A Week In Melbourne, Victoria As A Nature Photographer On $95K

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 nature photographer spends a chunk of money dining out with friends who are in town for the week.
Occupation: Nature photographer
Industry: Photography
Age: 30
Location: Melbourne, Victoria  
Salary: $95,000
Net Worth: $61,000 — this includes investments, and I don’t own any properties or other assets. I’ve lived with my partner for six years and we split all bills and rent 50/50. I have tracked every purchase and expense (last year for myself, this year for us both), so know exactly what bills and groceries for the month should cost. We don’t have a joint account — we both like being financially independent and already have a smooth bill-paying system set up — but we know how much the other person has in their savings and investment accounts so it's all very open.   
Debt: $25,850 in HECS debt. I’ve never had a credit card so have never accumulated debt outside of my HECS before. I’ve worked on and off as a freelancer and in full-time positions so when I’m in a full-time position I go into savings mode, storing up money for when I want to freelance again, so I don’t have to borrow money to do that.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,536.65
Pronouns: She/Her 

Monthly Expenses 

Rent: Our total monthly rent is $1,716 ($858 for my half). I live with my partner in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor. We both work from home quite a bit so we use one bedroom as our office. We also have a little dog who keeps us company and doesn’t do a single bit of work in the office, despite taking up some prime floor space. The apartment is quite small but is an older place from the 1960s and still has some pretty funky tiles in the bathroom and kitchen, which gives the place so much character! We have a tiny balcony and an amazing large tree outside of it so we feel like we’re surrounded by greenery when we’re at home, despite being inner city. We moved into the apartment at the beginning of the pandemic so were able to get a great deal on our monthly rent and it’s only since gone up by $10 per week so we consider ourselves to be the luckiest millennial renters in Melbourne. 
Loan repayments: I don’t have any loans; I had a few friends use credit cards when they were younger thinking that they had “free money” so it’s made me very reluctant to borrow money in any capacity to pay off later — I also never use AfterPay.
Internet: $35
Phone: $39
Electricity and Gas: $95 
Spotify: $12.99
Donations: $25-30 (I add a dollar to an account every time I meditate and donate the money to a First Nations organisation at the end of the month. It’s a nice incentive to do an activity.)
Investments: I invest $430 each fortnightly pay cycle and I know roughly how much I’ll spend on groceries and petrol/public transport per month, so I divide what’s left after that from my income into a longer-term savings account for travel and an everyday savings account. 

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

I have a bachelor’s degree in theatre and film and a master’s degree in film producing and it’s all on HECS, baby! I learned most of the skills I use in my work today by myself or from YouTube, lol.

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

My dad did accounting work so he’s the one I would go to with financial questions, though I’ve always been interested in doing my taxes myself and figuring out finances as a freelancer so I often approach him with questions more than him outright teaching me. I feel very grateful to have someone quite financially literate in my family to ask when I wanted to make a financial decision, like beginning to invest and making sure the investments didn’t support fossil fuels while still being smart investments. It means that finances aren’t scary for me, even when the cost of living is rising so dramatically, I feel like I know how to plan for that.

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

My first job was as a background extra on Neighbours when I was 15 and it helped me pay for my first car. My first regular job was at a bookstore.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Thankfully not. I know that my parents both worked and sacrificed to offer me a great education and I felt very lucky and middle class, though we did live way, way out in the suburbs and I knew that other kids I went to school with had wealthier families than I did. I think my dad instilled a level of security around money because of how planned and prepared he is with money and I’m realising that has definitely rubbed off on me.

Do you worry about money now?

Sometimes I see a single broccoli at the supermarket for $9.70 (like I saw this week) or how much a piece of camera gear that I need for work costs and it can feel so overwhelming, but I try really hard to focus on how, comparatively, I am doing absolutely fine. I think it feels taboo to say that you’re “rich”, or that it’s hard to believe when I can’t afford to buy property and live a very frugal life on what seems to be above the average annual salary for Australians in 2024, but it’s a mix of planning, privilege, hard work and luck that allows me to live a full and safe life. Whenever I get anxious about costs that creep up or having less savings than I’d hoped, I try to tell myself that actually, I am doing well, I have everything I actually need, I am rich. I am lucky. 

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

I moved out when I was 23 and have been financially responsible for myself ever since. Before that I paid for my phone, car bills and anything else I wanted with my own part-time job money. I am fortunate that I have a place to stay with my or my partner’s family if we ever lose our rental, and if things got dire we could borrow some money from them (that we’d have to pay back). 

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

I have not.

Day 1

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I snooze it until 8 a.m. This is egregious but I worked a large event the day before and am working from home today, so I’m going to be a bit slow-moving this morning. I make myself a coffee and read in bed to wake myself up. 
9 a.m. — I log into work and set some images to upload. I take my dog for a walk while they transfer, though she’s having a slow morning too and doesn’t really want to go. 
11:15 a.m. — My partner and I love going to the cinema and it’s Oscars season! I transfer him $23 for the ticket we bought last night to Anatomy of a Fall (well worth the cost) and $7.10 for a coconut choc top (also well worth the money). $30.10
12:35 p.m. — In an effort to curb my consumption, and for environmental reasons, I have been challenging myself to only buy 10 new things all year. I am known for living in one pair of old white sneakers, so have been toying with the idea of a pair of blue sneakers to mix things up. I’ve been holding off on purchasing them for a while but have had them open in a tab on my computer. I decide that I’ll commit to the purchase today but by the time I do, they are out of stock in my size and preferred colour, so I avoid spending $200 (plus shipping). 
1:35 p.m. — I make some pasta with cherry tomatoes for lunch at home. Really doing my best to use what’s left in the fridge — it’s hard to go wrong with pasta.
5:15 p.m. — I finish up working and head to my reformer Pilates class. I tend to purchase exercise classes I like in packs of 10 whenever they have a sale, because it ends up being way cheaper than a weekly or monthly membership payment and is way more flexible. This averages out to $20 per class at this studio. 
6:45 p.m. — I’m home from Pilates and make miso eggplant with rice for dinner. I generally get a large box of veggies from the market each weekend as it’s much cheaper than buying things from Coles or Woolworths and I love to plan out my weekly meals based on the seasonal produce we get each week. I try to save some for my lunch tomorrow. 
Daily Total: $30.10 

Day 2

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I only hit snooze three times.
6:27 a.m. — I get out of bed, make myself a coffee and do the morning Wordle (I may be the last person out there still doing this). I toast two apple and cinnamon hot cross buns for breakfast. I’m always confused as to why people complain about them being on shelves this far before Easter? Let them be a year-round treat!
8:05 a.m. — I walk to the tram stop to head into the office today. I touch on ($5.30) and read my book for as long as I can (aka until the man next to me takes a clearly uncomfortable and loud business call). $5.30
8:45 a.m. — I make it to work for what I thought was a mandatory in-person meeting, but there’s only three other people here. 
12 p.m. — I have been snacking on blueberries and popcorn all morning and am pretty unenthused about eating my small container of leftovers for lunch. I see a message from one of my best mates who is visiting Melbourne for the next few weeks and has decided to surprise me with lunch! I hold out until she arrives. 
12:45 p.m. — My friend has brought two salad options to share — a delicious couscous, artichoke and sun-dried tomato salad and a lovely roasted eggplant, chickpea and rocket salad. I’m so happy. We eat them in a church garden near my office because it’s a lovely day outside. When we’ve finished the salad she brings out TWO PASTRIES and we share those while discussing our favourite dog actors. This is the kindest thing you can do for a friend. 
3:10 p.m. — I plan out my shoot day tomorrow and try to figure out what gear I’ll need (some parts are kept at the office and some are at home). I’m also visiting a site I’ve never been to before and there’s a short hike involved, so I want to keep things light. 
4:55 p.m. — I head home from work via Muji. I get some diffuser reed sticks ($5) so I can finally use a really lovely essential oil that a guy running a makers’ market gave me when I was in Seoul late last year. It’s meant to smell like a fresh Korean forest which makes me nostalgic, as most of the time I spent in Seoul last year involved hiking and being in gardens. I always want to be smelling lush Korean forests. $5
5:55 p.m. — I arrive home on the tram (another $5.30). My partner has prepared everything for homemade pizzas and I feel like the luckiest gal in the world that my loved ones keep making me food today. We take our little dog for a walk in the sun before dinner. My partner took her to the vet today for her regular checkup (and because she’s been a little itchy). It turns out that she has a small ear infection but is otherwise a healthy girl ($198). $203.30
7:22 p.m. — We eat our pizzas and watch an episode of Survivor because we’re Survivor fanatics. Afterwards, I plug my camera batteries in to charge. 
9 p.m. — I pack my gear up for tomorrow and pack some food that my partner bought during the day for the trip ($22.60). I wash my face and do my skincare routine and suddenly it’s 10:45 p.m.?! $22.60
Daily Total: $236.60

Day 3

6 a.m. — I actually get up with my alarm this morning as I’m driving out to Kinglake and want to get as much of the nice morning light as I can. I make a coffee and a hot cross bun and get out the door. 
8:40 a.m. — I arrive at my location a little later than I’d hoped but it’s fine because nobody’s around. I’m chasing waterfalls today and immediately take the wrong path to the first lookout. I double back and wish I’d opted for evening light instead. 
9:25 a.m. — I arrive at my first waterfall and it’s lovely. All my extra trekking around and feeling like a fool for taking the wrong path is forgotten and I snap away. 
10:10 a.m. — I return to my car to drive to the next location. I’m listening to Beyoncé’s entire catalogue of music in reverse order and I’m up to B’Day, which honestly might be one of her best. 
10:28 a.m. — I arrive at my second location and see two lyrebirds hiding in amongst the ferns. They have a wild-sounding call so I whip out a mic and record them to use in a video later. 
11:10 a.m. — I arrive at my second waterfall after missing the turn-off on this track, too. Not having the smoothest run today but trying to remember how lucky I am that I can escape the office like this. I take some more snaps and head back. 
11:18 a.m. — I come across an older couple on the trail who saw me with my gear at the first location and have been chasing waterfalls today, too! We have a nice chat about the lyrebirds and the day trip they’ve been having, and I’m thankful for a little break because my pack of gear is getting very heavy and the sun is heating up.
11:25 a.m. — I’m back at my car and drink a whole bottle of water before heading home. I get stuck in a lot of traffic so end up listening to hours’ worth of Beyoncé today. 
1:30 p.m. — I’m almost home and my car is running on empty so I pull over to fill up ($69.75). $69.75
1:40 p.m. — I swing by the supermarket to grab some ingredients for dinner ($16.50), which will be yet another pasta, obviously. $16.50
3:45 p.m. — I accidentally have a nap when I arrive home, while all my photos are transferring off the camera. I get up and do a last little bit of work before we take our pup for a walk. 
6:30 p.m. — I make dinner and we watch more Survivor.
9:30 p.m. — I]m completely knackered from the heat and driving today so I fall asleep early. 
Daily Total: $86.25

Day 4

8 a.m. — I start work at home a bit earlier today because I’m heading out tonight. I eat a bunch of cherries I got at the market last weekend. I immediately run into IT issues so I go and make a coffee and do some yoga while I wait for assistance. 
12:10 p.m. — I decide it’s time for a treat so on my lunch break I walk to a local patisserie and get my favourite spinach and ricotta pastry ($9). When I get home I see that my phone bill is due and I pay it immediately ($39). $48
4:10 p.m. — I’m in a meeting that’s running late and I need to run off, so I try my best to wrap things up quickly — and succeed!
4:20 p.m. — My partner and I are meeting up with a friend to have dinner in Carlton and see a show. We catch a tram ($5.30) which gets stuck and delays us by half an hour. $5.30
6 p.m. — We finally arrive at dinner after power-walking through the streets of Carlton, and thankfully our friend had already ordered for us. We’re greeted with yummy nectarine martinis, fresh focaccia, whipped ricotta and cherries and a delicious bowl of vodka rigatoni. We then order a pizza to share and another round of cocktails. They’ve sat us at a table in the sun and it’s just perfect. I shout my friend dinner ($154.66). $154.66
7:30 p.m. — We walk from dinner to the show and arrive just in time. We bought the cheapest seats available but have been upgraded to the house row right down the front! We feel incredibly special, but halfway through the show we realise that we’re not too charmed by it and are now very aware of how close we are to the performers. 
11 p.m. — The show wraps up and we walk back through the city to catch the tram home ($5.30). We do our best impressions of the deeply gratuitous bows performers do at the end of serious plays along the way. $5.30
Daily Total: $213.26 

Day 5

6 a.m. — Yikes, another day in the office ahead after snoozing my alarm until 6:55 a.m. Perhaps I should just accept that I’m not a person who can manage to fit yoga in before work, and just wake up at 7:30 a.m. instead? I make myself a coffee and some breakfast at home. 
8:15 a.m. — I catch the tram into work ($5.30). The line ends a few stops early today which is unexpected, so I walk the rest of the way, which is actually kind of nice. $5.30
9:10 a.m. — I arrive at work and there are only three other people in the office, which is exceptionally quiet. I plan my day and jump into a meeting. 
11 a.m. — I grab a coffee with a colleague who’s leaving. We end up having a wonderful chat about life and balancing being creative on-demand at your nine-to-five job with trying to keep your craft alive just for you. She articulates this so well that I feel refreshed and reinsured and am so excited for her to go on to pursue her creative projects. I shout her a coffee ($10.20). $10.20
12:30 p.m. — There’s now four of us in the office and we all decide to head down for a long, casual lunch in the sun. I grab a panino from the sandwich store nearby ($14.10) and we hang out for longer than we should. I decide that Fridays are a great day to be in the office. $14.10
2:30 p.m. — I’m working on a small edit that’s looking good when a colleague visits me and drops off a little Mars Bar and some jelly beans. Fridays have just gone from good to great!
4:30 p.m. — Everyone decides they’re heading off so I do too. I grab some groceries for dinner ($21.65 for my share) on my way home, and catch the tram as per ($5.30). $26.95
7:30 p.m. — I’ve cooked a cauliflower daal with some parathas from our local Indian grocery store for dinner. We take our dog for a walk before watching another episode of — you guessed it — Survivor. I do some yoga before bed. 
Daily Total: $56.55

Day 6

7 a.m. — It’s a 7 a.m. wakeup time for me today, which feels much more manageable. I’m doing some freelance work at a flower show this morning which should be a lovely way to spend a day. I’m not prepared today and have run out of my normal breakfast food, so I make a coffee and fry some tomatoes, garlic and kale together and decide that’s a breakfast. We take our dog for a very slow morning walk.
9:30 a.m. — I arrive at the flower show and immediately stress out about the light. The entire drive was overcast which makes for perfect lighting but now the sun is hot and harsh, so I search around for pockets of shade. 
10:20 a.m. — I have a lovely chat with a volunteer about how they’ve worked to propagate and nurture the flowers over the previous months. During this time the cloud cover comes back and I jump for joy! I do another quick lap of the show and get some of my best shots of the day. 
12:45 p.m. — I head home, stopping off at a record store on the way to buy a gift for my partner for Valentine’s Day. He heard some Norah Jones songs recently and has been talking about how much he loves her voice and how it would be a perfect sultry background album for our evenings, so I buy Come Away with Me on vinyl ($65). $65
2:45 p.m. — I come home, hide away my gift and transfer all my photos off my camera. I shower, do some yoga and meditate to reset my mind before the rest of the afternoon. 
4:35 p.m. — I jump on a tram ($5.30) and head off to Brunswick for dinner at Etta with a friend who’s in town for a few weeks. The tram gets stuck and I get off and power-walk several stops to a nearby train station. I touch on ($5.30 again!) and text her to apologise for running late. $10.60
5:45 p.m. — I arrive at the restaurant and my friend has already ordered me a summer gin and tonic because she’s wonderful. We have the tasting menu and it is incredible! Tempura enoki mushrooms, Sichuan cabbage and crispy rice — perhaps the best meal in Melbourne if you’re a vegetarian. We split the bill ($124 for my half). $124
7:50 p.m. — We grab another drink at Waxflower across the road ($22) and chat outside for a few hours as it’s such a lovely warm evening. I grab a tram home ($5.30), hoping it doesn’t let me down this time. $27.30
Daily Total: $226.90

Day 7

7:30 a.m. — Is this my sleep-in? Maybe. I wake up and make my partner a coffee before making one for myself. We read in bed for an hour. 
9:30 a.m. — My mum comes over and we visit the market together to get our weekly fruit and vegetables. There’s a stall that offers a big box of mixed seasonal fruit and veggies for $35. Being vegetarian, this box will last me and my partner about a week and a half for main meals and some lunches — it’s an incredible deal! I get the box, some cherries and other stone fruits for an extra $10. $45
9:50 a.m. — My Mum shouts me a coffee and I shout her a pastry ($14 for both of us) while we sit and chat at the market. $14
12:15 p.m. — I head home and unpack my veggies. I lay everything out across my kitchen (there’s a lot) and plan out what I can make with everything for the week. I then list out what other ingredients we’ll need for each dish — we usually shop for those bits and pieces throughout the week, depending on what we feel like eating.
1:10 p.m. — I drive over to my best mate’s place nearby and we run some errands together. We do her grocery shopping and I get some noodles and spices for tonight’s dinner ($16.50). When we’re done, we grab a juice and sit in the sun for a moment ($8.60). $25.10
2:15 p.m. — We head back to her place and I help her prepare for a pizza night she’s hosting by rolling out some dough and cutting up toppings. 
4:10 p.m. — We have made four gorgeous pizzas but I’m not even going to eat them! I’m heading to a movie tonight, so I go home to drop off the noodles so my partner can cook dinner while I have a shower and get ready. 
5:30 p.m. — We eat dinner at home and walk to our local cinema. It’s a hot day so I bring cherries from the market as our cinema snack. We see May December ($22); it’s brilliant and weird in the best way. We walk back home afterwards discussing it. $22
9:30 p.m. — We both decide to do yoga together before bed and then contemplate watching another episode of our current addiction, Survivor
Daily Total: $106.10

Anything else to add? 

This week I had a few friends visit town — I do not eat at this many restaurants typically! I really appreciate the creativity and craft of cooking so am trying to see experiences at restaurants almost as a creative hobby, in regards to a purchase. I love talking about a meal as it’s being made and enjoyed in the same way I love to talk about films or books. 

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