Money Diaries

A Week In The Gold Coast, Queensland, On A $68,000 Income

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Today: a freelance content writer who makes $68,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on cake mix.
Occupation: Freelance Content Writer
Industry: Media/Construction
Age: 24
Location: Southport, Gold Coast
Annual Income: I haven't completed a full tax year yet so I can't say for certain, but I estimate about $68,000 based on my current median weekly earnings.
Net Worth: $40,997 ($21,500 in cash savings, which will soon be reduced to pay $16,000 worth of university fees!), and $15,500 in super).
Debt: $200 on Afterpay. I’m not eligible for HECS as I’m a Kiwi, so I have to pay my uni fees up front per subject before the census date. This will be roughly $4,000 every two months.
Paycheque Amount (weekly): One client pays me $840 a week, the other ranges between $200 — $1,000 a week.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $480. I currently live in my sister's garage and pay $75 a week. I also split all utility bills, body corporate and rates bills down the middle with her.
Spotify: $6.99 (Student rate, baby!)
Disney+: $10
Telstra: $110
Apple iCloud Storage: $5
Petrol: About $120
Groceries: About $360
Savings Contributions: I try to put about $1,200 into my university savings account each month, with my first upfront payment due in March. Recently, I’ve also started putting $800 away each month towards moving expenses, as I'm moving to Melbourne in March. I also put 30% of all my earnings into a separate tax account.

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

In March, I'm starting a Graduate Certificate in HR Management. It's a part-time course that goes for eight months and will cost me $16,000, plus student service fees. As I'm from New Zealand, I have to pay upfront. I'm going to have to go into my Europe travel savings to afford it. Joy.

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

My parents didn't speak about their own finances — ever — but they did instil a great work ethic in me from a young age. My dad is a printer and I would 'work' in his factory for extra pocket money from the age of nine, stacking boxes and wrapping labels. We got a paltry allowance and if we wanted anything extra, we had to put up a pretty good case for it. I remember making a PowerPoint presentation to get an extra dollar added to my weekly allowance.

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

My first job was as a kitchen hand at a cafe, working every Saturday morning for a few hours. I would wash dishes, help cook breakfasts and serve customers. I made about $80 a week after tax (New Zealand hospo rates are pretty shocking!). I got this job when I was 15 years old, which is the youngest legal age you can start working in New Zealand. I've always loved my independence and been a great saver because I wanted my own money to spend on things I wanted. I remember saving for and buying my formal dress as my first big purchase from this job. 

Did you worry about money growing up?

No. My parents shielded us from any of their own financial problems. We didn't have super flashy items, but we always had really nice stuff. When I was 13, we were lucky enough to go on an international trip to Thailand. Other than that, holidays were usually camping or staying with friends in their holiday homes.

Do you worry about money now?

I’ve always been an average income earner so I've never worried about rent or food insecurity. I like to categorise my money as soon as it hits my account, and make sure I have a buffer for unexpected expenses in all of my accounts. I can get stressed if my bills account dips under $200, for example.

Day to day, I'm not worried about money in regards to rent or groceries, as I trust my system and always have a buffer and emergency fund. I do get a bit stressed about upcoming bills like my university fees, as I know I'm going to have to 'borrow' from other accounts to afford it. I tried to get a credit card to relieve the pressure, but I wasn’t eligible for one as I’ve only been freelancing for eight months. 

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

I moved countries when I was 19 and became completely responsible for myself. My dad has helped me in emergencies before, like when I crashed my car, but other than that it's been all up to me. I always keep at least $1,000 as a safety net.

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

I received $10,000 when my grandma passed away, and I bought new boobs with it. It was absolutely the best purchase I've ever made.

Day 1

6:00am — Happy first day of Frugal February! This one will look a bit different for me, as I have a few events pre-planned. I’m moving state in March (which means going away celebrations!), and my Dad is moving over from New Zealand at the end of the week (which means welcome celebrations!). My goal is mainly to have no mindless takeaway spending, no shitty cheap coffees and fewer spontaneous Thursday bottles of wine (my weakness!). I wake up and go straight to my desk to start my workday. 
9:00am — I get paid a freelance invoice from last week — $840. I split it between my bills account (where I put $300 a week for rent, groceries and gas), my wants account (I put an extra $50 in here this week as I'm treating someone to dinner tomorrow), my car account (I put $50 a week into this for annual rego and insurance fees) and my university account. I'm starting a Graduate Certificate in March and I have to pay $4,000 upfront. I’m trying to save at least $400 every week for this, but the rest of the money will have to come out of my travel savings. The despair of it all!
1:00pm — It’s my sister's day off and she's going to the beach with my niece, which I’m incredibly jealous of. Unfortunately, my workload is a bit too hectic this week, so I grin and bear it. I live and WFH from a semi-detached garage at my sister’s house. It’s a bit hellish during this heatwave. I head into the main house and look around the fridge for snack, finding a bag of baby carrots and gherkin dip. The combo is disgusting. I go for pesto and cucumber on crackers instead. 
5:00pm — Someone from Facebook Marketplace comes to buy a doona cover from Spotlight that I accidentally bought in the wrong size. I purchased it for $40 a week ago and managed to sell it for $20. I need to return another set of sheets this week too, as they were also in the wrong size.
9:00pm — I’m craving a McFlurry while watching Married At First Sight, but a combo of frugality and laziness result in me making hot choccy from a packet instead. MAFS is exactly my type of show in terms of bitchy ‘reality’ drama, but it's on far too often. I can’t commit to four nights a week!

Daily Total: $0

Day 2

6:00am — Up and at 'em again, with an instant coffee by my side. I’d love to be someone that exercises in the morning, but I’m in this horrible habit of just reaching for my laptop as soon as my eyes open. 
7:00am — I don’t normally eat breakfast until at least nine, but I'm absolutely starving this morning. Pesto eggs on toast is my go-to brekky at the moment (I really have a thing for pesto) and it usually tides me over until at least midday.
8:45am — My local Aldi is open, so I walk across the road to buy razors and kombucha. $10.90
12:30pm — I participate in a market research Zoom chat. I'm rarely picked for these, but they’re a great way to make some extra money. I had to chat about a website layout for a university and pretend to navigate through the site, giving feedback about what worked well and what was confusing. I get a neat little payment of $35.
5:00pm — I wrap up work at 5 on the dot and start to get ready in my miserably hot garage room. It’s raining cats and dogs but it's also 75% humidity outside, making it an absolute mission to decide on what to wear to dinner later.
7:00pm — Because of the rain, we scrap our dinner plans out and have dinner and drinks at home instead. It's my man friend's birthday, so it's my treat. We get a bunch of Indian takeout (butter paneer, butter chicken, rice, naan and samosas), a six-pack of beer, and two bottles of wine using BWS's buy one, get one free deal, all for $95. $95
8:30pm — My friend heads home and I start a new book. I've transitioned from a massive reading slump to a reading frenzy, which is fantastic. I read for an hour, then fall asleep at the tender time of 9:30pm.
Daily Total $105.90

Day 3

6:00am — I wake up to find that my phone bill has been debited from my account. I don’t keep any money in my main account as I prefer to transfer it from the appropriate saver when needed, so any bills I forget about make the account go into overdraft. I move $102 from my bills account to my main account to put it back into the green. $102
11:15am — I submit some work to a client and head out to run some errands for a few hours. I return my Spotlight sheets and get a refund of $32.50. I also fill up my car for $55 — small car parks! I grab some hummus, cheese and crackers from Aldi, as well as some supplies for when my sister goes on chemo — she lives on a diet of orange juice and grapes ($32). $87
1:30pm — I get home, clean the house and have a late lunch of leftover Indian food. Then I sit back down to do more work until 6pm. I write an article about back to school teacher must-haves. I then edit and caption photos for some of my articles. I take a quick break and browse Fairy Floss on Facebook, just to see what type of houseshares are available at the moment. It’s probably a few weeks off from me applying, but good to see what’s out there. 
2:45pm — I'm expecting an invoice to be paid today, but it hasn't come through. The joy of freelancing! One of the companies I work for randomly switches between paying me weekly and fortnightly, seemingly on a whim. Next week, I'll probably get two payments. It's not too bad when it's weeks like these where I don't have any major expenses, but it's definitely left me in a sticky situation before, when I’ve expected an invoice to be paid so I could get my car serviced. 
5:30pm — I crack open a cheeky beer as I finish work. I get onto reading my book from last night — Where'd you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple — and manage to finish it. The ending wasn’t the best but I liked the format. 
6:30pm — I make snacks for my sister and myself with a side of wine, as well as a bland beige plate of cheesy toast for my niece. We catch up on all the MAFS episodes of this season together. I don’t know how she managed to suck me into it. I’d never watched it before in my life… but I’m in. I’m totally in. I scream at "my schlong isn’t connecting to my head". I think if someone said that to me, I’d projectile vomit on the spot. 
Daily Total: $189

Day 4

11:00am — It’s my sister’s last round of chemotherapy today — exciting times! She was diagnosed with breast cancer in July. I quit my job two days later so I could freelance full time and be more available. Apart from a host of appointments at the beginning, I haven’t needed to take much time off as she's not the type to need to be looked after. All I really can do is make sure the fridge is stocked with ginger ale, lemonade and Powerade, keep the house clean so it’s a calm environment, and help look after my niece. We run errands in the morning and then go out for brekky with her boyfriend. I grab a chilli scramble and a decent almond flat white ($20.90). That’s Northern Gold Coast prices -— a 20-minute drive south and I'd probably be paying $30 for the same meal! After breakfast, I go home to work a little bit. $20.90
12:30pm — We head off to the hospital for chemo time. She’s an absolute champ, so she gets hooked up and starts going, and I work a little more. I submit one article and apply for two jobs in Melbourne. Side note: applying for jobs takes SO LONG.
3:30pm — The nurses tell us that there’s about an hour to go, so I leave to pick up my niece from daycare and bring her back so she can take a photo with my sister. There’s a 'last day of chemo’ sign you can write on and take a picture with and we're excited to finally take ours. I pay $16 for parking and bring my niece back. She's the most excited about riding the elevator. $16
4:45pm — Chemo’s finished (FOREVER!). We take our photos and head home. It’s a bittersweet achievement as she obviously now has to go through the chemo aftermath, which usually knocks her out for five days. After that, however, it's done! There will be no more crap chemo weeks (although she still does have an upcoming surgery), and we can fully enjoy my last couple of weeks on the Goldie together. I pay $6.50 for parking. $6.50
6:45pm — My sister orders us laksa and fried rice for dinner, and we have the last of the beers that I bought the other day. We're watching the new Tinder documentary on Netflix, and although I'd like to feel sorry for the girls, I'm pretty judgemental of the idea of taking out thousands in loans for a dude you've met twice. I haven’t been on Tinder for a few months as it’s a bit of a cesspit in the Gold Coast (So. Many. Gym selfies.) but this doesn’t seem like a cautionary tale. I could never give a man money — if you’re the only person they can ask after a few months, what does that say about their character? I then start a new book, Such A Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess. It’s pretty dark and depressing but an easy reading style. 
Daily Total: $43.40

Day 5

6:20am — I wake up and read in bed until 7, finishing off Such A Pretty Girl. I head to my library stack and pull out another book — Call Me Evie by J. P. Pomare. I like to read Australian novels as much as possible. I used to buy all my books, but after needing to find a way to get rid of over 300 books a few years ago, I've stuck to the library. The Gold Coast library chain is fantastic, as they don’t charge for overdue books. Which I often have. Oops. 
7:15am — I move to the main house and do the dishes and three loads of washing before my niece wakes up. My sister is falling into her chemo hole, so I’m on babysitting duty for the day. As someone who adores children in small doses (especially my niece) but doesn’t want kids of their own, the end of the day usually ends in me having a mini mental breakdown.
11:00am — My niece suggests baking cupcakes for my dad, who is arriving from New Zealand tomorrow. We go to Coles and I spend $24 on baking box mixes (triple chocolate cupcakes and vanilla melting moment biccies) and rubbish bags. $24
11:25am — I get the wrong rubbish bags, because of course. We start the cupcakes and my niece is no help. She drops about thirty pieces of eggshell into the batter and empties an entire packet of sprinkles into the mix. 
1:20pm — We start the biscuits, and again, I'm on my own in this kitchen. I give my niece some Scotch Fingers and a bowl of leftover icing for lunch. I am obviously a model babysitter.
2:00pm — We need to get out of the house so I drive us to my friend’s house. She has a little boy, and they both run around in laps screaming while we try to have a coffee and a chat. We try two of the cupcakes and they go down a treat.
5:50pm — On our way home, I grab some Hungry Jacks for my sister, my niece and myself ($27.10). I’m a big fan of the Rebel Whopper — McDonald's, you need to step up your veggie burger game! $27.10
6:10pm — We come home and watch Encanto. It's fantastic. I've already been listening to ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ for the past fortnight, and now the song will be on repeat permanently. After, it's time for my niece to go to bed. She’s not the type of kid to want a story or anything, so I just chuck a nappy on her and send her to bed. She can occasionally be a struggle at bedtime, but I've successfully worn her out so she goes to sleep pretty quickly. I head to my room (à la garage) and watch Criminal Minds until about 10pm. I'm very tired and feel comfortable in my decision to not have children. They're cute, but way too much work.
Daily Total: $51.10

Day 6

6:30am — I wake up, get my niece ready and drop her at her dad's house. He was away working this weekend, which is why I had her yesterday. I'll also be taking care of her for a few days next week as he'll be away on work then too.
9:00am — I drive to Brisbane as I'm meant to be having breakfast with my man friend today (who I thought I was dating but unfortunately he confirmed last week that we're definitely not, apparently). He ends up cancelling because he's hungover. As I'm a very reasonable and calm person, I blow up at him. We end up having a beef over Snapchat until I finally call him and we agree to try and compromise on our communication expectations. He likes to live in the moment (as in hour to hour!), and I've tried to explain to him that I need at least 24 hours' notice for everything so I can wash my hair (or, in this case, not waste a clean hair day on cancelled plans!).
11:15am — I get my nails done ($60). I've been trying to resist this, but I bite them if they're not done. I opt for a grey SNS extension manicure. $60 
11:30am — I'm in dire need of new clothes after successfully losing 6 kilos and not fitting into much of my stuff anymore. I gained a lot of weight when the pandemic first started, but have managed to lose some of it (I've recently gained 2 kilos back, but let's not talk about it). I walk around for ages but don’t find anything. I pay $11 for parking. $11
11:45am — I drive around, looking for a place to have lunch. Brisbane is very confusing and it’s so hard to find parking on the street. I manage to nab a spot for $2 and head to a pub within walking distance. Here, I grab a pint and a toastie ($21) and start Kafka On The Shore while I eat (my other book was too large to fit in my bag!). $23
1:50pm — I head to the airport to pick up my dad and get lost walking from my car to the international pick-up area.
2:50pm — Dad is secured, we head back to my car, and I pay $20 for airport parking. I totally forget about the ten bags of clothes in my boot that have been riding around with me for the last three months. Dad has three large suitcases, so we have to play a little bit of Tetris to fit them in. Whoops, fudgestripes! We finally fit them in and blast the aircon all the way home as I'm sweaty from that tiny bit of manual labour. It's good to see Dad. He's been planning on moving over here for a year because he wants to be closer to my niece — we've been waiting for the borders to open since December last year. Although I’ll soon be living in Melbourne, it’s great to have him in the same country, and it means I can visit (nearly) all of my family at once when I return to the Gold Coast for holidays. 
4:00pm — We stop in the house and say hi to my sister, who is stuck in bed and feeling pretty crappy. Then we pick up my niece and head to Dad's motel.
5:30pm — We walk to a nearby block of shops and get some dinner and beers — Dad’s shout. It's good to have a parent back around! I get a veggie burger, Dad gets fish, and my niece gets a Hawaiian pizza. She doesn’t touch any of it. 
6:30pm — We cycle through Foxtel’s free-to-air shows like Border Security and 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. Quality.
9:30pm — On Instagram, I see a 74cm hanging mirror on Catch for only $20 — a steal! I quickly hop on and buy it, plus a really funky bookcase and a little picnic table with wine glass holders for a total of $77. $97
Daily Total: $191

Day 7

6:00am — I wake up on the couch in my dad’s motel and make a terrible instant coffee. I'm not a coffee snob and drink instant every day, but motel instant is a different breed of terrible. 
7:00am — After getting my niece ready, I drop her off at kindy. My Dad and I didn’t think a lot about her daycare snacks, so we send her with a lunchbox full of seven muffins. I tell her teacher that they can be shared with her friends or chucked in the bin. 
7:05am — I really, really want a McDonald’s brekky. I jump on the app and see if they've got any discounts, but it still works out to be about $12 so I veto it and drive home instead. I make another instant coffee and start working. 
9:45am — I have a job interview this morning for an HR admin role in a hospital. It's one of those interviews where you have to record your answer to a question and can't re-record it. Who invented these?! I'm applying to every entry-level and associate HR role based in the Melbourne CBD that I think I’d be a good fit for. It’s fairly time intensive to apply for all these jobs, but I think it'll pay off soon.
10:55am — I finish my favourite podcast, Let’s Go to Court. I’ve been bingeing this for the last couple of months and I'm finally up to date. It's true crime, but I like it because there's a big emphasis on the court proceedings and sentences, which a lot of true crime podcasts tend not to go into detail about. I love them so much that I pay $11 to access their Patreon so I can listen to all the bonus episodes.
1:10pm — After a long bout of unproductive work, I make soup for lunch and prepare for a phone interview at 2pm. 
2:00pm — I start the interview. The reception in my office (garage) is horrible, so I have to climb on top of my desk and press my face against the window to try and be heard. I don't get the best vibe from the interviewer, honestly, so I’m not too fussed about the outcome of the call. 
2:20pm — I drive to my dad’s motel, pick him up, and go to the grocery store. He buys me grapefruit juice, goat's cheese and the proper-sized rubbish bags (finally).
2:30pm — I work at the motel for the rest of the arvo, writing some of my regular content work about fencing and conveyancing. The WiFi in the motel is actually pretty decent, and I work on the balcony outside which is really nice.  
5:15pm — Dad and I leave to pick up my niece from daycare. My tank is empty, so I take a pitstop and fill my car up with gas ($30). We pick my niece up and check her lunchbox — it's come back full of muffins, so her school friends were obviously not a fan of them. $30
5:50pm — We stop on the way back to the motel to pick up dinner. It's Dad’s shout again — this time we hit up some Zambos for me and some burgers for him and my niece.
7:00pm — After dinner, I start working again as I haven't gotten as much done as I needed to today. I make a to-do list every day and try really hard to hit it. I know that otherwise, I’ll have to get up at 5am the day of a deadline and try to cram it all in. Freelancing is a bummer sometimes. 
10:30pm — My Dad doesn’t have a car yet so he needs me to do regular pick-ups and drop-offs. As a result, it's easier for me to stay at the motel rather than go back and forth between my house and here. So it's another night on the couch for me. It’s actually pretty comfy, so no complaints here! 
Daily Total: $30
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