Money Diaries

A Week In Ultimo, Sydney On A $62,808 Salary

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.
Occupation: Marketing Associate
Industry: Wholesale
Age: 25
Location: Ultimo, Sydney, Australia
Annual Salary: $62,808
Net Worth: $112,005 ($28,229 in super + $79,176 in savings account + $4,238 in investment account + $362 in everyday transaction account)
Debt: $0 (My parents covered my university tuition and I pay off my credit card balance in full before it’s due every time.)
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $4,220
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: I live in a spacious studio apartment by myself in Sydney’s Inner City. It’s like a one-bedroom flat but with a curtain as a door. The total monthly rent is $1,564 ($360/week). 
Loans: $0
Utilities: $71
TPD and Income Protection Insurance: $0 (Mine is covered through my employer as an additional perk).
Health Insurance: $152.90. I pay for comprehensive hospital and extras cover so I can eventually get dental braces and laser eye surgery covered in a year or two. My insurance covers the cost of my contact lenses, prescription glasses, dental routine cleans and check-ups, and I get $250 back for spending on Cancer Council sunscreen or gym fees.
Gym Membership: I don’t have a regular membership. I like to try free trials or buy a class pack and redeem the cost through my health insurance!
NBN Internet: $59.99
Mobile Phone: $8.25. This is a $99 prepaid yearly mobile plan which includes a total of 120 GB, some international calls, unlimited nationwide calls, and texts.
Netflix, Disney+ and Prime: $0 (I use my friends’ accounts or our family account which is being paid by my parents).
iCloud subscription fee: $1.50

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

Fortunately, my parents encouraged me to study at university so I can have more opportunities. It was an expectation for everyone in the family to pursue higher education while we figure out what we want to do in life. I am fortunate that my dad was able to fully finance my college education. I graduated with no debt, just a lot of gratitude.

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

My dad is a self-made entrepreneur and he taught me the value of having the discipline to save money so you can make it work for you, not the other way around. As immigrants, my parents were frugal and found smart ways to stretch their dollar — whether that was through buying in bulk, eating out only on special occasions, or splurging mainly on travel and not designer things. They would always emphasise the importance of this and not being reckless by gambling and living above our means, so we could always have a roof over our heads and the basics. Seeing them build wealth through discipline and hard work helped me become more mindful with my financial habits.

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

Technically, my first job was when I was 12, helping at my parents’ business with admin work and payroll. When I was 17, I interned at an accounting firm while studying full-time at university. They hired me subsequently as an all-rounder. I got the job so I could have work experience and extra money for more independence and savings. It taught me not just professionalism but also the direct impact of my efforts.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Fortunately, I didn’t worry about money growing up because my parents would always ensure that they provided what matters. They didn’t prioritise buying unnecessary things like toys or flashy designer/material things. However, they always made sure I had abundant food, educational opportunities, and frequent travel, even if it was in economy class.

Do you worry about money now?

I worry about saving enough money so I can buy a house before Sydney property prices shoot up even more. Living costs are high and I feel guilty about spending money when I could be saving more. At the same time, being in my early twenties means I have more freedom and I should be travelling and enjoying life more. So I am torn and struggle to balance prioritising my future self with living my best life now.

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

I started becoming financially responsible at 20, but it wasn't until I turned 23 that I became more mindful with my spending. After I started working full time, I wanted to make sure I could support myself so I didn't need to ask my parents for money. I wanted to stand on my own two feet — and I did. It’s still a comforting thought that my supportive parents are my financial safety net. In my first few working years, I was uncertain about budgeting and didn't automate my savings. I also succumbed to unnecessary shopping until I grew some sense and paid everything off.

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

My parents gave me around $40,000 to help me get settled and move to Sydney after university.

Day One 

7:30am — It’s Saturday! I wake up on the right side of the bed feeling well-rested. It’s the first weekend of freedom from lockdown. I stayed over at my boyfriend’s place last night so I cuddle him, then force myself to get up so I can get ready for an exciting day. I’m humming with good vibes as I do my skincare routine and pamper my face and decolletage with some gua sha facial massage. It’s the weekend baby!  
8:25am — My boyfriend and I share a quick breakfast bowl of Weetbix with oat milk. It’s a healthy filling breakfast. I check my emails as I eat. 
8:40am — My boyfriend and I chill on the couch together. I read People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry. I picked it up from the library yesterday. The library is open again after months of lockdown closure, yay!
9:45am — It feels surreal as I ride the train for the first time in months to visit my friend. I brought her some Minor Figures oat milk I bought a few days ago to try (it was on special for $3.84). The train fare costs $3.66 (but I pay using my Opal card balance). While on the train, I check Instagram and read Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Sutanto (another library book loan for the win). My Opal card balance is running low so upon arrival at my train stop, I top it up with a $20 credit. $20
10:30am — My friend moved into her new flat just before lockdown so I haven’t had the chance to see it yet. Finally, I find her address and see a luxury apartment lobby with a floor-length indoor plant centrepiece (#Goals). We hug, and I see other girlfriends I haven’t seen in months. Oh, it’s good to be reunited! We enjoy brunch and barista-style oat flat whites from her Breville coffee machine (now I want one!). We catch up and I try her massager. This is the life.
3:42pm — I bid my friend goodbye and walk to catch the train back home ($3.66 train fare). While on the train, I earn $0.20 from doing an online survey.  
4:30pm — I rest at home and read some more. I chat with my boyfriend about how our days went and he mentions the need to save up for his ageing parents’ emergency funds. I agree. Gotta work, work, work while we can and save as a priority. We snack on strawberries and homemade dumpling leftovers.
6:30pm — I head over to a nearby Chinese restaurant with my boyfriend. It’s our first time meeting some friends and having dinner outside since lockdown! We flash our vaccine passports and check in to enter, then order meals to share through the provided iPad. We order some fried king prawns, tofu, chicken, soup dumplings, stir-fried vegetables, tea and desserts. Good for the soul and the tummy. Great news: our friend has a discount perk for the restaurant. My boyfriend pays for both of us ($26 per person).
9:30pm — We head home. I shower and unwind by doing my skincare routine and gua sha facial massage again. 
10:25pm — I order 5 pre-made meals from a small business to deliver to my address on Tuesday ($58). It’s good to not worry about meal prep for a few days. $58
11:00pm — I call it a night.

Daily Total: $78

Day Two

 8:15am — I wake up and stay in bed to cuddle with my boyfriend. We chat about our plans for the day. How exciting! In good spirits, I get up and sing, "We are young and wild and free!”
8:40am — I get ready and do my skincare routine: I apply Bioderma Micellar Water to cleanse, Aspect Extreme C 20 serum and Cancer Council Moisturising Sunscreen. I am all for prevention when it comes to taking care of my health.
8:52am — We share a bowl of Weetbix with chia seeds and oat milk. I like how this consistency frees me up not to have to make a decision first thing in the morning.
9:10am — I read on the couch. 47 pages in and I decide that People We Meet On Vacation is not for me so I won’t finish it. The characters just don't speak to me. I'm at a point in my life when I know when something's not worth my time.
9:45am — My alarm rings and we get ready to go to my friend’s place for our first get-together since lockdown!
9:50am — We decide to bring some food to be good guests. We stop by Coles and my boyfriend buys pâté and fruits ($7). Then we head to the bus stop.
10:02am — We take the bus. It feels strange (again) because this is our first bus trip since lockdown. I read the free Coles health magazine to pass the time and before we know it, we’ve reached our destination ($2.66, paid for with my pre-loaded Opal card).
10:11am — We catch up with friends, meet their pets and enjoy some takeaway breakfast consisting of baguettes, pastries, blueberries and pâté. I transfer my friend $31 for my boyfriend and I's share. $31
2:30pm — Our friends are heading in the same direction as us so they gave us a ride back home. I’ve missed riding in a car. This sure beats public transport.
3:00pm — While my boyfriend runs errands, I go window shopping. I know the drill by now — scan QR code to check-in and present vaccine passport. Some stores I want to go to are still closed and I can’t get into Lululemon because there is a queue and I have to wait 30 minutes to get in! How crazy is that! I head to Mecca to try on some products. I pop into Lorna Jane and fall in love with a blue bra top but it costs $87 so I decide to sleep on it and head home.
3:40pm — I’ve been reading up about zero waste and decided to make a snack out of old dumpling wrappers, frozen vegetables, jalapeños and cheddar cheese. Don’t judge. It’s actually pretty scrumptious. I snack on the dumplings while I watch my boyfriend be a handyman. 
3:55pm — I online shop for clothes on Uniqlo’s website and skincare from Aesop and Mecca. I just add to cart but don’t buy. Do I really need another pair of leggings? My Amex card has a Vogue Fashion Night Out offer that’s expiring soon so I’m deciding what to buy. I can get my Christmas shopping done early!  
5:49pm — My boyfriend tells me we need to get ready to meet his friend for dinner. We get changed and head out.
6:01pm — We go to another Chinese restaurant and over-order soup dumplings and crispy salted egg tofu. It’s good to meet his friend and the food is on point. We talk about work, changing jobs, the benefit of moving out of our parents' homes to find love, and Squid Game. My boyfriend pays for our share ($27 each). I feel like a happy penguin waddling back home.
7:40pm — I shower and do my skincare routine: micellar water, Alpha H cleansing cream, Cosmedix retinol serum and Volition celery moisturiser. The celery scent is a bit much but I feel satisfied as I pat my skin and feel its soft plumpness.
7:55pm — I chill on the couch and watch 2 episodes of Young Sheldon (the child actor is so cute!) before dragging myself to bed at 10pm.

Daily Total: $31

Day Three

7:15am — I feel well-rested and wake up on the right side of the bed. I gargle some mouthwash, cleanse and slather on some moisturising sunscreen and change into my workout clothes. With my backpack and face mask, I am ready to go.
7:40am — Hello outside world! It's a beautiful day. I blissfully take in my dose of Vitamin D. I jog by the water and do my usual cardio workout including star jumps, squats, tricep dips and high knees. I see people walking around with coffee and resist the urge to buy some. Phew, that was tougher than usual.
8:35am — I arrive home and do a quick shower. I do my daytime skincare routine: wash my face with La Roche-Posay Effaclar Cleanser, apply Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner, Sukin Biomarine Serum, Aspect Extreme C 20 Serum and Cancer Council Moisturising Sunscreen. I am liking this new cleanser's non-drying effect on my skin.
8:45am — I quickly blow-dry my hair with my Dyson Airwrap. After months of lockdown, my hair has grown a lot! I make a mental note to get a haircut soon.
8:55am — I eat Weetbix with oat milk and log in on my laptop. God, I love not commuting and working from home!
1:00pm — I reheat some leftover seafood broccoli pasta. Yum! 
1:10pm — The weather forecast shows it will rain in the next three days so I decide to make the most of the sunny weather and go for a walk. It’s so hot and I resist the temptation to buy an ice-cold smoothie. The struggle is real but I remind myself that I can make a smoothie at home and that the takeaway cup and straw are not eco-friendly! I walk to the library to return a book and browse their magazine selection. I wish the library stocked new magazines.
1:20pm — I walk around the neighbourhood, opting to climb stairs each time instead of the escalator. Gotta get my step count up.
1:50pm — I pop into the grocery store to stock up on some eggs, fruits and pantry items. I see my favourite Vetta spaghetti and Ayam coconut milk are on sale so I add those to my basket. $25.95
2:00pm — I return home, put away my groceries and log in on my laptop. I feel refreshed from my time outside. Back to the grind.
4:30pm — I feel productive so I call it a day and log out of my work laptop. I Facetime my best friend, who I haven’t seen since lockdown. We catch up and contemplate where to meet up once she gets double vaxxed. Should we do a girls' night out? Bottomless brunch? Cooking class? Even better, maybe all of the above? Oh, it feels good to make plans! Then I call my parents to check in on how they're doing. Finally, they update me that they are fully vaccinated, which is a relief. All good in the hood!
6:00pm — I bake some kale chips and tortilla chips. I have leftover tortillas that need to be consumed. I read recently that if you just slice and bake them then tada! You have homemade chips! I munch on some healthy yummy snacks while reading Dial A For Aunties. It’s so quirky and relatable that I laugh out loud at one point.
7:00pm — I reheat some leftover seafood pasta and toast some bread in the oven with camembert cheese and honey. The pasta has a hint of sourness but I eat it anyway. I hope it's still alright. I guess I'll find out if it's not...
7:30pm — I realise I’m down to two slices of bread so I look up a rye wholewheat bread recipe and start measuring ingredients to knead. I hope this turns out well. I normally use a no-knead recipe but realise too late that this requires kneading! Fingers crossed. It actually turns out okay. I like baking my own bread so I’ll make a habit out of this.
7:50pm — I’m craving sweets so I also mix up a batch of matcha cookie dough then place it in the fridge to cool. It has matcha so it’s healthy right?
8:20pm — I chill on the couch and watch an episode of the latest season of You and Nadiya Bakes. I save Nadiya’s Onion Pretzel recipe on my recipe app. It looks yummy and doable. Then I force myself to do my skincare routine, brush my teeth and then go to bed.

Daily Total: $25.95

Day Four

8:16am — I sleep in! I groggily roll out of bed to get ready. I gargle some mouthwash, brush my teeth, spray some dry shampoo and apply vitamin C serum, The Ordinary squalene oil and moisturising sunscreen. 
8:32am — Brekkie time with my usual oat milk and Weetbix combo.
8:35am — I knead my resting dough and place it onto a pizza stone. 
8:49am — I boil some water and make mint tea. I was gifted this tea from Heart Therapeutics and I love it. It’s reminiscent of Moroccan mint tea with some floral notes. I indulge in a hygge moment with my cup of tea warming my hands then I log in for another uneventful workday. Gotta love Mondays.
10:10am — I take a work break and pop my matcha cookies into the oven. For my bread, I slash some incisions on my dough then leave it to go back to work. Rise my baby dough, rise!
10:25am — I take the cookies out and top them with more icing sugar. This batch of matcha crinkle cookies needs MORE sugar (note to self: don’t reduce the sugar in the recipe too much). Then I pop my bread into the oven and a tray of hot water underneath it to replicate the steamer effect from a dutch oven. My dream is to one day own a pale pink dutch oven but right now, I have no space for it. 
10:55am — I take the bread out of the oven 30 minutes later and take a quick pic. It looks cute with the chia seeds on top.
11:30am — I go down to meet the delivery driver and pick up my meal order from earlier in the week. Yay! Meals are sorted for the next few days. I store some in the fridge and freezer. 
12:00pm — I realise that the weather forecast lied and it’s a beautiful day outside so I take a walk and visit Uniqlo. I have to queue to try on some clothes because only 50% of the dressing rooms are open for use. I didn’t buy anything but took note of the pants I like and my size. I notice some baby clothes and remember my friend’s baby. I text her to confirm her baby’s size.
12:40pm — On the way back home, I pick up some fruits, kefir and OJ from Woolies. $17.23
1:00pm — I put away the groceries and have some cheesy bruschetta toast for lunch. My homemade bread tastes too healthy. Note to self: add another dollop of honey next time.
4:50pm — I online shop on Uniqlo for gifts and to treat myself. I buy some seamless underwear, denim leggings and gifts. I pay $102.20 but I get $20 back on AMEX because of their shopping offer. $82.20
5:40pm — I munch on some matcha cookies and steam some rice in the pressure cooker. I make a tahini omelette and eat it with vegetables, rice and leftover noodles. Who says a healthy vegetarian lunch can’t be packed with flavour?
10:00pm — The rest of the night is spent playing around with Canva and watching Youtube videos to learn more design tricks. Then I do my nighttime skin routine (I love this part) and it's bedtime. 

Daily Total: $99.43

Day Five

7:15am — Rise and shine! I wake up and get ready to go out for some Vitamin D and exercise.
7:32am — I jog to the park and do my usual cardio routine while listening to an Offline, The Podcast episode with Alison Rice and Donna Hay. It’s fascinating to learn about Donna’s career while I stretch and move my body. Donna speaks about her strong desire to create, and her struggles with lack of confidence, both of which I find endearingly relatable. 
8:01am — I return home, shower and do my morning skincare and hair blowdrying routine.
8:31am — Brekkie time with my usual oat milk, chia seeds and Weetbix combo.
8:51am — I log onto my work laptop for another work day and sip on some matcha. It's from Shoshin Matcha and although they advertise it as ceremonial grade, it doesn't hold a candle to the good stuff I tried in Japan. However, it will do for now to help me reduce my coffee consumption for better skin and more antioxidants.
11:00am — I feel peckish so I offer some matcha cookies to my boyfriend and eat some myself. I’m working at my boyfriend’s place today so yay for some company. I check my email and yay, my Uniqlo delivery is being shipped now. How efficient!
12:20pm — I toast some bread with camembert cheese in the oven. Melted cheese, bruschetta and smashed avo on toast is a classic. Yum! I also squeeze in some cuddle time during the break. Energy recharged, I go back to work.
5:00pm — I continue messing around with my design on Canva. The struggle is real to find the right font and font size! Some girlfriends message me and we book a restaurant for next year. It’s so hard to get a good time when booking a restaurant these days. I wonder why it gets fully booked so quickly - it might be due to people’s pent-up demand from being forced to not go out during lockdown.
6:00pm — I write in my gratitude journal. Grateful for productivity, this morning’s feel-good workout under the sun and for finding a new podcast I like! Good vibes all around.
6:38pm — I feel a mild form of cramps and wetness from my period underwear. It’s the first day so it’s strong. I thought this Bonds heavy underwear is meant to stay dry for longer. Maybe I should have bought Modibodi instead. I wash it and change to a new pair. When I get out of the bathroom, my boyfriend tells me he is snacking on a matcha cookie and says he likes it. It’s good to be validated although I still think it needs more sugar.
7:00pm — I bake some crispy kale chips. It’s good to have kale all chopped up ready to be popped into the oven when I feel like it (thanks, past me). I revive some old rice by turning it into fried rice, which I bulk up with miscellaneous items in my fridge like eggs and spinach. Yummy, easy dinner done.
10:00pm — The rest of the night is spent watching Young Sheldon and random Youtube videos. There’s this chiro video where you do a child’s pose variation on the wall. I copy the instructor and my back feels instantly good afterwards! Note to self: stretch more. I do my nighttime skincare routine and head to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Six 

8:19am — Another sleep-in. I wake up and remember having odd dreams of me bringing chopsticks to a picnic so I can eat roll-up candies without dirtying my hands. How amusing. I don't even eat candy!
8:27am — For breakfast, I eat my usual oat milk, chia seeds and Weetbix combo.
1:30pm — Lunchtime came quickly. How time flies when you’re in the zone. I eat some homemade toast with fried eggs, camembert cheese, honey and bruschetta. When that’s not enough, I finish my leftover fried rice. Yum! 
1:50pm — I take a quick break reading more of Dial A For Aunties. It’s engrossing finding out how the aunties will help Meddi dispose of a body. Before I know it, it’s time to go back to work.
5:20pm — I log off and notice the sink is full. I use the Skinceuticals clarifying masque on my face and leave it to dry as I clean and load the dishwasher. Aah, I feel productive and it’s so satisfying to see a clean sink.
5:41pm — Time to take a nice long hot shower, do a gua sha facial massage and try to breathe deeply. The smell of my Appelles B5 lotion soothes me as I get dressed. All relaxed, I browse the web and cancel my Blinkist free trial before they charge me.  
7:00pm — I cook some pasta and mix it with my pre-made sauce from my previous big batch. Meal prep for the win. That was satisfying. I eat dinner while Facetiming my mum. Thank god for technology bridging the distance. She mentions that some people we know got COVID. Yikes.
7:31pm — I get a calendar notification that It’s Mecca’s holiday edit live stream going live! I’m a sucker for good deals so I online shop at Mecca while watching two fab Mecca employees talk about their holiday edit that's only available for pre-order during the session. What a good marketing gimmick. They sell it well, but I still find it too expensive. I spend the next hour adding things to my wishlist. I DM Mecca to ask when their cute shopping bags will be available in-store so I’ll wait to finalise my purchase upon finding out! I’m eyeing some mascara, Lanolips and hair products. I add to cart and sleep on it. 
8:45pm — I play around designing on Canva (gotta maximise my free Pro trial before it ends), chill on the couch and read my book before brushing my teeth and then to bed at 11 pm.

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:15am — Rise and shine! I wake up and change my mind about sleeping in. I get ready to go out for some Vitamin D and exercise, as usual.
7:30am — I jog outside and decide to treat myself to an oat latte from a coffee cart I’ve been meaning to try ($4.50). It’s average. I make a note to only buy from cafes that have Minor Figures or Oatly for maximum enjoyment. I take a walk, enjoy the sunshine and finish listening to the Offline, The Podcast episode Donna Hay. Yes, get that Vitamin D! I take a quick pic of my coffee and post it on my Insta story. Happy Friday indeed. $4.50
8:50am — I arrive home and quickly get changed. For breakfast, I eat my usual oat milk and Weetbix combo. I check my email and notice that Lorna Jane emailed me a 15% off offer for full-priced items. Tempting! I decide to try on clothes in-store before buying online later. I log on to my work laptop for the last workday of the week. Yay!
1:10pm — Before I know it, it’s lunchtime. I eat my smashed avo on toast with bruschetta in quick bites. It’s a quick lunch break today.
4:30pm— I log off and make my way to Barry’s Bootcamp. I previously paid $150 for a five-class pack offer, which I got reimbursed back with my insurance extras cover. With the pumping music, red lights and intense workout, I feel accomplished and exhausted afterwards. They give me a scented chilled towel after the class which is a nice touch. I eye their expensive $12 smoothies but resist the temptation. I get changed and go for a walk with my wobbly legs. It’s a beautiful day outside and I’m high on endorphins. Talk about feeling accomplished!
5:51pm — After checking in, I head to Lorna Jane to try on some clothes and take pics of what I like and my correct size. They don’t have everything I want to try in-store but the service is great. The saleslady is helpful with suggestions, sizing and helping me locate the out-of-stock items in a different store. 
6:21pm — I am starving after all that movement. I head over to a Korean restaurant to meet some friends I haven’t seen since lockdown. There’s a queue so I put my name down on the waiting list and tear off a number from the sheet. When we’re finally seated, we feast on charcoal-grilled meats, side dishes, seafood tofu soup, rice wine, soju and beer! ($42.50 each) Soju tastes so neutral. I try beer and soju mixed together. It’s surprisingly good! Some of us have put on a few kilos, found new jobs and hobbies during lockdown. Thankfully, I’m too scared to check the weighing scale so I can’t say that for myself. Stuffed, we take a walk around the city and then part ways. $42.50
9:31pm — I go home to my boyfriend’s place and take a nice long shower and do my nighttime skincare routine. Sadly, I accidentally drop my gua sha tool which breaks into pieces. Ah well. At least, I got some use out of it. I thought it’s meant to be a stronger stone! I chill on the couch with my boyfriend and then to bed at 11 pm. I’m excited for tomorrow’s weekend of freedom!

 Daily Total: $47

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