Money Diaries

A Week In South Brisbane, Queensland, On A $154,000 Joint Income

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Occupation: Nurse
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 28
Location: South Brisbane, Queensland
My Salary: $59,117
My Husband's Salary: $95,000
Net Worth: $433,121 ($140,291 in cash savings, $96,987 in my super, $176,681 in my husband's super, $230,000 in property equity, $3,376 in a micro-investing app, $44,770 in overseas savings, and $1,400 in overseas investments).
Debt: $260,111 for the mortgage.
Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $3,830 (I make $1,300 a fortnight, but this can fluctuate due to shift penalties [i.e. for late shifts], overtime or sick leave. I also get an extra $356 by salary sacrificing. My husband makes $2,530 a fortnight).
Pronouns: She/Her

My husband and I have joined all of our Australian accounts together, barring one for his personal spending money. We have both budgeted $33 a week for discretionary spending. Anything other than what is budgeted for amounts over $100 needs to be discussed with the other half.

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1476.20, split between the two of us. We own a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit that we live in.
Loans: My parents generously loaned us $30,000 to sit in our offset account. There is no particular due date for repayment.
Phone: $95
Electricity: $70
Internet: $60
Medical (Medication, doctor and physio): $125
Health Insurance: $315
Massage: $110
Disability Insurance: $70
Income Insurance: $166
Nursing Union Fees: $55.20
Netflix: $18
Disney+/Prime: $0 (Our friends kindly shared their account details)
Additional Super Contributions: $214
Micro-investing app: $160
Charitable Giving:/Tithe (more on this later): $793
Paid quarterly
Water: $250
Gas and hot water: $250
Council rates: $350
Body Corporate: $725

Paid yearly
Nursing Registration Fees: $185
Public Speaking Club: $240

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

I already have a bachelor’s degree and have almost completed a graduate diploma in religious studies. My parents very kindly paid for my bachelor’s degree, except for the first semester (they were still trying to work out the HECS system). My parents are both highly educated and they wanted to pay for my education. However, they've never explicitly said that I had to get a college education. They've said as long as we're happy and can support ourselves, we're fine. However, I think they would have been disappointed if we hadn't.

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

Growing up, we were taught to be thrifty. My mother grew up fairly poor in a Third World country. Saving was a priority. The most money my family ever spent was on yearly trips overseas to see family. I suppose I learned the value of money through observation.

But looking back, we were actually comparatively rich. My mum raised us — she didn’t work and was always around for us. When we lived in developing countries, we always had a maid (at least). In one country, we had an entire staff dedicated to us. We went to private schools and were never expected to work during our school years. Despite this, name brands were never important, we always flew economy and wore hand-me-downs from relatives. We went to the same markets the locals did, and I’d watch my mom barter.

However, being cheap wasn’t the priority. We were expected to respect people equally, regardless of their status or wealth. Leaving things to the maid was never an option and we still had responsibilities. We would visit orphanages as a family, and once we had a few of the kids sleep over and come to a waterpark with us! Our aim was to be generous to God and people, just as God had been generous to us. My parents were very involved in our churches.

When we moved to more developed countries, my mom took over running the household. It must have been a massive change for her, doing all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, ironing and laundry. We had chores, but our education was paramount. I was given an allowance of $20 a week during my university studies. However, I lived with my parents, and they paid for and provided food, and paid for my tuition, study materials, public transport costs and our yearly travels to see family.

As an independent adult, I know that my parents have sponsored several people’s educations and contributed regularly to charities. They also pray every day for the many people we’ve come across in our lives. They have big palm cards for each day of the week with names listed of who to pray for. My parents are not only generous with their money but also their care.

I’ve found that my parents are incredibly transparent about money now and I've realised that we are quite well off, despite their frugal lifestyle. We tend to have a stocks over real estate mentality due to our previously nomadic lifestyle.

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

My first job was as a newly graduated nurse. My parents valued education so highly that they encouraged me to solely focus on my studies. It was a great blessing, but I wish I had gotten more life experience when I was younger.

Did you worry about money growing up? 


Do you worry about money now? 

I worry about not having enough money to achieve my life goals — like a house, travel and seeing my family overseas again — rather than meeting day-to-day costs.

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

I became financially responsible for myself when I moved into a sharehouse at age 22. In regards to a safety net, I have profession-specific disability insurance as my health is entwined with my ability to work and earn a reasonable wage.

My husband makes much more than me, but we tend to try and live on my income to pay off as much of the mortgage as possible. As a result, there is leeway in our budget if I suddenly couldn't work.

My parents remind me repeatedly and at times almost aggressively, that money is not an issue and to consider them as my insurance. I am incredibly grateful for that but I have to be super intentional to not be dependent on them and take advantage of their generosity.

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

As mentioned earlier, my parents expected and prepared to pay for my higher education. As a result, I received around $32,000 from them for my studies.

Day One

8:40am — I wake up. I had a dream about trying to navigate a rocky shoreline with thin, interlocking boardwalks. I rarely dream, but when I do it's usually a sign of stress.

8:45am — Dad messages me, saying that the family Zoom with his side of the family is on. I get H., my husband, to check the time difference as some of them have moved to daylight savings overseas. It turns out we got the time wrong and we only catch the last of it. I have seen my dad's family more than ever once we started monthly Zoom calls in the middle of Covid. It has been quite nice, so I'm annoyed we're late.

10:00am — After a breakfast of leftover Tandoori chicken and bread, I put the final layer of paper mache on my Christmas piñata. I picked up piñata making a few months ago to use up all our recycled toilet paper wrappers.

12:30pm — I come back from my second visit with my new psychologist. It was a good session. I've seen a mental health professional off and on since 2016 due to depression. I do take medication, but regular appointments help me stay on track. I had a rather big dip in my mental health mid-year and recognised that I needed a psychologist who was a better fit for me. I pay $195 today, but expect a rebate as I’m on a mental health care plan. It should only end up costing a bit over $100. $195

I do some life admin, updating our spending Google Sheets document and paying my tithe. Tithes are where you traditionally give 10% of your income to support the church. We don't currently go to church as our last church became unsafe for us emotionally. Because of this, I contribute to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre ($149.05). I usually view my tithe as the minimum in living generously. $149.05

3:45pm — I've just been lazing around reading manga, so I'd better get my butt in gear as it's a big night out tonight. Stretch. Shower. God time, dress up and makeup.

5:55pm — Traffic is terrible. We were meant to be at Southbank for an early dinner half an hour ago. To make the time seem less wasteful, I read out a Money Diary from a hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail. H. likes hiking, having done Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp. He's a bit stressed about rushing our big date night. Turns out the traffic is bad because there's a no vaccination mandate protest at Musgrave Park.

7:20pm — We make it to The Nutcracker ballet performance in time! The ramen place we had planned on going to was full by the time we parked, so we scoffed down some Japanese food elsewhere ($50). The tickets cost us almost $97.20, but we also used a $100 voucher from relatives to cover costs. $50

8:30pm — I buy an overpriced bottle of water ($4) during intermission. I hate buying water, but I'm on my period and feel dehydrated. $4

9:45pm — I enjoyed the ballet! They make it look easy, but it takes so much training and strength. We watch on amused as a security guard attempts to gather a family of curlews out of the car park. We pay for parking — $20.

10:30pm — I put myself to bed after snuggling with H. I end up on my phone which I know is bad, but I often want H. to come to bed before I resign myself to sleep. He's a night owl, but I really need to be in bed by 9pm. I've given up on this recently due to anxiety. I faIl asleep at midnight and drop into oblivion.

Daily Total: $418.05

Day Two

5:30am — I wake up from a terrible nightmare. I'm still super sleepy when I wake up, but have to reach out and check if H. is still there. I get up and write down my dream. I try to do this with dreams as it's therapeutic and often forms fun writing prompts. I figure sleep is probably unlikely with it being light outside, but lie down on the couch as H. snores away.

6:45am — I give up on sleep, get up, stretch and paint my Christmas piñata teal, before lying down again for God time. Being Sunday, God time is a sermon, unsurprisingly. Daily God time for me varies from prayer, journalling and devotions to simply reading my Bible. I've tried to diversify it as it has become a habit to tick off, rather than intentional quality time.

9:00am — H. wakes me up with cuddles. I must have blacked out mid-sermon, but I'm glad I got a bit more sleep.

10:00am — I go to Aldi to do the weekly shop and it is thankfully not too busy despite the lead up to Christmas. Usually, H. and I do the food shop together to plan meals, but he’s off cleaning the bathrooms. He’s such a good egg. I haven’t had to properly clean the bathrooms in our two-year marriage! I do most of the cooking and laundry as I work part-time. I also manage our social calendar as he didn’t even have a calendar until he met me! I buy crackers, mushrooms, broccoli, bananas, pink lady apples, strawberries, pepita seeds, sunflower seeds, pre-marinated pork belly, honeyed ham, carrots, 2kg of potatoes, yoghurt, multi-grain bread, couscous, meatballs, 3L of milk, shaving foam, three cans of diced tomatoes, 2kg rice, and ginger ale — all for $79.58. This is far below our budgeted $120 per week, but we already have quite a bit in the fridge/freezer, and I was pretty undecided about what to make. Honestly, I’m limping towards Christmas. I’ve been craving soft bread rolls and on the drive home, remind myself that I can make them. $79.58

11:00am — I finally have toast and peanut butter for what is now brunch. I brew tea to make kombucha, feed my sourdough starter, and make meatball pasta sauce. I normally cook in bulk ahead of time. I glue snowflakes made of biscuit wrapping paper on my piñata.

1:00pm — I have a quick shower as I feel icky and really should change my period underwear. I started using EcoPads cloth pads and Modibodi period underwear about five years ago and have never looked back.

1:30pm — I make H. stop by Woolworths on our way to hang out with my parents. I want bread rolls and some individually wrapped lollies to fill the piñata ($16.70). Usually, I'd pay for it with my salary sacrifice card but there isn't enough on it. $16.70

4:45pm — We have a lovely time with my parents, thanks to the added benefit of ice cream. Due to my discontent with work, I mention weighing up changing professions and doing further study in counselling. My parents are quick to say that they can financially support me, but I'm not sure that my mental health is in a position to do that, nor would it be a career fit for me at this life stage. H. fills up the car on the way home — $22.33.

5:00pm — I realise I'm wrecked, so I cancel plans to go for a walk. I do the dishes as I know if I attempt to nap, I'll just ruin my sleep schedule. I put on Netflix’s The World's Most Amazing Vacation Rentals as it's a nice and easy watch.

6:30pm — I read over some of my writing and blog drafts after putting on pasta to cook in my Thermomix. I started my blog about a month ago as a more focused avenue to get back into writing. I also needed new hobbies to keep me occupied and manage my depression better. I wanted to be a writer as a kid, but always figured I could do it on the side. H. arrives home just in time for dinner. We do our State Of The Union as per the Gottman method of couples therapy. It's a great way to check in with each other.

9:00pm — I’m meant to be in bed. I opt for another shower to help myself unwind. My neck is achy from just staring at a laptop for an hour or so. There's no way I could do a desk job. I don't wash my hair every night, so this should only take 5-10 minutes at most, particularly if I'm doing my weekly coffee scrub. I use a Shhhowercap — I was sick of plastic ones that would grow mould and add to landfill. H. comes and snuggles and chats with me in bed before leaving me to it.

11:30pm — Still no sleep. I tend to think of things to do since my brain is finally quiet enough to process events. However, a downstairs neighbour is gaming loud enough to be irritating. I close the window and take some Panadol for my fatigue headache.

Daily Total: $118.61

Day Three

6:30am — My alarm goes off and I laze in bed until I only have 15 minutes to get ready. This is only possible as I usually toss on exercise shorts and a shirt each day. Partway through breakfast of a bread roll and butter, I realise it's the week of Christmas, so traffic should be better and ease up.

7:30am — I'm at work horrendously early and decide to go for a walk and pray. It's peak season for us, and we are crying out for staff. However, I'm proud of myself for choosing to do something for my mental health, rather than attempting to pick up more hours. I have seriously considered quitting in the last month or so. I just don't know if I can do it anymore. Management has increased our workload by 30% some days. It's not sustainable, and my boss is known for changing people's shifts at the last minute and not communicating as such to the people involved.

8:30am — Into the fray I go.

11:20am — I break for lunch — leftover pasta and meatballs. Work is surprisingly ok. I do love my work, getting to know people and preparing them for surgery.

2:50pm — Second break. I'm not hungry, but I know I need to eat as it could be a long evening. I have leftovers from home, but I indulge in some chips and mud cake ($9). I never buy sweets at work. It's been a crappy last two years though, and I figure I've held out well to only crack after eight years at my workplace. $9

5:10pm — I survived. It wasn't too bad, as I expected to have had to do overtime.

5:50pm — I get home. I debrief with H. quickly but ask for some alone time as I need some non-people time. He cooks tofu noodle stir fry. We aim for Monday night dinners to be meat-free.

6:45pm — I finally get into the shower. I have a bread roll and butter as I don't feel like much for dinner. My Medicare rebate for my mental health plan comes through (+$88.25!).

7:45pm — H's aunt and uncle ring up to solidify Christmas present plans. We've all agreed to go away for a long weekend sometime next year instead of doing presents. My parents-in-law and sister-in-law will also join us, but it's taking a bit of back and forth to confirm the details. We have a great chinwag. I joke with his aunt that I'd work as a cleaner at her workplace as they're short on staff too (I've felt bad enough at work sometimes that it has been a serious consideration!). I love them dearly and am looking forward to Christmas breakfast with them.

9:20pm — I've put on Netflix's Nicole Byer: BBW but I'm fading. I gradually make it to bed, but only decide to properly sleep at 10:15pm as H. makes moves to sleep too.

Daily Total: $9

Day Four

7:40am — H. is getting ready for work, but I stay in bed as I'm not working today. I usually work part-time. With shift work, I prefer it. A lot of other nurses also say that you're better off doing a 0.8 workload due to taxes. I was also studying part-time when Covid started, but stopped studying to focus on my marriage. H. started to identify as agnostic sometime after we got married. Faith is very important to me, but I realise that it doesn’t often look like it overtly. Our parents are all super religious, so it's been a big change.

8:45am — I finally get up and have a bread roll with some butter. I decide to go to the library right away before I lose momentum. I've tried to ‘book’ something to do each day since the middle of the year, when my depression worsened. I opt for a smaller library instead of my usual one because it's in a shopping centre — I just can't risk a potential Covid exposure. I think I've had ten tests, and my boss has already had a chat about excessive sick leave since the pandemic. Part of me recognises that my body is just burnt out. I can't risk my patients' wellbeing, and unplanned time off would just allow me to sulk in my depression.

9:25am — The library is closed. I find the next closest.

9:45am — I find a cute library and park nearby. Libraries are my safe place as it was our one reliable weekly outing other than church when I was growing up. With our many moves, I found solace in books, but my current reading consists of comics and articles online. I browse some books from non-fiction to adult fiction.

I borrow:
- Simply Bread by The Australian Women’s Weekly
- We Need To Talk About Mum & Dad by Jean Kittson
- The Promise Seed by Cass Moriarty
- An Almost Zero Waste Life by Megean Weldon
- A Grandmother’s Wisdom by Catriona Rowntree
- Feathertide by Beth Cartwright and
- The Dressmaker’s Secret by Karen Dickson.

I already know that I won't read them all.

10:45am — When I get home, I strip the bed, empty the dishwasher and do a general tidy up with Antiques Roadshow playing in the background. I also put on the last episode of The World's Most Amazing Vacation Rentals because I'm not ready for productivity.

11:40am — I make the bed, leaving the Lorraine Lea cooling mat mostly on H.'s side. I do some stretching to keep my neck in good nick, message a few people, and fold the laundry. I'm a bit hungry, so I make a pasta salad with butter, pesto and sliced ham for protein. It’s too warm for hot food.

12:30pm — It's God time — I read a devotional, journal and pray. I then do some admin. I research bamboo sheets as H. really likes the set we have and another set would be good for summer. I go through emails and see a role advertised that I might actually be interested in and read through it. I’m tempted. A new workplace could be a refreshing change, but I put it on the backburner. I pay my yearly car rego with a small surcharge as I pay on a card ($759.28). I know a lot of people struggle financially leading up to Christmas. I find Christmas hard in that I often have to work and people expect me to be happy. Financially though, the beginning of the new year is the worst time for us with a lot of yearly costs coming up, and I just want one less thing to worry about later. Our weekly micro-investing app automatic transfer of $40 also happens today. H. puts in an extra $25 ($65). $824.28

2:00pm — I’ve started reading An Almost Zero Waste Life, taking notes. However, my productivity is waning. I shouldn’t nap, so obviously a Blown Away Christmas marathon is needed. I feel a bit wasteful about how I’m using my time, but remind myself that I have no extra leave booked over the festive season.

4:10pm — I drive to Roma St Parklands and go for a quick stroll until H. is off work. We have a marriage counselling session later tonight which I think we're both apprehensive about.

5:05pm — I pick H. up and get a call from some close family friends, so I let H. drive while I catch up with them. During the conversation, one of them points out that working between two workplaces is probably not recommended due to Covid. It hadn’t occurred to me, but that job opportunity I noted earlier definitely won't work as it’s only two days a week.

7:30pm — It was a good, hard marriage counselling session. I pay $100 for us. Our Employee Assistance Program from work has covered at least six of our previous sessions. $100

8:00pm — We have leftovers for dinner and do a bit of planning for the new year. I shower and start reading while H. does the dishes and finishes up our Christmas card to Poppy. I try to write to Poppy monthly as he’s the only surviving grandfather between the two of us, and phone calls can be tricky due to his hearing.

10:30pm — I've wasted the night away on my phone while H. is watching Star Wars Rebels. I follow a lot of comics on Webtoon and Tapas. I know I need to cut down on my phone time but have yet to find the will to enforce it. Lights out.

Daily Total: $924.28

Day Five

7:30am — I wake up a bit before H.'s alarm. I was dreaming of being in a medical emergency in one of my old work roles.

8:10am — H. gives me the best kisses before he leaves for work.

8:40am — Up and at 'em. I start on a Green's Christmas Limited Edition Yuletide Log cake mix before it gets too hot. I end up dumping four times too much water in it though. To fix it, I add cocoa, self-raising flour and a bit of baking blend. My egg whites are not peaking. The batter is way too watery still. I risk it and put it in the oven. I grew up making cake mixes and love baking as a result. I decide to make some bread too — I want to prove to myself that I still have the skills, especially if this Yule log doesn't come out right.

10:00am — The Yule log seems ok coming out of the oven. I eat a bread roll with butter as I make soft butter rolls in the Thermomix. I try to email a document on H.'s desktop, which restarts twice halfway through. He knows this and plans to clean and maybe update it over the holidays. Then, to my horror, I discover maggots on the kitchen floor. I sweep them up, Glen 20 the floor and decide to leave for a swim. I need real exercise to get rid of all this angst! I toss out the trash and now, potentially contaminated soft plastic into the unit bin on my way out. I pay $5.50 for the swimming pool. The slow lap swimming lane is empty. Winning! $5.50

11:00am — I put a batch of laundry on and disinfect the kitchen floor. I throw the last few maggots off the balcony into the communal backyard. I wash my hair while in the shower and then mop the kitchen floor. I form my bread rolls and decide to turn the aircon on as I’m expecting a guest while I use the oven. I have a couple of bread rolls for lunch, and they are amazing.

1:30pm — D., a friend from my early nursing days, comes over for a great catch up. We discuss burnout and how the industry has become worse and there is likely to be a shortage of nurses.

3:30pm — D. takes off, I turn off the aircon and do my God time. I watch Elementary on Prime while I do the dishes and work on my Yule log. Evidently, cooling it in the fridge was a rookie error. The cake cracks when unravelled to add the filling. It'll taste the same anyway.

5:00pm — I put in an online order for Thai food with a couple we know from our last church. They work in ministry and are paid through sponsors, so we pay for everything ($79.15). I water the ‘green babies’, our balcony garden and inside plants. $79.15

8:30pm — We have a nice time catching up with the couple. We discuss the difficulty of finding a new church, particularly in Covid times. I intend to look around at church options next year but I'm trying to be mindful of my mental health. The boys decide to take the desktop apart to clean it and get it working better, and the Yule log is a hit. Now I'm tired and ready for bed. I have a long day and an early start tomorrow.

10:10pm — I think I overdid it with dinner and end up on the toilet for a bit.

Daily Total: $84.65

Day Six

4:50am — I wake up a bit before my alarm goes off. I'm sore from my swim. I eat a bread roll and some of the less flavourful leftovers from last night. I go through phases with food, so I promise the bread roll intake this week is unusual. I grab a mask, the Christmas card that I need to send to Poppy, and leave a bit later than I'd prefer. I expect work to be in the winding down stages before Christmas.

6:00am —As suspected, it looks like our load is on the lighter side of things.

7:55am — First break. I just have a bread roll as I'm not hungry.

12:15pm — Lunch is leftover meatballs, a bread roll and a slice of Yule log for dessert. There's a drop-in education session downstairs to practice donning and doffing Covid PPE. It was good to start building muscle memory.

2:30pm — I finish early as we aren't too busy. A colleague, M., and I often walk together after work if we work the same shift. However, it's pouring, so we opt for a coffee shop chat. I order a mango frappe and red cookie monster cupcake as a takeaway snack for H. ($12) and pay with my personal discretionary money. $12

4:30pm — I get home to find H. frustrated and working from home. He's on until 7pm as the lead up to Christmas is hectic at his workplace. He's excited about the cupcake. I begin a blog post about how I deal with my worsening mental health.

6:00pm — I finally take a shower and have bread rolls with sliced meat and cheese for dinner. I have nearly the last of the Yule log while reading manga. H. heads out for a run after finishing work.

8:25pm — H. comes back and we discover two geckos having sexy time on our balcony ceiling.

Daily Total: $12

Day Seven

3:50am — Christmas Eve. I wake up from a vague dream and have trouble going back to sleep. I decide to work on some writing as I only have an hour until my alarm goes off. I read over and edit my most recent blog draft. I get distracted by the Google Santa Tracker — it's super cute. I also stretch a bit as my neck is stiff from swimming.

4:50am — My alarm goes off. I polish off some things and have two bread rolls with peanut butter.

5:40am — I get to work and can feel the fatigue. I am one of the few staff members there as I didn’t really care if I worked or not on Christmas Eve. Plus, H. is working today anyway. I do have the upcoming public holidays off, but it's never guaranteed.

8:00am — I buy a breakfast burrito ($5.50) for my first break because I'm avoiding leftovers. It's nice to have a bit more time to chat with colleagues, but I'm trying hard to not get swept into the Covid hysteria. $5.50

11:30am — The day is dragging a bit. I've done some cleaning and online training. It'd be fine if my neck wasn't sore.

11:45am — I eat some bread rolls at lunch break. Things are likely to get worse, particularly with expected increased Covid numbers after the holidays.

1:45pm — We're all done, so I buy a set of ear savers ($14.95). My ears aren't coping with masks and eye protection well. $14.95

2:30pm — I escape and manage to post Poppy's Christmas card ($2.50). I also pick up Christmas prawns at Woolworths. It's actually not super busy. I pay $81 as I round up to the nearest dollar, donating some cents to Ozharvest. $83.50

4:00pm — After vegging out on the couch, I take myself to the shower. I fill up my piñata with candy and put my kombucha in the fridge in preparation for tomorrow.

6:00pm — When H. comes home, we catch up and snuggle. I feel really clingy as I missed out on snuggles last night due to him working later. I'm not feeling Christmas-y either. The traditions I grew up with are different. I catch up on my homework from the psychologist and explore more settings on Google's Santa Tracker. It's so interesting, particularly their Interland game, which teaches kids how to be safe online. We have leftovers for dinner and plan to go for a walk and see the Christmas lights nearby.

9:00pm — I'm so ready for bed. Merry Christmas, and to all a good night!

Daily Total: $103.95
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