Money Diaries

A Week In The Gold Coast As A Graphic Designer On $110,000

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Today: a graphic designer on $110,000 who bakes her friend's wedding cake (and regrets it).
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Industry: Health & Wellness
Age: 32
Location: Gold Coast, Queensland (Bundjalung country)
Salary: $110,000 ($100,000 from my full-time job, plus about $10,000/year from freelance work)
Net Worth: $310,000 ($265,000 in home equity, $20,000 in my personal savings account and $25,000 in my super. My super is low because I worked overseas for most of my 20s. I’ve just started dabbling in investments, but only have about $130 in a Sharesies account.)
Debt: $585,000 in a home loan which is going down oh-so-slowly. 90% of this is fixed at 2.9% and 10% is variable, but this arrangement expires in a few months, at which point the bank has informed me it will go to a variable rate of 5.7% (pending further hikes).
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $3,067
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $2,600. I pay this in full and my partner, E., puts the equivalent in a joint account, which covers our monthly electricity, gas, water, internet, rates, home insurance and private health insurance bills, along with our costs for groceries/eating out/things we need around the house. We also have a shared baby savings account with $3,000 in it. Our finances are otherwise separate.
Spotify Family: $19. I steal Netflix from my mum and Disney+ from E.’s parents.
Phone: $30 (Dodo, get onto it fam) 
Baby Savings Contribution: $100 
Emergency Savings Contribution: $100
Personal Savings Contribution: $400
‘Fun Money’ Account Contribution: $600. I use this for shopping, getting my hair done, buying gifts, etc.
Contact Lenses: $60
Pet Costs: $150 (This covers the dog’s food, grooming, and insurance.)
Body Corp: $160 
Car Insurance (Annually): $650
Car Rego (Annually): $700
SquareSpace (Annually): $199

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

I have a bachelor’s degree. I signed up for HECS and paid some of it off while at uni and when I started full-time work in Australia. When I had about $10,000 remaining on my balance, I received an inheritance from a grandparent with the stipulation that it was to go towards my HECS debt. It’s been really freeing to not have to think about it again. 

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

My parents were very frugal and continue to be. They are the kind of people that can definitely afford a new couch but will use the same couch for 25 years even if it’s falling apart. Their teachings around money have been very simple, telling me to just keep saving and prioritise paying off my mortgage. Most of my education around finances has been through She’s On The Money books and podcasts.

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

I was desperate for independence as a teenager, so my friend got me a job at Blockbuster. It was the best — I had free reign of DVDs and snacks. Weird to think I'll have to explain to my kids that it no longer exists.

Did you worry about money growing up?

We never had to worry about basics like housing, food or bills as kids, but were usually told ‘no’ for anything that wasn’t a necessity. I remember begging to do an after-school sport because my best friend did it, but Mum explained that it wasn’t in the budget. Things got better as I got older, but the amount of money my friends received for allowances, or the things they were allowed to buy/own, often blew my mind. 

Do you worry about money now?

It’s funny how I earn more money than I ever have, but worry so much more than I did when I was in my early 20s, working overseas and earning a pathetic $13/hour. The commitment to a mortgage really gets to me and the constant interest rate rises sometimes keep me up at night. With a baby due in a few months, I worry a lot about going down to a single income and if we will be able to afford my maternity leave for a full year AND keep the house. I’m aware we are in a better position than many — and I'm grateful for that — but I have really seen the difference in my disposable income go down compared to this time last year. 

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

I became financially responsible for myself at 21 when I finished uni, moved out of home and went overseas for eight years. It was eight years of very important money lessons — I remember a week where I mismanaged my money and could only afford to eat because an older colleague took pity on me and gave me a $50 gift card for groceries. Now my financial safety net is my partner (although, as my mum always likes to say, "a man is not a financial plan") and, failing that, my parents (although I would hate to ask them).

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

Yes, to pay off my HECS. I also received an additional $7,000 when a different grandparent passed. This came with strict instructions to put it towards my mortgage, so that’s what I did. 

Day 1

6:00am — My partner, E, wakes me up as he gets ready for work. I ignore him, roll over and go back to sleep. 
7:30am — Time to actually get up. I am four months pregnant and, while very happy, still feel hungover most days. I work in the office two days per week so I have a quick body shower and do my skincare routine: Tatcha rice wash cleanser, Go-To’s ‘Much Plumper Skin’ serum, a Dermalogica moisturiser which smells suspiciously like ham, Go-To sunscreen and the Mecca illuminating skin tint. 
8:00am — After many years of fashion trial and error, I have become a capsule wardrobe kind of person. I choose one of my five work shirts to go with the one pair of work pants I own. Then I chop up an apple for breakfast and make my dog, T., a maze of kibble and treats in his snuffle mat. Hopefully, this will entertain him for a hot minute while I am at work supporting his lifestyle of leisure. Then I hop in my car to drive the 15 minutes to work. 
8:30am — What’s the point of coming into the office if the internet isn’t working? I hotspot off my phone for the morning, eat my apple and work on a fresh concept deck for a podcast. At one point during the morning, one of my favourite coworkers resigns. It's a shame but unsurprising as she was very unappreciated in the role. I’m planning on telling my manager about my pregnancy tomorrow — it might be a bit of a rough week for them with all these changes.
12:00pm — I go out to the nearby shopping centre for lunch with two of my coworkers. I should have meal-prepped on the weekend, but it was my birthday and I couldn’t bring myself to set foot in a supermarket. We get Mad Mex and I order a small veggie burrito. They do a Meat Free Mondays promotion so I get $2 off, which is the first time I can remember being rewarded for not being much of a meat eater. $8.50 
12:30pm — My coworkers go back to work to continue battling the WiFi issue. I decide to go home and reunite with the dog. On the way, I stop by a jewellery shop to exchange a pair of earrings. They were a birthday gift that I picked out for myself, but because I am annoying, I now want a smaller version of the same thing. The smaller version actually costs more, but the lady at the shop discounts them for me, so I only pay a difference of $19.97
1:00pm — Quick lap through Woolies, where I buy crumpets, wraps, berries, apples, a teeny tiny bag of spinach, mince and chocolate. I pay for this using the joint account ($20.95, so $10.48 for my share). $10.48
1:30pm — Home. I pat T. for a solid 10 minutes, then put a load of washing on and start making my way through the chocolate as I log back onto work. This baby loves sweets and hates vegetables and I cannot blame him.
4:30pm — This is usually the time I switch from my full-time job to my side hustle work. It’s the end of the month, and I need to send a couple of invoices and start on a new project for a client. I quite literally close one laptop and open another. 
5:30pm — Put a 50% deposit down on new plantation shutters and curtains that I am ordering for my townhouse ($2,500). I bought this place a few years ago and got a decent deal as it was an off-market opportunity and a bit of a fixer-upper. I’ve been slowly upgrading everything based on urgency and blinds weren’t at the top of the list, but with a baby coming, I’m nervous about the strings on the existing binds. The shutters won’t actually be installed for about three months, so I’ll have a while to save up the other half of the deposit. $2,500 
5:45pm — T. and I go for a short stroll around the neighbourhood, avoiding squashed cane toads on the road. When we’re back, I use the mince to cook his meals for the next few days (because I am a sucker that started catering to his whims when he went on a hunger strike against kibble). I add frozen broccoli and coconut oil to the mix and refrigerate the leftovers. Meal-prepping for the hound but not for myself perfectly sums up dog ownership… 
7:00pm — Off to my late-night yoga class. I don’t pay for these as I did some freelancing for the studio last year and they gifted me with a 50-pack of classes in return. 
8:30pm — Home, settled in front of Married at First Sight and back onto ticking away at my freelance work. E. comes home from his Monday night mixed netball comp and makes us both wraps for dinner. He is, thankfully, one of those men that happily watches MAFS without having to pretend to hate it first. I have raspberries for dessert. 
10:30pm — Ironically, it takes me ages to wind down for bed after yoga. I do my evening skincare routine of Bare Minerals oil cleanser, Glow Recipe serum and Laneige moisturiser, then read Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes before falling asleep. 
Daily Total: $2,538.95

Day 2

7:30am — Wake up to the news that there’s still no internet in the office. I have to do some travel for meetings this afternoon, but decide to stay home this morning to use my home internet and — joy! — put another load of washing on. Getting genuinely excited about the opportunity to do more washing is how I know I’m properly into my 30s. 
7:45am — Same getting-ready routine as yesterday, although I put on comfy home clothes — Lululemon Align shorts (excellent as both maternity and non-maternity wear) and an oversized collared shirt. I feed T. his mince mix and refill his water bowl. 
8:00am — I’m going to a friend’s wedding on Thursday. When I was not pregnant and therefore more energetic, I offered to bake their wedding cake, which I now regret, but here we are. I take the extra time this morning to go through the ingredients I already have and make a list of what I’ll need to pick up from the shops. 
8:30am — Hang out my washing while eating my chopped-up apple and a couple of crumpets with jam, then log in for work. 
10:30am — Tuesdays are generally a hot mess with team meetings and today is no different. It always frustrates me — the more time in meetings, the less time I have to do the endless work that comes out of the meetings. I also don’t manage to get to the pregnancy news during my one-on-one with my manager. Instead, they monologue for a full 46 minutes about a potential work crisis and leave me with three and a half minutes to go through my to-do list, which just isn’t enough time to allow for anything… important. Maybe next week. 
11:30am — I get ready for my next meeting which is about a 20-minute drive away. I throw on a linen shift dress from Seed, put my hair in a claw clip, build the dog another snuffle mat of his dreams, throw a YouFoodz meal in my bag and jump in the car.
12:00pm — Made it to my meeting. And then to the next one. And then to the next one. And then I drive to the office, which is only about 10 minutes away because the internet is back up and running and I desperately need to get back on top of my emails.
3:00pm — Finally get time to heat up the YouFoodz for a very late lunch. I also have a moment to place a click-and-collect order at Spotlight for E. to pick up on his way home. It’s a cake tin, a cake board and an emergency wedding topper. I ordered a customised wedding topper for the bride and groom from Etsy, but it has been ‘delayed’ in the post somewhere in New South Wales for about a month now, so it’s not looking good. I use a $10 off birthday voucher that I get for being a Spotlight member. $22.90
6:00pm — I wrap up at work. It’s a late one, but I had to design a last-minute and urgent newsletter template due to the aforementioned work crisis coming to fruition. I drive to Aldi, a full 400m away, and get what I need for the cake: more flour, various types of sugar, vanilla extract, eggs and milk. I also buy myself some biscuits and Easter eggs. I don’t pay with the joint account for this purchase because it’s not really joint groceries. $52
7:00pm — Finally home and ready to start this cake. I keep my work computer on just in case my bosses need something crisis-related. Word to the wise: if you're on cake duties, you can usually just hack a Woolies sponge. All you need is a turntable and a good buttercream recipe — true miracles can be worked! But because these are very good friends and I have made big promises, I am going all out and using my favourite RecipeTin Eats vanilla and chocolate cake recipes, making no less than eight layers from scratch. 
7:30pm — MAFS is on. KitchenAid is on. Oven is on. Let the games begin. E. comes home again from mixed netball and offers to make dinner, but neither of us is hungry for now. 
11:00pm — I am five cake layers down and fading. E. and I never end up getting hungry, so we just snack on the biscuits I got from Aldi earlier. At least MAFS has been good background entertainment with the wildly problematic men they’ve managed to find this season. 
11:00pm — I make minor progress on a freelance project while my sixth cake layer bakes. The final two are going to have to be a problem for tomorrow. E. stays up to keep me company, bless. I wrap the five cooled layers in cling wrap and freeze, leave the sixth to cool overnight, and we head to bed.
Daily Total: $74.90

Day 3

8:00am — So. Tired. I feel even more hungover than usual, and completely slept through E. getting up for work. I slowly get up and presentable for work in the Lulu shorts and yet another oversized button-up shirt, and shuffle myself downstairs to sit at my dining room table to churn out graphics for our social channels.
1:00pm — About seven urgent requests later, I have a spare moment to make myself a wrap for lunch, with a side of sliced apple and carrot. My manager reaches out and tells me to cancel the leave I have booked for the next few days as they’ll need me to work overtime tonight and do a few hours in the morning pre-wedding. I agree because I am a people pleaser with no boundaries, but expect I will hate myself later for this decision. 
3:00pm — E. sends me a gift registry for another friend’s wedding we are attending next month. We agree to buy the salt and pepper mills, which he pays for out of the joint account ($150, so $75 for my share). $75
6:00pm — I need to go back to the shops for more butter ($7), so I tell my manager I’m jumping offline for a bit. T. and I also take the opportunity to do a lap around the beach and watch the surfers. $7 
7:00pm — Back home and armed with the butter, I stack the six cake layers I have and make an executive decision to not bake another two — with enough icing, the cake should be tall enough. I do the crumb coat then leave it in the fridge to chill. No after-hours work has come through from my full-time job, so while I wait for the cake, I manage to finish off the freelance piece of work I started on Monday (and watch MAFS). 
8:00pm — E. is home late from work. He is out of the house for really long hours most days, which is fine for now but may have to be reassessed once there’s a small child involved. He makes us soup, then we have Calippos for dessert because I cannot even look at anything cake-related. 
10:30pm — Final layer of icing goes on and it’s bedtime. 
Daily Total: $82

Day 4

7:30am — It’s time for some beautiful people to get married! Also — Thursday weddings are a vibe! I get up, throw on the trusty Lulu shorts and an oversized beach shirt, quickly do my skincare and jump in the car with T. We pop down to the local fruit and flower shop, where I buy flowers to decorate the cake, two apples, and a lamington for myself for breakfast ($32.47). T. gets a quick lap to the beach after our shopping is done to ensure his legs are at least a little bit stretched. $32.47 
8:30am — I get home, where E. takes T. for a proper walk. I log onto work and respond to a couple of urgent emails before getting back to the cake. The flowers need to be wrapped in special tape before getting stuck into the cake so they don’t poison everyone. I also turn the air-con on. A couple of my girlfriends are coming over to do their make-up just because I am the proud owner of one air-con unit — although it’s only used on very special occasions such as this. 
9:30am — Cake is done. I log on for a 9:30am meeting, hang around for seven minutes, and discover no one else is attending. I reschedule the meeting, then use this time to dive into the shower instead. Halfway through my shampooing, my Microsoft Teams starts ringing with the ghosted attendees finally coming online. I dive back out of the shower and pretend like I was never in there. 
10:00am — Meeting over, back in the shower. My girlfriends arrive and E. lets them in. They all chat downstairs while I get somewhat presentable for my next round of meetings… and that little thing called a wedding I have to go to later. 
12:00pm — Everyone else has their make-up done and they pour a few pre-drinks, helped along by the freezing cold air-con. I come out of the meetings and work on yet another urgent request while one of my friends very kindly does my make-up and straightens my hair. E. helps by fetching random things we need — my hairdryer, my mascara, apple slices — and trying to pack my bag for our one-night stay. 
12:30pm — E. tapes together two different cake boxes to make one giant cake box and manages to get the cake into it. T. is staying with a friend tonight, and she’s coming by my place later to pick him up, so I leave a key out for her and pack his bag. All things done, we pack the car and are ready to go. 
1:00pm — I’m driving everyone down because #pregnant. I insist on going through KFC to get some pre-wedding chips. My friend shouts. 
1:30pm — We get to the venue and drop off the cake, which has thankfully survived the journey. Our accommodation is an Airbnb across the road, which we paid for a few months ago. After all the madness of rushing around getting ready, we now find ourselves at a bit of a loose end before the actual wedding begins. I get my laptop back out (I swear I am usually more fun than this) and touch up my nail polish while we wait. When it’s almost time to go, I put my (rented) dress on. 
3:00pm — We walk the 100m back to the venue, ready to laugh, cry and dance the night away. The groom’s face literally crumples when he sees the bride and it is beyond beautiful. The couple loves the cake, although there is so much food served that no one wants a slice. The bride and groom promise to bring it to the recovery event tomorrow. 
10:30pm — The wedding wraps up and we walk the 100m back to our accommodation. I offer to drop a few people home and do a couple of quick car trips to nearby hotels before getting back to our Airbnb. We play Family Feud and Heads Up with the group before going to bed. 
Daily Total: $32.47

Day 5

8:00am — Up and tired. Whiskey-drunk E. snored away in my ear all night, which would have been less annoying if I had also been whiskey-drunk. All of us are a bit worse for wear, and when I do my skincare routine and put my contact lenses in, they feel like sandpaper in my eyeballs. I put on a bodysuit that I bought from Aritzia in the US a few years ago (amazing quality!) and a slip skirt.  
10:00am — We begrudgingly check out of the Airbnb and walk down the street for breakfast. I get a vegetarian toastie and a juice which ambitiously promises ‘recovery’. At one point, my friend texts and lets me know she’s had a great night with T. and he’s been dropped back to mine. E. pays for breakfast with the joint account ($42, so $21 for my share). $21
11:00am — The group of us head out for a little beach stroll and whale-watching even though it’s about three months too early for whales. We then head to the lunch venue where the bride and groom have put on a recovery lunch for everyone. Sliders and pizzas are circulated, and the cake is back out and looking good! I am asked to cut it up for all 60 people, which takes ages, long enough for everyone to start watching over my shoulder and loudly saying which piece they plan to take. It gets rave reviews — thank you, RecipeTin Eats. 
3:30pm — Time to go home. Everyone is moving onto the pool at the hotel where most people are staying, but I feel bad leaving T. at home solo for too much longer because I am a sucker. We drive home and come back to a dog that clearly thought he was abandoned forever.
5:00pm — It is still so hot and I am feeling short-tempered, so E., T. and I go for a swim down at the beach. E. then drop us home so T. can sleep and I can catch up on work emails. He goes to the supermarket to get supplies for dinner for the next few nights, then comes back and makes veggie burgers while I put a movie on. $65 from the joint account, so $32.50. 
8:30pm — Bedtime and could not be happier about it. 
Daily Total: $53.50

Day 6

8:00am — After a (finally) decent sleep, it’s back to get the house in some kind of order. I tackle the bathrooms and the vacuuming while E. dusts and deep cleans the kitchen. 
10:00am — We do our favourite Saturday tradition of going to the markets for our fruit and veg, baked goods and fresh pasta for the week. I get a bagel for breakfast while there, and E. gets a coffee and an egg and bacon roll. $110 from the joint account, so $55 for my half. $55
12:00pm — Time for an IKEA trip. I want to take back a table and chairs through their buyback scheme, and we’re looking for new drawers for our wardrobe, along with a shoe organiser. I get a gift card for an incredible $400 in return for the table and chairs, which we use towards the drawers and shoe organiser. E. also buys chicken nuggets while we’re there. Our difference is $352.95, paid with the joint account. $176.47
4:00pm — Home and time to take T. for a long walk to the dog beach. He loves the beach and hates the part where he inevitably has to have a bath afterwards. We give him a quick rinse under the freshwater tap on the way out as I suspect he may have another salty water adventure tomorrow. 
6:00pm — We’re home ready to have soup, garlic bread and Freddo Frogs for dinner/dessert while bingeing on The Hills. As you can tell, our taste in TV is pure trash. Ready for bed around 9:30pm. 
Daily Total: $284.97

Day 7

8:00am — E. has left bright and early to go and help his friend move house. No, thank you! I stay in bed for a while scrolling on my phone, then eventually get up to enjoy another bagel with cream cheese.
10:00am — My friend invites me to the beach. I check it's dog-friendly, then pack up water bottles for both T. and I, along with fruit and some Monte Carlo biscuits (the MVP of the biscuit world). We drive down, find a park, and enjoy a few glorious hours in the sunshine and under the Cool Cabana with T. joyfully burying sticks in the sand. I reapply sunscreen like a maniac due to my skin check doctor telling me that immunity is lowered with pregnancy, and that includes sunburn. 
2:00pm — On the way home, I take T. to the car wash to use the dog wash station they have there and make life a bit easier. $10 
4:00pm — I make myself a grilled cheese sandwich before heading off to a yoga class. 
6:00pm — Home. E. is there and ready to make haloumi tacos for us for dinner, although he adds chicken to his (and saves some unseasoned chicken for T.). I do my usual Sunday night thing of going through both my full-time work and freelance calendars for the week ahead, trying to get pre-prepared. Then — you guessed it — MAFS before an early bedtime.  
Daily Total: $10
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