Money Diaries

A Week In Brighton, Melbourne, As An Executive Assistant On A $100,000 Salary

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Today: an executive assistant who makes $100,000 a year spends some of her money this week on a pint of Guinness.
Occupation: Executive Assistant
Industry: Property Development
Age: 35
Location: Brighton, Melbourne
Salary: $100,000 (inclusive of super)
Net Worth: $255,000 ($7,000 in my personal savings, which was at $10,000 five months ago but I've been overseas twice this year, so it's taken a hit — Pandemic flights are not cheap!), $3,000 in investments across Spaceship and Sharesies, $70,000 in super (it's a little low, but I've only been living in Australia for eight years), $50,000 in joint savings with my partner, and a property worth $780,000 (purchased with my partner). We've also got $140,000 in equity that'll sit there until we decide to use it for an investment property. We're a little wary of the market at the moment, so we're holding off.
Debt: $480,000 remaining on our mortgage, split between the two of us.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $5,857
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,800 split between the two of us. We bought a two-bedroom apartment back in 2018. I honestly never thought I could get on the property ladder, but my partner is really good with money. Once we knew we were in it for the long haul, property was the next step. Our parents helped topped us up with $40,000 for the purchase, so instead of buying in the outer suburbs, we were able to buy in a nice, central suburb that we love. It's 30 metres from the beach (a Melbourne beach, so nothing too amazing — but a beach is a beach!).
Utilities: $300
Body Corporate & Home Insurance: $6,000 annually (split 50/50)
Loans: $0. I paid my car off a few years back and never had a student loan. I went credit card free for a few years, but I got one recently since travel has started up again. I rarely use it though, and if I did, I'd pay it all off before the statement period to not incur any interest.
Phone: $45, but work gives me a $100 allowance. 
Health Insurance: $33
Gym: $236. It's probably my biggest personal expense, but it's worth it. 
Skincare: $50 to $200
Transport Costs: $60 for petrol and public transport. I cycle or walk places a lot, so transport isn’t a big expense.
Subscriptions: $45.97, split 50/50. This includes Netflix, Stan, Disney, Prime and Spotify. We probably need to cut this down, but with two years of lockdowns, we just needed the variety.
Joint Account Contributions: $2,500. This covers our mortgage, bills, joint food and some social activities we do together. 
Joint Savings Contributions: $750
Cleaner: $100. We get our bathrooms deep cleaned once a month. This has saved a massive amount of disagreements between us and is worth every penny.
Meal Subscription: $299.96 (or $74.99 each week for three meals for two people).
Personal savings: $500 to $1,000, depending on the month.
We deal with everything outside of bills, mortgage and everyday spending like groceries, as individuals. We split our finances evenly, even though I earn a bit less. My boyfriend got a sizeable bump in his salary over the last few years, but I was earning more for the majority of our relationship, so it probably evens out. We also have very different spending habits so I’m happy to keep our finances separate where we can. My boyfriend doesn’t quite understand the need to buy new clothes every year — he has socks that have lasted longer than our relationship!

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

No. I left high school early and I'm yet to complete any further study. I didn't want to be saddled with student loan debt when I didn't know what I wanted to do in my career. I never understood how people knew what they wanted to do at 18! Neither of my parents went to university, so they didn't think it was a necessity. It was just important to have a job. If I had to study right out of high school, I would have done something creative. If I ever figure out what I want to do in my career, I'd get straight into studying for a degree. But I don't know what I want to do when I grow up — I'm just cruising.

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

Mum was a spender, Dad was a tightarse. I saw two very different ways of managing money growing up — unfortunately, I followed in my mother's footsteps. That being said, I was always taught to pay bills first and have fun later. We were given allowances as kids so if we wanted to buy something that wasn’t a necessity, we could. But we'd have to be careful. I once spent $140 on a pair of high platform shoes like the Spice Girls had — that was my money gone for the whole term. And I wore them twice! It's still a running joke in my family.
My education on finances could have been better. As soon as I realised what credit cards were, I maxed one out for $2,000. I only really cleaned up my finances in my early 30s because of my partner, who helped me whip them into shape. At my worst, I had $18,000 in credit cards and personal loans.

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

I worked at an ice cream parlour in a petrol station. It was great. I had all the free ice cream I wanted!

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not as a kid. We lived in a rural area and lived a lot off the land, so if times were ever tight, we'd still have plenty of food on the table. There were some tough years somewhere in there, as my parents weren’t always flush with cash, but Dad invested well, so they’re sitting pretty now.
When I was travelling when I was older, my parents were able to help me when things got tough. I moved to Canada in 2008 during the global financial crisis — my parents sent me money while I was unemployed over there, and I was able to live with relatives for free. A lot of my friends had to leave the country because they couldn't get work and didn't have a free place to crash. I was protected from ever really struggling.

Do you worry about money now?

I don’t worry about money now. I think about it a lot, but I’m not stressed about it in any way. But in my twenties, I did. I spent a lot of time doing insecure contract or seasonal work and wasn't always across my finances, spending way beyond what I had. (Thanks, credit cards.) There were a few good years of losing sleep over it. I made some bad choices, but I've sorted myself out now.

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

I moved out at 19, paying my rent and bills from then on. I moved back to my parents' place briefly when I wanted to save for travelling, but I paid rent during that time.

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

My parents gifted us $40,000 to help with a deposit for our apartment. We did have a friend move in for a few years when we first bought the place as he was going through a divorce, so we had rental income (at mates' rates, of course). 

Day 1

6:30am — It's an early start for me. I'm not an early riser at all. I head to the gym before work as I have plans tonight and can’t squeeze in an evening session. It's a boxing training circuit club — a 40-minute HIIT-style workout. I’m not the biggest gym lover, but I get the sads if I don’t work out. It's a bit on the expensive side at $59 a week, but I’m less inclined to bail if I’m paying a lot for it. Plus it's only a five-minute walk from my house. I smash it out then head back home to get ready for work, which includes my eight-step skincare routine. Skincare was my big treat during lockdown as I had a much higher disposable income — and I've just kept going with it. My skin looks so good, but it's so expensive.
Grab some muesli for breakfast and make myself a coffee at home. We bought a nice proper coffee grinder machine during lockdown last year and it's been an amazing buy. I used to buy a coffee every day and now I take one from home most days, so it's saved me a lot of money. I head out for the day while the bf stays home to work. He mostly works from home and does one or two days in the office.
8:40am — My office is in an industrial area and very out of the way. I drive to work in case I need my car during the day to run errands, or if I want something tasty for lunch. I’m also lazy. It's a five-minute drive from home, so I’m pretty lucky that my commute is super quick. I can walk it in 25 minutes, but I’m never organised enough in the morning to leave at the right time.
9:00am — My role is pretty broad, so my schedule depends on what's going on with my bosses (I have three). I have a lot of set tasks, which fall mostly in the first and last weeks of the month. Then I get random tasks in between, so there can be a bit of a lag with work sometimes. My busy weeks will kick off in a few days, so I spend this morning going through all my reports for the management meetings coming up at the end of the week. I want to make sure I’m across everything and know what's going to be spoken about. Then, I chase a few people who are taking ages to get back to me on some projects. The office administrator I manage is a little light on work too, so we whip around the office and see what needs to be done to keep her busy. 
12:30pm — I didn’t bring in lunch so I head out for a walk on a food expedition (and to have a break from the screen). I need to start packing lunch, I know. I find a chicken schnitzel panini at a local cafe that looks good. I order it ($12.90), then sit outside and start doing some Duolingo. I've just started learning Japanese as we've been talking about heading over there this Christmas, and I like to be prepared with some basic language skills on my travels. We haven't locked in a booking yet, but I'm fanging for an overseas trip that isn't back to our home countries. My bf and I didn't think through being from two opposite ends of the Earth when we first started dating — settling somewhere in between is an expense, to say the least. First-world problems. Chicken panini is a winner — 10/10, would eat again. $12.90
3:00pm — Head to the supermarket for a mid-arvo Coke Zero fix. Also buy two bags of popcorn for the movies this evening as their prices are ridic. I grab a work colleague a kombucha while I'm there — I'm sure she'll pay me back. $11.30
5:30pm — Finish work and head home. I start cooking dinner for my bf and a friend who is joining us at the movies tonight. Tonight we're having vegetable enchiladas from Marley Spoon. Each week, we order three vegetarian meals through a meal subscription. I've really been trying to lower my cholesterol since I got a high reading last year. I'm heading back to the doctor tomorrow to see how I'm tracking, but I'm assuming the worst of it has been to do with my alcohol intake and some food choices. I’m a big social drinker and I have no willpower when it comes to food, so I’m definitely not at my healthiest.
7:00pm — We head off for our Gold Class session of the new Nic Cage movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Our insurance company offers $20 Gold Class tickets on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so it's such a bargain. As I bought the tickets a few days ago and brought my own popcorn from home, I don't spend a cent.
Daily Total: $24.20

Day 2 

8:30am — No gym this morning as I have to leave work early for a doctor's appointment. I head into work early to compensate and it's pretty quiet. We’ve moved to hybrid working since the pandemic, so some days, I'm only in the office with two other people. It's not a vibe. But I’m happier working from the office than at home. I enjoy coming into the office as I'm more productive and I don't want my home to turn into an office. When I get home, I don't want to think about work. I have very strong boundaries when it comes to my time outside my job. I’m not about that grind life.  
9:30am — Head to the café near our office for coffee as we've run out of coffee beans at home. I pay for two other colleagues' coffees ($15.60). I'm not sure if I owe them one, but I just have a habit of paying for other people's drinks without a second thought. $15.60
12:00pm — I have last night’s Marley Spoon reheated for lunch. It's filling, but I can’t help but grab a few cookies from the free stash at work. It’s a hard habit to break!
3:00pm — Grab an apple from the free fruit basket at work and have a peppermint tea. I get a notification that money has been deducted from my account for monthly road toll charges ($19.57). I rarely drive through toll roads as I don’t drive outside my suburb much, but I was super tired coming back home from the airport last month so took the quickest way home. If taking tolls saves me 5 minutes, I’ll take the hit. $19.57
4:00pm — Head off to get my flu jab and then to the doctor. I’ve had some weird chest pains for a while and have had my heart checked out, but they’re still persisting. I get my cholesterol checked again to see if there’s any improvement. If not, they’ll look further into what could be causing it. It might involve some tests that are a bit more invasive, but it's the heart, so it's important to check up on. 
6:00pm — Home for dinner. Another Marley Spoon cook-up. We eat and then catch up on Netflix and a movie. Love a chill night on the couch. 
Daily Total: $35.17

Day 3 

8:00am — It’s a WFH day. I have a few little meetings this morning, followed by a huge 4.5-hour board meeting. Ugh. It's going to be a big day. I smash a bowl of muesli before heading into the board meeting. It's looooong. After I get out, I have a few rice cakes and veggie chips before jumping into another meeting.
4:30pm — Finish up and head to the gym. Today's session is really tough, probably because I haven't eaten enough food today to sustain a proper workout. I'm a constant eater so it doesn't happen often, but today was just so busy.
6:00pm — Get home and shower before a friend comes round for dinner. We're heading to a gig this evening, so we fuel up on some food. My boyfriend makes us dinner — another Marley Spoon meal — and pops in a few extra ingredients to stretch it for three people. Sometimes there are leftovers and plenty for three meals, but you can never tell until you cook it!
8:00pm — Head to the city for the gig. Our friend drives and pays for parking to say thanks for dinner. We meet some of our friends outside the venue and head in. It's one of the first international acts we’ve seen since the pandemic kicked off, and one of my favourite rock bands from the UK. I've seen them a few times before and they never disappoint. Contemplate getting a t-shirt on the way into the band room but I'm not sure I want to pay $50. I’ve got a band t-shirt box at home that's filled with shirts I never wear, so I’m being picky about merch these days. If the design isn’t something I absolutely love and the material isn't top quality, it's easier for me to pass. I used to see live music so often pre-pandemic (like, three or four times a month). Now that bands have started touring again, I've spent a lot on gig tickets. I'm not drinking anything tonight as I have blood tests in the morning and need to fast.
10:45pm — The gig was awesome. The crowd was having a good sing-along to all the songs and it was a good vibe. I've forgotten what it's like to be packed in hot venues and be unable to move, though. The girl in front of me had long hair which she enjoyed flicking side to side, whipping me in the face. Her hair smelled like it hadn't been washed in weeks. I head home and crawl into bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day 4

7:30am — Off to the clinic for blood tests. There’s a bit of a line, but I manage to get my tests, head home and jump onto my computer by 8:30am. I smash a grapefruit during a training session meeting. We're learning how to use a project tracking system. I'll be using it next year to track my department budgets, so it's probably a good idea that I learn how to use it now. The grapefruit isn't enough, so I chase it down with some sour cream and chive rice crackers. 
12:00pm — Friday lunchtime gym session. One of the perks of working from home is that I can head to the gym during lunch. They're not open on Friday evenings, so if I want to go, it has to be now. I smash out a good sweat session and head home. I don't have much in the fridge to throw together a lunch, so I visit the local bakery and grab some bread ($6.50). During the lockdowns, we wanted to treat ourselves so we started on the luxury bread from the bakery. It still isn't something we're able to give up! I see an avo in the fridge, so smashed avo it is. $6.50
5:30pm — Finish up work for the week. I can usually knock off an hour early on Fridays, but I need to get work done today. I head home and celebrate the end of the week with a few espresso martinis — another great outcome of having a coffee machine. We don't have any plans this evening, so boyf and I crack open a bottle of wine and cook up our last Marley Spoon order. We usually don’t go through them this quickly, but this week we’ve smashed through them.
Daily Total: $6.50

Day 5

8:00am — Gym. The Saturday sessions are always packed, but the music is pumping and the trainers are great at hyping everyone up. This gym has kept me really accountable — if I don’t go for more than a week, trainers will call me to check when I'm coming in next. The workouts change each day and really get the heart rate up. Currently, I'm loving learning how to spar with the trainers. I can also do five solid push-ups which I've never been able to do! I leave the studio with my endorphins racing.
9:00am — Head back home to wash my hair and get ready to head out for a friend's birthday, followed by a catch-up with another friend. I try and figure out what to wear and it's Struggle Town. It's getting colder and because of lockdown, I haven't bought any winter clothes in the last two years. Who needs winter clothes when you’ve got nowhere to go? Plus, working from home in sweatpants is just too tempting. I go through my closet, trying things on and hating everything. I think about doing another day out shopping in the posh suburbs as their Savers and Vinnies are really good.
12:00pm — I head out to catch the tram, being gifted with the delightful 'declined' warning as I tap on. I open the app and top up my metro card ($10). I don’t often take public transport, as I live very close to work and the city and can usually drive, cycle or walk everywhere. $10
1:00pm — Head to the pub for my mate's birthday who I haven’t seen for a few months. As I get into the city, I remember that she got me a present for my birthday and I should return the favour. I’m not generally a gift-giver — it's just a neverending loop of getting and giving stuff you don’t need. Australians love gift giving though, so I do it when it's warranted, like returning the favour or for a big milestone birthday. I head into LUSH and get her some nice-smelling things — a pre-packaged gift set with a few Sleepy Time necessities. $25.10.

2:00pm — Get to the pub. I order fries and a couple of pints for myself and another friend ($53). She'll get me back on the next round. $53

4:00pm — It's great catching up with the birthday girl. She's just finished studying after many years and finally has her freedom back! She's thinking about what to study next. It's nuts because she's barely had time to breathe, working full time and studying. Now she wants to do it again?! I hang with a bunch of her friends who I haven't met before, which is nice. Throughout the afternoon, I order two pints of Guinness. It's winter weather beer time. $28
7:00pm — Head home for dinner. Bf has picked up some lamb chops from the market. He wanted to treat himself to some red meat after eating mostly veggie meals at home. The red meat is a nice change but I think I’m happy we made the switch.
8:00pm — Head out to drinks for a friend who is visiting from out of state. Luckily, he’s picked a venue that’s a 20-minute walk from our place so I don't have any transport costs. There’s a good crew of people we haven’t seen in a while. It's great being able to catch up with everyone again! They’ve got a good craft beer selection at this pub, so I go into a round with my bf. We’re both big on craft beer, and in the colder months, I love the darker beers like stouts, porters and dark ales, although I’ve found some lately that taste too much like dessert and not enough like beer, so I try not to be too adventurous with my picks. Smash a few pots of their darker beers and settle in with a few lower percentage pale ales for the rest of the night ($43.55). Home in bed by midnight. $43.55 
Daily Total: $159.65

Day 6

9:00am — Wake up, smash some toast and head out the door for an oil painting class. I did a block of classes a few months ago and have just started another round. It's every Sunday for four weeks and you get three hours of oil painting. I really enjoy it, but I'm a bit technically challenged. I had a bit of a rough time with the pandemic (as most people did), and my therapist said I should book some fun things to do. It was something I really looked forward to last year, especially as I was working in a job I wasn't enjoying. Plus it's one of those fun things I've always wanted to try.
Today, I'm attempting a greyscale painting of an eye. I’m slightly hungover and definitely not doing my finest work. After class finishes, I look around at everyone's work. It seems like everyone understood the assignment a little better than I did, as my eye is looking a bit wonky. Painting faces aren’t my jam. I'm feeling a bit seedy and want some sugar, so I grab some candy from the supermarket pick 'n mix section on my way home — $3.03.
2:00pm — Chill arvo on the couch at home, readying myself for work tomorrow. A friend's 30th is coming up next weekend and I'm discussing gift ideas with my friends. We were thinking about getting him a tattoo voucher as he's always wanted to get one. I stalk his Instagram for local tattoo studios he follows, finding one that looks like it offers a good range of artists. It's a milestone birthday, so a present is necessary. I buy it, splitting the cost between the group, so my share is only $28.50.
5:00pm — Scroll through Depop and see a wallet that fits my wallet checklist. I've had too many credit cards fall out of my current one — I've managed to see them fall out in time, but it's a disaster waiting to happen. I offer $5 less than the advertised price and they accept ($35). I buy the majority of my clothes secondhand on Depop and I always put an offer on them before I buy. No harm in negotiating. I’ve only had a few dud purchases so far. $35
6:00pm — Head out to find something for dinner. After wandering around the supermarket, we land on chicken kievs and salad ($24). It's a nice high to finish the weekend on and get through the Sunday night blues. $24
Daily Total: $90.53

Day 7

8:00am — Back to the 9 to 5. Today's a work-from-home day. I didn't have much energy when I woke up so I skipped the gym, instead opting for a 30-minute walk and podcast listen. I buy a big bottle of diet lemonade ($1.70) on my way back, wondering if the weekend's hangover has dripped into Monday. $1.70
8:45am — Straight into back-to-back online meetings. First up is a meeting going through what I can do with my new Power BI licence. I've been thrown into another team as a backup systems administrator while they hire someone. It's a tough labour market, so being asked to help in other departments isn't uncommon in my role, and this role might be an ongoing thing. I really love that my job can be so varied, especially as it's always been what I've struggled with in other career paths. Not sure there’s anything else out there that I could do that would offer this much variety. 
10:00am — A management meeting starts. These ones are tough to follow as it sometimes feels like they speak about a lot of high-level financial information. I struggle to understand a lot of it. But it's been a great crash course in business. I have to listen carefully and document what's spoken about, but after hours of meetings, I'm dealing with a bit of brain fog. I whip my phone out and record a bit of the meeting so I don't miss anything.
1:00pm — Finish up my morning meetings and dream about dumplings. Someone spoke about them on Saturday night and I've thought about them ever since. I have a 50% off voucher from Doordash, so I bite the bullet ($25.03). They're not very good and I instantly regret my purchase. $25.03
3:00pm — Receive my results for my cholesterol. I've reduced it from 6.8 to 4.8! I'm absolutely stoked. But now I need to know what these chest pains are. I'll make another appointment and get that looked into, but for now, I'm pretty proud of myself.
6:00pm — I finish up at work and head home. Our next Marley Spoon delivery doesn’t come until tomorrow, but we've already finished our meals. I rummage through the freezer and find some salmon to defrost, cracking a bottle of red to go with it. We try not to drink too much at home when it's just the two of us, but the bf is studying hard for an exam this week. He's a bit stressed out and I want to celebrate my low cholesterol, so we have something to treat ourselves. I'll drink less next week!
Daily Total: $26.73
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