money diaries

A Week In Sydney’s Inner West, NSW, As A Lawyer On $200,000

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, we meet a lawyer living in Sydney's inner west who works long hours, often exercising after 10pm and going to bed after midnight. This week when she's not on the clock, she spends over $300 on new activewear, visits the Art Gallery of NSW and enjoys a cute date night at a local Italian restaurant.
Occupation: Lawyer
Industry: Legal
Age: 33
Location: Inner West, Sydney, NSW
Pronouns: She/Her
Salary: $200,000
Net Worth: Approximately $800,000 - this includes savings, share portfolio and portion of apartment already paid off.
Debt: Approximately $540,000 mortgage.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $11,600

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: Approximately $4,500 a month. I live alone in a two-bedroom apartment in Sydney's inner West. My mortgage happens to be due the day after my salary gets deposited into my account, so I don't really worry about putting that aside. I just spend whatever is left after the mortgage gets taken out of my account.
Loan Repayments: I recently paid off all my student loans, which is a huge relief given the way inflation is going. I use a credit card to pay for almost everything, but I don't really see that as "loan" — I always ensure I have sufficient money in my account to cover my credit card bill, so I use a credit card like I would a debit card. The difference is I get to keep my own money in my offset account for longer, and I get to earn some points as a bonus.
Gym Membership: $100. I have a basic gym membership with no classes included, since I work really long hours and wouldn't get to make the classes anyway.
Amazon Prime: $10 membership
Public Transport: $300 which includes public transport, and occasional Ubers and taxis.
Phone: $55 phone plan.
Strata Levy: $750. Oof, writing this down hurts! But it also includes building insurance. I pay an additional $50 a month on home contents insurance.
Utilities & Internet: $210
Private Health: $150
Horse Riding Lessons: $600

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

Yes, I have a postgraduate degree (juris doctor). My parents generously paid for my undergraduate degree because they had money set aside to support my education until I got at least one uni degree. I know I am extremely lucky.I put my postgrad degree on HECS.

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

My parents taught me not to be wasteful and to plan for rainy days; but ultimately money is just a tool, there are far more important things in life. It is never worth sacrificing morals, health, family or friendship for money.

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

I was hired as a debating coach by my high school after I graduated. It was a dream first job: I loved debating, and as a uni student, I was grateful for the opportunity and the money.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, I was a somewhat precocious child. My parents were cagey about how much money the family actually had (they didn't think it was appropriate for a child to know such things). I was constantly worried that my parents might go without themselves in order to give me the best. I felt so much more relaxed and in control once I started earning my own money.

Do you worry about money now?

Absolutely. My generation has so much anxiety when it comes to housing affordability and cost of living. I earn a good salary and live comfortably, but I know that if I lost my job, I wouldn't be able to survive for very long. There is no buffer. Despite what I learned about money not being worth health, family and friendships, anxiety about money definitely keeps me in a job that demands long hours and sacrifices to my physical, mental and social health.

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

Late 20s, I would say. Buying my apartment a couple of years ago completely wiped out my savings. I am trying to rebuild my financial safety net. I also have salary continuance insurance through my super account.

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

I earn a couple of hundred dollars here and there from dividends and interest, but that's about it.

Day 1

8:00am — I skip breakfast (like I do most days) and coffee (despite quite enjoying coffee) so I can maximise sleep and wake up late.

8:50am — I hop off the train and load up my Opal card at the train station close to work so it's ready to use next time ($60). Yes, I know I'm old school still using an Opal card, but I like to know how much my commutes cost and to ensure that I'm getting my half-price fare after a certain number of trips. $60

9:30am — Not being a morning person, I tend to be slow to start the day. By around 9:30m, I'm just about ready to start the time recorder (which is how lawyers know how long we've worked on something and how much to bill). We are enslaved to the time recorder.
12:30pm — I head downstairs to buy some lunch. I decide to be healthy and get a grilled fish salad ($16). I am once again reminded that I should do better and meal prep on the weekends. $16
12:45pm — I eat lunch while prepping for a 1pm call.
7:00pm — I decide I'll eat dinner at work tonight. If we work past 8pm, the firm pays for our dinner. You can either go to the kitchen and grab something or order from Uber Eats.
9:50pm — I finish work and grab a free Uber home. Work also pays for Uber if you work past 8pm.
10:15pm — I go to the gym (which is a 24-hour gym) for a quick 30-minute run on the treadmill.
12.20pm — It takes me a while to wind down so I go to bed past midnight.
Daily Total: $76

Day 2

7am — I get woken up by a notification from my credit card provider that my fortnightly gym membership fee has been debited. $49.99
9:05am — I decide to treat myself to a coffee this morning. I don't buy coffee as a matter of habit, I only buy it when I really feel like it. There is an excellent coffee shop en route to work, so I stop there and grab a flat white. $4.50
9:30am — First call for the day. I have permanently blocked out 8am — 9:30am every day in my calendar in the hope that nobody schedules calls before 9:30am. It doesn't always work, but on this occasion it does.
12:15pm — I had every intention of getting home at a decent time yesterday and going to the supermarket, but I didn't get to finish until quite late. As a consequence, I have to buy lunch again. I resist the urge to get something naughty like chicken and chips, and opt for a hearty salad (the type with lots of roast veggies and grains) instead. $13.90
7:15pm — I haven't finished all my work yet, but I decided to go home first so I can drop into the supermarket. It is tempting to stay back in the office because there is always so much work to do, and even if I finish "early", I will now have to spend time commuting (instead of getting a taxi or Uber late at night when there is no traffic) and cooking. Still, I really want to go to the supermarket so I've decided to cop it.
8:46pm — I bought some fruit (raspberries and strawberries) and a couple of microwave meals for dinner tonight and to take to work for lunch later in the week. I also got the ingredients to cook a vegetarian bolognese because I plan on working from home tomorrow. $56.36
9:30pm — I eat a microwave meal while finishing off some work.
10:15pm — A quick 30-minute run on the treadmill.
11:30pm — I try to wind down before going to bed.
Daily Total: $124.75

Day 3

6:30am — This is the only day of the week when I wake up early so I can get ready for my horse riding lesson at 7:30am.
7:15am — I drive to the riding school, park, put on my boots and helmet, ready for my lesson. $150
8:50am — I get home from my lesson. I turn on my laptop to quickly check for any urgent emails or meeting invitations that have come through overnight before jumping in the shower.
9:15am — Make myself a tea and start working.
12:30pm — I decide to use my lunch break to go to the gym. I have paid for a basic gym membership so I don't have access to any classes, but I follow a few fitness channels on YouTube. Given I've already exercised in the morning and my legs are burning, I just do a quick 20-minute ab workout.
1:30pm — I make myself a quick omelette and eat while responding to some emails.
6:30pm — Pausing work, I cook a veggie bolognese. I really enjoy chopping vegetables, especially if I put on a podcast and listen while chopping. I'm listening to a true crime podcast called Red Handed. It's hosted by two British women who are witty, engaging and absolutely hilarious.
8:15pm — Back on the work laptop for a couple more hours. No rest for the wicked.
10:30pm — I start winding down for the evening by scrolling on social media and watching a few random videos. I would love to say I'm reading at the end of each day, but honestly, the last thing I want to do is read more. It's a real shame because I grew up a huge bookworm, and now I can't bear to open a book after such a long day of reading at work.
Daily Total: $150

Day 4

8:00am — I am meeting a friend for coffee this morning before work, so as usual, I skip breakfast.
8:45am — My friend is not a breakfast skipper so she orders avocado on toast. I bow to peer pressure and get a breakfast parfait. We wash our food down with a coffee each. After a few years of working as a lawyer (and with most of my friends also being lawyers), I have realised that I must take all opportunities to catch up with friends, even if it's just a quick bite. I pay $23.40 for my share of the breakfast. $23.40
9:45am — I start working but am feeling quite restless.
1:30pm — I microwave the lunch I bought a couple of nights ago and eat that. It's chicken pesto penne, but it is rather sad. I don't think I'll buy it again, frankly. I'm once again reminded that I should meal prep on the weekend.
5:30pm — A couple of us from work decide to go downstairs for a quick drink, so we can catch up before one of us goes on a big five-week overseas holiday. We manage to just catch happy hour. I order a limoncello spritz for $12. $12
6:45pm — Continue working and order some sushi on Uber Eats (work pays).
9:30pm — After another long day in the office, I Uber home and manage to squeeze in a quick half hour at the gym.
11:30pm — I realised at the gym that my workout clothes are getting very old — I have been wearing them regularly for about two years now — so I go online and order new workout wear. I buy two pairs of tights and three tops for $380. $380
11:45pm — Get into bed.
Daily Total: $415.40

Day 5

8:15am — Finally it's Friday! I'm looking forward to finishing all my work today so I can keep my weekend free.
9:30am — Start working. Life as a lawyer is really quite dull. It's basically meetings and long days.
12:30pm — I have some leftover bolognese from Wednesday night, which I brought to work. The office is relatively quiet on Fridays, but that also means it's less intense. I decide to take a longer lunch break and chat with my colleagues, who are also my friends. I think lawyers get a bad rep for being overly competitive, but actually many of us end up developing meaningful and long-term friendships. I think that just naturally happens when you are in the trenches together for a long time.
6:30pm — I am rushing out the door, hoping I won't be late for date night at 7pm.
6:57pm — I make it with a few minutes to spare! Date night is at a lovely Italian wine bar with good pasta in the inner East, one of our favourites. We order a couple of wines each and share some starters and pasta dishes. By the end of the evening, we were both too full for dessert. My partner and I take turns paying for dates, so I pay for both of us. $176.80
9:50pm — My partner orders us an Uber and we head home together. We haven't seen each other all week so once we get home, we put on some music and chat for hours, catching up on the week, before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $176.80

Day 6

10:00am — I love sleeping in, though it makes me feel a bit guilty since I've started working, weekends are so precious now! We decide to go to a local market for breakfast.
10:43am — One of my favourite bakeries has a stall at the markets, so we buy some croissants for breakfast. The line for coffee is very long, but as my partner is a true coffee addict, we spend about 10 minutes waiting for the precious caffeine hit. He hands over his card for both purchases.
11:30am — I see some gorgeous native flowers and decide, on a whim, to buy some. There is no special occasion — just something to add some beauty to my home and to brighten my mood whenever I look at them. I think it's important to celebrate beauty for its own sake as well as celebrating occasions. $30
12:00pm — Having had a rich dinner with wine the night before, we decide to make our own light lunch. I grab some salad ingredients and sausages from the market ($16.70) and we head home to cook. $16.70
2:45pm — We have both had a busy week at work so we decide to spend the afternoon reading and chilling at home.
5:30pm — I start getting ready to go out, as we have tickets to see a play at the Sydney Theatre Company. This means an early dinner, which my partner orders via Uber Eats. We decide on bento boxes.
6:40pm — We make the call to travel to the theatre via public transport and come home via Uber, so we leave a little earlier than we otherwise would. My partner pays.
7:13pm — We arrive at the theatre in Walsh Bay with plenty of time to check in our coats, do a final loo run and head to our seats. We buy a three-play season package so we get to save 10% on tickets and avoid booking fees. My ticket for tonight comes to $139.50. $139.50
10:12pm — We don't have much success with Uber so we end up getting public transport home as well.
Daily Total: $186.20

Day 7

9:30am — I make scrambled eggs for my partner and me, and coffee at home. My preferred brewing method is pour-over because I find the preparation very soothing and zen. I enjoy carefully grinding the beans (which I buy whole and grind just before I brew) and slowly making the coffee. A strictly weekend-only ritual. I would love to make it part of my morning routine, but given I'm such a night owl, I choose an extra 10 minutes of sleep over a fresh pour-over coffee during the week.
11:00am — After googling "what's on this weekend" and finding that nothing in particular takes our fancy, we decide to have a chill (and free) day out by visiting the new wing of the Art Gallery of NSW.
1:20pm — So much for a free day out! We are both stuck in the gallery shop buying books — we couldn't resist. I bought I Love Dick by Chris Kraus (can't wait to take this on the train!) for $23. $23
1:45pm — After finally peeling ourselves away from the gallery shop, we grab a quick bite at the gallery cafe. I pick up the tab for both of us. $37
3:25pm — On our way home, my partner surprises me by pulling out a copy of Ways of Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist, which he bought for me at the gallery shop thinking I would like it.
4:10pm — We make ourselves another coffee at home and settle in to read our newly acquired books. I put on a load of washing in the meantime.
7:00pm — Our stomachs start grumbling, so we head to a local Chinese restaurant for a quick and casual dinner, which my partner pays for.
8:15pm — Realising I have once again forgotten to meal-prep, we do a quick supermarket run. I buy some pre-packaged salads and ingredients for a mushroom and bacon pasta. $19.40
9:00pm — I quickly whip up the mushroom and bacon pasta and put them in three containers along with some salads. I know I only need to prep for three days because I have a lunchtime training session next week where lunch will be provided, and on Wednesdays, I work from home.
10:00pm — We get ourselves ready for another week. My partner packs his work and weekend bags (as he will be going back to his own home after work tomorrow) and we start prepping for bed.
Daily Total: $79.40

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