money diaries

A Week In Melbourne, VIC, As A Product Designer On $115,000

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last dollar.
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Today, we meet a Melbourne-based product designer who is a total night owl, often going to bed after midnight. She binges Bridgerton and watches The Notebook for the first time, one of the movies on a 'must-watch' spreadsheet she built, pays for a $550 car service and books a haircut at a new salon.
Occupation: Product Designer
Industry: UX/UI Design
Age: 28
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Pronouns: She/Her
Salary: $115,000
Net Worth: -362,000. I have about 80k in savings sitting in an offset account. Technically it's not savings as all my excess money goes towards my mortgage at the moment.
Debt: $409,000 mortgage and $33,000 HECS debt.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,894.

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,680. I have one fixed-rate loan and one variable loan totalling $409,000. My monthly repayments come out to about. I am single, living alone in a three-bedroom, newly built townhouse (I know, I should probably rent out some rooms, but I love living alone!) I own the property, thanks to some help from my parents with the down payment, and I'm trying my hardest to pay it off at the moment.
Gas: $38
Electricity: $45
Water: $60
Home Insurance: $94
Car Insurance: $58 (lowest km Budget Direct)
Private Health Insurance: $108
YouTube Premium: $5,
Spotify: $14
Netflix Premium: $16.
Savings: For someone who is trying to pay off my mortgage I'm not super savvy when it comes to saving/investing. I basically just "save" whatever remaining I have from my salary and put it into my offset account.

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

Yes, I have a Bachelor of Communications (Media) and also a Graduate Certificate in Digital Marketing Technology. These were both paid with HECS. My Grad Cert was one-third of a Masters I was doing at the time but I decided it was too expensive, so I halted my studies after that and never finished the Masters. A decision I'm very happy with in hindsight (at the time I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew I didn't want to pay $45k for that Masters).

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

Both my parents worked full-time and never really had the time or energy to have conversations about money with me. My parents were immigrants who came to Australia to escape from the war in Vietnam. Thanks to their hard work I never felt that my life was lacking or that I was missing out on anything, yet somehow I knew our family was not as well off as others and at some point I became conscious of that.

Writing this, I recall an early memory of guilt about asking my parents to buy me a bag from Myer. I suppose I never really asked for much as a kid so they bought it for me without hesitation. A few days later, I took that small denim bag to school and, for whatever reason, I distinctly remember feeling guilty that I made my parents spend their money on something unnecessary like that. So even though they never spoke to me about finances or the importance of money, I guess I've always had a quiet consciousness of money.

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

I got my first job in hospitality during my first year of uni. At the time I was still living with my parents and they didn't make me pay rent or bills, but I still wanted to earn money so that I could buy whatever I wanted/needed and contribute to bills.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I guess I did subconsciously! Not sure why, but maybe a symptom of being hyper-observant. As a child, I saw that my parents had to work a lot harder than other parents to make a living. They were pretty much always absent at school events where other kids had their mum or dad accompany them. I rarely, if at all, got picked up at school by my parents; I always walked home with my grandparents. On the weekends, they would do their paperwork/accounting, chores, and errands, and spend the rest of the day relaxing at home as they were tired from their busy week. Observing this over the years is probably how I got to understand the impacts of money early on, and also probably why as I kid I never asked my parents for anything. I guess I was scared that if I did, they'd have to work harder and as a result would be more tired.

Do you worry about money now?

I'd say half-half. One side of me is worried because inflation is crazy, the cost of living is wild, and not to mention I have a mortgage; but I have recently come to terms with the fact that as long as I'm happy living a simple life, I'll be right. I know I earn a decent income that can sustain my lifestyle so long as I continue to live below my means (which I think I'm pretty decent at, I'm not good at investing or hustling, but I am exceptional at making sensible purchases!).

That's why I'm still living alone. It's a big luxury in this economy but I make sure to balance it out by spending less on extracurriculars, fancy clothes, drinking/partying, and whatever else people spend their money on these days. And with the mortgage, well I have the rest of my life to pay that off! My goal in life isn't to be rich anyway so even though there are things I'm concerned about, I try to not stress about it. Especially since I've done quite a lot of that already growing up.

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

I became fully financially responsible for myself at 25. Perhaps this is later than a lot of people, but having help up until this point enabled me to purchase a property. In terms of a financial safety net, I have a few options. I've got savings that I could dip into if I needed a little extra cash or I could start renting out rooms for extra income. If the situation became dire, I would probably seek help from my parents or other family members, or if it came to it, I might consider selling off my property and moving back in with my parents.

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


Day 1

8:50am: It's Monday morning and a WFH day, so I wake up pretty much right before my first meeting. I make my coffee downstairs, just instant Moccona coffee with some oat milk. At $5 per carton for this oat milk, it's a bit steep, so I make sure to bulk buy it when it's on sale.
12.30pm: For lunch, I have some leftover dahl I made on the weekend. I try to meal prep as much as possible, though I get pretty lazy. I'd estimate it cost me about $18 to make 4 portions of dahl, and it was $4.50 for a frozen pack of naan bread.
5pm: I go out for a run. One of the good habits I developed during COVID-19 was to get out for a run or walk. I ended up quitting my gym membership at the start of last year as I found I just didn't enjoy it anymore. Now, running is my main form of exercise. It's easy (logistically anyway), free, and I can run for as long or as little as I like.
6.15pm: I grab groceries after my run. I'm having dinner with my parents tonight and they've asked me to pick up some things on the way there: facial tissues ($5), soy milk ($9 for 2), and paper towels ($8 for 3). This is a pretty common weekday night for me. My parents live super close so I'm often eating lunch or dinner with them. $22
9:30pm: Back at home, I do a couple of chores before getting ready for bed. It's a cold night tonight so I'm procrastinating my shower by doom-scrolling on YouTube and online shopping for preserved flowers, my latest interest. The preserved Scabiosa I want are sold out everywhere! After managing to waste a good hour, I finally force myself to make a move. Once I'm in the shower, I then procrastinate getting out — I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. My nighttime routine, procrastination included, takes me about 1.5 hours and I'm in bed usually around 11pm.
1am: More scrolling ensues and I sleep around 1am.
Daily Total: $22

Day 2

8.50am: Wake up for another day of work. I'm supposed to go into the office on Tuesdays but I have to drop my car off for repairs, so I'm working from home today. I make my usual coffee before driving off to the mechanics. When I get there, they tell me they will assess my car and call me regarding the costs. After leaving the mechanics I walk about 15 minutes to my cousin's house to borrow her car to drive myself home. Luckily both of us live quite close to each other so this doesn't take long at all.
12.30pm: Still eating that leftover dahl for lunch. This is my last portion so I'll have to meal prep at some point for my other meals. During my lunch hour the mechanics call me back and tell me the car repairs are going to cost $550, which is a massive blow to my wallet, especially considering I recently paid over $1,000 for other repairs. This is my fourth visit to the mechanics this year. I am considering a new — well, new secondhand — car but prices are through the roof at the moment so it's not really an option. I'll have to stick it out with my current car for a few more years.
1.30pm: After lunch, I was still feeling a bit peckish and a bit sad from the news about my car so I decided to treat myself to a croissant. Maybe it's counter-intuitive and I should really be saving my money, but sometimes croissants are a necessity to cheer oneself up. I get my favourite choc almond croissant ($5.70) and devour it in the car (yes, I in fact could not wait until I got home to eat it). $5.70
5.30pm: I arrange to pick up my cousin so she can drive me to the mechanics. I pay for the repairs and both the mechanic and I hope that I won't need to be back for a while.
6:45pm: For dinner tonight I'm making Thai basil chicken. It's a pretty simple recipe I make regularly. I stir-fry some chicken mince, snake beans, garlic, and onion with some seasoning sauces and add basil at the very end. I had all of these ingredients at home, though the basil was regular basil and not Thai basil. I was mid-way through cooking when I realised I didn't have any and I was too lazy to leave the house to get some — it'll do.
7:45pm: I eat dinner while catching up on some YouTube videos. Recently I love watching "Day in the Life of ___" videos. Being a curious cat, it's so interesting to see how other "ordinary" people live. While watching I am consumed by a post-dinner coma and I can feel myself beginning to get drowsy. I decide to succumb to this drowsiness and let sleep take over me. I'm going to regret this decision later on.
9:40pm: I'm trying to open my eyes. It's so hard to keep them open at this point but it must be done. I whip myself up from the bean bag and wash up the considerable mess I made from cooking. Powering through my nighttime routine, I don't even procrastinate tonight (granted, I don't really have the time to)!
11:30pm: I'm in bed, a little behind schedule considering my "early" wake-up time tomorrow, early for my standards anyway.
1:20am: Reaping the consequences of my post-dinner nap, I'm only able to fall asleep sometime after 1:20am. I'm not really sure of the exact time and I'd like to remain ignorant on this matter.
Daily Total: $555.70

Day 3

7:50am: I hit snooze like four times.
8.15am: I begrudgingly wake up. It's unsurprisingly difficult for me to get up today, I'm going into the office so I need to get a move on.
8:35am: I sprint to get ready and am out the door with coffee in hand. There's a bit of traffic driving into the station so I take a detour into the streets, but alas, it's rubbish day and the garbage collectors are doing their rounds! After a longer-than-expected detour, I make it to my platform by 9.02am and tap on ($5.30), I'm VERY late today. $5.30
9:28am: Speed walking to the office from the station, I bump into my colleagues who try to entice me into getting a coffee with them. I decline as I've already had one on my way in and I'm late anyway.
12:10pm: Before grabbing our real lunch, my colleague "R" and I head out to get pastries from a bakery nearby ($7.10). I swear my colleagues are such baiters... and pastries are my vice so it doesn't take much for me to relent. We then venture on to get some real food. We've decided on ramen today and I get a classic Tonkotsu ramen with the perfect amount of richness and saltiness ($19.18). It's very common for me to buy lunch when I'm in the office. I'm only really in the office a couple of times a week so I let myself have this "indulgence". I generally wouldn't think of eating lunch out as an indulgence but with sky-high food prices these days, it really is. $26.28
5:00pm: It's time to head home, I catch the train back ($5.30) and head straight home exhausted, it's about an hour commute. When I'm home, I decide to relax for a bit on the couch and play some New York Times games before falling asleep. Is it just laying/sitting down that induces sleep in me? I'm in a vicious napping cycle these days! $5.30
7:40pm: It's getting late and I force myself to get up and eat dinner. Luckily I had leftovers prepped from yesterday so all I had to do was heat it up. Gobbling up my dinner, I remember that I'm overdue for a haircut, so I research some hair salons. I'm yet to find a salon that I can be faithful to, so I change to a new one every time. On my Instagram feed, I see an affordable option that was recommended by some influencers so I decide to give it a go and make the booking ($55). $55
9:30pm: Too lazy to do the dishes, I head upstairs and get washed up for the night, cleaning up is a tomorrow problem.
10:10pm: I'm in bed somewhat early tonight so I decide I've got time for a movie. These days I've been trying to get through my "must-watch" list which I've built into a spreadsheet. After years of just taking mental notes, I came to realise that if I don't write stuff down I'll just never get to it. Tonight I'll watch The Notebook, it's one of those classic movies that everyone talks about but I've never seen it. I end up kind of bawling my eyes out. It's weird because I don't think I found it that sad, but for whatever reason tears ended up streaming down my face. Suddenly concerned about the crying I've done, I go to bed thinking about what my eyes are gonna look like tomorrow morning.
Daily Total: $91.88

Day 4

7:45am: I can confirm, my eyes are puffy from crying. It's another office day today and I'm forcing myself to wake up a little earlier to ensure I make it to work on time, compensating for my tardiness yesterday. No coffee as I plan to catch up with a friend at a cafe later.
8:25 am: Buckled up, I make my way to the station with no issues. I tap on my myki ($5.30) and spend my commute playing NY Times games. $5.30
9:45am: After my morning stand-up meeting, I head to a nearby cafe to meet up with my old work friend. I order an oat latte and he kindly offers to pay ($5.50). We chat for about an hour before heading back to the office.
11:00am: R. tries to whisk me away to get pastries again today, but I decline as I've got an important meeting to attend. (The first temptation of the day dodged)
12:30pm: It's the most important time of the day: lunch hour (or in our case, lunch hours). Today we are getting poke bowls from a local Japanese spot. I get a marinated salmon poke bowl ($18.90). Super famished from the 30-minute wait, I devour the bowl in 10 minutes. We chat for a bit before heading out and I accompany my colleague to get coffee. I resist the urge for another dose of caffeine. (Temptation number two, dodged). $18.90
2:30pm: Back at my desk, I'm working away until R. approaches me again and asks if I want to get a coffee with her and some others. I politely decline the offer. Five minutes later, she comes back and says I have been summoned. "For what?", I ask, thoroughly confused at this point, "To a meeting? I don't have any meetings now". Following her, I find two other colleagues waiting for me. Turns out I'm not needed for a meeting and they don't actually care if I want coffee, but "need" me to chaperone. Once again, I resist the urge to spend money on extra coffee. (Temptation number three, dodged)
4:30pm: There's a bit of shindig happening at work, pretty common for Thursdays. Drinks and canapes are served, and chatter ensues. While yapping away, my colleagues and I have a sudden craving for dessert and decide to get gelato. Now this is something I can't resist! What's even more hilarious is that I decided to get their coffee flavour ($7.10). I wonder how much caffeine it has and whether it might affect my sleep tonight, but the gelato is *chef's kiss* so worth the risk. (Temptation number four, failed) $7.10
6.20pm: We call it a day and head home ($5.30). There are massive delays at the station and I'm sat in the train carriage waiting for something to happen. After some time waiting, the train begins to move very slowly with delays at each stop, and at one point we are even asked to get off and wait for the next one. I consider getting an Uber to my car but it's only one more station away so I decide not to. $5.30
7:50pm: I'm finally home and exhausted. There shall be no dinner tonight because I'm lazy and somewhat full from the drinks, snacks, and gelato I had earlier. I window shop online for some winter clothes but don't purchase anything — I don't know if I'm picky or just have poor taste in fashion but I can never seem to find clothes that flatter my average shape. Completely possible that I'm overly sensitive about my broad shoulders and narrow hips, I pass on everything I see. Fed up from yet another unsuccessful online shop, I wash my dishes from yesterday and get ready for bed.
10:40pm: As per usual, I waste the night away on social media — mainly Instagram and YouTube — for about three hours before deciding to sleep. No wonder I'm always tired...
Daily Total: $36.60

Day 5

9:15am: It's the day we've all been waiting for... Friday! I sleep until the last possible moment and roll out of bed 15 minutes before my morning meeting. Everyone gives their updates and I realise how active my colleagues are. 100km bike rides, Sunday climbs, running marathons — I decide I'm going to go for a run tonight.
9:40am: Coffee time — the usual Moccona instant coffee and Chobani oat milk combo. After enjoying my coffee, I get ready to go grocery shopping. I only have a 40-minute block to go out, so I make it a quick trip. I get some Porterhouse beef (two for $20), a bunch of broccoli ($4.20), instant noodles (two for $4.60), some chocolate biscuits ($4), and pears ($3.70). $36.50
12:30pm: For lunch, I cook up one of the slabs of beef that I got — it came with flavoured butter but I got a tip from my mum that it tastes better if you "paint" it with oil and oyster sauce before pan frying it so I do that. Meanwhile, I've got some rice going in the rice cooker and broccoli steaming. Quite a fancy lunch today, but I'm an iron-deficient person so my doctor has been nagging me to get more red meat in my diet. I enjoy my fancy lunch while watching some ice skating videos. Ice skating is something I've always been interested in watching but never trying myself, I just have no sense of balance.
4:30pm: Because it's Friday, I log off a bit earlier because... why not? I get changed into my running outfit but realise my Fitbit hasn't been charged, so I spend the next 30 minutes waiting for it. I really wanted to be out the door earlier today to catch the early sunset. Oh well, it is what it is.
5:00pm: Out the door I go. I drive down to my favourite running/walking area along the river. I like it here because unlike when I run along the streets, I don't have to stop and look out for traffic. Today I'm attempting a Zone 2 run where you run very slowly and keep your heart rate down but for a longer duration. Due to my impatience, I tend to struggle with this, but I try! I run for about 8.5km today, which isn't really Zone 2. Regardless, I'm happy with myself just for getting my butt outside and doing it.
6:40pm: The first thing I do when I get home is shower. My hair is washed, skincare is done, fluffy pjs are on, and hibernation mode is activated. For dinner, it's instant noodles tonight with a dessert of sliced pears and vanilla ice cream, accompanied by a Genmaicha latte. An elite Friday night spread if you ask me. My hibernation set up is complete with my food laid in front of me, a jug of water at the ready, a blanket draped across my lap, the remote control by my side, all the curtains drawn, and a fully charged phone. For the next five hours, I will not be moving from this spot unless I need the bathroom. The Bridgerton binge begins.
3:00am: The binge went for longer than expected and I'm now overly invested in this series. I speed-brush my teeth and hit the sack, the Bridgerton musical remixes still playing in my head.
Daily Total: $36.50

Day 6

11:15am: It's Saturday morning which means sleeping in and eating brunch. Still tired from last night, I move like a sloth to get ready but the thought of coffee motivates me to move faster. I'm meeting up with my friends today to try a new cafe and one of my them is going to pick me up.
12:25pm: After a few delays, namely my friend sleeping through her alarm and then not getting out of bed fast enough, she drives to my place and we head to the cafe about 30 minutes away. We both get an oat latte with a soy milk cake ($10.50) which was better than expected! We had our doubts, but the cake was surprisingly dense and not too sweet, just the way we like it. We chat for an hour or so before driving to the next spot to get some toasties. On the way there, I had a little jump scare when I saw the petrol prices, it was $235/L in that area! I make a mental note to fill up the next time I get a chance. I remember the prices in my area were still $180ish per Litre.
2:00pm: We meet up with two other friends and join the queue that is snaking around this famed toastie joint. The line is pretty huge for 2pm on a sleepy Saturday, but I suppose that's a good sign. I get their most popular pastrami sourdough toastie. It comes with a hefty price tag at $21.50 so I hope it lives up to the hype. Unfortunately, there's no seating inside, so we make our way to my house to eat, which ends up being a 35-minute drive. $21.50
2:40pm: The toastie did in fact live up to the hype and was also quite colossal in size. By the end of it, we were all in a deep food coma. We said we were going to plan our snow trip after lunch, however those plans went out the door. Instead, we played one game of Cine2Nerdle and then laid down on the sofa/bean bags, collectively staring into space.
5:00pm: All my friends had different plans for dinner so they left a couple hours after lunch. After they left, I took a short nap (I should really stop doing this) for 30 or so minutes. I didn't have any plans tonight so I decided to get some air and go for a long walk. I drive down to my usual place and spend about an hour there. On the way back, I fill up my almost empty tank ($60.05). $60.05
7:20pm: It's dinner time but I'm not really hungry. I'm still full from the toastie, so I have a pear and call it dinner. The living area is a bit of a mess from my hibernation session the night before, so I clean that mess up.
8:00pm: I play some Sudoku for way too long, specifically two hours, before I get a message from my cousin asking me where I am. Shoot! I forgot that I agreed to "Uber" my cousins home from their concert! Luckily, the concert just finished so I'm not that late.
10:10pm: I hastily leave the house to perform my Uber duties because that is the rock 'n' roll type of cousin I am. Annoyingly there is so much traffic and congestion, that the whole trip takes me an hour and 25 minutes. We passed the time by playing some carpool karaoke.
11:35pm: Time to wash up and get into bed. After my nighttime routine, I try to continue with my Sudoku but I'm pretty tired tonight after a big week. I pass out around 12:40am.
Daily Total: $92.05

Day 7

10:30am: I'm up a bit later today, it's Sunday after all! I scroll on my phone for some time before getting out of bed and getting ready for the day. The weather is perfect to do some laundry so I quickly get a load on. In the meantime, I shall enjoy my coffee with some chocolate biscuits, while watching some YouTube videos. About 40 minutes later, my laundry is ready to be hung outside, and I speed through this tedious task while still half watching/listening to YouTube videos.
2:00pm: I'm preparing lunch a bit later today as I woke up pretty late. Lunch today is the porterhouse fillet I bought the other day served with rice and broccoli. Cooking this twice has made my house really smell, likely because I accidentally burnt it the first time, my pan was smoking like a chimney. After lunch I decide to deep clean the kitchen stovetop and the hood, hoping the smell will dissipate.
5:00pm: After cleaning I kind of just rot away on the sofa until 5pm, when I realise Sunday night anxiety is kicking in. Picking myself up, I go get changed and decided to go for a run which ended up being a moderately paced 45-minute session. My mum called me during my cool-down and told me to come over for dinner. I was a bit far from my car at this point so I started speed walking back, motivated by the thought of chicken noodle soup waiting for me.
7:00pm: Digging into dinner, my mum decides to do a show and tell of her shopping haul for the day. She bought way too many groceries: fruits, breads, croissants, snacks, cereal, some of these things she doesn't even eat. She packs me some croissants and sourdough bread to take home and I happily oblige.
10:00pm: Once I'm home, I race to take my laundry in as I hate leaving my clothes out overnight and then perform my extensive nighttime routine. What makes it extensive you ask? Moisturising my body. I think I do this once in a blue moon when my body is feeling and looking pretty dry and tonight it had to be done.
11:00pm: Tucked in bed, I do some nighttime scrolling before turning the lights out around 12:30pm. My lazy Sunday is over.
Daily Total: $0
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