Money Diaries

A Week In Annandale, Sydney, On A $26,000 Income

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: Masters Student/Nanny/Event Staff
Industry: Childcare/Hospitality
Age: 26
Location: Annandale, Sydney, Australia
Salary: I don't have a salary, but I'd guess I probably make around $26,000 in the year.
Net Worth: I have around $9,000 in savings.
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (weekly): This varies from week to week but is usually between $200 — $500.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $920 a month. I share with two housemates and their dog. I love my housemates, but if I could afford it I think I'd absolutely love to live alone in a studio or 1 bedroom apartment.
Loans: $0
Utilities: $196 (For gas, water and electricity. Paid quarterly and split between my housemates)
Netflix: $11.99
Spotify: $5.99 (Student plan, babyyyyy)
Mobile Phone: $30
Home internet: $27 (Split between 3)
Savings contribution: $400 a month where possible — sometimes more, sometimes less.
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Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

My undergraduate degree back in the UK was free. My parents pay for my Masters degree here in Australia — it's $12,000 each semester. I'm from the UK and studying means that I get a student visa and can stay in Australia until the end of my degree, when I have to find a different visa or go back home. I'm going to apply for a post-study work stream visa hopefully.

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

My parents were always fairly open about money and what we could afford, and made it clear that it was something that we worked hard for. They encouraged me to get a part-time job when I was old enough, but there were never conversations about me needing to do a specific career or degree in order to make money — doing something I enjoyed has always been more important to them.

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

My first job was working in the stockroom of a large clothing store. I loved how grown-up it felt to be getting a payslip, and I loved having my own money to spend on the weekends. My very first purchase from my first job was a faux leather jacket from Topshop which was $130.

Did you worry about money growing up?

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I never really worried or thought much about money growing up. I knew that mum and dad had fairly secure, stable jobs, and we always had nice food on the table and lived in a lovely house, so I had no reason to ask questions.

Do you worry about money now?

Money is probably my biggest worry nowadays. Sydney is the most expensive city I've ever lived in, and it's hard not to worry when you live pretty much week-to-week in terms of paying for things. It's also sometimes hard to look around and see everyone living that bougie Sydney life, and still be a broke student trying to fit in with my peers, but I'm fairly sensible with my money and I work hard, so I know I'll always be ok. Hopefully one day I'll be able to get my dream teaching job and actually be financially secure (manifesting, am I right!).

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

I became 100% financially responsible when I left the UK in 2017, although I had been paying my way through university with only a little financial contribution from mum and dad prior to that. My financial safety net is my savings account, which I have never let dip below $2000. This means that if I ever needed to fly home immediately, I'd never have to worry about the cost.

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

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Nope.

Day One

7:30am — I wake up at my boyfriend’s house. He works full time (from home, since lockdown), and since I have an exam at lunchtime that I absolutely want to avoid studying for, I spend the morning pottering around and tidying his room while he works.

9:30am — Boyfriend has a doctor’s appointment that he has to fast for, so neither of us eat breakfast this morning. I walk him to his appointment and sit and (regrettably) study in a nearby cafe where I buy my first coffee of the week. $4

10:34am — I meet him after his appointment with a tofu banh mi for post-fast breakfast. $6

11:05am — Home. My housemate baked a cake over the weekend, so I eat coffee cake for breakfast. Health is wealth. After a quick scan of my notes, I open my laptop to sit the online exam. To my relief, it contained no huge surprises and I’m glad to have another assessment behind me.

12:20pm — I’ve been out of town all weekend, so I’m embracing a rush of productivity and making some noodles with eggs and veggies (from the fridge/cupboard) whilst doing laundry and tidying up.

1:30pm — Time for my daily walk! I make an iced coffee in a keep cup at home using my Nespresso machine which stops me from spending another $4 on a coffee while I’m out.

2:55pm — I pay my weekly rent to my housemate, using savings from when I had more of an income (the halcyon days of 2 weeks ago). $230, counted in my weekly expenses.

3:00pm — I have an online tutorial via Zoom, in which I participate from my bedroom for maximum comfort.

4:30pm — I turn my camera and mic off and scoot over to my nanny job the next suburb over, where I look after a 7-year-old for the evening. I was helping out with her homeschooling through lockdown, and now that she’s back at school I’ll go back to looking after her every now and then. I'm doing a four-hour shift today so I'll make $100 (I get paid $25 per hour).

6:30pm — Myself and the 7-year-old eat dinner together — mine is a bunch of veggies I prepped earlier with some rice from home.

9:00pm — I walk home to save $$$ on buses or Uber. I call my dad back home for a chat before I head to bed to binge more of The Circle on Netflix (cringe) and sleep.
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Daily Total: $10

Day Two

7:30am — I woke up to read a message from a boy I used to kiss at parties when I was 18, asking how I am. Why are men like this? I chuck my hair up and make a cup of tea.

8:00am — SCIENCE TIME! It’s my final Science tutorial for the semester, learning how to teach primary school children about melting and mixing. Watching my tutor burn marshmallows in the microwave over zoom at 8am has surely made the thousands of dollars of uni fees well worth it.

10:00am — Science done. Kind of weird that I’ve done a whole semester without meeting anyone. I’m a bit of an extrovert so I’ve really missed that human connection. I boil some rice for later (prep queen) and make some smashed avo on toast at home. Wow, I really am a quintessential student.

10:30am — Feeling weirdly run down and knackered already, which is unusual for me. I stick with comfy clothes, make my fourth cuppa of the day (English breakfast babyyyyy!) and spend the next two hours journaling, watching youtube vlogs and taking very sporadic looks at a history assessment I have due on the weekend.

12:30pm — Haven’t been to the shops in a hot minute so my lunch is a very thrown together last-bit-of-everything: mashed sweet potato, some tomatoes, an avocado, a fried egg and some lentil burger thing that I found in the freezer. My rule is that if you can coat it in sesame oil, you can guarantee it’ll taste good.

1:00pm — My ACTUAL final tutorial of the semester! It’s a fun lesson, but ends with some advice and chatter about teacher accreditation and next steps. This bit really scares me because as an international student, it’s much harder to get full teaching accreditation in Australia, as well as full-time employment after my degree. I often find myself spiralling into a visa-related google search frenzy which ends in tears about 85% of the time. Including today. But it’s okay. We can manifest that dream life! I AM going to be a great teacher (it’s truly my dream job).

3:30pm — With my tutorial and crying sesh done, I realise I’m probably due some more procrastination/exercise, so I chuck a podcast on and head out on a walk. I like listening to podcasts from the UK because it makes me feel in touch with trashy celeb culture from back home, as well as soothing me with familiar accents and voices.

4:00pm — One of the vlogs I watched earlier included a trip to an op shop, so I was *influenced* into doing the same, and pop into a local Vinnies. I’d forgotten how relaxing it is to rummage through second-hand men's shirts! I ended up buying a book, $5. En route back home I pop into Aldi and buy a banana, pickles, cotton buds, spinach and a bag of rice — $9.12. $14.12

5:30pm — After coming home and playing with my housemate's dog for a while, I make some rice, fried cauliflower, eggs and spinach for dinner. I REALLY need to do a big shop…

6:00pm — I start building my website for my history project and researching what I want to include. The project will be on Chinese Celebrations and Chinese culture in Australia, and I want to teach it as authentically and respectfully as I can.

11:00pm — I stay up later than usual chatting to my two best girlfriends from back home. General timezone differences and also the busyness of daily life means that we don’t talk as often as we should, but they’re the type of friends where it doesn’t really matter how long it’s been — you can dive right back into gossiping immediately (which is usually worth the late night).
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Daily Total: $14.12

Day Three

8:00am — I’ve been feeling super run down lately which I think is largely due to the inordinate amount of pressure I put on myself to complete assessments at the last minute. Love that for me. Anyway, I decide to let myself snooze until 8 in the name of self-care, before a bowl of cornflakes with soy milk.

9:30am — I’ve pottered about the house for a while, so I decide to enact my inner millennial and head to my nearest Starbucks to work on my assessment. I find that I concentrate much better in a cafe, largely due to the fact I’d be too embarrassed to watch Netflix in public. Plus, Starbucks has wifi and no one judges you for taking up space, and I like the fact that I get the feeling like I COULD actually be in Glasgow, or Chiang Mai, or London. So universally soothing. I get a flat white and an almond croissant. $7.95

12:00pm — After a somewhat productive time spent in Starbucks, coupled with a long dark corridor expedition to find the loo (reminiscent of the Wetherspoons toilet hunt back in the UK — if you know you know), I swing past the shops out of pure curiosity to see what I’ve been missing, being away from shopping centres all this time. Answer: not much. I’d forgotten how being in actual shops gives me the fear that I am collecting things (leftover from when I lived out of a backpack) that I don’t actually need, and therefore I talk myself out of buying almost anything. EVEN in Kmart. #thrifty. I do however nip into JB Hi-Fi to buy a new disposable camera (source of my only good Instagram content last year) - $20.95 - and lose some willpower in the Body Shop, $20. $40.95

1:30pm — It’s about a 40-minute walk home from the shops, so I pop a podcast on and enjoy the sunshine. I’m currently listening to All The Small Things hosted by Venetia La Manna, who’s super passionate about fighting fast fashion and climate change, and justice/fair pay for garment workers across the world.

2:15pm — I make a late lunch of rice, veggies, tofu and some kimchi. I really go through phases of eating the same kind of thing on repeat for days on end, which is economical when you’re cooking/shopping for one, and also if you aren’t a super fussy eater like me - I find that as long as I’m getting heaps of veggies and carbs in, I’m happy.

2:40pm — I make a Nespresso iced coffee and call a mate to chat through our assignment. You know when someone says “yeah, well, I think you’re on the right track, probably….” and you know now that you are most definitely not on the right track? Yup. The next few hours are spent sipping tea and researching/brainstorming lesson ideas for my project.

7:30pm — A draft has been drafted.

7:45pm — Had pizza cravings, decided to make the frozen pizza that was definitely intended for a hangover day. Also decided to not feel bad about it because I can’t remember the last time I had takeaway or restaurant pizza/fast food.

8:00pm — After a nice long shower, I get cosy in pyjamas and watch He’s All That on Netflix. Grade A trash, but pretty much exactly what I need to just switch off.

10:30pm — Boyfriend has just been to see Hamilton and he comes over to sleep. I begrudgingly ask him how it was, not out of jealousy but literally because I cannot stand musical theatre. I’m aware this is a hugely unpopular opinion but it makes me cringe down to my very core. Massive ick.
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Daily Total: $48.90

Day Four

7:30am — Boyfriend leaves to head to work. Sometimes I feel needy AF because I think I literally always want him around, but after he’s been gone a little while I start to remember how nice it is to get things done by myself.

9:30am — After a shower, a tidy up, and a breakfast of eggs, avocado, rice and mushrooms (with heaps of hot sauce), I walk over to my nearest supermarket to do my 'big shop'.

10:30am — Big shop complete. I got blueberries, eggs, asparagus, tofu, soy milk, bread, noodles, vegan 'meat' strips, some Dove deodorant, vegan kimchi, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms and other bits and pieces. I have a girls 'bring a thing' picnic this weekend, so I pick up a selection of chips, crackers, salsa, hummus, and a couple of cheeses (camembert is my personal fave). I also buy toilet gel, glass spray and kitchen rolls. You can tell I’m stressed about something when I start buying more cleaning products. $73.93

12:30pm — I make a quick sandwich for lunch, and drink another couple of cups of tea. The rest of the afternoon is spent researching and typing — not the most exciting day, but it feels good to be making progress, especially since the current project I’m working on is worth 50% of the course unit.

3:30pm — Boyfriend had an appointment nearby and swings by my house to say hello on his bike. He breaks my front gate, but he has brought me a chocolate bar, which is cute.

4:12pm — Gas bill has come in, so I bank transfer my housemate before I forget about it. $74, counted in my weekly expenses.

4:50pm — I’m hungry so I decide to make a super early dinner of wholemeal pasta, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini and olives in a tomato sauce.

5:30pm — I walk over to my nanny job and we spent the evening baking pink cupcakes and playing cards. It’s funny how hanging out with kids can cheer you up.

9:10pm — I chat with my mum the whole walk home. For a while, I was avoiding calling home as much, because whenever the call would end I’d get overwhelmed with homesickness and get super upset. I’m getting out of that funk now, but I’m still homesick often, and can’t wait for the borders to open for temporary residents so I can go home and visit my family again.
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Daily Total: $73.93

Day Five

7:30am — I dreamt that a girlfriend and I were plotting a backpacking trip to China, and woke up extremely disappointed to find Australia’s borders still closed. Since 2017, backpacking and travel has been my absolute favourite thing, where I’ll happily spend all my savings and wear the same 4 dresses for months on end, in between 5-month stints in countries working my butt off to pay for the next trip. If COVID-19 hadn’t happened, I’d have been teaching English in South Korea and have travelled a bunch more. I know that most people are feeling the same way — I’m missing the travel life so much. Hopefully, Aussie visa permitting, I’ll be able to take some time to go home and then do a bit of a hop around next year.

8:30am — I journal, shower, have a cup of tea and some cereal.

9:30am — In the hopes of increased productivity; I arrive at a cafe and order a cold brew. $4.80

10:05am — I’ve decided I’m really enjoying this assignment; it’s just taking me so long because I’m a perfectionist with things that I care about. And I clearly, desperately want the validation that comes with good grades. After tapping away at my keyboard for a while, my boss from my pre-lockdown job calls me to check in that I’m still keen to work for them again. The timing is perfect as the job will start right as my last uni things of the semester are being turned in. She also offers me a small promotion and small pay rise (!!) which is always super nice in the hospo industry. I’m excited to start working around people every day again, and get back to my busy, chirpy self that kind of got hidden away in lockdown.

11:35am — I eat a banana on the walk home, listening to a podcast about “body image and burnout”. I rate a podcast with a female empowerment vibe.

12:30pm — I heat the leftover pasta from last night for lunch, with some extra mushrooms and olives, and some parmesan on top.

5:15pm — I pack a tote with clothes, chargers and hair products for the next day as well as some ingredients to go towards dinner and wander over to my boyfriend’s house. Living out of a tote bag is somewhat irritating - I’m sure heaps of girls out there would agree.

6:30pm — We combine ingredients and ad-lib a sauce to make an egg noodle stir fry for dinner with the vegan meat strips and a heap of different veggies. We find some veggie spring rolls in the freezer which we chuck in the oven also (yum). We watch another episode of You on Netflix - I’m back to fancying Joe again, I think.
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Daily Total: $4.80

Day Six

8:30am — I’m a sucker for a leftover brekky, so I heat up some of last night’s stir fry and slap a fried egg on top, and we make a fresh coffee and sit on the balcony to soak in some morning sun.

9:30am — My boyfriend and I both have heaps of stuff to get done today, so we sit at the kitchen table at our computers and beaver away at our respective assignments. I have a critical reflection of my project to write, so I’m reading up on the textbook and some academic papers that I can reference. I’m writing about why teachers should be doing everything they can to promote tolerance, anti-racism and inclusivity for the next generation — something I’m really passionate about.

12:30pm — Lunch break! We wander down to the little cafe around the corner and we share a rice bowl and a burrito, sitting outside on their patio seating in the sun. It’s our first cafe date since this lockdown ended in Sydney, so it’s really really nice. BF pays so I spend $0.

4:00pm — After an afternoon of working, studying, hanging out with the housemates and wondering how our Saturday got to be so dull, we watch another episode of You on the sofa before my boyfriend heads to boy’s night drinks — which it turns out are at MY house. I love when people plan events at your house without telling you.

6:00pm — I eat the leftover rice bowl we brought home from the cafe (it was giant!) for dinner, while I polish off my reflection and check all my references etc. No one is home at my boyfriend’s place, so I get peace and quiet at his desk and squeeze in a (virtual) catch up with some uni friends too.

9:30pm — Submitted my project! I tidy his room up and watch the new Bachelorette in bed until he gets home.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:10am — Boyfriend is a little hungover, so I wander down to the local IGA in the morning sun. I buy him a croissant, some orange juice, and a loaf of bread for brekky: $12.53

9:30am — I head back to my house to get ready for the day. It’s been a while since I’ve seen all the gals together, so I’m really excited.

10:15am — I pop to Vintage Cellars and pick up a bottle of cheap prosecco to make mimosas, $12

10:35am — I hop on a bus with my tote bag full of snacks, and head to the park we arranged to picnic at. It’s the perfect day to sip mimosas, eat way too much cheese and catch up.

3:00pm — Slightly tipsy by now, I leave the picnic to head to date night with the BF. We meet at the Australian Museum and wander around until it closes, looking at all the stuffed animals and dinosaur eggs. It’s SO NICE to go on real dates again.

5:00pm — Museum closes, so we wander aimlessly down pretty streets and end up at a little underground bar which is cowboy-themed and has a live band. The next couple of hours are spent nibbling on peanuts and sipping whisky with apple juice (he pays, so I spend $0.)

7:30pm — In search of dinner, we wander the city slightly more tipsy until a sign saying “Dumplings & Beer” entices us in, and we take a lil window seat to share dumplings and beer. We split it, and I pay $22.45.

8:55pm — We hop on a bus home. I usually tap my bank card instead of using Opal, so my public transport for the week comes out all at once. $9.64
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Daily Total: $56.62
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