Money Diaries

A Week In Melbourne CBD As A Data Analyst On $102,000

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last dollar.
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Today: A data analyst scores two free kombuchas on her way to her mystery shopping side hustle.
Occupation: Data Analyst
Age: 24
Location: Melbourne CBD
Pronouns: She/Her
Net Worth: $149,000. This includes my apartment valued at $534,000 (which I just purchased last year through a First Home Buyer Shared Equity Scheme), $32,000 in super, approximately $13,000 in Raiz investments investing directly in various ETFs, a diversified cryptocurrency portfolio worth about $20,000, $28,000 worth of cash (of which I'm planning to move a portion towards investments soon) and $10,000 worth of investments in different start-up companies (angel investments) and individual companies.
Debt: $488,000. This includes my bank mortgage which is $336,000, an additional $120,000 from the First Home Buyer Shared Equity Scheme (interest-free) for my apartment and my HECS debt which has accumulated to about $32,000. Note: I do also have a $0 annual fee credit card which I use for my recurring expenses, but it gets paid off every statement period to avoid incurring any interest.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,083. This is the amount that gets credited into my bank account fortnightly. I salary sacrifice $550 pre-tax into my super as a concessional contribution every paycheque to minimise taxes, which is why my paycheque amount is lower than it otherwise would be. 

Monthly Expenses 

Mortgage: $1,800 monthly for the mortgage of my one-bedroom, one-study apartment. I live alone and the study is used as a home office space when I am working from home.
Monthly loan payments: My student loan payment (HECS) is deducted directly from my gross paycheque every fortnight ($112). I do not make any additional payments on top of the automatic deductions at the moment, simply because my investment returns will still give me a net positive over the long term when compared to the average indexation rate.
Utilities (heating, cooling, water, electricity): $120
Internet: $60
Phone: $12.40. I purchased a 365-day pre-paid plan with Kogan Mobile for $149 at the end of last year, which has unlimited texts and calls and 300GB of internet over 365 days.
Netflix: $0 (My mum pays for a family account that we all use. Thanks Mum!)
Raiz Investments: $500 monthly to Raiz, set up to be automatically debited immediately when I get paid.

[Editor's Note: This clarification on body corporate costs has been added since the diary was first published].

At the time of writing, it had just been nearly 2.5 months since my apartment was settled, so I had paid in advance for my body corporate, council fees etc. through the Settlement Adjustment process upon settlement.

I did not have the updated body corporate, land tax, council fee and annual water rate statements for my apartment at that point in time, as the figures for the following quarter had not been received. I can confirm now that these costs are about $412 per month on average (which is the cost of maintaining a primary residence property).

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

Yes, I studied a Bachelor of Primary Education (Hons.) and Commerce and have just recently 'graduated' from the double degree. I studied for three years full-time before landing a graduate job with my completed Commerce degree and completed the remainder of my Education degree part-time. I deferred all of the costs to HECS debt. 

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

My parents brought me up living a pretty frugal lifestyle and living below our means so I guess that value sort of stuck with me as I was growing up. There were no explicit conversations about money as it is seen as a taboo topic to be discussing openly. My grandparents did have a small family business, so I would get exposure to bits and pieces about accounting and finances through those occasional family visits back. There would be occasional small talk about investing in other business ventures and potential ideas which I guess really shaped the way I approach my finances now.
As I was growing up, my parents would deposit $50 a month to my kid's bank account and would often bring us to the bank to personally deposit it. When I started university, I was handed over custody of that account which had about $8,000 accumulated in it, which was a great kickstart to my financial journey.

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

My first job was at a florist's near my house. I got the job in my first year of university and that was when I decided it was about time for me to start doing something and getting some experience in the 'real world' with the free time left after university. 

Did you worry about money growing up?

Family-wise, not really. I would say I am very fortunate to have been sheltered from any financial difficulties that my family might have been facing at the time and I was not really aware of them as they did not talk about them openly. 
On the other hand, though, I also wasn't given pocket money aside from the occasional $20 you get twice every year or something for good academic performance. I never asked my parents for additional spending money when I went on excursions or camps or mini fetes (I guess it never occurred to me that that was also an option) — that meant I would have to spend super frugally if I wanted something with the limited money I had.

Do you worry about money now?

Not about money necessarily — I think I am at the point where I have developed a structured personal financial plan/strategy that works for me personally and I have a sufficient financial buffer as a safety net
That said though, I do always try to think about future opportunities and ways to improve my finances by reading relevant books or watching YouTube videos. It can be slightly stressful when you get to the point where your expenses can't really be cut any further and you are at a bottleneck. My motto is, "I want my money to work as hard for me as I did for it." 

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

I became financially responsible for myself at the age of 22. When I landed my graduate job, I moved to Melbourne CBD as I thought it would make it easier to get to work every morning with less travel time. At that time, I had maybe $10,000 in savings and my family as my financial safety net should anything go wrong. Little did I know that covid would hit 2 months after and people would work from home for the next year anyway, so technically, I could have saved an extra year's worth of income. Now, I have built a decent financial buffer for myself, but I know that should anything ever happen, my family will always be my strongest support and safety net, both financially and emotionally.

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

Nope, I have never received any inherited income. I do receive some passive income in the form of dividends from my investments in Raiz, but these get automatically reinvested into the account. 

Day 1

7:00am: The alarm blares, and I reluctantly drag myself out of bed. Today is an office day, thanks to our hybrid working policy. It takes me a solid 20 minutes to transition from sleep to semi-functioning. I try multitasking my morning routine while tackling personal emails and life admin.
8:35am: Not keeping track of time, I get changed as quickly as I can and dash out of the door. I commute to work by tram, which is free because it is within the Free Tram Zone in Melbourne CBD ($0). While on the commute, I check my work emails and quickly reply to a few so that I can tick them off the checklist.
9:00am: I arrive at work and settle at my desk. I make myself an instant coffee from the kitchen and start doing some work.
10:30am: After a morning meeting, our team decides to go for a short morning stroll around the corner and get their coffee fix. I join them for a walk around the block and to the coffee shop, but decide against getting one.
11:50am: It is nearly lunchtime! Our team decides to head off individually to get our lunches and meet back at the kitchen to eat as we talk. I head off to get some food at one of the venues close to my workplace.
12:00pm: I have a mystery shop scheduled at this food venue today, so I do the required observations of the location and take the required photos and notes that will help build my report. I order my chosen meal, which costs $17.90. I pay for it on my 'side hustle' debit card but the full amount will be reimbursed once I complete and submit my report. $0
12:20pm: I get my order and head back to the office. During our lunch conversation, a colleague mentions that they are planning to purchase a house soon. I offer to send them some notes and questions to ask the bank relating to interest rates, account fees and offset facilities that I noted down when I purchased my first property.
1:00pm: Get back to my desk and immediately continue on with two or three consecutive meetings. My fitness watch goes off a few times during the afternoon, warning me that I have been sedentary for at least 30 minutes so I try to be more 'active' by using the sit-stand desks and continue with some of my work.
5:15pm: I finish up and head out of my office near the tram stop, where there is a Macca's. They have a 30-Day Deal happening and today, the offer is for one small Big Mac Meal and one Cheeseburger for $7.90. I reassure myself that that this is going to be my dinner tonight and there won't be any more fast food for the rest of the week... $7.90
5:45pm: I get home and start indulging in my Macca's meal. I can't believe how long the wait was for it! I put on some Netflix (Hidden Love), and watch it while having my dinner.
6:30pm: I shoot the list of bank mortgage questions and my learnings from purchasing my house to my colleague and check my emails at the same time. I note some things that I need to follow up and check on, including realigning my finances due to the recent interest rate hikes.
7:30pm: I put my laptop to sleep and call it a day on life admin. I take a shower to freshen up and do my skincare routine.
8:30pm: Time for singing! Singing is a hobby of mine and one of those inexpensive ones you can do from the comfort of your own home. I get my iPad out and head to my favourite karaoke app, plug my earphones in and off I go...
11:30pm: Okay, I admit I am a little crazy (about singing)! I'm starting to get tired from singing so I get ready for bed, brush my teeth and tuck myself into bed.
Daily Total: $7.90

Day 2

6:45am: I wake up a little earlier than usual and scroll on my phone for a bit, catching up on social media posts. My alarm rings and I decide that I woke up too early, so I go back for another short snooze... Does anyone else do that or is it just me?
8:30am: Finally crawl out of bed, and do the usual morning routine. I struggle with creative ideas for breakfast and decide that Weetbix and a cup of hot choc will have to do today. I have my breakfast while checking my work emails.
9:00am: I scroll through the daily news to get caught up with the latest daily feeds. On the AFR, I find that there are occasionally stimulating and provocative articles, including the experiences of past CEOs and how they built their wealth, which interests me a lot.
9:15am: I start prioritising my list of things that I want and need to get done today. Looking at my calendar, it's a pretty quiet day, in terms of meetings at least, which I am quite pleased about. I get started with my to-do list and time just flies.
11:00am: I decide that I've been looking at Excel spreadsheets for way too long and my eyes hurt. I go for a short walk to my mailbox on the ground floor and check my mail, something that I was meant to do a couple of days ago.
11:10am: I return to my desk and continue with my work... but before that, I make myself a cup of green tea and take a piece of chocolate from the fridge to snack on.
12:30pm: Lunchtime!!! I get some frozen lasagna out of the freezer and heat it up in the microwave. I have been feeling a lack of motivation to cook lately, so this is the next best alternative. While having my lunch, I check if there are any mystery shopping jobs on the job boards.
1:30pm: I return to my work, attend a few meetings and then continue with more data analysis and Excel work. I get a few messages from one of the advisors about my application for a leadership program, which I expressed interest in not too long ago. They have confirmed my spot and asked me to provide a bit more information for my submission so I can get official approval. I add that to my to-do list.
4:30pm: After a full day's worth of work, my brain has honestly started wandering off. I start to ponder what's for dinner and how I can best fit some of my other mystery shopping into my schedule for the next few days, given the several separate locations I will have to travel to.
5.30pm: I suddenly remember that I have not written my report for the mystery shop yesterday, so I grab my iPad and complete the report. I have been doing this side hustle for about three years now, so the drill is fairly well-known to me (although it still takes ages for me to get all the relevant details and observations down from a 15-minute visit.)
6.15pm: I finish and submit my report and make myself a healthy vegetable soup with celery, carrot, lentils and potatoes. I enjoy the hearty meal while watching a YouTube video (Caleb Hammer) about finances.
7.45pm: I do a little bit of personal life admin after the video and prepare myself for bed with my normal nighttime routine (shower, skincare, brushing teeth etc.)
9.00pm: Now, time for my actual nighttime routine, singing. I decide quickly that I am not really feeling it, so I put Netflix on my projector and fall asleep to Hidden Love as it plays.
Daily Total: $0

Day 3

7.00am: My alarm rings and I get out of bed... lazily. My mum is planning a trip overseas (on her own!) and has asked me to get some essentials for her from the CBD and meet her near the Skybus interchange at Southern Cross Station next Monday at 8.30am.
7.45am: I go with some Mi Goreng (using the instant one but seasoning it myself) with a lovely sunny side up egg and some bok choy for breakfast. I have someone coming over to fix some defects on my beautiful kitchen stone bench around lunchtime today, so it is likely that I won't have much time (or space) to make myself lunch.
8.30am: I log in for work and take a look at the daily news feeds. I have a few analyses that I need to finalise and send to different teams in the next two to three business days.
10:50am: An urgent work request pops up and I pick it up. When a new request comes in, I normally review the request, have a plan in my head about how to potentially approach it and then get on a call with the team to discuss the scope, timeframes etc. I have a look at the request and it seems to be pretty straightforward.
11:45am: There's a knock on my door — here come the tradespeople. I get the door and invite them in. After explaining what I want done and the concerns I have, they go to work pretty much immediately. As this is a newly finished apartment, it is still within the defects warranty period, so I do not need to pay anything ($0). I continue working as the defects are being remedied, while also engaging in some rapport with the tradespeople.
12:20pm: The defects are all rectified. I send a message to the team with the urgent work request, confirming a time to meet and they say, 'Let's do it now!' so I jump on a quick call with them to understand their needs. I started realising that what they wanted was not as straightforward and simple as I thought it would be, so I tell the team that I will consider other alternatives and get back to them.
2:30pm: I jump on my first scheduled meeting of the day and realise that I have not taken a proper lunch break yet! Unfortunately, I will be having back-to-back meetings for the next hour, so lunch will have to wait.
4:00pm: I finally have some time to breathe. I whip myself up a quick fruit smoothie with some apples, passionfruit, frozen berries and mango yoghurt and bring it to my desk as I continue trying to develop a solution for the urgent request. I am nearly there — a few more steps and I will have a solution.
5:45pm: I log off and one of my friends, S, calls me to have a chat. They happen to be in the city as well and we spontaneously decide to go on a dinner run together since neither of us has dinner plans. We agree to meet in 30 minutes and I start scrambling to get ready and ensure that my phone is fully charged.
6:10pm: I get out of my apartment and start heading to our meet-up point. We'd decided that we both needed a little exercise, so the meet-up point we agreed on was a 10-minute walk from each of our respective locations. Being sheltered in my cosy apartment, I didn't realise that it was ~30 degrees outside today and I immediately regret my decision to exercise.
6:45pm: We get to the restaurant (Sinjeol) and realise that the place has been put up for lease and has been vacated. I literally just came here 2-3 weeks ago and had no idea it was closing down. (I ended up checking and they have simply moved locations and will be opening up again in the CBD soon, phew!) We end up deciding that we will just continue walking until we see somewhere we would like to try.
7:00pm: We eventually settle on a Chinese place, which is S's recommendation. We get some steamed xiao long baos with chicken and prawn filling and a bowl of Shanghai noodle soup to share, which comes to $26.60. We aren't feeling super hungry and I had a late 'lunch' so it was more than enough. We talk over dinner and give each other our work and life updates. Paying time comes and we spilt the bill in half. I transfer S my portion. ($13.30)
9.00pm: I arrive home and get in the shower.
9:30pm: I quickly organise my schedule for the mystery shops that I will be doing over the next two days and refresh myself on the requirements for each one. Different retailers have different requirements and pictures that they need so I quickly go through them to be prepared.
10:15pm: I go straight to sleep; I have no energy for singing today.
Daily Total: $13.30

Day 4

6:30am: No alarm today but I open my eyes earlier than usual. It is still super early so I get my laptop and rewind several episodes of Hidden Love so that I can catch up on what exactly has been happening... but alas I drift back into No Man's Land.
8.30am: Wake up attempt 2.0. I scroll through my phone and reply to a few messages from my family. I then finalise my route for mystery shopping and persuade myself that going out around lunchtime would be a good idea. I have 3 destinations to complete today and so I expect to have to write a few reports later in the afternoon.
10:00am: I get my own breakfast sorted and it's avocado and egg on toast today. I make myself a cup of steaming hot green tea and start doing some chores around my house.
11:30am: I take a rest and browse through Amazon. I see this Age20 compact foundation that I have been pretty keen on trying for a while and apparently, the reviews have been pretty good. I don't buy makeup products often but I am intrigued by this one and add it to my cart. I normally leave things that I want to buy in the cart for a while to prevent impulse spending.
12:15pm: I get ready for my mystery shopping trip by ensuring I have a fully charged phone and head out. The first stop is South Wharf DFO. I take the tram within the Free Tram Zone and walk a little to get to the venue ($0).
1:00pm: On the way to DFO, free samples of Remedy kombucha are getting handed out near the Melbourne Exhibition Center. I get to my first location, assess and record the relevant information that I need on my phone and browse around for something. For this shop, I get reimbursed for the item(s) I purchase (up to a specified amount) as 'payment' so I do not earn anything on top of it. I select an item as a gift for my sister. I spend under the maximum reimbursement amount so I will not have any out-of-pocket expenses ($0).
1:30pm: I finish my shop and decide to complete my report in DFO. This report is comparatively easier and shorter than some of the other ones I've done, so I decided to quickly complete it while enjoying my kombucha.
1:45pm: Time for lunch. I head over to Melbourne Central by tram ($0). I manage to get another kombucha sample on my way out, so I keep it in my bag for later. My remaining scheduled mystery shops will be close to each other, so I head over to Job 2, which is a food place, for some lunch. I pay for the meal using my 'side hustle' debit card, which comes to $19, but will be reimbursed at a later stage. As usual, I take the required notes and pictures while enjoying my meal. I end up writing half of the report (discreetly!) on my phone as I eat a pretty hearty and delicious meal. ($0)
2:20pm: I leave the food place and get to Job 3 which is located within 200 metres. This one is about assessing service and is one that I have not done in a while, so I get my brief out again to refresh myself on the requirements for this one before heading in to start.
3:00pm: All my mystery shops are completed and I call it a day! I walk back to my apartment and while passing through multiple shops, I do a little bit of window shopping while I am at it.
4:00pm: Back home, I take a shower, put some music on and just recharge for a little bit. I realise that I still need to do some grocery shopping for the week and get my mum the things she requested, but I'm feeling too lazy. I lie in bed after my shower and start to doze off...
5:30pm: After an unexpected nap, I get to the mystery shop reports that I have yet to finish. I double-check my report, get photos of all the products, have my receipts ready and submit them! It takes a little while. I then go on to check some personal emails and check the mystery shopping job boards for upcoming jobs.
7:00pm: I don't want to have any dinner. I dedicate some time this evening to improving my financial literacy by reading Investing with She's on the Money. So far it has been a fairly good read and helps me tie some loose ends together with regards to my knowledge about investing.
8:15pm: I do a little bit of personal life admin, including updating my budget with all the new calculations based on the rate rises that have been announced not too long ago.
8:45pm: I start my singing session a little earlier today on the app, after only half-competing the budget.
11:30pm: I turn my projector on with Hidden Love in the background and fall asleep to it not too long after.
Daily Total: $0

Day 5

8:30am: I wake up to a noisy neighbour fixing some furniture in the morning. I had left the Amazon shopping tab open yesterday and I decide that I REALLY want the compact foundation. I pull the trigger and order it. ($45)
10:30am: After some more online window shopping and some videos, I roll out of bed. I open my fridge and note what's in there to see what I might need to get. While doing that, I make myself some nice scrambled eggs and sausage for a Sunday breakfast.
12:00pm: I decide that it is time for a swim and get ready to go downstairs to my apartment pool. One of the benefits of apartment living is the amenities, and my place is one of those higher-end apartments that have virtual golf rooms, karaoke and cinemas, so I can save on a lot of 'recreation' expenses.
1:30pm: I head out to the shops to do my weekly grocery haul at Coles. I grab some fruit for my smoothies, as well as some tomatoes, Asian vegetables, lettuce, corn, chicken, eggs and milk. I see some prepackaged salads that are half price and decide that that would be my lunch for the day. I also get some milk chocolate and some honey soy chips. My mum wanted some custard buns and I found some that were freshly made, so I get those for her too. ($35.16)
2:15pm: I'm back home, where I make my salad and eat a late lunch. I take a look at my schedule and I have two more mystery shops scheduled for today. I decide that I will go later in the afternoon, after taking a little bit of a break.
3:30pm: After some budget planning (from yesterday), I get ready to head out on my additional mystery shops. The tram timetables are weird on weekends, so I wait for 20 minutes before deciding it might be quicker to walk.
6:00pm: I arrive home after completing all the shops. I get a call from Mum and she mentions that she wants me to meet her at 8:30am tomorrow before her flight. I complete my reports after that and call it a day.
8:00pm: I get Hidden Love on the projector and for once in this Money Diary, I properly watch three episodes of the drama before going into LaLa land.
Daily Total: $80.16

Day 6

6.30am: I wake up earlier than usual. I get up to pack all the things that my mum asked me to bring to her this morning in a little bag — she wanted some custard buns, a cardigan and her swimming costume, which she leaves at mine since she comes swimming often.
7:00am: I check my spending tracker on FROLLO and realise that I got paid for some jobs that I did 3 weeks ago, which is delightful! I recategorise some transactions since not all spending is actual expenses for me.
8:00am: My mum messages saying she will be a bit late and is expecting to arrive at 9.30 am. I log on a little early to work to get some things done before meeting my mum.
9:15am: I leave the house to meet my mum. We meet at a Hungry Jack's and grab a Small Whopper Junior meal set to spilt between us. It's $5.95 but mum pays for it. She also gives me some cherries and vegetables that she had extras of and could not finish.
10:00am: I get back home and continue working.
12:30am: I head down to one of the Korean places near my apartment for a quick lunch. I get a bibimbap ($11.80) and pay using Liven for 10% cash back. ($10.62)
1:15pm: Back at work and doing more analysis... and meetings. The work that I did on Friday was well-received and I get some great positive feedback.
4:45pm: I finish off some analysis and shoot that through to the team for further consideration. I get caught up on the daily news before logging off from work.
6:00pm: I make some butter chicken and rice for dinner. It is quite hard to cook for just one person so I make a couple of extra portions and refrigerate them for the week. I watch some more of Caleb Hammer's videos and reflect on what I might have done in certain situations.
9:00pm: Singing time. This doesn't last very long though because my eyes are fighting each other. After 25 minutes online, I decide it's enough singing for the day and end up scrolling through social media for the rest of the night.
11:30pm: Bedtime!
Daily Total: $10.62

Day 7

7:15am: The alarm rings and I get up after lying in bed for a while. Today will be an in-office day for me. Breakfast is a quick hardboiled egg and some steamed broccoli for something healthy.
8:20am: After some morning household chores and email checking, I make sure I pack my butter chicken meal from yesterday and head to my office for the day via tram ($0).
8:45am: I arrive in the office. I make myself a cup of English tea and begin my work for the day. The office is busier than expected today so I scramble to get a meeting room for my 9am meeting.
12:30pm: After multiple meetings and some long conversations in the office, I start feeling hungry. I heat up my butter chicken meal and have it in the kitchen with some of the other past and current graduates. There is a pretty supportive culture in the graduate networks and we love to keep in touch and hold self-initiated events amongst ourselves.
1:45pm: Head back to my desk and continue on with some more data analysis and meetings. Not too long to go until the end of the day, I tell myself...
3:30pm: I desperately need some exercise after being in the office for most of the day, plus it's a nice sunny day. I decide to go for a walk with a couple of colleagues as a replacement for our meeting.
5:30pm: I wrap up the last bit of analysis for the day and send it back to the team. I am very happy that I was able to complete all the tasks before the deadline, since this one was slightly complicated.
6:00pm: On my way home, I head to Kmart to take a look at their selection of Quilt covers. I only have one set at home so it is very annoying when I have to wash them. I eventually decide to go with a lotus-patterned cover ($29).
6:25pm: I get home and put some sweet potatoes on in the steamer. While they're cooking, I have a shower and do my skincare. I have my sweet potatoes and watch a Caleb Hammer episode.
7:00pm: I finalise my budget and sort out all my automatic recurring transfers based on my budget. I spend 20 minutes trying to find out which number was incorrect as the amounts were not balancing, silly me!
8:15pm: I check some personal emails and the mystery shopping job boards. I have a couple coming up, so I plan ahead to make sure that I can commit to all of them.
9:15pm: I continue with some of Investing with She's on the Money and fall asleep without actually having a singing session (which is unusual for me!)
Daily Total: $29
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