A Week In South East Melbourne As A Hospo Worker & Piano Teacher On $40,000

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Editor's Note: This is a follow-up diary. Before reading this diary, we recommend you read this popular Money Diary from last year.

Today, we meet a diarist who calls off her situationship and buys a sleeping bag for an upcoming camping trip. She recently dropped her phone and the touchscreen no longer works, so she makes do with a mouse and voice to text — and tracks every "Mouse Mention" in this diary.
Occupation: Hospitality worker/piano teacher/university student
Industry: Hospitality/Music
Age: 23
Location: South East suburbs of Melbourne
Pronouns: She/Her
 I honestly don’t know the exact amount because I work in 3 casual jobs (hospitality, piano teaching and disability work), but I would guesstimate around $40,000 each year.
Net Worth: $58,000. General savings: $5,000, transaction accounts: $4,000, shares: $29,000, emergency fund: $11,000, super: $9,000.
Debt: $33,000 in HECS debt. I put $12,000 in before last year’s indexation, which unfortunately did not do much. I would probably have been better off investing the money, but the 7% indexation of 2023 gave me a lot of anxiety.  
Paycheque Amount (Weekly): $3000 – 3500 in total from all my jobs. My paycheque varies from weekly to fortnightly to monthly depending on the job but I have an income and expenses sheet that keeps it all organised.

Monthly Expenses 

Rent: $1410. I’m still renting on my own, at $325 a week. I am definitely feeling the increased cost of living, along with my salary definitely not growing at the same rate as inflation. I just accept that for as long as I am a student, I will not be saving much. My dad pays for half my rent (without my asking) which is a massive help, and grants me the privilege of working less. This allows me to explore my interests, career and hobby-wise. If I worked more, I definitely wouldn’t have time to do things like volunteering and swimming. It also gives me the time to meet my friends, who are the best part of my life. My dad is happy for me to do all of the above. He thinks I’m too young to handle the responsibilities of an adult (should I be insulted?). He truly wants me to live a young and care-free life, and I'm forever grateful <3.
Electricity: ~$50
Water: ~$5
Google storage: $2.08
Kogan mobile: $16.58
Myki (Public Transport card): ~$50
Disney+: $2.92
Donation: ~$30 to a different charity every month. It’s fun to pick a new cause every month to donate 1% of my income to.
Super: ~$150. 5% of my income goes into super. I claim this off tax and hope to use this for the FHSS, a government scheme for first home buyers.
Emergency account: ~$150, which is 5% of my income.
Stocks: ~$300 goes into my high interest savings account until I’m ready to throw it into the wild, which is 10% of my income.
HECS: ~$150, which is 5% of my income.

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

Yes. I have a Bachelor of Science and a Cert IV in Allied Health Assistance. I took out a HECS loan for the Bachelor's and the TAFE course was free. I'm still studying my graduate diploma in music — I'm hoping to wrap it up this year and move onto a master's next year. It'll all be put on HECS.

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

Growing up, my parents always emphasised the importance of financial stability. I was never taught exactly what to do with money — just to have a well-paying job that would cover everything.

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

My current job (piano teaching) was my first proper job. After finishing school, I started teaching at the suggestion of my piano teacher. I VERY begrudgingly put up an ad on the internet and procured some students, but now I love it. I consider myself very lucky to find an occupation I genuinely enjoy, and I plan on continuing for as long as I can. I started working because I pretty much had zero savings and going out with friends is expensive!

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not really. My parents shielded my sister and me pretty well and most of their conversations would fly over my head. My dad lost his job a few times, but my parents managed these situations pretty well. Growing up, I’d say my family was very middle class. My parents were educated immigrants who came to Australia with their life savings and young children in tow. They did their best to provide for my sister and I with as many opportunities as possible. My sister and I had a private higher education that my parents afforded with scholarships. I was very aware of my status as a scholarship student, versus full-fee students. By attending a private school, I definitely noticed the disparity of wealth between public and private schools. From this experience, I truly learnt the power of money.

Do you worry about money now?

Not really, I feel like I’ve accumulated a good amount of assets and my dad would help me out if I ever needed. My financial expectations have definitely lowered; I just try to find value in things that don’t cost a lot.

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

I’m still not financially responsible for myself. Honestly, I don't think I ever will be. I will probably have lifelong benefits from having parents with money to spare.

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

I receive dividends from my shares, which amounts to a couple of hundred dollars every year.

Day 1

7:30 — Wake up by myself. My morning routine is quite consistent; I have a scroll on TikTok, remove my ortho k lens, drink as much water as possible and remove my retainers. My period is almost over — I wash out my period panties and get a new pair. I have the day off today so I’m having what I call a ‘slow morning’. I reply to all my messages and do a quick yoga routine.

8:30 — After putting the dishes away (I love it when past me has had the forethought to do the dishes the night before), I feed my fish. He’s still alive and kicking, albeit a bit slower. I have some smashed avo and feta on organic dark rye bread. I also finish off a bottle of fancy orange and carrot juice that my uncle gave me. I take my daily fish oil and vitamin D supplement.

9:15 — I go on a quick walk around the block to see the dogs who live around the corner. On my walk, I spot a whole box of encyclopaedias waiting for curbside pick-up. I grab a few books that I'm interested in: transportation, evolutions in science and the computerised society.

10:00 — I head to my parents' house to practice piano and drop off laundry.

12:00 — I take the train into the city since I’m having lunch with some work friends. I get there earlier than expected, so I take a stroll in a nearby park.

13:20 — We get a 90-minute seating for all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. I covertly steal some peanut smarties by filling up an empty ice pole wrapper and securing it with an elastic band from my bag. I was enabled by my friends who kept surveillance. More shenanigans. My friends test how far the Bluetooth connection works on the computer mouse that I use with my phone. I dropped it a few weeks back and the touchscreen no longer works. The solution: using a mouse and voice to text (she’s a 10 but uses a mouse with her phone, anyone?). That’s Mouse Mention #1.

15:15 — Lunch wraps up. My friend and I use cash to get a 5% discount, which kind of cancels out the weekend surcharge (why is this a thing now?). $41.90

16:00 — I take the train back to the suburbs. I'm running late to my situationship’s place, so we decide to meet up halfway between our places at community sport. I take a quick nap before heading over.

17:00 — We watch the semi-final sports match. My deluluship was a regular player who got me into it with his friends, however now he can't participate because he's injured. I’m not playing today because I joined too late in the season. We both show up for team spirit.

18:00 — Our team wins! I literally made no contribution, but I feel like a winner. After the match debrief (where Mouse Mention #2 happens), my Special Friend and I have a talk and we both decide to end things. I initiated the conversation, but things have been heading in this direction for the past few weeks anyway. We say goodbye with a hug — I’m happy we ended on good terms. We’ll be doing 'no contact' for a bit which will be hard but definitely needs to be done. Stay strong!

19:20 — Home. I message my best friend the news, and she calls me immediately (isn’t she the best? <3). No dinner tonight as I’m still full from lunch. I do some reflections, take a shower and spend the rest of the night curled up in bed, reading Son by Lois Lowry.

22:00 — Night routine: disconnecting my mobile data, writing in my diary, stretching, brushing teeth, wash my face with cold water, pop in my ortho-k lens and some more reading. I skip the skincare routine because I’m going swimming in the morning. I don’t check the time because it psychs me out the next day if I know exactly how much sleep I got. I just try listen to my body. But I would say lights out is at about 22:45.

Daily total: $41.90

Day 2

7:20 — Wake up from a rough sleep. I do my morning routine and today, I also journal some of my dreams. I tend to have stress dreams, so this is my way of bringing my subconscious thoughts to the surface.

8:00 — Breakfast is a very sugary bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, guilt free because I gotta load up on carbs before my swim. American cereal is amazing — I have a few boxes of this magical substance stockpiled from when some family was visiting over the summer.

8:30 — Head off to the pool. I take a Panadol before going in because I’m not feeling the best physically or emotionally. I do a light session this time: 1.5km ($7.80). While swimming, I develop the urge to download some ~apps~. I get my free shower with endless hot water. $7.80

10:30 — I head to the market and get some ingredients for Tom Yum fried rice: fried tofu, green beans, a tomato, a lime and some Autumn Crisp grapes. I pay cash to avoid surcharges ($22.65). I stuff my entire grocery bag unceremoniously into my cooler bag and rush to meet up with my best friend. $22.65

11:00 — It’s always a good time for fro-yo. My best friend gives me a ‘congratulations on your break-up’ gift: a cute little avocado plushie. It actually has a hole in it that I’ll have to mend but that just makes it more special. The staff member finds my use of a mouse with my phone hilarious when I go to scan my membership ($15.37). I’m hoping to hold out until EOFY sales for a new phone (that’s Mouse Mention #3 btw). Afterwards, we go on a short walk and run into my best friend’s ex for the first time since they split up. We have a little catch up and I'm happy to say it was all civil and friendly. My best friend was quaking in her boots/thongs, ngl. She comments on my complete lack of social anxiety, proven by my shameless use of The Mouse in public (Mouse Mention #4). We pop into Coles for a few groceries: pretzels, lollies, muesli bars, avocado, and bread. I use my dad’s staff discount for 5% off ($19.19). $34.56

12:45 — Home. I put away my groceries, hang up my swimming stuff to dry, then take a nap.

14:00 — Lunch is a wholegrain sandwich with grated cheese and carrot with mayo. It sounds weird but don’t bag it until you try it. I take an iron supplement along with my usuals. Piano teaching admin, then I go for a walk to visit the dogs and fill them in on my life.

15:00 — I'm at my parents' place for piano practice. I’m learning a few of Liszt’s Consolations — they're absolutely beautiful pieces composed for consoling, as the name would suggest. Sometimes, when I’m playing them, it feels like a musical hug. On another note, my wireless keyboard has arrived from eBay. No more voice to text! It's foldable so I'll be able to carry it around with me. It even comes with a collapsible phone stand. What a win. I also grab a carton of milk from my parents.

16:30 — Teaching. Today, I introduced a new game to one of my students. I’m taking this teaching course on the side for professional development, though I don’t intend on becoming a full-time music teacher. I adapted this game from a learning activity I was assessed on last weekend. It’s early days still, but the course is definitely paying off. Metaphorically, not literally — RIP my $1300. Maybe I’ll get some good karma out of this? My student had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on his face, so it's definitely a success.

17:45 — Back at the parents' to practice a bit more piano and mend my avo plushie.

18:30 — I pick up my friend E from the station, I’m having her over for dinner. E says The Mouse is cute, which definitely balances out all the hate I get for it (Mouse Mention #5). We go to Woolies and grab a salad kit, crackers, a grazing platter kit and some dips. We also get strawberries and raspberries to eat with chocolate fondue — a great way to use up left over chocolate. E wants to pay but I wave her off since I’ll be keeping the leftovers anyways. I tell her she can transfer me back however much she wants; I’m not too fussed ($32.50). Dinner wraps up after 3 hours and I drop E back home. She doesn’t live far from me and this way we get to talk longer. She transfers me $12 for dinner. $20.50

21:45 — Back to mine. I do some Duolingo Spanish. I just hit a 100-day streak! I’m rewarded with 3 extra streak freezes. Me siento bien esta noche. Night routine and lights out at around 22:45.

Daily total: $85.51

Day 3

6:30 — My alarm wakes me up — I have work today. Temperature changes throughout the night woke me up so many times, so I feel super groggy. I’m feeling a bit down this morning and still full from last night’s dinner, so breakfast is a glass of milk. I open a new carton of milk by accident in my sleep-deprived state. I also take a Panadol; I can feel a headache coming on.

8:00 — In the break room, I mix some ice with two shots of espresso coffee and munch on an apple while catching up with some co-workers who are either starting with me or are on their 15-minute break already. At 8:15, I get a call from one of my managers that I was supposed to start at 8:00, but they had failed to inform me that my shift had changed. I had to answer the call using my mouse, which my friends find very funny (Mouse Mention #6).

8:30 — I'm officially clocked on. I’m so not feeling it today.

8:35 — Me: ‘I’m so tired’, Friend who started at 6:30: ‘Oh, what time did you start?’. Me: *checks watch* ‘5 minutes ago.’

10:30 — On my 15-minute break. I have some toast with peanut butter and a watered-down hot chocolate, then take a micro nap.

14:30 — My shift is finished. I definitely felt like I was pushing through the last half of this shift, probably when the Panadol and caffeine wore off. I pop into the office and enquire about the process of filing a co-worker complaint in regard to an incident that occurred a few weeks ago. I’m informed that this cannot be done anonymously. I feel uncomfortable speaking face to face with senior management, so I’ll have to weigh up whether the desired outcome will be worth my discomfort. After that, I swipe into the staff restaurant to get my entitled meal. I get 2 loaded baked potatoes, a chicken patty, a pistachio cupcake, some apple juice and a banana to go. During my shift, I had received an email enquiry for piano lessons. I’ll have to give them a call and see if I can fit another student into my schedule.

15:15 — Swipe out of the staff car park. $6.00

16:00 — Home, nap, shower. I put some rice on to cook.

18:30 — I meet a friend from work, Y, near my place for dinner. Y went overseas during the summer, and got me 5 new pairs of beautiful earrings. I am very blessed to have a friend who knows my taste well and is so considerate. Mouse Mention #7: Y takes some pictures for evidence. I’m thrilled that people can find joy in my suffering. We get dinner at my favourite Chinese restaurant: spring onion pancakes, dried bean curd, BBQ pork bao, fried rice, sweet rice pudding and pork dumplings. We brought our own to-go containers as well — we're so organised! Y pays for dinner (I promise to grab it next time). Y and I ended up chatting for over 30 minutes outside the train station. She wants to get into volunteering and disability work and I’m happy to give her advice on entering the field.

21:30 — Home. Time for my night routine, I skip the reading tonight and sleep around 23:00. I still want to download ~the apps~.
Daily Total: $6.00

Day 4

8:00 — I have a nice sleep in, although I had a few stress dreams about piano teaching and He Who Shall Not Be Named that jolted me awake. I journal these and do my morning routine.

8:45 — I have a cup of milk for breakfast and head out for my walk. When I get back, I do a quick clean of the apartment.

10:00 — Go to the parents' for a last-minute practice before my piano lesson at uni this afternoon.

11:00 — Back to mine for some food: leftovers from dinner last night and crackers with cheese and salami sticks. I finish off the milk because I can tell it’s going to go sour soon. I pack some leftover berries and a muesli bar to go.

11:30 — Out the door to uni. There are a few ways I could get to campus, though I take a longer commute on purpose. It’s nice to feel obligation-free for a bit, and the 20-minute walk to the station is so invigorating on a good weather day like today.

12:00 — Get on a train and call my best friend, snacking on my berries on the way. I arrive early on campus, so I drop into the student audiology clinic. No one’s home so I help myself to some earplugs. I’ve been trying to book an appointment for a few weeks, but the place is either very disorganised or purposely unhelpful. Is it stealing if I’m entitled to HPE as a music student? I’m paying $2.8k per unit as an AFF student, so I don’t feel too guilty.

13:00 – Piano lesson. I don’t play at my best today, but my teacher still makes an effort to give me tips. I emerge mentally exhausted. I’m also just tired from constantly to checking in on myself and making sure I’m doing okay. At least my physical health is good for now. I top up my Myki ($25.00) and I also stop by my optometrist to pick something up on the way home. $25.00

15:30 — Home. I snack on some leftover chocolate, rice crackers and more crackers with cheese and dip.

16:00 — Teaching, 2 Mouse Mentions today (#8-9). Today's lessons flew by so quickly. I’ve been forcing, I mean encouraging my students to sing more to improve their musicianship. They complain that they’re piano students, not vocal students. The sass. It’s funny how most instrumentalists hate singing, even at a young age. I take some joy in making them suffer even if I am too. I swear they’ll thank me when they’re older. You gotta break them down young to build resilience. I joke, I joke.

19:00 — Home. I hop on a Zoom meeting for an information session about the career path I’m interested in. I take down some notes which might help for interviews later in the year. For dinner, I finish off the salad from dinner a few days ago. I need some protein, so I microwave a few frozen dimsims, then munch some grapes for dessert. The rest of the bunch will go off soon, so I chuck them in the freezer.

21:00 — I have a call with a friend who moved out of Melbourne for placement. I fill her in on tea from Day 1 — there’s actually so much. All I’m saying is that I made my departure at a great time.

23:00 — Hang up, night routine and I sleep around 23:30.

Daily total: $25.00

Day 5

7:30 — Wake up and have Cinnamon Toast Crunch for brekky. I drive to my cousin’s place so we can go swimming together. Mouse Mention#10: he doesn’t believe I can make it until EOFY without getting a new phone. WATCH ME.

9:30 — 1.6km session today. I munch on some pretzels and gummies for a last-minute sugar boost before getting into the pool. On my swim ($7.80), I decide that I want to pursue more self-care activities, mainly revolving around my fitness and sightseeing, as opposed to downloading dating apps. I compile a list in my head that I’ll write on one of my fridge whiteboards. I also get my free shower at the pool. Never take adjustable water pressure and temperature for granted. There’s signage indicating a 3-minute limit, but my post-swim showers actually give me life. I’m sure the world understands? $7.80

11:30 – My cousin shouts me a banh mi for lunch, and I get us both bubble tea in return ($16.50). I've reached the end of my bubble tea membership card, so next time I’ll get a free drink! There’s a new community library box in the area so I run over and grab Where the Crawdads Sing, a life advice book, and an ambiguous one called The Other Hand. I love little surprises like these. $16.50

12:30 — Home. Life and piano admin. I get an email regarding a $200 refund from an incident that occurred on a holiday trip I went on 2 months ago. It’s taken so long to get compensated. At this point, it’s not about the money, it’s about principle. When did I become a Karen? Later on, I fry up the Tom Yum fried rice. Also, random purchase, but I order some waist clips online for my jeans. I prefer a looser fit but there’s always a gap around my waist, and this helps fix it. $28.70

15:45 — To the parents' place for piano practice.

17:00 — Teaching, Mouse Mention #11.

19:30 — Dad takes me out for dinner, I’m feeling so spoiled for food today. We go to a Uyghur restaurant. It’s family-owned, and a lot of customers seem like regulars. My dad lets me take the leftovers home. The containers tip over and spill into my boot as I drive home, why me?!

21:00 — Back to mine. Night routine and lights out around 22:30.

Daily total: $53.00

Day 6

6:30 — Up and at ‘em. Last night’s leftovers for brekkie, mixed with some veggies. I pack some Tom Yum fried rice along with some grapes, a muesli bar and some chocolate.

7:30 — Out the door. I volunteer in first aid and signed up for a duty today that runs for the whole day. I leave my car at the station and take the train into the city. I normally work on Fridays, but I gave up work (i.e. money) to attend this event.

8:30 — I check in with the Team Leader and I’m officially on duty. Between patients (which takes up the majority of the time), I get some study done. I munch on some snacks provided by the volunteer organisation. I fill out my balance sheet for next month and I’ll be making $2.5k at best.

14:00 — Lunchtime. The event organisers provided us with food vouchers, and I go to a French raclette (cheese) stall for my meal. Food tastes even better when it’s free! Then the Team Leader gets us all hot jam sugar donuts. I scarf mine down shamefully fast.

17:15 — I get a call from work asking if I want to come in tomorrow morning. Do I want to? No. I say yes anyway. It’ll help for next month at least. I do request that I can finish by early afternoon instead of until closing. Small steps — I'm trying not to channel my inner Gollum this year.

17:30 — Sign-off time. I had some patients of varying severity: a laceration, chest pain and a fall. I get some Daifuku ice cream from a Japanese place nearby, and I pay cash to avoid surcharges ($6.30) before heading to uni to practice some piano. I've booked a room to ensure my spot. Practice rooms are quite competitive at all times of the week, no matter the hour. $6.30

20:00 — I’m still at uni, really making the most of my Student Services & Amenities Fee. I would shower here if I had a towel too; I'm not even joking. I warm up my Tom Yum fried rice using a microwave in the staff lounge. No one’s home so I make myself comfortable. I leave after some self-reflecting/journalling. I was really missing Him (The Situationship) today. I take solace in the fact that I don’t regret my decision and it was definitely for the best. Side note: I’m not even the last one to leave the building tonight. Music students go way too hard.

21:00 — Home. Shower. Night routine. Sleep by 22:00ish.

Daily total: $6.30

Day 7

6:40 — I wake up. More leftovers for breakfast plus a banana.

8:00 — Clock into my shift. I had a double ristretto on ice in the break room beforehand. It tastes even worse than the espresso...ah, the regrets.

12:00 — I go to the staff restaurant on my 15-minute break and scarf down 3 sausage sangas with some chips and carrot cake for dessert. The hot goss is that next pay, we’ll be getting back paid from an award increase, valid from July last year. I’m expecting about an extra $800, so that's good.

14:00 — I’m outta here. I call my best friend right after I clock off to confirm whether she’s coming for dinner, as I hadn’t replied to her last message. I’ve started to become very unresponsive when I get busy, which is a new development. It could also be from having to use a wireless keyboard to type on my phone, but I think it’s important to take space.

14:30 — I tap out of the staff car park, drive home, shower and nap ($6.00). I prepare the apartment for my guests tonight. Another friend invited me to go camping next week, and tells me that I just need to bring my own sleeping bag and that there’s a sale online. Promptly, I get a sleeping bag, a liner and some collapsible lanterns ($143.87). I’ll also have to put some good thinking (and $$) into a gift for her husband’s birthday as well as to show my appreciation for their hospitality. $149.87

18:00 — My friends come over for dinner, and we order Thai food from Uber eats ($18.95). They brought some snacks and I provide fresh grapes, then frozen grapes and lychees for dessert. A lot of laughs (cry laughing too) tonight, mainly about The Mouse, which brings the Mouse Mentions total to 12 this week. My best friend questions me on my sleeping bag purchase for a single occasion (I am not a camping girl) instead of getting a new phone for daily use. She may have a point. After everyone has gone, she stays to keep me company while I clean the apartment. It’s nice to have some one-on-one time with her. I am so grateful to have friends who I can have so much fun with, and I'm feeling very fulfilled tonight. $18.95

22:30 — Night routine and sleep at around 23:45. Good night!
Daily Total: $168.82
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