Money Diaries

A Week In Marrickville, Sydney, As A Comedian & Office Admin On $50,000

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.
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Today: a comedian and office administrator who makes $50,000 a year trades a body pillow and two pillowcases for a jar of chocolate Pana spread.
Content warning: This article touches on instances of disordered eating that some readers may find upsetting.
Occupation: Office Administrator
Industry: Legal
Age: 28
Location: Marrickville, Sydney
Salary: $50,000
Net Worth: Right now, I only have a dismal $900 in my savings account and $411.71 in my superannuation account after depleting the majority during Covid. My last employer also didn't pay me any super which I had to report to the ATO. Yay!
The last year or so before my current job, I was working three days a week in hospitality and it was evidently nowhere near enough to keep me afloat and demolished my savings. I also just got out of a long-distance relationship which was (surprise, surprise) quite the added expense. I don't have any large assets or investments or a house because as aforementioned, I worked in hospitality for ten years. I tried and failed many times in the last five years to permanently transition out of it.
Debt: $24,000 in HECS debt. About a year after the first lockdown, I paid off my personal loan for a car I no longer use. I put my loan payments on hold, like, three times because of the pandemic, which didn't help with repaying it in a timely manner at all!
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $1,960.00
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,208. After getting evicted from a dingy sharehouse last year, I made the choice to live alone — and it's so good! I live in a National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) building, which means that you're eligible for certain properties if you earn under $50,000. This was the case when I moved in, but in the next financial year, I'll have to reassess everything as I'll likely be over the threshold. My flat isn't perfect, but my rent is only $302 a week which includes water and internet — not too shabby, especially for Sydney right now!
Binge: $10. I barely use it but it's good to have it for that one show or movie you need every now and then.
Netflix and Stan: I'm on my Mum's account. God bless her.
Phone: $88
Savings Contributions: $400. I'm hoping to up this to $600 because I'm living well within my means now that I have this Big Girl Job™.

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

I very briefly did an Advanced Diploma of Arts in Acting. I only studied it for about six to eight months (out of a 2.5 year degree), but they stung me for half of the course fee — $24,000. This is on HECS. I recently spoke with some of the lawyers at my work who said that I should have disputed it, but I think it's too late now. Oops! I think I'll only start paying some of it off by the end of the next financial year. Gross.

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

Money was always tight in my house. It was a lot of waiting until paydays, cutting down on the quantities of things, or simply having to go without. After my dad passed away and it was just my mum, conversations around money became way franker. I think it was simply because they had to be.
I watched my mum budget her Centrelink payments and explain why things were the way they were and when we'd be able to do certain things. It was never in a way that upset us, but more in an attempt to be transparent and to set realistic expectations. Also, we never answered private numbers because they were almost always debt collectors.
Her best advice to me was to always try and put away 10% of my pay. My current situation notwithstanding (I'll be honest, this is the most broke I've been in my adult life), I was always pretty good at this. I normally had at least $2,000 in emergency savings. I guess sometimes life is an emergency.

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

My first proper job was at a Donut King. I got it because I was 14 and everyone around me was getting or was encouraged to get a job. I also just wanted to start making my own money for important things like movies and Wendy's hotdog combos. Yes, Wendy's hotdogs were far superior to Donut King's — not that I'd ever tell.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Constantly. I watched my single mum try and keep three kids fed and dressed with no outside support. She was out of the house 12 hours a day travelling to and from the city (in Brisbane, this was 1.5 hours each way, but to her credit, she basically completed her Master's degree on a bus!). She did all of this just to keep a roof over our heads and the lights on each night. I watched her manoeuvre her way through conversations with Telstra and electricity payment plans, dodge debt collectors and bob and weave her way into somehow keeping the fridge and pantry decently stocked.

Do you worry about money now?

Constantly! I have an unhealthy fear of financial insecurity due to my childhood. In addition, moving states during the middle of the pandemic absolutely obliterated my savings and superannuation. Hindsight is 20/20 — I wouldn't mind a couple of extra dollars in my bank account right now.

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

It was probably when I was 18 years old when I moved away from home into the big city (Brisbane, that is). I started paying rent and bills by myself for the first time (but I did stay on the family phone plan for another eight years, thanks Mumma!).
My current financial safety net is the $900 I have in my savings account. I can be creative with it, sure, but it's a pretty small net.

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

In 2017, my grandma passed away and I inherited $25,000. I was incredibly depressed at the time and blew about half of it on an awful Contiki tour and a trip through the south and east coast of America. I ended up moving back in with my mum for two months after that, using the rest to supplement my non-existent income until I was back on my feet (essentially addressing my alcoholism — y'know, girly things!)

Day 1

10:00am — An alarm goes off at the same time every Monday morning reminding me to pay rent. Yes, I know I can set up a direct debit, but I prefer to actually do it myself each week so I know that it's definitely gone through. I'm still a bit traumatised because of an incident in an old sharehouse where a group of girls ganged up on me and accused me of being the reason we were in arrears. I had to print out my itemised bank statements and scour through all my old payments to make sure they had gone through — which they did. A week later, I got a little 'oops!' message from the group chat because one of the girls had maxed out her credit card and was three weeks behind. I did not receive an apology.
10:20am — I get to work and head out to pick up the mail. Before, I head to the IGA to get my daily sweetie and something to eat for dinner because I'm going straight from work to my stand-up gig tonight. I land on a packet of chips and a protein bar (not great, I'm aware) and pay $9.93. I eat my Pana ball and my sorry excuse for a meal and head to the post office. $9.93
11:00am — My colleague is on extended leave (must be nice), so it's just been pretty busy for me for the last few weeks as I'm dealing with the brunt of the workload. I help the intake team field through all the messages and enquiries left over the Christmas break. Some days, it feels like I have 50 things to do at once. Somehow, I miraculously end up managing to get it all done by the end of the day.
5:13pm — I’m on the Lidcombe via Bankstown line, trying to wind down after work. I’m starving and daydreaming about my chips and protein, but I refuse to be the person openly chowing down on public transport. Plus, I’m one of those ~crazy~ few who still wears my mask in enclosed spaces!
7:52pm — I head to Moshpit Bar in Newtown for my gig. I hang at the bar and try to go over a new joke as part of my stand-up routine that I definitely should have a) practised and memorised more, and b) generally given more thought to. I’ve been doing stand-up for about five years now. I equally love it and am stressed out by it more than anything else in the world. I won’t get paid for tonight as it’s an open mic (you get used to this), but maybe if I sharpen this bit up, I can take it to a gig that will.
8:30pm — The bartender walks over to me and playfully asks me if I want to have a drink or if I'm just loitering around. I briefly think about the calories I’ve consumed today and do some very quick maths. I don't fall under any official category of an eating disorder, but I think being raised in the 2000s has damaged my brain in a way that it's impossible for me to ever see food as a nutritional necessity. I order a Coke Zero ($4.07) and rationalise that I've had a huge day so I deserve it. As I sip, I realise I don't really want it. I've chipped into the quickly decreasing final funds of the week and I only have $69 to last me till Thursday. $4.07
10:30pm — The gig went well! I tried out a silly new bit about insane Hinge prompts that I’ve been seeing. I didn’t even get to the bit I was working on at the bar before my time was up, which I was fine with because it really wasn’t ready!
11:00pm — After the gig, my friend gives me a lift home as we live so close to each other. The glow of the night soon wears off and I remember that tomorrow I have to wake up, put on my boring administration hat, and flick around some emails for a crust.
Daily Total: $14

Day 2

8:42am — After snoozing my alarm, I eventually pry myself out of bed, skip my morning yoga and get myself onto a bus and a train to head to work for the day. I hop off the train and head to the IGA to get myself some milk for my coffee and protein shake, as well as a Pana ball to get me through the day (sue me). It’s not until I walk past the Yumi’s pumpkin and spinach balls that I realise I didn't eat anything for dinner last night. In an attempt to not repeat my mistakes, I grab a packet to accompany some pre-made quinoa, which I'm planning on dousing in aioli when I get home. $11.99 for the privilege. $11.99
9:00am — My work day is busy yet uneventful — just how administration feels in general. There are a lot of things going on and a lot of moving parts and things to be done, but none of it is memorable. Send this email here, make sure this appointment has been moved there. To be honest with you though, it's fine. I much prefer sitting on my ass, flicking around emails and taking phone messages than slaving away mind, body and soul in hospitality. I’d much prefer to be working in a creative field or actually working solely on my comedy but this pays the bills, so until I work out the rest, this will do.
6:00pm — I finish work and head home. Any energy I once had to do yoga is instead used lugging my ass down to the shops once I realise I left my pumpkin and spinach balls at work. I also realise I don't have any Corn Flakes left for breakfast tomorrow. My kitchen is always bare at this time of the week, right before payday. I assume everybody else’s is too, right? I grab the same pumpkin and spinach balls, some cereal and pay a $7.70 dumb bitch tax. $7.70
7:00pm — Later in the evening, I make a trade (courtesy of the Rough Trade Facebook group), swapping a body pillow and two pillowcases for a jar of Pana chocolate spread. I promise Pana isn’t sponsoring my diary — I’m simply PMSing and need some choccy! Thankfully, she drops it by my house.
8:00pm — I spend the rest of the evening eating spoonfuls of Pana spread while finishing off the Harry & Meghan series. I’ll admit I cried when they said they coincidentally announced the pregnancy of their second child on the same day Diana announced she was pregnant with Harry — I’m not above that!
Daily Total: $19.69

Day 3

7:00am — I start today like any other. Drag myself out of bed, shower, scoff down some breakfast while doing my makeup and did my morning pages on the bus and train. I’ve been reading this book called The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity because a very successful comedian I like read it and said it changed her life. Naturally, I assume it will work just the same on me. The first week of exercises encourages me to do this morning page where I basically just free-flow all my thoughts for three pages straight. This is supposed to help you get everything out of the way and give your creativity room to shine. It makes sense in theory, so I’ll see how we go!
2:52pm — My day is much of a muchness — a theme in my work. A call here, an urgent email there. Busy, but again, unmemorable. I'm doing a pretty good job of not spending money, but after having a massive cry in the meeting room due to a horrifically bad call, I treat myself to a Kresho bar ($3.75). This client was flagged as somebody to be cautious of, but I didn’t even get to the flag on their file until it all kicked off. This is unfortunately the nature of working for a not-for-profit legal service, which I have come to accept, although this has been the worst so far. $3.75
5:05pm — After work, I call my mum to vent about my day. It's something she's always dealt with, especially when I have one of these bad calls. She’s very understanding because she’s worked in medical administration her whole life, so she has well and truly seen it all.
6:30pm — I go easy on myself for the rest of the night. I have my pumpkin and spinach balls with quinoa and aioli for dinner as I have a surplus of them. Then I vege out on some carefully crafted clickbait that YouTube has in store for me. I end up watching some studio apartment tours from Apartment Therapy before soothing my mind with ASMR baking videos by HidaMari (the only kind of ASMR my mind will allow).
Daily Total: $3.75

Day 4

7:00am — I normally work Thursday but I had to switch my RDO around because I need to attend a training session on Friday. I was hoping to get a sleep-in today, but I wake up at pretty much the same time I usually do. I get up, feeling no more rested than I normally would have been, and make my way over to Bondi Junction for an appointment.
9:30am —  After years of putting it off, I finally get assessed for ADHD. I’ve been putting it off for a number of years because it's exorbitantly expensive to be assessed, with seemingly no real standardised testing between clinics and psychiatrists. I also have a late-stage C-PTSD diagnosis that I needed to address (and that didn't cost nearly as much!). The doctor says that it's very likely that I have ADHD and sends me home with some surveys for myself, my mum and a friend to fill out, along with a $670 bill. I'm expecting to get about $230 back from Medicare, which should go straight back into my deflated savings account. $670
4:20pm — I don't have much on for the rest of the day, so I sit and wait around to get paid. All the things I had planned to do for the day required money, so I end up being incredibly bored as I wait for it to hit my account. As soon as I get the notification that it's landed, I throw on some bike pants and head to Broadway Shopping Centre.
4:50pm — On the bus. I usually just tap on with my card, but I never see the payment come out of my account. If anything, it's just a random $1 here or there (I think it's a glitch in the system — don't tell anybody!). While I'm riding, I remember that my Afterpay payment bounced back a few days ago, so I manually pay it. $12.29 later, my new vacuum is now fully paid off! Yes, it was only a $50 vacuum, but she's serving me quite well so far. $12.29
5:18pm — When I arrive at the shops, I have to go get a protein bar because I'm starving and need fuel for my journey. My poison right now is the vegan chocolate fudge Tonik bar from Coles. $4.50
5:53 pm — Last week, in an effort to be more casual in the office, I bought a couple of coloured plain t-shirts to pair with my slacks. Post-pandemic, there seems to be a real shift in office wear with a lot of people in my office sporting sneakers, jeans, shorts and sandals (although personally, I think it’s a crime to have your toes out at work!). There’s a woman at my work who rarely comes into the office, but when she does, she walks around in a mask and no shoes, which I think is a very interesting stance on personal protective equipment.
Anyway, the first thing I need is a new bra because you can see my bra through two of the shirts since they’re so thin — even the new white bralette I bought especially for them stands out like a deer in the headlights. I head to Target to find a nude bra and secure one for $20. I'm happy as I'll hopefully never have to walk into the bra section again, especially as someone with a wide ribcage but tiny tits. $20
6:04pm — I head to the chemist to get a script filled, get a Ventolin puffer and some Movicol (where my IBS babes at?!). I'm always a bit concerned about the price as a borderline chronically ill person, so I religiously shop at Chemist Warehouse. In good news, it only stings me for $33.79.
6:18pm — Lastly, I head back to Coles for the rest of my much-needed groceries. Nothing exciting on this front — just some falafel, wraps, aioli, some chocolate and milk. I did, however, decide to shout myself some burgers for dinner. $39.70 later and I will live to feed myself another day. $39.70
8:00pm — Later that evening, I email my Mum about the part of the ADHD quiz that she needs to fill out for me. She says she'll look at it in the morning with 'fresh eyes', which I feel all mums say. Then, I excitedly cook up my burgers, but I'm mortified to discover that the vegan cheese has gone mouldy. I didn't even think vegan cheese could do that! The burgers end up fine, but it still feels like it's missing something.
10:00pm — I make some valerian root tea before bed. It doesn’t taste great but I’m giving it a go for the packet's worth and seeing if it makes any difference to my sleep. I know it takes three valerian root tablets to make me sleepy but at $25 a bottle, that’s gonna get pricey. I scoff down the tea, scribble a few things in my gratitude diary and eventually head off to bed.
Daily Total: $780.28

Day 5

7:00am — I feel like I say that every morning I drag myself out of bed, but I really did today. I’m not meant to be working today, and even though I had a day off yesterday, I don't really feel rested. Especially because I had to get up so early.
8:38am — I saunter over to the IGA to pick up some more milk because I smashed through it the other day. $3.30 for my very specific type of rice milk. $3.30
9:10am — I discover that the training session today is SEVEN hours long and I'm really annoyed. Its finish time isn't until 6pm, which I initially thought was an error (but is very much true).
10:00am — I make myself a hot chocolate and set up in the meeting room in the back corner of the front office. I end up pulling the screen right to the corner of the desk and sit on the bean bag. If I'm going to be here for seven hours, I'm going to be comfortable. The training is on suicide awareness, which is far too long to be spent on that topic, as well as personally being triggering AF.
1:04pm — I rush back over to the IGA for lunch because I realise I don't have any. Plus, the training session has generously allotted us a 45-minute break. I buy some falafel and aioli for $11.04. I'm furious that I forgot to pack aioli from home, especially as I stuffed it in my usual bag (that I didn't take today). $11.04
4:00pm — I sneak out of my training to do a Telehealth appointment with my awful GP (the nice one is on maternity leave). She tells me they’re no longer bulk billing anyone, including healthcare card holders. She claims that I’ll still be heavily discounted, but I’m still charged the full $70 fee when all I needed was one (1) script for my medication. I receive $39 back from Medicare later in the evening. $31
7:36pm — Since the training was sooo long and sooo shit, I treat myself to a nice dinner. I head down to I Should Be Souvlaki and stuff my exhausted little face with a Santorini souvlaki and strawberry cheesecake. $39.76
8:45pm — I get the bus home, feeling very full but very deflated. I get undressed, shower and proceed to sit on TikTok for two hours in an attempt not to have a single thought. I've simply had far too many of those today — and not one of them was good. I finally give in and roll myself into bed.
Daily Total: $85.10

Day 6

8:00am — Today is a rough day. I'm feeling pretty triggered from the seven-hour training yesterday, so I'm pretty out of sorts and having a dodgy mental health day. After attempting to drag myself out of bed for the second time, I decide that I need to take it slow and be very nice to myself today.
1:18pm — I head into Newtown and finally go back to Comeco Foods for lunch. I say lunch but it was really me eating what I decided would feel the very best in my tummy at that exact moment. This turned out to be two sourdough doughnuts — one covered with cinnamon sugar and the other filled with mocha chocolate custard). I pair these with an iced Milo. $20.10
2:25pm — I stroll down to Better Read Than Dead, hoping to pick up the new Prince Harry book. When I get there, I see it on the shelf with an outrageous price of $59.99 (!!!). No, thanks. I opt for something else — a book called Intimacies by Lucy Caldwell. It's a much more reasonable $19.99, so I buy it and head down to Camperdown Park to read it under a shady tree. $19.99
4:50pm — I don't want to go home yet (or be alone with my own thoughts), so I catch the afternoon viewing of M3GAN at Dendy. The ticket is $17.35, which is the senior's price plus an online processing fee. I always get the senior or child ticket because the kids that work there barely check your tickets and I’m a penny pincher from way back. I buy some salt and vinegar pea snaps chips and a Tonik protein bar at the IGA next door ($8.18), and head into the movie. $25.53
7:00pm — After the movie, I finally decided to head home. As I'm sitting at the bus stop, I just want to cry. I don't know why. It's not because of the movie — it was actually quite good and not nearly as scary as I thought (thank god, because I'm a baby when it comes to horror movies). My eyes start to well up, but my bus arrives and I quickly shape up — I don't want to be that person on public transport.
7:33pm — I get home and call my mum — a surefire way to get my cry on. She tells me to be easy on myself, which I'm trying my best to do. I have a cry, then have a nice long sit in the shower (IYKYK) and try to remind myself that this feeling will pass. I jump into bed and hope for a better day tomorrow.
Daily Total: $65.62

Day 7

8:30am — I wake up. It's a small sleep-in, but I really want to get some yoga in before I go out. I can't get all the way through the session, which is out of character. I figure some exercise is better than no exercise, so I roll up my mat and get ready for the day.
10:26am — Two of my friends invite me to go to Redleaf Beach. As they're trying to sweeten the deal, they say that we can drop by my favourite cafe, Ruby Lonesome, beforehand to get some treats. I'm in! I grab a homemade chocolate, raspberry and macadamia brownie and a Mailers McGuire French Earl Grey kombucha ($13.89). Then we head over to the beach. $13.89
11:15am — When we get to the beach, my friend B. and myself have a dip in the water as our other friend R. watched on like a weird dad in the shade (B.'s words, not mine). We set up on a grassy incline and all soak up the sun while individually reading our books and eating our snacks. I continue on with my book from yesterday, B. has a psychology journal that she's reading and R. is reading something by Joan Didion.
2:02pm — On the way back home, I notice my direct deposit for my phone has come out of my account (covered in my monthly expenses). Catch ya later, $58! I’ll have to say goodbye to another $33 in a few days because, for some ridiculous reason, they take the phone payments and the data payments out separately.
5:23pm — I scoff some dinner before my gig. I still have heaps of pumpkin and spinach balls left and I’m not mad about it. You’d think 5pm is early for dinner, and you’d be right. However, I’ve gotten into the habit of eating before gigs because it’s better than spending money there on something subpar or needing to wait until 9pm to feed myself. How can I be funny if I'm hungry?
6:30pm — Later that night, I have a gig in Chippendale. I arrive at the venue and see someone having a juice. It looks really nice, so I decide to get a juice ($4.07). The gig itself is fine. The crowd pulled back on a part of a joke that I’ve done a bunch of times, so it really threw me off. Also, the booker was giving me the light (an indicator that your time's nearly up) for like a minute and a half, making me think I had gone way over time. I hadn’t — I did a perfect seven minutes! That’s open-mic comedy for you though, baby! If you’re not laughin’, you’re learnin’. $4.07
7:51pm — I bail early on the rest of the gig in hopes of having an early night. Since I'm right near Broadway Shopping Centre, I decide to pop in and grab a new hair straightener. Earlier this evening, I had to brush flaking ceramic out of my hair from my old reliable VS Sassoon of eight years, so I decided it was time for a Changing of the Guard. I head to Target to pick up a similar model, but after finding out they're closed, I very reluctantly take myself into Kmart. I spend $25 on a no-name straightener — so please, thoughts and prayers. $25
8:10pm — Back on the bus with my hair straightener in hand (read: backpack), I head home and reluctantly prepare for the week ahead. I unpack the straightener but keep the box and all the instructions in case this thing doesn’t turn on or shits itself in a week's time.
10:00pm — I do a little meditation before bed. I’m meant to do this every night but I often forget. I don’t know if it helps me actually release and relax for the night or not, but it can’t not help me relax and reset, right? I should meditate more in general (I’m always saying this), but I go through phases with meditation where I’m either really in and it’s helping or I’m really out because it hasn’t been helping. I stay up a little longer, flicking around on my phone and refreshing my dumb apps while procrastinating sleep. If I stay up longer, I’m further away from the fact that I have to go to work tomorrow, my lizard brain rationalises. Eventually, I’m tired and updated on my apps enough that I accept my fate and give in to sleep.
Daily Total: $42.96
If you or anyone you know is struggling with disordered eating, please contact the Butterfly Foundation at 1800 33 4673. Support and information are available 7 days a week. 
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