Money Diaries

A Week In Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs On A $227,000 Salary

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Occupation: Physician
Industry: Health
Age: 42
Location: Eastern Suburbs, Sydney
Annual Salary: $227,000
Net Worth: $2.67 million (I have an investment property worth $1.8 million, $450k in super, $25k in cash savings, and $10k in shares).
Debt: $60,000 — the remaining balance on my mortgage.
Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $5,800
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $3,000 mortgage on my investment property
Rent: $2,600 rent on my current residence
Loans: $0
Savings: $600 ($500 to my ING high interest savings account, $100 to my daughter’s savings)
School Fees: $2,800 (This includes tuition, before and after school care, music lessons and extracurriculars.)
Phone: $75
Apple Subscriptions: $50
iFit: $40
Aaptiv: $15
Strava: $20
Electricity: $150
Gas: $40
Internet: $65
Hair: $160 (I have a standing date at my hairdresser’s every five weeks)
Insurance: $1,100 (Includes: income protection, home and contents, health, and car insurance)

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

Yes — I went to university, then post-grad fellowship training. My university degree was aid for through HECS. I deferred the debt until after I graduated and paid it off over my first few years of work.  Postgraduate specialist training is (thankfully) done while working. It’s fortunate in that you have an income whilst paying for courses, exams and college dues, but not so much so when you’re trying to study for exams after a hectic day at work.  In an ideal world, work is meant to ‘complement’ study but we live in far from ideal times.  

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

I am a first-generation Australian and my parents made many, many sacrifices to give myself and my brothers the lives we have today.  Education was something they spent money on without question. They put three children through private school and we lived in a well-off area in my home city. However, our daily lives were very simple. My parents were, and still are, very frugal.  They emphasised the value of hard work and higher education as a means to a secure future, rather than a life filled with fancy things and exotic holidays. They taught me how to make do, how to save and the perils of buying on credit.  
I’ve been teaching myself the value of investment outside of property. I was motivated by how much my super has grown with little effort on my part. I began by increasing my pre-tax contributions to the threshold for each year. I salary package as much as I can. I’ve increased my mortgage payments beyond the minimum repayment. There are now dollars in my mortgage offset. I have automatic deductions that go to my emergency fund, my daughter’s savings account, and my ‘Fancy Things Fund’ account. I’m very concrete with my money though — I lack the courage and imagination to do fancy things like borrow to invest into shares, or to borrow against my existing mortgage and value of my investment property.

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

My first job was working in my dad's office during Year 11. I answered the phone on weekends, and got paid $50 per session for the half day.

Did you worry about money growing up? 

No. I took it for granted as a child. I was given everything I needed. I dreamed of fancy things but in a "I'll be able to buy this when I'm on a high salary" kinda dreaming, rather than feeling that my childhood was lacking for not being given items.

Do you worry about money now? 

Yes. I'm a single parent and feel that I never save as much as I should.  Which is ridiculous on my salary. The pandemic has made me focus on the future of my child and I. With no overseas travel and fewer occasions to splurge, I've finally managed to put my first $10k into ETFs and have gone out of my comfort zone to cut back the cash I hold in order to invest. I'm grateful for my super funds and that I've worked pretty much for the entirety of the 20 or so years since I graduated.  
I see women of my age who've divorced without a career to support them and it's terrifying what can happen. The never-ending legal fees, the frustration in not being able to find a job to support themselves and their children because they’ve been out of the workforce for so long or stalled in their training (a medical degree on its own severely limits how and where you can work as a doctor in Australia).

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

I've been responsible from the age of 22 when I got my first post-grad position as an intern. However, I am very aware that I am still not financially independent. I could not live the life I live without the financial support of my parents. They have helped with caring for my daughter so I could work when she was a baby. My extended family have helped me with the cost and physical assistance in doing all those things that need to be done, regardless of whether there were one or two parents in the household. I know that my parents and siblings will always be there for me, but at the same time, I have no intention of taking their love and support for granted. If I cannot afford something on my salary, I have no right to ask a family member to pay for it on my behalf.
As trite and as corny as this sounds, I aim to live each day in gratitude for all that I have been given. My relationship ending was a very dark time for me, but my daughter, family and career were guiding lights through the misery and I have never taken any of these for granted.

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

Yes. Passive income from the rental property and the ETFs. I live in a house owned by my uncle and the rent I pay is a token amount.  

Day One

5:30am — Ahhh!!!!  My first day off in 14 days.  And I celebrate it with my usual morning routine. Up at 4, some deep breathing and foam rolling, and a 10K up the road along the water.

6:45am — Coffee at my favourite local cafe. $4.70

8:00am — FaceTime with my daughter who's staying with my brother and sister in law and their kids for the week. It’s school holidays and I’m glad we’ve survived what was a trainwreck of a school year. It makes me smile just seeing the children just having fun and being kids together. Breakfast of steel-cut oats with yoghurt, stewed apple, pecans and raisins.

8:30am — Housework — the bathroom, floors and the garden. Mentally calculate how much I saved doing my own house and garden and put it towards my 'Fancy Things' fund. In Eastern Suburbs terms... $500? Just kidding. In my 'Fancy Things' fund, I'm currently saving for the ubiquitous Cartier love bracelet. Kylie Jenner, I’m looking at you (even though you’re half my age).

9:00am — Weekly date with Woolworths and Dan's. I make all my own meals for the week. I spend $210 on food (it's a meat and fish buying day), and $80 at Dan's (I got some bubbles and a bottle of pinot noir for cooking). $290

12:00pm — Walk on my treadmill, courtesy of iFit. Today, I walked along the beach in Maui with Michael Phelps and John Peel.

1:00pm — Leftovers for lunch. Salmon with leek and potatoes from a round of batch meal prep I made and froze during the week.

4:00pm — Yoga using the Aaptiv audio guides. Jade is my favourite instructor and she makes everything sound more empowering than painful... like holding chair pose for longer than five seconds.

5:00pm — I have a glass of wine at home whilst looking out at my garden. It's very rustic but I did it all on my own and am loving myself sick at the results. I have Christmas lights, a metal penguin and some vintage cars dotted between the pots, and they are sight to behold after dark! Truth be told, it’s definitely sub-par compared to the rest of the street, but it's the backyard so no one is seeing it!

6:00pm — Dinner — I reheat a portion of homemade pumpkin soup and a Woolies white hamburger roll. Those rolls are my not so secret addiction. I will never give up my carbs... never!

8:00pm — Head to bed with my Kindle and phone.

Daily Total: $294.70

Day Two 

5:00am — The usual morning routine. Always feels that much nicer on a Sunday. I sip on a mug of T2 Morning Sunshine, do the usual breathing and foam rolling, and hit the treadmill (I own my own — lockdown and Zip Pay made me do it last year!). I'm determined to get my iFit magnet for this month's Reindeer Running challenge. There are 12 workouts to complete using the iFIt program on my treadmill and when I’m done, I’ll have another magnet to stick to my treadmill.  

7:00am — Breakfast. Baked oats this time, as opposed to yesterday's steel-cut oats. I love how oats fill me up, especially on workdays where lunch can happen around 2pm, or even later.

7:30am — Coffee stop down the road at my local and the providers of the best coffee this side of New South Head Road. $4.70

8:00am — Swim. I have been trying to get to my favourite indoor pool more often, but it takes so much planning to get there. Anyway, I'm glad I made it today. I'm slow, but it's so soothing following those lane ropes up and down.  It costs $9.00 for the pool entry, and a $12.02 toll for the return trip. $21.02

10:00am — Ikea. Where my self-control goes out the window on a regular basis. I go with a list... and unfortunately, it serves as a starting point only in relation to what ends up in my trolley. I buy plants, three stools and a garden table. $220

12:00pm — Post Ikea. Time flies as I successfully assemble my furniture and repot my plants. I decorate some naked corners of the house with my new pieces. I'd call my interior design skills... impulsive. I lack the ability to stick to a cohesive theme. Different parts of the house each pay tribute to ideas I've collected from Instagram (I'm too impatient for Pinterest).

2:00pm — Leftovers for lunch — both the food (apricot chicken and green beans) and the wine.

3:00pm — Laundry, then some Pilates at home with Aaptiv. The irony of being simultaneously very single, and in the best physical shape of my life.  It is what it is, I guess. I was going to put myself out there, but then I started reading Bad Dates of Melbourne and it has planted me firmly back on the shelf.

6:00pm — Other leftovers for dinner (Jamie Oliver's beef and barley soup) with fruit afterwards. Just FYI, I have fruit after every meal, in case I forget to add this in future entries.

8:00pm — Usual bedtime routine. 

Daily Total: $245.72

Day Three

4:15am — Monday Morning. It's going to be fine. Omicron has well and truly arrived and I wonder what chaos it will bring to work. I'm a senior doctor at a tertiary referral centre and we've been one of the covid centres for the state since this whole pandemic situation began. I won't lie, I'm weary. Things just seem to oscillate between bad and really bad with a random streak of normal here and there. I'm very fortunate to not have been infected with any of the covids (yet), but it affects every aspect of my life, just like every other person in the world. Are you over it too? Good, and thanks for nodding politely.

5:00am — Run to the marina and back — 7km at my usual 6:30/km pace.  I've made my peace with being old and that no matter how much I train, I won't run any faster than this. I'm just grateful to still be able to run as much as I do without injury. I listen to Coach Bennett on the Nike Run Club app as I run. Really love the coaching as well as the fact that I can use my own (and very unique) playlist from Apple Music.

7:00am — Coffee at my local ($4.70) after the usual routine that you already know from days one and two. I congratulate myself for not wearing activewear to work for a change. Instead, it's DeCjuba jeans (great cut, great wash and because they’re not distressed, I can wear them to work without feeling inappropriately dressed) and a Uniqlo top with a pair of Lanvin flats bought in the days before I had to deal with school fees. $4.70

8:00am — Work. Mondays are always a mission of endurance and mind over matter. Get into my scrubs, pop my lunch in the fridge, say hi to everyone and water the plants in my office. There's often lots to address from the weekend, plus new admissions. I supervise a wonderful team that often teach me more than I teach them. We divide and conquer — Teams and WhatsApp keep everyone up to speed throughout the day.

2:00pm — Lunch at my desk. Homemade sushi salad with brown rice, edamame, seasoned seaweed, cucumber, carrots, tuna and pickled ginger.  Dessert involves a mug of sencha green tea, half an Aldi mini-chocolate bar (the ones that come in a pack of five in a cardboard sleeve — the dark sea salt is the bomb dot com!) and an apple.

4:00pm — Early mark. Spent the afternoon doing paperwork and getting ahead for my next workday.

5:00pm — Dinner (soup) at nanna o'clock. I'm feeling virtuous as I also did some Pilates and remembered to put the bins out.

6:00pm —  And there it is. Got the phone call from work. I'm a close contact of a Covid case... again. I go back to work for a swab.

6:45pm —  Feeling very lucky to live so close to work and that there's a staff line at the swabbing centre. I was in and out in 15 minutes!

8:00pm — FaceTime with the family and then off to bed.

Daily Total: $4.70

Day Four

4:45am — Up like clockwork — it seems so much easier to do on a weekday day off. I work part-time and Tuesday is my regular day off. I spend a little too long on my phone and daydreaming. Or should that be the crack of dawn dreaming? Spring out of bed, make my usual mug of tea and attend to my pot plants as I sip. This is the life. Usual deep breathing and foam rolling.

5:30am — Date with my treadmill in anticipation of the rain this morning.  
6:30am — Hit my usual cafe for my usual skinny cap. Because everything is now PayPass, I never have change for a tip. I pop my collective tip money for the last couple of months into the jar — $54.70.

7:30am — I manage to potter from the moment I get home with my coffee until lunchtime. Today's breakfast on the theme of oats is baked oats again (made with cherries, pears and chocolate chips because you should always treat yourself even when you're looking after yourself). Then spend the rest of the morning doing some crochet, FaceTiming the family and following up things at work remotely.

10:00am — Christmas Cake Prep. I am a huge fan of Nagi and her blog RecipeTin Eats. Her recipes never fail me. Today, I am making peace with my middle-aged self and making my own fruit cake using one of her recipes. As I prepare the gin-infused fruit, I get a lump in my throat as I remember the women in my life who have gifted my family and I their own homemade cakes in the past. Some have passed away and those that have not, I hold very close to my heart.

12:30pm — Unwrap the Ikea outdoor table I bought over the weekend and relish the difference it makes to the backyard. It most definitely isn't Vogue Living, but I feel so happy sitting at my table, sipping a cup of Moccona as I cast a beady eye over the leaves of my lemon tree for those rude and stinky bugs that keep attacking its leaves. Does anyone know of a way to get rid of them for good? High on the joy of having a functional backyard, I have lunch — two toaster muffins with lots of butter and jam, plus an orange and some chocolate.

5:00pm — The cake is done and it is a winner if I do say so myself. I think it's the bar of dark chocolate I added in with the walnuts. Can't wait to eat it all Christmas Day.

6:00pm — And then it's dinner time. Did some yoga with Aaptiv beforehand. Dinner was baked salmon with leeks. I made it on the weekend and froze portions of it. Cooking on weeknights is vastly overrated.

8:00pm — One last check for my covid swab result — it isn't back, and I suspect it's because testing numbers are back up through the roof with all the recent super spreader events and general panic about Omicron. Over and out.

Daily Total: $54.70

Day Five

4:15am — Still under house arrest/home isolation because my swab hasn't come back. Insert the morning routine you know so well here.

5:00am — House arrest = treadmill run.

6:15am — Nervously text message one of my bosses to see what the deal is and when I can return to work. They text back at 6:30am — it's not just my result that will give me the all-clear, but the negative results of everyone who was in the building with me at the time of my exposure. They have five results outstanding. It's difficult to know what time the results will come back because private labs run differently to the hospital-based ones.

7:00am — Begin checking Teams to catch up on work stuff. I also have a work girls WhatsApp going. It's just as well the interface of each is so different, it helps me remember tone, content and language when I post to each. The uncertainty of when and if I can return to the hospital today makes me enjoy this unplanned day off less than I should. It's a beautiful day outside and I am so lucky to be isolating in a house with a garden of my own. It would be such a stress trying to do so in a smaller living space or with a whole family trying to all not get up into each other's grills. Did I just mangle an American colloquial phrase just then?

11:00am — Accept that it's probably not going to be today that I can return to work.  Change out of my work clothes.  Another impressive non-Lulu outfit — Uniqlo tank top, Jil Sander for Uniqlo skirt and another relic from my spendy pre-motherhood days — a Hermes horn necklace. Get into a Cotton On tee and some SFAM denim shorts from back when I went to the US most years and hit the Premium Outlets at whichever city I was based in. Fret over my pot plants and soak them in bowls of water so they get hydrated from the roots up. Google and realise I've been looking after my Korean Rock Fern all wrong and the reason its fronds are so crispy is because I've nearly killed it.

12:00pm — I haven't spent a cent so far because I can't leave the house.  Today's coffee is a Nescafe cappuccino sachet with an extra 1.5 teaspoons of Moccona and some milk on top. Works for me. Lunch is another portion of the sushi bowls I made for the week. Today's chocolate was from Haigh's — I did a massive teacher gift haul before term ended and received a bag of chocolate-coated macadamias with my purchase as well as the usual samples Haigh's give out. In these times of Covid, the samples are all individually wrapped.

4:00pm — Good news, I am all clear to leave the house both for work tomorrow and our work ladies' dinner tonight!

5:00pm — Time to get ready for my first night out in a while. I mentally go through all the Instagram videos I watched this week about eye makeup and pray that I get things right the first time.

6:35pm — It took me half an hour to find transport to dinner. Ironically, waiting at the taxi rank saw me continue to wait as several taxis drove straight on past. The reason for all this waiting? Uber was initially asking for $99 for the ride into Petersham! By half-past 6, we were down to $45, so I said yes and I finally made my way to the inner west for dinner. $45

7:05pm — Half an hour late for dinner. Why, Sydney? Why are y'all on the road this late on a school night?  

10:30pm — I work with some amazing work ladies. The food was fabulous, the company even more so. I even picked a winning sparkling from Berry that everyone loved as much as I did. $175 for my share of dinner and drinks. $175

Daily Total: $220

Day Six

4:15am — Alarm goes off. Slightly dusty me rolls over, turns it off and has a little sleep in.

5:00am — Wide awake and hit the road for a run down to the marina at Rose Bay. My thoughts, prayers and respect go to those who so skilfully reverse their 4WD down the ramp to launch their boats. Better them than me. Running by the water is one thing that's kept me sane and surprisingly even-tempered through this whole pandemic thing.

7:00am — Still dusty, but ready for the day ahead. I'm still full from dinner last night, so make the executive decision to head out for the day on an empty stomach with the promise of a coffee on the way and a stash of fresh fruit which I buy at Woolies on the way into work. I pay $4.70 for coffee, and $22.00 for fruit (one punnet of Driscoll's super fancy blueberries for breakfast, and fruit for the week ahead which I store with an ice pack in my office for the day, saving me from shopping after work tonight). $26.70

1:00pm — It's a community visit day for me at work, and while it's a bit stressful because of its unpredictability, it's a bit of a recharge doctoring in the real world beyond the very controlled environment of the hospital. It's a sweltering hot day, so I reward myself after a half-day doing visits with a Coke No Sugar which I sip as I walk to the staff surveillance testing line across from the hospital. $2.00

2:00pm — Surveillance swab done. Thank you state health service for giving us a staff only line at the clinic — I was in and out for my test in under half an hour. I spend the rest of the afternoon typing my letters, updating electronic health records, fielding calls, responding to Teams and WhatsApp from my ward team, and eating the lunch I brought in from home. Touching base with the GPs that tirelessly serve our local health district is one of the highlights of this role and they're all so grateful and positive in their feedback on the assessments I do for their patients.

5:00pm — Home via the Cross City Tunnel ($12.10). I somehow justify to myself that walking down the road to Woolies to buy a fern for the bathroom is a just reward for my contribution to the state's pandemic effort ($25). The fern I find is a perfect fit for an empty spot under the bathroom cabinet. It's early days yet, but looking at that fern every time I enter the bathroom makes me smile. $37.10

6:00pm — 15 minutes of Pilates with Aaptiv.

6:30pm — Night time skincare routine and dinner. It's day six and I haven't yet breathed a word on my beauty routine (such as it is). The Ordinary Squalane cleanser, Arcona's cranberry toner, NIOD's unfractionated eye concentrate and The Secret's Total Reset Night Cream. The Secret has changed my skin and while pricy, it delivers, plus you can claim a substantial rebate for the prescription creams via private health insurance!  Of course, dinner was something I reheated from the freezer! Lamb casserole, steamed veg and some fruit.

8:00pm — On the phone to m m and the family then bed.

Daily Total: $65.80

Day Seven

4:15am — It's Friday and I bounce out of bed. Usual cuppa, breathing and foam roller session. 

4:45am — Le treadmill. Getting there on this months' iFit challenge.

6:00am — Usual oat-based breakfast. Today I throw caution to the wind with my outfit and decide that white denim shorts and a pinstripe shirt are work appropriate. Country Road has nailed summer for me for the last couple of years after a hazy time where they were in fashion Siberia. I do miss their suits a bit, but who knows when I'll ever have to get dressed up again for work?

7:00am — Coffee for the road. $4.70

7:25am — Petrol stop after crossing the Cross City Tunnel. $55

7:55am — Arrive at work. Change into my scrubs, find a new mask and face shield and log on for the day. Emails and patient records before starting the round.

2:00pm — There are truly never two days that are ever the same for me on the wards. There's a lot of talk about treatment decisions — which is reassuring given my role on the team. But there’s also the conversations we have with our patients. First up, the cricket. It's all good — Australia is in a commanding position with regards to the test (so I've been told). Can’t get too far into the day without mentioning today's case numbers — we cracked 2,000 and are streaking ahead of Victoria in a bad way. And then there are the confronting conversations about the end of life and death with people who refuse to believe that either will happen to the person they love so much. I have this conversation practically every other day and as I get older and the people I love get older too — there are times when I have to stare off into the middle distance and be grateful that Covid has put an end to my days of wearing eyeliner and mascara to work. Currently, on account of our high case numbers, no one can visit their loved ones in the hospital unless an exemption is gained. It's harrowing trying to decide who can and cannot visit. I was fortunate that our nurse unit manager was able to escalate and get an exemption request granted for our family today.

2:30pm — Lunch, admin and feedback. I complete a formal supervision task with a junior that has really enjoyed the term. This always gives me a boost. My speciality is not a glamorous one. It's enough for me that trainees and students attached to my team enjoy their time with us and come away with skills they can use wherever their training takes them.

5:00pm — Heading home. It's been quite a week. Covid scare, a rare weeknight out, being furloughed. I'm heading into my last weekend before heading into another long stretch (lucky me, I'm working Christmas) and home is where I need to be for the next few days. I pay $12.10 for my toll round trip. $12.10

10:00pm — The laundry is done, the dishes too. I head to bed with the current murder mystery on my Kindle. Phone home to mum too before turning in for the night.

Daily Total: $71.80
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