Money Diaries

A Week In Melbourne CBD, On A $30,000 Income

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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Occupation: Freelance Illustrator and Graphic Designer / Receptionist
Industry: Arts / Medical
Age: 24
Location: Melbourne, CBD
My Salary: I don't have a salary, but I would estimate around $30,000 a year.
Net Worth: $27,972 total ($18,528 in savings, $942 in spending, $8,501 in super).
Debt: $25,249 HECS debt, I haven't started to pay any of it back yet.
Paycheque Amount: My hours just got cut in half so now $540 a fortnight from my reception job, and anywhere between $1000—$3000 a month from freelancing.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $977.50 a month with no utility costs. I live in a super cute two-bedroom apartment on the cusp of the CBD and Carlton, sharing with my BFF and housemate, T.
Spotify: $11.99
Phone bill: $45.16
Internet: $35 ($70 split between T. and I)
Binge: $10 (My current streaming service of choice — I'm making my way through the rest of Modern Family)
Shopify: $29 USD
Adobe Photoshop: $171 (I pay annually to save a bit of money)
Savings contribution: It was about $2,000 a month, but will likely go down now that my pay has been cut.

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

I graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Industries in 2018. I'm yet to start paying off my HECS/HELP debt as I don't earn enough.

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

When I was younger, I can't remember having specific conversations about money. However, I knew it was earned with hard work, and what we had always felt like enough, even though it wasn't a lot.

Since a young age, I've been a saver, not a spender. My parents encouraged me to get a part-time job when I was old enough and I started to save a lot of money — more than I have now! My dad specifically encouraged me to be a good saver and helped me set up my first bank account and super. Even now, he still asks how much I have in my savings account — he shook his head when it dipped below $5k last year.

My parents really wanted to see me go to university and get a proper full-time job. Even now, although I know they're proud of me, I can tell I stress them out when I say I want to continue working freelance and juggling other jobs.

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

I started my first job when I was 15, washing dishes every Saturday at a fancy grocer and deli. I remember feeling very grown-up when I stamped my time card at the end of each shift. I wanted a job so I could start saving to go to Paris as part of a school trip for my French classes. I saved enough for the trip and plenty more, and before I left, my parents surprised me and almost doubled my earnings as a gift.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I don't remember ever feeling worried about money. We always had plenty of food in the fridge, got to go on nice holidays and I never felt as though I missed out on anything.

Do you worry about money now?

I definitely worry a lot more about money now than I did in the past. Trying to 'make it' as an artist has meant that I've had some breaks between hospo jobs, and when my savings start to dwindle, I go running back to the first cafe job I can get. When I first moved to Melbourne, I spent four months trying to find a full-time job and my savings dropped from $12k to $4k. 

However, I know I'm a hard worker and a good saver, so I don't stress too much. My biggest worries are when I look to the future and panic because I don't have enough in my super, or that I should be investing my savings. I'm definitely not as financially savvy as I'd like to be.

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

I moved out of my parents at 18 and into a 16-person share house with $24,000 in savings. I was SO frugal when I first moved out and was terrified I would lose it all. I remember only buying home brand items from Coles, and banning myself from buying even simple things like Vegemite or cheese because I thought it was too expensive. At this time, my parents continued to pay my phone bill and for my public transport, but other than that I was entirely financially independent and have been since.

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


Day One

7:33am — Normally I wake up to an alarm, but my sister, S., is visiting. We had a big weekend, so I let myself have a small sleep in. I get up just as S. is getting ready to leave to get a coffee. I don’t drink coffee, so I stay at home.
7:50am — Breakfast is the same as every morning: two pieces of toast — one with butter, and one with Vegemite. S. comes back while I’m eating. 
8:15am — I have a busy morning today, so immediately after cleaning up breakfast I go to the bathroom and do my skincare and makeup. I’ve been using the Good Molecules Niacinamide Toner and Daily Brightening Serum in the mornings.
9:00am — After getting dressed and putting on some washing, I get started on my main job for the morning. I sell T-shirts as a little side hustle and they’re going to be stocked in a pop-up store over Christmas. This morning, I need to sort out the stock, iron, tag and price all the tees before I drop them off. This takes me about an hour, but I have to wait for my washing to finish before I leave the house.
11:10am — S. and I jump on the tram ($4.50) and travel up to Brunswick where I drop off my T-shirts and a couple of prints. $4.50
11:30am — Normally in the week I try to work from 9-to-5 on my freelance work, but since S. is here, we catch the tram home and walk across to Fitzroy so she can look in some shops. 
11:50am — We pop into the fancy Coles to get something to eat since S. skipped breakfast. I grab some chicken rice paper rolls ($8.50) and some choc honeycomb treats I think my Dad will like ($5.16). S. gets sushi, a pear, and an iced coffee. $13.66
3:00pm — We have no luck at the shops, but it’s such a nice day so we walk the 2km's back home. S. wants to get Guzman y Gomez before she has to leave because they don’t have it where she lives. We rest and scroll on our phones for a little before we get up to leave again.
3:40pm — I’m not super hungry, but I’m stuck between wanting to have one last yummy meal while S. is still here, or waiting until dinner and cooking something then. I cave to the idea of a cheap takeaway meal and decide to stick with early dinner. We walk to Grill’d where I use a $5 discount voucher to order a Simply Grill’d Impossible burger and add cheese ($6.50). My burger arrives, so we get up and walk across the road to GYG so S. can grab her food. While she orders, I walk down to McDonald’s and grab a large chips for $2 since they have a deal running ($2.00). $8.50
4:21pm — After sitting in the sun eating our very early dinner, S. and I decide to go have a look in the State Library since neither of us has ever been inside. We spend half an hour having a look around, and we even see Ned Kelly’s armour. 
5:15pm — We get home and I collapse onto the couch prepared to scroll my phone for the next hour. S. packs up her bags and says goodbye. 
7:00pm — After showering and doing my nighttime skincare, I jump into bed ready to watch some TV. My friend is letting me use his Amazon Prime account because he wants me to watch a new show called The Wheel of Time. 
9:30pm — I watch two episodes. I enjoy it, although the magic and monsters are a little bit cringe. I’m tired after another big day so I scroll my phone a little then go straight to sleep. 
Daily Total: $26.66

Day Two

7:00am — During lockdown, I got into a good habit of waking up at 6:30am and going for a run or walk almost every morning. The last couple of weeks, I’ve fallen off the wagon, so I lay in bed for another half an hour before I even get up. I'll try again tomorrow. 
7:30am — On Tuesdays and Fridays, I go to my casual job as a receptionist at a doctor’s clinic. I normally like to wake up a little before I get ready for the day, but today I decide to go straight to the bathroom to do my skincare and makeup. Since I have to wear a mask all day at work, I do minimal makeup. A layer of tinted zinc as my base, a bit of blush, subtle eyeliner and mascara.
7:50am — I sit down for breakfast which is two pieces of toast, just like yesterday. I don’t like to rush in the mornings so I sit at the table for at least half an hour finishing my breakfast and scrolling Instagram.
9:00am — Time to leave for work. I walk the six minutes to the tram stop and jump on at 9:12am ($4.50). I brought my copy of The Secret History to read, but I only get through about 15 pages. $4.50
9:45am — I arrive at work and go out the back to get changed into my scrubs. Work has been really quiet as no one needs to make vaccination bookings anymore. I think we only have 10 Pfizer appointments today.
3:00pm — Work wasn’t too bad. The phones were quite busy and I spent the rest of my time rearranging this year’s remaining Pfizer bookings. I walk to the train station and it’s surprisingly warm outside. It's especially nice as Melbourne weather hasn’t been the best recently. 
3:45pm — I get my two trains home ($4.50) and pop into a Woolworths Metro. They don’t have what I want, so I just grab some fresh bread ($3.80) and chocolate ($0.80) for my sweet tooth. I’ll go grocery shopping tomorrow. $9.10
8:00pm — I spend the afternoon starting and finishing a digital drawing on my iPad, partly so I feel like I accomplished something today, and partly so I have something to post on Instagram. I have an ulcer on my tongue (ew!) that is making it really hard to eat, so I try not to upset it and make plain rice with chicken and veggies for dinner. 
9:30pm — I watch one more episode of The Wheel of Time and clean up my dishes from dinner. I have a shower and do my nighttime skincare. Tonight it’s the Good Molecules Overnight Exfoliating Treatment, along with their Discolouration Correcting Serum and Daily Brightening Serum.
10:30pm — I scroll on my phone for a little, then plug my phone into the powerpoint on the other side of the room and set an alarm for 7am. I’m determined to go for a run tomorrow morning so I’ll need to be forced out of bed. 
Daily Total: $13.60

Day Three

7:00am — It worked! I’m up and out of bed, so I get dressed and stretch before I go for a run. 
7:50am — I’m not super fit, so after running a lap and a half of the gardens near my house, I walk the rest of the way home. I cool down and jump in the shower, do my skincare and a little makeup.
8:30am — Breakfast is the same as the past two days, today with nice fresh bread from yesterday. 
9:00am — I planned to do some work at the library today after feeling inspired by my visit on Monday, but I check online and they don’t open until 10am. It’s a nice day, so I decide to wash my sheets. Now that I have an extra hour, I write my grocery list and head out to Woolworths, chatting to my mum on the phone on the way. While I’m there, I buy potatoes, a capsicum, kiwifruit, strawberries, 400g of almonds, butter, vermicelli noodles, butter chicken paste, pappadums, chicken drumsticks, pork loin chops, bacon, frozen strawberries and ice cream — $57.43.
10:00am — I get home and unpack my groceries, hang out my sheets (a tricky job in a small apartment) and pack my bag to head to the library. I make myself a smoothie with mango and pineapple, and then sadly remember I’m not allowed to bring it inside the library. 
1:50pm — I spend three hours at the library, answering emails, and completing two prints for a commission. When I start feeling hungry, I head home for lunch. I’m feeling happy with how much work I got done while there. For lunch, I make myself an açai bowl and top it with my favourite Hubbard’s Cocoa and Coconut granola, the fruit I bought at the shop, and lots of peanut butter. 
6:30pm — The rest of my afternoon flies by. I finish some more work but it feels like my to-do list for tomorrow has only grown bigger. I’ve spent the last hour trying to sort out some Christmas presents for my family, but I've only succeeded in purchasing one gift for my sister ($37.75). I admit defeat and go shower before I cook dinner. $37.75
7:00pm — Dinner tonight is easy — roast chicken with roast potatoes and broccoli. I don’t love cooking and I’m not a super adventurous eater so I keep things pretty simple. I do some more work while I wait for my dinner to cook. When it’s ready, I eat in bed and watch three episodes of Modern Family.
11:00pm — I get ready for bed, with the addition of The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% and The Ordinary ‘B’ Oil in my skincare routine. I have heaps to do tomorrow so I try to go straight to sleep. 
Daily Total: $95.18

Day Four

7:00am — I wake up and my routine is the same as yesterday. I manage to fluff around for half an hour before I head out the door for a run.
8:05am — I come home feeling good after running further than yesterday. Have a quick shower, do my skincare and sit down for breakfast — toast, obviously. 
9:09am — I clean up after breakfast, brush my teeth and get dressed in some trackies. It’s cold and rainy today and I don’t plan on leaving the house until later. I have a lot to do today, so I sit down at the dining table, whip out my diary, and get started.
1:05pm — I’ve completed two commission drafts, some emails and sorted out some issues with my website. I finished off the rest of my smoothie that I made yesterday so I'm not too hungry for lunch — I'll probably just have an early dinner. I grab a packet of honey soy chicken chips my sister left here, and continue my work. 
3:35pm — While working, my sister and I have been discussing Christmas present options for my parents. We were trying to get an Airbnb booking, but couldn’t find anything nice in our budget. Instead, we settle on some nice restaurant vouchers, and I transfer her half of the cost ($125). I finish my afternoon by taking a Depop order to the post box ($9.30), and on my way back, I pop into the IGA to grab an onion and cream for dinner ($4.51). $138.81
5:00pm — I’m a lazy cook most of the time, so tonight I’m trying a new butter chicken curry paste from Passage To India for dinner. Every curry sauce I’ve tried from a jar or packet before hasn’t been worth buying again, but I’m always hopeful I’ll find a good one. 
5:50pm — Dinner is served and it’s actually really yummy. I sit on the couch and watch an episode of Modern Family. I’m texting two of my friends and we decide we want pancakes for dessert as we can get 30% off the bill with Melbourne Money. When I finish my dinner, I go put a little makeup on and get dressed.
7:06pm — I leave home and walk 10 minutes to Pancake Parlour. The prices are ridiculous, so I’m glad we’re getting a discount. I order a mini serve of the choc chip pancakes with fudge and ice cream ($11.13). I love having friends that are equally as passionate about dessert as I am. $11.13
8:25pm — I get home and jump in the shower. I know I already showered this morning after my run, but I don’t like getting into bed if I don’t feel clean. 
9:10pm — I get into my pyjamas and sit in bed with my computer. I look over my volunteer shifts for the pop-up store, and send an email to rearrange some times. I’m pretty tired, but I choose to watch one more episode of Modern Family instead of reading my book. 
Daily Total: $149.94

Day Five

7:10am — I wake up and turn off my second alarm of the morning. I don’t tend to exercise on the mornings I have work, so I lay in bed for another 20 minutes before I get up.
8:10am — After getting up, I do my makeup first thing again. I sit and scroll my phone with my toast for halfa, before I get dressed and heading out the door. 
9:12am — I hop on the tram ($4.50) and read some more of my book. The Secret History is one of my favourite books, so I’m re-reading it to try to get back into the habit of reading. $4.50
9:50am — Change into my scrubs, ready for another 5-hour shift. I’m hoping it’s not too boring, but when I sit down, I realise all the Pfizer appointments have been scheduled after 3pm, so it’s not looking good.
12:30pm — Things have been pretty slow but I’m managing to find jobs to keep me busy. My friend A. just texted me to say her boss tested positive to Covid. She’s only a casual contact so she doesn’t need a test, but I book her in for a rapid test anyway. Perfect for me, because if she’s negative, she’ll give me a lift home. 
3:00pm — I text A. to let her know that her test came back negative, so I get changed out of my scrubs and walk to her car. We take a few wrong turns on the way home but it still works out quicker than the train. 
4:30pm — I’ve been feeling a bit shit about how much money I’ve spent recently, but coming out of such a long lockdown, it’s hard not to get excited and say yes to everything. At least I’ve finished all my Christmas shopping now. I’ve recently been experimenting a lot more with my digital graphic design, and I’ve been wanting to buy some brush and texture packs for Photoshop. A brand I’ve been following for a while is having a massive 50% off Black Friday sale, so I treat myself to two brush sets ($30), and three texture packs ($47), knowing it won’t be this cheap again. I know it was a bit of an unnecessary purchase, but I’m so excited to use them. $77.00
5:20pm — I’m heading over to a friend’s house tonight for dinner and to watch the finale of Rupaul's Drag Race UK. I freshen up a bit and get changed, then walk to their house. On the way, I pop into IGA and buy two oranges for some cocktails that my friends want to make — $2.31.
7:15pm — My housemate joins us, and A. comes over with her partner too. We sit down for an amazing lamb ragu that my friend insists we don’t transfer him any money for. We play a game of Monopoly Deal, then spend the rest of the night watching music videos. 
11:40pm — I walk the block home and get straight into bed. I’m pretty tired, and I’m going to make breakfast for my friends in the morning before we head into the city.
Daily Total: $83.81

Day Six

9:00am — I wake up to my alarm and roll around in bed for about 15 minutes before I get up. My two friends had planned to come over around 10:00am, so I get straight in the shower and get ready for the day.
9:45am — I’m going out for a birthday later, so I just put a light layer of makeup on. I love the Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint, as well as their blush and bronzer sticks. It’s above 20 degrees today, so that means I can get away with wearing a baggy tee and some shorts in matching shades of green.
10:45am — My friends are running late, so I do some light cleaning before I get started on breakfast. I chop up some strawberries and kiwifruit and wait until I hear that they’re on their way.
11:00am — I head downstairs to collect my friends and bring them up to my level. I chuck two packets of frozen açai and a handful of frozen strawberries in the blender, and top it up with some apple juice.
11:35am — Our agenda today is to head into the city so we can buy some costumes. The birthday we are going to tonight is Cowboys and Aliens themed, so we want to buy some cowboy hats for an easy costume. I already have some cowboy boots to help tie my look together.
12:05pm — We get to the dollar store, but after having a look around we leave empty-handed. We all feel bad about buying something that’s only going to go in the bin after tonight, so we’re going to see what we can come up with at home. Since we’re already in the city, we decide to go buy a present for tonight. We’re going to go in all together so we can get something nice.
1:30pm — We spend a while looking around Myer and David Jones trying to find a nice homeware, candle or coffee table book. We settle on a pink warped vase and some room spray from Country Road and add a packet of nice chocolate nut brittle with candied flowers. My friend pays, so I send him my share ($27.95). We’re sick of shopping, so decide to get lunch, then head home. $27.95
2:12pm — It’s so busy and it’s hard to get a seat anywhere. We see McDonald’s is doing a double cheeseburger meal for $5, so we decide to just eat in the food court before walking home. $5.00
2:50pm — Since it’s a nice day and I have no plans till later, I decide to go for a swim in my building’s pool. I stick my head out to check no one is there already before walking in. I spend 15mins paddling and floating around, then dry off and jump in the sauna for a bit.
5:50pm — I spend an hour or so doing my makeup — I go for a graphic black and blue eye to match my black and denim outfit. My friends are struggling to piece their outfits together, so I spend a little bit of time helping them out via text while I finish getting ready, before heading over to their house. 
6:21pm — We have a mojito and relax on their balcony for a little while before we leave for the bar. 
7:15pm — We walk the 2km into Fitzroy and meet the birthday boy and friends at a bar where they’ve made a booking. Everyone looks so cute in their outfits. I order myself one glass of Prosecco ($11) and a margarita pizza ($5) for dinner. $16.00
8:26pm — We continue to chat and drink over dinner for two hours. In that time, I order myself a vodka pineapple ($11.40) and a rum and coke ($12.00) for the birthday boy. We dance for a little while and my friend orders me another vodka pineapple which he pays for. $23.40
9:40pm — We walk to a queer club around the corner, in time for the drag show at 10pm. I’m feeling anxious about spending too much money, so I don’t buy any more drinks for the rest of the night.
11:37pm — I walk home with the friends I came with, take my makeup off and go straight to bed. I’m feeling good knowing I won’t be hungover tomorrow. 
Daily Total: $72.35

Day Seven

10:15am — I wake up around 8:30am, but manage to doze and lay in bed until 10am. My friends text to say they’re going to walk around to the birthday boy’s house to drop off his present in a couple of hours, so I let them know I’ll come too. 
11:05am — I pop downstairs to the IGA and buy some eggs and milk ($6.89) because we've run out. I have bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast before I walk to my friend’s house. $6.89
12:00pm — I leave home, collect my friends and we walk north to drop off the present. We only pop in for 10mins before we leave again. It’s such a nice day, so we decide to keep walking north and around Princes Park. I didn’t think to put sunscreen on my shoulders, and I’m beginning to regret it. 
1:10pm — I text A. to see what she’s doing since we’re in her area, and she asks if we want to go sit in the sun somewhere and get a drink. We’re heading to a French patisserie to get some croissants, so I grab her one too ($7.83), and we walk to her house. $7.83
2:15pm — We walk back in the direction of my house and sit out on the street at a nice Italian place. The weather is perfect, we all enjoy one drink ($11) before we all split and walk home. $11.00
5:45pm — I can’t be bothered cooking dinner so I have a packet of chicken two-minute noodles. I spend the rest of the night watching Modern Family and sketching with my new brush sets. I’m still feeling a bit anxious about how much money I spent the past week, but I just promise myself I’ll be a bit more careful next week, as it’s always hard this time of year. 
Daily Total: $25.78
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