money diaries logo

A Week In Christchurch, New Zealand, As A Customer Service Manager On $81,000

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last dollar.
Anyone can write a Money Diary! Want to see yours here? Here's how. If your diary is published, you'll receive $200.
Today: a customer service manager who makes $81,000 a year and spends some of her money on new skincare.
Occupation: Customer Service Manager
Industry: Local Government
Age: 28
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Salary: $81,000 ($79,000 from my salary and around $2000 from my side hustle as a wedding celebrant).
Net Worth: $61,467.21, which includes $9,220 in investments ($2850.45 in an investment app called Sharesies, $4665.93 in a term deposit account and $5083.85 in property shares), a car worth $7500, and $32,145 in my super.
Debt: $0. I have a credit card to give myself a credit score. I use it for most payments and transfer money each night to pay it off.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $4,600 Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $830 per month. I rent a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house and live with my flatmate, E.
Power: $40-100
Phone: $60
Internet: $32.50
Streaming Services: $50.30
Savings Contributions: $1,700

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

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Communications and a Master of Business Management. Even though I went to uni in the same city I lived in, we lived in the country and my parents wanted me to have the proper uni experience, so I lived in the halls for my first year, which they paid for. The rest of my fees were paid for with my student loan, which came to just over $54,000 by the time I finished my four years. I covered everything else through savings and a part-time job.

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

We didn’t have loads of direct conversations, but my parents did an amazing job at making sure we were aware of our middle-class status and how lucky we were. We never went without, and I know even now my parents would help me out if I asked. But they also wanted us to understand money; we were expected to get jobs as soon as we could and to keep these during our studies and beyond, and 'extra' money (anything beyond a weekly allowance) was not given. My dad taught me how to budget when I started paying rent myself, and he and my stepdad have been a huge help since I became financially independent, teaching me the importance of investing and conscious spending.

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

I had two at the same time! I was an indoor netball referee at 14 and was paid $20 cash under the table to referee four games on a Friday night. I got that job through my netball club. At the same time, I got a job through my stepdad's business that involved taking the death notices from the paper each day and writing all the information provided (DOB, DOD, surviving kin etc.) and then filing them alphabetically, which I also got $20 a week for. I still have no idea what purpose this served but I got paid cash for this too so I was happy! My first 'on the books' job was as a supermarket cashier when I was 15, and I have always had a job since.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, and honestly, it took me until university to understand what a privilege that is. I was always provided for, and I don’t recall a time when I was concerned about it. I'm certain that there were tough times for both of my parents, but they never voiced this when it was happening. While I wish they had, I respect their decision to shelter us whilst simultaneously teaching us the value of money.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, constantly. The cost of living crisis is really noticeable for me and while I have savings at the moment, that has really only happened in the last year. My worst-case scenario brain is consistently worried about something happening to change this, and I worry about having enough for future me should anything happen. I’ve recently become aware that some of the inner worry comes from past trauma, which I’m currently working through with my psychologist.

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

I became financially independent at 21, when I graduated from university and got my first full-time job. I have savings I can fall back on, shares I can sell if need be, and I know my parents would help me if I was in a real bind.

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

Yes — there’s no way I would have paid off my loans without it. I received $13,800 from my grandma when she passed away, which went towards my student loan. Earlier this year, my poppa was given a terminal diagnosis (he’s so far smashed that out of the park and is still around) and transferred me $4,600, and my siblings and I recently received $9,220 from the trust fund my dad set up for after his death, but he generously gifted some to us this year.

Day 1

6:10am: My alarm goes off and I snooze it at least three times before finally getting out of bed.
6:32am: I finally get up and do a weights workout. By the time I’m done, I know I’ll be sore tomorrow.
7:20am: Shower and skincare. I’m pretty basic — a vitamin C and SPF for the morning. I take my medication (I have PCOS) before I forget.
7:31am: Get ready for work. I do my standard hair and makeup — tinted moisturiser, cream blush and eyebrow pencil with a low bun. I’m not a morning person, so I have my morning routine down to a fine art.
7:40am: Make my standard breakfast of a smoothie with mixed berries, chia seeds, linseeds, protein powder, yoghurt and water.
8:02am: I make it to work. I live in town and work in an outer suburb and it’s a 20-minute commute. I finished a big project yesterday, so today, I’m hoping to catch up on all the admin I neglected in the meantime.
10:30am: Jump on an online demonstration for a new system we might be implementing. I zone out pretty quickly when I realise it won’t work for our department.
11:30am: My admin pile is dwindling and for the first time in weeks I’m feeling good about my workload, until I get an email reminding me of a two-day course I’m attending next week. I knew it was coming up, but it snuck up sooner than I expected. Cue panic as I try to cram next week's work into the rest of today.
1:30pm: Lunchtime. I meal prep each week — this week is crispy hot honey chicken with rice and veggies.
2:03pm: Back to my desk. I have a chat with one of my staff and she tells me the tone I used when answering a question as I was heading into a meeting had upset her. I apologise, and we agree on a solution for moving forward and I make a note to check in with her next week. The mental health of my staff is my priority and I stew on the fact I upset her for a while before focusing again.
4:30pm: Work is done! I drive to meet my step-sister, R, for dinner. I realise my petrol light is on, so I’ll have to top up on my way home, ugh.
4:57pm: I say hi to R, her husband, A, as well as my nieces.
5:45pm: Dinner is served — steak, sausages, chicken nibbles, potatoes and salads. A is a BBQ whizz!
6:30pm: We play Cards Against Humanity (the kids' version) until my younger niece heads to bed.
8:00pm: I have a proper catch-up with R over a glass of whiskey and start feeling myself crashing, so I say goodbye.
9:38pm: I make it to the petrol station and I shed a silent tear as I see the numbers go up. — $119.61
9:53pm: I arrive home and say hi to my flatmate, E and her boyfriend, D. An online shopping parcel has arrived for me, but sadly, it’s not what I thought it would be, so I will be returning it.
10:23pm: I do my night skincare routine — double cleanse, AHA serum, night cream and lash serum.
10:32pm: I usually scroll or read for a bit but I’m knackered and pass out quickly.
Daily Total: $119.61

Day 2

7:10am: It's my day off! I was hoping for a sleep-in today but apparently... not. Then I realise I’ve woken up in time to watch the All Blacks V France rugby match. We lose, and I’m disappointed but not surprised.
9:30am: I scroll on my phone for a while. I’m on the hunt for a new sturdy tote bag for work but can’t find anything I like.
10:30am: It's time to get up, shower and do my skincare, the same routine as always!
10:40am: I realise I'm starving so I make myself breakfast — porridge with chia seeds, oat milk, prunes and honey — and then I take my meds.
11:00am: I get dressed in an oversized thrifted tee featuring Ron Burgundy, with jeans and Converse. I put my standard tinted moisturiser, cream blush and eyebrow pencil on. I tend to listen to vinyl (a VERY expensive habit) as I get ready. I recently got my hands on a press of Mac Miller’s NPR Tiny Desk set and it’s been playing on repeat ever since.
11:15am: I'm out the door and drive into town for my wax appointment. Luck is on my side as there’s a park right next to the salon. I pay for parking. — $2.00
11:30am: Wax time! I love my beauty therapist and we always have a good yarn while she’s ripping my hair out. She’s amazing and I hardly feel a thing. — $59.00
12:10pm: I have some time to kill before I meet my friend for a movie so I head to Mecca to pick up my Beauty Loop Bonus. I resist purchasing anything but walk out with some samples.
1:32pm: I stop in at the post office and return my online order. They don’t offer free returns, so I have to pay for it ($7.46). I head back to my car and move it down the road to a two-hour free parking zone.
2:04pm: I head to a supermarket to meet my friend. She wants snacks for the movie but I already bought some with my weekly shop. She’s running a couple of minutes late and I spot some Tunnocks Tea Cakes on the shelf, which are a UK staple and my grandma used to always have them in her pantry. I buy a pack for nostalgic purposes. — $5.52.
2:20pm: We walk across the road to the movies. We’re watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. My friend booked the tickets earlier in the week and I’ve already paid her back. It’s exactly what you would expect but we both love it.
4:00pm: I say goodbye to my friend and remember I need to buy a cleanser, so I head to Chemist Warehouse. I don’t believe in spending much on cleansers as they get washed off. I end up purchasing the CeraVe Hydrating cleanser and the Bondi Sands Melt Me Balm Cleanser, and also decide to give the Bondi Sands Niacinamide serum a go. — $40.28.
4:43pm: I get home and pick up my book. I’ve just started Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang and I’m obsessed. Before I know it, I’m 120 pages in.
6:23pm: I make my signature lazy girl dinner, steak and oven chips.
7:06pm: I eat dinner and put on a show. I’m watching Painkiller on Netflix, a show about the Sackler family.
10:42pm: I can feel my eyes starting to close so I do my skincare and both new cleansers seem great — so far, so good!
1:03am: I’ve ended up down a YouTube rabbit hole on the Sackler family, and didn’t even realise the time! Definitely off to sleep now.
Daily Total: $134.26

Day 3

6:27am: I refuse to allow my body to wake me up this early on a day off, so I drift back off to sleep.
9:06am: This is more like it! I check my phone and reply to some messages I got overnight from my mum, sister and friends in the UK. I chill in bed and watch another couple of episodes of Painkiller.
11:30am: Whoops! I’m running late to go to meet my dad. He can’t drive after a series of strokes, so I tend to pick him up from church and drive him home. I get up and do the usual shower/skincare/vinyl routine. Dad texts me to say he’s finished early, so I chuck the same outfit on as yesterday and run out the door.
12:02pm: I meet Dad at one of the food markets in town. He’s in a good mood today and his memory is doing well, which is my favourite time to spend with him. His strokes have left him with short-term memory loss and can also cause significant mood changes at times but I’m in luck today! I’ve always been a dad's girl.
12:14pm: We head to a restaurant to grab some lunch. Dad orders a lemonade and a Caesar salad and I grab a ginger beer and a Thai beef salad, and Dad pays. The England/Argentina rugby match is on so we watch this while we eat and chat about our weeks. Dad has recently enlisted a genealogy professional to find out more about his biological grandad who ran out and was never heard from again. They’ve discovered that he was married before, and was widowed when his wife went missing for two weeks and was later found drowned in a canal. Dad is hoping they can find out more.
1:03pm: We finish up lunch. I take Dad home. He tells me my stepbrother is staying with them so I head in to say hi to him. He lives in another city and I haven’t seen him in over a year. We have never been close but it was good to see him.
1:44pm: I head home and finish off Painkiller.
2:40pm: I read for a bit and eat some seaweed rice crackers. I feel tired all of a sudden so I decide to have a nap — it's rare for me but I’m trying to listen to my body a bit more.
4:30pm: My alarm goes off and I feel so much better! I scroll on my phone for a bit. My sister asks me to find a dupe for the Mecca sunscreen, which isn’t available in Europe. I'm a bit of an SPF guru, so I get onto it and send her a couple of options.
5:03pm: I throw on some shoes and head back out the door. I drive to a restaurant to celebrate my nephew’s 19th birthday. We’re a massive, blended, Brady Bunch family and I love it — there are 14 of us at dinner tonight.
6:15pm: The food arrives. I stick to water and order my favourite, a beetroot, feta and candied walnut salad with chicken.
7:15pm I pay, say my goodbyes and head off. — $25.82.
7:34pm: I get home and sort out my clothes and bag for the next day. I'm not a morning person so I pre-plan everything as best I can to get a few minutes extra sleep.
7:49pm: It's time for skincare! Once a week, I do a clay face mask. My all-time favourite is Go-To’s The Removalist, followed by The Repair Shop. I have such a girl crush on Zoë Foster Blake — anything she touches turns to gold. I would love to pick her brain on her business acumen and how she stays so effortlessly cool.
8:24pm: I hop into bed, read for a bit and then fall down (another) YouTube rabbit hole — this time on a murder trial I have been following for almost a year.
9:48pm: Luckily that nap didn’t have too much of a negative effect on me and I’m sleepy. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $25.82

Day 4

6:30am: I knew I was too smug. I have a really restless sleep and don’t want to get up when my alarm goes off at 6:30, so I hit snooze.
7:06am: I wake up and check my phone, as I have a later start today. I reply to a couple of messages from my mum and see that a friend in Australia, J, has messaged. J and I have a year-long, ongoing conversation with an understanding that we will reply when we can, so I’m not worried about leaving it for later.
7:15am: I get up, take my meds and make my smoothie.
7:22am: I reply to a few emails I got over the weekend. I try logging in on my laptop to do some more, but it won’t connect. That becomes tonight’s problem.
7:42am: I jump into the shower and it’s the usual skincare/vinyl routine. Today's outfit is jeans, a striped top from Zara and Stan Smiths.
8:06am: I head out the door with my headphones on. It’s a 45-minute walk to the course location. I put on the latest Shameless episode, have my smoothie and try not to get hit by cyclists.
8:14am: While walking, I call and arrange a few doctors' appointments. I’ve just transferred to this centre and they inform me I need to come in for a patient intake appointment before I can see a doctor. I make a note to put some money aside for both.
8:42am: Having long legs and being a fast walker, I arrive 20 minutes early. I make a cup of tea and wait for the course administrator and my colleague, K, to arrive.
9:01am: The course begins. It’s just me and my colleague which is nice as we can tailor it to our specific industry.
10:24am: Break time! I fire off some emails and reply to my brother who asks me if I want a bottle of gin he’s found. I decline as it’s $100.55 and I need to pay for these doctors' appointments.
10:39am: Course starts again!
12:25pm: Lunchtime! The course gives us $18.46 in vouchers to use at vendors nearby. I get a teriyaki salmon donburi ($18.32), and the voucher covers it.
1:15pm: Course is back on. The administrator and I have a clash when I don’t agree with a statement in a video shown around the importance of giving your all to a role so you can be an effective manager. I’m not often outspoken but I’m extremely passionate about ensuring a healthy work/life balance and struggle to comprehend why putting yourself above your job should ever be a measure of effectiveness. We agree to disagree and move on.
4:16pm: The course finishes and I walk home.
4:53pm: I jump on my work laptop and reply to the emails I’ve missed.
5:46pm: I do a kickboxing workout and my physio exercises.
6:27pm: My workout is done and it's time to cook dinner. I’m making a Panang curry with chickpeas, chicken and brown rice. I make enough for dinner for the next two nights. While cooking, I watch a documentary about abuse in the Boy Scouts.
6:58pm: I finish up the doco. I’ve always loved documentaries and films rooted in investigative journalism.
7:13pm: It's time for some life admin. I start prepping for a meeting I have tomorrow night. I'm a marriage celebrant on the side and I’m meeting with a potential couple. Luckily I have master ceremony copies from previous weddings, so it only needs some minor tweaking, an email drafted and an invoice created.
8:02pm: I type up an email for my psychologist(s). I'm switching from my current one, and have appointments with two potential psychologists next week. I want to provide them with background information before the appointments, hence the email.
8:49 pm: Skincare time! I jump in bed and scroll mindlessly for a while.
10:02 pm: Bedtime! I'm hoping for a more restful night tonight!
Daily total: $0

Day 5

5:45am: Another awful sleep last night has left me feeling really rundown. I change the alarm and try to go back to sleep.
6:47 am: Awake again. I was planning a run this morning but I truly don’t think my body would react well to that so I decide to postpone. I check my phone and reply to some messages from my mum and sister.
7:13am: I get up and decide I have enough time to squeeze in a Pilates workout.
7:48am: I jump in the shower and do my morning ritual. I’m wearing the same top and shoes as yesterday with my Lucy and Yak dungarees.
8:10am: I make my smoothie, take my meds, then put my headphones in and it's time to head out the door.
8:26am: I send a text to an elderly man, G, who has had two heart attacks this year and can’t drive. He’s an old colleague of mine, is widowed and doesn’t have many family or friends nearby and I make the effort to visit him at least once a week. I let him know I’ll be in later in the week.
9:03am: The course starts. There are some good discussions being thrown around and I find it really beneficial.
12.09pm: We have an early lunch. Same deal as yesterday, we get a $18.46 voucher to spend. I get a beef noodle pho with extra chilli ($16.54). K and I discuss some work issues while we eat.
12:59: Back to the course — I grab a packet of chips from their free snack box and munch on them.
2:35pm: I have some fruit bursts to try to fight the post-lunch slump.
4pm: We finish the course early. I thank the administrator, say goodbye to K and walk home, catching up on the We Got The Chocolates podcast.
4:32pm: I get home and meal prep for the next three days in the office. I eat some prunes while I cook sweet and sour chicken with brown rice, green beans and corn.
5:14pm: I head to a local coffee shop to meet the couple whose wedding I might officiate.
5:27pm: I arrive and they’re already there. I love people who are on time! I don’t order anything.
6:28pm: They ask me to officiate. They’re a super lovely couple with a great story and I’m looking forward to working with them! I call my mum on my way home. She’s in Poland at the moment and tells me about the kids on the street who like to play with pythons. It’s a no from me.
6:42pm: I get home and heat up curry leftovers from last night. I read some more of my book while eating. I'm trying so hard to slow down because I don’t want it to end but I’m loving it, so it’s hard!
6:57pm: I scroll Instagram for far too long and decide to put on a movie (12 Mighty Orphans).
9:01pm: The film finishes and it was really good! My awful sleeps are catching up on me, so I do my skincare and turn off the lights and hope I drift off.
Daily Total: $0

Day 6

6:45am: I wake up. I finally reply to J from a couple days ago. Because we only reply every few days, we send paragraphs on loads of topics all at once so replying can take a while, but I’m happy we’ve kept our friendship after he moved earlier this year.
7:15am: I shower. Today's outfit is jeans and a vintage rugby shirt with boots. Our work has a pretty relaxed dress code and I take full advantage of it!
7:45am: I drive to my psychologist's office.
7:57am: I arrive. It’s been tough going lately and today's session is no different. It’s exhausting but I know it’s ultimately going to be worth it. My psychology appointments are covered by the government so I don’t have to pay.
8:54am: I leave the appointment and have a bit of a cry on the motorway as I head into work. It’s rough having a people-focused job and switching from an emotionally draining appointment to manager mode!
9:15am: I arrive at work. My desk is covered in paperwork and FYIs. It’s a full day of meetings today so I’ll have to squeeze my admin tasks in the middle of it all.
10:00am: First meeting. It’s a catch-up with one of my direct reports and it goes well, as always.
10:37am: I'm back at my desk, so I start scheduling some social media posts. My job is super varied and it's hard to predict what I’ll be doing on any given day.
11:02am: Second meeting, this time about facility bookings for next year.
11:57am: I have time before my next meeting so I message the old man, G, to see if he’s free for a visit. He is, so I hop in the car.
12:12pm: I arrive at G’s house. E has messaged to say our power bill is due. I transfer her $28.97. I run inside and see G. He loves rugby so we chat about the RWC and the games played on the weekend.
12:48pm: I say goodbye and make plans to bring him dinner next week.
1:03pm: Back in the office! I crack into writing a script for a promotional video whilst also scoffing down my lunch.
1:30pm: Next meeting.
2pm: Straight into another meeting, but it doesn’t last long as someone in our building suffers a medical event. It’s all hands on deck as we evacuate the building and call 111.
3:15pm: The paramedics have treated the patient. The meeting is abandoned, so I do some admin and eat some peanut butter for sustenance.
4:34pm: I finish up for the day. My step-sister R comes to visit me at work and we catch up.
5:31pm: Time to head home after a hectic day.
5:55pm: I arrive home, say hi to E and D, get changed and head for my run.
6:35pm: Run done, and it’s just what I needed after today!
6:41pm: I heat up some curry for dinner. I’m starving. Because I have PCOS, I don’t get a period and have no idea what my cycle is but I swear I could work it out based on the 4-5 days of the month where I feel like I could eat the entire pantry.
7:03pm: I finish eating dinner and grab some Greek yoghurt and honey to prevent me from eating my own arm. I check the news while eating. Big regrets — it’s grim.
7:12pm: I hop in the shower. I wash my hair which takes an age because it’s thick and curly. I'm always teetering on the line between lush curls and Hagrid's long-lost daughter.
7:38pm: I jump out and do my usual night routine with added curl cream and gel to the hair.
7:56pm: I decide to watch a film to end the day. I definitely don’t have the attention span for anything new so I put on one of my faves, Spotlight.
9:03pm: I scroll on my phone and try my luck again for a good tote bag. and find one I love on Linen Social and it’s even on sale so I grab it. — $53.46.
10:08pm: I jump into bed and pray to the sleep gods they’ll be kind to me tonight.
Daily Total: $53.46

Day 7

5:45 am: My alarm goes off and today I can’t ignore it. I slept well so it’s not too much of a battle. I get up and put some workout clothes on.
5:50am: I crack into a kickboxing workout. Getting rid of my gym membership and doing at-home workouts was a brilliant choice. I haven’t looked back.
6:40am: Workout done! I empty the dishwasher and make my smoothie.
6:45am: I shower and do my skincare routine as usual. Instead of vinyl this morning, I finish off the first in the Shameless podcast In Conversation series. I live under a rock and had never heard of the guest but found it an interesting listen.
7:15am: I drive to work.
7:35am: I arrive at work. Here’s hoping today is less hectic than yesterday! I get stuck into a few things I’ve been putting off.
8:32am: Our operating system crashes. Not the end of the world but not ideal! We wait about 20 minutes for it to get fixed.
9:00am: We have a meeting debriefing the medical incident yesterday. These meetings happen after every incident to establish where we can improve our response and to make sure all involved are feeling okay.
9:41am: Back to my desk. I make myself a peppermint tea.
10:01am: The first of three back-to-back meetings — local government loves a meeting! This one’s about invoicing.
10:30am: Second meeting, this one is about a script for a promotional video we’re looking to release.
11:03am: Third meeting! It’s with a retail supplier we use at our facilities. He’s a great guy and I always love catching up with him. We yarn about our lives and discuss some issues and a potential contract extension.
12:09pm: Back at my desk. I swear when I’m in front of my emails I get none, but the second I’m gone they stack up! I start working through them.
1:01pm: Time to have the meeting that was rescheduled yesterday due to the medical incident. It’s with my boss. We hash out issues going on, chat KPIs, and set some training sessions. A long but productive meeting!
2:07pm: Lunch time! I eat my meal-prepped lunch.
2:37pm: Back to my desk to finish off my tasks for the day.
4:00pm: I leave work to head to my meeting. It’s with a local charity I have volunteered with a lot over the years. I’m hoping to get back into helping them now that COVID lockdowns are over. I find a park right outside and pay for parking ($4.37). Head inside and say hi to the receptionist — she remembers me!
5:14pm: Meeting done. They’re keen to have me back and will send me an email shortly to get me set up again. I’m really happy; the charity means a lot to me and I’m keen to help in any way I can. I realise I’m close to the supermarket that stocks the Tunnocks Tea Cakes so I head there. It’s a gorgeous evening so I walk.
5:32pm: I grab two packs of tea cakes and a lamb chop for dinner ($15.56). I walk back to my car and pray the parking wardens haven’t caught me as I’m well over my time. I’m in luck!
5:57pm: I head to the mall. I need to buy a gift for my friend's birthday. I walk around and decide on a handmade pottery mug from a pop-up shop showcasing New Zealand artists. — $41.30.
6:43pm: I drive home and cook my lamb chop with some mashed potato, roasted broccoli and yams. It’s super yum and I’m a happy gal!
7:14pm: I put some washing on, do my skincare and get into bed. It’s been a huge week and I’m shattered, so I try to chill. I put on Anchorman and scroll on Instagram.
9:02pm: I can barely keep my eyes open so I listen to my body and switch off the lights. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $61.23
Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!

More from Work & Money