Money Diaries

A Week In West End, Brisbane, As A Communications Officer On $84,000

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Today: a communications officer who makes $84,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a board game called 'Patchwork'.
Occupation: Communications Officer
Industry: Advocacy/Activism
Age: 27
Location: West End, Brisbane
Salary: $84,179
Net Worth: -$75,000. I have $8,993 in super and around $2,000 in savings. I have a trip to Asia planned for later in the year so I've been putting a bit of money towards that recently. I've also created a new bank account that I can't touch and I'm in the very early stages of trying to save for a house deposit (the rental crisis is stressing me out).
Debt: Around $86,261 ($85,811 HECS debt, $100 Zippay, $230 Afterpay, and $200 on my credit card)
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,300
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: I pay roughly $920 in rent per month. I live in a big sharehouse with five housemates. We split the cost of total rent which is $1,000 per week. I really like my living situation and chose to live with housemates for social as well as financial reasons. It's likely that our lease won't be renewed in a couple of months so I'm definitely worried about finding somewhere affordable to live.
Debt: I pay around $400 towards my HECS per month (and probably will for the rest of my life). I have almost finished paying off my credit card and other loans I accrued while finishing my studies, but I've been paying around $500 per month towards these for a while.
Gym Membership: $220
Union Fees: $80
Internet: $17
Utilities: $55. Utility bills are fairly low because they're split between so many housemates.
Savings Contributions: $500
Phone: $125
Spotify: $11
Streaming: $0, because I use other people's logins (with permission!).
Crossword Subscription: $6

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

I did a double degree of Bachelor of Journalism and Arts (French major) and then a Master of Digital Communication, hence my insane HECS debt that is growing much quicker than I'm able to pay it off. I didn't really consider HECS to be too much of an issue until indexation made it impossible to make any progress with paying it off.

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

I don't remember having any conversations about money with my parents growing up. Saving, budgeting or investing were never dinner table conversations. I feel like I'm still trying to figure it all out now and finally build some savings after living paycheque-to-paycheque my whole adult life.

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

My first job was at Mcdonald's when I was 14. I wanted some independence and money to spend on 14-year-old girl things, like lipgloss, movie tickets and snacks after school.

Did you worry about money growing up?

My parents always had stable jobs and although we weren't rich, I don't remember there being financial stress in my household. We were able to go on some modest holidays and there were always nice presents on birthdays and Christmas. We definitely didn't have a flashy lifestyle, but my brother and I were able to do most of the things we wanted to do. I feel very lucky to have never really experienced much financial stress.

Do you worry about money now?

Of course! I worry about everything getting more expensive, the real value of my wages declining and being a renter in unstable housing for the rest of my life. I'm lucky to have a fairly well-paid job but I've decided not to have kids pretty much entirely because I think it would be too stressful financially.

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

I became completely financially independent when I started working full-time almost two years ago. I'm very lucky in that I know if I lost my job suddenly my parents would help me out.

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


Day 1

7:30am — I wake up and I'm exhausted from a massive weekend. I'd normally go to the gym (I try and go as often as I can muster the energy because it's super exxy at $55 per week), but I've slept in today. I don't usually eat breakfast during the week, so I start getting ready for work.
8:00am — I decide to walk to work today since I skipped the gym; it takes me around 45 minutes. This also saves me around $4 I would have spent taking the bus. I would normally buy a coffee on my way in but I'm trying to limit the amount I buy. I try to be as conservative as I can with money during the week because I usually end up having a blowout on the weekends (girls just wanna have fun!).
9:00am — I arrive at work and enjoy a delicious cup of free Blend 43 from the staff kitchen. I tell myself it's just as good as a $6 one from a café. I get settled into a morning of meetings and emails.
12:00pm — Lunchtime! I've been really good recently at bringing lunch to work but I didn't buy any lunch groceries for this week because sometimes facing a supermarket on a Sunday is too much. I want something cheap, so I head to Woolies and get a katsu curry from the hot food section ($11). Today I'm in the mood to avoid the lunchroom and have some alone time. I go and eat it in the park and listen to a podcast I'm loving at the moment — If Books Could Kill. After lunch, I spend the afternoon scheduling social media posts and finishing a few articles. $11
4:00pm — I catch the bus home ($4) and decide to work on a sewing project for a bit before my boyfriend comes over. At the moment, I'm trying to make a blouse out of a tablecloth that I bought on eBay for $20. I like sewing because it gives me a much-needed break from looking at screens all day. $4
6:00pm — My boyfriend arrives and I cook us some dinner using things I already have in the fridge. I chuck salmon and potatoes in the air fryer and we have them with a Greek salad. We then watch an episode of The Idol with my housemates. It's pretty cringe but I'm definitely hooked and am going to watch every episode.
10:00pm — We scroll TikTok together in bed before falling asleep. This is a sacred ritual — he saves the videos I've sent him to watch when we're together.
Daily Total: $15

Day 2

6:30am — I get up and go to a 7am class at the gym. Although group fitness is pricey compared to a normal gym, it seems to be the only form of exercise I'm able to commit to.
8:00am — I can chill for a bit when I get home from the gym because I'm going to a conference with work today and it doesn't start til 10, plus the venue is only a 15-minute walk from mine! I use the extra hour to spend some time with my pet rats, wash my hair and drink a sachet of instant caramel latte.
10:00am — After walking over and meeting my colleagues, the morning consists of workshops and speeches. Then, much to my surprise and delight, they bring out free sausage rolls for morning tea. This is perfect because I haven't brought any food with me today.
1:00pm — After some more workshops, it's time for lunch — it's free food again! An assortment of sandwiches this time. TBH, the food isn't great but I am stoked to save $15. It's two days before payday so every dollar counts right now.
5:30pm — The conference comes to a close and we have an hour to kill before the dinner. We head to a bar and I buy a wine for myself and my work friend ($31.69). The service is so slow because they're understaffed and we pretty much have to skull them then leave straight away. $31.69
6:30pm — We walk back to the venue for our fancy three-course dinner (free again!). It's a cheese platter to start, chicken and veg for mains and sticky date pudding for dessert. There's also free booze. It's a pretty fun night of eating, drinking and chatting. I end up drinking way more than I had anticipated (free booze is dangerous), but it's nice to get to know my colleagues a bit better as I haven't been in this role very long.
12:00am — I jump in my friend's Uber and get dropped off on her way home, she pays. I head to bed exhausted after a massive day.
Daily Total: $31.69

Day 3

7:00am — I wake up with a bit of a headache from the night before, jump in the shower and pull myself together for day two of the conference.
9:00am — The conference starts at 9am today so I walk over and arrive just in time. My colleague has generously bought me a coffee. Everyone seems a little low energy today following last night.
10:00am — Another morning of workshops before a free party pie intermission! This is my first ever party pie and I rate it. I love eating anything beige and stodgy.
1:00pm — Lunchtime — some more sandwiches. I will miss these catered lunches. I swear I don't usually get this much free food.
3:00pm — We finish a little earlier today which is perfect because I feel wrecked. My housemate invites me to the gym when I get home but I opt for a lie down and doomscroll instead.
4:30pm — State of Origin is on tonight and we're having some friends over to watch the game and make pizzas. My friends are bringing toppings and I'm on dough duty, so I pop to the shops to buy flour as I've run out ($1.20). While I'm there, I buy some blue cheese from Harris Farm Market because I really want some on my pizza and I doubt anyone will bring any since it's controversial ($4.70). $5.90
5:00pm — I prep the dough and leave it to rest. While it's resting, I do a little bit of sewing while I wait for everyone to arrive.
6:00pm — My friends arrive and we have a nice time making pizzas. Everyone has a few drinks but I sit out as I was drinking last night. I'm shocked at how many pizza bases a dollar's worth of flour makes (six, to be precise!).
8:00pm — The game starts. I don't understand the rules and I'm really just there for the good times and the food. Queensland wins. Go the Maroons.
10:00pm — I'm so happy to finally be in bed. My social battery is running quite low.
Daily Total: $5.90

Day 4

6:30am — Back to the gym this morning! How good is not being hungover?!
8:20am — I'm also back in the office today so I get ready quickly after the gym and catch the bus to work ($4). I stop at the markets that are outside work every Thursday and buy a large long black since I haven't bought any other coffees this week ($6). $10
10:00am — I have a fairly chill morning catching up on things after a couple of days away from my desk.
12:00pm — Since we made six pizzas last night, there are plenty of leftovers for lunch today. I go and eat it in the park alone and scroll TikTok since I've had two full-on days of socialising with work people.
1:00pm — My pay comes through and I pay off the last $65 towards some shoes I bought using Paypal's Buy Now Pay Later service. Then I pay off $81.59 of my Afterpay debt which was spent on clothes and gym shoes. I am really bad for using BNPL services to buy random things for myself and it definitely builds up quickly, but it's a habit I am working to break. $146.59
4:15pm — I finish up with work and catch the bus home ($4). I quickly shower and get ready to leave the house again. $4
5:10pm — I drive to my laser hair removal appointment. This doesn't cost me anything because I bought a bulk pack of sessions when they were on sale.

6:00pm — From my laser appointment, I drive to a ramen shop where I'm meeting a friend for dinner. We catch up and enjoy some delicious karaage and spicy ramen ($55.70) — my absolute fave! I pay because it was her birthday recently and I promised her a bday meal. $55.70
6:45pm — After dinner, we need to go to IGA to buy something so I can get my parking ticket validated because I used their car park. After wandering around for a bit, I settle on a bottle of orange juice. $4.95
7:00pm — My friend and I head back to mine so we can plan our trip to Asia — we're going to Thailand and Vietnam in November. We look at some hotel options for Bangkok and then watch a Thailand episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, feeling inspired.
10:00pm — After another busy day without much downtime. I'm exhausted and it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $221.24

Day 5

6:30am — I wake up and get ready for the gym. By this point in the week, my morning routine feels like groundhog day.
8:00am — After the gym, I get home with my usual fifteen minutes to get ready. I'm a bit hungry this morning, so I inhale some leftover karaage from last night. I can't find my wallet, so I text my boss saying I'm going to be late.
8:30am — Still can't find my wallet that contains my Go Card, so I give up and decide to walk to work.
9:15am — I arrive a bit late and begin my usual morning work routine. It should be a fairly quiet day today because hardly anyone is in.
10:30am — I'm reminded that someone is retiring and there is a morning tea with free food today! This is the best week ever for free food. I'm not that hungry but I can't say no to free arancini and sausage rolls — beige and stodgy. After the morning tea, I go back to my desk and do the bare minimum. It's Friday and no one should be exerting themselves too hard.
12:00pm — I eat lunch at my desk today. Not so I can keep working, but because no one from my team is in today and I have the room to myself. Lunch is more leftover pizza which I am excited about. I do a crossword and scroll TikTok.
1:20pm — I feel like a little Friday treat, so I walk to Woolies and buy a can of Coke Zero — paid for on my phone since my wallet is still MIA ($2.40). It's the perfect little pick-me-up to get through the afternoon. We get an email saying there is some leftover booze from an event in the staff fridge, so I grab a couple of beers to take home. I swear my work is not consistently this generous, it's been a crazy week for free things. $2.40
4:00pm — I finish up with work and since I don't have my Go Card, I rent an E-Scooter to get home ($11.40). The scoot home takes about 20 minutes and is way more fun than the bus, but kind of a rip-off. $11.40
5:00pm — I get home and play with the rats for a little while, they're my little baby sons and I love them. I find my wallet. It's literally just sitting on the coffee table.
6:00pm — My boyfriend and I usually spend most of the weekend together. He comes over and we sit out on the deck with my housemates and drink a couple of the free beers I got from work, chat and listen to music. My bf and I usually get takeaway on Fridays, but I suggest instant ramen since we're going away on a ten-day camping trip next week that will probably end up costing a fair bit.
8:00pm — The instant ramen idea goes out the window when my bf caves and orders us some GYG. We watch Chicken Run and eat burritos.
11:00pm — After Chicken Run, I put on Sharknado 5, but we end up going to bed before we can watch the end which is a shame. Crazy amount of sharks in that nado.
Daily Total: $13.80

Day 6

11:00am — I wake up late today and read while I wait for my bf to get back from his run.
11:30am — He gets back and we decide to eat the ramen we didn't have last night for breakfast with a chilli oil egg — so good and so cheap! My go-to is Shin ramen with peanut butter and some added Kewpie mayo.
12:00pm — We chill for a while around the house not doing much. We do a Saturday quiz and a crossword together — it's a nice lazy start to the weekend.
1:00pm — We head to the shops so that we can get some two-player board games for the camping trip next week. We definitely need supplies to keep us entertained, it's going to be a long time without screens. We buy a game each — I choose one called Patchwork that looks really cute ($39.95). After, we go to Aldi and I buy some snacks for later, as well as a hot water bottle and camping cutlery from the infamous middle aisle ($25.84). $65.79
1:30pm — I buy a coffee for my bf and I ($11.80) then we go to BWS and I buy us both some booze as we're having drinks with a friend later ($60.50). We usually just take turns buying things when we're hanging out. $72.30
2:00pm — We go and meet someone from Facebook Marketplace to buy a camping table from them (we want to get a lot of camping stuff sorted this weekend). My boyfriend pays since he already has cash in his wallet.
3:00pm — We get home and have a go at the new board games outside on the deck while eating the snacks from Aldi. The games are fun and I can see them being entertaining enough when we're stuck in the bush together.
4:30pm — My bf drives us over to my friends and we head to the park next to her place for a beer. We then go back to her house and she cooks us all some snags and chicken on the BBQ. There's an AFL game on TV and everyone is placing bets, so I chuck $15 on despite not knowing the rules. $15
8:00pm — I don't win any money sadly and my gambling career is over. My bf didn't end up drinking so he drives us home. We play another board game on the deck.
9:00pm — After Chicken Run last night, we're in a claymation mood so we watch Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $153.09

Day 7

9:00am — Me and my bf wake up a little earlier today and decide to go to the market. He drives. It's less stressful for us both if he's the primary driver.
9:20am — The first task at the market is deciding what to eat. I settle on an okonomiyaki ($14.27). It's my first time trying it and I'm sold. My bf takes longer to decide but ends up getting the same thing — he pays for his own. Halfway through eating it, I realise I'm parched AF and dash to a drink stand where I buy a large lemon iced tea ($6.02). $20.29
10:00am — After breakfast, we wander around the market for a bit and I buy some fruit and veg for the week ahead. If I have a single money-saving tip, it's buy your fruit and veg from the market! I get bean sprouts, lime, spinach, bok choy and bananas for $11.19, which feels like I've gone back in time to before the cost of living crisis. $11.19
10:30am — Before leaving the market, I buy a fresh orange juice ($7.35), which may seem excessive after the large iced tea but I love a fun liquid on the weekend and market orange juice is the best orange juice. $7.35
11:00am — We get home and decide to go to sit in the park for the afternoon. We take our books and a flask of tea and read for a couple of hours. We also play a couple of rounds of Hive — another two-player board game that's quite fun.
2:50pm — Every Sunday around 3pm, we go to the grocery store to do our weekly shopping before parting ways (just late 20s things). My go-to work lunch is sandwiches, so I grab some meat, cheese, bread and some roughage. I also get ingredients to make laksa as I've decided that will be my dinner for most of the week ahead ($62). $62
3:20pm — I wasn't able to get everything I needed for laksa at Woolies and Harris Farm so we head to an Asian grocer nearby. I buy laksa paste (I wanted a specific type), chilli oil and fried tofu puffs ($18.87). They have a little ice cream and bubble tea stand there, so I also treat myself to a soft serve ($2). $20.87
4:00pm — My bf drops me off before heading home and I decide to do a bit more sewing before getting started on dinner.
5:00pm — I make laksa for my housemate and I. We eat it and watch TV together. We usually take turns cooking for each other. There are plenty of leftovers for the week.
9:30pm — Bedtime. I'm so tired I fall asleep with the light on and my phone in my hand.
Daily Total: $121.70
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour. You should always obtain your own independent advice before making any financial decisions.
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