Money Diaries

A Week In Perth, Western Australia, On A $180,000 Salary

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Today: a lawyer who makes $180,000 a year and buys her children KFC for the first time this week (they rate it a 4/10).
Occupation: Lawyer
Industry: Construction / Mining
Age: 36
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Salary: $180,000
Net Worth: My long-term partner and I's combined net worth is around $1 million. It comprises of our house worth $1.1 million, $426,000 in our super, $123,000 in shares, $50,000 in savings, and $80,000 worth of cars. My partner and I's finances are all combined. I'm the 'money manager' and responsible for paying our bills, setting our savings up, all that jazz. 
Debt: $774,000 ($727,000 remaining on our mortgage and a recent car loan of $47,000.)
My Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $3,900
My Partner's Paychequue Amount (Fortnightly): $3,300
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: Our minimum mortgage repayments are around $3,200 but we pay $4,400 per month. My partner and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to build our current house about five years ago. We live here with our two human children and one fur child. We have a goal to pay off our home within 15 years, so any time either of us gets a pay rise or a bonus, we put half of it towards our mortgage. We think of it as a competition to see how quickly we can pay off our house and live mortgage-free.
Car Loan: $900. We lived as a single car family for many years and our car is now about 14 years old. When I finished paying off my student loans I decided to treat myself to a new car. The car repayment was about equal to my student loan repayment so I didn't miss the money. 
Health Insurance: $700. We have family cover and earn too much to be eligible for any government rebate.
Food: $1,400
Phones: $180
Internet: $100
Gas/Electricity: $300. Each month, I prepay $200 into our electricity account and $100 into our gas account. This helps reduce any big bills.
School Fees: $700
Streaming: $80. We have all of the streaming services but pause memberships if there's nothing we want to watch.
Gym: $260
Kids Sports: $200 depending on the month.
Savings Contributions: $1,000
Shares Investments: $1,000. This comes out of my partner's pre-tax income as an employee perk.
Super Top-up: I contribute $800 and my partner contributes $900, with both coming out of our pre-tax salaries. My partner's employer matches all employee super contributions as an employee benefit, so he effectively gets $1,600 extra into his super each month. I get no such benefit but spent several years out of the workforce when our kids were little. As a result, my super suffered. I've recently decided to take a more active approach to saving for retirement.

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

Yes. I have two bachelor's degrees and a post-graduate diploma. The total cost was about $90,000. I worked full-time and studied part-time throughout, taking winter and summer classes to make up the difference in time. I paid every second semester upfront, taking out student loans for the rest. When I graduated, I owed just under $40,000. I finished paying that off about three years ago.

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

My parents were terrible with money. They both lacked education and left school in Year 9. We were very poor when I was growing up. We moved a lot during the early part of my childhood and were often ‘between houses’, sleeping in the car or in family friends' spare rooms. Eventually, we ended up in state housing which helped my parents get back on their feet and into a more stable living situation. The only conversations we had about money were around not having enough of it.

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

I got my first job when I was 15, working as a checkout chick at Woolies! My parents were still pretty broke and I was told that if I wanted to go on school excursions, I would have to pay for it myself.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes. Money (and lack thereof) was stressful. My parents fought about it frequently and I have distinct memories of being at the shops and Mum not having enough money to buy food. I also remember my brother and I getting in trouble because we ate a box of cereal in three days that was supposed to last us all week. When I started supporting myself, I was still pretty worried about money. I had jobs that would fit around university study, but they obviously weren't well paid.

Do you worry about money now?

Less so. I take comfort knowing that we have a good savings buffer if something were to happen, but I think my experiences when I was younger had a lasting effect. I'm overly cautious when it comes to investment strategies and the like (I'm more comfortable having money sitting in my savings account earning no interest than invested) which is to my detriment. I cannot shake the fear of losing everything we have worked for and being back to where I was before. I know that we are both very fortunate to be in the financial position we are in. Whilst we don't feel 'wealthy', I know that statistically, we are in the top few per cent of earners income-wise.  

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

I moved into my own place at 19 and was then completely financially responsible for myself. We have savings and investments that we could access if we needed to which act as our financial safety net.

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

No, and I'm not likely to receive any!

Day 1

9:00am — It’s a public holiday so I sleep in. I roll out of bed at about 9am, and make myself and the kids toast. I also make myself a coffee — I need it! I’ve been thinking of trying a meal subscription service for lunches when I’m at work as the only lunch options near my office are expensive. I’ve also eaten so much junk and chocolate over Easter that I am feeling unhappy with my eating habits of late, not to mention the way my leggings are fitting. I do some Googling to find some ‘healthy’ meal services and find a newly opened small family-owned business that is local to me. I order eight meals for $108, delivery included. I hope this will kick-start my healthy eating plan and cheer me up after so many weeks stuck at home. $108
11:00am — I laze around the house and do a bunch of washing, ironing and cleaning ahead of the school going back tomorrow. I don't put together any school lunches as both of my kids are old enough to be somewhat self-sufficient. They can make themselves a sandwich or reheat leftovers. My kid, D., is bored so we watch Is It Cake? on Netflix. He then decides to play computer games with friends so I take myself and the dog for a walk. We do 8.5km along the riverside — the sun is shining, the water is sparkling, and I feel better about life when I get back.
2:00pm — I continue my cleaning adventure (how does it never end?!) and then sit down with a cup of peppermint tea and a book.
6:45pm — Next thing I know it’s 6:45pm and I have done nothing about dinner. My partner surprises us with McDonald's ($42) — lifesaver! He works FIFO and is due to fly back to work tomorrow. He works in a very remote location — there's no Macca's where he is going, so I don’t complain about it. $42
9:00pm — I put the kids to bed at 9pm so they're ready for the school day tomorrow. I sit up for another hour, watching the first episode of Anatomy of a Scandal on Netflix before heading to bed. 
Daily Total: $150

Day 2

6:30am — Tuesday! It deserves an exclamation mark because it's my first day back in the office in over two months. I'm excited for actual human contact. I get up at 6:30am and pack lunches for the kids using the food we have at home. Then, I take the dog out for a half-hour walk around the neighbourhood.
7:40am — I get home and chat with the kids while I make myself toast and coffee. My daughter attends our local high school and catches public transport to get there, rushing out the door at 8am (she pays an 80 cent student fair, but this is paid through her pre-loaded SmartRider). My son attends our local private primary school and grabs a lift with friends.

9:00am — There's currently roadworks in my commute route, so I'm waiting until just after 9 so the traffic is a little better. In the meantime, I pack my lunch — sweet potato, brown rice, and spinach salad — and put on a load of washing. I get in the car just after 9 and realise I need fuel ($84), then I'm on my way. $84
9:30am — I've arrived! We get free secure parking so I park my car and walk into the office. Masks are still mandated here and my employer is very supportive of flexible working arrangements, so I’m not surprised that to see that the office is very quiet. I grab myself a free coffee and have some fresh fruit from the office fruit bowl. I then have another coffee. I'm trying to cut back, but I'm obviously being unsuccessful.
2:30pm — I've had back to back in-person meetings between 11am and 2pm, so I end up eating my lunch during an online meeting at 2:30pm.
4:00pm — I leave the office around 4pm. I still have a lot to do, so I'll probably be working again later in the evening. My partner has gone back to work today, so I'll be on my own with the kids for the next week. I pop in to my local Coles on the way home and pick up some essentials ($189). My son has after school sport today from 6pm —7:30pm.  I know it will be too late to start cooking when we get home, so I make a quick chicken, veg and noodle stirfry with my groceries before we leave. $189
5:50pm — I remind my daughter that I expect her to be doing her homework while I'm gone and then hop into the car with Child #2. I drop him off just after 6pm (oops, we're late!). His sports are covered by a monthly fee which we paid last week.
6:15pm — My reformer Pilates class is starting. I rush through the door, hopping on my feet trying to get my shoes and socks off. I manage to do so with 60 seconds to spare. This class is covered by my weekly gym membership fee ($65 for unlimited reformer Pilates, mat Pilates, yoga and resistance training classes!). It's a bit of a splurge, but I love it. I try to go five or six times a week. After class, I drive back to pick up #2 who still has about 40 minutes to go. I kill time and sit in the car with my laptop to catch up on work.
7:45pm — We get home, eat dinner, and shower. The kids get half an hour to unwind and relax while I get back to work. Time gets away from me, and before I realise it, it's 9:15pm. I put the kids to bed and work for another 45 minutes before calling it a day, heading to bed just after 10pm.
Daily Total: $275

Day 3

6:30am — Wednesday is my usual WFH day but I have meetings I'd rather attend in person, so I'm headed into the office. Same routine as yesterday — pack lunches for children, pack lunch for me (the same as yesterday — I'm a creature of habit!) and take the dog for a walk. Toast, coffee, and I see the kids off.
8:00am — I have a day full of meetings today so I want to look professional.  Last month, I bought an oversized camel blazer from The Outnet. I'm yet to wear it, so I decide that today is the day. I pair it with black tailored cropped pants, a white linen shirt and a black heel. I also fold the sleeves of the blazer up a touch. I'm not sure if I've nailed the 'professional, yet a bit cool' vibe I'm going for, but I'm trying. I keep my makeup simple. I bought an Armani foundation a few months ago (yes, THE Armani foundation) and have fallen in love with it. I apply it sparingly ($$$!) with a damp beauty blender, add a little colour correcting concealer under my eyes (Hourglass Skin Veil) and some Nars liquid blush on my cheeks. I love how easily the liquid blush blends and that it keeps the overall dewiness levels up.  
9:00am — I'm out the door as I have a meeting in the office at 10 and I don't want to be late.   
9:40am — I finally arrive at the office (thanks, traffic!). I pop across to the coffee shop and buy myself a small flat white ($4.50) which I finish before my first meeting starts. I swear to myself that I'll cut back (I know, empty promises!). $4.50
2:00pm — I have back to back meetings and phone calls, and the day flies by. I eat my lunch as one of my meetings finishes a few minutes early. My daughter has after school sport at 5, so I need to head off a bit early today to pick her up.
3:00pm — It's payday! We've kept our spending low over the last fortnight, so there's more money than usual left over in the account after everything is paid. For me, this is dangerous territory. If there's money in the account, I'm likely to spend it on things I don't need. To curb this habit, I've opened a separate savings account that I use to save for a family holiday. Whenever I want to buy something, I think if I'd rather the item or the money put towards the holiday. It helps me think a bit more critically about my spending. I've currently got $6,000 in the account, so I transfer $500 over and dream about what things will be like when travel is a bit more normal.
4:15pm — It's time to go otherwise I won't make it to my daughter on time. I grab my unfinished work (another job for tonight) and head back to the car.  
5:15pm — We're home. My daughter's starving after sport, so I make vegetable and cheese omelettes for dinner using ingredients we already have. We try to have two meat-free nights per week and everyone loves eggs so it is a quick, easy low fuss dinner. Just how I like it!
6:00pm — My meal order delivery arrives! The meals are frozen so they should last up to a month. I leave one in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch and pop the rest into the freezer.
6:15pm — Time for Pilates! It's a great class and my glutes are burning. I know I'm going to be sore tomorrow! 
7:30pm — My partner calls to check in. The reception is really poor where he works, and tonight he has a robot voice. The call drops out a couple of times, despite us paying a premium for (theoretically) the best regional telecommunications carrier Australia has to offer (I'll let you figure that one out!). He's always worked away and we both grew up in families that were involved in the mining industry, so we knew what we were getting into.  That said, I'm a sole parent more than half the time and I'm pretty over it, especially because I work full time. It feels like we barely get any time together when he's home. I remind myself that these are the sacrifices we chose to make to secure our family's financial future, and tell myself it's worth it, even though I'm feeling less convinced of this as time goes on.
8:00pm — I check the kid's homework and catch up on some more work. I put them to bed at about 8.45pm tonight and then work for another half an hour or so. Then I decide that I'm too tired and need to go to bed, hitting the hay by 10pm.
Daily Total: $4.50

Day 4

5:30am — Up and at 'em. Today I'm working from home. I've got Pilates at 6a, so I get ready and head out the door.
7:00am — I bump into a friend who normally goes to a later Pilates session. We walk across the road and grab a coffee each, my shout ($10). We chat for about 20 minutes while we drink our coffee. $10
7:20am — I head next door to the new farmers market that has opened up. I buy some fresh sourdough and butter (my weakness), and some local honey, fruit and veg. I also see they have a range of lunch options already out for the day and pick up a chicken and rice noodle salad bowl. The total comes to $49. Do I have food at home? Yes. Did I actually need any of this? No. I feel slightly guilty about the spending but remind myself that the farmers market is owned by a local family I know and that's it's good to support local small businesses, especially now. $49
7:40am — I'm home and have fresh sourdough, butter and honey for breakfast. I chat with the kids (who approve of the sourdough and honey — 10/10) and order lunch for my son via the online school canteen. He gets one lunch order a week and he has decided he wants to use it today ($14). I work until 12pm and then grab my lunch out of the fridge. I'm having one of the meal delivery lunches today — a vegetarian burrito. I reheat and eat it at my desk while I work. $14
2:00pm — I realise I've been hunched over my desk for many hours and my back is killing me. I get up and take the dog for a quick half-hour walk in the park, then back to it. I need to go and buy my daughter's school uniforms today and there's only one store that sells them. She needs to try things on as she's grown so much, so I'm not sure what size she needs.
3:45pm — We go and buy the school uniforms ($330). After, I drop my daughter at tutoring ($40). Children are expensive. $370
4:40pm — I volunteer at a local community organisation and need to organise some things ahead of an event next week. I stay until it's time to pick up the kids from their various activities.   
7:15pm — No one has had dinner and I can't be bothered cooking, so we head to our local shops to survey the options. We discover that neither of my kids has ever had KFC before. I don't understand how this has happened. We quickly rectify the issue and order KFC for dinner ($37). We eat at home together as usual, and I quickly remember why I don't eat KFC.  My son rates it 6/10. My daughter gives it a measly 4/10. $37
9:00pm — It's been a massive day so the kids get organised for bed and are asleep by 9pm. I follow soon after.
Daily Total: $480

Day 5

5:30am — I'm up as I'm heading to a 6am Pilates session. I was meant to go to the office today, but by the end of class, I have a headache. I decide to work from home. Maybe it's the headache or the end of week tiredness, but I'm just not feeling it today.
7:00am — I'm home and do the usual morning routine, starting work in the home office by 8am. I work solidly until about 2pm when I take a break to eat the lunch I bought from the farmers market yesterday. It's delicious but very filling.
5:30pm — Friday, thankfully is, the one day of the week where we don't have an after school activity or anywhere to be. To celebrate, I head to the bottleshop and buy six bottles of wine (there's a 20% discount if you buy six or more, I swear!), a bottle of gin, and a bottle of vodka ($225). This may seem excessive (yep!), but since Covid, we've been going out much less. We started learning to make our own cocktails at home. This purchase should last us at least a month. I make myself a vodka sour (my current favourite) and spaghetti for dinner using ingredients I bought earlier in the week. $225
7:00pm — My daughter and I watch a few episodes of Luxe Listings on Netflix, debating which $15 million dollar house we prefer. After the kids head to bed, I watch another couple of episodes of Anatomy of a Scandal. I'm finding it hard to get into, but I persist!
11:00pm — Bedtime! It's a late night for me — I know I'll regret it tomorrow.
Daily Total: $225

Day 6

6:00am — Ah, Saturdays. Our busiest day. I'm ready to commence the morning sports run around. When my partner is here, we divide and conquer, but when he's not, it's up to me to get everyone where they need to go.
7:15am— After dropping the kids off, I head to my favourite bakery. I only go there once a fortnight as it's out of my way. I buy two loaves of rye bread, one loaf of banana bread and four croissants for lunch later on ($42). I'll slice all of the bread up and freeze it to use throughout the week for school lunches. Then I walk around the corner to the coffee shop and buy myself a large flat white with an extra shot ($6.50). $48.50
10:30am — We're off to our next appointment for the day. My son has a hearing impairment which in turn affects his speech, so we have seen a speech therapist on and off since he was about three years old. This costs us $100 for each appointment, but health insurance covers half, so I'm only $50 out of pocket. $50
12:30pm — We're home again. I'm feeling a bit average so I have my toast and coffee for breakfast (oops, no wonder I'm starving!) using the bread I bought earlier. The kids eat the croissants. My son has been invited to a birthday party this afternoon, so we go to the shops to buy a present for the birthday boy — $30. 
5:00pm — It's party time! I drop my son off and head home. My daughter is talking to her friends online so I leave her to her socialising and catch up on some work. I then go for a walk with the dog — the weather is really lovely and I appreciate the fresh air and sunshine.
7:30pm — I head out to pick my son up. There are nibbles out for the parents so I snack and chat for another half an hour. We head home and my daughter has reheated herself some vegetable soup and made cheese toast for dinner. She's 13 now and becoming more independent every day. She also loves soup — bit of a weirdo, that one!
8:00pm — We settle in and watch some more Luxe Listings. D'Leanne is the only one who doesn't drive me crazy — I appreciate her work ethic and approach as a working mum. It's nice to see a fellow professional working mum, juggling work and family about as successfully as any of us do.
10:00pm — The kids are in bed. I let them sit up a little later on a Saturday as we don't have anywhere to bed on Sunday morning. I watch some more Anatomy of a Scandal — I'm glad I persisted because now I'm hooked! I book myself into a yoga session for tomorrow morning. I love yoga, but I've been slack lately and am keen to pick it back up. I head to bed just after 11.
Daily Total: $129

Day 7

7:00am — I tossed and turned all night and finally get out of bed. I think my headache the other day and blah-ness yesterday was a precursor to illness because I was up coughing during the night.  
8:00am — I cancel my yoga session, which I'm pretty bummed about. I know I don't have Covid as I had it six weeks ago, but feel unlucky to have picked something up during my first week back working in the office. I was looking forward to yoga this morning.
9:00am — I walk down to my local coffee shop (mask in hand) and order a small caramel latte (treat yo' self!). My local shop doubles as a cute little specialty grocer, so I also buy more bread (how do we eat so much bread?!), a yoghurt/granola pot for my daughter and some fresh chicken for dinner tonight ($36). I'm planning to make chicken schnitzel, mashed potato and roast veg to use up any veg that is getting past its best. I feel like comfort food today and my healthy eating intentions have gone out the window.  
9:30am — I'm home again, prepared for a quiet day.  I take out one of the frozen meals and pop it into the fridge to defrost for lunch tomorrow to save time on Monday morning.
1:00pm — I realise my cleaner is coming tomorrow and I need to get cash out. She cleans for five hours once a fortnight for us and it costs me $225.  Tomorrow is her last day cleaning for us — she was a uni student and is about to move into full-time work now. She has done such a great job and is really lovely, so I'm sad to see her go, but happy that she's found a job in her chosen field. I get the cash out and buy her a little plant gift to say thank you and good luck — $25.
5:00pm — I've spent the afternoon on the couch feeling sorry for myself and binge-watching Anatomy of a Scandal, which I've now finished. I really enjoyed the way the story was structured (IYKYK) and was surprised at how accurate the courtroom scenes were as far as legal dramas go.
5:30pm — I start making dinner using the ingredients I bought earlier in the day and we sit down to eat together. Every Sunday afternoon, we usually watch a family movie together. I hire out Sonic The Hedgehog 2 from Prime Video — $3.
9:00pm — We're all in bed, ready to start the week over tomorrow!
Daily Total: $256

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

I feel like this is a relatively accurate reflection of my week, despite a big one-off purchase of uniforms. If it wasn't that, it probably would've been something else. I feel like I could definitely save money by being better at meal planning — food is our biggest monthly expense after our mortgage. We try to limit takeout to once a week but that didn't go to plan this week. I definitely feel time-poor and that contributes to me taking more convenient (but more expensive) meal options.
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