Money Diaries

A Week In West Melbourne On A $73,000 Salary

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. Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it here.
Today: a customer service representative who makes $73,000 a year takes her chihuahua mix pup to the groomer's (complete with a bowtie!).
Occupation: Online Customer Service Representative / Team Member
Industry: Wholesale / Hospitality
Age: 24
Location: West Melbourne, Victoria
My Salary: $73,000 (including both of my incomes)
My Partner's Salary: $50,000
Net Worth: $10,000 ($4,000 in savings, $6,000 in super. I also own a lot of camera equipment, including lenses and a body, worth about $6,000. I'm a freelance photographer usually, but I'm on hiatus right now as the pandemic has made it pretty hard.)
Debt: $28,000 in HECS and $150 on Afterpay
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,150 ($1,350 for my full-time job and around $800 a week for my part-time job, depending on shifts).
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,955. I live with my partner in a two-bedroom apartment in West Melbourne. We split the costs down the middle.
Utilities: $115 (For gas, electricity, water, and internet)
Groceries: $300
Netflix: $12.99
Shudder: $8 (A streaming service for horror and thriller films and TV shows)
AnimeLab: $8
Gym: $51.80
Pole Membership: $180
Adobe Photography Plan: $17.99
Apple iCloud Storage: $4.49
Phone: $55
Pet Insurance: $35
Anything else to add?: My partner and I each have our own bank accounts for our respective savings and disposable income. Our bills and rent are split right down the middle, paid for from a joint account. We don't have any investments yet, but my partner and I are talking about getting into shares (trendy, I know). We're hesitant because 1) we don’t know anything about it, 2) it feels like a gamble and 3) it would mean saying goodbye to a chunk of each of our savings for some time.

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

Yes — an ongoing bachelor's degree in science. I'll return to studying this year at some point. I put it under HECS, but I haven't started paying it off yet.

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

My parents insisted that I didn't get a job for as long as possible so I could focus on my studies. It was always drilled into me that finances were a massive responsibility, and that parents had to provide for their families. My parents migrated to Australia in the 80s and didn’t grow up well off. Mum’s family had six children, including her. My grandma and grandpa worked hard so all their kids could go to university, which many people couldn’t afford. 
My sister and I adopted the mentality that we had to study hard while our parents provided us with what we needed. We needed to focus on our education so we could get a decent job and earn good money when we were older.

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

When I was 16, I got a job as a retail assistant at Daiso. I got it because I wanted a job, even though my parents weren't keen on it. They thought I wouldn't be able to focus on both work and study, but I knew I could. I just wanted some of my own autonomy when it came to my financial decisions. As soon as I got this job, I told my mum that my bank account was something I was going to keep private. My older sister is the complete opposite. She got her first job at 19 and let my mum have access to her bank account until she was 28.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not at first. We were comfortable but came into financial trouble during my high school years. My mum came into a large amount of debt as she helped a family member out during a bad divorce. This person didn't pay her back almost $100,000 of their 'borrowed' money. Money became a lot tighter and has stayed that way until now. My dad reacted negatively when he found out, making my parents separate their finances completely. This meant that mum had to shoulder a lot more costs than just that debt. Since my sister and I started working, we’ve been helping them out where we can.

Do you worry about money now?

At times, yes. But that's more to do with unexpected things, like car trouble. I do have money set aside for that, but it's still not fun to deal with. I prioritise rent and bills with each fortnightly paycheque, so as soon as I receive it, half of my monthly rent goes into my partner and my joint account. This keeps me ahead of my rent by a fortnight every month. 

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

I started paying for all my personal expenses (including appointments, health-related services, material items and car servicing) when I got a permanent part-time job at 20. Before that, I was only getting casual jobs, so I paid what I could. I moved out officially at the end of 2021 — that's when I probably became fully financially responsible for myself, paying for things like rent and bills. 
My safety net is my savings, as well as always being ahead on my bills and rent. I always put that little bit extra in our joint account in case we find ourselves strapped for cash at any given time. My partner also has his own savings for the same reason. 

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

Does Centrelink count? I used to receive payments when I was a full-time student, then again as a part-time student seeking work.

Day 1

8:45am — I wake up. It’s my day off so I have a lie-in for a while and scroll on my phone for a bit before playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on my Nintendo Switch for a couple of hours. 
10:00am — My scheduled rental payment comes out of our joint account — $1955, split 50/50. I get up and write a resignation letter for my third job as a marketing assistant. I take a deep breath and press send.
11:00am — I take a shower but don’t wash my hair. This might sound gross, but I only wash my hair one or two times a fortnight. It doesn't get oily because my scalp is used to it. I jump into my skincare routine for the day: Exfolikate from Kate Somerville, Momopuri concentrated face lotion, Momopuri gel cream, then Rohto Mentholatum Skin Aqua UV Gel Gold for some sun protection. If it isn't obvious already, I mostly buy Japanese and Korean skincare. It’s just very effective and affordable. Not gonna lie, I'm not flawless when it comes to getting my skincare done — sometimes I just wanna sleep, y’know? I only ever buy new bottles when I am very close to running out, so I only spend on skincare every 3-5 months. 
12:30pm — My gym payment ($12.95), iCloud ($4.49) and Shudder subscription ($8.99) come out of my account (covered in my monthly expenses). I also receive my last ever paycheque from my marketing assistant job — $210 for three weeks' worth of work. If it sounds like I was being underpaid, it’s because I was. For some context, I was working for a pole dancing shoe brand and had been with them for three years before realising just last week that I wasn't happy with them. I was fine with the pay at first as I was getting 50% off pole shoes, but it got to the point where I was no longer invited to the marketing meetings, so it became quite alienating. I was also only being paid $50 a week to create unique, 5-page Instagram stories for every single day of the week. It's gross especially because I knew the business was going through massive growth and had the capacity to pay me better. It also felt really uncomfortable as a person of colour working with mostly white women in the head office. At least I built a nice collection of pole heels before I quit, I guess. /rant.
3:00pm — A friend texts me about dinner plans, so we make a last-minute booking for dinner at 7:15pm. She and I met in high school but never really spoke to each other, but she got hired at my part-time job, so we became friends really easily. Our shifts together involved lots of dancing and shit-talking.
5:00pm —  My parents come over to drop off some things: a box of Indomie Mi Goreng and a box of canned pineapples. They don’t drop food off super often (if anything, I tend to drop by more to fix their tech issues), but Mum has a Costco subscription, so she picks up things I want when she goes there. My partner and I have talked about possibly getting our own membership, but we feel that it’s not sensible to buy so much in bulk for just two people. I always ask for the Mi Goreng when we run out because they come in a jumbo size that I can’t find anywhere else but Costco. 
7:15pm — I make it to our reservation, where we order some ramen and drinks ($81). My friend and I constantly ignore each other when we ask for each other’s bank details. We grew up in families where it’s culturally more common to just take the bill and have your friend pay for the next one. The restaurant is a place I’ve been before so I knew we weren’t going to be disappointed. It's a fancier offshoot of a popular but more casual ramen joint in the CBD. It’s a little pricier, but I like the atmosphere more and it’s easier to drive to because it’s in inner suburbia with on-street parking. We catch up about things we couldn’t really talk about at work — her ex, her current friend with benefits, and how I'm adjusting to moving out of home. It was a difficult process, mostly because mum and I argued about it for months beforehand. I knew that it would be, which is also why I brought it up with her months beforehand. If it weren’t for her moving to Australia for a better life, she would’ve lived with her parents until she got married. But during all the lockdowns, I was at my boyfriend's apartment non-stop. I just never really moved out. Mum wasn’t necessarily happy about it, but I also gave her plenty of notice so she expected it. Last year, we finally moved into a two-bedroom apartment together. $81
9:30pm — We head out for ice cream and my partner joins us. My friend shouts the three of us — $17. It's getting late, so we drive her home. She lives in the outer northern suburbs so it’s 30-40 minutes to get there depending on traffic, but we don't mind. I fill up the tank on the way home ($35.09). Petrol is $1.98 a litre so I die a little inside, but I manage to save a little money using our supermarket rewards card. $35.09
Daily Total: $116.09

Day 2

6:30am — Wake up to a text from my mum asking for $200 for her new glasses. I'd promised to pay for them a while back and told her to just let me know when, so I transfer her the money ($200). She's looking for a new job and taking some well-deserved rest time at the moment, so I'm happy to help. We fell into some intense money trouble when I was in high school and she’s been paying that off since then. I can’t always afford to pay for her things but I offer when I can, because I want her to know I’m grateful and happy to take care of her. It’s usually things like specialist appointments, health needs or a nice dinner out. $200
6:35am — I get up and get ready for work. I usually just wear jeans and a t-shirt or even activewear because even though I’m technically part of the ‘office’, my desk is in the warehouse. My partner usually wakes up with me so he can make me a coffee and see me off before walking our dog and working from home.
7:40am — I leave for work with enough time to get there by 8am. I drive every morning because I work in an industrial area where the only public transport is a couple of unreliable buses. 
8:00am — I arrive at work and get straight into it. My day always starts off with me checking the inboxes. I’m responsible for the customer service for five of our brands. This sounds like a lot, but we’re slowly closing down two of them and using another as a sort of online outlet store eventually. After emails, it’s sorting out returns which can be quick or slow depending on how many I get. We recently got a new warehousing system installed which has been causing a lot of issues and processing a return isn’t what it used to be. 
12:00pm — I take lunch for half an hour in the back room. Today, it’s Cruskits and tuna as I couldn’t be bothered making lunch last night, plus I don't want to spend money on Deliveroo. I video call my partner and we eat lunch 'together'. I work at a family business and the three people I work with in the warehouse are all related, so they take lunch together at a later time. We always make sure there’s someone in the warehouse in case we receive a delivery or pickup. 
12:30pm — It’s back to work, which is just continuing to process returns and respond to emails. The hardest part about this job isn’t the work — it’s that customers have no problem stamping all over your heart when they can’t see your face. For the most part, I get nice customers but the bad ones are so bad that I have to take a breather sometimes. 
4:30pm — I leave work and drive straight home. The one thing I love about starting at 8am is that I leave just that little bit early to avoid horrible home-time traffic. It also helps that I live 10 minutes away. 
7:00pm — My friend comes over to hang out. She’s another friend from my part-time job. The funny thing is that she and I were totally uninterested in each other at first, but we became friends after another workmate told me she was cool. We order three Korean pizzas ($110, paid for by my partner) and three bubble teas (paid by me, $33.68) on Uber Eats. We were meant to go out to rollerskate but the forecast changed to a likely chance of rain, so we decide to play it safe. We drink soju cocktails and plum wine and decide to rollerskate on the balcony instead. It's pretty large and it wraps around our entire apartment, so there's plenty of space to do so. $33.68
9:30pm — My friend has brought Lactaid with her but didn’t use it before eating pizza and bubble tea, so she lays on the floor burping herself into oblivion. We still don’t have a couch since we moved in not long ago and our couch delivery was delayed due to the pandemic. I panic and offer her some pillows and water while my partner continues to skate outside. My dog is unimpressed as always.
1:10am — We drive my friend home, about 15 minutes away from our apartment. She has survived the cheese and milk. We are relieved. 
Daily Total: $233.68

Day 3

8:00am — No work today as I have a doctor's appointment this morning because of on-and-off sharp pains in my ankle. I get ready quickly, jumping into the shower and throwing my hair up into a bun. I’ve sprained the same ankle twice this year — the first time I was on crutches for two and a half weeks and the second time, only a week. The best part is that everyone assumed it was from pole dancing, but both were actually from casually walking in the street. Pro tip: don’t wear platform crocs on wet, uneven surfaces. 
8:45am — I drive to the appointment and wait in the car for a while due to Covid restrictions. The doctor pretty much tells me that I probably should be seeing a physio already, and that my pain is likely being exacerbated due to my new-ish job at the warehouse as I'm on my feet a lot and have to climb ladders. She orders some scans for me, lists some physios on a little sticky note, and bids me adieu, costing me $146 ($134.95 of this will eventually be rebated by Medicare). $146
10:00am — Head home and have a quick breakfast with my partner — some simple fish sauce eggs with toast. It might sound fancy, but you just put in a little fish sauce into some whisked eggs and make an omelette.
11:30am — I have a hair consult at a new salon I've never been to. I'm excited because I've started dyeing my hair again after taking a long break. I used to dye my hair all sorts of vivid colours. The consult is free, but the quote is a bit shocking — $610! I book an appointment for a few months from now. I figure it'll secure me a spot but will give me enough time to think about it. 
12:35pm — I’m back home to pick up my dog who has a grooming appointment at 1pm. He doesn’t get groomed often, but he’s been shedding like crazy in the hot weather. I worry because he hates strangers touching his paws. The groomer reassures me that she can handle it — but it doesn't reassure me in the slightest. Have you met my dog? Two words: chihuahua mix. 
1:10pm — Swing by my pole studio to pick up a candle order from the studio manager — $35 for two large soy wax candles. She makes them every now and again and sells them exclusively to students and staff at our studio. $35
1:45pm — I pick up my dog and he did fine! He was apparently very well behaved, but I was right about the paws. She didn’t get to finish clipping his nails. I pay her $50 and he comes out wearing a little pink tie. $50
2:30pm — I’m back home for a telehealth doctor's appointment where I need to get some prescriptions and handle some mental health things. This one was free as it's provided by a youth service and covered by Medicare.
3:00pm — I play Pokémon Legends: Arceus for the rest of the day. I’m the type of gamer that smashes through the main storyline before going back to do some of that post-game content. My partner joins me after getting off work. He likes to take his time and explore every nook and cranny in the first playthrough, but I’m way too impatient for that. I have to be a Pokémon champion asap. 
10:50pm — I have a cheeky look at some sales and buy a new lingerie set at 25% off — $95.75, including shipping. $95.75
Daily Total: $326.75

Day 4

11:35am — We walk our dog to the nearby park, stopping by at a cafe on the way. We love this place for sandos. My partner grabs us some Katsu sandos, fruit sandos and coffees for our picnic ($47.50). We’ve tried most of the popular places for sandwiches in Melbourne, but nothing compares to this place. I’m not sure what it is, but they’re just perfectly filled and the sauce is so good. 
12:40pm — The picnic ends up being cut short because an anti-vax protest kicks off nearby. They have a band and everything! I’m a little annoyed because this is not the nice time just before work that I'd wanted, but it is what it is. I won’t share my specific views regarding the matter here, but I will say that being an essential worker during the pandemic has been difficult. I once had to stand at the register and listen as a customer explained to me why Covid-19 is fake and that Bill Gates has commissioned this whole thing. Sigh.
2:00pm — My shift starts at my part-time job at a popular donut chain. I've been here since it opened in 2018, but more and more original staff have been leaving. I’ve been thinking about it too but I want to feel a little more secure in my full-time job first. My boss is a bit of a jerk, but I'm privileged to be one of the few that they dislike the most. What did I do, you ask? I'm not completely sure, but I suspect it was my anxious response when they chewed me out during one of the rare shifts we had together — I do this thing where I just smile like a dickhead when I'm being yelled at. My psych says it stems from trauma and is a form of dissociation, but whatever.
4:00pm —  The shift goes as usual with me mostly making coffees and taking care of drive-thru. As of late, only one or two people know how to make coffee during shifts. This is especially shit on weekend nights where it’s busy and we need all hands on deck.
9:10pm — One of our regular customers comes in and gives me three loaves of bread for free! She comes in every day with all these loaves from Bakers Delight — we never know why, but it’s very lovely of her.
10:15pm — My partner picks me up from work. We go to Kmart which is 2 minutes away. We pick up some jeans on clearance, basic t-shirts for work, and some homewares ($79). I always feel a little guilty when I buy things from Kmart but 1) I’m on a budget, 2) coming to terms with your ethics in this capitalistic landscape is a personal journey that you must face in your own time, and 3) have you tried finding plus-size sustainable fashion labels? I'm sorry, but I want to wear hot girl shit and many plus-size ethical labels just want to give me kaftans and jeans that only fit plus-sized women with relatively small waists. I often find most plus-size focused social media disheartening because I still feel like I don’t fit the perfect plus-sized model body. I mostly wear things I already have, but my weight has changed a lot in the last several years due to PCOS and mental health, so this isn’t always doable. Kmart has really saved me in the denim department recently. This is my second pair from them after falling in love with a pair I bought several months ago. $79
Daily Total: $79

Day 5

11:00am — Back at the donut shop to work my shift. We are severely understaffed as we’ve had multiple people call in sick. 
2:00pm — My ankle is playing up, so I get picked up by my partner. I feel bad because we're already pretty understaffed, but my manager told me to go home since I wasn’t in tip-top shape. I drop off some bread at mum's, thanks to yesterday's bread delivery.
3:15pm — I buy some bubble tea on our way home and get two for the price of one because of my loyalty card ($9). We go to this bubble tea store so often that one of the workers has started to smile and wave at me every time she sees me coming. I’ve gone through a stupid number of loyalty cards here, but it’s just so good. You may not believe me, but I promise I don’t have bubble tea every single day. I go through waves — from bubble tea every day for a week, to not having bubble tea for three months straight. $9
3:40pm — Get home and try to log into MyGov to pay my income tax bill which I've forgotten about until the very last minute. Unfortunately, the site is down. I decide to rest for the rest of the day. 
10:00pm — I try to pay my tax income bill again, thankful that the website is working this time — $240.48. I order some more decorations for the home while I'm at it ($37.40). $277.88
Daily Total: $286.88

Day 6

6:30am — I wake up and get ready for work. My routine on days like this is mostly the same. My partner wakes up to make me a coffee and walk our baby doggy as per usual. He times this well so that he gets back just as he has to start WFH.  
8:00am — I start my workday: emails, returns, emails and the occasional phone call from a disgruntled customer who feels like picking a fight. My issue is that while I understand I have to make customers happy, how much do I let them abuse me before I’m like, You know what? Not today, Satan. I haven’t even been at this job that long and I’ve been given briefs on notorious customer-villains that might call me. 
12:30pm — Lunch today is a salad with canned tuna (I decided to indulge myself with Sirena tuna cans as this is my idea of luxury). My mum always seems impressed when she calls and I’m eating a salad for lunch but she doesn’t know it’s a can’t-be-bothered thing and not a health thing. She calls a few days a week, and I do the same. While I admit that there are weeks where I barely call her, we do this thing every day where we send each other cute gifs to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’. She and my aunts recently got Covid-19 on a trip to visit my sister in Canberra, so I’ve been calling her each day to see how she’s feeling. On the up-and-up! She sounds better every day. 
5:40pm — After my partner and I finish work, we look at our bank accounts. We're both so burnt out and extra sluggish from last week, so neither of us wants to cook. We decide to have dinner at a popular Mexican restaurant that’s near our apartment. We decide that it’s very appropriate to have Monday Margaritas. The total bill reaches $132, split 50/50 ($66). Friday night drinks are overrated — I highly recommend a cocktail at the start of the week instead! $66
Daily Total: $66

Day 7

6:30am — I wake up for work and do the whole thing again. I'm relatively new to this full-time work game. I kinda hate it, but I love what it’s done for my sleep schedule. My partner makes me coffee, sees me off with a smooch and heads out the door to walk our precious bean. It’s a very cute routine we have going on. 
10:00am — $30.36 is debited from my account for pet insurance, covered in my monthly expenses. I know that it’s a monthly payment but it still takes me by surprise every time. 
12:30pm – It’s a Cruskits and cream cheese kinda day. This week has been one of those weeks where I just can’t be bothered.
4:45pm — I arrive back at our apartment after work. My dog does this cute thing where he’ll come up and put his paws up on me with his tail wagging a mile a minute. My partner says our dog’s been bummed when I leave in the morning, so he’s been skipping his breakfast and moping about (by intensely napping on my clothing or pillow) until I get home. I guess it’s a sign to quit my jobs and be a stay-at-home dog mother. I lie on the couch and my dog jumps up to sit near my head. He licks my forehead for five minutes straight. Thanks, bud. 
5:00pm — My partner gets off work, and we play Pokémon together. I've almost beaten the main game. The story leaves much to be desired, but the gameplay is magnifique. While it isn't a true open-world game, it's still a big step in the right direction. Is this a Money Diary? No. You're reading a Pokémon review and the final verdict is that you should get it. Also, Adaman is such a zaddy of an NPC — don't judge me.
8:30pm — Dinner is chicken adobo and rice. I switch between Filipino food and everything else often. What I like about adobo is that it’s pretty easy to make, but it’s also different in every household. 
10:30pm — After cleaning up and getting ready for bed, my boyfriend and I chat and play more Pokémon (of course). When we first met, I knew he liked Pokémon but he kept it in. When his full Pokémon nerd eventually came out, I knew he was the one. I will never have to buy a Poképedia.
Daily Total: $0
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