Money Diaries

A Week In Coburg, Melbourne, As A Project Officer & Musician On $58,800

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Today: a project officer who earns $58,880 a year and spends some of her money this week on a music review of her EP by an independent magazine based in Paris.
Occupation: Project Officer
Industry: Education
Age: 33
Location: Coburg, Melbourne
Salary: $58,880
Net Worth: $54,000 (I have $29,000 in savings. I saved most of this while I was working full-time in a pretty well-paid job. I contribute $100 a month to this account to maintain my interest rate. I also have about $5,000 worth of musical instruments and $40,000 in super.).
Debt: $20,000 in HECS debt (I haven't been earning enough to pay any of it off yet).
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $1,735
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $797. I live in a three-person share house in a pretty old, but charming house. Everyone keeps to themselves and it's not particularly homely, but it works. I would love to live alone but I'm not willing to make the relevant sacrifices right now!
Stan: $14. A couple of friends use my login and give me access to their Binge and Netflix accounts in return.
Spotify: $12.99
Fairfax: $15. I started to pay to read The Age* in the interest of democracy and independent journalism, but I think it's a pretty annoying publication. I keep meaning to cancel it and subscribe to something else instead. 
Google Drive Storage: $1.50
Phone: $85, which includes paying off the phone itself.
Internet: $15
Electricity, Gas and Water: $60 to $120
Savings: $100. I contribute this small amount to maintain my interest rate. 
Gym: $72. I usually do one casual class or gym session a week. 

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

I have a Bachelor of Arts with Honours that I completed when I was 22. During university, I was on Austudy and always had part-time jobs. First, in a sandwich shop, then a butcher/deli, then as an admin at a real estate agency. I lived in share houses, and though I had to be a bit careful, I was always okay with money. I found it easy enough to save for a few overseas holidays during this time. 
When I was 28, I decided to leave full-time work as I wanted to do a PhD in humanities. I wanted to do a deep dive into something really interesting and then "become a writer", which was much more difficult than I'd imagined. I was lucky to get a government scholarship for my PhD, which was great as it would have been $26,000 a year. During this time, I worked various part-time office jobs. I also completed a freelance writing project where I was paid a lump sum. When I got really desperate, I also did some leaflet dropping for extra cash. 

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

My mum used to budget in front of me most nights of the week. She seemed quite stressed and worried about money. She gave me weekly pocket money, which I budgeted meticulously. I actually have some of my old diaries still which have some of my really cute budgets from when I was a kid. These included things like "2x strawberries and cream lollies ($0.20)". I also obviously had an allowance for Dolly Magazine — my biggest expense back then. I didn’t learn anything about taxes, how salaries worked, investing, or how to buy a home, and these things are still mysteries to me. I wish I’d learnt more about that at school — everyone I know feels the same!

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

My first job was quite cliché, with a paper round. I got it when I was 11 because I received meagre pocket money and I was sick of feeling poor. The idea of having my own money was incredibly exciting to me and I had big plans for it. And by big plans, I mean buying a blue tie-dye mini-dress that had a huge dolphin on the chest. Duh. I earned a paltry $9 per week and it took three after-school stints to get it done. It was exhausting and miserable and I gave it up quickly. After that, I got a job at my high school canteen, where I worked during recess and lunch. Because I am a Libra and a people pleaser, I gave free potato cakes to all the cute boys. 

Did you worry about money growing up?

I worried about money a lot. It was probably because my mum fretted about finances in front of me and it felt like we didn't have enough money for basic expenses like food or clothes. I would often delay telling her if I needed books or clothes for school in case it stressed her out. I remember family friends taking pity on me and occasionally buying me clothes. I was very aware of money and felt poor compared to everyone around me. My mum was a single parent, so we lived on maintenance payments from my dad, as well as a single parent's benefit. She worked on and off throughout my childhood, but suffered from chronic fatigue and mental health issues so it wasn’t consistent. We rented and moved house a lot.

Do you worry about money now?

I feel like I should be more worried about my future stability. That being said, I’m unwilling to sacrifice my current lifestyle. Because I’ve been financially independent for a while now, I can reassure myself that I'll be okay. I know I'll always be able to get an office job and find a share house. I also know I can rein things in if I really need to. It's nice to be in a place where I can take some financial risks and splash some cash and not feel terrified of becoming completely impoverished. It helps that I have little to no responsibility (read: no children or mortgage). I think it's important to enjoy my life and not worry about money — probably as a response to my childhood, which was filled with worry.

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

At 17, I started boarding with a teacher from my school. I was also working a few days after school in various jobs, like cleaning and babysitting. My mum sent money from my dad each month, but it was up to me to budget and make sure all my expenses were paid. When I started university, Dad's money stopped and I transitioned over to Austudy payments. I've been managing my own money since. My safety net is my dad — we aren't very close, but I know if things were to fall apart, I'd be able to borrow money from him and have somewhere to stay.

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


Day 1

8:00am — When I'm working from home, I always start my day with a coffee walk. It's nice to do something to distinguish between waking up and starting work. During lockdown, I got obsessed with my step count, and it has continued! I get a coffee ($4) and head back home where I have breakfast — muesli, bran flakes, and Greek yoghurt that I already have in my fridge. $4
12:00pm — After churning through some work, it's time for lunch. I whip it up with ingredients I already have in the cupboard — a can of tuna and beans mixed with sauteed green beans, slathered in chilli oil. I also eat a piece of Dutch apple cake, which I made on Sunday. 
5:00pm — I have a gig next week, so I head to a rehearsal with my guitarist. On the way, I go to the supermarket to buy some snacks. I'm not paying him for his time, so I should make him feel comfortable at least! I buy some sea salt chips for $3.80 and steal some Swiss cheese and Sakatas. I have been stealing from Woolworths and Coles for a while now — mainly the more expensive items. I tell myself that it's morally permissible because they're a big multinational company. I'd never steal from IGA or a small business. I know it's not particularly justifiable, but I haven't been caught so far, so I just keep going. I have multiple excuses up my sleeve ready to go and I am lucky that I can cry on demand. $3.80
7:30pm — The guitarist leaves and I have some Greek yoghurt and honey and sit down to read a book I borrowed from the library — Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. It's about a 30-something woman who has suffered with depression and mental health issues for her whole life and has artsy, rich, and neglectful parents. My boss recommended it because it's a fascinating insight into a woman who clearly has something “really wrong with her”, but I just find the protagonist really clever and relatable. I find this very funny. 
Daily Total: $7.80 

Day 2

8:00am — Working from home again. To mix things up, I head to a different coffee shop ($4.50). Breakfast is muesli and bran flakes while I do my Wordle and check my emails. $4.50
12:00pm — Lunch today is some fancy sourdough from my freezer with cheese, ham and spinach. I find my job fairly boring and frustrating at times. This week, I have to nut out some finicky numbers to do with a grant, so I'm feeling extra frustrated. Numbers really aren't my thing. 
5:00pm — After work, I head to the gym and pay for casual entry ($17.50). It's a lot for casual entry, but membership is $25 a week, and I can't be sure if I'll go more than once. I have a good gym session and get out a lot of PMS rage. $17.50
6:00pm — After the gym, I decide to make a one-pot chicken, rice and veg dish so I have some healthy and filling leftovers in the fridge. I pop by Woolworths and buy zucchini, carrots, a can of corn, rice, and a sugar-free soft drink ($8.75). I steal a bag of ground coffee, chicken breast and some parmesan cheese. I get home and start cooking it, adding in some frozen peas from the freezer. It makes four servings, so I pop two in the fridge, one in the freezer, and eat the remaining serving. I have some apple cake for dessert. $8.75
7:30pm — I play around on my computer in bed and watch Maid, a TV show about a woman escaping domestic violence and navigating all the stigma and bureaucracy that comes with it. It makes me a bit emosh, so afterwards, I write in my diary and listen to Warpaint's new album, Radiate Like This. I love the groove and harmonies and it's really femme and calming. My house doesn't have central heating, but I have an oil heater in my room. I try not to overuse it for fear of the electricity bill, but it's too miserable being cold at home, so I indulge a little.
10:00pm — I have just released an EP digitally and I want to get it reviewed by an independent magazine based in Paris. It costs $17 which, according to them, is so they can pay their writers and maintain their website. Their website doesn’t look too cheesy, so I take the plunge ($17). It's less about generating publicity and more because I'm curious about what they'll say. Promoting releases as a non-established musician is difficult because most media coverage I can get is paid content. I’ve avoided this on principle, partly because I want to 'earn' any media coverage I get. But it's also because I don't want to support a system where non-established musicians (and often poorer ones) have to fork out more cash than established musicians to get heard.
But I know the reality is that you have to pour money into promotion if you want to get anywhere. I’ve already spent around $2,000 on the recording studio, sound engineer, mixing, mastering and paying other musicians to play on the recordings, so I’m not feeling particularly flush. The gig next week is a launch and is ticketed, but the money will be divided between all the supports and my band, so it's not exactly a huge money-generating event. I'm not really in it to become a pop star — I just enjoy the process of writing, performing and creating a product. I'd also love to be respected within my milieu. Any cool gigs, attention or experiences that come from that are a plus. $17
Daily Total: $47.75

Day 3

7:00am  — It’s my day off. I wake up and make a stovetop coffee and a piece of toast. I eat it in bed while reading my book.
10:00am — I go for a walk to a neighbouring suburb to put up posters for my gig next week. I buy a coffee from a cute Italian place on the way ($4.50). I picked this place because you get a free donut hole with every beverage, and I'm a sucker for that sort of hospitality. They forgot my donut hole once and my face was so devastated that they quickly realised their mistake. $4.50
11:00am — I've forgotten to bring Blu-Tack and my house is a 30-minute walk away, so I go into the supermarket to buy some. $2.40
12:00pm — I take a detour into Vinnies and find a cute black silk 90s skirt ($6). I might wear it to my gig next week. I op-shop a lot, which is a fairly cheap form of indulgence. But then again, nothing ever fits quite right, so I have to spend a lot of money on alterations, which can be $20 to $30 a pop! $6
1:00pm — Almost finished with my poster spree. I visit one last cafe to drop one off and bump into a folk musician I know. He convinces me to sit and chat for a bit, so I buy another coffee ($4.80). It's really nice to chat about our shared experiences. I walk home and eat some of my leftovers for lunch. $4.80
5:00pm — I have a rehearsal with two girls who are singing harmonies with me for the gig. I hop on my bike and cycle over, stopping at the supermarket for chips and dip on the way ($9.50). I also bring the rest of the cheese and crackers from the other night's rehearsal. I also buy a bottle of wine for us all to share. I find a nice-ish wine at $6 off ($12.99). I tend to buy bottles that are around the $12 to $15 mark, but they're usually ones that are marked down. I'm a sucker for a bargain. $22.49
8:00pm — After rehearsal, I head out to meet a friend for a film festival event. We're seeing a movie about the drug scene in Melbourne in the 70s. I buy us two rounds of beers before the movie and she tells me that she'll buy the ticket. She gets us another wine during the movie. I've also smuggled in the rest of the rehearsal wine, so we finish that off. She's tipsy and falls asleep near the end of the film. Hearing her snore is sort of sweet. The whole night comes to $53. I ride my bike home and fall off because the wheel gets caught in the tram track. I’m also a bit drunk. I go to sleep with a huge bloody scab on my knee. $53
Daily Total: $93.19 

Day 4

9:00am — I have the day off as I need to get a train out to the suburbs for a job interview. I'm planning to leave my office job to work in disability but the headquarters are so far away! I’m nervous to change careers, but I’ve been unfulfilled in office work for years. My sister has a disability and my mum worked as a support worker at various points when I was growing up, so this work would mean a lot to me. I top up my Myki [public transport] card on the way. $10
11:00am — My mum picks me up after my interview as she lives nearby. We have lunch at a cafe on a suburban shopping strip. I have baked eggs and coffee and eat half of her nourish bowl. She refuses to eat the kale because it's 'burnt'. I don't have the heart to tell her that it's crispy kale and it's supposed to be like that. I feel extremely full. I pay and she transfers me half. $26
After, we talk about my sister and other family stuff. My mum tells me she’s planning on giving me her car! She barely uses it and says it would make her feel better about my financial stability if I had one. I will also need it if I make the move into disability. Mum lives in public housing and receives a welfare payment, so I'm very touched.
1:00pm — I get the train back to the city and walk to Collingwood to drop off a finished roll of film ($14). I also buy another coffee ($4.80). I tend to take a roll of film every month or two. It’s not too expensive to get developed and it's very exciting waiting for the photos to come back. I get them back later that night and they’re all terrible. $18.80
2:00pm — I get the tram home. I don’t tap on. 
5:30pm — I have plans to meet some friends at a gig tonight. I have a piece of toast with peanut butter before I leave. I walk some of the way for exercise, then get on the tram. I don't tap on. A friend is visiting from Perth so our group of friends wants to take her out because she really misses Melbourne. She rants to us later about how there is nothing to do in Perth, which none of us finds surprising. We go to a pretentious venue just outside the city and pay for a ticket for the gig ($17.60). The place is full of Gen Z people in low-rise pants. I drink quite a lot and we all have a nice D&M while barely watching the music. I have seen this particular act before — she's a feel-good indie-pop singer. I liked her back then, but this time, I'm just not feeling her. The sound in the venue is bad and it puts me in a grumpy enough mood that I leave before the last song. At the end of the night, I've ended up spending $46 on beers and seltzers. $63.60
11:00pm — I take the tram home and don’t tap on my Myki. 
Daily Total: $118.40 

Day 5

8:00am — I’m working from home today, so I start the day with my standard coffee walk ($4.50). On the way back home, I go to the supermarket and buy milk, soda water, and two oranges ($6.10). I steal a can of tuna, bean mix, and hummus. $10.60
12:00pm — I take my bike out for a 20-minute ride so I can get out of the house and exercise a bit. When I'm back, I make lunch — a bowl with tuna, beans and some spinach from the fridge.
3:00pm — I check my Bandcamp and see that my half-sister and a man I worked with six years ago have bought my EP. My heart is warmed and it's nice to get some direct money for the recordings — $30, to be exact. It's a Friday afternoon, so I slack off a bit and put some things on Facebook Marketplace as I want to make some extra money.
6:00pm — The girlfriend of a good friend is hosting a dinner party in a neighbouring suburb. She is making jackfruit burritos and asks me to bring sour cream and shredded cheese. I also buy two bottles of wine — some sparkling for the party vibes and some red to have over dinner. It comes to $36 altogether. I walk 45 minutes to get to her house. She has just bought a new apartment in a community housing project block. It's gorgeous. I start thinking that I should get my act together and find a way to get my own place. $36
10:30pm — After a delicious dinner, lots of wine and a margarita, our spirits are high! The six of us decide to head to a bar around the corner that plays live world music. We pay $12 for entry and I buy two beers ($19). We catch the second set and have a dance. It's very funky and there are a lot of horns. $31
1:00am — One of my friends and I meet some strangers and decide to go to a nearby club with them. The club doesn’t let us in because someone from their group broke a bottle on the street (which I somehow missed!). By this stage, I am fine with this outcome as I really don't need to drink more or spend any extra money. But I don't want the night to end just yet, so I end up going home with one of the strangers (not the bottle-breaking one, FYI). He's hot and we have non-memorable sex. His two friends hang right outside his door in the living room the whole time, which I find very unsettling. I quickly put on my clothes and one of his friends comes into the bedroom to say hi. He's incredibly drunk and high. I feel even more unsettled and make tracks to leave. I don’t know this guy from a bar of soap and I feel a little bit stupid for going home with him. We swap numbers for dignity’s sake, but there’s no way we are seeing each other again. 
3:00am —  Luckily, I know exactly where I am as he lives on a main road. I walk home and buy a kebab on the way ($12), which is not something I do very often. I drunkenly justify it with my low iron levels and the fact that I need fuel for my 30-minute walk. I should probably get an Uber for safety reasons, but I really enjoy walking and listening to music at night. It also saves me a bit of money. $12
Daily Total: $89.60

Day 6

10:00am — I kind of regret my hookup last night (I'm not slut shaming myself!), and I go and buy the morning-after pill ($20). I obviously should have used protection, so I’m feeling a bit stupid and strange. I try to make myself feel better, so I buy a coffee ($5) and head over to an op-shop. I don't find anything I like. $25
12:00pm — Brunch is rice and chicken leftovers, eaten in bed while I watch Maid. I spend the afternoon chatting with friends on my computer, practising my singing, tidying the kitchen and my room, and doing a load of laundry. It helps me feel like my life is a bit more together and I start to feel better.
6:00pm — I head out to meet some friends for a comedy night. My friend is performing and I love seeing her on stage. I eat a piece of toast before I leave and head over to Fitzroy. I walk some of the way and tram the rest without tapping on my Myki. I meet a friend before the show and we have two ciders at a bar nearby — $16.
8:00pm — We arrive at the show ($10) and I buy a few beers and two wines ($51). My friend and I end up in a much-need D&M after the show. She twists my arm and we get one more glass of wine. We discover that the venue is also hosting a 'Class of 1992' high school reunion. Neither of us has had dinner, so we surreptitiously steal some salami, cheese, and crackers from the snack table. All the reunion participants are wearing name tags and getting sloshed and sentimental. It's very entertaining to watch. $61
1:00am — I tram home. I don’t tap on my Myki. 
Daily Total: $101

Day 7

10:00am — I go for a ride to a neighbouring suburb to return my library book. I borrow another book — This Woman’s Work: Essays on Music. I've recently cottoned on to how good going to a library is — they always have the latest releases and reserving them online is easy. I also love the wholesome community-minded vibe. I grab a coffee while I'm in the area ($5) and visit a health food shop that I used to frequent when I lived in the area. I buy some muesli ($5). $10
12:00pm — I eat some minestrone from the freezer for lunch and work on writing some harmonies to a song I wrote recently. One of my favourite things about my house is that I have my own music space in the shed out the back. I have the freedom to sing loudly (and badly). It also gives me space to put all my instruments, which would be really difficult if I was in a one-bedroom flat or studio.
6:00pm — Tonight is a dinner with some old family friends that's been organised for weeks. My mum moved to Germany for a few years when I was at school, so I lived with them in a house in Footscray until I graduated. At the time, their two kids were 6 and 11. They're now in their 20s and I'm excited to see what they're like as adults. We eat at a Pakistani restaurant in Richmond and chat about family drama and our experiences going to alternative schools growing up. We split some mains, rice, and naan, and it comes out to $15 each. I'm relieved no one feels like drinking. Even though it's storming, I bike ride the 40 minutes home. I've been a bit scared to ride at night since my fall, but it's time I face my fears. $15
Daily Total: $25

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

I might get somewhere between $30 and $150 for each gig I do, depending on whether it's solo or with musicians who I split the money with. I also occasionally receive small amounts of money for various creative things — I recently got $200 from a magazine that published some of my drawings and got another couple of hundred bucks from selling a piece of artwork. This creative stuff earns me $2,000 each year, at the most. It helps, but it isn't overly significant. I've also spent $5,000 this year on recording music.
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view or preferred approach in relation to any particular situation. Refinery29 in no way condones illegal activity or harmful behaviour.
*The Age is owned by Nine Entertainment, as is Pedestrian Group, which publishes Refinery29 in Australia.
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