Money Diaries

A Week In Country Victoria, As A Police Dispatcher On A Joint Income Of $184,800

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Today: a police dispatcher who lives on a $184,800 joint salary and spends some of her money this week on an expensive bento box-style lunchbox from Smiggle for her child.
Occupation: Police Dispatcher
Industry: Emergency Services
Age: 36
Location: Country Victoria
My Salary: $64,800, but I do a lot of overtime so it's probably closer to $75,000. I work 30 hours a week part-time with 10-hour days.
My Husband's Salary: $120,000
Net Worth: $369,363 (Our house is valued at approximately $710,000, our cars are worth $17,000, I have $37,579 in my super, my husband has $60,000 in his super and $12,000 in stocks, we have $16,000 in our savings, and I have $3,363 in my Raiz investment account). My husband and my finances are completely shared. Both our paycheques go into our joint account, from which we pay our outgoings. We have a joint credit card as well. We each get a certain amount of 'fun' money per month that we can spend without question, but neither of us are reckless spenders.
Debt: A $480,000 mortgage and a $9,000 car loan.
My Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): ~$2,100 (depending on how much overtime I pick up).
My Husband's Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $3,023
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: A $1,700 fixed mortgage and about $100 variable with the recent rate hikes, so around $1,800 these days. We've been in our four bedroom/two bathroom/two living spaces house for about four years. House prices have skyrocketed since we bought — we wouldn't be able to afford this place if we were on the market now.
Car Payment: $310 for my car. We own my husband's SUV outright.
Childcare/Kindergarten: $1633. This gives us five days a week for our oldest and three days a week for the baby. 
Netflix: $16.99
Spotify: $11.99
Foxtel: $25
Audible: $16.45
Home and Car Insurance: $307.86
Insurance (Life, Disability, Income Protection): $883.53
Private Health: $116.53 for me, $142.75 for my husband
Phone: $106.99
Internet: $99
Cleaner: $104.50
Meat Shares: $193.69. Every month, we get 6 kg of beef and pork from a small shop outside Melbourne. They practice ethical farming and slaughtering. We get a variety of cuts, from seasonal flavoured sausages to ribs to mince and steaks. Best tasting meat ever and it helps keep our meat consumption in check!
Husband's Health Club: $102.95
Swimming Lessons: $214.50
Patreon: $8.87
Zoos Victoria: $10/month
Raiz: $50/month from my personal spending money
Energy: $400/quarter
Water: $300/quarter
Rates: $491.86/quarter
Body Corporate: $34.73/quarter
NHL Subscription: $150/year
NBA Subscription: $150/year
Streaming: We mooch Stan, Amazon Prime and Kayo from a friend 
Donations: We don't have a set monthly amount that we donate. Rather, we donate as causes come up that we want to support. In the past few months we've donated to The Royal Women's Hospital, Come Back Alive, Save The Children, The Good Friday Appeal and a children's cancer charity.

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

Yes. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, which I have done precisely nothing with. My parents paid for most of uni for my older sister and me, although we both worked throughout high school and uni to help out. After uni, I followed my heart somewhere really dumb and went to culinary school. I took out $10,000 in student loans to do this.

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

There were no conversations about money in our house. My parents both grew up relatively poor but made smart life choices and worked hard and are quite well off now. They were frugal when we were kids, but we never went without. Holidays were camping trips and road trips to see our grandparents and eating out was only for birthdays. Both my sister and I did various sports and after-school activities and things were never tight, as far as I knew. My parents are still very secretive about money. I know I have a sizeable inheritance coming to me one day, but we just don't talk about money in this family.

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

I worked at McDonald's from the age of 15 to when I was 18. I got it so I could start having control over the clothes that I bought and the things I could do with my friends. I also wanted to get out of my tiny town the moment I could, and I knew I needed money for this.

Did you worry about money growing up?


Do you worry about money now?

I do in the broad sense that I hope we'll have enough to give our kids a comfortable life and a good leg up in the world. I worry about inflation and the rising cost of everything. I worry about having enough for a nice retirement since I'm from overseas and my husband spent several years abroad, so our super balances leave something to be desired.

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

I became financially independent when I graduated from university at the age of 22. My sister and parents would for sure help us if we were in dire straights, but things would have to be extremely bad to get to this point.

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

My parents gave me $10,000 one year for Christmas after they had a very good year in the stock market. I used this to pay off my student loans. They also contributed $10,000 towards our wedding costs.

Day 1

3:30am — Ugh. The baby, M., is crying for the second time tonight. My previously good sleeper has been having a hell of a week, with a stuffed-up nose, his first tooth and his meningococcal immunisation. My husband, D., and I take turns shushing, patting and rocking him but finally give up and bring him into bed with us. M. falls asleep immediately but I only rest and doze since co-sleeping makes me anxious. 
6:30am — Our oldest, V., hops into bed for a cuddle. Soon we’re all up for the day. D. makes us coffee while I breastfeed and change the baby. Then he lets the dog out and gets V. dressed, then walks him the two blocks to kinder. V. has breakfast, lunch and snacks provided for him at kinder, which is such a lifesaver. D. continues on for his Monday morning bushwalk since the weather is quite lovely today. 
7:30am — I make wheat toast with almond butter and squashed blueberries for M. and an omelette with spinach, tomatoes and feta for myself. The Woolies order arrives: milk, yoghurt, tzatziki, hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, apples, blueberries, chicken stock, pearl barley, split peas and two random bags of food that I definitely did not order. I put everything away and post in our neighbourhood group to see if anyone is missing their dinner. $86.78
8:30am — M. is grumpy, so I put him in his cot for a nap even though it’s a bit early. Screaming half the night is tiring! I make a second coffee, scroll around on my phone for a while, then shower, brush my teeth and get myself ready for the day (wearing an errand-running uniform of black bike shorts, a soft comfy hoodie, with my hair in a bun, Hydro-Boost moisturiser and La Roche Posay sunscreen on my face). Do some housework and laundry, visit the chickens and collect the eggs. D. gets back and heads to the office/spare room to start work.
10:15am — M. is awake, so I change and dress him and mix up a bottle of formula. He’s nearly 10 months old and we were exclusively breastfeeding him until I went back to work six weeks ago. I tried pumping for the first four weeks, but it was so stressful and my supply was dropping. We now do one breastfeed in the morning and formula the rest of the day. It’s working really well for us.
11:00am — I buckle M. into his car seat and we head out to run some errands. First stop is the library to check out some new books for the kids. Next, we go to Chemist Warehouse for some baby saline nasal spray, Euky Bear Eucalyptus inhalant and a two-pack of dummies ($34.47). Lastly, we hit up Woolies for some items that weren’t available in our delivery: carrots, fresh wholemeal bakery bread, Vitamin C tea, corn chips and salsa. The chips and salsa are for a sudden mad craving I have ($24.90). $59.37
12:45pm —  D. and I make sandwiches with leftover beef topside from last night’s dinner. Eat those with leftover potato salad, chips, salsa and a Coke Zero. M. gets cherry tomatoes, cucumber and little bits of beef. The dog and cats hoover up the dropped beef and the chickens get the veg scraps. Nothing goes to waste around here! 
4:30pm — D. finishes up work and takes over baby wrangling while meal prepping his lunches (garlic chicken thighs with pearl barley and homegrown Swiss chard). I take the dog on a 35-minute walk and listen to a Small Town Murder episode. Swing by the kinder on the way home to pick V. up. 
5:30pm — I pick some celery and thyme from the garden and make split pea and ham hock soup. No one has claimed the extra grocery bags, so we’re now the owners of chicken breasts, cream, sour cream, garlic paste and six extra litres of milk?! I eat some vanilla yoghurt with blueberries. D. plays with the baby and V. has some tablet time. 
6:30pm — We sit down to eat our soup with the bonus garlic bread. It’s pretty good. D. supervises the bath/PJs/teeth routine while I do my Wordle. We read some library books together, have a cuddle and both kids are in bed by 7:30.
8:30pm —  D. cleans the kitchen and then we settle in to watch House of the Dragon
9:30pm — D. feeds the menagerie and puts the dog in his crate. I brush my teeth, wash with The Ordinary Squalene Cleanser, apply The Ordinary Niacinamide, and finish with Hydro-Boost moisturiser. I take my asthma meds, vitamin D and anti-depressant. I read a bit of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms before turning out my light at 10pm.
Daily Total: $146.15

Day 2

5:45am — D.’s alarm goes off. Success! M. slept through the night. D. gets the baby changed, gets V. up and dressed and I make coffee. I let the dog out and feed M. V. has a pre-breakfast breakfast of Weet-Bix. 
6:45am — D. drives to the station to take the train into the city for work. He goes into the office three days a week and goes swimming on those days. I throw on some leggings, one of D.’s hoodies and a baseball cap. 
7:15am — Bundle M. into his pram and walk V. to kinder. It’s a chilly 4 degrees, but clear and sunny. Get home, make wheat toast with cream cheese and blueberries for the baby and oatmeal with a chopped apple, almond butter, maple syrup and cinnamon for myself. Also another coffee, of course. The dog stares at me through the patio until I let him in to eat the floor toast. 
8:45am — We play on the floor until M. is ready for his nap. I quickly shower, wash my hair and give myself a blowout with my blow dry brush. I dress in a black cotton t-shirt and black wide-leg linen trousers. I tidy the bedroom and kitchen and collect the eggs from the chicken coop. 
9:45am — M. doesn’t sleep for long but isn’t upset, so I get him up and we head out in the car to the shopping centre. V. is going on an excursion with kinder this week and needs a packed lunch in a lunch box. I wish they had given us more than three days' notice about this so I could shop around, but I find a bento box style I like at Smiggle ($49). I cringe at the price, but he would have needed one for prep in February anyways, so oh well. I also get some deli ham at Woolies ($7.97). I give M. a bottle in his pram before we head home. $56.97
12:00pm — Same roast beef sandwich and corn chips for lunch. M. has hummus on crackers with cucumber sticks. I make apple rhubarb crumble muffins with homegrown rhubarb while M. plays with his toys on the floor. 
6:30pm — Well, that afternoon took a turn. M. broke out in a rash and his face started swelling up, so I took him to the ER. The doctors think he had a reaction to something in the hummus, even though he’s had it before. They gave M. an antihistamine, monitored him and referred us to an allergist. Normally I would take V. to swimming on Tuesday afternoons, but obviously that couldn’t happen today, so D. picks him up and makes veg toasties for dinner.
7:30pm — D. does bathtime and stories with V. M. isn’t settling well so I cuddle him in the big comfy armchair in his room until he falls asleep. 
8:30pm — D. drives to the chemist to get an antihistamine in case M. needs more ($8). I potter around getting organised for work/daycare. I finally get to sit and eat one of my muffins. It’s everything I could hope for in a muffin. $8
9:00pm — Quick body shower because hospitals make me feel gross. Nighttime routine, meds, bed. I can barely keep my eyes open. D. feeds the zoo and comes to bed at some point.
Daily Total: $64.97

Day 3

5:37am — M. is calling out from his cot. I bring him to bed and give him a feed.
6:30am — Body shower, makeup (The Ordinary concealer and foundation, loose powder, Nude By Nature blush, Kosas Brow Pop, Maybelline mascara, Clinique Black Honey almost lipstick) and run the straightener through my hair. Dress in my work uniform and do my Covid test. We’re required to test twice a week. D. gets the kids dressed and washed and makes coffee. I let the dog out, prepare M.’s bottles and eat some oatmeal with blueberries and almond butter. D. leaves around 6:50 to drive to the train. He reloads his Myki with $50.
7:30am — Walk the kids to kinder/daycare. Come home, visit my chickens and collect the eggs, pack my snacks and make a coffee to drink on my drive. Leave at 7:45am. The commute takes around 45 minutes today. I listen to an episode of the Timesuck podcast on my drive. I’m at my desk and ready to take over my dispatch channel by 9am. 
10:00am — First break. Make another coffee with the machine at work and walk around the block for 15 minutes. The sun feels glorious. Quickly eat my muffin before heading back to my terminal. 
12:00pm — Second break. Due to the nature of our work, we do 90 minutes on and 30 minutes off. On Wednesdays, we get free food trucks brought in for lunch. Today is the toastie lady. It’s toastie week for me, I guess! I get chicken, bacon, tomato and cheese with pumpkin coconut soup. It’s all divine. I do my Wordle as I eat. 
2:00pm — Third break. Pay our accountant and digitally sign the tax documents. Yep, we’re super late on our filing our taxes this year. It’s $308 but our accountant gets us a good return. Last year was about $7,000! This year it’s looking like it’ll be $3,902.75. Walk in the sunshine for another 15 minutes while listening to Small Town Murder. $308
4:00pm — Fourth break. Work is suspiciously calm today, knock on wood. Last week with the floods was a nightmare. I picked up some overtime and was burnt out by the end of the week. Eat hummus with cucumbers and carrots while reading Reddit and catching up on my group chats.
6:00pm — Last break. Nearly there.
7:00pm — Done! Traffic is good this time of day so it only takes me 35 minutes to get home. D. has done daycare pickup, dinner, bath and bed by the time I get home. Eat a very beige dinner of frozen crumbed fish and waffles fries from Costco. 
8:00pm — Clean the kitchen and pack V.’s very first school lunch for his excursion tomorrow. He’s been so excited to eat from his lunch box. It’s adorable! 
9:45pm — D. and I watch some House of the Dragon YouTube breakdowns, then he feeds the animals and we head to bed. Usual nighttime routine and meds. I’m too tired to read, so D. reads aloud from the book that he’s rereading — Fire and Blood
Daily Total: $358

Day 4

5:45am — Alarm. Body shower, makeup, hair and feed M. D. is on coffee and kid-wrangling duties this morning. 
7:15am — Eat oatmeal with blueberries and almond butter then walk the kidlets to daycare. Visit my chooks, collect the eggs, make a coffee to go, and I’m out the door by 7:45. Stop for petrol on the way — $68.85
9:00am — Make myself an office coffee and start work. It’s a pretty standard morning of car accidents, assaults and people doing weird things.
10:30am — First break. Soak up the sun with a 15-minute walk and eat a yoghurt before heading back to the control room. 
12:30pm — Go across the road to get lunch. I get one tofu and one prawn rice paper roll and one spicy tuna and one salmon avocado sushi roll ($15.60). They are deeply unsatisfying. Not sure what I was craving but it wasn’t that. Grab a biscuit from the communal snack box before heading back to my terminal. $15.60
2:30pm — Break. Go for another walk in the sun. Crime and accidents are rampant this afternoon. I eat my muffin as well.
4:30pm — Woof. Busy. Eat carrots and cucumbers with tzatziki and go back for my last stint of work. I love my job and it’s exciting and engaging, but constantly dealing with high-stress and time-sensitive situations is mentally draining. 
6:30pm — Outta here! The wonderful thing about being on last break is we’re allowed to leave instead of sticking around until 7pm. Drive home listening to a Sinisterhood podcast.
7:15pm — The other wonderful thing about last break is I get home in time to see the kids before they go to bed. D. has done dinner and baths, but I read stories and cuddle with V., then cuddle with M. and get them to bed. D. has made pork and ginger dumplings, rice and edamame. Bless your freezer food, Costco. We do a bulk Costco shop about once a month. 
8:30pm — We tidy up and chat about our days with an ice hockey game on in the background. I’m from overseas and a couple of years ago, D. started paying for an ice hockey subscription cause he knows I miss it. I relax with a watermelon White Claw. It’s definitely the weakest flavour in the case. 
9:30pm — Nighttime routine done, animals fed. We head to bed and read for a bit before sleep.
Daily Total: $15.60

Day 5

6:15am — Bit of a sleep-in this morning since D. works from home on Fridays. Feed M., body shower, hair, makeup, uniform and Covid test. D. gets the kids ready for daycare and walks them over. The usual coffee, oatmeal, blueberries and almond butter and I’m out the door at 7:45.
10:30am — Break. It’s a busy morning. I take a walk in the sun and then snag some cheese, crackers and watermelon from the morning tea for a team leader going on mat leave. 
12:30pm — Break. The powers that be have brought in a Greek food truck for lunch, since we’ve been run off our feet this week. I get a mixed lamb and chicken gyro with veg. It comes with chips but they’re way too salty so I only have a couple, then drink loads of water. I take a Freddo Frog from the snack box back to my desk. 
2:30pm — Break. Go for a walk but it’s humid and sprinkling. We’re anticipating more floods in rural Victoria this weekend, unfortunately.
4:30pm — In true Melbourne fashion, it’s now sunny and warm again, so I walk and listen to my podcasts while eating an apple. I used to run long distance before I got pregnant with M. and I haven’t picked it back up yet, but I do love my walks. D. tells me he bought his dad’s birthday gift (an Akubra hat). We’re splitting it with his sisters, so our share is $100.
6:30pm — I’m done. From Friday night to Monday morning, work brings in catering for all meals. I have some Madras chicken curry with coconut rice before heading home.
7:30pm — D. and the kids are at his sister’s house for a visit since we’re not going to their dad’s 60th birthday party tomorrow. We have a complicated relationship with his parents for many reasons, so I’m not upset to be missing out. As soon as I walk in the door, I change into PJs, bring the dog in, pour myself a mango White Claw and settle in for some Netflix.
9:00pm — I’ve been very snacky all evening, eating carrots and cukes with tzatziki and crackers with cream cheese. D. and the kids get home and V. excitedly tells me about all the lightning they saw on the drive. Get the kids into bed. D. stays up a while but I go to sleep around 10.
Daily Total: $100

Day 6

6:00am — D. brings M. in for his breakfast. We have coffee in bed and play with M. until V. wakes up at around 7. 
8:30am — It’s D.’s busy season at work, so for the next four or five weekends, he’s hosting clients on Saturdays. I shower and blow dry my hair before he leaves. The kids and I have oatmeal with blueberries and maple syrup for breakfast while watching cartoons on ABC kids. Hey Duggee and Bluey are great. Peppa Pig is not. Parents, you get me.  
12:15pm — Spend a rainy morning indoors playing board games and doing experiments with V.’s science kit. I put on Taylor Swift’s new album while we play. The kids have tuna sandwiches while I sautée a heap of mushrooms with garlic and eat them on toast with a squeeze of a lemon from our tree. 
1:00pm — The rain clears enough for us to go outside. V. rides his bike while I push M. in the pram. We play something called Race Car Crabs. I love this kid’s mind. 
2:30pm — I need a parenting break, so when M. goes down for a nap, I put on a movie for V. I browse Depop and find a gorgeous secondhand Ginger and Smart dress. It’ll be perfect for a couple of events and a wedding we have coming up ($112.50). We eat crackers with cream cheese for a snack. $112.50
4:30pm —  V. plays Mario Kart on the Switch while M. plays with toys on the floor. I tidy up and start on a zucchini slice for dinner. V. is a bottomless pit, so he has a kiwi and sultanas while I occasionally toss some crackers to M. to keep him happy.
6:30pm — We eat our zucchini slice with steamed broccoli. I let V. watch Bluey while we eat cause fuck it, I’m tired. Baths, PJs, teeth, stories and both kids are in bed by 7:30. When they’re both asleep, I go out in the backyard and toss the ball with the dog for a bit.
10:30pm — Spend a quiet evening with a pink gin and soda water while reading my book and playing a video game. D. gets home around 9 and we chat for a bit before feeding the zoo and heading to bed. 
Daily Total: $112.50

Day 7

6:00am — M. is very unhappily calling from his cot. Get him changed and fed and he’s all smiles again. D. takes the kids into the lounge room so I can have a bit of a lie-in. The kids eat toast and fruit for breakfast.
8:00am — Get up for real and have a coffee with leftover zucchini slice. D. folds all of the clean laundry that has accumulated throughout the week.
9:00am — V. and I go up to the monthly community farmers market. It’s raining off and on. I’m not inspired to get anything except hot jam donuts ($10). We eat them in the rain and save the rest for later. $10
10:00am — Have another coffee while I do the online grocery order and meal plan for the week ($135.46). We all head outside to put up Halloween decorations in the front yard. $135.46
12:30pm — Lunch is split pea and ham soup from the freezer with buttered toast. After we eat, D. does yard work with the kids while I take the dog for an hour-long walk.
5:30pm — Spend the afternoon playing with the kids and getting things done around the house and yard. I make a zucchini butter pasta from Smitten Kitchen which is one of my favourite dinners. We finish off every last noodle!
7:30pm — Normal bedtime routine for the kids, then D. cleans the kitchen while I do my Wordle. We both have another donut. We take turns playing our respective games until we feed the animals and head to bed to read around 9:30.
Daily Total: $145.46

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

This was a pretty typical week for us, aside from the accountant's fee. We had just done a large Costco shop the week before so we were well stocked on nappies, wipes and formula.
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