I watch the finale of Riverdale — the trash show that deserves a trash ending. I'm a completist and couldn't stop watching this trash after its excellent first season. I curl up in bed, reading Pretty Little Liars for half an hour with K. on my lap. I'm rewatching this trash show (I have a type, okay?!) and thought I should give the book series a go.
10:30pm — Asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day 2

6:30am — K. jumps on me before curling up against me. I get up, to her annoyance. Then she realises she needs to remind me to feed her as I get dressed. I feed her, change her litter tray, and go for a walk around the neighbourhood for 30 minutes. Back home, it's the same breakfast — Turkish roll halved, toasted, with margarine, Vegemite and avocado.
8:15am — I head to the gym early today for a free launch session of Reformer Pilates. I usually do a Konga class but I can't make it today. Gym staff try to upsell me $20 a week to take as many Reformer Pilates classes as I want with three weeks free. I think about it as I can reduce my holiday savings rather than reduce my monthly splurge, but the class times clash with Konga and I'm not sure I want to get up for 6am classes until later in the year, so I opt to get my butt into gear and to get back into jogging on the weekends down at the local lake. If I fail to do so, I'll sign up to Reformer Pilates in a couple of months.
9:30am — Back home. Put on an episode of Pretty Little Liars while doing a few chores around the house. Then I get ready to go out for an early lunch.
10:30am — Head off to Victoria Park, podcasts playing while I drive over. I drive up an extra 200 metres from the paid parking zone to the free street parking. I meet up with a couple of acquaintances for a meal and we catch up. I order a chicken, cheese, and avocado roll with a side of chips and a chocolate drink that tries to be fancier than a milkshake, with a Freddo Frog you're meant to add to the drink ($24.90). I pocket it instead. I pay for it on my credit card and round it up to the closest $5. When I pay off my credit card, that round-up gets transferred into a mini emergency saving fund, as well as any interest I earn on my savings accounts. It's about $20 to $30 a month rounded up and $60 interest. If I just left it in my splurge account, it would be spent each month. This way, I avoid dipping into my savings. $25
3:00pm — After chilling at home for two hours, I get ready to go to the footy tonight. I make sure my cat has extra food and litter trays as I won't be back tonight. I stop by Subway to pick up an Italian BMT footlong for dinner during the game ($14.35). Head to Mum's house — I'm taking her as she's no longer driving. But before I arrive, I head to Coles to do Mum's grocery shopping and pick up dumplings. Get back to Mum's — she's annoyed I forgot to buy milk. She forgot to write milk on her shopping list, but that's still my fault. The shops are now closed and I tell her that I'm not coming back tomorrow just to buy her milk she forgot to ask me to buy — she'll need to wait until I can come over again for grocery shopping. We drive to the train station and catch the train to the stadium — transport is free with our footy membership. $15
9:45pm — I get Mum back to her place and remind her that I'm not driving out to hers 30 minutes each way just for milk and that I have plans tomorrow. She doesn't show any interest. I tell her we'll go for brunch next Sunday.
10:30pm — I'm staying at Mum's beach house tonight as I'm attending a collectors fair and it'll save me an hour's drive in the morning. I go to take a shower only to realise there are no clean towels. I remember past me put all the towels in the washing machine last time I was up here, deciding I'd wash them next time I was here. I hadn't thought I might turn up at 10:30pm, shattered from a big day and could do with a shower. I transfer the money I put on my credit card today from my splurge account to my savings account to stop me overspending when that account is empty — that's it for spending on myself 'til I get paid. Head to bed, realise we could've picked up milk from the petrol station (why didn't I think of it earlier?!). I find the Freddo Frog in my pocket. It's gone quickly.
Daily Total: $40

Day 3

6:45am — I get up. Miss the morning routine of K. reminding me to feed her as I get dressed to go for a walk down by the beach. I drive the two minutes and walk by the beach for an hour. My mum was hospitalised five months ago for a month and has required a lot of personal care. I've had to take time off work to take her to all her medical appointments after she was discharged. She turned a corner last week. This is only my second Sunday off any carer duties and I'm working my way back to focusing on my life. After promising myself I would get back into jogging, I manage five minutes, but the blisters on my feet from my new runners halt my progress. Baby steps.
8:15am — Back at the house, breakfast, rinse, repeat. Same meal every day along with a mug of tea. I listen to podcasts then change out of my gym clothes. Learn from yesterday's stuff up with the towels and get them in the washing machine, then hang them out to dry. Head off for the collectors fair at Joondalup.
9:30am — Getting out of the car, I notice my handbag's strap has nearly snapped from the bag. I've found my next mini-emergency to spend money on! A new handbag! I just spent my mini emergency funds on runners that split two weeks ago. The handbag will need to wait til next week when I get the interest on my savings account.
10:30am — I have a good haul at the collectors fair. Pay entry ($5). I bump into a couple of acquaintances and catch up with them. As it's mostly local businesses or people selling their own collections, most only take cash. I took out $150 in cash the other day for this fair. I purchase two coasters ($18), two pop vinyls ($60) and three Lego mini-figures ($9). $92 paid in cash with $68 leftover to put towards the next fair. $97
10:45am — Wait for the towels to dry while watching an episode of Pretty Little Liars. Towels dried, I fold them and put them in the linen closet. I pack up the night bag and head home. I stop at the comic book store to pick up four issues, paid for with my splurge money ($43.96). Then I fill up my petrol tank ($66.61). I put $300 into my groceries/petrol account when I get paid so I don't overindulge in food I don't need. When the account is empty by the end of the pay cycle, I can take money from splurge but that means less money I get to spend on wants. I've always been a person who saves for everything important first, then spends whatever is leftover. $110.57
1:30pm — Home. When I open the door, K. rushes out to roll around the garage floor before settling herself on top of the car bonnet. It's nice to feel missed! Unpack and get another serve of potato wedges in the oven for lunch, add heated-up beef mixture, mayo and spring onion for lunch.
2:30pm — After I've unpacked, I head to Coles for Turkish rolls, avocados, band-aids and a block of chocolate ($11.25). When I get home, I transfer the funds I've spent today to my savings account, ready for when they come through on my credit card statement. I do a few chores around the house before chilling out listening to podcasts and eating half the chocolate block. $11.25
6:00pm — I cook up my next meal — vego pesto pasta with roasted veggies. I roast up the full serving of veggies and cook two servings of pasta. Add feta and put the leftovers in the fridge. Eat dinner, shower, skincare, eat the rest of the chocolate block — oops! I watch a single episode of One Tree Hill, Glee and Gilmore Girls. I'm in a podcast TV rewatching era as I'm listening to TV recaps for a bunch of 90's/00's shows which are from fans of the shows or from cast members. I watch an episode the night before the podcast about the show drops. Who needs to binge TV when you can go back to watching TV week to week? Pretty Little Liars is the show I'm watching in between the week-to-week TV show podcast releases.
10:00pm — Curl up in bed with K. lying by my legs and read a comic book before going to sleep.
Daily Total: $213.82

Day 4

7:00am — I've slept in after K. dug herself under the doona and as such, wasn't jumping on me to get up. She stays there rather than reminding me to feed her, which is her way of telling me she doesn't need me, especially after I abandoned her the other night. Get dressed, feed K. and change her litter tray. She digs herself out of bed for breakfast. I go for a walk for 30 minutes. Get back home, have breakfast and tea. I contemplate switching back to muesli, yoghurt and fruit when I use up these breakfast supplies.
8:00am — Fire up the work laptop to WFH again. Go do my hair and makeup before settling in for some urgent tasks whilst drinking my tea.
9:00am — I take a half-hour break to join a coaching session I'm doing through my works' wellbeing program. I'm working on saying 'no' to Mum more, focusing on myself and learning how not to let my mum's dramas distract me when I'm at work. As much as my mum's health is important, so too is my own — she can be verbally abusive to me when anything doesn't go her way (like her forgetting milk on her shopping list). She often calls me when I'm at work to yell and scream about some drama "I've" created and has threatened to call the cops on me for things I haven't done. She also doesn't comprehend that she has no other friends or family that will help her with anything and that she would be in aged care if it wasn't for me caring for her in the limited amount that I can manage before her abuse gets too much. My coach encourages me to let all of Mum's calls go to voicemail first this week.
12:30pm — After a quiet morning at work, I heat up a serving of vego pesto pasta for lunch. Spend my break dealing with mum-admin, calling government departments to chase up answers on her application for how much she needs to pay for home care. I also organise to book in mum's car for repairs.
1:00pm — Work suddenly picks up when I find out some new accounts haven't been set up correctly and a colleague calls with some queries about getting some stock into our warehouse in time for Father's Day sales.
4:30pm — Laptop closed, I go for a 20-minute walk and try to focus on what I want for my future — a partner, a family, and a big ol' mortgage for buying my mum's beach house as it's the perfect family home. One day, I keep telling myself!
5:00pm — I do some gardening when I get home, vacuum around the house, playing podcasts to distract me. Cook up dinner — my last meal from my Dinnerly box, which is chicken and corn risotto. I make the full serving of this recipe even though I'll tire of the risotto not being fresh by the next serve. I put aside a serving for tomorrow's lunch as I'll be at the office.
7:00pm — Wind down with a shower and a face mask, resisting the urge to go to the shops for ice cream. I listen to podcasts, delete photos on my phone's gallery after transferring the files to my two hard drives, watch an episode of Pretty Little Liars and catch up on the finale of And Just Like That (a few days late). Then I worry that I'll never get that future I was imagining if I spend too many days not leaving the house. I need to interact with people. Instead, I read another comic book and hop in bed with K. at my feet by 10:30pm.
Daily Total: $0

Day 5

7:00am — I slept in! Haul myself outta bed and get dressed. K. rushes in to remind me to feed her. I do so and also sort out her litter. I'm running late but I still go for a 20-minute walk because I need the fresh air and exercise to start the day. Nobody at work seems to notice I log on earlier when WFH and tend to work at least half an hour less when at the office. Same breakfast with a cuppa tea when I get back. Hair, makeup, grab everything I need for work. I'm 15 minutes late — oops!
8:30am — I get to the office, get myself set up at my desk before making myself another cuppa. Settle into work, check my calendar for any meetings I have scheduled this week, then get on with the urgent tasks my colleagues have sent me.
10:00am — I get a notification that my super from last month's pay has hit my account. Without housing costs, I contribute the maximum payment the government allows. I worry I'm spending too much contributing to my future and that I wasted my 20s to mid-30s working multiple jobs and not going out to pay off my mortgage, and that I don't have anything to show for it as I don't have friends or anyone to spend my life with. At best, I have acquaintances, but no one I could call in an emergency. Financial security ain't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe one day I'll be daring and buy something I don't have the money for.
12:30pm — A quiet day so far at the office. I stop for a break to eat my risotto lunch and do my social media scroll. The risotto is my least favourite of the three meals.
3:00pm — I pinch a muesli bar out of the pot of shared break time food items.
4:00pm — I head home as it's been a quiet day. Within a minute of arriving home, a colleague calls me, chasing some info on some new accounts. She very kindly tells me not to log onto my laptop for it and asks me to have it to her in the morning, but I quickly determine I was left out of the loop on some of the set-up functions for these accounts and we chat about how neither of us feels the transition of these accounts has gone as smoothly as it could have.
4:45pm — Time to watch a couple of single episodes of random 90's/00's TV shows, ready to listen to podcasts about them tomorrow. Friday Night Lights and Bones are on the agenda today. While I watch, I do things around the house but when I finish the episodes, I feel like I've done nothing! I've at least cooked another serving of potato wedges, getting them ready for dinner.
6:30pm — I'm at the gym for Konga class. The hour goes quickly!
7:45pm — Back home. Heat up a serve of potato wedges and beef mixture for dinner. Next on my TV show list to watch is Smallville. Shower, skincare, chill. Watch YouTube videos and in bed by 10:30pm.
Daily Total: $0

Day 6

6:30am — Up early today. K. is annoyed but quickly moves to remind me to feed her. Get changed, feed K., change her litter, 30 minute walk. I see three direct debits have been made to my credit card — gym ($27.90), eHarmony subscription ($38.90) and my next Dinnerly box ($63.39) — all in my monthly expenses.
7:15am — Back home, usual breakfast with a cuppa tea. I remember to fill up a little container of tea leaves to take to work. I put on a load of laundry, cook up a serving of pasta for lunch, and rush around getting ready for work. Just when I think I'm getting away on time, I remember I have to hang the laundry out. K. comes outside with me whilst I do this chore. She loves laundry because it usually means I'll let her run around outside while I'm out there. Takes me a minute to coerce her back inside and now I'm running late.
8:30am — Settle into my desk, start looking into the set-up of the accounts from yesterday and work out where mistakes were made. Call my colleague to let her know what we need to change but she's pulling into the car park so a few minutes later, we're huddled around my desk on the phone to our acting manager, going over the changes I'll be uploading that we need him to approve. I take a quick break to make a cup of tea before diving into all these account changes.
12:30pm — I break for lunch at my desk, heating up my pesto pasta and adding feta I bought with me. Social media scroll, try to ignore emails that come through until I have to get back to work.
4:00pm — It's been a quiet arvo so I head home. Get home, get ready for a gym class, and do a few chores around the house. Still time for a random TV show watch — this time it's The X Files.
5:30pm — Get to the gym, do my one-hour class, wrap up and head to Mum's.
7:15pm — Arrive at Mum's. She's cleaning her floors. After 7pm on a weekday. Sure. I grab her shopping list, run it through with her, discuss a few items I can't get as they are bad for her, and work out alternatives. She gives me her bank card and off I go. Get the shopping done and back to her.
8:15pm — Home, heat up a serving of risotto for dinner. Shower, skincare, change K.'s litter, and settle on the couch for an evening of Charmed, Boy Meets World and Will & Grace. I log onto my banking. My council rates ($1,831) are due in 2 days and I need to pay off some of my credit card purchases to make room to pay that bill when it's due. I pay off $1,322.61, leaving the only outstanding purchases of my flights/accommodation for a long weekend trip to Melbourne in April that I booked two weeks ago. Funds for everything on the credit card were in my savings account. I save up $850 a month to cover the council rates, all insurance, car costs and other large bills. I challenge myself that by the end of the year, I have money left over that I buy myself a treat. This year, I'm hoping for a new phone. Another comic book and I'm in bed after 10pm.
Daily Total: $0

Day 7

5:15am — Alarm. Up at the crack of 'why am I awake?!' to join a Zoom group. I get together with a podcast group weekly to hang out. It's 15 to 20 of us all over the world. You know when you find your people? These are my people. I'll get up at crazy o'clock for them anytime. One girl from NYC travelled to London yesterday and is sitting on the same couch as one of our London members during this call. I'm planning a trip to London next year to see my brother. And my London podcast fam.
7:15am — We end the Zoom call. I get changed and sort out K. who has been bugging me for an hour to feed her. Another walk — just 10 minutes today. Breakfast, tea, get ready for work.
8:00am — I'm going to the office after 9am as I need to stop by the post office for catalogue distribution supplies. I WFH for an hour.
9:30am — Get to the office, unload supplies from the car, and log onto my computer.
10:45am — Go out to the warehouse to collect a delivery and get back to my desk to find four missed calls from my mum's home care provider. Check my voicemails and they say my mum's not answering the door or her phone. Is she home? Gone walking to the shops? Collapsed unconscious? I call Mum, no answer. I call the provider. I decide the best option is to tell the girl where Mum's spare keys are to enter the house to find out if she's okay, rather than spend 30 minutes driving, wondering what I'll find or asking the carer to call 000 for a welfare check. Good news: Mum's okay. Bad news: she ran the girl out of her house, screaming at her. Breathe deeply, decide to give Mum an hour before calling her to find out why.
11:30am — Mum calls me not realising I know what she's done and tells me she didn't want to see anyone today. She thought if she didn't answer the door or phone, the carer would go away. I explain they're there to provide support she needs and get hung up on. Fabulous.
1:30pm — Spend two hours juggling calls from my mum's nurse and service provider team leader. We settle on putting on hold services except for her nurse, with the knowledge Mum isn't taking her twice-daily meds. Taking away these services puts her at risk of complications, but my attempts to call Mum twice daily to remind her to take her meds has only led to me being hung up on. After, a work colleague calls with work queries. I keep quiet about Mum's meltdown to remain professional. Nearly forget to have lunch, but the risotto is quickly eaten.
3:30pm — I go to the post office with the deliveries.
4:45pm — Arrive home, log into my laptop for half an hour to complete urgent tasks. I message my brother about Mum's meltdown and head to Coles. Muesli, milk, yoghurt, frozen berries ($14.90). I pick up dinner — Chimek — southern fried chicken/chips ($23.25). $38.15
6:30pm — Arrive home, enjoy my meal knowing I need to work it off over the weekend. Shower/skincare, look after K.
10:00pm — Not bedtime. It's time to spend my tax return on a Harry Potter Lego set which releases at midnight. Working on Lego sets was my stress reliever during the pandemic. I haven't given it up. I use a $75 discount voucher which takes the price down to $554.99. It'll take me several weeks to build as I'll take my time with it. $554.99
10:20pm — Now it's bedtime. K. curls up against my legs.
Daily Total: $593.14

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

The Lego set is something I probably purchase twice-yearly. I buy comics and go to the fair every couple of months. This week, the rounding up of my purchases to the closest $5 has earnt me $10.79 towards a new handbag.

If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service. 

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