Money Diaries

A Week In Melbourne CBD As A Freelance Illustrator On $40,000

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Today: a freelance illustrator and graphic designer who makes $40,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a carton of milk to make Nesquik.
Editor's Note: This is a follow-up diary. Before reading this diary, we recommend you read this Money Diary from December 2021.
Occupation: Freelance Graphic Designer / Illustrator
Industry: Arts
Age: 25
Location: Melbourne CBD
Salary: I don’t have a salary, but I would estimate that I earn around $40,000 a year.
Net Worth: $5,835 ($22,010 in savings, $175 in spending, $9,884 in super)
Debt: $26,234 in HECS debt. I haven't started to pay any of it back yet.
Paycheque Amount: As I’m freelance, my income changes every month. This month I earnt $1,700, but the month before I made $11,800 as a large invoice for an ongoing job was finally paid! A lot of this went towards replenishing my savings as it came through right after I got back from being away for two months. It also makes up for spending over the months when I don't make as much.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $977.50. This gets me a cute two-bed, two-bath apartment on the fringe of the CBD. I share with a housemate. The total for the apartment is $1,955, but this is set to rise to $2,089 in April.
Electricity: Averages to about $50 a month, split with my housemate (so $25 for my share).
Spotify: $11.99
Phone bill: $49.17
Internet: $74.99 split with my housemate, so $37.50 for my share.
Adobe Fresco: $15.99
Streaming: I don't use any streaming services. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my friend sneakily downloads anything I want to watch for me.

What’s changed since we last spoke?

Since my last Money Diary, life feels overall quite the same. I was fortunate enough to spend over two months of last year overseas, travelling around Europe and visiting friends. Since being home, not too much has changed. I'm still single(ish) and living in the same apartment, but with a lovely new housemate. 
When I returned from Europe, I quit my job as a medical receptionist as freelancing was going well. I was also able to work freelance overseas so I still had income while I was away.

How is your career as an illustrator going? Any developments? Would you say you’ve ‘made it’ yet?

I think I’m starting to accept that I may never feel like I’ve ‘made it’. It's been pretty quiet for work recently, so I'm trying to keep calm and accept that it’s just part of the job, especially if I want to be freelancing full-time. But that being said, it’s hard to not feel anxious about having such an unpredictable income, as well as the fact that I'm not contributing to my super or HECS debt. I’d definitely consider getting another part-time job where I only work two days a week, if not for some stability.

People were shook over you living in a 16-person share house when you were 18. What's your living situation looking like these days?

Haha! In hindsight, that does sound ridiculous. To be honest, it was the perfect opportunity to make friends as I had just moved to a new city and started uni. Over the years, my number of housemates has slowly dwindled, and now I’m in a two-bed apartment with one girlfriend. It’s really nice to finally be able to decorate common spaces with my own furniture and not have to line up to use the kitchen.

Day 1  

7:15am — My alarm goes off and I quickly turn it off and sleep for another hour and a half. I've made a terrible effort of trying to get out of bed at a reasonable time.
9:15am — I sit down at the dining room table in my pyjamas and eat two pieces of toast while I check my emails. Then I send off some merch designs I have been working on for a UK musician this week.
9:50am — I have an appointment with the dentist this morning for the first time in over a year. I hate the dentist. It’s just a check-up and clean, but I’m still feeling quite nervous. I go to the bathroom to get ready and clean my teeth twice.  
11:00am — I walk the half hour to the dentist and arrive just before 11:30am. It’s a pretty quick appointment — my teeth are all good, but I might need to get my remaining two wisdom teeth extracted in the future. I pay $255 for the appointment, which stings, but I justify it by mentally reminding myself that I only go once a year. I walk home through the city. On the way, I pop into Woolies and grab some bread, granola, veggies, chicken thighs, steak and rice noodles ($36.91). $291.91  
12:30pm — I get home, unpack my groceries and spend a bit of time doing a bit of cleaning and tidying around the house. It’s only a small apartment, so it’s pretty easy to keep clean. I hang out some washing, then make myself an acai bowl for lunch. I watch an episode of UNHhhh (Trixie and Katya's show) and start making a grocery list. A couple of my friends and I are going away to an Airbnb for the weekend, but since I don’t work full-time office jobs like my friends, I’m going to get all the food for our trip.  
3:36pm — After doing some other jobs on my laptop, I pack my tote bag with my watercolour palette, some fine liners and a sketchbook. I leave the house and walk across the road to go sit in the gardens and finish the landscape I started a couple of days ago.  
3:55pm — I was planning on going to the cinema later with a guy I started seeing last week, but he calls to invite me over to his Airbnb for dinner instead. A couple of my friends are going too, so I text them and see where I should meet them to travel together. 
4:30pm — My friends are meeting at 5pm, so after only getting about half of the painting done, I run back upstairs and quickly freshen up. On my way out, I pop into IGA and grab a bottle of pinot gris ($17.99). The tram trip to the train station is within the free tram zone, so I don’t tap on. $17.99 
5:01pm — I meet two friends at the train station. Before I get on, I top up my Myki with $10. Then we catch the train to Footscray. When we arrive at the Airbnb, dinner is a while off, so we sit around and have some drinks in the sun for a couple of hours. $10 
9:15pm — Dinner is pretty late, but worth the wait. We have a curry with rice and naan, and a side of broccolini. My friend has work early tomorrow morning and is keen to leave right after dinner, so I'll join her. She orders an Uber but insists I don’t split it with her as I’m on her way. 
11:18pm — After getting home and washing my face, I Facetime my friend in the UK who I haven’t spoken to in a while. We chat for an hour and a half, and then I go straight to sleep. 
Daily Total: $319.90 

Day 2

8:15am — I’ve had too many late nights recently, so in the mornings, I've been so tired. I turn off my alarm and lay in bed for half an hour. 
8:58am — I put some clothes in the washing machine and go make breakfast. When I look in the fridge, I remember I have to buy milk. I quickly throw on clothes and pop downstairs to the IGA to buy some  ($3.49), then head upstairs to make toast. I also use my new milk to make a glass of Nesquik (yes, I’m 25). $3.49  
9:32am — I stay sat at the table after breakfast and grab my computer. One of the files I sent yesterday was incorrect, so I fix that up and send through the right one. I check over a couple of other emails and text my friend A. to see if she’s okay with me booking the flights to Brisbane we’ve been looking at. We decided ages ago to go to a music festival in Brisbane as we both have sisters up there, but we’ve been putting off buying the flights. I choose the flight times and send her confirmation so she can send me half of the payment. It costs us $328 each. She transfers me her half straight away. $328  
10:00am — I sit at my computer for the next couple of hours doing odd jobs. I’m not super busy with work at the moment — it’s this part of freelancing that I’m definitely not used to yet. It’s hard not knowing when you might next get paid, but I try and relax as next week, I might book a job that will make up three months' worth of work. I’ve just been trying to stay positive,  and so far it’s been working out alright. I get up to hang out my washing — it’s good weather for drying clothes.
12:58pm — The guy I’ve been seeing, T., messages me to see if I’m around as he’s on his way into the city. I haven’t had lunch yet, so I ask if there’s anywhere he wants to try since he’s not from Melbourne. 
1:56pm — I leave the house and walk a couple of blocks into the city to Pellgrini’s. T. and I share a cannelloni. I also have a granita and he has an espresso. Because he paid for one of my meals last week, I grab this one ($31). We have a quick look in the bookstore next door, before walking to the tram where I say goodbye to him and head back home. $31  
4:50pm — I spend the afternoon finishing off a poster design I started this morning. It's quite time-consuming and I’m still not certain I love it, but it's a fun experiment anyway. 
7:03pm — I spend a bit more time trying to finish the painting I worked on in the gardens yesterday, then start cooking dinner — roast vegetables and chicken.
7:55pm — I have a shower while dinner cooks, then eat and watch an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race: Untucked
9:34pm — After scrolling TikTok for a while, I stay on the couch and read some of my book. It’s a collection of essays on music called This Woman’s Work. I’m only a little bit through but enjoying it so far.  
10:31pm — I put my book down, fold my washing and chat with my housemate, C., who just got home. Brush my teeth and I’m in bed by 11:30pm.
Daily Total: $362.49 

Day 3

8:15am — Wake up to my alarm and lay in bed for a little longer. I wanted to go for a walk this morning, but it’s been raining all night and it's still hammering down outside. I have pretty much no work to do today and I’m trying not to feel stressed about it. 
9:18am — I'm sitting at the dining table in my pyjamas and quietly finishing off my toast when our property manager calls me. She says she’s here to look at some maintenance issues. I totally forgot she was coming, so I quickly throw on clothes that aren't pyjamas and let her in.
10:32am — T. wants to visit a sandwich store in Yarraville — we were meant to go yesterday, but it was way too hot to walk there, so we decide to go today instead. Just as I'm about to leave, it starts pouring rain. I message T. to check if he's still keen (he is), and then I head to the bathroom to put some makeup on. Even though it’s raining, the UV is apparently 6, so I use sunscreen too
11:28am — I quickly make a TikTok before I leave the house, then I walk across the road to the tram stop and catch the train over to the west side of Melbourne. My Myki still has some money on it from the other day, so I don’t need to top it up. 
12:06pm — I hop off the train and wait for T. to come and meet me. We walk a little bit into the town so he can grab a coffee. It’s still raining and he hasn’t got a jacket or umbrella, so he buys an umbrella from the newsagent; it’s pink and covered in unicorns. We then walk back to the train and ride one stop to try and shorten the walk. Because it's pouring rain, we decide to get a bus the rest of the way. 
1:30pm — We get to the deli and I grab a sandwich with pesto, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, olives, cheese and salami ($10.50). I wouldn’t normally eat olives or eggplant, but I didn’t want to ask the waiter to change the ingredients from the menu. It arrives and it’s massive, which is rare for that price in Melbourne. We agree that it's yum, but not really worth the trek. $10.50  
2:40pm — After making it back to T.’s Airbnb, he orders an Uber into Fitzroy so he and his bandmates can take their gear into the pub they’re playing at later tonight. I jump in the Uber too — saves me from having to get the train home. 
3:15pm — The traffic is terrible so the trip takes a while, but we eventually arrive and drop off the gear at the pub. Then we both walk back to the tram stop to catch one back to my house.
6:00pm — T. hangs out for a bit and we listen to a King Krule album on my record player. Then he needs to go back into Fitzroy. After he leaves, I go to the kitchen and cook a piece of steak and roast broccoli for my dinner. 
7:16pm — I walk two blocks to my friend’s house. We like to play board games on weeknights when we’re less busy, and they have a good collection. Tonight, we play a game called Quacks of Quedlinburg. I come second (there are only three of us, so it's not that impressive). 
9:30pm — After sticking around to watch some of the Australian Open, I walk back home. I clean the rest of my dishes from earlier, have a shower and do a little bit of work on my computer. I go to bed quite late again and don't fall asleep until after 11:30pm.
Daily Total: $10.50 

Day 4

8:00am — It’s blue skies this morning so I wake up and go for a walk along the river, listening to an episode of Tape Notes as I go.
9:32am — After getting home and having some toast for breakfast, I shower and sit down at my computer. It’s frustrating not having any real work to do, but I try and fill my time so I feel productive. I scroll Pinterest for some design inspo and sharpen my skills in creating my own designs.  
12:30pm — I find it quite easy to get stuck at my computer for hours, going back and forth over the same design, tweaking tiny things until I think it’s perfect. T. messages that he’s in the city and I invite him over for lunch. I make us acai bowls with mango and strawberry. 
2:00pm — T. and I walk into the city for something to do. We end up playing a game of laser tag because he’s never tried it, and we lose miserably. Afterwards, we go sit at a rooftop bar and I get us some (extortionately-priced) beers ($28). Maybe it’s fortunate I’m less busy this week — we're able to hang out a lot before he eventually goes home on Monday. $28  
4:10pm — After our beer, we go across the road to a Vietnamese restaurant to have an early dinner. I grab a vermicelli salad with grilled pork. T. gets pho. He pays and walks me home before he goes to meet some friends. 
6:47pm — I rewrite my grocery list for this weekend and group it by the aisles in the store (otherwise I'm sure I'll forget something). I walk back into the city and manage to get most of what we need at Woolworths. I’ll have to come back tomorrow for the rest because I can’t carry it all in one trip. For this trip, I get eggplants, tomatoes, limes, carrots, cucumbers, onions, garlic,  BBQ and tomato sauce, olive oil, beef and veggie sausages, vermicelli noodles, rice paper, pasta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese ($96.13). Fortunately, there are six of us going so it only costs me $16.02 once everyone pays me back. $96.13
8:01pm — After getting home and unpacking the groceries, I chat with my friend on FaceTime for a bit. Then I scroll through Instagram and TikTok. 
10:32pm — I jump in the shower, do my skincare and get ready for bed. I read a little more of my book, and turn my lights out after 11pm. 
Daily Total: $124.13

Day 5

8:00am — Today we're leaving for our Airbnb and I still have a couple of things to do before we go. I wake up and check the group chat in bed before I get up. 
8:26am — I have two pieces of toast for breakfast, while my housemate works across from me. She’s a lawyer but works from home on Fridays. 
9:02am — I wet down my hair a bit, then do my skincare using some niacinamide toner and a brightening serum from Good Molecules, and apply a little bit of makeup. My fave brand is still Milk — it’s pretty much all I use on my face. 
9:36am — I haven’t packed my bag yet, so I do that next. We’re only going for two nights and the weather is meant to be pretty nice (in the day, at least). I pack two pairs of bathers too because we have a pool!  
10:12am — I need to get the rest of the groceries that I couldn’t grab yesterday, as well as some alcohol. I walk to Woolies again and get two roast chickens, some juice, icy poles, mozzie repellent, chocolate, some loaves of bread and rolls, crackers, cheese and two dozen eggs ($91.30, my share will be $15.21 when everyone pays me back). I feel like we’re going to have way too much food, but we’ll see. $91.30
10:48am — I get home and drop off the groceries before I head back out again to the bottle shop. A friend is going to grab beers for everyone later as she'll have her car, so I just grab a bottle of pinot gris and a four-pack of fruity beer because they were 50% off. $22 
12:37pm — My friend, A., has already picked up my two other friends and is now collecting me. None of us has had lunch yet, so we stop at McDonald's on the way out. I get chips and a cheeseburger for $6. We drive for another 40 minutes before we arrive at the Airbnb. Our mission this weekend is to see a wombat. As we turn into the driveway, we see two kangaroos — our hopes are high! $6 
2:23pm — After unpacking all the food and the rest of the car, we have a drink and sit by the pool in the sun, waiting for our two other friends to arrive. 
4:45pm — Our other friends have arrived! We start prepping pasta sauce for dinner so it can simmer on the stove for a couple of hours. Then we head off to walk up a hill on the property to try and look for some animals and watch the sunset.  
7:36pm — We go for our walk and see some kangaroos bouncing through the sunset. We even see an echidna! But no wombats yet. We sit on the hill and drink a beer, watching the sun disappear behind the mountains.  
9:25pm — We have eggplant pasta and garlic bread for dinner. We’re all pretty tired, and want to wake up early to go for another walk, so we clean up and are in bed by 11pm. 
Daily Total: $119.30

Day 6

6:30am — We wake up feeling pretty tired but determined to try to find a wombat. We walk down the long driveway, seeing nothing but kangaroos and rabbits, and continue to walk down the street, seeing if we can spot any burrows.  
7:15am — After walking for half an hour with no luck, we turn back and head back to the property. While walking back up the driveway, A. spots a 'rock' that looks suspiciously wombat-shaped. We dismiss it as it's not moving and pay more attention to the kangaroos in the distance. But I begin to question whether we're 100% certain it was a rock, so I go back to take a closer look. Sure enough, it’s a little wombat trying to make its way back into its burrow! We watch from afar for a little while until it disappears. 
8:21am — Once we return back to the house, we lay around for a little while, then make bacon and egg rolls for breakfast.  
11:00am — It’s starting to warm up, so we change into our bathers and head out to the pool. We spend the rest of the afternoon between the pool and playing games of flunky ball. We’re listening to our own 'Hottest 100' countdown, made up of all our favourite songs.  
2:00pm — For lunch, we have a BBQ with beef and veggie sausages. 
5:30pm — Our playlist finishes so one friend decides to do a DJ set. A. and I go to the kitchen to prep some vegetables and chicken for dinner. We’re going to walk down to where we saw the wombat again at sunset, so we want dinner to be ready to go when we come back. 
8:48pm — The sunset is beautiful. After waiting in silence for 40 minutes, the wombat finally comes out again.  
9:07pm — We walk back up to the house and get everything out for our dinner of rice paper rolls. We eat together around the indoor dining table and it's delish. After cleaning up, we watch the most recent episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race and go to bed by 11pm again. 
Daily Total: $0

Day 7

7:30am — We have to check out by 10am this morning, so my alarm goes off at 7:30am. I lay in bed for half an hour.
9:42am — After making some hashbrowns for breakfast, we pack everything up and clean the Airbnb. We load everything back into the cars and make it back down the long driveway before 10am. 
10:57am — A. drops my friends and me back home. I’m feeling pretty exhausted but have to meet up with some friends later, so I lay down for a little bit. 
11:31am — I have a shower, put on a little bit of makeup, and get dressed in some pink jeans and a white tank. Midsumma Festival is on, so I'm going to a friend’s house to hang out for a little bit, before heading into the carnival.  
1:02pm — I’m running a little bit late. I quickly eat a leftover sausage with bread and leave the house. It’s hotter outside than I thought, so to save myself walking 30 minutes in jeans, I walk up to the tram stop. When I arrive, I see that the next tram is 20 minutes away. Looks like I’ll be walking anyway. 
1:41pm — I pop into an IGA and grab two beers on my way ($7.98), since I don’t really feel like having much to drink after yesterday. I walk the rest of the way into Fitzroy and get to my friend’s house just after 2pm. $7.98 
4:50pm — After sitting around for a couple of hours, we finally get into some Ubers ($5) and head to Midsumma. We've left a bit later than I had expected — I’m meant to meet T. for dinner before his last gig, so I probably won’t stay at Midsumma for very long. $5 
6:02pm — After hanging out at Midsumma for an hour, I walk back into the city to meet T. for dinner. We head into Chinatown — it’s super busy. Despite the crowds, we get into a Chinese restaurant pretty quickly and eat dumplings, Chinese broccoli, satay skewers and spring onion pancakes with a bottle of wine. T. pays for dinner, and then we head to the bar his band is playing at tonight.  
8:00pm — I grab a beer (for free, fortunately) and watch the gig with a friend. I hang around for a couple of hours after, then walk home around 11pm.
Daily Total: $12.98
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