Money Diaries

A Week In West End, Brisbane, In Organisational Development On $130,000

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Today: a government worker who makes $130,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a silk eye mask and Botox.
Occupation: Organisational Development
Industry: State Government
Age: 37
Location: West End, Brisbane
Salary: $130,000
Net Worth: $1,649,768 (three properties valued at a combined total of $3,060,000, $221,700 in a joint offset account, $98,000 in shares (just mine), and $115,363 in my superannuation). This excludes my partner's superannuation and shares, and of course, is dependent on the property market at any given time.
Debt: $1,828,991 remaining on three home loans and $16,304 in HECS debt (just mine). My partner's is paid off which I will have to consider doing after the recent astronomical indexation!
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,700.57
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Combined Mortgages: $10,812 (for our primary residence and two investments)
Combined Council Rates: $183 (for three properties)
Strata: $1,275 (for two properties)
Utilities: approx $200 (for two people in our primary residence)
Share Portfolio Contribution: $400 (mine only)
Phone: $30 for data only. The phone was purchased outright.
Internet: $60 (partially covered by my partner’s employer’s phone and internet reimbursement)
Car: $120 (rego, maintenance and petrol only as it was purchased outright). This is for my car only. I drive very little most days as we’re very centrally located and I work from home most days.
Home Contents Insurance: $80
Car Insurance: $70.83
Pet Insurance: $41.95
Other Miscellaneous Insurances: $180
Private Health Cover: $390 (for a couple)
Groceries & Other Domestic Expenses: $1,600
Netflix: $16.99
Amazon Prime: $9.99 (which we share with a friend)
Binge: $0 (our friend shares with us)
Spotify: $11.99
Gym: $68
Public Transportation: $40
Full disclaimer: It’s probably obvious that my partner, D., earns significantly more than I do… and it was really hard to accurately capture just my monthly expenses! All of our accounts and properties are completely intertwined. All monthly payments come from our joint credit card, savings or offset account and both salaries are paid into a single joint account. Our superannuation is separate and we each have a car and a share portfolio topped up monthly from a joint account; everything else is in both our names. Some of our monthly expenses are subsidised by D.'s work, such as phone, internet and Uber account. We don't have any separate major purchases and, while I'll occasionally question D.'s expenditure (he has an insane bike habit), we're both pretty relaxed about each other's spending habits. Financial security has always been important for us both and we focussed on building a property portfolio as soon as we got together. We were able to achieve this as D. worked fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) roles both domestically and internationally. This significantly reduced our expenses but essentially meant we had a predominately long-distance relationship that revolved around his schedule for the first four years we were together. So it's a very loose itemisation of monthly expenses and I'm sure I've forgotten or underestimated some.

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

Yes, I have three degrees, all put on HECS. I took a gap year between high school and commencing my undergraduate degree (International Relations) and worked several part-time jobs. At the time, there was a threshold you needed to earn to be considered financially independent from your parents and eligible to get the full Youth Allowance amount while studying. Once I hit the threshold, I moved interstate for uni. I also worked part-time and received financial support from my parents in addition to receiving Youth Allowance during my undergraduate degree. I graduated during the worst of the GFC when there were very little graduate roles available, so I took a short break to travel and then commenced my second degree. I chose a Commonwealth-supported degree which cost very little and I continued to receive Youth Allowance. I recently undertook a third degree to better align my education with my current role. This one still has a HECS debt.

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

My parents were so private about money to the extent that my siblings and I all developed a really warped understanding of economic disadvantage. It was only in my late 20s that I was able to recognise what was an extremely financially secure and privileged childhood after I mentioned enjoying sailing holidays to a friend who looked at me and exclaimed, "I thought you said your parents weren't rich!".
My parents were very frugal in some areas, typically in areas where children make assumptions about wealth. We rarely ate out, were never bought clothes with recognisable labels and received significantly less pocket money than our friends. My siblings and I received both informal and formal financial education throughout our childhood which largely focused on accumulating significant savings with a six-month buffer at any given time to cover unforeseen circumstances.
We were rewarded for hitting major savings milestones, doing additional chores beyond our household contribution and combining study with part-time work. For example, my parents bought my first car, contributed to my living expenses on campus, bought textbooks or paid for the occasional flight home — but never directly gave money unless it was requested for birthday or Christmas presents. They also guided D. and I through purchasing our first property together and how to leverage equity to buy additional properties.

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

My first job was in Year 8 picking herbs with my best friend on a small property that supplied local restaurants in the town I grew up in. We were paid $4 per hour for semi-regular shifts during the summer holidays and had so much fun together. Unfortunately, we weren't very good and often accidentally uprooted entire plants... we weren't invited back the following summer. Once I was old enough to get a proper job, I worked in an ice-cream shop, a bakery and then a bookshop before getting regular shifts at Target. All of my friends had jobs in addition to receiving generous allowances and I wasn't prepared to be left behind. And once my savings account started growing, I was hooked on making that number as big as possible.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, I never worried about money until I left home. Despite their frugal habits and privacy, my parents would never discuss everyday expenses in a manner that would cause us to worry. They made it clear that being careful with money was their choice, rather than a necessity. My parents wouldn't even joke about expenses despite three teenagers emptying the fridge daily, attending school camps and needing braces. We were often frustrated at missing out on things our friends had (do you know how long it takes an 11-year-old to save up for a Tamagotchi?!) and occasionally my parents would relent so we didn't feel excluded from our social groups, but we never worried about money.

Do you worry about money now?

A little, but overall I feel quite financially secure. We have three loans to service and interest rates have risen incredibly quickly over the past year. Each rate rise causes some anxiety and a review of our finances but we haven't yet had to defer major expenses such as travel or renovations.

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

Around 19, when I moved interstate for uni. My parents self-appointed themselves as my safety net even after I graduated and met D. I know that they would still offer help and support today if it was ever needed, although D. and I have ensured our we have a significant financial buffer and plenty of options.

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

Yes, we receive rental income from two investment properties and dividends from shares. The dividends are automatically reinvested and the rental income covers the majority of costs for the two investments. I also received a $50,000 payment in my early 20s which D. and I used to quit our jobs and travel for a year.

Day 1

9:30am — I wake up with a hangover and a slobbery tongue in my ear. I've slept in after a big night out and our four-year-old spoodle is hungry for breakfast. He pats my face with his fluffy paws until I scoop him up for a cuddle. D. remains steadfastly asleep and snoring the way he always does after one too many. I can't tell whose morning breath is the worst — the pup's, D.'s or mine — but it's enough to get me out of bed. The pup sits beside his bowl and fixes me with a steely gaze until I scoop out his kibble.
10:00am — Pup gets the zoomies and races up and down the hallway before pouncing on D. who is still in bed and also suffering from a hangover. These hangovers need coffee and carbs and the pup needs a walk so we head out and walk along the river to our favourite cafe. I order an extra strong almond flat white and a tuna melt. D. orders a batchie and breakfast burger. $41.50
12:00pm — There's nothing like having your parents decide to drop in for an open-ended visit with little notice to really reinforce those Sunday scaries. After learning that they'll be arriving at 3:00pm and are planning to stay with us for at least three days, I have a minor meltdown, swap the remains of my coffee for a large gin and soda ($12) and quickly text my boss with a profuse apology and request for leave tomorrow. D. takes one look at me and decides one gin and soda isn't enough. He suggests we relocate to a nearby dog-friendly bar where he proceeds to order another round and a mountain of truffle fries ($36). It might be bougie but it hits the spot. Our four-year-old spoodle gets his own doggy brew and a few sneaky fries (yes, we are those people). $48
3:30pm — D. and I are pleasantly buzzed with a few more drinks under my belt ($33) by the time my parents meet us at the bar. I listen to a long litany of complaints ranging from traffic and the price of fuel to the use of pronouns and the size of the tattoo on the bartender's shoulder. I bite my tongue and stuff more truffle fries into my mouth rather than engage — trust me, it never ends well. $33
5:00pm — D. prides himself on his pizza dough skills so we decide on homemade pizzas for dinner. D. heads home with my dad and the pup to make a start on the dough while Mum accompanies me to the grocery store to pick up pizza toppings. Mum helpfully outlines every pizza topping that she doesn't like (olives, anchovies, red onion, pepperoni and more) and I lose my will to live somewhere around the cheese aisle. Mum-approved toppings finally purchased ($42.95), we walk back to our apartment, open a bottle of red and start preparing dinner. $42.95
8:30pm — My head is pounding and I'm not convinced it's entirely due to an unexpectedly boozy weekend or the wine. My parents have spent the better part of an hour bickering about how many kilometres they've driven. They're eventually diverted when Dad asks for a calculator only to learn that, like most people, we do not have one. We spend some time trying to locate the calculator app on his phone.
9:00pm — We're still no closer to a resolution, so I call it a night and head to bed. It's going to be a long week...
Daily Total: $165.45

Day 2

9:00am — D. escaped to work hours ago but I'm not so lucky. Nursing the effects of two successive hangovers and unable to listen to my parents squabbling any longer, I leash up the pup and walk along the river to my favourite cafe. The barista is already prepping for my usual, an extra strong almond flat white, as I hand over my Fressko cup. I tell him my parents are visiting and he insists it's on the house! I enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet, scrolling Instagram and completing today's Wordle before my parents track me down.
10:30am — Mum narrowly avoids being scammed by the classic toll road payment text. Thankfully she's in the habit of reading her texts out loud so I quickly grab her phone just as she asks Dad to find her credit card. I'm relieved to see she hadn't clicked on the link. Crisis averted! Another coffee is in order and it's mum's shout. Unfortunately, she doesn't like how they've made her Earl Grey tea so she sends it back... twice. I apologise repeatedly to the barista as we leave.
12:15pm — I'm now both hungover and over-caffeinated which makes for an unpleasantly jittery afternoon. I literally have no idea what to do with my parents who often proclaim they are "very easy guests who can entertain themselves". They can't. I put on a load of washing, pack the dishwasher and do a general tidy. Mum and Dad make salad sandwiches for lunch which feels very wholesome except for the running commentary from mum... "where's the butter? Oh, there's the butter! What an unusual place to keep your butter. We keep our butter on the top shelf so we can see it. I'm going to put the butter on the top shelf for now. Is that okay? Do you mind if I put the butter on the top shelf? It's much easier for your father." Apparently, Dad doesn't care where the butter is, so it's returned to its usual location.
1:35pm — There's still a whole afternoon until D. gets home to restore some much-needed sanity. I suggest a few games of Upwords, a game Mum and I have been playing since I was 16. We have a scorebook with every game in it since we first started playing and it's tradition to always play at least one game when we see each other. I’m currently on a 10-game winning streak dating back to 2019. It's a close match with some very high scores, hotly-debated words and a few controversial moves but in the end, I win. My record remains intact!
6:15pm — D. finally gets home and takes over entertaining my parents while I get dinner organised. Dad and D. barbeque fish while I prep salad and veggies. There are enough leftovers for two lunches for D. and I the next day, but fish in the office feels a bit risky so I swap it out for tofu. Mum and Dad are hooked on Alone so they commandeer the TV and bingewatch episode after episode offering “helpful” advice along the way.
8:35pm — Alone is looking more and more appealing right now. We use an early start at work tomorrow as an excuse to head to bed early. I’m too wired to fall asleep, so I read a few chapters on my Kindle for this month’s book club choice.
Daily Total: $0

Day 3

6:00am — Never have I been so glad for an office day! I rush through my morning routine to take the pup for a walk, skipping coffee in favour of a longer walk, before catching a bus into the city ($3.55).
8:00am — It’s so nice to be in the office! I catch up on my emails from yesterday and spend some time chatting with colleagues. My office days tend to be very social and there’s a good team culture. So much knowledge sharing and relationship building, both of which are key to my role, takes place via unplanned coffees and conversations to the extent that my performance and development agreement actually includes social activities. I meet my friend, B., for coffee and order our usual — extra strong almond flat white for me and a large long black for B. $10.50
10:20am — Dad sends me pics of him and the pup going for a walk and having coffee. He looks so sweet and happy sitting on Dad’s lap despite pup’s hefty size.
12:45pm — After a morning of attending back-to-back meetings and delivering several information sessions, I finally find time to have last night’s leftovers for lunch as well as fruit, yoghurt and nuts. I’m feeling restless and snacky which is never ideal for a productive afternoon… I go for a quick walk and buy some cheese and crackers. $4.50
2:30pm — Endless emails and Teams calls. I’m in the middle of coordinating a corporate event as well as delivering training modules to staff. There are so many separate elements and people involved for both, it feels more stressful and complex than planning my wedding — everything from organising catering and dietary needs, to developing training plans and speaking notes for our leaders.
5:00pm — D. texts to let me know he’s heading home, so I pack up and catch the bus home ($3.55), stopping at the grocery store to pick up some extra dinner ingredients ($32.70). $36.25
6:30pm — Mum and Dad fill me in on their day while I cook dinner and a tomato and ricotta tart for tomorrow’s lunch (my go-to when I’m time-poor), and D. feeds pup. Then I put on a load of washing, order dog food and treats ($139) and treat myself to a new sleep mask. As someone who has struggled with insomnia for over a decade, I’m very precious with my sleep. I need a sleep mask, earplugs and a cold dark room at a minimum. I settle on a silk one after reading a bunch of great reviews ($45). $184
Daily Total: $238.80

Day 4

4:50am — My alarm goes off and I get up and get ready for a 5:30am body pump class (covered under monthly expenses). It’s a cold morning so I warm up on the rower for 10 minutes.
8:00am — It’s another office day today, so after showering and getting ready, I jump on a bus heading into the city ($3.55). D. looks after the pup’s breakfast and morning walk, and Mum and Dad have managed to find a newspaper and bring it home. I have a feeling it’s our neighbour’s subscription. D. texts me a reminder that he’s flying to Melbourne later this morning and will be back tomorrow evening. $3.55
9:00am — I dump my bag, log in, then look around for a coffee buddy. All my team is in on Wednesdays and apparently, no one is functioning, so we all head out for a coffee to delay the unrelenting avalanche of emails arriving in our individual and shared inboxes. I grab my coffee card, Fressko cup and order my usual (I rarely change it up unless it’s a very hot day). I’m up to my freebie — a great start to the morning!
10:10am — I’m starving, so I eat an apple followed by a mandarin, both of which I packed earlier along with a slice of tomato and ricotta tart, nuts and other snacks.
10:45am — I can’t settle into my work so I sneak out for a second coffee. I justify this as my first was free and my parents have just messaged to tell me they’re staying another night. I take a few deep breaths and head to Lune for a batchie and the monthly special, a cheese and pepper scroll ($16.50). They’re both delicious, and the cheese and carbs fill me up. $16.50
11:15am — I’m back just in time to join the virtual town hall. The fortnightly town halls are a real highlight for our department as we hear from our executive leaders as well as from staff doing really interesting and varied work across Queensland. I drop a few questions in the chat for the Q&A session as well as a reminder for the upcoming event.
1:10pm — Lunchtime! I pause in the midst of answering a ton of emails from staff who want to attend the event to have a slice of tomato and ricotta tart and a handful of nuts.
1:55pm — I’m a distracted mess who can’t stop eating or settle enough to actually do much work, and it’s too late for more coffee, so I sweet-talk some colleagues into joining me for a bougie hot chocolate from a hole-in-the-wall café. They have a huge menu of flavoured hot chocolates and we’ve been working our way through all the flavour combos. I get mine made on both dark and milk chocolate shavings with rose essential oil. It’s delicious and tastes like Turkish delight in a cup! ($6.30). Afterwards, I promise my manager I’ll do some actual work for the rest of the afternoon…
4:30pm — A few last emails have been sent and my one critical task completed. I pack up and head home on the bus ($3.55) via the chemist for Ventolin ($9.99). $13.54
7:30pm — My mother has spent the afternoon making pumpkin soup despite Dad and I hating it. She manages to spatter bright orange soup and pumpkin scraps all over our very prone-to-staining stone benchtop so it’s time for some deep cleaning with a cream cleanser. I take the pup for his evening walk and pick up ramen for Dad and I ($42.50) while the cream cleanser does its thing. $42.50
9:00pm — The unrelenting commentary and questions from my parents about books I don't read, shows I don’t watch and people I don’t know eventually gets too much so I head to bed to read my book in peace. The pup follows me and I let him sleep on our bed since D. is away.
Daily Total: $82.39

Day 5

6:45am — My alarm went off at 5:00am and I’ve hit snooze too many times to count. I’m still feeling exhausted despite sleeping later than usual and the pup doesn’t want to get up — he’s wrapped himself in the duvet. I shake his bowl of kibble and he comes running out for breakfast. I settle for vitamins and water. Mum and Dad are leaving today, and I can hear them packing their bags.
7:15am — It’s a WFH day and I might as well get an early start, so I jump online and power through some basic admin for the upcoming event. I send out calendar invites, collate new starter data and reports and sign off on the venue, all easy but satisfying tasks that temporarily avert my anxiety over coordinating the event.
9:00am — Time for a coffee! It’s raining lightly but I grab some umbrellas and bundle up my parents and the pup for a walk along the river. Brisbane’s iconic brown snake is looking particularly murky today as we follow it along to my usual café. Dad and I order two extra strong almond flat whites — Dad’s shout!
10:30am — I meet online with two of our executive leaders sponsoring the upcoming event and there’s a stressful moment when, despite a closed door, my mum comes into the study and appears on screen behind me before I can turn my camera and microphone off. The joys of Boomer parents who don’t understand WFH! Thankfully everyone on the Teams call finds it amusing and agrees to reschedule to later in the day.
11:00am — Mum and Dad are all packed up and ready to leave. They’ve been travelling around Australia for four months already and are slowly making their way back home. The pup and I hug them goodbye and breathe a sigh of relief once they’ve gone.
1:30pm — In all the drama, I’ve forgotten to eat, so I warm up a slice of tomato and ricotta tart, make a ham and cheese toastie and share a banana with the pup. I also find a loose Tim Tam floating around the fridge and notice that my parents have made off with quite a lot of the fridge contents (one of those frugal habits I mentioned earlier).
8:00pm — D. arrives home and is quietly relieved when he learns my parents have left. We’re both drained from an emotionally demanding week and go to bed early. I finish my book and D. books theatre tickets to Frankenstein in October. Pup sneaks onto the bed and I don’t have the heart to send him back to his own basket.
Daily Total: $0

Day 6

6:15am — It's raining this morning, so I happily cancel my run and take the pup for a coffee ($5.50) before picking up an order for spanakopita and moussaka from a local Greek cafe. I pay using a gift voucher from my brother and sister-in-law — an inspired birthday gift! The order is huge and D. and I will be enjoying Greek meals for weeks.
8:30am — I'm delivering a half-day virtual workshop to senior leaders this morning, so there's no time for a second coffee. The group is really engaged and the content is well received with some good discussion around recent legislative changes.
1:00pm — The workshop has run over time thanks to a lively Q&A session and it's time for lunch. I’ve only had a coffee so I’m starving! I eat the last slice of tomato and ricotta tart, an apple, cashews and finish off with carrot and celery sticks. I'm still craving something sweet so I go for a quick walk to buy dark chocolate-covered pretzels. $6.99
3:15pm — My inbox is looking tidy and I’m ahead on the upcoming event so I use flex time for a quick anti-wrinkle top-up. I feel like I've aged at least ten years this week. My nurse is offering a mid-year anti-wrinkle/filler package and it's too good to pass up ($1,000). We settle on a modest amount of lip filler to combat my naturally thin lips as well as my usual four anti-wrinkle areas. I generally get lip filler once a year or so, but it's been a while and I've forgotten how swollen and bruised my lips get. No hiding what I've been up to now! $1,000
5:30pm — I send my last email — an evaluation survey for the workshop I delivered this morning, and shut down my laptop. Friday drinks are definitely in order, and yes, I know you’re not supposed to drink alcohol straight after getting filler but it’s been quite a week. I text D. to meet the pup and I at our local wine bar. I order a gin and soda (surprise, surprise) with lemon ($12) and zucchini wedges ($12). D. arrives and orders a beer while I have another gin and soda ($22). I am definitely cutting back on both caffeine and alcohol next week. $46
Daily Total: $1,058.49

Day 7

6:30am — the weather is perfect, sunny but crisp and cool, so I head out for a 5km run. It’s not my fastest time and I sweat heavily — clearly a week of excessive (for me) caffeine, gin and carbs is catching up with me. I do a few quick stretches when I finish but my body is aching and I really need to get on a foam roller. It is absolutely true what they say: there comes a time in your 30s when everything seems to hurt all of the time no matter what you do.
7:30am — D. is still in bed but I convince him to get up for a walk to the markets. They’re a West End institution and everyone brings their dogs so it gets super chaotic by 9am (but fun). I buy a hibiscus tea ($6.50), fresh produce from local suppliers (so cheap and delicious!) ($22), a tray of mixed mushrooms ($10) and a baguette ($7). We stop by the pet treats stall and let pup pick out a new treat. He sniffs obsessively at a deer horn and carries it off ($12). D. and I are so tempted by all the food but we’ve got breakfast with friends so we walk home. $57.50
9:45am — We meet B. and G. in New Farm for breakfast. It’s dog friendly so we’ve all brought the dogs. We literally don’t go anywhere that isn’t dog-friendly. Pup makes friends with a dog at another table and ends up sharing his puppuccino. I order the chilli scramble and an almond flat white, D. gets the scotch egg and a batchie and then we get a second round of coffees. $64.95
1:00pm — After a busy week, D. and I are behind on chores so we get stuck into cleaning and life admin. I throw on a load of washing and book the pup in for teeth cleaning, D. empties the dishwasher and cleans his bike, then we browse a local nursery looking for a large olive tree for our balcony. There's none in stock but the owner tells us he's expecting a delivery and to come back next week. I put down a $50 deposit. $50
3:30pm — I spend the rest of the afternoon meal prepping for next week. I absolutely love to cook so I find meal prepping relaxing. It also helps with my anxiety and to eat well during the week. I have some very minor obsessive-compulsive behaviours that can get out of hand and meal prepping really seems to help.
7:00pm — Dinner is two huge slices of the moussaka I picked up yesterday along with some olives and cherry tomatoes from the markets. Afterwards, we watch a few episodes of What We Do in the Shadows. A friend recommended it and D. and I are absolutely hooked.
9:10pm —We finish the latest season and I’m ready for bed. I quickly text my friend, A., as we’re planning to go to IKEA tomorrow. I tell her I’ll pick her up at 8:30am and she promises to have coffee and pastries waiting.
Daily Total: $172.45

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

It's probably worth mentioning I have a complex and challenging relationship with my parents and siblings, which can best be summed up by assuring everyone that while I love them, I prefer to love them from afar for the sake of my own sanity. My sister and mother both have psychological disorders. These can have such an impact on family relationships and our family dynamics are still extremely challenging to manage and deal with despite years of therapy.
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