Money Diaries

A Week In Sydney’s Inner West On A $125,000 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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Occupation: Media Planner
Industry: Tech
Age: 29
Location: Inner West, Sydney, NSW
Salary: $125,000
Net Worth: $217,000 ($130,000 in savings, $78,000 in superannuation, $4,000 in shares, and $5,000 in cryptocurrency). My main investment objective for 2022 is to buy an investment property with my partner, and then use any leftover savings to build my shares and cryptocurrency portfolio.
Debt: $0. I paid off my HECS in early 2021.
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $7,700
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $3,000, split with my partner, for a two-bedroom house in the inner west of Sydney. We moved out during the peak of Covid lockdowns in Sydney in the hopes of finding a cheaper place to rent. Luckily, we found a pretty big place with a backyard and no shared walls — for significantly less than what we were previously paying!
Loans: None.
Health Insurance: $135
Phone: $25
Keep It Cleaner (fitness app): $10
LastPass (password security app): $7

Paid from our joint account:
Internet: $70
Spotify: $15
Netflix/Binge/Kayo/Stan: $70 (Yes, we have almost every streaming service under the sun!)
Gas and Electricity Bills: $140

My partner and I have had a joint bank account for six years. We had to get one to be eligible for a partner visa. It was a massive adjustment at first, but now I couldn't imagine us not having joint finances. We use that account to pay for expenses that we share, like rent, groceries, entertainment, bills and holidays. We both contribute $800/week to this account, but this usually covers only daily expenses. Therefore, we each also maintain our own individual savings and investments.

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

Yes, mainly because of cultural expectations. I needed to give back to my parents what they had worked hard to provide me — a quality education that they never got. My parents came to Australia as refugees and went through unspeakable hardships to get out of their country. They both worked extremely hard to give my brother and me access to quality education and tutoring throughout high school in order to help us get into the universities and courses that we wanted. Going to university was the pinnacle of success for my parents (and still is to many migrant families). HECS removed a lot of pressure from my parents to support me financially when it came to higher education, but the journey to get there was something that my parents were happy to support. I was also living at home during my time at university, so they further supported me financially there.

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

My parents taught me how to be frugal and how to budget. I have them to thank for how I do the grocery shopping to this day — getting fruit and vegetables from local markets, buying essentials in bulk, buying non-branded items, and only eating meat once a week. They were very open about discussing money as my dad was an accountant, so this definitely helped me be more aware of the joys and pitfalls of being financially adept.

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

My first job was working for my dad as an assistant bookkeeper when I was 16. My dad has an accounting firm that he started up to serve the local migrant community. I worked Saturdays and received a measly pay, but it definitely taught me the realities of working life. Plus, looking at how much other people spent was humbling. My first real job was in retail when I was 18, which I got when I started university. At the time, I felt the pressure to live an extremely social life, and so I needed to earn the money to match my lifestyle.

Did you worry about money growing up?

My family was poor growing up and I was exposed to constant struggles. But I think this actually had a positive impact on me as I am extremely careful with the money that I earn. I have distinct memories of catching the bus with my mum to get groceries, and because she didn't have enough money to pay the fare, she had to befriend the bus driver on that local route so he could let us on each time for free. As I got older, we didn't have to worry as much since my dad's business was becoming more successful, but that didn't change our lifestyle and we still had a simple and frugal life.

Do you worry about money now?

No. I have gotten to a position in my life where I don't have to worry about money. I'm very grateful to be where I am today because of how my parents supported me, and I definitely have them to thank for my attitude towards money now.

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

After graduating at 20, I got my first career-type job. Not long after that, I moved out of home as I met my partner. That's when I became fully reliant on myself financially. There's definitely a cultural standard amongst many migrant families to live at home until you make a family of your own. So, leaving home at 20 was a massive shock to my parents — I had to essentially prove to them that I could look after myself. I was trying to show them that I could save rainy day money whilst still spending cash on holidays and going out — all those fun things you do as a 20-year-old. It was really tough, but I was able to balance it out.

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

No. My parents had nothing when they came to Australia, so the concept of an inheritance or trust fund is unknown to them.

Day One

7:00am — Hello Friday morning — I've been waiting for you all week! I wake up and get ready for the day, pushing myself to go for a walk in the park before I start my workday. As I'm leaving home, I run into my neighbours, J. and H., who I haven't caught up with all week. I decide to take a detour and walk to the cafe with them. I shout their coffees and we enjoy them in the sun before they head back home and I continue on my walk. $13

9:00am — Time to start work. I get two meetings out of the way before lunchtime and by then, I'm already feeling defeated. I worked a couple of extra hours during the week, so I call it a day. I'm thankful that my company allows me to be as flexible as I want — working in tech really is all that it’s cracked up to be. I figure it's time to get my Christmas shopping started, so I jump in the car and make my way towards the city.
12:00pm — Parking in the city can be notoriously expensive, so I pre-pay for parking which gives me a small discount of $5. It's small, but it's still something. As I enter the carpark, I scan my pre-paid code and it takes $20 off my card. This allows me to have unlimited parking for the day. $20
4:00pm — I wade through the throngs of Christmas shoppers and get a hold of presents for my partner, friends and family. It takes me four hours to go from store to store, searching for books, homewares, clothing and other various knick-knacks. I've knocked off my entire list, so I'm pretty proud! This year I've decided to focus on presents that have a more practical use but are also budget-friendly. $300
5:00pm — I need to rest my feet after an epic shopping bonanza, so I seek solace in Starbucks and order a matcha latte ($6). After downing it, I remember that I haven't had lunch, so I treat myself to an early dinner and head to a Japanese takeaway to grab some ramen ($16). $22
6:00pm — On my way home, I call my partner R. to see what he is up to tonight. He invites me out with friends at the local bar, and I join them for a beer ($9) before calling it and going home for a quiet night in. I turn on Binge and watch the new Sex and the City series while wrapping Christmas presents. Since I had a late lunch, I decide to skip dinner. On nights alone, I tend to go all out on Uber Eats, but I'm thankfully avoiding that big bill tonight. $9
Daily Total: $364

Day Two

All purchases made on this day were paid for on the joint account so the total amount spent has been halved.
9:00am — I start the day by doing a workout on the Keep It Cleaner app. I opt for a Pilates cardio workout, which takes 20 minutes. I’ve loved working out from home, and I honestly can’t see myself returning to the gym anytime soon. After my workout, I make myself a coffee, and snack on a banana.
12:00pm —  My partner, R., and I decide to make the most of the weather and head to the beach for the afternoon. We stop by a cafe to buy iced lattes, fruit salad and sandwiches ($20) and get comfortable on the beach for a couple of hours. Afterwards, we're still hungry, so we head to the nearest sushi train and grab plates to our heart's content ($35). $55
5:00pm — It's date night tonight, and we're going to the cinema. After being in lockdown for so long and surviving solely on Netflix, going to the cinema is an absolute treat for us. We check movie times and decide on a 7.30pm screening of Dune. I buy our tickets online so that we can secure the best seats in the back row ($35). $35
6:00pm — We faff around too long and decide to get an Uber instead of walking. It costs us $16 to wade through traffic on what should have been a 20-minute walk. Oh well. $16
7:00pm — Before the movie, we check out a new bar that's just opened up down the road. We have two rounds of cocktails that perk us up ($38), and we make our way to the cinema. I buy a meal combo because the experience is not complete without an iconic choc top ($15)! $53
11:00pm — After the movie, we’re in the mood for another round of drinks, so we make our way to a bar and order a few whisky cocktails ($50). We manage to hang around until closing time and walk home to save on the Uber fare (plus, we need to walk off all those cocktails!). $50
Daily Total: $209, so $104.50 my half.

Day Three

All purchases made on this day were paid for on the joint account so the total amount spent has been halved.
10:00am — I wake up feeling surprisingly refreshed and head out to the fruit shop to pick up some groceries ($30). It’s enough to keep us going for the next week before we go on holiday. I pick up carrots, celery, kale, broccoli, chickpeas, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, coconut milk, oat milk, olives, pasta, tomato paste and anchovies. $30
1:00pm — After a quick Keep It Cleaner workout, I suggest to R. that we play a round of tennis to keep the momentum going. We book a court online ($15) and head over to play for an hour. It's tough, but somehow we manage to pull off two sets. We started playing tennis as a new lockdown hobby, and it’s quickly become my favourite sport to play. $15.00
3:00pm — After tennis, we head to the pub for a quick lunch and drink to refuel all that energy we burnt off — it quickly turns into a Sunday session ($35). Our neighbours call us up to join them at another pub, and we enjoy some more drinks in the sun ($30). We’re definitely making the most of the late summer that’s arrived in Sydney. $65.00
6:00pm — We totally score at the pub and win a meat tray raffle, so dinner is sorted! Our tray has all the trimmings —  lamb cutlets, pork sausages and steaks. To go with our meat feast, I make a quick side salad from the groceries I got earlier in the day.
Daily Total: $110.00, so $55 my half.

Day Four

7:00am — I need a proper coffee to perk me up for my final week of work before the Christmas holidays, so I head to the local cafe and pick up a piccolo ($3). I’m taking three weeks off over Christmas, and I’ve vowed not to check my emails at all during that time. $3.00
5:00pm — The rest of the workday is a blur. I hardly leave my desk for lunch (which is leftover meat and salad from last night's dinner). Eventually, I'm able to leave the house for a bike ride around the park. I upgraded my bike earlier in the year and it was such a great investment — it added a different flavour to my daily hour of outdoor time during lockdown.
7:00pm — Dinner time. Tonight is a chickpea and kale curry. I make enough to last at least four meals between R. and I — bulk cooking for the win! I have my mum to thank for teaching me how to cook cheap, delicious and resourceful meals.
Daily Total: $3.00

Day Five

7:00am — I wake up and decide to replace my usual coffee with green tea from home. I’m trying to cut down on my coffee consumption, but I still need some form of a caffeine hit to wake me up. This also gives me a reason to leave the house at some point during the day so I can have a break away from my computer.
2:00pm — Okay, time to peel myself away from work. I quickly reheat curry leftovers for lunch and take a brisk 30-minute walk around the park.
6:00pm — Work's finished and it's time for some fun. Today is the last day of my social sporting league. It's a mixed-gender league where we play a different sport each week. It's such a fun way to socialise and stay active at the same time. We're top of the leaderboard, so to celebrate, I buy a pack of White Claw seltzers for us to enjoy after our game ($20). $20.00
9:00pm — It’s a late dinner after my game, but luckily there is still leftover curry! I’ve double dosed on it today, so to keep my tastebuds happy, I also have some Tim Tams as dessert. 
Daily Total: $20.00

Day Six

7:00am — I wake up to an ominous meeting invite from my reporting line manager. The meeting is set for 9am, so I have a slight mental freak out and skip the coffee and tea to avoid the anxious jitters. Instead, I make myself a slice of peanut butter and jam toast to ease the queasiness. I’ve been trying out intermittent fasting over the last couple of weeks, so I usually would skip breakfast, but it’s a special case today.
9:00am — The meeting does not go down well. There’s a team restructure happening in the new year, and my hours will shift slightly to accommodate new time zones as I’ll be working more with Europe rather than the US. That means more late-night meetings, but at least I can start later. There is still a semblance of flexibility, and I tell myself not to worry about it now — I have the break to decide how I feel about it.
11:00am — I’m in need of a pick-me-up, so I purchase a Christmas gift to myself — a July backpack that I've been longing for forever ($225). I'll use it to lug my laptop to the office (when it eventually reopens), plus it's great for travelling, sports and shopping. $225.00
4:00pm — After a seriously stressful day of work, I decide I’m done for the day and start preparing dinner. I like to cook to destress from the day — there’s a feeling of mindfulness that I find when I cook. I whip up a broccoli anchovy pasta, which is equal parts comforting and punchy.
9:00pm — I didn’t move my body at all today, so I squeeze in a quick stretch session before bed. I put on a guided meditation, but my mind is still racing with anxiety and I give up halfway. I vow to myself to put in more meditation practice during my holiday, and hopefully, that will turn into a routine into the new year.
Daily Total: $225.00

Day Seven

9:00am — I realise that I forgot a present for my Secret Santa with my girlfriends — how silly of me! I rush to the shops to buy her a candle from Target, as well as a body mist from Victoria’s Secret ($50). $50.00
9:00am — While I'm panic-shopping, I buy a croissant and a coffee to calm my nerves — $10.00.
3:00pm — After my shopping detour this morning, I get back into work and start to feel less stressed about my situation. I’m lucky enough to have the flexibility to do life admin during the workweek, while having the time to deliver my projects on time and with the resources I need. That’s the moment of reflection that I need to get me through the last couple of items on my list, as I write my handover notes and set my Out of Office on.
5:00pm — Holiday mode is on! We are heading home to visit my parents for dinner and need to fill up the car with petrol ($60, paid on our joint account, so $30 my share). Petrol has been so expensive lately, so we try to avoid driving where we can, but since my parents live an hour away, we can't avoid it when we go to visit them. We enjoy a lovely meal of steamed fish with ginger and soy sauce, stir-fried veggies and noodles. Cooking is definitely mine and my parents’ love language, and while growing up our meals weren’t as glamorous, it really is the simple meals that taste best. $30.00
Daily Total: $90
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