Money Diaries

A Week In Mentone, Melbourne, On A $103,000 Income

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: a psychologist who makes $103,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on tickets to a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition.
Occupation: Psychologist
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 28
Location: Mentone, Melbourne
Salary: $103,000 total ($73,000 from my government role, and anywhere between $25,000 — $30,000 from my psychology clinic)
Assets: $43,400 ($42,000 in savings, $1,400 in shares. My partner and I have separate finances, however, we do have a shared credit card that we use for joint purchases. This is mainly just for food as it's easier than transferring every time we eat).
Debt: $543,000 ($43,000 in HECS, and $500,000 on my mortgage. I recently bought a house but it hasn't settled yet so I'm still in denial that I'll be in debt for the next 30 years!).
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $3,610 ($2,210 from my government job ad $1,400 from my clinic).
Pronouns: She/Her
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Monthly Expenses

Rent: Currently $0 as I'm living with my family while my house is being built. I moved back to Melbourne after I finished my master's interstate which was right before all the lockdowns. I decided to stay with my family while that whole ~situation~ unfolded. I've recently bought a house that's in the final stages of being built and I'm due to settle this within the next six weeks.
Gym Membership: $204. It's expensive but very worth it.
Phone Bill: $75
Health Insurance: $108
Savings Contributions: $2,400 from my government salary, and I save every paycheque from my clinic, so $2.800 a month.

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

Yes. I completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology, followed by my honours year, followed by a Master's in Clinical Psychology. This took me seven years to complete and I paid for it entirely on HECS.

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

We didn't have in-depth conversations about finances growing up. My parents taught me and my siblings the importance of saving rather than spending. As we've gotten older, my dad has become an incredible resource about all things finances and business. He was essential in helping me set up the business side of my clinic.

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

McDonald's when I was 14 (and 9 months) old. My parents thought it would help me socialise as I was a pretty shy teen.
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Did you worry about money growing up?

No. My parents sheltered us from everything and always ensured that we had everything we ever needed. Looking back, I can tell that there were definitely periods when they struggled, leading to lots of handmade clothes and toys. There was also a lot of tension between Mum and Dad — Dad's a saver, Mum's a spender. My parents prioritised my siblings and I and did absolutely everything they could to give us every opportunity. This often meant Dad would be working 12-hour days. My siblings and I all feel a sense of responsibility to provide for them later in life.

Do you worry about money now?

No. But this will probably change when I have to start repaying my mortgage and the realities of homeownership set in.

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

I wouldn't class myself as financially independent given that I'm living at home rent-free. My parents are my safety net in that, while they wouldn't give me money, they'd always give me a place to live if I needed it.

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

Yes. I received $20,000 when my grandfather died. After I bought my house, my parents gifted me $10,000. They deliberately waited until I had paid the deposit and signed the contracts, swearing me to secrecy from my siblings. They want it to be a surprise gift after we've independently bought a house, rather than an expectation that they'll help us buy a place.
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Day 1

9:30am — Wake up at my partner, M.'s place. I'm feeling very hungover as we went to our first post-Covid gig last night. Thank God it's a public holiday — I can recover in peace!
11:00am — Meet my friend, T., for a walk. We grab some coffee and pastries ($12.51, thanks to a public holiday surcharge). 12.5km later and my hangover is officially gone. She’s going through a rough patch with her partner, so the walk is spent with her venting and crying about their situation. $12.51
3:00pm — Home. My younger brother is about to order Uber Eats, so I transfer him $12 for a burger. It’s pretty average. I don't usually order food on weekdays, but it’s a public holiday! It's exactly what I need after last night. He’s also hungover, so it clearly runs in the family. Out of my three siblings, I’m closest to him, but once I made the mistake of trying to outdrink him — I’ve regretted it ever since and haven't made that mistake again. I was planning on eating while working on some stuff for my clinic, but I decide that watching reruns of Charmed is a far better option. I watch way more episodes than planned. Oops! $12
7:00pm — I transfer my friend $72 for my share of last night's drinks, Ubers, and all you can eat dumplings. I get some work done as apparently owning my own business means I'm literally always working. $72
12:30am — Finally call it a night and head to bed.
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Daily Total: $96.51

Day 2

6:45am — My alarm goes off for a gym class. I honestly consider cancelling, but it's a $5 late cancellation fee. I drag myself out of bed and to the gym.
8:30am — Workout done! I make myself an iced oat latte from the machine at home, have a shower, and get ready for work.
9:00am —  Start work. I'm behind on some tasks and my manager is losing patience. I work part-time in this role, but my workload hasn't reduced from when I was working full-time. My manager refuses to do anything about it other than giving me the polite "Let me know how I can help!" spiel. They never do anything to actually help, though.  
12:30pm — A quick lunch of a salami and cheese sandwich before I get back into meetings for the rest of the afternoon.
6:00pm — I clock off this job for the day and go straight into a session with one of the clients from my practice.
7:00pm — Work is finally done, so a dinner of canned Heinz tomato soup and cheese toastie is in order (IYKYK). I spend the next few hours finishing up more paperwork — I definitely don't practise what I preach to my clients about work/life balance! At times, I feel like a bad psychologist for this, but it needs to get done and you can’t win every time.  
11:30pm — Finally finish up all my paperwork and head to bed.
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Daily Total: $0

Day 3

7:15am — I've accidentally slept in, so I rush around my house like mad, trying to make my train. It's my first time in the office in months.
8:45am — I'm finally in the city! I stop and get a large oat cappuccino ($5.50). My partner's family own the cafe but unfortunately, I’m served by someone I don’t know so I have to pay for once, which is disappointing. Luckily, the coffee is incredible so it's well worth it. $5.50
9:00am — I start work and show a new starter around the building before getting stuck into some more paperwork.
12:45pm — I realise the time! I'm running a three-hour treatment group soon with ten clients over Zoom. I haven't eaten, so I literally inhale a sandwich before setting up for my virtual session. 
4:30pm — The group's finally over. It's our last Zoom session before all clients are required to attend sessions face-to-face, so it'll be interesting to meet them all in person for the first time next week. Safe to say, my clients are less than thrilled by this. For the most part, it's court-mandated that they attend, so they can be really unmotivated and difficult to engage with at times. It should be easier once they’re in the room, but getting them to even consider the benefits of face-to-face sessions has been super challenging.
5:00pm — Finish this job and go straight into a client from my practice via telehealth. This client is finishing up sessions and I’m feeling like a proud psychologist seeing how much progress they’ve made over the past 12 months!
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6:30pm — Session's over. On the train home, I text M. He informs me that he's playing golf all day on my birthday this weekend. Apparently, when I said "Let's do something outside and enjoy the sun!", he took that to mean "Go play golf with your friends all day". He can't understand why I'm annoyed.
7:30pm — Come to find that Mum's cooked me dinner! I quickly eat and shower, accidentally falling asleep in my wet towel on top of my blankets. Being in the office is exhausting and I have no idea how I managed to do this every day pre-Covid.
11:00pm — I wake up, convinced it's 11am. I'm frantic, worrying that I'm late for work until I realise it's 11pm. I brush my teeth and hair before going to bed under slightly wet blankets.
Daily Total: $5.50

Day 4

6:30am — I wake up to my alarm for the gym but I'm absolutely exhausted. I email the gym to explain and avoid the late cancellation fee, booking into an afternoon class before going back to sleep.
9:15am — Mum wakes me up with an oat cappuccino from our favourite local coffee shop. I’m definitely going to miss this when I move. I want coffee to magically appear while I'm in bed! I decide that since I'm already late for work, I'll just be really late. I scroll mindlessly on my phone, sipping my coffee and logging in at 10am. We don't get paid overtime, but we get it back in the form of time in lieu which I can use at my discretion. This comes in super handy for mornings like these. Weirdly enough, it’s actually encouraged by my managers as a form of self-care!
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12:00pm — Break from work for a Zoom meeting with my mortgage broker to finalise everything for settlement. I have a moment of panic about how real it’s all becoming and the fact that owning a home doesn’t stop at the mortgage. I’m also expected to pay for things like water and electricity?!  I’ve recently worked out how expensive furniture is, so I honestly consider buying a few bean bags and calling it a day. Practise some emotion regulation skills and get my panic under control, reminding myself that I’ve budgeted for this and already own most of the furniture I need. I just need to buy a fridge and a TV.
6:00pm — The usual — finish work and straight into a client from my practice. This client is finishing up therapy, and I'm really proud of how far they've come. I recognise how privileged I am that I get to witness it first-hand. People put in so much hard work and commitment into bettering their lives. I can help guide them and suggest strategies that help, but it's absolutely the client who has the hardest job of actually sticking to the plan, especially on the bad days.
7:00pm — Finally make that gym class and feel so much better for it. Exercise is definitely my biggest self-care method. I notice a big difference in my mood on the days I don’t exercise, so I try and get to the gym most days. 
8:00pm — Cook dinner for mum and I while watching more re-runs of Charmed. Mum hates the show but often indulges me by watching it, mostly because commercial TV sucks and we both refuse to watch it.
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11:00pm — I get ready for my full day in my practice tomorrow, packing my lunch, showering, and heading to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day 5

9:00am — Gym, shower, sip coffee number one, and leave for a full day in my clinic.
9:45am — Arrive at my office and get stuck into some more paperwork and planning for today's clients, accompanied by another oat cap ($7). I deliberately changed my schedule recently so I have mornings free for paperwork and planning. I also use this time to follow up on any other tasks for my clients, hoping it'll free up my time during the week. Given that I'm working so much during the week, it's clearly not working very well. I'll have to readjust my schedule again and try to find balance another way. Burnout is a real concern for psychologists, and while I often laugh off concern from M. about working too much, I recognise that it’s not sustainable to do this much during the week. $7
12:00pm — My first client arrives. I'm in sessions back-to-back until 6:30pm.
6:30pm — I'm finished finally. It feels like a looong day, so I practically race my client out the door.
8:30pm — M.'s over and we treat ourselves to noodles ($7.20). Eat, Netflix and chill. I can hardly remember what we watch because I'm so exhausted. I hit the bed early and fall asleep mid-show. $7.20
Daily Total: $14.20

Day 6

7:15am — The alarm goes off for the gym. I leave M. sleeping soundly while I go work out. He goes to a different gym, so he'll head to that later at a more reasonable time for a Saturday morning.
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9:00am — Home, shower, and pack a bag for M.'s as I'm staying at his for the next two days. I race out the door as I'm late for brunch with M., T., their partner, V., and our friend C. I grab an avo toast and two iced oat lattes — $23.
1:00pm — Back at M.'s for more Netflix and chill. We clean up his place and order some snacks (chips and a cheese platter, because we’re fancy!) and drinks (pre-mixed pink gin and beer) as we're having a poker night tonight with our friends from brunch. My share is $46, paid on our joint card. $46
7:00pm — Meet T. and V. at a local brewery for some drinks. I have three beers and also grab a crab burger as I'm hungry — $47.20.
11:00pm — Back at M.'s for poker. It's mine and T.’s first time playing poker. Turns out, I'm surprisingly good at it. I regret not using real money, but the real prize is beating M. We’re weirdly competitive with each other and he thought he would have an easy win!
2:00am — Our friends leave and M. and I clean up the place before finally jumping into bed.
Daily Total: $116.20

Day 7

8:30am — It's officially my birthday, woo! 
10:00am — I have a shower, change, and head out for a birthday breakfast with M. I order French Toast and coffee, and pay $32 for my share. $32
12:00pm — We head to a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition. M. hates it but I love it. It was his idea of a compromise after moving his golf to later in the day. M. pays for me.
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1:30pm — We hire electric scooters to ride back to the car park ($11). It's honestly so much more fun than I thought it would be. I consider buying one for myself, but it's mostly to avoid using the shared helmet again. I can't stop thinking about all the other heads that have touched it before mine. $11
3:00pm — I top up with fuel. It's $67.57 and isn't even a full take. Thanks, Putin. I head home to spend time with my family while M. golfs. My friend, J., comes over and we have a wonderful catch-up. We haven't been able to see each other much as she has a similar work schedule to me. $67.57
6:00pm — More family come over for my birthday dinner. It's honestly the best part of birthdays. I have a pretty big family, so it's extra special to get us all in one place.
7:00pm — M. arrives late from golf. He admits that I was right about not having enough time to play before dinner. It feels good to be right, but I'm very glad he still came to spend time with my family. My younger brother is an incredible golfer, so he spends time winding M. up about gold, as only a brother can. M. only just started playing and has a lot to learn.
11:30pm — All of my family leaves. I head back to M.’s and we hang out for a bit. I fall into an exhausted sleep, probably exacerbated by the massive amount of birthday cake I've eaten.
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Daily Total: $110.57
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.
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