Money Diaries

A Week In Preston, Melbourne, As A Junior Lawyer On $69,900

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Today: a junior lawyer who makes $69,900 a year and spends some of her money this week on a $1,500 custom suit for her legal admission ceremony.
Occupation: Junior Lawyer
Industry: Legal
Age: 24
Location: Preston, Melbourne
Salary: $69,900
Net Worth: $13,000 ($7,000 in savings, $22,000 worth of various Australian shares, $4,000 in a separate bank account ready to be invested in shares, $7,000 in a managed investment trust which invests in the health sector, and $30,000 in my super account ($7,000 of which I plan to withdraw when I buy my first house as part of the First Home Super Saver Scheme)).
Debt: $57,000 in HECS debt. I also have two credit cards that normally average about $2,000 a month in spending, but I pay them off in full every month.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $1,929
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $815 (my share). I live in a two-bed, two-bath apartment in Preston with my boyfriend. Despite being a little small, the apartment is relatively new, has city views and gets the afternoon sun and best sunsets, so I feel very lucky to live here for a relative steal.
Bills: $90 for my half share of electricity and gas (hot water).
Internet: $45 for my share of unlimited high-speed home internet.
Phone: $13.25 — the monthly fraction of the $159 annual charge I pay for a 365-day mobile and data pack from Aldi mobile.
Netflix & Streaming: $16.99 for Netflix. I share my Netflix password with my boyfriend’s family, who in turn share their Binge details with us, which I have further shared with a friend in return for his Amazon+ login, while my boyfriend pays for Disney+. It's a password-sharing merry-go-round!
ClassPass: $80 on average for on-demand, flexible reformer Pilates classes, which I religiously attend twice a week.
Petrol: $60 — our old Corolla has great fuel economy!
Car: Approx $100, covering basic third-party insurance, rego and twice-yearly servicing.
Salary Sacrifice: $1,000 of my pre-tax salary is salary sacrificed each month and goes straight into my super to help me save for my first home. I can take out these savings in a lump sum once I'm ready to buy, thanks to the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS). I try to save an extra $500 to $600 per month in my personal savings account, but most months, this goes neglected in favour of paying off my credit cards. Sacrificing my savings before they even hit my account is the only way I can ensure I won't dip into (read: destroy) my savings!
Medication: $100. I have a bunch of health issues so Chemist Warehouse is my best friend.
Therapy: $300 after Medicare rebates. Expensive, but worth it to stay sane!

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

Yes — I finished a double degree in Law and Arts in 2021. My study (and an overseas exchange!) was funded by the HECS scheme, which I am slowly paying back now that I earn more than the minimum repayment threshold.

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

I was lucky to grow up solidly middle class, despite my parents coming from working class and immigrant backgrounds. My parents were both government workers, and my dad brought our family into relative wealth through share trading on the stock market. My parents did their best to instil 'value for money' in me while making sure I never wanted any necessities. This meant being strongly encouraged to save half of my birthday money and pocket money, which would then be invested into the stock market on my behalf. This never amounted to more than a few thousand until I started contributing my own income from part-time jobs through uni, which brought my share trading balance to the $20,000 it is today. I am immensely privileged in having been taught financial literacy from a young age.

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

I got my first job as a waitress at a local dessert cafe and bar at the age of 18, right after I graduated high school. I got the job to finally get some work experience on my resume and to earn money to pay for things that my parents would never give me money for — fast food, booze, festivals and travel.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, but mostly in a very spoilt, self-centred teenager sort of way. I couldn't afford and wasn't allowed to buy all the nice things my private school peers could (I was on a scholarship), so I had to budget to go to the movies or get Maccas after school.
During the 2008 financial crisis, my parents got very close to losing our house and a bulk of their stock market investments. However, my parents did their best to shield me from this financial stress — I only noticed it in my dad's depression and unchecked anger and my mum's frantic stress. I was only told what really happened once I was an adult many years later.

Do you worry about money now?

All the time — probably because I salary sacrifice so much of my income into my super for the faraway goal of buying a home. I feel like I live paycheque to paycheque even though I really don't, especially when you consider my savings and assets. With the cost of living crisis, it feels impossible for me to save any money in addition to the $1,000 a month that automatically goes into my super — and $12,000 a year isn't going to get me a house deposit in Melbourne anytime soon! It is unfathomable to me that I am a lawyer and my salary is less than a duty manager at Woolies or a shift manager at Maccas — and I have almost $60,000 in student debt to make the bargain even worse.

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

I first moved out of home without financial assistance at the age of 22, and have been financially responsible for myself ever since. I certainly have a financial safety net, though. I can always move back in with my parents if things get really tough.

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

I received between $5 and $50 a week in pocket money from my parents as I grew up. My parents also gave me about $5,000 to assist me with living costs while I went on a six-month study exchange in Europe, but this was a once-off.

Day 1

10:00am — It's Sunday morning. I wake up and make myself instant coffee at home while I start on my chores for the day. I know it’s a sin to drink instant coffee in inner Melbourne, but I’m too lazy and cheap to drink anything but Nescafe 43 at home. As I check my emails, I see that I have just been sent the invoice for a made-to-measure suit I had made to wear for my admission as a lawyer this week. I have been wanting a standout suit for work for years, but haven't been able to find a good women's suit with all the necessary pieces, so I decided to have a jacket, pants and skirt made. The suit is expensive, costing almost $1,500 all up, but for a made-to-measure suit ethically made in Australia, it's worth it to me. Plus, it’s a one-off (for this decade, at least). I transfer the suit maker, Isadora Nim, the remaining 50% balance for the suit — $742.50.
1:00pm — I have a homemade protein smoothie and a cheesymite scroll for lunch (from groceries I already had at home) while I get some chores and life admin done to set myself up for the busy work week ahead. I’m terrible at just relaxing when I have downtime — I always manage to find something to fill my time with, whether that’s washing or mindlessly scrolling on Instagram Reels (I refuse to download TikTok because I know it would take up even more of my time).
5:00pm — Some friends of mine are having people over tonight for a casual catch-up over a movie at their place. To avoid ordering expensive takeaway food, I have some leftovers as an early pre-dinner from home. The leftovers are a delicious vegan duck egg noodle dish that my boyfriend made for dinner last night, which I scoff down, even though I’m not particularly hungry yet. I take the train to my friend's place ($2.30), bringing over some snacks and a drink (a packet of chips and a beer that I bought last week). We put on a movie and I catch up with everyone there. My boyfriend is so kind and picks me up from my friend's place. $2.30
11:00pm — After only having one or two drinks at my friend’s place, I am knackered from a busy week. I sleepily manage to brush my teeth and moisturise my face before passing out for the night. 
Daily Total: $744.80

Day 2

9:00am — I am working from home today, so I roll out of bed and into the study to begin my day. I work at a small law firm, so usually, I'll start the day catching up on some emails before getting stuck into some legal advice drafting. I grab another cheesymite scroll from the kitchen for breakfast.
11:00am — I call my boss to catch her up on my workload and let her know what I’m up to. She lets me know that there’s a new matter that has popped up — as I work in litigation, she tells me that my involvement isn’t yet needed as the matter hasn’t yet become litigious, but is rather in the early stages of a potential dispute. I take notes on the information she gives me and file it away so that I can refresh my memory when or if the matter does become litigious and requires me to draft any court documents. After the call, I continue on with the legal advice that I am drafting, which will probably take me a couple of days to complete. Then I make a quick salad for lunch (again, from groceries I already have at home).
1:00pm — During my lunch break, I pop into my local shopping centre, Northland, to get my eyebrows threaded ($8). For a milestone event like my legal admission that's coming up tomorrow, I would have liked to also get my eyelashes and nails done, but I’ve been short on time lately and feel like I need to be frugal after dropping so much money on my suit yesterday. Then I head back home to work. $8
5:30pm — I clock off and attend a reformer Pilates class with a friend which I have booked with my monthly ClassPass credits through the app. After, we grab dinner at a nearby pub. I have a vegan seitan halal snack pack and a pot of beer ($25). Being vegetarian, I haven’t had an HSP in years, and it’s delicious! $25
8:30pm — After exercising and socialising over dinner, all I want to do when I’m home is head to bed, but I have my admission as an Australian lawyer tomorrow morning to look forward to. I try on my suit with every pair of shoes I own before settling on some beige ankle boots. The hem of my pants keeps getting accidentally tucked into the top of the ankle boot, which is really annoying, but I don’t seem to have a better pair of shoes to go with them! I tell myself that it’s no big deal and try to get my beauty sleep before tomorrow, but I’m so excited that I can’t actually fall asleep until around 11pm. Luckily, I can sleep in a little tomorrow! 
Daily Total: $33

Day 3

8:00am — Today is my long-awaited admission as an Australian lawyer! I took the day off from work so I don't have to feel guilty about not getting enough work done amidst the celebrations. I get ready to meet my colleague from work who is 'moving' my admission before the Court — basically, as a lawyer she has to vouch for me to become a lawyer in order for the Court to grant my admission. I take my time getting ready, including putting on my brand-new suit for the occasion and doing my hair and makeup. 
10:00am — I train to the city ($2.30) and arrive at the office to see that my colleague has bought me a lovely admission present of some bottled cocktails. I thank her profusely and we walk down to the Supreme Court in Melbourne CBD, where we meet my parents who will be watching the ceremony as my guests. $2.30
12:00pm — I'm now a real lawyer! The admission ceremony was a great milestone — I also ran into some old acquaintances from law school who were also getting admitted as lawyers in the same ceremony as me. After the admission ceremony, my parents, colleague and I make our way to a local Chinese restaurant for a celebratory lunch, joined by my boyfriend and another one of my work mentors. I go to town on dumplings, wontons, dry shallot noodles and mushroom truffle fried rice. Everything is delicious! As always, my mother sneakily pays the bill before anyone has finished eating — no prizes for guessing her nationality. Mum also wants to get dessert at a fancy Japanese fusion cafe nearby. I order a sweet potato latte and try a bit of her matcha lava cake. I'm far too full to order anything myself! Again, Mum pays. I'm so grateful that I can always count on not spending anything when I'm with my family.
2:00pm — I take the train home ($2.30) with my boyfriend and we drink the bottled cocktails that my colleague gifted me to celebrate. Since I have the afternoon off work, I veg around the house all afternoon, doing some chores and life admin while listening to an episode of my favourite podcast at the moment — Behind the Bastards. $2.30
9:00pm — My boyfriend and I aren’t particularly hungry after our big lunch today, so I make some simple veggie noodles for dinner with some leftovers we had in the fridge. We watch some Peaky Blinders on Netflix in bed together before going to sleep.
Daily Total: $4.60

Day 4

7:00am — Now that I’m admitted as a fully-fledged lawyer, it’s back to the real world. I get ready for work and take the train into the office ($2.30). There is plenty of work to be done and I have a busy morning drafting legal documents. I am surprised by a huge bouquet of flowers arriving at the office for me — a gift from my boss at work, who wasn’t able to make it to my legal admission yesterday. I send her a text and thank her for the gorgeous flowers. $2.30
12:00pm — On my lunch break, I grab a wrap from Schnitz ($13). I also place an online order for a few baked goodies, including my favourite poppy seed and onion bagels from Northside Challah, an inner-north bagel delivery service. I also get some pita and mushroom bourekas, and order a few bagels for a friend so that we can split the delivery fee. My portion of the order ends up being $20. $33
6:00pm — I meet a friend for dinner at a local tapas place, and we catch up over some delicious tapas and wine. We get a bunch of vegetarian dishes to share and have a good vent about our respective workplace dramas — she has been really burning the candle at both ends between her job being understaffed and her own side-gig businesses being busy as well. The tapas dishes are so incredible but also so filling. We can hardly finish what we ordered, but the split pea dip with cheese curd and lashings of olive oil is to die for! I pay $40 for dinner, then catch the train home ($2.30). $42.30
9:00pm — I get home from dinner, catch my boyfriend up on my friend’s life updates and start winding down for bed. I brush my teeth and do my skincare routine, which involves a hydration serum, cream and oil to combat my chronically dry skin. Then I go to bed with a very full and happy stomach.
Daily Total: $77.60

Day 5

8:00am — I am working from home again today, so I wake up at 8am and drink an instant Nescafe 43 while I check my emails and tick off some work tasks. I finish the advice I have drafted and send it to my boss. She asks me to draft up some bullet points for a remote hearing we have for a client tomorrow. The bullet points will be the key parts of our client’s argument, which my boss will be presenting and speaking to tomorrow. I get started on them and when I start to feel sluggish, I quickly pop off to have a cheeky mid-morning shower. That’s what working from home is for!
12:00pm — On my lunch break, I have a therapy session with my psychologist. She isn't cheap, but she's brilliant. I love how she challenges me and has a perspective on things that is totally different to mine. A session costs a whopping $230, but because I have a mental health care plan, I will get $89 back from Medicare. $141
12:30pm — While I'm in counselling, my boyfriend kindly gets out of the apartment (so that I don't get anxious about him hearing me) and does a bit of grocery shopping at the Preston market and ALDI. Between produce, wine, kombucha, bread, cheese, oat milk, and some squeezy tubes of garlic and ginger which we have just run out of, he spends $60. I make myself a burrito bowl for lunch, making sure to make an extra serving so that I can bring my lunch to work tomorrow. $60
5:30pm — I go to an after-work reformer Pilates session, again, paid for with prepaid ClassPass credits. Because I’m chronically avoidant, the only way to force myself to exercise consistently is to book classes that I can’t skip without being financially punished with a late cancellation fee. I am so glad that I’ve finally found a form of exercise that forces me to hold myself accountable to my plans. After a stressful and emotionally taxing day, the class helps me take my mind off of things, and I feel so much better afterwards.
6:30pm — For dinner, I make cheese fondue with the things that my boyfriend bought today, served with bread, potatoes, and the rest of the bottle of wine. It's incredible, and feels so fancy despite being a relatively affordable meal!
10:00pm — I take another quick shower to be fresh for the office tomorrow and go to bed. I can only handle doing one 'big thing' (like making dinner or seeing a friend) after work before I just want to veg out, which is why I don’t often watch any TV or movies during the week. It just feels like another commitment or chore that I don’t have time for!
Daily Total: $201

Day 6

9:00am — Back to the office this morning. I take the train to work ($2.30) and immediately go into a remote hearing where my manager and I are representing the applicant as our client. I take notes of everything that is said and done. $2.30
10:30am — Our client wants a coffee, so I run down to get her one with my boss' credit card in hand. I also buy one for myself and my colleagues for good measure — thank you, business credit card!
1:00pm — I packed my lunch today — a burrito bowl — so I scoff it quickly while the hearing is on break. Then it’s straight back to the hearing. Luckily, I don’t have to do much more than listen and take notes, since my boss is the one in charge of the legal strategy for the client.
6:00pm — After work, I meet some friends at a nearby bar. One of my former housemates that I lived with while on exchange in Europe is in Melbourne (all the way from her hometown in California!). I'm also joined by two of my other former housemates down from Sydney. We have a few drinks and then go to a Greek restaurant for dinner afterwards, before buying some more drinks from a local bottleshop and drinking them at the Airbnb my friends have rented for the weekend. $60 for drinks and dinner. $60
11:00pm — I leave my friend’s Airbnb and take the train home ($2.30). I really didn’t want to spend as much money tonight as I did after blowing so much this week, but my friends are only here for the weekend, so I feel like I have to show them a good time in Melbourne and be a good host, so to speak. $2.30
Daily Total: $64.60

Day 7

9:30am — I wake up far earlier than I would like to after a night out drinking for a reformer Pilates class that I had booked with my ClassPass credits. I looked into cancelling it last night, but I had already missed the 12-hour free cancellation window. Since I’m not going to pay a $15 cancellation fee for nothing, I rock up to the class (a few minutes late) and by the end of it, I am so glad I went. I feel so much better after some exercise.
12:00pm — My boyfriend was home to receive our bagel delivery from Northside Challah yesterday, so we have onion and poppyseed bagels for brunch, with avo, dill-yoghurt sauce, tomato, red onion and cheese.
3:00pm — My boyfriend, friends and I have tickets booked for a punk rock festival today. We share an Uber to the festival and while we are there, I buy a few drinks and a sliced potato stick. $50
10:00pm — After the festival, we kick on to a few bars in the CBD. I insist on taking the tram to save money since the Uber situation is pretty grim after a festival. We meet up with some other friends, including my friends who are in Melbourne just for the weekend. I am feeling pretty tired after a long day and wouldn’t kick on if it wasn’t for them, but again, I am pretty conscious of showing them a good time, so I introduce them to my other friends and keep on drinking. $40 for drinks. $40
12:00am — We head to Yah Yah’s, a club in the inner north. It can be a pretty grim place, but with enough drinks and good company, it’s a great time. We have heaps of fun dancing the night away before I finally take the tram home at around 2am. Between venue entry, more drinks and the tram home, I spend another $60.
Daily Total: $150
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour. You should always obtain your own independent advice before making any financial decisions.
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