Money Diaries

A Week In Maroubra, Sydney, As An Occupational Therapist On $70,000

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Today: an occupational therapist who makes $70,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a puzzle for her boyfriend's mum.
Occupation: Occupational Therapist
Industry: Allied Health
Age: 24
Location: Maroubra, Sydney
Salary: $70,000
Net Worth:  -$19,000 ($6,000 in savings and a $20,000 car that I bought with my partner).
Debt: $45,000 in HECS debt.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,000
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: My partner and I divide our rent in accordance with our income. I pay 40% of our rent and he pays 60%. I pay $392 a month, but this will probably go up when our lease is up and we try to renew.
Streaming (Disney+, Binge, Netflix): All kindly paid for by my parents.
Mamamia Subscription: $7. I drive a lot for work and I find that the amount of podcasts they put out constantly means I'm always entertained.
Gym: $15 (I get a discount through my partner's work).
HelloFresh: $75. I pay for me and my partner and he pays for all of our bills electricity and water bills. This roughly works out to be the same amount.
Internet: $30
Savings Contributions: $200 to $300, depending on how much I've spent.

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

I did! I earned a BA and then went on to do my Master's. I paid for it by putting it all on HECS. I was lucky enough to live at home during my BA and my Master's and I had saved up enough money from part-time jobs that I didn't have to work during it (which is full on!). This was really good because the idea of working whilst doing placement (which is basically full-time, unpaid work) whilst also studying was really hard for a lot of my friends.

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

We had pocket money as children and were encouraged to reflect on the best ways to spend it. But other than that, my parents didn't really talk about money with us. However, I did often witness discussions that they had between themselves about money. My mother grew up wealthy and my father grew up with not much money, so this impacted how they viewed and spent money. My father is of the opinion that saving is important, but that being very frugal will only reduce your happiness long-term. My mother is very frugal and always tries to save money where she can, although to my knowledge, both of my parents work very well-paying jobs, so they could afford to be a bit frivolous if they wanted to.

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

My first job was at a cafe in Broadway. I was paid in cash and significantly underpaid. I got it because all of my friends had jobs and I wanted spending money for clothes and going to the movies. I thought the idea of handing out macaroons and making coffees sounded glamorous — now I look back and think that the job was pretty awful.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not really.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes. I worry that I will never be able to afford a house because the career and financial progression in my industry seems to be limited at around $100,000. This is a great salary, but it doesn't seem like it would be enough to secure a house loan, which is crazy. Sydney is really expensive and it just is going to get worse, which is really stressing me out. I took for granted that I would be able to buy here, and now I am having to re-evaluate what my next couple of years might look like.

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

At 23, when I moved out of home and started my first job. I was shocked by how expensive everything was, and it has only gotten worse. I do have a financial safety net — my parents or partner would help me out if I needed it. But I would hate to ask for help and it is important to me that I make financial decisions on my own.

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


Day 1

6:30am — I wake up unhappily to my alarm going off. I am offsite today, which means that I will be travelling to client's homes and schools. I am quite an anxious driver, so I try to give myself more time in the morning to wake up and relax before I get on the move. I shower, have a smoothie for breakfast, buy a coffee from Woolies ($3.90) and then head out. $3.90
7:00am — I get in my car and begin driving to a client's school. I listen to a podcast on how Greenland was discovered, which really interesting. On my way to the client's school, I almost get into an accident as someone runs in front of my car. Sydney driving is the worst.
9:00am — In my car again — another school, another client.
10:00am — I walk from the second school to a nearby cafe that do really good lattes and brownies. On a whim, I decide to try their special avocado brownie ($8.90). Not a good idea. I still eat it as it has been conditioned in me to eat whatever I buy. I sit at the cafe and complete my notes, sending them off to schools and parents. My inbox has 14 unread emails from today alone, which I do not have time to answer. $8.90
11:00am — Back in my car. This time I'm driving around Rozelle Bay, which is a lovely area.
11:20am — I park and go inside the school. One of my clients tells me that I look like I'm in high school. I take this as a sign that the expensive moisturiser I bought last week is working, and not that it's because I decided to wear my hair in plaits today.
1:00pm — Finally done for the day. I drive back home.
1:40pm — Back home! I take an hour's lunch break and make myself a HelloFresh. It is a gnocchi and tomato combination, and after it's done, I feel like I am ready to go to sleep.
2:40pm — Back to work. I review my inbox (30 emails now!) and spend an hour responding to these. I then complete any outstanding notes from the day, flicking them to parents and schools, as required. I was hoping that I would have enough time to review some reports that I've been working on, but this whole process takes so long that I run out of time. I'm very good at setting my work-life balance boundaries and am aware that I don't get paid overtime; so when my hours are up, I am done.
5:00pm — I go to the gym. This is a really nice way to work out work-related stress, but the frequency of these visits is a sign that maybe I should either quit my job or start seeing a psychologist.
7:00pm — Back at home. My partner is still at work, so I text him to see if he doesn't mind if I finish off the HelloFresh. He says he's going out after work anyway. A win for me! I polish off the leftovers, have a glass of wine and consider going through my (now overdue) library book pile. Instead, I end up watching Below Deck.
9:00pm — I am exhausted. I slap on some moisturiser, a serum and retinol and call it a night.
Daily Total: $12.80

Day 2

7:00am — I am so tired. My partner, D., got back late last night. He has a habit of dropping his pants and shoes loudly on the floor the very moment he gets back, which always wakes me up. I have been having some insomnia lately, and this triggered another episode. I think I got about four or five hours of sleep. I don't think this is a valid reason to not work, but I don't feel super enthusiastic about getting behind the wheel. I buy two coffees from Woolies and drink them quickly. $8
7:30am — I get on the road, thinking that I will just drive slowly and only go on familiar roads.
8:00am — I arrive at the first school in Marrickville. I park near a soccer field and walk to the school. This first school is really lovely and the teachers always take the time to talk to me, which is nice. Working in schools gives you a good insight into the amount of resources a school might have and their capacity to support kids. I have visited some schools that I have decided I wouldn't send my own kids to. Luckily, today I am at this school for most of the day.
10:00am — I decide to have a session in the playground with one of my clients because the sun is so lovely today. The child really loves this, and they give me a smile — it's the first one that I've seen from this kid, who normally sulks when I get them from class. This is a major win and I email their mother excitedly. She responds back within minutes, sending six exclamation marks. It's really nice to be able to share good news with parents. I often feel like I'm only ever trying to word negative news in a careful manner.
12:00pm — It is lunch time at school, which means it is lunch time for me! I drive to GoodWood, park and line up. The fact that there is a queue lining up during the work week is crazy to me. I buy a miso cookie and another latte ($12) (so, so, so tired) and snack on some couscous from earlier on in the week. $12
9:00am — I drive back to the school, and eat my lunch in the soccer park. I've packed a book called 'Sigh, Gone' and I begin reading this in the park. Highly recommend if anyone is looking for a good memoir.
1:00pm — Back at the school. Two more clients — both happy and simple.
3:00pm — I drive home, trying to beat the post-school traffic.
3:30pm — I get home and open my laptop. 23 emails! I have ten notes to write and send by the end of today! Someone wants me to look over their report! It's a lot of work and I am due to finish at five.
5:00pm — I clock off again. I remind myself of something that a manager once said to me — therapy is a job, not a service. I shouldn't set expectations with parents that I will respond to them instantly. This makes me feel a bit better as I have only managed to respond to three emails.
6:00pm — My partner gets home and makes HelloFresh. I make us two glasses of wine. It's a fair trade, right? We catch up on our days. He is also in allied health (he's a physio), but is better paid and works fewer hours. Oh, the wonders of working in a predominantly female profession.
8:30pm — I fall asleep in bed.
Daily Total: $20

Day 3

6:55am — I wake up to my alarm feeling very refreshed. Today is a clinic day and I have a couple of telehealth clients, so I put a bit more effort into my appearance. I get dressed, apply a tiny bit of makeup and pack my bag.
7:30am — I bus to work ($2). I really enjoy taking public transport on my days in the clinic. I'm lucky that I live relatively close to where I work, so this doesn't take that much time. Plus, with parking, it would probably take the same amount of time. On the bus, I scroll through Verge Girl and spot a top and pair of pants that I'm interested in. I'm tempted to buy them as they are on sale, but I'll see if I'm still tempted at the end of the day. I'm trying to be more conscious of my spending, as I realised a couple of months ago that I was adding four to five items to my wardrobe a month. Even if I op-shopped these items, the cost would still add up. I'd rather have the extra money and the closet space (or that's what I'm trying to will myself into believing anyway!). $2
8:15am — I arrive at the clinic. I have my own room here, which is nice as a lot my friends have jobs where they hot-desk. I unpack my bag, make myself a coffee and try to get through my inbox. I listen to another podcast on marriage by Freakenomics — a recommendation from my sister. It's very interesting and making me wonder if I really want to get married, or if that's just something society has told me to want.
9:30am — Finally done. One of my colleagues pops her head in and asks if I want a coffee. The answer is always yes! We get a 15 minute coffee break everyday in our award, so I don't feel bad about walking to the cafe with the nicest coffee ($4.50). During the walk, she lets me know that she's just handed in her notice. This bums me out because the majority of people I started this job with have already left. She joined four months ago and said she is just finding the workload too much. I'm not going to lie, I'm also tempted. $4.50
9:45am — Back at work. I see three little humans in clinic. One of them spills green paint all over my jeans and I run to the bathroom to try and scrub it off between clients.
12:00pm — Lunch break. I eat leftover HelloFresh at my desk, working through my lunch break. I'm drowning in reports, GP letters and notes.
1:00pm — I begin to see clients again. I see a couple of adults, which don't make up a big part of my caseload. I always feel that when I see them I have to remind myself to not speak in my 'kid' voice. The scope of an OT is so crazy — I am working on very different things with them!
4:00pm — I spend the last hour of work catching up on more emails. I realised I haven't checked Slack in three days. I check Slack — there's a notification on every channel. I skim-read everything and make a note of one to two messages that I need to reply to in the morning.
5:00pm — I meet briefly with the multi-disciplinary team to review a couple of tricky cases. It's nice to hear different perspectives of other health professionals and makes me feel like I do have a team here to support me with tricky clients.
5:35pm — I bus into the city. $2
6:00pm — I meet up with some old high school friends at a Lebanese restaurant. We order a variety of dishes and drinks and split the bill four ways. We get very drunk and talk about how it's crazy that everyone we know is getting married and having babies. $50
10:30pm — I bus back home ($2). I drunkenly shower and collapse in bed. $2
Daily Total: $60.50

Day 4

8:00am — I wake up feeling terrible. I decide to call it after having a coughing fit for ten minutes. My partner has the day off and goes to the gym, leaving me to sleep. I snooze.
10:00am — I wake up again, feeling hungry but also like I haven't had a drink of water in a week. I make myself a banana smoothie and pull on some sweats to trudge across the road to buy a hot chocolate ($7.90). It was my mother's go-to fix for any illness when I was a kid, and it's what I crave when I have the slightest illness. It's way more expensive than a hot chocolate should be, but it's got real chocolate and I have high hopes that it will cure me of all ailments (spoiler alert: it doesn't!). $7.90
10:20am — Back to bed.
12:00pm — I wake up again. Worhasve texted me and emailed me about contacting clients that I'm sick. Isn't this against the point of a sick day? I type up a couple of emails before I put my head back under the covers.
1:00pm — I go across the road for takeaway laksa ($17.90). All of my money-saving habits fall to the wayside when I'm sick. $17.90
2:00pm — I sleep and sleep.
4:00pm — I wake up and I'm somehow feeling... half alive? I had vague plans to see a friend in the evening, but I cancel just in case. I have a bad habit of seeing people when I'm just about to recover from a cold, only to then not properly rest and make the illness 10x worse. I tell my high school friends that I'm feeling sick and one of my friends tells me that it's probably burnout.
5:00pm — My partner orders Mad Mex for the both of us. His shout, which I really appreciate. We put on The Bear and begin Season Two, which I can only half pay attention to.
8:30pm — It's bed time.
Daily Total: $25.80

Day 5

9:30am — It's the weekend, baby! I wake up feeling very, very happy about it. My partner is still asleep, so I roll out of bed, slip on some clothes and head down to our local for some coffee. I order an iced latte for me and a cappuccino for him ($11.50). I don't know what it is about warm milk, but it makes me feel sick. Even when I lived in Tasmania, I was on the ice latte train. I don't think I can ever go back. $11.50
10:00am — He is awake and very thankful. We sip our coffees and catch up on our weeks. It's sometimes quite hard dating another healthcare worker because there is no one to give you a normal reaction to upsetting things. We've both become quite desensitised about the nature of the work that we do. Sometimes I look back on our conversations and am shocked by what we think as normal, or by what doesn't faze us.
10:30am — We decide to head to some nearby markets to get some treats for his mother, who will be visiting soon. I suggest the Paddington Markets as I haven't been since I was a teen. He agrees.
11:00am — We manage to find a free park, which is a score in the Eastern Suburbs. Sadly, the markets are not as good as I was expecting. Maybe we got here too early, but there only seems to be about 20-30 stores. We end up buying a puzzle and some chocolates for his mother, which we split. $30
12:00pm — We decide to go visit a nearby cafe. When we get to the cafe, we both pull out the novels that we are reading and sit in happy silence. This is what four years together looks like, folks. I order the cheapest thing on the menu, feeling guilty about the food that we have at home. $16.50
1:30pm — We head back home and when we arrive, I realise that the house is disgusting. We spend the next couple of hours doing that once-in-three-month clean — which means everything. I'm talking cleaning the insides of the fridge and scrubbing suds off the bathroom shower floor.
4:30pm — Done and we are both exhausted. My partner takes two beers out of the fridge and we decide that now is as good a time as any to find a new TV show to watch. We've just finished The Bear, and we decide that maybe WeWork could be a viable option? We binge the first three episodes.
7:30pm — WeWork is okay, but not as good as The Bear. My partner whips up two omelettes and we settle on the couch, trying to find something else to watch. He suggests The Banshees of Inisherin. I agree.
8:00pm — I cannot stand this movie. He loves this sort of thing; angst, blood, sadness, European depression. I'm more of a 27 Dresses person. I make myself another drink and settle in the next room, mindlessly scrolling Instagram.
10:30pm — Movies done. We've both showered. We have a bit of a cuddle and then the lights are off. Somehow I feel exhausted, even though I've basically done nothing at all today.
Daily Total: $58

Day 6

8:30am — Rise and shine! He is, of course, still asleep. I decide to head to the gym this morning to make up for my lack of exercise yesterday. I grab an apple to eat on the go (and some chocolate-covered pretzels — It's all about balance).
10:30am — Back from the gym. Feeling disgusting and fantastic. I have a quick shower and make myself a morning smoothie. He is awake. We debrief on our plans today — it turns out both of us are very busy. I'm meeting up with some friends and he's going to go do some study.
11:00am — I quickly change into some jeans and a nice t-shirt (have you heard of this combo?) and run to catch the bus, which I almost miss ($2). I don't think I've ever been early for a bus in my life. $2
11:30am — I arrive at A.P Bakery — the best bakery in Sydney — and meet up with two med friends. I was always torn between allied health and medicine and I think I made the right call. They both seem depressed and exhausted, and have both come off 14-hour days. I don't understand why this is ethical or at all best practice — I don't want to be someone's client 13 hours and 45 minutes into their shift. I feel bad for finding my work difficult and don't offer much. I order a lot to eat though — a ham and cheese croissant, a chocolate biscuit and a cheesecake ($35). By the end of lunch, I am feeling very sleepy and very happy. $35
2:00pm — We say goodbyes and I head into the city to say hello to another friend. She suggested we meet up at the Dymocks cafe, which feels very high school. We both order coffee ($6.50) and she complains about her boyfriend. I am biting my tongue to tell her to leave him because I know she probably won't. Maybe it's unsympathetic or I'm a bad friend, but I sometimes find it hard to be vented to. I don't want to be someone's therapist, especially if they are not even going to listen to what I have to say and if this cycle of complaint is going to repeat every week. $6.50
4:00pm — I head back home, feeling a bit dejected and a bit guilty about leaving the coffee early. When I get back, my partner is still at the library. I pick up my book, open the verandah and sit out in the sun and read.
5:30pm — He's back! I decide to whip us up an early dinner. Pesto pasta with broccoli and Danish feta. Always a crowd pleaser and cheap — we already have all the ingredients.
7:00pm — Dinner is served and we debrief about our day. I talk about feeling worried about my friend and he tells me that there is nothing I can do other than be there for her. I agree with this and text her about catching up again. I need to work on being a better friend.
8:00pm — We decide to settle in front of the TV and watch a movie. I suggest Bend It Like Beckham, which he has never seen.
10:30pm — Bedtime. We shower, wash up the remaining dishes and settle in for another early night.
Daily Total: $43.50

Day 7

6:30am — It's a clinic day today! I wake up early so that I can leave early. I get dressed, make my morning smoothie and am out the door in 25 minutes.
7:45am — I stop by the local cafe for a hot chocolate. $4.50
8:00am — Ready to work. I open my laptop and get to work reading the emails that have been sent to me over the weekend.
9:00am — I begin to prepare my week. This involves thinking about what sort of therapy to do with each client and what activities and resources I need. When I'm done with this, I then schedule in any other tasks I need to do (like professional development and parent meetings).
11:00am — A colleague comes over to let me know she's leaving. Aaargh! Not another one! She's going for coffee and I decide that no one will really care if I get two coffees in one day ($6.50). When we walk, she lets me know that she's thinking about leaving the profession; the hours and expectations are too hard. This is depressing. $6.50
11:20am — Back at work. I decide to work through my lunch break to finish work even earlier. I think I need to work off this negative energy at the gym.
2:00pm — I begin to see clients.
4:00pm — Done! I say goodbye very quickly and am out the door in a flash.
4:30pm — I get home earlier than expected, change quickly, and leave for the gym. When I'm in this sort of headspace, therapy or exercise are the only two things that work.
7:00pm — Back from the gym. I've told my partner about my day and he has surprised me with takeaway Mexican and two frozen margs. He is the best and he won't let me transfer him for this! We spend the rest of the night talking through my anxieties. He offers good advice, but I think that ultimately I want to sleep on it before I decide if I'm going to quit.
Daily Total: $11
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