Money Diaries

A Week In Woolloomooloo, Sydney As A Mental Health Worker On $88,700

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.
Anyone can write a Money Diary! Want to see yours here? Here's how.
Today: a community engagement manager who makes $88,700 a year and spends some of her money this week on eucalyptus drops.
Occupation: Community Engagement Manager
Industry: Mental Health
Age: 27
Location: Woolloomooloo, Sydney
Salary: $88,700
Net Worth: $65,315 in the bank — $57,315 of this is in a high-interest savings account and $8,000 in my transaction account. I also have $21,200 in my superannuation. I have no shares, investments or property assets. My partner and I live together and split all costs (bills, rent, furniture, household purchases etc.) 50/50 as we're on very similar incomes. We have no shared accounts/finances. We're not married, but we've been together for seven years.
Debt: $57,000 in HECS debt
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,413
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $2,400. I rent a two-bedroom unit with my partner and we split the rent 50/50, so my share is $1,200/month.
HECS: I have $376 taken out of my paycheque each month.
Gas And Electricity: $100
Phone Bill: $35
Pool Pass: $75
Internet: $30
Patreon: $7 for a podcast I love.
Netflix/Foxtel: I have access to my parents' Netflix and Foxtel apps so I don't buy any additional streaming services.
Savings Contributions: I direct deposit $200/fortnight into my savings account. I also regularly move additional money there.

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

Yes, I did a Bachelor of Arts and a Master's of Anthropology & Development. All of it went onto the HECS debt scheme. My mum's dad wouldn't let her continue school past Year 10 so she always wanted me to go to uni. My degrees were not super specific, but they taught me lots of skills that I still use in the workplace. I would do them both again.

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

Growing up, my parents had a huge focus on money and an intense scarcity mentality. I really thought that we were very poor growing up, but now as an adult, I realise we were very much lower-middle class. We never had to worry about a roof over our heads or food on the table. We lived in a unit that my grandma owned and leased to my parents for cheap, but it was in a very affluent area, so I saw what my friends had and knew I had nothing like it. I think their influence has really made me value money and hard work, but I definitely have a fear of spending money and feel like I need to hoard it, even if I have no reason to.

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

I got a job working in fast food as soon as I was legally able to, which was on my 14th birthday. I got it because my parents didn't have extra money to give me for normal teenage things, like clothes and movies. I also just wanted to feel like a grown-up.

Did you worry about money growing up?

As a very young kid yes, I think I did. And as a teenager with a job, I definitely got way too spending-heavy. Again, as a child I thought we were very poor, but that was my naive idea of poverty. I didn't know what real poverty was and I never had legitimate concerns, like where to get my next meal or if we could afford necessities.

Do you worry about money now?

Constantly. I don't feel like I'm where so many other people are at my age. I see people buying houses and investing — I feel embarrassed that I don't know how to do that, nor do I have the resources to do so. It took me a long time to get a professional job that paid decent money, especially due to my studies and then Covid. I feel like I'm falling behind.

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

I started paying rent to my parents when I was in my early 20s, as well as my own groceries, phone bill, etc. That being said, I only feel like I became completely financially independent when I moved out this year. If my job and all my money disappeared tomorrow, I know that I would be able to live with my parents and they would support me. But obviously, they could only afford to help with essentials.

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

My parents have never given me a lump sum of money or anything, but both they and my in-laws are incredibly generous. This has greatly impacted our ability to save. My parents gave us their old washing machine and a new microwave when we moved in together. Things like this help save me some money.

Day 1

7:00am — One of my WFH days. I wake up, laze on my phone for 10 minutes, then get ready and head to the pool. I’ve been training in endurance swimming — I’m so impressed by the people who do back-to-back laps without stopping. I’ve only recently started up again though, and it takes a lot of work to get to that level. I'm super lucky that it’s only a 10-minute walk away, so on days that I work from home, I can head in a bit later when the squads are done and the lanes aren't as crowded. I have a pretty decent swim, shower at the pool, and head home.
8:30am — I’m home in time to make a coffee and have half of a leftover piece of cake for breakfast before work. It was my partner’s aunt's birthday the other day, so we have lots of leftover cake in the house.
9:00am — Monday mornings kick off with a team meeting, where we update each other on the big events from last week and what we have on this coming week. When I go to check my calendar, I’m frightened by just how many meetings I have coming up this week and how busy it looks. While none of it is too difficult, I find meetings really taxing as I’m a pretty introverted person.
11:00am — Since I’m in back-to-back meetings from 12pm to 4:30pm today, I take the opportunity to run up to the post office to return a package to The Iconic. I buy some oat milk that’s on sale and some other essentials from Woolies. $14.05
3:00pm — I eat a sandwich and snacks for lunch during my meeting. Usually, when we go to my in-laws for our weekly dinner, my mother-in-law sends me home with lots of fresh fruit. This helps a lot in reducing my grocery bills and means that I snack a lot healthier. After my meeting, my partner lets me know that a musician we like, Sierra Ferrell, has added another Sydney show after the last one sold out. We quickly buy tickets. $52
8:00pm— My partner makes us dinner and we watch some TV while eating more leftover cake. I’m really not a TV person (I know, I'm sorry!) so I usually play on my phone while we watch. I still value this time though as it's the only time we really get together after work. After a bit, I head to bed early to read.
Daily Total: $66.05

Day 2

7:00am — Today, I'm heading to a big conference. Work has paid for it so I can learn some new things, as well as represent our organisation. It starts at 9:30am and goes until 5:30pm, so I’m here all day and don’t need to go to the office. 
9:00am — I’ve woken up with a really sore ankle out of nowhere so I’m not able to walk in as planned. I have some toast, take some ibuprofen and walk over to catch the bus. When I arrive, I check my phone and see that it's been cancelled. I call my partner, very annoyed. Luckily, he has taken the week off work so he drives me in.
12:00pm — The event is fully catered, which is lovely. It’s interesting but quite full-on. I feel a bit out of my depth because there are so many people here that I 'know' through work but feel weird about approaching. Everyone else seems to be here with a colleague, so I feel isolated attending alone. However, I eat like a queen. There’s even a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream van which I take advantage of.
5:00pm — I catch the bus home at the end of the day. It’s not cancelled this time but it is a half an hour wait. I go into Woolworths and Big W to see if there’s anything I want but catch myself looking to spend money just to pass the time. I leave and head to the bus stop to listen to some music and enjoy a bit of alone time after the madness of the work event. When the bus arrives, I tap on. $3.20
6:00pm — Since my partner hasn't worked today, he’s come up with an idea that he wants to try for dinner — a chilli ‘sin’ carne (because we don’t eat meat). I feel weird after today, so this is a huge stress off my mind. I’m really grateful to chill out and unwind while he cooks. There are even leftovers for my lunch tomorrow. I don’t know what I would do without him.
8:00pm — We watch some TV and then I head to bed to read before going to sleep. My life is truly this uninteresting.
Daily Total: $3.25

Day 3

7:30am — My alarm goes off at 6am for my swim, but my ankle still hurts, so I don’t push it. I go back to bed and sleep until 7:30am, which is really bad for me as I'm usually an early riser. My sleep has been ruined since daylight savings and I feel I’m half awake tossing and turning all night and exhausted all the time. I usually like to wake up long before I need to because I hate feeling like I’ve spent the entire day only working, which is what happens when I sleep in until the last minute. I’m too sleep-deprived for that today.
8:30am — I get ready and walk to work. I live a 10-minute walk from work, which is incredibly convenient and means that I’ve saved heaps on not having to commute. I do think it’s made me a bit lazy with getting up and getting the day started though.
11:00am— Work is fine, but once again, I have lots of meetings. We’re currently planning an event for early November which involves a lot of small logistical decisions (all of which have to be approved by my higher-ups). I’m also working on getting some approved projects and programs off the ground, so there’s a lot of community consultation we’re needing to get organised.
12:00pm — I have a lot of coffee from our fancy machine and eat the leftover chilli my partner made for dinner last night, plus some fruit that I've brought from home. Work provides us with decent coffee and tea, as well as biscuits, so I’m pretty well set up to not spend too much on food if I bring lunch from home.
3:30pm —  I’m wondering how I can possibly survive the rest of the day.  Work is really close to a Woolworths and I'm constantly avoiding the pull to buy chocolate throughout the day. I successfully manage to avoid it today.
5:00pm— I walk home. My partner and I have some time together chilling out, then I make my infamous lemony pasta with vegetarian sausage for dinner. We don't have all the ingredients, but my partner insists on walking to Woolies to get them himself because of my ankle. He tells me it was only a few dollars and not to worry about it. It’s delicious and hits the spot. 
7:00pm — We watch some Derry Girls but we're trying to savour it as it’s the last season and one of the few shows I actually enjoy watching. I look at jobs on Seek and apply for one that sounds really interesting, but I’m probably underqualified. My contract is due to end at the end of December and there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of funding left, so I’m not holding my breath that my current work will offer a new contract for the new year. I’m looking at new jobs and speaking to recruiters, as recruitment can take months and I need to get my skates on for a December/January start. 
8:00pm — In a shocking turn of events, I head up to bed early to read. I’m reading Animal by Lisa Taddeo. It’s pretty interesting in that the character is incredibly depraved and pretty unlikeable (think My Year of Rest and Relaxation), but it’s also very well-written and captivating. I like how it explores trauma and how this creates anti-heroes, too. 
Daily Total: $0

Day 4

6:00am — My alarm goes off. I feel good and my ankle feels better, so I head out for a swim. As soon as I jump in, I realise that I've probably made a mistake. I swim slowly and cautiously but I manage to get a good distance in anyway.
7:00am — I walk home, shower and get ready. There are no leftovers for lunch and I work in a weird spot where there's no food venues around except Woolies. Their pre-made lunches don't inspire me, so I grab some veggies from the freezer as well as some tinned sardines from the pantry. I'll see if I feel like whipping something with them together later. I’m lucky that we have a proper coffee machine at work to get me through the day. 
12:00pm — I spend the morning chairing a committee meeting. It goes well and it's pretty chill and informal. We use them to find out more about different communities' thoughts on the projects we work on and how we can best represent them in the work we do. After all the talking, I’m ravenous and exhausted, so I eat the lunch I’ve bought from home. It’s boring, but it’s healthy and does the job. I follow up with a mandarin from home and an instant coffee.
3:00pm — I need a break, so I walk to Woolies to pass the time. I’m craving something sweet, so I get a protein bar. I also see that there’s Impossible mince on quick clearance so I grab some, plus a multipack of eucalyptus drops because I’m an old hag. $10.64
5:00pm— My partner picks me up since he’s already at home, and we drive to his parents' house. We go to one of our parents' places for dinner each week, but my parents are currently overseas. The journey to his parents' place always takes ages in peak-hour traffic, but it’s always nice to spend time with them. His mum has made a delicious stew for dinner which I devour (can you sense a common trend here?). 
8:00pm— We hang out for a while and try to help them with some issues they have with their car. We leave with leftover stew, lots of fruit and a multipack of toilet paper. On the way home, I stop to get some petrol and a Mint Pattie (once again, old hag) for the drive home. $27
9:00pm— We’re home. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and head straight to bed as I’m shattered from a long day. I realise when I’m trying to fall asleep that I left the damn mince in my mother in law's fridge.
Daily Total: $37.64

Day 5

7:00am — I’m working from home today, but I get up and try and do some chores early to keep my sleep schedule consistent. I tidy up some clutter downstairs that needs to be put away and clean the rest of the house a little bit. I also find a good job to apply for, so I write and submit my application and keep my fingers crossed. As always, I make multiple coffees throughout the morning on our machine. I'm looking to change jobs as there's a bit of uncertainty if my job will continue past December.
8:30am — Our new boss has said that we can flexibly work between 8am and 6pm as long as we do our daily hours. I decide to start earlier because an early finish on a Friday is always nice. I spend the morning finishing up an email campaign, typing and distributing minutes and notes from yesterday's meeting, and having strategy meetings with colleagues.
12:30pm— My partner and I spend our lunch break heading up to the library. I never end up rereading books so I feel like purchasing them is a waste of money. Plus, I have nowhere to keep all of them. Our local library has a great selection and it's easy to request any books they don't have, so I always find good things to read. We get home and eat the leftover stew from last night.
2:00pm — My partner comes home after getting a coffee with some surprise flowers for me.
4:30pm — I wrap up for the day. My afternoon was good. It’s always nice to finish up with nothing too time sensitive or taxing. I walk to the bottle-o down the road — but they don’t have the drinks I want. The guy working waits for me to make a decision and I feel too awkward not to purchase something, so I buy some Suntory Hard Lemonade. $22
5:00pm — My partner and I enjoy one of the drinks, then decide to walk 40 minutes to the noodle markets at Prince Alfred Park. It’s such a beautiful day and my ankle is feeling a lot better.
6:30pm — We arrive. My partner gets some Aperol spritzes and I get the noodles and dumplings. They’re insanely good and definitely worth the journey. $30.57
7:00pm — I see a Messina stall and get some mango pancakes. $12.23
7:30pm — It’s still a nice night so we decide to walk home. My partner stops at a specialty bottle shop to grab something he wants to try. I’m good with the drinks I bought earlier today. 
8:00pm — We’re home. I shower and we settle in to finish Derry Girls. It makes me super emotional, but it's definitely a comfort show that I’ll come back to. When I check my account to see how much I've spent tonight, I realise that my pool is deducting my payment every week instead of every fortnight and I’ve been overcharged a fair bit. I email their help desk.
11:00pm — Skincare and bedtime. I fall asleep immediately.
Daily Total: $42.80

Day 6

7:30am — I wake up groggy and headachey because it doesn’t matter how little I drink anymore; I will always get a hangover if I have any alcohol. One of the many pleasures of getting old!
8:30am — I check my email and the customer service at the pool has already responded and is getting everything sorted. I’m amazed by how quickly they've gotten back to me, but also feel for the staff working this early on a Saturday. 
9:00am — I decide I should probably go for a swim as I’ve only been twice this week and it's a nice day. I walk to the pool and enjoy the sunshine. I start off feeling like I’m going to die (I think it's the hangover talking), but end up getting into my stride and enjoying myself. I start to get tired and the pool is getting busier, so I wrap up.
10:30am — I get home from the pool and shower pretty quickly. I can’t really be faffed with hair and make-up today and it’s a nice day, so I just chuck on a summer dress. We’re heading to a friend's for lunch, so I head out to pick up my other friend.
11:30am — We stop at Woolies to grab some things to contribute to the lunch. I grab a pre-made lemon cake that looks a bit sad, but it will do for a nice light dessert. $7.25
1:00pm— Lunch is delicious and we spend the time catching up and talking. I really enjoy spending time with my friends and hearing about how they’ve been. It’s so hard now that everyone’s an adult and has work and responsibilities, so when we find time to be together, I try to savour it.
5:00pm — I get home and see that my partner is out at a local bar with his brother. He asks if I want to join them for dinner. They decide to walk back to our place while we figure out what to eat. We decide on Mexican at a place nearby, but it's a pretty long walk, so we get an Uber there. My partner pays.
7:30pm — Dinner is delicious. It’s proper Mexican food and they even have good Mexican beers. My partner insists on paying for the whole thing, but I tell him that I'll buy him a few drinks to cover my portion of the meal.
8:00pm — We stop for a cocktail and I pay. The cocktails are okay, but the vibe of the place is kind of weird. $60.07
9:00pm — We decide to go to another bar and get one more drink. It’s a 20-minute walk away and it’s nice to be able to go for a walk at night time and no longer be absolutely freezing. I get a martini. When it’s time to settle up, my partner says he’ll pay for mine if I get the Uber home. 
11:00pm — We’re not far from home but we really can’t be arsed to walk, so I order an Uber. We get home, wash our faces, brush our teeth and go to bed. $12.97
Daily Total: $80.29

Day 7

10:00am — I wake up early but I laze on my phone while my partner sleeps in. We head to my parents' place to drop some things off. We hang out with their dog and get everything organised, then head to their local shopping centre.
11:00am — We both feel like a Starbucks drink. I’d never drink their regular coffee, but their flavoured cold brews are really good and are always a nice weekend treat. I pay. $16.40
12:00pm — I check out Uniqlo and H&M. Uniqlo has a bra I've seen online but when I actually go to touch it IRL, I don't love the quality. H&M doesn't have anything I'm after either. I’m trying to buy way less, especially fast fashion. I used to spend so much money on clothes and would end up donating them after a year. I don't even care about the wasted money — I just don't want to negatively impact climate change. Even if it’s cheap, I remind myself that it needs to be a thoughtful and considered purchase, especially if it is something fast fashion and bad for the environment.
12:30pm — We get sushi train for lunch. Sadly, it’s pretty overpriced and not amazing, but it does cure my craving. I pay $36. Then we go to Woolies and grab some stuff for the coming week and split it 50/50. — $13 for my share. $49
2:30pm — My partner suggests seeing a 3:30pm screening of a Sophia Loren movie at the Palace Theatre near our place, which sounds great. He buys the tickets in the car on the way home and refuses to tell me what I owe him since I bought lunch and coffee. We walk to the cinema as it’s only about half an hour away. Plus it's beautiful weather again today.
3:15pm — We're a bit early so we go to the bookstore next to the theatre. I find the perfect gift for my partner's brother — a literary classics puzzle (he's a huge classics and puzzle fan!). It's a bit early, but I buy it as a Christmas present because there's only one in stock and I don't know if I'll be here again. $40.79
6:00pm — The movie was great. We walk home and I suggest the cheap Thai place near us for dinner. As we walk, my partner's parents call him and he offers to lend them money for their car issues. Because of that and because I still don’t feel like I paid my fair share last night, I get dinner. $29
7:00pm — We walk home, I shower, get myself ready for work tomorrow and head to bed after we watch some TV. 
Daily Total: $135.19

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

My partner and I have been together for a long time. For most of that time, he has been significantly out-earning me, especially while I was studying. He was always willing to pay a lot more for our 'fun' expenses than I could (for example, a $25 cocktail at a bar he really wanted to go to, or meals at nice restaurants). Now we're on pretty even footing for pay, but it's still really hard to convince him to split things with me evenly. I'm constantly working on it.
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.
Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it here.

More from Work & Money