Money Diaries

A Week In South Yarra, Melbourne, As A Fashion Designer On $90,000

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 fashion designer and client advisor who makes $90,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on croissants from Lune.
Occupation: Fashion Designer & Client Advisor
Industry: Fashion & Retail
Age: 25
Location: South Yarra, Melbourne
Salary: $90,000
Net Worth: $687,000 (A property worth approx $650,000, $15,000 in savings, and $22,000 in super)
Debt: $475,000 ($445,000 owing on my mortgage and $30,000 in HECS)
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,600 from both jobs combined. I get paid fortnightly for both jobs, but they come in on alternating weeks so actually I receive income weekly.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,300 including bills. I live with my friend who owns the apartment we live in.
Mortgage: $1,966
Strata: $1,900/quarter
Council Rates: $900/quarter
Adobe Creative Cloud: $22
SIM: $15
ClassPass: $175
Google Workspace: $18.50
Apple iCloud: $4.50
Binge: $10
Spotify: $12
Groceries: $430

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

Yes. I did a Bachelor's in Fashion Design that I paid for with HECS. I also did a Master's Degree abroad at a private institution that my parents generously paid for.

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

Not much, I was very sheltered from any financial struggles my parents may have faced. I believed we were less financially fortunate while growing up as they were very frugal in spending money on material goods. It wasn't until I started working that I realised just how privileged I was, as all my siblings and I had private music lessons, tutors for multiple subjects, trained as elite athletes, and would travel domestically and internationally a couple of times a year.
My dad, who is a businessman, only ever discusses finances when probed. I feel like it is expected that we learn first-hand in my family. I am grateful that I took a business subject in high school as that is where most of my understanding of taxes and cash flow comes from, but I am very far from being as financially literate as I'd like.

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

I was a sales assistant at a high-end boutique. I got the job by dropping off my resume in person. I was itching to earn my own income and I had become quite introverted towards the end of high school, but working in a customer-facing role allowed me to gain confidence and come out of my shell while also embracing my love for fashion!

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes and no. I grew up with three siblings and we were all very comfortably looked after. My dad had a successful computer business which he started in the early 2000s when the industry boomed. However, it stagnated by early 2010s and it was during my teens that I noticed overdue bills start to arrive at the house. With my mum being a housewife, I shared her feeling of anxiety and helplessness.

Do you worry about money now?

Absolutely. Fashion design is my calling, though it is not exactly a good-paying job. This is why I constantly look for income from other streams to sustain my lifestyle. Fashion is one of the few industries in which internships are unpaid and yet it is required in order to gain experience and connections. I have done at least six internships alongside my retail job and university, which is insane as I am still earning a very entry-level salary in my current design job.
I plan to relocate to New York later this year to pursue my career which is obviously crazy expensive, so I have been working six, sometimes seven days a week to earn enough to put $690 into savings every week. Through rigorous budgeting, I have been able to minimise spending and I admit that I'm proud to see my savings grow as this is the most it's ever been. But I'm also very anxious to see it dwindle again when I do move there.

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

I got a job right after high school and saved enough to move interstate at 19. At that time, my parents so generously paid the initial deposit for an investment property that I own and lived in for a while — though they didn't quite explain just what kind of responsibility that entailed aside from making my monthly mortgage repayments. My home loan interest rate is still at a Covid low but will increase dramatically in August which I am very nervous about.
I had very appalling spending habits when I moved out of home as I would often splurge on nights out, shopping and holidays and I was living well above my means. I regret not having used my income to pay for my tuition fees upfront as I was earning enough. It wasn't until after finishing my Master's degree last year that I noticed everyone around me was in corporate jobs earning a solid salary. I became very self-conscious that I had pretty much no savings and a meagre wage in comparison. My goal is to have $20,000 in savings by the time I move overseas, which will technically fund my move.

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

I have passive income from renting out my property, but it is just enough to cover my mortgage repayments plus quarterly bills.

Day 1

7:20am — I get up for my part-time gig which is fashion design. I scull a cup of water and take a probiotic. I intermittent fast daily for 16 to 18 hours which basically means I skip breakfast and won’t have my first meal until 12pm. I pop on the kettle to make a cup of English Breakfast tea.
7:40am — I pack leftovers for my work lunch. There aren’t many lunch options around the office apart from a shopping centre food court across a main road which I very much dislike going to, so I try to bring lunch with me.
8:20am — I’m out the door and onto the tram (without tapping on, shh). I check my bank account and see that I've received an eBay payout for a jacket I sold for $150 a couple of days ago. I started selling pieces from my wardrobe in 2020 during Covid as my casual job ceased, which I found to be a good habit of capitalising on pieces that I don’t reach for anyway. Also with my current stringent budgeting, I've adopted a rule of 'one in one out' to justify spending money on new clothes. My wardrobe consists of mainly high-end and luxury pieces and since I purchase them at a discount through staff sales and I'm also a pretty savvy shopper (seasonal sales, archive sales etc.), I am able to resell them for relatively the same amount.
9:00am — I get into work and get a quick briefing on the dress that I am working on.
12:30pm — Lunch rolls around and I have lunch with my work bestie. She’s also a part-timer, so Wednesdays are the only days we get to work together which means we often sit outside to eat and chat.
1:15pm — I make myself a cuppa and it’s back to work.
5:30pm — Home time for me. I rush home to change and get ready for my boxing class. My favourite instructor does the Wednesday night classes so I am pumped and ready.
6:45pm — The studio is right around the corner from me, but I always manage to arrive right on the dot. The sessions are always brutal and a reminder of why burpees should be illegal, but the atmosphere is great.
7:30pm — I hang around to chat with the instructor and he compliments me on my technique. I am super chuffed. I run back home in the rain — thanks, Melbourne.
8:00pm — I heat up a frozen brownie that I baked the other day, and eat some oat biscuits and grapes for dinner (I know, my eating habits are whack).
8:30pm — I shower, wash my hair and go to bed to wind down.
11:00pm — Lights out.
Daily Total:

Day 2

7:20am — I find it's always harder to get up when my body is sore as hell. I roll out of bed and go through the strokes.
7:40am — I pack the last of my leftovers for lunch.
8:25am — I leave a little later than planned and make my way to the tram stop. I just miss the tram and decide to try and play catch-up at the next stop, but the tram beats me to it. I scroll my phone reading articles to keep myself occupied.
8:55am — I am getting stressed as the tram is a no-show which means I will be late and the big bosses are in today. I try to call an Uber. I hastily cancel it as I spot the tram creeping up.
9:30am — I arrive with a damper in my mood. The interstate team arrives shortly after and everything gets underway. I don’t have much on my plate apart from preparing trend boards for my boss, finalising a dress sample and some cataloguing to do. I cannot avoid the shopping centre today as I have to run across to buy some office supplies. I strategically swing past Coles to pick up some probiotics that are half-price this week. $16
2:00pm — I sit outside to get some fresh air for lunch. I see that I received my pay from my retail job, so I pay last week’s and this week’s rent to my housemate (who is also the landlord). I also transfer $690 over to my savings account. Though I have set days for my design job, I am on a freelance contract so occasionally when my invoice doesn’t get processed by the accounting team in time for the next pay cycle, I have to follow up and wait until the following week for pay to come through. It's been a small nuisance in terms of budgeting. This was the case last week which meant I had to transfer money over from my savings account to cover this week’s expenses.
2:30pm — I am faced with IT issues on the work computers and am left to fend for myself with my laptop, which is dwindling in battery. I leech a computer off a colleague as they attend a meeting and smash out some tasks. I also get sucked into a true crime podcast, which sees me through the rest of the day.
5:30pm — I make it through work in one piece. I see that my New Yorker subscription has deducted my fortnightly introductory fee. $2
6:20pm — I eat some grapes and oat biscuits before I head out for tennis at the park. It is conveniently a seven-minute tram ride.
7:30pm — We've booked our court in advance. It was my friend's turn to book, so this week's game is technically free. I am tired and not on my A-game tonight, but we still stick at it for an hour and a half.
9:00pm — My friend kindly drops me home. I shower, eat a slice of brownie and faff about before I hop into bed. Lights are out by midnight.
Daily Total: $18

Day 3

7:20am — FRIYAY!
7:40am — I put on the most recent After Work Drinks podcast while I get ready and pack lunch. I don’t plan on having a proper lunch break as I need to leave the office early tonight, so I prepare more of a ‘snack’ — a packet of mixed nuts and grapes.
8:20am — I finally make it out the door and hop onto the tram to work. On the tram, I check if a refund has come through. It has! Yay! I often buy a few things online at the same time so I have the comfort of my own home to try on and outfit pieces together, but that also means I sometimes sit on a pending refund when I return items, which I make a note of in my reminders app.
9:00am — I get into the office and start my day. It’s looking to be a tedious day ahead filled with menial tasks. Design has pretty much concluded for the upcoming Spring/Summer season and today I have been assigned the unfun task of cataloguing inspirational imagery for the following Autumn/Winter season.
1:00pm — Lunch comes around (finally) and I whip out the grapes and nuts I’ve packed to snack on while I continue working. I remember that it’s my turn to book a tennis court for a hit with my tennis partner next week. I book it and get a 30% discount as a competition player. $25.94
3:00pm — I help my colleague send out samples for the upcoming range to our marketing department. I see the finished garments that I worked on months prior and it makes me giddy thinking that something I made will be sold in-store.
5:00pm — My neck aches, so I leave work right on the dot. I need to drop by the newsagent on the way home to pick up a parcel. It's the new bag I want to use tonight!
5:45pm — I’m so excited to open the parcel as I recently splurged on two bags during a sale. They're Bottega Veneta bags and I paid $1,400 for both of them. I’m in love with one of them but I don’t love the other — I think I will sell it as I can’t return it.
6:00pm — I pour myself two shots of tequila on the rocks while I get ready for dinner. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a better high than wearing a new outfit. I am feeling myself tonight. I decide to call an Uber as I am running late as per usual, and my outfit is too cute for public transport. $14.96
6:40pm — I arrive at the restaurant 10 minutes late but still earlier than my other two friends, hah! We all order a cocktail each and lots of little plates to share. My friends and I appreciate splurging on a nice meal since we’re all foodies, but we don’t do it often.
10:30pm — Dinner is cosy and because we haven’t seen each other in a while, we chat heaps and lose track of time. We split the bill three ways ($99), then discuss going out to a DJ set in the city. We decide to walk the 15 minutes together. $99
10:45pm — Turns out that tickets are sold out and only one of my friends who has pre-booked her ticket can be let in. My other friend and I decide to get gelato instead.
11:00pm — We decide on Pidapipo and I opt for two scoops. I’m obsessed with their ricotta and fig flavour and always feel obliged to get hazelnut since it never fails to hit the spot. $8.11
12:00pm — After a D&M, we decide to call it a night and head home. I catch the tram as I like spacing out after a night out. On my way home, my housemate calls asking me to buy her a bag of Cheetos from the servo. $4.50
1:00am — After a shower and my nighttime skincare routine, I hop into bed and fall straight asleep.
Daily Total: $152.51

Day 4

7:50am — Another day, another dollar. I get up begrudgingly and go through the morning strokes. Today, I am working at my retail job.
8:10am — I pop on Every Outfits podcast as I prepare another miscellaneous lunch of mashed avocado with carrot sticks and two soft-boiled eggs.
9:00am — I see some dark chocolate that my housemate left on the dining table which she brought back from her Italy trip. I can’t help but devour it. I figure that I may as well break my fast now since I won’t make it to 16 hours after last night’s gelato. I decide to take the later train and before I know it, I am snacking on pistachios while I wait.
9:10am — I take the train to my retail job in the city ($2.30). I hop onto my online banking and realise I got my pay from my design job yesterday so I immediately transfer $690 over to my savings account (to cover this week's savings). I also pay my $247.72 water bill which has been overdue for some time (covered in my monthly expenses). $2.30
9:30am — I arrive two minutes late and am sweating by the time I get into the morning debrief. I use the Nespresso machine to make myself a long black as I complete some client requests. As a client advisor for a luxury brand, my day is mixed with serving walk-in clients as well as reaching out to our existing clientele base and attending to appointments for more high-value pieces.
1:00pm — Lunchtime comes around and I eat my random lunch. It doesn’t satisfy me, so I step out with my colleague to get pastries from Lune since the line is usually smaller in the arvo.
1:30pm — My colleague's client arrives early for their appointment so I wait in line alone. The customer ahead of me orders the last of the chocolate and cardamon croissants so I am left with the only choice being a plain croissant or a ham and gruyere croissant. Since I am vego, I opt for the plain croissant which is very underwhelming. I feel unjustifiably annoyed that I waited 20 minutes and paid $10 for my friend’s croissant which would probably taste five times better than mine. I eat a leftover slice of Laurent cake in the fridge to make myself feel more satisfied. $16.80
4:30pm — The day is quieter than expected, so I leave the store earlier. I take the tram to get my nails done in Prahran. I remember why I avoid the city on the weekends — it is loud and bustling, and the tram is fully packed. I completely zone out while I get my nails done. $30
6:15pm — I head to Coles to get household items. I have already surpassed my $80 grocery budget for the week but I know these are necessary items that I share with my housemate. I make a mental note to roll over the surplus into next week’s budget. I also choose to buy brands on special to ease the bill. The total is $46 but we split it between the two of us, so it's $23. I walk the 15 minutes back home. $23
7:00pm — I unload and heat up a pre-portioned brownie slice from the freezer. I eat some water crackers, dried figs and make myself a cup of tea while I scroll through Instagram. I plan to cook a curry later but can’t be bothered to wait until then to eat.
9:30pm — I do a load of laundry and get sidetracked chatting with my housemate. I finally muster enough willpower to start cooking the curry, which will now be dinner for the next three days.
11:00pm — I hang out the washing and take a shower before hopping into bed. I eventually fall asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $72.10

Day 5

8:00am — I wake up to my alarm. I am not starting work until noon today but I booked a 1R workout at 9am. I get up to brush my teeth and go through my skincare routine.
8:30am — My skin has been very inflamed recently and I feel particularly insecure about it this morning, so I decide to go back to bed and get some more rest instead. I feel guilty doing this as I know I will cop a $22 ClassPass cancellation fee. $22
10:50am — I finally get up and pack some curry in a container for lunch. I take my time to make a cup of tea and scroll through Instagram while I sip on it.
11:30am — I get ready for work, though I am really not up for it today with my skin condition. I make a teary phone call to my sister to get her opinion and she reminds me that today will be Sunday rates and suggests to wear a face mask if I feel insecure.
11:50am — I take her advice and drop by the servo on the way to the train station to purchase a pack of face masks ($4.50). Then I catch the train ($2.30). $6.80
12:15pm — I arrive 15 minutes late and everyone is surprised to see me wearing a face mask on the shop floor but I explain to them that I am not sick. I secretly hope for a quiet day.
2:15pm — I take my lunch break and devour the curry. I nibble on two Tim Tams that my colleague brought in for the team as a treat.
6:30pm — Home time, baby! I think about dinner on the tram ride home and decide to drop by the Asian supermarket near my house to get some frozen kimchi gyozas. I also buy some prawn crackers to snack on. This is rolling over to next week’s grocery budget too. $10.28
7:15pm — I get home and start frying up the dumplings. I watch some YouTube videos as I have dinner. I preemptively cancel my Barry’s class for tomorrow morning as I don’t think I will be up for it.
8:30pm — I have so much leftover chocolate from Easter and have been consistently indulging in some post-dinner as dessert. Today is no different — I finish a whole block of Tonny’s (IYKYK). I shower and wash my hair, do a load of laundry and hop into bed to watch an episode of Succession while munching on prawn crackers.
12:30am — I fall asleep without setting an alarm as I finally have a day off after working for 14 days straight.
Daily Total: $39.08

Day 6

9:00am — I wake up and check the time. Knowing I don’t have much planned for the day, I turn over and fall back asleep.
10:30am — I finally get out of bed and do my morning routine and check my phone for a bit.
11:30am — I have a lot of nuts and seeds that I had bulk purchased when Milkrun was discounting all their goods before their closure, so I make a big batch of granola. I pop on a Shameless podcast and queue The Imperfects.
12:30pm — As someone not accustomed to eating granola, I keep having to adjust the ratio of each ingredient, so it takes much longer than anticipated. I toast it in the oven on low heat while I do another load of laundry and make a lunch of kefir, granola and frozen pomegranate seeds. I portion some of the granola in a jar to gift a friend.
2:00pm — I’m craving something savoury, so I heat up a bowl of leftover curry. I then take photos of a new bag that I don’t want and list it for sale on eBay and Facebook.
3:00pm — I always find when I have time on my hands at home, I invariably eat copious amounts of food. I fry some gyozas from the pack that I had bought yesterday, finish it, then fry the remainder and eat that too. I think at this point I have eaten 20 gyozas.
4:00pm — I FaceTime my sister who is WFH today. While we chat, I go and make myself another bowl of kefir and granola. Apparently, today my stomach is a bottomless pit.
5:00pm — I finally attend to cleaning chores and finish before my housemate arrives home.
7:00pm — I have eaten far enough food for the day and am not feeling hungry enough for dinner. I shower, make myself a cup of tea and wind down. I used to feel guilty if I didn’t do much or leave the house over the course of a day, but I now cherish the occasion when I get to stay in my robe, lounge about and attend to life admin.
9:00pm — I do some research on investing in stocks, watch a bit of Netflix and fall asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day 7

11:00am — I cherish the sleep-in once again. I don’t start my retail shift until 1pm. I take my time going through my morning routine.
12:00pm — I make myself lunch which is an omelette with avo and broccolini. I prepare some granola and kefir as a snack for my work break.
12:30pm — I take the train into the city and check my emails. I've received a reminder that my strata bills are overdue which triggers a fair amount of anxiety. The outstanding amount is $1,600 which I find hard to stomach to pay in one go. Even though this expense is allocated in my budgeting spreadsheet, I always am somehow strapped for cash when the bill does hit. I know I could just transfer money over from my savings to pay it off immediately, but I hope to sell the handbag I listed the other day to cover this expense.
1:00pm — My shift starts and I attend to a couple of client appointments. I take a 30 minute break and scoff the granola down.
6:30pm — I leave work and head home on the tram. It’s a beautiful day out and I consider going for an after-work drink with my colleague but my skin condition is getting the better of me once again, so I decide to lay low.
7:30pm — I reheat the leftover curry for dinner, have some dried figs as dessert and hang out with the housemate.
Daily Total: $0
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour. You should always obtain your own independent advice before making any financial decisions.
For many of us, money can be a major source of stress. But it doesn’t have to be. Become more confident with our beginner's guide to managing your money.
Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it here.

More from Work & Money