Money Diaries

A Week In Brunswick East, Melbourne, As A Graphic Designer On $75,000

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last dollar.
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Today: a graphic designer who makes $75,000 a year spends some of her money this week on ingredients she uses to whip up a DIY Korean BBQ at home, featuring tteokbokki.
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Industry: Creative
Age: 34
Location: Brunswick East, Melbourne
Salary: $75,000
Net Worth: $70,000 in savings for a house deposit, $20,000 in car value, $1,200 in Bitcoin. (It was sitting at $2,400 at the beginning of the year but has since crashed. There was a moment when I could have offloaded, but I'm holding out until the upturn — fingers crossed, lol.)
Debt: $20,000 in HECS debt. I’ve worked hard to make sure I don’t have any unnecessary debt. In the past, I've had a personal loan for a car as well as credit card debt, and I hated it.
Paycheque Amount (Weekly): $1,050
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,547. I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment. It's light-filled, north-facing and right in the middle of all the great restaurants and bars in Brunswick East. I feel lucky to live here. I negotiated a small rent discount when I signed the lease last year. I have just renewed my lease for another year — big props to my landlord for not increasing the rent. 
Debt: My only debt at the moment is my HECS student loan, which is about $64 a week. I was considering paying it off in full with my savings, but after consulting my financial advisor (aka Reddit), I've realised that there are better ways to use that money.
Phone and Internet: $35. I have a SIM-only plan with Felix. I get unlimited internet, so all my home/work internet needs are run from my phone's hotspot. It works perfectly. I live alone so all bills fall onto me. But not having to pay for the NBN is a huge saving.
Streaming: $0. I use a free online streaming site so I don't have Netflix, Stan, or any other subscriptions.
Dance Classes: $80
Shared Studio Space: $260
Dropbox: $18
Spotify: $11.95
Petrol: $50. I don’t drive much.
Car: $1,930 yearly.
Savings Contributions: $600 to a 'don't touch' account, $400 to a 'buffer' savings account, and $200 to my 'splurge' account. 

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

Yes! I went to art school and studied Graphic Design. I paid for it using HECS, which I pay off each week through my paycheque.

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

I grew up poor. For the first half of my life, my family was on welfare. We were a single-parent household with three kids. We never had conversations about money — it's not really been considered to be important in my family. My mum started full-time work when I was 11 and she was able to buy a house when I was 19. The only thing my mum taught me was to never get into debt and to save for everything you want. In my early 20s, I got myself into a bit of credit card debt while studying. I spent a few years paying that off, but I only made that mistake once.

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

I worked (underage and for cash in hand) at a doughnut shop. I needed the money to go on a school trip. In my family, it was always understood that if you needed money, you got a job.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I honestly haven't really thought about that, but yes, I think I did. Maybe worry is too strong of a word. I knew that there were certain things I couldn't do because we couldn't afford them.

Do you worry about money now?

I'll occasionally think about what my plan would be if I lost my job or had a drastic change in my life that affected my ability to work. But once again, I wouldn't say I worry about it.

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

I moved out of home when I was 18 and became financially responsible for myself. I don't have a financial safety net.

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

My grandma died in 2019 so I received a very small one-off inheritance.

Day 1

9:45am — It's Sunday and I don't have plans with friends, so I'm planning on cooking a Sunday dinner for myself. I head off to catch the tram to Queen Vic Markets, getting a coffee on the way ($4.50). I swipe my Myki [public transport] card ($4.60). $9.10
10:00am — My close friend group chat is going off this morning as we all update each other on our weekends. One friend went on a first date, so we're getting a play-by-play of the events. It was bad. He used the date as a therapy session for his previously unresolved relationship. It’s another reminder of how hard dating is at the moment. *Sigh*  
10:30am — I've decided to make Korean BBQ for dinner. I get some radish, cucumbers and spring onions from a stall at the market ($9.50, which seems expensive). $9.50
11:00am — I head to KMART (the Korean supermarket) for the rest of my ingredients ($62.80). It's a little more than I wanted to spend, but I'll get a few meals out of it. $62.80
12:00pm — I get back on the tram, but it's outside of the two hours of free travel time, so I have to pay another $4.60 to get home. $4.60
12:30pm — When I get home, I eat some toast and catch up on Love Island UK. A friend who lives interstate watches it too, so we live text each other our reactions and discuss the episode.
2:00pm — My plants need some attention. I spend the afternoon pottering around my apartment, watering my plants and repotting a Monstera that has outgrown its pot. I have my balcony doors open wide and the sun is streaming in. It’s my ultimate self-care
5:00pm — I get organised and prep all the ingredients I picked up this morning. I make bulgogi beef, cucumber salad and tteokbokki. It’s really good. I give myself a little pat on the back. Self-appreciation is extra important when you are single. 
8:30pm — I fall asleep on the couch watching Everything Everywhere All at Once, which is a feat in itself because the movie is really intense and action-packed.  
Daily Total: $86

Day 2

6:00am — I reluctantly get up and go for a walk. It's still dark and cold outside, but I know how much it helps my mental health, so I don’t mind. 
8:00am — I work from home on Mondays which means I won't be spending any money today. I make coffee and eat toast for breakfast. My workload is light this morning, so I reply to emails and do some planning for the week.
9:30am — I have a Zoom catch-up with my team to go through this week's projects. We get carried away and end up talking about everyone's weekends for way too long. 
1:00pm — I have some leftover Korean food from last night for lunch. It's just as good as it was last night.
3:00pm — I check my bank balance after the weekend and book my weekly dance class ($20). It's on Wednesdays, but it sometimes sells out, so the earlier I book, the better. If I've overspent on the weekend, I'd usually just transfer money from my splurge account to pay for this class. I enjoy it that much! $20
6:30pm — Dinner is a HelloFresh meal kit from last week — a pork burger with slaw.
7:00pm — I’m planning some travel for early next year and start researching. Currently, I'm thinking that I’d love to do a month in San Francisco and another month in New Orleans, then Mexico for two weeks of annual leave at the end. I am lucky I can work remotely, so the majority of this would be a working holiday. 
9:00pm — It’s cold tonight, so I fill a hot water bottle and head to bed, dreaming about perfect days walking the streets of Mexico City. It’s so nice to think about travel again.
Daily Total: $20

Day 3

6:00am — I get up in the dark and go for a walk. Today feels like a total repeat of yesterday.
8:00am — I also work from home on Tuesdays, so I make some toast and coffee for breakfast and start work. I jump into a branding project for a client who’s starting yet another Byron Bay clothing brand (cue the eyeroll). I love a lot of what I get to do in my job, but appeasing another rich person into thinking their very generic Byron Bay-based clothing brand idea is fresh and innovative is not it. 
12:30pm — For lunch, I eat leftovers from last night's HelloFresh dinner, scrolling TikTok while I eat. TikTok is great, but I have to keep an eye on how long I spend on the app as time can really get away from me.
2:45pm — This week's HelloFresh box is delivered. My payment for next week's box is also taken from my account ($49.55). It's a little bit cheaper than usual because I have a 40% off code. $49.55
3:30pm — My friend texts me about a Ty Segall show in January that she's buying a ticket to. I buy a ticket as well ($55 with the booking fee). $55
4:30pm — I need milk for coffee tomorrow, so I take this opportunity to get out of the house and walk to Coles. I listen to a podcast that I'm hooked on called I’m Not A Monster. It's about ISIS wives in the Caliphate. It's great journalism, but it's heartbreaking. The contrast against my privileged life in Australia is not lost on me. 
6:00pm — I make a simple pantry pasta for dinner as I don't feel like eating any of my new HelloFresh meals.
7:00pm — After eating and cleaning the kitchen, I watch a few episodes of The Bear. It’s so good that I feel like I could binge it and stay up until the wee hours, but I decide to be sensible and head to bed.
Daily Total: $104.55

Day 4

6:30am — I’m up and showered, then I make some lunch and coffee to take to the studio. I work in a shared studio space three days a week — Wednesday to Friday. It's $20 a day, which I think is pretty affordable. It also gets me out of my house, which is a plus. It feels great to be social and work in a communal space again after two years of lockdowns. 
7:30am — I take a tram to the studio. Truthfully though, I sometimes fare evade. Today, I don't want to stress about a ticket inspector getting on, so I tap my Myki, travel six stops, and pay $4.60. I walk the rest of the way because it's a nice sunny morning. $4.60
8:30am — I get a coffee and Vegemite scroll for breakfast from the bakery around the corner ($10.50). I’m usually the first person in the studio and have an hour of quiet time to get focused for the day. I’m still working on the Byron Bay clothing brand project, but I have a few other projects that I am more excited to get stuck into. $10.50
10:00am — It’s a friend's 30th this weekend. My friends and I are trying to organise a group present for her, so the group chat is in full force this morning. We decide on a gift card for an Acne scarf she’s been eyeing off for a while. We put in $100 each. $100
12:00pm — I have leftover pasta for lunch and eat it at the studio's communal table. Because I am single and live alone, I sometimes don’t realise that I have been without social contact for a while. So after three days of no socialisation, I am really keen to catch up with everyone. I wonder if I come across as a bit too keen.
 4:30pm — I get the tram home. I fare evade. 
6:00pm — I drive to my dance class. It's so fun and energising!
8:00pm — After showering and a quick stretch, I make dinner with a HelloFresh meal kit — this time, it's kofta balls and couscous.
9:00pm — I fall asleep listening to a Harry Potter audiobook. It calms me after feeling so energised after class. 
Daily Total: $115.10

Day 5

7:00am — I make coffee at home and take it on the tram.
7:30am — I tap my Myki. $4.60
8:30am — I head to the same bakery from yesterday, grabbing a Vegemite scroll and another coffee ($10.50). I am a creature of habit. $10.50
12:00pm — I have leftovers for lunch again — last night's kofta. I'm pretty proud of my leftovers-for-lunch game this week. I am not usually this good about bringing lunch to work. I try to, but there are lots of great food options close to the studio, so it can be really tempting to just buy lunch.
2:00pm — I have been eyeing off a satchel bag on Aliexpress for a couple of weeks. I remember that I can claim a 'laptop bag' on my tax return, so I buy it with that in mind. It's only $19, so it's definitely not a splurge, but it'll be handy to carry all my things when I head to the studio. $19
4:30pm — I get the bus to a bar in Northcote and tap my Myki. It's $4.60 for a 15-minute trip. This annoys me. Why is public transport so expensive?! $4.60
5:00pm — I meet some friends for dinner and drinks. We get dumplings and beer, splitting the bill ($52). We chat about what dance music events are on in the next few months. I call this group of friends my 'rave friends'. They aren’t ravers exactly, but we're all into a fun dance music moment. It's mainly because they don't have kids, so they're freer to do spontaneous things. If you don't have kids like me, it's so important to have friends who also don't have any. Sorry to all my friends with kids — I love you, but your life is completely different to mine and I like having friends that have the same freedom as me! $52
9:00pm — I get the bus home. My trip is capped at $9.20 for the day. I shower and get into bed as soon as I get home. $4.60
Daily Total: $95.30

Day 6

7:00am — Friday. I make a coffee at home while I get ready for work. 
7:30am — I jump on the tram and head to the studio, tapping my Myki. $4.60 
8:00am — I have a busy work morning with a couple of Zoom meetings with clients, so I get a second coffee ($4.50). I skip breakfast as I'm not feeling hungry. $4.50
10:00am — Today is payday! I pay my water and electric bills ($85.16, covered in my monthly expenses). Because I live alone, my overall usage is usually pretty low, but because it's winter, the electric bill is a little higher this month.
1:00pm — No leftovers today. I buy a banh mi for lunch ($10). I leave a $3 tip because they are the best banh mis in the world. $10
3:30pm — Everyone in the studio is restless because it's Friday and we are ready for the weekend. We chat and play music, getting to know the newer people who have recently joined. It's a small studio, so it's easy to make friends.  
5:00pm — I walk into the city after work to meet some friends for a happy hour drink at Hell's Kitchen. It's my usual spot whenever I go into the city, with a great mix of dodgy regulars and friendly bar staff. I have two glasses of wine. $20
7:30pm — We're all hungry so we get hotpot and split the bill. $57
9:00pm — We head to another bar afterwards for a drink. I order a cocktail called Angel Face ($22). I have never been very impressed by cocktails, but a friend who is a wonderful bartender (I refuse to say mixologist!) recommended it to me last year. Since then, I’ve never looked back. At the age of 34, I can finally go to a fancy bar and confidently order a drink I like. It feels very grown up. $22
10:30pm — I head home on the tram. I don't tap on.
Daily Total: $118.10

Day 7

9:00am — It's Saturday morning so I do my laundry at the local laundromat, making a coffee at home before I leave. It costs $10 for a wash and $5 to dry it. $15
9:30am — While I'm waiting for my washing in the dryer, I walk to the bakery down the block and get a loaf of sourdough bread. $9
10:15am — I pile all my washing into my car and head home. It's only a 5-minute drive, but I have so much washing that I can't walk 15 minutes with it. When I get home, I have toast with my freshly purchased bread.
11:00am — I'm not feeling too hungry for lunch, so I just have a quick snack. I organise my apartment as a friend is staying over tonight. I do a quick vacuum and clean the bathroom. I set up a bed for her on the couch.
2:00pm — I drive to the airport to pick up my friend. She's flying in from interstate as we have another friend's birthday dinner this weekend. I check my petrol and I'm happy that I have over half a tank left. I shouldn't need to fill up for another couple of weeks as I rarely use my car.
3:00pm — We are so happy to see each other in person! We take a walk around the neighbourhood to catch up. She hasn’t been down to visit me before, so it’s nice to show her where I live. We get carried away and talk about our non-existent dating lives for hours. I've just gotten back on the apps after a very frustrating summer on Hinge which resulted in six men asking me on dates, with all six men flaking on me at the last minute. It’s tough out there.  
6:00pm — My friend and I grab an Uber to the restaurant for the birthday celebration ($13.10, my shout). We get a bottle of wine to share because it's BYO. I pay and don't think about asking to split it ($19). $32.10
8:30pm — Dinner is delicious Greek food! It's a set price at $60 a pop, so they just keep feeding and feeding us. We give the birthday girl her present and have a moment of deep appreciation for our friendships. We love each other deeply and are so thankful to be in the same place after the last few years of border restrictions. $60
9:00pm — We head to a bar and get a little carried away with the celebrations. I get wine and cocktails for the birthday girl and me. $70 
12:30pm — We get an Uber home ($11.80). We shower and drink green tea before getting into bed. $11.80
Daily Total: $197.90
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.
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