Money Diaries

A Week In Summer Hill, Sydney, On A $70,000 Salary

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Today: a marketing specialist who makes $70,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a Starbucks Frappuccino.
Occupation: Marketing Specialist
Industry: Technology
Age: 23
Location: Summer Hill, Sydney
Annual Income: $70,000
Net Worth: $95,300 ($82,600 in savings, $12,000 in super, and $700 in spending money) 
Debt: $29.226.09 (HECS)
Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $1,907.57
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $2,042 in rent, which I split with my boyfriend so it works out to be $1021 each. I live in a two-bedroom art deco apartment in Summer Hill. We have a gorgeous shared backyard, with a veggie patch, a stone oven (which sadly doesn’t work) and a good ol’ hills hoist. 
Loans: $176 towards my HECS debt.
Internet: $59.90
Phone: $40.14
Netflix, Spotify, and utilities: Free. My boyfriend pays for them. I usually pay for our grocery shopping and internet, so it works out to roughly the same price.
Savings contributions: I put half of my paycheque into my savings. 

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

Yes, I completed a double degree — a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History, and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies in Media and Communications. I have just started paying off my HECS debt.

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

My stepdad took the lead in educating me about finances. He helped me set up my first bank account, taught me about interest and the value of saving half my income. I never got pocket money from either of my parents, but I was fortunate enough to always be able to ask if I wanted something. My Mum, to this day, still insists on paying for things when we're out together.

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

I started working at McDonald’s as soon as I was legally able to, which was 14 years and 9 months at the time. For me, starting work wasn’t so much about earning money as much as it was a desire to be more independent and have a sense of responsibility. I worked there for about four years, right up until I sat the HSC. Though it wasn’t a particularly challenging job, I definitely think I can attribute my work ethic and people skills to working at McDonald’s.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, not at all. I usually got what I asked for, so I had no reason to really worry about money until I started working. My parents did struggle a little financially when I was super young, but they managed to work themselves up into a stronger financial position soon after. I never worried about money as a kid and they never passed any stress or anxiety about money onto me or my younger brother. Yet, because of the financial struggles they experienced, they managed to instil some pretty strong savings habits into us — they didn’t want us to ever experience financial struggle as they had. 

Do you worry about money now? 

Honestly, no. I’ve inherited this from my parents. But, I acknowledge this is because I come from a particularly privileged position. I know that if I fell into financial struggle, I have significant savings and my parents to fall back on. 

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

Last year, I moved out of home with my long-term boyfriend. We’ve been splitting everything almost 50/50, so it’s been a gentle transition into financial responsibility. I also have a pretty strong safety net due to my savings — over $80,000. I’ve achieved this by consistently putting half of my income into my savings, and always putting away money for Christmas and birthdays. My parents also occasionally top up my savings with a few hundred or so when I hit a milestone (like saving $10,000 or $50,000). They encourage me to save, and also reward me for saving. Of this amount, about $20,000 is in term deposits, which helps me earn an extra few hundred dollars in interest each year. 

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

Yes. Some of my passive income comes from interest accrued on my savings – about $400 per year – and some comes from monetary gifts from my family, for example, the $500 I received from my Mum for recently graduating.

Day 1

7:00am – I wake up momentarily, then snooze my alarm and go back to sleep. 
8:45am – I wake up again naturally and decide that it’s time to get up. I put on a pot of coffee for myself and my boyfriend. On a cold and drizzly Sunday like today, we would normally pop down to our local cafe for a coffee. But we’re both on our last day of isolation after contracting Covid, so coffee in bed it is!
9:15am – We watch TikTok on my boyfriend’s phone for a while. Is anyone else’s boyfriend’s FYP just a compilation of the most bizarre content? Mine gets a bunch of international content from Russia and China. Things like animals with human clothes on, dancing and interesting local cuisines (like animal guts and liver!). He’s really into international music, so I guess the algorithm decided international content was his thing!
10:30am – I make a late breakfast of scrambled eggs and hash browns. The eggs end up a little wonky, partly because our nonstick frying pan has lost its non-stickiness, and partly because I’m just terrible at cooking eggs. We eat them anyway, YOLO. 
12:30pm – My boyfriend and I veg out on the couch with a bowl of salt and vinegar chips and watch a movie — a Japanese film from 1947 by Akira Kurosawa called One Wonderful Sunday. It's about a young couple that struggles financially, but despite living in poverty, they attempt to have a fun Sunday out. They walk around expensive neighbourhoods, play baseball with the local children, and pretend they're enjoying the theatre in an empty amphitheatre. It’s such a beautiful movie — and very fitting for a Money Diary week! 
3:00pm – I feel like redeeming myself after the average eggs from this morning, so I try my hand at Carla Lalli Music’s praline meringues. There are a lot of ‘trust the process’ moments, like taking the almond caramel to a perfect mahogany colour without burning it and creaming the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler (the bowl almost went overboard!). In the end, they turn out so much better than I could have imagined. I end up calling my mum to gush about them. 
7:30pm – My boyfriend and I split a pizza delivery ($28) and watch a few episodes of Taskmaster. I’ve got a terrible case of the Sunday scaries and want to soak up every last bit of my weekend. $28
Daily Total: $28

Day 2

8:00am – After snoozing my 7am alarm, I wake up and ask my boyfriend to put on a pot of coffee. To my surprise, he obliges without hesitation — there’s usually a bit of back and forth about whose turn it is to make coffee. 
9:00am – I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I walk 20 metres from the living room to the kitchen, where my makeshift office desk (a small IKEA table) is, so I can begin work. I skip breakfast and opt for some grapes instead. I’m still feeling pretty full from last night’s pizza. 
12:30pm – I use my lunch break to make lunch – leftover pizza with a handful of rocket, for, you know, balance. After lunch, I get ready to venture outside for the first time in 14 days. It looks like it’s going to rain soon, so I quickly write my shopping list, grab my bags and head out the door. I have some clothes that need donating, so my first stop is the Vinnies down the road. Since moving out, I've donated a lot of old clothes from my childhood, as well as things that simply don't fit anymore. Donating is mostly a necessity, as we just don't have room in our apartment for all my clothes! Then it’s off to the grocery store for a few bits and pieces like bread and fruit ($21.98). Finally, I head to my local coffee shop for a much-needed takeaway coffee before getting home ($4.06). $26.04
3:30pm – I feel a little peckish, so I have some corn chips and salsa as a snack. 
6:00pm – I start prepping for dinner — we’re having preserved lemon butter beans, roasted potatoes and salad. I convince my boyfriend to soak up the late afternoon sun with me and take a 20-minute stroll down the street and back. We talk about how to make proper baked beans and how we’re going to avoid Covid in the future. We were invited to a gig in Newtown this weekend, but we’ve decided not to go as it’s just going to be too risky. When we get home, I change out of my ‘outside’ clothes into my ‘inside’ clothes (aka, a t-shirt and some undies). 
9:00pm – My boyfriend realises we’re running low on Tupperware while doing the dishes, so I pop down to my local grocery store to buy some more ($22.84). It feels odd shopping at a grocery store so late at night. I feel like people don’t typically do their shopping at this time, but I’m thankful that the shops are open! Plus, it’s such a great feeling being out of isolation. It wasn’t too bad as I had my boyfriend's company, but it was hard because I wasn’t allowed to go outside at all — not even for a walk. That made me feel really restless and antsy, so I’m just thankful to be able to get out of the house. $22.84
Daily Total: $48.88 

Day 3

8:30am – Snoozed my 7am alarm again. I really don’t know why I insist on setting it so early when I snooze it every single time. 
8:45am – My boyfriend suggests that we get a takeaway coffee this morning, his treat. How can I resist? After spending a couple of weeks in isolation, it’s so nice to be able to walk down to our local again. The last few years of the pandemic have been incredibly tough on small businesses, so we’ve been especially happy to splash some cash to support them. 
12:30pm – I’m still feeling pretty satisfied from my coffee this morning, so I use my lunch break to run a few errands. I put on a load of laundry as it’s a warm and breezy day. Then I head down to the post office (which is only a 3-minute walk from our place) to return some mail we received that was meant for the previous tenants. I also pop into the local grocery store for a few things I know we’re running low on, such as tea, coffee and baking paper, and some stuff that I couldn’t resist, like sweet chilli plant-based chicken tenders and chocolate-coated wafers ($30.73). $30.73 
4:00pm – I have a tea and a few chocolate-coated wafers as an afternoon pick-me-up. I slump back in my chair while reading over a content piece I’ve just written, and realise how uncomfortable my chair is. Maybe it’s time to invest in a proper office set-up? The IKEA table and secondhand office chair just aren’t doing it for me anymore. I make a mental note to look at new office chairs, a desk and a laptop stand later this week after I get paid. 
7:30pm – My boyfriend and I have dinner at his parents’ house. We haven’t seen them in weeks, so it’s nice to catch up over some delicious seafood pasta. 
10:30pm – I scroll through TikTok until I fall asleep. I know it’s bad to use your phone right before you go to bed ( I think it’s because it overstimulates your brain?), but I honestly can’t think of a better nighttime ritual. 
Daily Total: $30.73

Day 4

7:30am – Snoozed my 7am alarm, but at least it’s an improvement from yesterday’s 8:30am wake up!  We normally never get takeaway coffee three days in a row, but my boyfriend insists on walking down to our local and picking up a couple of lattes for us to drink in bed ($0 — his shout). Who am I to deny him that luxury? 
9:30am – The hunger my coffee had suppressed dissipates, so I make some toast with butter to scoff down before my virtual meeting. My boyfriend checks on the cured egg yolks he made on Sunday. He says they smell a bit funky, but I can’t smell anything. I’m hoping this isn’t a residual Covid symptom…
12:00pm – My boyfriend and I walk down to the grocery store during my lunch break. He picks up some ingredients for an Italian sandwich – bread, salami, mozzarella and tomato – and I get some pre-made salmon sushi and edamame crisps. He pays, because I bought groceries last time. 
1:30pm – I quickly call my Mum to confirm what days I’m coming back home in the next few weeks. My parents are going on a holiday up the North Coast, so I need to look after their two cats while they’re gone. She convinces me to come up when my Dad and brother come home. To be honest, it doesn’t take too much convincing as I’ve spent a week of my annual leave sick with Covid and in isolation, so I’m in desperate need of a real break. I enter my annual leave days into my work’s payroll system and notify my manager, who approves it straight away. 
2:45pm – Feeling like I need a food-fuelled pick-me-up after a 1:1 with my manager (who is awesome, by the way — I feel so lucky!) and writing all day, I make a tea and have more of those chocolate-coated wafers, which we’re already almost out of. 
5:00pm – I was intending to go for a walk as soon as I finished work, but just as the clock strikes 5, it starts bucketing down. Fine, you pulled my leg. I won’t exercise after all. 
5:15pm – I really wanted this to be a $0 day, but my phone bill has just come through via email — $40.14. I usually pay bills right when I see them come through — otherwise I’ll forget. $40.14
7:30pm – My boyfriend makes us spaghetti carbonara for dinner — the proper way (with egg yolks and not cream, please don’t come for me!). It’s delicious, of course. I sit down and watch Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, but this reunion is definitely making me tear up.
11:00pm – I scroll through TikTok until I fall asleep — you know how it is. 
Daily Total: $40.14

Day 5

8:00am – Resist the urge to get a takeaway coffee for the fourth day in a row and make myself an instant coffee instead. It’s definitely not as satisfying, but it’s easier on the wallet. 
9:00am – I make some buttered toast, as per usual, and eat it during my morning standup meeting. My colleagues all admire how ‘crispy’ my bread looks through the camera – I do love my toast seconds away from being burnt. It’s looking like another relatively quiet day at work, with only a few short meetings throughout the day. This means I have to get a lot of writing done. Maybe I should have gotten that proper takeaway coffee after all…  
12:30pm – I use one half of my lunch break to make and scoff down some sweet chilli plant-based chicken tenders and rocket, and the other half to purchase one-way plane tickets up the North Coast for my boyfriend and I ($202.36). My boyfriend will pay his half of the ticket when he gets paid at the end of this week, and my Mum has offered to pay for our train fare back down the coast as she’ll be on the same train. That’s just another example of my Mum’s unwavering financial generosity. $202.36
3:00pm – I was going to have a picnic with two of my closest friends this afternoon, but it’s started bucketing down again, so I suggest they both come here for dinner. One of them is moving to Canberra soon, and she hasn’t seen our new apartment yet (we moved in about four months ago!), so it’s the perfect chance for her to come over before she leaves. 
5:00pm – I flick through a couple of cookbooks, pick some recipes (asparagus with brown butter bread crumbs, marinated lamb chops and roast potatoes with garlic aioli, FYI) and jot down the ingredients I need from the shops. I head to the butcher first to get some lamb ($39.75). It’s incredibly expensive, but I reckon it’ll be worth it for how delicious it is (and the incredible leftovers it’ll yield!). Then, I head to the grocer to get the other ingredients for dinner, plus some fertiliser for our chilli plant and lemon tree ($56.55). I think if someone asked me what my hobby was, I'd say it's cooking. It's kind of funny — my parents aren't big foodies (my mum is vegetarian and a 'food is fuel' kinda person), but I've always loved cooking and the experience of eating food! I feel relaxed and in control when I’m in the kitchen. My job is kind of tiresome and boring sometimes, and my life can be like that too, so it’s really an escape for me. I also find it's kind of like an art form. I'm totally shithouse at visual arts, but I feel like my cooking is a work of art, and that fulfils me in a creative sense. $96.30
7:15pm – My friends arrive at the apartment and I show them around. One of them keeps saying how big this place is compared to our old place. I completely agree — it’s at least double the size of our old apartment. They both bring wine and dessert, which is super nice and unexpected, as I told them not to bring a thing (a classic catchphrase!). We have dinner on the balcony, reminisce about our time together in Sydney and talk about how much we’re going to miss each other when my friend moves interstate.
9:00pm – After dinner and a couple of wines outside, we come back inside for dessert and an episode of Euphoria. I’m actually having a backwards experience of the show as I started watching it from Season Two. I kept seeing it everywhere on TikTok, so decided to jump in. I haven’t even had time to watch the first season yet! 
11:00pm – I say goodbye to my friends, do the dishes, and hit the hay. 
Daily Total: $298.66

Day 6

8:30am – I wake up with a hangover, but it’s nothing too major. I make myself and my boyfriend a coffee and silently thank myself for doing all the dishes last night. 
9:30am – I have leftover dessert for breakfast — a mix of tiramisu and mud chocolate cake. It’s Friday… who’s to judge me?! My day’s looking pretty quiet on the meeting front, so I set in to finish some content pieces and prepare for the next two-week sprint ahead. 
10:00am – I remember that I got paid today and check my bank account (+$1,907.57). I transfer half into savings and $470 into a separate bank account for rent. 
12:00pm – Leftover lamb, potatoes and asparagus for lunch — truly the best Friday lunch ever. I use part of my lunch break to shower (one of the many perks of WFH!) and do a load of laundry. My brother is coming over for dinner tonight, so I also do a quick tidy around the apartment. I haven’t seen my brother since Christmas, so I’m super excited to spend some time with him. I moved out of home almost a year ago now. My brother still lives with my parents as he’s in his last year of high school. We were close when I lived at home, but I feel like distance makes the heart grow fonder so whenever I see him now, I really cherish our time together. 
3:30pm – Feeling in dire need of a tea and a snack after two back-to-back meetings, one of which I led. I make myself a tea and have some wasabi edamame chips. 
4:45pm – I decide to get a head start on a task I was going to leave until the weekend – cleaning out the fridge. Keeping an ear out for the Slack ping as I still technically have 15 minutes left of work, I take out all the contents of my fridge and throw out some cream, cheese, pasta sauces and cured meats that are all out of date. I also chuck away a bunch of mouldy leftovers (ew!) and wash the used Tupperware and fridge compartments. Finally, I put all the good stuff back in. I absolutely hate doing this job, but it needs to be done at least once a month. 
7:45pm – I order some sushi for myself and my brother ($60.59). We both get a deluxe bento box, his with katsu chicken and mine with karaage chicken. We watch Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind while we eat – it’s one of the few Ghibli films I hadn’t seen yet. $60.59
Daily Total: $60.59 

Day 7

8:00am – I wake up to a gorgeous, sunny day. I put on a pot of coffee for myself and my boyfriend, and enjoy it on the couch. 
8:30am – I have leftover sushi from last night for breakfast. I’m a huge believer in eating leftovers, no matter the time of day. Also, sushi is one of those foods you don’t have to heat up, so bonus points for a minimal-effort breakfast. 
12:00pm – It’s hot out there today! I’m wearing shorts, a singlet and my favourite footwear ever — Birkenstocks. I head down to the local train station, tap on with my Opal card and jump on the train towards my old local station, Rockdale. 
12:30pm – I tap off at Rockdale ($3.18) and meet my Dad outside the station. I would normally walk up to our place (it’s only a 10-minute walk) but it’s so hot and my dad is already out and about in his car, so I've asked him to pick me up. Every now and again, I stay at my parents' place, say hi to our two cats, and have a stickybeak in the pantry. Maybe the thing I miss most about living at home is the stocked-up pantry with chips, granola bars and chocolates as far as the eye can see. $3.18
2:00pm – My Mum and I head to Sutherland pool for a swim. I’m usually hesitant to jump in the water right away, but it’s so warm that I hardly flinch when I dive in. We do a few laps of the outdoor pool, but we get the heave-ho from a water polo team. No big deal, there’s another outdoor lap pool we can swim in. We do a few more laps, save some almost-drowning bees, then head out again. 
3:30pm – We head to Miranda Westfield to do some shopping for our trip up the coast. I need new swimwear and my boyfriend needs a new towel. Mum treats us both to Starbucks. I get a salted caramel mocha Frappuccino and she gets a triple mocha Frappuccino. It’s a little sweet, but it’s cold, so that’s all that matters. I find a quick-dry towel for my boyfriend at a bookstore, go figure?! ($43.95). I also find a gorgeous red swim top and black swim briefs, which my Mum kindly pays for. $43.95
6:30pm – We meet my Dad and brother at home, then we all head to our favourite Chinese restaurant in Kingsford. This has been our go-to Chinese spot for at least ten years. We absolutely love the joint and the people that work there. The lady that always takes our order practically knows it by heart – Hong Kong fried rice, steamed rice, Chinese broccoli, sweet and sour pork chop, salt and pepper squid, vermicelli noodles medium spice with no sesame (for Mum, she’s deathly allergic to sesame!) and a new addition to our regular order, lemon chicken (at my brother's request). Don’t forget the Chinese jasmine tea and lots of chilli paste, of course. My parents pay — another perk of being at home!
8:00pm – We all head back to my parents' place to relax after an incredibly filling meal. My mum brings out old photos that my grandfather kept before he passed away a few years ago. They’re mostly photos of my mum when she was younger — spanning from when she was a baby until she was about 21. There are also lots of photos of my aunty and uncle and photos from Greece of relatives I’ve never met. I’ve never been to Greece, but I’d like to go in the next few years and meet my relatives. Plus, it would be great to see where my grandparents grew up. 
10:00pm – Back at my apartment, my boyfriend and I relay our days to each other. Despite being one blink away from falling asleep, I haul myself to the shower to wash off the day. I've heard that chlorine isn’t great for the skin if not washed off within a few hours. 
10:30pm – I skip my nightly routine of scrolling through TikTok for hours (shocking) and fall asleep almost instantly. 
Daily Total: $47.13
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