Money Diaries

A Week In Newcastle, NSW, On A $70,000 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.

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Today: a media executive who makes $70,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a hot cross bun from Macca's.
Occupation: Media Executive
Industry: Media & Advertising
Age: 25
Location: Newcastle, NSW
Salary: $70,909
Net Worth: $77,000 ($42,000 in savings, $18,000 in superannuation, a car worth $2,000, and $15,000 worth of camera, laptop and computer gear).
Debt: $20,000 in HECS debt from my Bachelor's degree that I completed in 2018.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,043
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $780, including all bills and internet. I live in shared accommodation with five other girls. I have my own room, but it's a shared kitchen, dining, lounge room, and bathroom. We also have a laundry that's shared with the whole building. I spend most of my time at my boyfriend's house close by. Phone plan (Amaysim): $30
Subscriptions (Including: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Netflix family account, Spotify family account, and Google Drive): $30
Savings Contributions: I try to save half of my income but end up transferring $200 — $400 back to my everyday account throughout the month.

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

Yes. Thankfully I can put that on a HECS debt as I'm an Australian citizen. In the last couple of years, I've only just started earning enough to start paying it back. I've paid off a few thousand dollars so far, but because it comes out of my paycheque, it's not enough for me to really notice.

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

My parents (especially my dad) instilled a 'work hard, provide for your family' mentality in us. We never really received pocket money besides on birthdays, Christmas, or when the Tooth Fairy visited. We were told that we needed to buy our own things like iPods or gaming consoles, and cars when we were older. However, we were incredibly lucky as we were often taken on holidays (both in Australia and overseas), so my parents just put their money towards family time. 
My parents were super keen on teaching us how to manage money. They wanted to make sure we were okay at maths and would never be ripped off by someone trying to take advantage of us. There was a money board game that we played a few times as a family (Cashflow), and we all had piggy banks and a CommBank Dollarmites cheque book. It wasn't strange to talk about money. We became very proud to start earning our own wages.

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

Because we didn't receive pocket money, my siblings and I all got jobs as soon as we could work (or found our own way to make money by helping neighbours with chores). I got my first job making $5 an hour at an ice creamery when I was 12. Then, I moved onto McDonald's at 14. I wanted to be able to buy movie tickets and go shopping with my friends!

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, which I'm very grateful for. I knew growing up that we were better off than some of my friends' families at school, but that I saw my parents less because of the amount they worked. Outside of my family trips, my parents ensured we were playing sports. Although, we wore hand-me-downs and secondhand school uniforms.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, especially at the moment. I'm trying to buy a house, so it's hard not to worry. I try not to use BNPL products as I have a mentality that if I can't afford something now, I either don't need it or need to save up for it. I understand not everyone is in a position to be able to think like this, and need services like these to be able to afford to live. However, for people earning a decent income, it can be a dangerous trap to fall into.

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

I started living on my own when I was around 17 years old. I have a 'fire extinguisher' account (thanks, Barefoot Investor) with a couple of grand in it. However, if I was in real trouble, I believe my family would be able to help out. But that's an absolute end of the road, tried all other options idea. I wouldn't ask them for money unless it was absolutely necassary for survival!

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

While I was at university, I received government payments to help pay for my day-to-day living expenses.

Day 1 

6:50am — I start the day by driving my boyfriend to work, taking a pitstop at Macca's drive-thru for two iced lattes, a hash brown and a hot cross bun ($13.90). I don’t start work until 9am, so I'll probably get hungry again in a couple of hours. I really can't resist a hot cross bun, especially when it's illuminated on the drive-thru menu board! $13.90
7:45am — I do a quick workout — a routine on the 8fit app. I’ve put my gym membership on hold for a few months while I save to buy my first home. I was paying $35 a week, which is quite expensive. However, it was the first gym I’d found that was genuinely judgement-free, supportive, and a place that I wanted to go back to. For now, I’m trying to find the motivation to do a few workouts a week (although have struggled to follow through with this prior to now). I drive my car to some all-day free parking by the beach and walk to work. It's pouring rain. Thankfully, I brought my umbrella with me.
9:00am — I arrive at work and to my delight, free breakfasts are back! I work in an agency and they supply bread, pastries, yoghurt, muesli and fruit most mornings to encourage the wider agency to mingle. I opt for toasted sourdough with honey and pour myself a cup of freshly brewed coffee, feeling grateful for the money I’ve just saved. I spend a few minutes catching up with co-workers, then take my breakfast to finish at my desk.
10:00am — In my hunt for a home, most Saturdays are spent jumping from house to house for inspections, whilst Mondays are for phone calls with real estate agents after they receive all the offers. An agent calls me about a property I viewed on the weekend, asking for final offers by 4pm today. The price guide is sitting at $540,000, and he’s mentioned there are already a few offers around this mark. I take some time to review the property information and add a reminder on my phone to send an offer later today. I’ve been searching for a property for the last two years, but I've gotten more serious about it in the last four months. It will be my first ever home, so I'm looking for something I can live in myself, potentially with a second bedroom to rent out. My partner and I have only been dating for a few months, so this is something I’m doing on my own. I’ve saved a deposit of $40,000 after working full-time (juggling many side hustles, including photography, writing, and marketing work) for a few years. It’s defeating knowing how much house prices have risen within the last year, although I needed the time to increase my savings.
1:15pm — I realise I’ve worked through my lunch break. I didn’t bring lunch to work, so I decide to walk home and work from there for the rest of the afternoon. I grab a free coffee through a local council app initiative (you receive points for completing tasks which then equate to rewards and discounts with local businesses!). It’s an amazing initiative and fabulous for those trying to save money like myself. Plus, it introduces you to new small businesses you might not have tried otherwise.
3:00pm — It’s that time of day when I need a sugar hit. I have some tea and chocolate to fill my craving, which carries me through to the end of the workday.
6:45pm — My boyfriend and I make homemade pizzas for dinner. We were supposed to make these a few nights ago but caved and got takeaway instead, so we already have all the ingredients we need. My boyfriend has just started university, so he excitedly tells me about his classes and what he’s learning. We do our Wordle together (like an old married couple completing their crossword) and after some cuddles, I head to bed while he stays up gaming.
Daily Total: $13.90

Day 2

8:15am — I'm at work early this morning. With a scoop of granola, yoghurt and honey in a bowl and a coffee in hand, I'm ready to prepare for the day ahead. I listen to the Squiz Today podcast for my dose of headlines and flick through Instagram and the ABC News app to see the devastating flood photos coming out of Queensland. I try and take a few minutes of mindful breathing before opening my inbox. 
9:00am — We pile into a meeting room for a team catch up. Although I enjoyed working from home and am a serious introvert, I’ll admit that it's quite nice to be around people again. Especially when I genuinely get along with everyone I work with. I've never had this in the past. In fact, I've experienced harassment in past work environments, so it makes me even more grateful for my current workplace. 
10:53am — I order a coffee ($4) through a cafe’s app and receive some loyalty points. I work on a few upcoming presentations and go to a couple of client meetings. $4
1:00pm  — A timestamped anxiety attack. I haven’t had one in a few years (go me!) but the chaos of work and exhaustion from house-hunting has hit me harder than I thought. I take the afternoon off to go home and try to wind down. On the way, I grab a hot chocolate ($5.61) and some sushi and snacks from the supermarket ($19.64). $25.25
2:00pm — I try and nap, but I get distracted scrolling through TikTok. Instead, I meditate, watch some Netflix, and eat my food.
5:00pm — My boyfriend gets home from uni, so we catch up on our day and cuddle. He makes us a delicious dinner, a chicken katsu curry. I’m exhausted from my anxiety, so after dinner, I head straight to bed.
Daily Total: $29.25

Day 3

8:00am — I decide to take a full day off to recoup. I’m a strong believer in treating mental health as you would your physical health, so I listen to my body and mind and acknowledge that it needs rest. 
9:00am — I grab breakfast from the shops — raisin toast, ground coffee beans to use on the machine at home, and milk ($21.70). I’ve had a small coffee machine that’s lasted me almost 10 years! It’s incredibly loud, but it does the job. When I was 18, I would use it every day, but in recent years, I've strayed and spend money on barista-made lattes. When I buy my own place, this coffee machine will be one of the first things I upgrade. $21.70
10:00am — A few days ago, I bought a book from the local book store — Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money by Fumiko Chiba. Having visited Japan in 2019, I was able to see first-hand just how much they have right. People in Japan are among the happiest and healthiest in the world. Kindness and respect are at the heart of their culture, which is seen everywhere you go. From passers-by on the street, to the public transport, to meal times. It’s a perfect blend of tradition and innovation. The kakeibo budgeting method helps track income and record expenditure. I’ve tried online templates, excel sheets, and budget apps, like Pocketbook, but I find I lack consistency. I'm hoping the kakeibo will help me hold myself accountable for my spending.
12:00pm — I catch up with my friend for lunch. She’s landed a new job and just fulfilled her dream of owning her own pup! I order a burger and chips and an apple juice. $24.22
3:00pm — My boyfriend is home from uni, so we head to a local cafe. He catches up on uni work while I read from the selection of books on the shelves. We order coffees and a brownie ($9.10) and chat about what he’s learning. I tell him about my lunch with my friend and show him photos of her puppy. $9.10 
4:45pm — I see that there are a few house inspections on for an apartment and a unit. They're both two-bedders with a car space. I head over and fall in love with the unit — its back doors open onto a park, and the layout of the home is great. It’s spacious, although it doesn't feel that way with 20 other people also inspecting the place. I put in an offer for the unit, only to discover that offers are already 16% above the asking price. That’s pretty common at the moment — houses are only listed for around 30 days, and sell for more than their listed price. With the interest rate increase expected to land, and a Federal election, I’m hoping this prompts people to sell sooner and more properties come onto the market. I'm a bit upset, but my dad messages me: 'When one door closes, another one opens!'.
6:00pm — My boyfriend listens to me complain about house hunting. It's hard to make multiple offers on a bunch of properties and always get trumped. It's a tough thing to do alone, competing against young families, investors and other couples isn't easy. We’ve only been dating for a few months so I’m in no way asking for him to be involved in this. We’re in different life stages — he’s just starting uni, is working part-time and is on student payments, whilst I’m a few years into working full-time, and have been saving for a house deposit for a while. I have a big cry, comb through Domain for any new properties, then fill in my kakeibo. After cuddles, kind words and patience, my boyfriend spends some time gaming. 
8:00pm — I have leftover katsu curry for dinner, jump in the shower and put on a Sukin face mask. My skin is breaking out like crazy from all this stress and junk food I’ve been snacking on. We put on a trashy reality show to fall asleep to (Real Housewives) and do today's Wordle together. 
Daily Total: $55.02

Day 4 

7:30am — I wake up, drink some water, and do a quick workout on the 8Fit app. I put some washing on while I make breakfast (raisin toast and coffee), shower and get ready for work. 
8:20am — After hanging up the washing and listening to the news, I grab my rain jacket and umbrella and walk to work. Though I not long ago had a coffee, there’s a fresh pot brewing in the office and I can’t help myself, so pour another cup. 
9:00am — I structure my to-do list in terms of deadlines and top priorities. I read through the emails from my day off, flag anything important and file the rest. I prepare a few things for meetings today, make a few phone calls to follow up on requests, and power through responding to emails. The next few hours are filled with team meetings, client calls and focus time to get through tasks. I have a fairly productive morning considering I’m on catch up from my time off. 
12:00pm — I scroll through Domain for any new properties and inspection times, enquire about a few properties that aren’t advertising the price or strata fees. Seriously, just put all the information on the listing — what are you hiding?!
1:00pm — I grab some fruit from the communal fruit bowl in the kitchen and make myself another coffee. Not having set meal times or eating proper meals is definitely not helping my stress — I guess having this diary is a good way to identify what needs to change! 
2:00pm — I sit and help a colleague through some training which takes up a fair chunk of the afternoon. 
5:00pm — I stop into the bottle shop on the way home and grab my boyfriend and me a 4-pack each ($36.09). I want to thank him for being there for me during a stressful week! I feel like carbonara for dinner, so I grab a few ingredients — we already have eggs, cheese and bacon at home ($19.64). $55.73
6:00pm — My boyfriend and I spend some time together in the kitchen as I cook our carbonara. While we wait, we munch on some bruschetta and do our daily Wordle. We take our carbonara to bed, put on Ozark, and have a drink.
8:00pm — After washing up the dishes and having a shower, we water our plants (they take up half the room!). I can’t wait to have my own place and be able to have hooks on ceilings and walls, with hanging plants everywhere. We have a few Devil's Ivy that are just sitting on our tables as we have nowhere to hang them. It's small things like these that I'll appreciate when I have my own home. I can put Blu Tack on a wall if I want to!
Daily total: $55.73

Day 5

8:00am — I overslept so I rush to work, overjoyed that it's Friday. I grab toast with honey and a coffee from the breakfast offering, say my hellos, and make my way to my desk. Everyone's spirits are always lifted on Fridays. There’s music playing through the office speakers, generally fewer meetings scheduled and usually a pub lunch we all show up to. 
9:00am — I clean up my desk space to declutter and destress. I dial into a team catch up as we chat through what we all have on for the day. We have a few things to wrap up in the morning and a few mundane tasks to get through in the afternoon, but it's achievable overall.
12:45pm — After a productive morning, it’s time for a pub lunch! There are only a few people in the office who choose to stay back and eat their packed lunch, so we venture to a local pub and find a table big enough for 15 of us. I order a classic schnitzel with chips and mushroom sauce, as well as a cider. $25
2:00pm — A few people stay to order more drinks, but the majority of us walk back to the office. The next few hours are a drag, but we leave early, clocking off at 4:30pm.
6:00pm — My boyfriend and I have leftover carbonara for dinner and enjoy a movie night at home. We watch Hacksaw Ridge and munch on some popcorn from the cupboard. He stays up to game, while I’m keen to have an early night. I put on Headspace rain sounds and drift off around 9pm. 
Daily Total: $25

Day 6

8:00am — Shower, toast, coffee and I’m out the door. I have a checklist of house inspections to go to this morning with my dad (he's a builder and knows what to look out for). I volunteer at an op-shop on weekends, so I spend my morning there before heading out for inspections. There are other volunteers there to hold the fort, so it’s fine for me to leave. The house inspections are, once again, packed with people. It makes me lose a little hope, but I try to stay positive. As I walk through each house, I try and picture myself living there.
11:45am — I get a coffee and lunch with dad ($15, he pays), as we go through the pamphlets and floor plans of the properties we saw. I chat through the pros and cons of each place, and he offers his advice on looking for the right property. 
12:30pm — I head back to the op-shop to restock the floor and close for the day. It looks like we had a busy day for sales and donations as people have dropped off a bunch of clothes and manchester for the flood appeal. 
1:30pm — After I close the store, I grab some drinks ($14.28) and snacks — crackers and dips, cheese and grapes ($15) — and head to my friend's housewarming. There are around ten of us here, and it's a lovely low-key afternoon with drinks and music. A few people play chess while we get a tour of their new home. $29.20
5:00pm — I head to dinner for a friend's birthday. I order the arancini which is the cheapest option on the menu ($15). I’m someone that Google's the menu prior to going, already knowing what I want. My friends give me a taste of their pasta and margaritas, and we cheers to being closer to our 30s. I sip on my water. $15
7:30pm — I've been asked to take photos for a birthday event for an hour. I haven't had many photo jobs for a while, but I'm always keen to have extra income. Plus, I love capturing special moments. Everyone is lovely and it's great to be out and about taking photos again. 
9:00pm — It’s Mardi Gras weekend! The parade is on and rainbows and glitter-covered folk fill the streets in town. I’ve never been to the parade, but I've been out for a few years — my boyfriend and I are both bisexual. We head to a Mardi Gras party with drag queen performances and spend a few hours dancing (God, it’s good to be able to do this again). Seeing the queer community celebrate with allies there to support is a beautiful thing. A wholesome but sweaty night. I only buy one drink while I'm out ($9). $9
Daily Total: $53.20

Day 7 

11:00am — I'm not hungover, but I desperately need sleep. My boyfriend and I spend the morning wrapped in our sheets, grateful to have had such a fun night. We decide to continue our lazy day, having some raisin toast and coffee at home, and crawling back into bed to watch Netflix. 
1:00pm — I realise my car registration payment is due. I wonder what it would be like to live without a car, before hesitantly paying the fee ($330.45). I'll admit this has fallen off my radar and it wasn't a cost I've factored into my budget this week. Safe to say, I don't want to spend any more money today! I already have a family dinner planned tonight though, so I'm anticipating I'll fail to meet that goal. $330.45
3:00pm — I edit the photos from the event the night before, which takes longer than it normally would as I haven't edited in a while. I show my boyfriend a few of my favourite shots before passing them on to the client. 
5:00pm — My boyfriend and I arrive at the venue for dinner with my family. We’re seated right near the playground so my nephew can run around within sight. There are screaming kids everywhere. I’m grateful I’m not hungover, but it’s still not pleasant and makes it difficult to have conversations. I order squid and chips ($18) and my boyfriend buys me a Coke. We chat about work, life, inflated petrol prices, and the giant schnitzels they serve here. After dinner, we roll out to the car park and everyone’s more at ease — no screaming children out here! $18
8:30pm — We drive home, my boyfriend wishing we left earlier. Dessert is on my mind, so we drive through Hungry Jack's on the way and pick up Storm ice creams (he pays). By the time we get home, it’s closer to 9:30pm. We write out our meal plan for the week but agree we’ll go shopping tomorrow. For now, it’s bedtime! 
Daily Total: $348.45
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.
For many of us, money can be a major source of stress. But it doesn’t have to be. Become more confident with our beginner's guide to managing your money.

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