Money Diaries

A Week In Alexandria, Sydney, In Retail, On A $155,000 Salary

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Today: a member experience manager who makes $155,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on private ballet lessons.
Occupation: Member Experience Manager
Industry: Retail
Age: 33
Location: Alexandria, Sydney
Salary: $155,000
Net Worth: $280,916 (I bought an apartment for $750,000 in 2020, I have $55,000 in savings, and $53,000 in superannuation.)
Debt: $573,000 remaining on my mortgage and $4,084 in credit card debt, but I pay it off every month.
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $9,120
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $3,200. I live by myself in a one-bedroom and one-bathroom apartment, without a car space. And for this reason, I don’t have a car. I’ve considered a GoGet subscription, but even this seemed too costly compared to public transport. My mortgage is a lot to pay for one person, and I only recently realised how much of my salary was really supposed to be going to my mortgage. If you don’t learn about these things, you have no frame of reference for what is a lot and what isn’t. But being single means it’s my sole responsibility and I can’t really turn to anyone else for help.
Health Insurance: $122
Phone Bill: $50
Home Internet: $85
Strata: $250
Electricity: $80 — $120 (it goes up in winter)
Water: $70
Ballet Classes: $412, including two classes a week, private coaching and studio hire. It's my biggest expense, but I look at it more as a hobby than physical exercise. It's the one thing I know I can always look forward to each week, and I really enjoy seeing my progress over time.
Dining Out: $300 — $400. At the moment, I've been making my way through Broadsheet's best new restaurants of 2022 list. I probably go out for dinners once or twice a week.

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

I spent seven years studying at university for a double degree with Honours. Although I had HECS, it has really been a challenge to pay off — but I obviously don’t regret any of my studies. I had support from my parents which I was very lucky and grateful to have, but have managed to pay the rest of it off as of this year! It's been a relief because I've been consistently watching my bank account stay flat because I've been paying off university fees... not to mention having a mortgage and a credit card.

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

I never spoke to my parents about finance, but I personally think this should have been taught in school. If you’re buying on your own, you don’t really have anyone to help you. I had some friends who could answer questions, but I really just had to learn by doing. When I started university, I began working to pay for my expenses and travel. I learned to save, but I never adopted any framework, like budgeting. I never thought about planning long-term, and because I was in such low-paying jobs for the majority of my 20s, there wasn’t really much point in saving.

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

My first job was as a sales assistant in the David Jones Food Hall — I worked the chocolate counter. I did it to pay for my expenses in university — going out with friends, paying for clothes, etc. Not that my parents would have just given me money whenever I asked, but I also felt the need to earn money and learn to appreciate the value of it. After that, I had a couple of different fashion retail jobs, including Sportsgirl and Mimco. I worked throughout university and even shortly after while I was searching for my first job. 

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, because I knew my parents would be willing to pay for things I really needed. I think I would have appreciated an education in how to save, how to buy property, and how to invest, though. I still don't know how to do a lot of these things, and I don't even know where to start or really have time for it. If you think about it, investing in property is the biggest expense you are ever going to make — if you’re lucky like I have been. How is there no education on this in school? If you want to help millennials climb the property ladder, maybe it's time we start working on it early on through maths education in school. I don’t remember what trigonometry or algebra is used for, but I sure could’ve done with some help figuring out how to get a loan for a mortgage.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, because I am the only person on the title deed of my property. If I am out of work, I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage. I have found the whole process of buying property and having a mortgage a consistently stressful experience, but it has also taught me self-reliance and how to continue to work for the things I want to achieve. Having said that, if I had the option of not purchasing property alone, I would have done that as it's a huge solitary financial burden to have. Still, I know that I am very lucky in that I am far better off than others. I don’t take that for granted. 

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

I was financially responsible at 18 when I started university and was paying for all my own expenses. But when I purchased my property at 31, I really became financially independent and responsible for my debts. I don’t have a financial safety net (…now I’m wondering if I should have one). How much should this even be? This is what I mean about lack of education… 

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

No, and I’ve also made it clear to my parents that I don’t expect to inherit anything if they have money to pass on in the future. I have made a point that they’ve given me the opportunity for an education and it was my responsibility to do something with that. 

Day 1

8:00am — I make a matcha first thing in the morning. It's always how I start my day.
8:05am — I log on and catch up on emails, matcha in hand.
8:30am — I make a cup of tea and mix in a sachet of Vida Glow collagen powder. I have to make it quite strong because even though I buy the original (unflavoured) one, it still smells and tastes slightly fishy. I started drinking this about three years ago and I have one sachet a day. If you consider that they’re $70 for 30 sachets (a month's worth), then that adds up every year. Honestly, I have not seen any difference, but at this stage, I’m still trying to prevent ageing so I’m not really expecting to see grand results. I don't always eat breakfast because I find mornings are busy. I don't today and that’s partly because there’s nothing in my fridge. 
11:15am —  I walk down to my local Woolies to top up some groceries ($19.77). I don't like wasting or throwing things out, so I just do a shop every few days rather than one weekly shop. I also don’t plan a whole week’s meals in advance and prefer to just shop for a couple of days depending on what I feel like eating. It’s a sunny day today so I try to take advantage of that and go for a walk in my lunch break. I don’t always give myself one either, so sometimes I block out that time in my diary so I get it. $19.77
12:30pm — I walk down to Chemist Warehouse to pick up some stuff like cotton rounds and vitamins ($24.77) I started taking iron and vitamin D tablets when I found they were extremely low after a blood test. $24.77
1:15pm — I make a rocket salad for lunch with the groceries I just bought, as well as some leftover Victor Churchill ham that my friend gave me after a party at her house the day before. I see my parents every few weeks and pick up vegetables from their garden, so what I cook for lunch and dinner is often based on what vegetables I have on hand.
5:30pm — I log off and start cooking dinner. I decided earlier that I wanted to make a Vietnamese pork and vermicelli salad for dinner. I used to use Marley Spoon and Dinnerly as I wanted to have more variety for dinner and save on waste, but I wasn't a big fan of how much packaging there was. Plus, it cost so much more than buying my own groceries!
Daily Total: $44.54

Day 2

8:20am — For breakfast, I have some crumpets with jam and a cup of tea. Crumpets were on sale, so I bought them in yesterday's grocery shop. I don’t always like to spend a lot on groceries if I know I'm going to eat out a lot that week. If I have breakfast, I normally just eat whatever I have at home — whether that be eggs, toast, or some quick batch pancakes (which I'll then freeze). I also need it to be quick to prepare because I don’t really give myself time to eat and want to be organised in case I have a 9am meeting. 
11:30am — I'm heading out to get a facial! I take a bus to my facial appointment at Melissa Young in Glebe ($2.24). I normally leave it up to the facialist to recommend what treatment I should get. She cleans my skin and looks at it under a magnifier, recommending an anti-ageing and brightening peel. It comes to $272.66, including a credit card fee. It's a little more than I had anticipated as the therapist misquoted the price before the treatment, but I tell her it's fine as it's like I'm getting two treatments. $274.90
1:05pm — I take the bus home, glowing. $2.24
1:40pm — I still have leftover ingredients from yesterday, so I make the same salad for lunch.
5.45pm — I look in my fridge and I still have leftovers from last night's dinner. I reheat it and munch down on my Vietnamese pork and vermicelli salad. Usually, when I cook, I like to make enough for two or three meals. This helps save on time, money, and effort, plus eating the same thing for a couple of days doesn't bother me at all.
Daily Total: $277.14

Day 3

8:30am — I'm working from home today, so I log on. It's already a busy day and I'm not sure if I'll get a break.
9:00am — I want to go out to grab a coffee, but I get distracted by emails and Google Chat messages coming through, so it never ends up happening.
1.20pm — I quickly throw together a salad with rocket that's been pre-washed in a bag, some olives and parmesan from the fridge, and some walnuts and avocado, topped with balsamic. I always have jars of olives, pickles, nuts and dried fruit that I can use to fill out a salad if I’m in a rush.
I also just snack consistently throughout the day. I always have tonnes of snacks in my pantry — Kettle chilli chips, Cobs popcorn, Maltesers, TimTams, and some wasabi peas. I didn't have to spend a cent today. That never used to happen before Covid, because, at the very least, I would be paying for transport, morning coffee with the team, maybe lunch if I wasn’t organised enough to bring it, and usually snacks too. I’m so glad I have the flexibility to work from home because I end up saving so much time and money. 
6:00pm — I make a stir fry noodle for dinner with the groceries from a few days ago. This is often what I resort to when I’m really lazy and know I have a bunch of vegetables that I want to use.
8:30pm — I’ve had dinner and washed up, and now I’m ready to relax. I feel really satisfied when I finish a book, and I finished reading Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney tonight. I really wanted to enjoy it, but feel indifferent. I read Normal People earlier in the year which I thought was better. I haven't read fiction books in years, and so this year I've made a conscious goal to try and read more fiction. This is the third one I've read this year. I haven't read as much as I would have liked, but I feel so tired in the evenings that sometimes it's easier to switch on the TV. But I have a reading list app on my phone that tracks the books on my to-read list. It also counts how many days it's taking me to read my current book, so I feel challenged to keep reading.
Daily Total: $0

Day 4

8:00am — I wake up and start getting breakfast ready while doing my morning bathroom routine. There's a batch of pancakes leftover in the freezer, so I pop them in the toaster. I used to be a baker, but I found it to be a lot of effort, especially with washing up, so I stopped. However, I picked it back up in lockdown last year. I was baking all sorts of cakes and making pancakes every other weekend. I had to stop because it meant I was eating all of it! I get into my skincare routine. Skincare is important to me but I also need it to be done really quickly. I use vitamin C in the morning in between cleansing and moisturising. I’ve tried so many different vitamin C serums, from Skinceuticals, Drunk Elephant, Tatcha, Paula’s Choice, La Roche, but at the moment I’m using Sunday Riley’s CEO serum. I’ve also used the oil and moisturiser and love those too.
8:30am — I log on and check my emails and messages. I’m not really methodical in the way I get my work done — I just have a to-do list in my notebook and work on whatever is most pressing that day. At the moment, I’m working on a strategy piece to drive digital adoption of a product we’re launching. I write up a research brief for some customer research and insights our team would like to do as part of discovery. 
12:00pm — I quickly throw together a salad. I usually do this if I have a meeting over lunch that I don't need my camera on for. I make a Greek salad because I always have kalamata olives and feta in the fridge. I add cucumber, tomato, and parsley, as well as oil, vinegar, and herbs. It’s always the easiest lunch to make when you have no time.
12:30pm — I drop off the Sally Rooney book and pick up another that's waiting for me at the library. This one isn't fiction — it’s Pandora Syke’s book of essays on modern life called, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?. I get the impression that I’m probably going to like it more. I added it to my reading list because there’s a recommendation on the back cover from Lisa Taddeo, who wrote Three Women (an excellent book and I highly recommend), and Dolly Alderton, who wrote Ghosts (also a fun fiction that’s so easy to read!).
12:50pm — I pick up a juice from Delish on King St ($8). I always get the same thing in my juice — orange, lemon, pineapple, and ginger. It's my attempt at staying healthy, and hopefully means I don’t get sick. $8
4:30pm — I take the train to the ballet studio where I dance. $4.55
5:45pm — I have a private lesson with my ballet coach for 30 minutes, transferring her $50 after class. I also have to pay for studio hire, costing me $15 for 30 minutes. I only do 30 minutes of privates because a) it’s expensive, and b) I do it en pointe, and it’s exhausting. I think I could only survive for half an hour anyway because in a solo private, you don’t get breaks. Plus, pointe shoes are expensive to replace (like, $140), so I worry about going through them, especially when I already buy two pairs a year.

I honestly used to dread private lessons as much as I was excited by them. The anticipation of the mental and physical exhaustion was sometimes a lot to bear, but I knew they were good for me, so I would remind myself it was “like medicine”. In a normal class, you'd have 30 — 40 minutes of barre, before moving into the centre, starting from pliés to grand allegro. The point is to gradually warm your body up to be able to get to the big jumps at the end.

The problem with my private lessons is that I don’t get to follow this structure — I start straight in the centre and expect myself to be on balance, en pointe. I actually struggle more with the mental pressure I put on myself than the physical pressure. My coach never wastes any time and my first exercise always has pirouettes now, a challenge even on the best of days. Sometimes I wonder why I do it, but I think it’s cool to see the progress over time. The greatest joy is when you’re so comfortable with steps, you can rely on your muscle memory for the technique, and focus on the artistry. $65
6:30pm — I have a 15-minute break where I eat a fun-size Snickers bar I always have in my bag, and then head into my actual ballet class ($19). Class wraps up 90 minutes later, and I go and take the train home ($3.18). $22.18
9:00pm — Thursdays always feel like a long day, and it’s late by the time I get home. I'm tired, so I just eat a packet of ramen because I'm too lazy to cook anything. I often resort to this on Thursdays or end up ordering Mary’s or Clem’s. Not the healthiest, but I did do two hours of class earlier.
Daily Total: $99.73

Day 5

8:30am — I'm working from home and really want to go out and grab a coffee, but it's raining so I can't be bothered. I make matcha instead. I buy my matcha from St Matcha because I like the quality — I’ve gone through so many packets of their organic ceremonial grade matcha from Kyoto.
12:00pm — Today is so, so busy. I'm in back-to-back meetings and end up missing lunch. Sometimes my first meal is dinner. At the moment, there’s quarterly planning on top of new financial year planning, so there are a lot of alignment meetings and workshops. I’ve been busy planning and preparing for these, and also working on some presentations. I don't even notice the time. I snack throughout the day though, sometimes going off-camera to be able to take a quick bite.
5:30pm — I check my emails and messages one last time, and then switch off and start to get ready to go out for dinner.
6:15pm — I catch a bus out to dinner. $3.20
6:30pm — Dinner is at Bartolo with two friends. I haven’t eaten, so I’m starving. We each have a glass of Vermentino, recommended by the sommelier. I don’t know much about wines and I like to leave it up to whatever they suggest. Some of my favourite dishes of the night are the gnocco fritto and the wagyu pasta. At one point, the waiter brings round a dish that isn't for our table, but it looks so good that we add it to our order! The bill comes to $77 each. Food and ballet is honestly where I spend the bulk of my money. I like to go out for a nice dinner every Friday or Saturday night. Sometimes it’s both, and I feel bad about it, but then also sometimes I do neither. And when work is particularly tough, it’s really nice to be able to look forward to seeing your friends and catching up over a nice meal. I’m lucky I get to do that. $77
9:00pm — I catch the bus home ($2.24). I like that it’s still early that I get to do some reading before taking a shower and jumping into bed. I sometimes watch an episode of Friends or two to switch off completely. $2.24
Daily Total: $82.44

Day 6

10:00am — It’s Saturday and my day can start slower. I sleep in because I don’t have much on except ballet, a couple of errands, and dinner with a friend. I get dressed for ballet and put my hair up into a bun. I always wear my ballet clothes to the studio because I can't be bothered changing when I'm there.
10:30am — I take a train to the city ($2.56) to pick up a birthday present for my friend at David Jones. $2.56
11:00am — I collect the gift from the click and collect desk at DJs. I paid for it last week, but it's a pink Maison Balzac platter and was $89.99. We were in the Maison Balzac store together a few months ago and she said she liked it, so I’m hoping she hasn’t bought it yet. I realised we hit adulthood when she and I started gifting each other homewares. It's perfect because she has a really beautiful home and great taste.
11:10am — I order a soy flat white from Gumption in the Strand ($5), one of my fave coffee places in the CBD. There’s a long line as usual, but maybe it's because there aren't enough good coffee options around Pitt St on the weekend when everyone is out shopping. I always order a soy flat white when out, but whenever I make coffee with my Bialetti Moka, I use oat milk (I like Inside Out). There’s no logic to that, except that maybe I just like them both and I’m also a creature of habit. $5
11:20am — I take a train ($0.62 — it says it's a transfer) to the ballet studio where I have class. I get to the studio about 10 minutes before class starts. This isn’t really much time to warm up, but I remind myself that there will be about 40 minutes of barre. I pay for the class ($19) and get ready for it to start at 12pm. $19.62

1:30pm — The class finishes and I spend a few minutes stretching before leaving. I know that if I don’t, then my muscles can end up hurting for days. I’ve started cheating this by taking magnesium tablets. It usually works, but I know I’m still better off stretching if I can. I would spend more time doing it, but I find stretching really boring, and just do it to prevent myself from pulling a muscle or injury.
2:00pm — I take the train home ($3.18). I have some time to kill before I need to head out, so I take a shower, make a cup of tea and read for a bit before I have to leave. $3.18
5:30pm — I get on a bus to Surry Hills to meet my friend for dinner. $1.68
6:00pm — We meet for dinner at Jane. I haven’t been here before, but the space is really nice and intimate. We each order an entree and a main, and a glass of rosé (my friend has two). I really enjoy the kangaroo tartare — I’ve had a lot of tartare lately (is it making a comeback?!) but it was the first time I’ve had it with kangaroo. Now that I think about it, it's the first time I've had kangaroo! The bill comes to $123.10 each. I absolutely loved this restaurant and would easily come back here. 10/10, would recommend. $123.10
8:00pm — I take the bus home ($1.68). I unwind with some reading — I’m really enjoying Syke’s book so far. $1.68
Daily Total: $156.82

Day 7

11:00am — I walk to Brewtown Newtown to meet a friend for brunch. I live in Alexandria and she lives in Camperdown, so we decide to meet in Newtown. She’s a Product Manager, and she and I used to work together in the same team. We chat about how the team is going, and I let her vent about some of the major changes that have happened in the organisation and to the team, and some of the products that haven’t gone as planned. I have a soy flat white and a breakfast roll. We pay the bill — they don't do split bills, so I transfer her $25. 
1:00pm — I meet some other friends and we head to Bella Brutta. One of them has recently moved to Sydney and lives nearby in Surry Hills, so we like to catch up often. They order the clam pizza to share — I recommended it because they haven't been here before and I think it’s their classic, and an Aperol Spritz each. I just had brunch, so I order an Aperol Spritz too and wait until they have dessert. We order a tiramisu to share, and it’s too big, even for the three of us! May friend pays, so I transfer her $20 for my share. $20
3:20pm — I need to top up my groceries with some fresh veg and fruit, so I head over to the closest grocery store. I end up browsing the aisles and picking up chips and other snacks too — I always have these handy in case I’m hungry when I'm WFH. The total comes to $25.14. Grocery shopping is the only shopping I like to do in person because I often get carried away in the snack aisles. For everything else, I prefer to just buy it online which I find more convenient and less time-consuming. This was how I shopped even before Covid. $25.14
6:00pm — For dinner, I make a couscous salad with rocket, almonds, dried dates, dried cranberries, olives, cucumber and mandarin. I don’t feel like reading tonight, so I turn on Netflix and browse before deciding on watching Get Organised with the Home Edit, a show about two women called Clea and Joanna who organise people’s homes in the most aesthetically pleasing way. I really liked Season 1, and they released Season 2 earlier this year, so I’ve been making my way through it. I watch three episodes before calling it a night.
Daily Total: $70.14
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