Money Diaries

A Week In Quakers Hill, Western Sydney, On A $71,000 Salary

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Occupation: Content Coordinator
Industry: Online Retail
Age: 29
Location: Quakers Hill, Western Sydney
Salary: $71,000
Net Worth: $27,776. ($22,086 in savings and $13,000 in shares). I might be exposing my lack of financial literacy here, but I had to Google 'how to work out net worth' to make sure I wasn't missing anything.
Debt: $22,072. It's all student debt under HECS, so it's almost like it's not real debt. Almost...
Paycheque Amount (Weekly): $962.33. I also salary sacrifice $20 a week to go into my Super, especially because of the Super gap between men and women.
Pronouns: She/Her
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Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,000. I have been living with my partner in a newly built duplex. His name is on the mortgage, but I contribute this amount each month, so it's kind of like I'm renting. The total cost of our groceries, utilities, and mortgage comes to about $2,650 a month. My partner and I are still getting used to managing a home and the associated costs.
Loans: I recently learnt that I had no idea how my HELP debt works. My tax repayment was almost $4,000 last year (I was supplementing my income at the time with freelance work), but it also didn't seem to make a dent in my HELP debt. I expressed my concerns with my HR department at work, and they reassured me it was being paid, explaining the process. I still have more than $22,000 to go, so I will be chipping away at that for a long time.
Gym: Usually $90 a month, but I decided to pause this until April when Omicron hit. I'm unsure if I'll continue with it as there are so many free workouts on Youtube and TikTok.
Netflix and Spotify: $20 (I share with my brother).
Disney+: $5.99 (I split the payment with my partner).
Just Dance Now: $3. It's embarrassing to admit, but Just Dance is a huge guilty pleasure of mine and a great way to trick myself into exercise. I can also host parties if anyone wants to come over and play with me!
Canva Pro: $13.75
Sweepy: $1 (Sweepy is an app that organises the cleaning I need to do each month into small daily lists).
Grammarly: $12. I used it more during my uni years, but it's still a really useful tool for writing.
Medication: $43. Managing my ADHD comes at a price, but I'm lucky that Medicare pays for part of my medication.
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Anything else to add?
My partner and I share a joint account that we opened just before we moved in together. We mainly use it for utilities and groceries but also use it for fun things like date nights, meals out, and entertainment services like Disney+. This works really well for us, but we also have to contribute a little more if it's been a busy month. We still have separate accounts at various banks — I have an account with NAB, Up Bank, and UBank for the higher interest rates.

When I compare my grocery bill with others, it's a bit high — we spend about $250 — $300 a week. I hope to bring the cost of these down, but Covid makes it challenging and considering I also don't drive, I depend on what's available online at Woolworths instead of shopping around.
We're also hoping to start slowly altering the house to suit our needs better. I'm still trying to work out how to afford these costs while continuing to build on my own savings. Having a nice home aesthetic doesn't come cheap.

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

A few times, yes! I did a few TAFE courses in both travel and beauty that my parents and Centrelink paid for. I wasn't mentally prepared to continue with what I studied, but I still learned some excellent life skills and gained confidence. Most recently, I went to university and graduated with a Bachelor of Media. I supported myself by working multiple jobs and living with my parents during this time. I'm grateful for the HECS scheme as I wouldn't have had access to it otherwise.
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Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?

My parent's poor money management still impacts me a lot now. Growing up, I didn't fully understand it, but I could sense the stress it caused. I feel like they didn't receive the necessary education to then teach me about money, which was tough. When I started working at 19, I didn't even know how to submit a tax return! It was looming over me until I finally completed one when I was 22 years old.

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

I jumped at the chance to get a job when I was 14, just because I could! It didn't last too long, though — I got easily overwhelmed and it was too hard for me to get to the location by myself, given that I couldn't drive. I tried a few other jobs, but I was yet to manage my ADHD and struggled with the repetition of the work. It wasn't until I was about 20 that I found a stable job and stuck with it for almost five years. Casual retail work provided stability in regards to money, but the routine was varied enough for my brain. I consider this to be my 'first job' and the others to be false starts.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes and no. I was a child obsessed with fashion and makeup and thought of shopping as a recreational activity. I really hadn't formed that connection between items, their cost, and that impact on my parents. I understood that money was important but thought it was a responsibility for my parents. As I got later into my teens, I started to understand money a bit more but got upset if I was denied what I wanted. Am I proud of that? No, but it's true.
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It wasn't until I made my own money that I truly understood the impact that your lifestyle has on your finances. I figured out what I actually need to prioritise in life, and what I could actually save money on. I wish I could go back and save all of that money I spent on nights out when I was 21!

Do you worry about money now?

OMG, yes! I really worry about the money I'll need in the future. Sometimes, I worry so much that I put off buying things for as long as I can, getting to the point where I have no clothing or shoes to wear. But then I'll worry about the amount of stuff that I have to buy. I also still get guilty about buying things I want, not need.

It might seem contradictory, but I also have spending issues, too. I get lots of serotonin from getting little parcels delivered to my door. During the last lockdown, my social interactions were basically limited to visits from the postie! I oscillate between going wild on my spending for a bit, then flipping right back into restriction mode.

Recording my transactions into a budget planner in Google Sheets (it's a work of Excel beauty!) brings me great stress relief. I occasionally become hyper-focused on specific transactions, but seeing it all as part of a bigger picture often helps me. It teaches me that my morning frozen fruit obsession won't send me into financial ruin. This year, I expanded my sheet to record my partner's transactions and all our joint account transactions.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?

This is a complicated question for me. I didn't move out until I was 27, so I definitely had a safety net to lean on until then. But at the same time, I paid for all aspects of my life during this time, besides food and rent. My mum still gives me amazing financial support, though — it's nearly impossible to pay for anything when we go out together! She's even paying for some of my Invisalign.

I don't have a rainy day fund exactly, but if something happened I would probably take my investment money out and live off that for a while. My Super also gives me income insurance if I got in an accident and couldn't work. My partner supported me when I was a teen and out of work. He's now on a really decent income so I'm sure he could also support me if need be.

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

I haven't, but I have been really interested in developing a passive income stream. It's just hard to find a legitimate source that isn't a scam.

Day 1

7:00am — I wake up and see that my regular $50 Spaceship contribution had been invested. Yay!
8:30am — Time to work — luckily I'm WFH. I hit the ground running as I'm already getting overrun with work emails and messages. I personally love working from home as it means my days are varied and I can keep track of things better. I have my own room that I work from, which I'm slowly making into an oasis and part-time beauty room. It helps that my employer trusts me to get the work done, so I have minimal supervision. I'm spending today setting up and loading a spreadsheet for a regular fortnightly project.
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10:00am — I haven't been working for long, but by 10am, my eyes feel like they're going square from staring at a screen. I'm in a good position with work, so I head downstairs and relax on the lounge for a quick break. A change to your environment can make all the difference! As I'm relaxing, I end up scrolling through The Iconic (which definitely doesn't help the square eyes!). I'm pretty tall for a woman so I find it hard to find clothes. But I learnt a pretty great tip — if a website lists the model's height, pop your height in the search function and models with similar heights pop up! I have a hens party coming up, so I'm hunting for something to wear. I would have loved to just wear something I already own, but I gained a lot of weight during lockdown and none of my old clothes fit. After scrolling for a while, I settle on a cute black T-shirt dress for $55. I'm thinking of pairing it with some heeled boots and a gold neckless. Before I know it, my shopping break is over and it's back to work. $55
7:00pm — My partner and I really want to see the latest Spider-Man movie, but we've been put off because of Omicron. We've waited it out as long as we could — as funny as the memes were, they've slowly spoiled the movie for us. As we're both fully vaccinated, we decide to take the punt tonight and go see it! After stalking several different cinemas to suss out how many people are booked in each cinema, we finally settle on a Gold Class session. It's not too expensive at $28 a ticket, plus it's pretty spread out so we feel safer. The $3 booking fee sucks, though! We have dinner before heading out, but once we're at the cinema, I can't resist buying dessert ($22.90, out of our shared account). I end up loving the movie, and *spoiler alert* forget how much of a BABE Andrew Garfield is. $22.90

Daily Total: $77.90
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Day 2

7:00am — I waake up, sip my coffee and it's meds and vitamins time! I currently take iron supplements, six vitamin D tablets (I bought some other tablets at a higher dosage, but I need to finish these first!), Omega 3, and Bladderwrack. It's insane, and they probably don't do anything. Then, it's on to breakfast. My go-to lately has been frozen berries and lactose-free vanilla yoghurt. Add some granola, and I can almost trick myself into thinking I'm at a cute brunch and not my kitchen table.
8:30am — I get way too distracted by my phone this morning. TikTok was serving up some gems! I run around the house trying to get my daily tasks finished like my laundry, dishes, and vacuuming. Thank goodness for having our work chat installed on my phone as I can still kind of work while I finish them off.
9:00am — I quickly change and settle down in front of my computer. To make myself comfortable, I grab my water tumbler, another coffee, and get out my little self-care desk things like my moisturiser and lip balm. It's looking like another busy day as I try and meet publisher deadlines.
10:00am — It’s payday, baby!!! Hello to a much needed $962.
10:01am — Easy come, easy go. I just got an electricity bill for $264.52 so I pay for this using funds from our joint account.
1:30pm — I have an appointment at my local shopping centre so I hop over there in my lunch break. I also desperately need to stretch my legs, so I go for a walk around the shops. I see Chatime and can't resist (I am but a mere mortal!). I order my go-to — lychee black tea, no sugar, no ice ($7). I sip it while rushing back home. $7
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2:00pm — Back to work. 
6:30pm — It's one of those days where I blink and suddenly it's late. My boyfriend finishes up work early so he cooks dinner. We're pretty relaxed when it comes to food planning, especially with the logistic issues in supermarkets at the moment. Usually, when our grocery order arrives, we look at the use-by dates and plan our meals accordingly, writing them down on our whiteboard in the kitchen.
7:00pm — We start the 'closing shift'. Dishwasher on, wipe down the table and benches, and vacuum. After that's finished, we settle down in front of the TV. We've worked through a lot of the Disney+ shows that came out during lockdown, so now we're going through older shows. We're halfway through Once Upon A Time and are really enjoying it. My partner really likes the fantasy genre, but I can find the world-building too much sometimes. I like elements of fantasy, but when everything has special powers and backstories, I find my eyes start to glaze over and everything just sounds like noise. Luckily, Once Upon A Time has a really grounded element that helps to keep me interested.

Daily Total: $7

Day 3

7:00am — It's the usual morning lineup. As much as I like my comfy WFH life, it does get quite repetitive. I’m only on day three of writing this and I already feel like I’m writing a Groundhog Day fanfiction. But being a complete introvert, I enjoy spending time at home.
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8:15am  — I have to troubleshoot a work issue, so I end up starting a lot earlier than planned. 
11:30am — I start getting the worst hunger pains. I ponder why I'm so hungry for a while, then realise... I forgot to have dinner last night after my boyfriend went to the trouble to make it! I head downstairs, throw some gluten-free chicken tenders into our air fryer (it's a delicacy, believe me!), set the timer for 20 minutes, make a Soda Stream to stay hydrated, and run back upstairs eagerly awaiting my timer.
1:30pm — I jump onto Woolworths online to make our grocery order. Call it poor planning, or call it ~pandemic things~ but I'm unable to get anything delivered for a few days. Instead, my partner and I coordinate our drive down to the local shopping centre and get supplies to cover us in the meantime. A 15-minute dash around Coles and we're now down $65 from our joint account. As we walk back to the car, I eye off Gloria Jean's and resist the urge to get a Very Vanilla Chiller. I regret it immediately.
6:00pm — We get a notification that our monthly internet bill has been taken out of our shared account ($79.99, included in my monthly expenses). It's pricey, but I can't imagine life without a fast internet connection. When we first moved, we had to wait three months to get NBN installed and had to hot spot off our phones. Never again.
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7:30pm — Typical dinner, tidy and wind-down routine. Once Upon a Time is becoming an instant comfort thing for me. 
11:00pm — So, storytime — here's an example of how often I impulse shop. Before I go to bed each evening, I shower and do my skincare routine. I'm almost thirty, so my skincare list is just getting longer and longer. At the moment, the lineup is: BHA liquid exfoliant, niacinamide 20% treatment, 0.3% retinol plus 2% bakuchiol treatment, eye cream, then face cream. I recently read that you needed to wait for each layer to fully dry otherwise nothing works. Who knows if this is even true, but I couldn't get that fact out of my head! Here enters the problem. I suddenly remember that Nikitutorials is selling a mini hand fan in her skincare range, Nimya. I was contemplating buying it, but shipping to Australia was over $40! Instead of going to sleep and letting the thought go, I decide to hunt the internet and find a $7 handheld fan. It's cute, mint green, kitten shaped, and has three-speed settings. An essential purchase, I think! $7
Daily Total: $7

Day 4

7:00am — I take the last of my ADHD medication, so I guess I'm going to the pharmacy today! Due to the drug class type, I can only have a 30 day supply at a time. Luckily, my pharmacy has an app that allows me to place an order for my prescription online and walk straight to the collection line when it's ready. I do this, and plan to head over to pick it up later. $43
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9:00am — I can't get motivated today. Sitting at my desk is making me really angry and overwhelmed. When I feel like this, moving locations tends to help. Luckily, my workload is pretty relaxed today and I only need one screen. I shouldn't admit this (sorry, boss), but I just head downstairs, get comfy on the couch, and put on Buffy (as background noise, I swear!). This is my first time watching Buffy, and while I enjoy it, I feel like I would have been obsessed if I watched it as a teen. I can picture 15-year-old me posting gifs of Angel and Spike.
12:00pm — I get a notification that my medication is ready! However, I'm too comfy. My meds can wait!
3:00pm — I finally head to the pharmacy so I can still be a functional adult tomorrow. We’re very lucky to have a shopping complex 10 minutes away. I duck into good old Terry White and pick up my prescription at the pharmacy desk. On the way out, I get distracted by a massive display of surgical steel studs and sleeper earrings. They're not fancy, but they do the job. I pick out a pair of rose gold sleepers and blue gem studs and head to the checkout line. So much for that express pickup. The earrings come to $21 which actually kind of shocks me — I honestly hadn't even considered the cost before buying them! Luckily, they're pretty cheap so I avoid an awkward walk to put them back. Last stop — the tailors. I dropped a pair of shorts here last week as I needed the waistband fixed. It costs $10, but I get a bit more life out of them, which is a win in my book! $31
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8:00pm — Do adults get 'zoomies'? You know when dogs get that uncontrollable urge to just run full speed around the house? Asking for a friend. I suddenly have the uncontrollable urge to just move and be productive. I channel this energy into vacuuming the whole house, cleaning the little tracks at the bottom of my wardrobe, mopping the floors, and cleaning the bathrooms. What a whirlwind. By the end, I realise I've accidentally stopped cleaning and am instead on the floor, scrolling through TikTok. I drag myself to the bathroom for a shower and try to head to bed. I find it a bit hard to wind down, so I take some melatonin. If you've never tried it, just know that it's magical!
Daily Total: $74

Day 5

7:30am — I speed through the usual morning stuff and jump on my laptop to get some work done earlier. I. AM. SPEED.
8:30am — Before you doubt me here, I did brush my teeth this morning. But I'm about to go to the dentist, so I brush them again. I pack up my work laptop too, just in case something happens. Realistically, I don't know why because it's not as if I can whip it open while I'm lying down in the chair. It's also only a 30-minute session...
9:00am — On the road to a straighter smile, I'm at the dentist for my first Invisalign session! The purpose of this appointment is to get a scan of my mouth and jaw that will then be sent to Invisalign. They'll use this to make my retainers, and I should have the first one in about five weeks. They pop this weird device that looks like a barcode scanner into my mouth. The scanner then shows me predictions of how I will look once I finish the treatment — it's definitely worth it. It also should improve my overall health — because my teeth are crowded my jaw is tense, and I also have a history of snoring. I need to remind myself of all these benefits to stop myself from crying when they charge me $1,350. I guess it's an investment in my future health. $1,350
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9:50am — Home and back to work. Business, business, business!
2:00pm — Airbnb takes out an automatic payment ($230) for a two-night trip we're taking down in the Hunter Valley in a few weeks. We're heading over there because my partner bought me a hot air balloon experience way back in Christmas 2019. I shouldn't need to explain why we're only using it just now. It's an expensive day and I have nothing tangible to show for it. $230
6:30pm — It's a crazy Friday night out! Jokes, I'm a nana. I make dinner, get comfy, and watch more Once Upon A Time. I'm obsessed. Is it too late to enter a 10-year-old fandom?

Daily Total: $1,580

Day 6

7:00am — Despite doing nothing last night, I’m weirdly exhausted. My alarm goes off and I take my medicine, plod down the stairs, and flop on the lounge. Scroll a bit of TikTok, Insta and Youtube... Aaaand there goes my morning.
10:00am — My partner is always a late sleeper, so by the time he wakes up, I'm a bit more motivated to move. He gets up and waters all our plants. During lockdown, he randomly decided to plant three baby tomato plants. We now have huge plants and a regular supply of baby tomatoes. I'm meant to help him this morning, so I make it my own personal mission to rip out all the weeds. I then spray the ones that are too small to get out.
12:00pm — My partner makes us roasted veggies for lunch. This weekend was meant to be lowkey since I spent so much money yesterday. Instead, I spend most of the afternoon window shopping which leads to another impulse buy. For context, I got the most fantastic vanity table (with a Hollywood mirror!) for Christmas. I've been searching for an aesthetic stool to place under it (rather than my bulky computer chair!). I've spent an embarrassing amount of time searching the internet, but manage to find a fluffy stool that matches perfectly for $123.99 It looks so good and comes assembled! I was anticipating some flat-pack action. $123.99
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7:30pm — My partner has a huge sweet tooth and convinces me that we need ice cream (he doesn't need to try too hard!). We head to our local Baskin-Robbins and grab some ice cream for both of us ($18). The shop is down on staff and we're served by someone who I'm convinced is only 11-years-old. Good for you though, make that coin! $18

Daily Total: $141.99

Day 7

9:00am — Remember that upcoming hens night? I've decided that today is the day I find something to wear to the wedding! I take a look at a bunch of sites, but they either cater for women 20cm shorter than me or don't even have my size. I end up visiting my old faithful — The Iconic. I spend about two or three hours combing through the site and opening 100 tabs, then expertly narrow down my choices. After consulting with my personal stylist (my partner), I order two dresses for a total of $260. I'm not sure if they're going to fit as I'm not quite sure about sizing since gaining weight. On top of that, women's clothing sizes are already so arbitrary. $260
1:00pm — I'm disgusted at myself about how long I spent shopping. To offset this, I go for a walk around Western Sydney Parklands, which is really nice. If you're into walking, they have about 60km worth of tracks so you can wander for as long as you like.
3:30pm —Once I get home, I reset the house a bit to relieve any anxious energy. I settle down and get ready to spend the evening watching — you guessed it — Once Upon A Time.
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6:30pm — My saint of a boyfriend makes dinner so I don't have to get up. The binge-watch continues right into the night.
Daily Total: $260
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.
For many of us, money can be a major source of stress. But it doesn’t have to be. Become more confident with our beginner's guide to managing your money.

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