Money Diaries

A Week In Fairlight, Sydney, As A Graphic Designer & Pilates Instructor On $93,000

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 and Pilates instructor who makes $93,000 a year and spends some of her money this week converting a spare room into a bedroom for her brother.
Occupation: Graphic Designer / Pilates Instructor
Industry: Publications / Gym
Age: 29
Location: Fairlight, Sydney
Salary: $93,000
Net Worth: $104,700 ($24,000 in savings, $72,000 in shares, a car worth $5,000, and a bike worth $6,000). My partner and I have a shared bank account in addition to our own accounts. We each contribute $1,600 a month to our shared account which covers regular expenses such as rent, utilities, groceries, petrol and the like. 
Debt: $2,300 in HECS. I should finally pay it off this year.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $3,600
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $600. It's an absolute bargain. We live in a sharehouse in Fairlight which we ironically call the 'Mansion' — it’s a tiny, very oddly designed house, but happily close to Manly. My two best mates and I started the share house four years ago. My partner moved in three years ago. Otherwise, the number of housemates ranges depending on how the boys’ love lives are going.
Loans: I owe $2,300 in HECS debt. My repayments get automatically taken out of my paycheque. it isn't clearly marked on my payslip, but I guestimate it's around $460 per month.
Private Health Insurance: $130 for my partner and I.
Binge: $16. My friends and family have access to this account and we have access to their Netflix, Stan and Disney+.
Shares: $450
Phone: $35
Internet: $20

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

I studied marine biology at university and absolutely loved every minute. I lived on campus, went out every other night, played ultimate frisbee during lunch, and went to islands on research trips. I worked throughout uni to cover living expenses and trips but put all my course fees on HECS. I've been paying off my HECS every paycheque since I graduated. It's funny because I've never used my uni degree professionally and have always worked in graphic design, which I am self-taught in.

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

Growing up, I thought we were poor (spoiler alert: we weren’t). My brothers and I were brought up by my mum and grandpa. We often overheard conversations between our divorced mum and dad about child support — that he "forgot cheques", that he was "short this time", that he’d "bring it next month". We weren’t a family who bought brand-name food or clothing. We didn’t use the heater. Our family photo albums show the progression of hand-me-down clothes from my cousins to my brothers to me.
I remember once we went to the doctor with our mum, where us kids wouldn’t tell the doctor what was wrong because we knew the doctor charged by the amount of time and we didn’t want it to be too expensive for mum. After the doctor's appointment, we had our first conversation about money as a family. Mum was on a set teacher’s salary, but she was savvy and we were very comfortable.
We earnt pocket money each week for doing our chores. The amount went up 50 cents each year until our mum realised she was giving us $3.50 a week and our friends were getting $30+ a week. There were a lot of community differences like that, but it didn’t bother us — it was just how it was. 

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

My first job was at a local sandwich shop at 15. From memory, I got $11.70 an hour. The money was great, but I mostly took the job because my best friend worked there too. We used to hang out, challenge each other to see who could make the most bizarrely flavoured sandwich, and people watch the men eyeing the brothel that neighboured the sandwich shop.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Despite the fact that we grew up with a mistaken understanding of our family's financial position, I don't remember being excessively worried about money. We always trusted our mum, our family financier.

Do you worry about money now?

I'm very lucky to not have to worry about money. I've always worked and had savings to draw from, which has meant I've been privileged enough to never have debt other than HECS. 
I have low expenses and very few financial commitments, but it's very reassuring to know that if anything ever went drastically downhill financially, my partner or mum could help me out.
My boyfriend and I are saving to buy a place for ourselves, which feels like an uphill battle in Sydney.

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

I've been financially independent since schoolies. I went on a gap year when I was 17 before moving interstate for uni.

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

All the kids inherited $6,000 when our grandpa passed away.

Day 1

5:30am — Go for a surf with one of my housemates, M. Parking fees kick in at 8am. We’ll be out of the water by then, but we’re going to grab breakfast and plan an upcoming trip, so I pay for parking until 9:30am. $10.70
8:00am — We head to a café that is too healthy for my current cravings. I order a smoothie with banana, oats, peanut butter, and a shot of espresso, plus a breakfast haloumi wrap. M. opts for the big breakfast option and a large long black. It costs $48.20, so my share is $24.10. M. and I chat about two of our uni friends who are getting hitched interstate next month. After a lot of group texts, we have worked out who from our circle of mates is going and how many need accommodation. So we browse Airbnb until we find two options that are big enough. M. posts in the group chat while I place a deposit on the (fully refundable) option ($358). This has been an expensive breakfast, but the deposit covers more than my and my partner's share of the accommodation costs (which is $240), so the difference will be repaid by mates. $382.10
9:50am — We’re running late. We decide to continue running the gauntlet with the parking inspectors and I stop at a bakery to buy a box of tarts to take to dinner tonight ($35). Happily, we don’t have a parking fine and we head back to our sharehouse to work from home for the day. I work as a graphic designer five days a week — I usually work from home and my hours are very flexible, varying with the workload. $35
1:15pm — Lunch time. I reheat some leftover pesto pasta and eat it on the back deck as I Facetime my friend, P. We chat about a date she had last night (it was a dud — the guy spent the whole night talking about his ex-girlfriend and she ended up consoling him). We make plans to have dinner next week before I sneak one of the tarts out of the box for dessert and log back on to work for the arvo. 
4:00pm — Work is light today so I log off, get petrol ($65.30) and drive to my mum’s house to walk our family dog. I stay for a cup of tea and leave a tart in Mum’s fridge as a surprise for later. $65.30
6:30pm — My partner’s colleague hosts dinner at their home. There’s a grazing platter with what looks like half a deli on it and bottles of bubbles awaiting us on our arrival. Suddenly, my (slightly depleted) box of tarts does not seem enough. Ah, well. Conversation flits between workplace gossip and our shared love of great food. Halfway through a debate on where the best pizza is served, I finally notice our host’s beautiful engagement ring and only narrowly avoid spoiling their announcement. We celebrate the happy couple long into the evening, then head home.
Daily Total: $493.10

Day 2

5:20am — I sleep in for twenty minutes and have to cycle quickly to make it to the Pilates studio where I teach a few classes throughout the week. I get paid $55 per class, but to be honest, I don’t do it for the money. I love the community here and the free gym membership is a much-appreciated added bonus. Today’s class is rough because we got home at 3am last night, but I stay to chat for a while and cover the reception while a teammate ducks out to do a chore. 
8:15am — I head to the café attached to the gym. I shamelessly ask the regular barista if there are any day-old slices or muffins I can nab and he kindly packs up a bunch. The food is free — a perk of the job. 
11:00am — My partner, A., gets up just as my brothers arrive. We play some games on the Nintendo Switch. When we play Super Smash Bros, I just button mash and hope for the best. Then = our housemates return from the beach, so I hand off the controller to them. 
1:30pm — Once we’ve eaten our way through all the day-old treats, we order burgers and chips from the local shops ($140 — my share comes to $23) and my housemate, M., whips up a salad we can share. The conversation moves on to professional gaming streams and fantasy leagues — it’s times like these when I wonder what life would be like if I had sisters. I leave them to it and take a nap. $23
5:00pm — I cycle to the beach to meet three uni friends for a swim and picnic. On the way, I stop at the local IGA to buy some chips, dip, fruit, and chocolate. $32.12 
7:50pm — We decide to head to a nearby bar that is hosting a comedy night for a sneaky bevvie and to catch a few sets. We buy tickets at the door ($15). When it's my round for drinks, I get the girls some margaritas ($72). The boys decide they’ll meet us here and their late arrival means they become comedian fodder. $87
10:30pm — The bar calls last drinks. I’m normally not much of a drinker, but tonight has been a bit of an exception. My oldest brother and his partner have just decided to “amicably uncouple” (as his boyfriend put it), so he’s been shouted many a beer by the comedians who bantered with him during their sets. He’s keen for a night out. As M. gets the final round of beers, I grab some food for the table — two bowls of wedges and two bowls of cauliflower popcorn ($48). 
2:00am — Once we’ve danced off all the drinks, A. orders an Uber home for our household. I’ve still got my bike with me, so I opt to cycle home, not wanting to leave it on the street overnight. My brother, who is crashing on our couch tonight, opts to join me and runs alongside — a choice he regrets the next day. 
Daily Total: $190.12

Day 3

6:30am — I wake up annoyingly early whenever I’ve had a night out, but today, I decide to make the most of it and read my book. A. wants to sleep in and snores are currently emitting from our living room, so I head to the beach. 
9:00am — I bump into a mate and we decide to get a coffee together ($4.50). My phone keeps lighting up with messages from the wedding group chat which is debating how many days we should stay for. My friend and I chat about the cost of interstate weddings — she’s been to four in six months. Loves celebrating love, but it is making her budget a little tight. $4.50
11:00am — A. texts and says he’s making brunch for everyone. He kindly picks me up on his way back from the grocery store. In the car, he floats the idea of my brother staying with us for a bit while he’s moving out of his boyfriend’s place. I was just about to suggest the same thing. I love how much A. loves my family. 
3:00pm — A. and I jump in the car to go to a housewarming BBQ for some friends who have just bought a place. It’s a 45-minute drive away, so we have lots of time to chat about our dream townhouse, what we can realistically afford, and everything in between. It’s a way off for us, and not just because we’re still saving for a deposit. I love our sharehouse. Sure, it’s a little dirtier and noisier than your average household, but we’re a family.
3:45pm — We arrive and give the new household a framed photograph a friend of a friend took ($120, but paid for last month).  I’m always nervous about gifting art because it’s so subjective, but thankfully they like it. It’s always nice to support a talented friend. 
9:00pm — We get back home, chuck on a Netflix show, and skip dinner, having grazed all afternoon at the BBQ. 
Daily Total: $4.50

Day 4

5:40am — I get up, cycle to Pilates, and teach a class. After the weekend, my wallet is feeling a little too light, so I skip the café and head straight home. 
8:00am — I log on to work from home. I eat muesli and sift through my emails, finding easy jobs to do first to ease me into the working week.
1:30pm — A. is working from home today and brings me a cup of tea and a sandwich. Work has been busy today with lots of small changes requested, so I haven’t looked up from my screen much. 
3:30pm — The group wedding chat has reached a consensus. We’ll all stay for an extra-long weekend and make a mini holiday of it. I update the booking to include the extra night ($132, but I’ll be paid back for this). A. books us and M. flights and a canyoning tour — this is going to be an amazing trip. There is some complicated maths attempted about whether A. and I owe each other money, but in the end, we decide the maths is too hard and say it’ll work out in the wash. $132
6:30pm — I log off work and we go for a walk to stretch our legs. A. has soccer tonight, so I’m left to fend for myself for dinner. I make a smoothie from frozen fruit we already have and some Vegemite toast. I curl up with my book, but only get three pages in before my phone distracts me. Then it's bed!
Daily Total: $132

Day 5

5:40am — My alarm chimes for a long time before I get up today. I am not a morning person by nature, but I love it once I’m out of the house. M. and I go for a surf. No parking fees today as he has to go into the office, so we’ll be out of the water before the parking metre kicks in. 
8:00am — I log on to work from home. We’re approaching a big deadline today but I’m happily on track and there are minimal changes requested, so it should be smooth sailing. 
11:30am — I take an early lunch and cook scrambled eggs on toast. Our fridge is a bit empty at the moment, so I start jotting down what we need to buy on the joint notes app both A. and I can access. 
6:30pm — Deadline achieved! I log off for the day and venture out to our garage. We mostly store bikes and boards here, but now I’m wondering if we could convert it into a bedroom for my brother. During brunch on Sunday, we all chatted about it together. M. and S. were on board straight away, but everything was so fresh for my brother and he wasn’t sure. As of 4pm today, he’s keen. Now we just need to find the space. 
7:00pm — A. has made some salad for us, as well as some steak for himself (I’m vegetarian). We sit in the garage and try to work out how to make it warm, inviting, and quite frankly, liveable. Amazingly, it has power and insulation (we think the tenants before us used it as a music practice space), but there's also no natural light, so I give it up as a lost cause. We settle on the small study instead. We spend the evening playing furniture Jenga and eventually clear out the room, finding homes for everything and setting up a new WFH space.
8:30pm — A. and I duck out to Bunnings before it closes to get a few storage containers and shelving brackets to aid our mini-home renovation ($92.40). Then we pop to the supermarket to grab groceries for the week. We get the usual breakfast and sandwich ingredients, plus stuff for a stir-fry and a chilli. Then I load up the trolley with treats to say thank you to M. and S., as well as a little welcome gift for my brother. I go a little overboard, but it feels like the right amount of overboard. We pay out of a shared account but I sneakily transfer money to cover it all. A. is a little hurt by this which I didn’t expect — he explains that he feels this is his brother too and he wants to contribute. $92.40
Daily Total: $92.40

Day 6

7.00am — I go to the studio and take a Pilates class as a participant. S. decides to come too but ends up lying on his mat for the last fifteen minutes. Pilates is hard, S.
8:15am — I jump on a bus into the office today ($5.05). I eat a banana and some granola I brought from home as I commute in. $5.05
10:15am — Office days are an absolute gossip-fest with my team. My manager and I go for a coffee meeting at a nearby café ($4.50), but really discuss the project for five minutes and her teenage kids’ rebellion for the rest. $4.50
12:30pm — The office is abuzz with chat about a new ramen spot. A group of us head there for lunch ($18), but I’m pulled out of our conversation about whose power bills are the most expensive by a call from my mum. She’s just found out about the breakup and wants to know all. We decide to catch up after work instead. $18
5:30pm — I catch the train to my mum’s ($3.93) and she asks many questions I can’t answer. We decide it would be good if she offered to store some of my brother’s stuff while he works out his next step. $3.93
7:00pm — I’m meeting P. for dinner nearby at a tapas bar, so I walk with my mum and our family dog there. Mum joins us and absolutely eats up all the details of P.’s boss’s workplace misstep. After Mum leaves, P. and I still have lots to catch up on. This spot is known for its wine list, but neither of us fancy a drink so the waiter kindly makes us some tea (which isn’t on the menu). I paid for dinner last time, so P. covers this one. Thanks, P!
9:45pm — Jump on a bus home ($2.75). I open the door to a full house, complete with stacks of my brother’s possessions. The house has been transformed while I’ve been out. M. found a bed on Facebook Marketplace, S. got a beautiful rug from a designer op shop, and my brother brought along some cupboards. Suddenly, we’re now officially a four-bedroom house! I show my thanks by ‘letting them’ win Super Smash Bros$2.75
Daily Total: $34.23

Day 7

7:00am — I sleep in today and scroll on my phone until it’s time to log on to work.
10:30am — Work is light today, so I potter around cleaning, watering plants, and doing laundry in between emails and projects. My phone calendar reminds me it’s time to pay the utilities, so I transfer $113 to M (covered in my monthly expenses).
2:00pm — M. comes home early. He had an interview for a promotion today but is in two minds if he actually wants it. We chat about the difference in money, time, responsibility, and job satisfaction, going around in circles.
4:00pm — Work is still quiet today, so I log off and head to the beach with M. 
8:00pm — I make stir-fry and everyone who’s in for the night takes a bowl. We chuck on a movie and I fall asleep halfway through. 
Daily Total: $0
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