Money Diaries

A Week In Footscray, Melbourne, As A Receptionist On $61,000

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: a receptionist who makes $61,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a t-shirt at an Orville Peck gig.
Occupation: Receptionist
Industry: Accounting / Finance
Age: 27
Location: Footscray, Melbourne
Salary: $61,000
Net Worth: -$45,134 ($650 in savings — you have to start somewhere! — plus $8,818 in superannuation).
Debt: $54,602 in HECS. I’ve had credit cards in the past, but they’re more trouble than they’re worth for my little ADHD brain. I’ve paid them all off now though.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $3,773
Pronouns: She/They

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $977.50. I live with my housemate in a big three-bedroom house.
Stan: $10 (My housemate uses this too, and I use their Netflix. It’s mutual mooching. Try saying that quickly five times.).
Apple Music and iCloud: $15.99
ADHD Meds: $49.50
Utilities: $150
Phone: $110
NBN Internet: $39.50 (Split with my housemate).
Myki [Public Transport] Pass: $155.56
Rainy Day Fund: $400
Savings: $400
Groceries: $400 (I’m trying to see how much I need to spend on groceries a month, so this is subject to change.).

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

Yes. I have a Bachelor of Creative Arts that I do fuck all with. Attempted a Bachelor of Music Theatre, and a Bachelor of Arts/Master of Teaching, but I dropped out. Paid for by the almighty HECS gods. One day I hope to appease them by paying it off, but today is not that day.

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

Usually, these conversations started and ended with “we can’t afford this” or “just save money, it's not that hard!”. Having ADHD makes saving money very hard. When I see money in my account, my instinct is to spend it. I’m now trying to break that habit. My family often didn’t understand how difficult it is for my little dopamine-seeking brain to save money.

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

I used to babysit family friends’ kids from as early as 15, but my first 'real' job was at 18 — I was a secretary for the family business. I needed a job, they needed a secretary. Match made in heaven. I cycled through several shitty retail jobs after that, some better than others but sadly all temporary admin jobs, and now I’ve found a really great workplace I’d like to stay in and continue to succeed in.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Absolutely. I just knew we often didn’t have enough of it, especially after my parents got divorced. My family varied from being reasonably well-off to having to accept food drive donations from the local church. I learned to scrounge wherever possible, and to this day, I know how to make a dollar stretch at the supermarket and how to find a great deal at the infamous Side Of The Road Marketplace. Thankfully my parents are doing a lot better now.

Do you worry about money now?

YES. Oh lord, yes. I’ve spent most of my early adulthood spending money with reckless abandon, not saving, and wondering why I’m perpetually broke. In my late twenties, I’m attempting to carve out my little squirrel nest for me and my cats. I hope that keeping abreast of what I spend will help. I’ve paid down all my debts (except that little bastard, HECS), so now I’m learning how to save.

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

At 19, when I felt too guilty to mooch off my parents at home, so I decided to guiltily mooch off everyone else. Lord knows I tried, but I really threw myself into the deep end without floaties. I don’t have a financial safety net, because my savings (until recently) were a paperclip down the side of my couch, and maybe a couple of 5-cent pieces I found on the ground. But I’m getting there.

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

I’ve had supplementary income from Centrelink on a couple of occasions, and I took out $10,000 of my super in 2021 to pay down my debts during Covid. Nothing right now, though.

Day 1

6:15am — Good morning, star shines! The earth says... it’s too early and too cold. I snooze the alarm for customary snuggle time with my cats. As it’s almost freezing point outside, I blast the heaters until I decide it’s warm enough to leave the cave. Then I take my meds and down a glass of Berocca. 
7:30am — I leave the house for work, a slice of raisin toast with Nutella firmly in hand. I regret not bringing a beanie or gloves. I shove my hands in my coat pockets so they don’t fall off. I choose to walk to the station rather than taking a bus because I’m impatient and I like the exercise. At the train station, I touch on with my Myki (I buy a pass once a month, so it pays for itself). On the train, I scroll through Depop, which is one of my many weaknesses, and buy myself a sensible grey jumper — $20.
8:30am — Arriving at my desk, I brace myself for a long day of meeting prep, so I make myself a double-shot latte with almond milk. My office is equipped with a professional-grade coffee machine, which saves me sooo much money on takeaway. It's also turned me into a total coffee snob. 
12:00pm — I eat my lunch at my desk like a little gremlin while I wait for my colleague to finish her meeting. I try to always bring leftovers, so today’s selection is spicy stir fry with veggies, chicken and Korean rice cakes. 
12:30pm — I transfer my calls to my colleague and have a little walk up the street in search of something to wear to a work event this weekend. After a failed attempt last weekend, which involved trying on the world’s supply of dresses and feeling dysphoric, I’ve resolved to wear a suit instead. Rather than finding a suit, I find myself at Salvos. Not my favourite op shop, but I need more work pants. I walk out of the store with two pairs of trousers, one in black and one in tan ($22). I’m craving a little treat, so I dip into Coles and buy myself a little chocolate cupcake and a bottle of pressed juice ($9). $31
2:30pm — The afternoon is very quiet, and with all meetings accounted for, I tuck into my cupcake. It’s rich and delicious, and the icing is decadent enough to chew. 
4:30pm — I’m bloody hungry! Must be my descending period. I snack on some herby Parmesan seed crackers from my stash while I check my calendar. 
5:00pm — Another day, another dollar. I take the tram into the CBD for a 5:30pm appointment with a tattoo removal place. The session is free — it’s just a consultation about costs. They’re able to do my first removal session tonight. It's pricey, but not as bad as I'd expected. I decide to book three sessions and I set up a payment plan, the first slice of which I pay upfront. $168
6:30pm — Ow ow ow! That was some expensive pain. Worse than any tattoo I’ve gotten! But thankfully brief. I get a lollipop for being a good sport. With that done, I walk up Swanston St and settle on B.east for dinner. I get a chicken burger with fries ($20). I’m hungrier than I expect and I walk and nom. It was definitely worth the long wait. I duck into the Coles and grab some Vitamin E cream while I'm out ($4.25). $24.25
7:30pm — Walking home with a belly full of delicious food, I get chatting with one of my best mates, C., on the phone. He lives regionally and doubles as my ex-boyfriend. But we were able to transition into friendship and we’ve been that way ever since. When I get home, I say hello to my cats, make a cup of tea, and settle into my little bed nest to do some writing. I write fan fiction for fun and I'm working on a rom-com. Annoyingly, I've just been dumped, so it's been more difficult lately. 
10:15pm — Decide to watch some Safiya Nygaard videos to relax. Bed, and lavender wheat pack to compensate for the lack of humans in my bed. Brown noise and lights out. Night night, world!
Daily Total: $243.25

Day 2

6:40am — Uurrrgggghhhhh… I didn’t sleep the best last night. My mind was racing with thoughts of life and work and it ended up taking me a while to relax enough for sleep. When I wake, I sit in bed procrastinating moving for as long as possible with my cat C., who's on my chest and purring her little face off. Get used to this — they both insist on snuggles every morning!
7:35am — No time to eat! I watch my Berocca taunt me by dissolving as slowly as possible and run out the door, resigned to being a little late to the office. Once again, it’s hand-achingly cold outside and I couldn’t find my gloves in my bomb site of a room. Knowing them, they’re probably hiding in a corner, laughing at me. I make it to the earlier train by the skin of my teeth.
8:40am — By some divine miracle, I’m early! Coffee and Sultana Bran in hand, I check the mail and my emails. The big boss himself has replied to one of my messages. He even calls me by my preferred name! I have a Sally Field at the Oscars moment. 
11:30am — My credit card is all paid up, so once I’m clear to head off on my lunch hour, I call the bank to cancel it. I sit back and enjoy the feeling of a whole new world... of no credit card debt! I walk up the street in search of some lunch. I grab a carbonara on clearance, along with a green juice, some bananas, oat bars, and seed crackers for my work snack drawer, plus some canned cat food for the kids. $22.22
5:00pm — Aaand we’re off! After a long exhausting day, it’s a relief to have the evening for myself. Tomorrow is shaping up to be more relaxing — and much shorter! I take a tram into the city because I’m going to buy my outfit for the work function, even if it’s the last thing I damn well do! 
5:50pm — There are only a few sizes left in the suit I want and thankfully they're mine! I have some period bloat, but I know that’ll go down when my period realises she’s invited. I go for it — it’s giving me the Lorde in 2014 fantasy I wanted. I cry a little at the price, but I know I’ll wear it again ($229). After, I dip right into Bras n Things because I know there's a bustier that will look perfect with it. And I’m right. A fact I love, but my bank account does not. I buy it and a pair of nipple pasties ($103), because although the world should appreciate my nipples, I’ll be keeping them to myself at a work function. At least I get a coupon out of it! After flirting with the idea of getting some jewellery, I remember I never wear it and I can wear something that I have at home. Instead, I hunt for a bag while talking to C. on the phone. He reserves his work driving time for me almost every other day. $332
7:00pm — I've given up. Any bag I think is a contender is either too expensive, or made out of fake snakeskin/crocodile skin. God, I hate this trend. *millennial grouching*. I resolve to try the op shops before Saturday night. At this point, I must stress, dear readers, that this is not an ordinary spending week for me. I’ve got a lot of events on, so I’ve been eating out and buying a lot.  
9:00pm — I'm too lazy to make a proper dinner so I have avocado toast with baked beans on top. Real classy. My housemate comes down and we catch up. She’s going away for a week, so I won’t see them until next week. I leave the conversation with a donut and a leftover curry to take to work tomorrow. Thanks, roomie!
10:00pm — Feeling like an old fogie, I spend the evening nursing a sore back and head while drinking tea and talking to people on a dating app. Maybe I’ll write to them tomorrow. Maybe. Night night. 
Daily Total: $354.22 

Day 3

6:30am — Happy Friday! I've slept like a log, waking up to T. firmly wedged between my legs and eager for pets, as usual. 
7:35am — Clumsily balancing some Vegemite and butter crumpets in my hands, I head out the door, safe in the knowledge that I'VE FINALLY FOUND MY GLOVES! They were sitting at the top of the staircase, so I suspect the cats have been playing with them and batted them there.
8:10am — The cafe in the train station is playing Friday by Rebecca Black. Iconic behaviour. I have a jam as I walk to my tram stop, and queue her collab with Slayyyter on Spotify. I don’t pay for my Spotify — I’m on a family account with a friend, which is communism hard at work. 
8:45am — Settle into my desk for another day of action and intrigue in receptionist life. I smack myself on the head when I realise I forgot to grab a top that I was meant to post today, so I resolve to do so tomorrow. I receive the email for our gas bill and I cry inwardly. It’s over $400. The price we pay for warmth and gas during a shortage! My plumbing reimbursement still hasn’t been processed, so I know I’ll have to put my big grown-up pants on again to ask for an update. My housemate hypes me up. 
10:00am — $30 pings into my spending account from a Facebook Marketplace sale. Woohoo! I gained a lot of clothes from my last retail job and have since realised that I’d never wear them in real life. So I’d rather they go to more appreciative homes. I have a little brainstorm about what else I can sell. I then sit at my desk twiddling my thumbs, talking to my sister on the phone. It’s bloody cold in the office, so I make myself a hot chocolate and wince at the occasional cramps. Maybe Miss Flo is making her appearance after all.
11:50am — Yay, one of my Depop packages has arrived! It’s a vintage mini dress and I am a keen bean. I’m feeling restless at my desk, so I go on my lunch hour. I dip into Salvos and manage to rustle up a silver clutch bag. It’s a bit of a rip-off ($10) — I finally see why customers complained about prices when I worked at an op shop. $10
3:30pm — Aaannnddd that’s a wrap! I've spent the last half hour with smoke coming off the keyboard, but now my work is all done for the week and I can relax. As I munch a banana and walk to the tram stop, I realise I’ve forgotten my mask. Hopefully the psych’s office has some, otherwise, I may have to grab some en route. The irony is that I see this psych for my ADHD. This will be my case to keep me on my meds, folks. 
5:10pm — Mental stability comes at a cost. A cost that is thankfully refunded partially by Medicare ($220). I’m prescribed a new higher dose of my medication and am recommended mood stabilisers. I do have a little cry when I talk about my ex. On the way home, I’m feeling hungry and I debate getting a little snack. As I switch trains, I quickly get myself a Mars Bar which is a rip-off ($3.50), but someone left their Doritos in the slot, so it balances out. As the train is limited express, I decide to get off before my stop and pick up my new script and some toothpaste ($54.88). I walk the rest of the way home. It’s a bit of a longer trek, but I don’t mind. $278.38
11:00pm — I'm feeling hormonal and sad. I chat with C. and some other friends and have a good rant. My internet friend sends me a silly joke to cheer me up, which does make me giggle. I call it a night. 
Daily Total: $288.38

Day 4

8:30am — I'm rudely awakened by the sensation of my uterus wringing itself out like a sponge. My period is well and truly in town. I sit on my bed in my Oodie while I eat some chocolate and writhe in agony with a heat pack on my stomach. Truly the picture of glamour. I know I have to get up, eat, and run errands, but quite frankly, I just want to order Uber Eats and feel sorry for myself. I’m craving an egg and bacon roll and I have neither of those things. On the bright side, I’m treated to my Medicare refund in my spending account (+$121.40) so clearly, the gods are on my side. 
10:00am — My sister (aka my self-appointed financial advisor) talks me out of ordering in by suggesting I buy the ingredients for the roll tomorrow when I go out. She’s right. I decide to rustle up some avocado toast and baked beans… when T. stops being so damn adorable and cuddly. Seriously, he’s headbutting my hand as I type. 
12:30pm — Period has hit me like a ton of bricks. I have to really make myself leave the house to run my errands before the post office closes at midday. I look like death warmed up, but I get my package sent ($9.55), then I head to the supermarket and pick up eggs, bacon, some chicken and beef, and pasta sauce. I also get myself ginger lime sparkling water to curb the gross period pain nausea ($40.11). $49.66
11:30pm — I do some washing, make a spag bol for lunch (a huuuge batch for meal prep), and get ready for the work function. It goes well! I get an Uber home ($23.62). It's not something I prefer to shell money out for, but I wasn’t about to go home in these heels. I’m ready to retire them and get into bed with the cats! $23.62
12:00am — HOME!!! Cats are very pleased to see me, especially C., who welcomes me home with smooches and leg rubs. My feet and body are knackered. I’m period-horny, so I have a wank. What can I say? It helps me relax! Night night.
Daily Total: $73.28 

Day 5

9:00am — I wake up with T. firmly curled up in the nook between my torso and legs. He’s purring so loudly that I can hear him over the heater. He’s giving me such an adoring look that I can’t bear to leave him. 
10:30am — Finally manage to drag myself out of bed and make myself some toast with avocado, eggs and bacon on top. It’s creamy and salty and hits the spot that yesterday's craving left. As it’s a beautiful sunny day, I bring the washing outside to dry, while making sure that C. doesn’t do a runner (she longs for the wilderness). I plan my outfit about three times over for a gig I'm going to tonight. 
12:30pm — I consider switching my income account to another account that rounds up every purchase into a savings account. Any way I can save money without intentionally saving money is good by me! 
3:30pm — I change my mind AGAIN about my outfit for tonight, settling on my Lucy and Yak pants, a black long-sleeved crop top and a vintage green cardigan. Shoes are yet to be decided. 
4:30pm — Have an hour-long conversation with C. on the phone in which I finally block my recent ex on social media. As I do it, I have a big cleansing yell. He’s proud of me. I open the new bank account and feel more geriatric than I did this morning when I pulled a silver hair out of my head. Thanks for the premature greys, Mum! 
6:45pm — On my way to the concert — I'm seeing Orville Peck! I'm feeling very nervous and my hypochondriac brain is working on overdrive. I get myself a cheeky 7-Eleven meat pie on my way to the gig ($4.50) and get in line for the box office. I’m all masked up — I ain’t getting no Covid! I just had it two weeks ago, but even with my immunity, I’m not risking it. Once I get all checked in, I make a beeline for the merch stand and buy myself a t-shirt ($50). Best. Purchase. Ever. Note to self: never wear double long sleeves to a gig again. I redeem my free drink at the bar (in my case, a Solo as I rarely drink alcohol), and settle into my booth. There's no one else in my booth for a while, so I feel a bit like royalty (during the opening act, at least). $54.50
8:30pm — As I sit in my booth, my brain has an overwhelming urge to write. Suddenly, I find myself writing and plotting away, which continues in any spare moment I have. 
12:15am — Home, ears thoroughly caressed by Orville Peck. Have a crumpet and some raisin toast, ready to turn in for the night. Excuse me while I slip into a coma. I am too old to be going out twice in a row. 
Daily Total: $54.50

Day 6

7:15am — I’m late, I’m late, I’m late! No T., stop giving me those adorable eyes! Mummy needs to get dressed! I pull on some black trousers, the same black crop top that was a mistake the previous night and a black long blazer with a green overcoat. It’s a rare ensemble when I wear no colour. I feel like a sophisticated business person. 
7:40am — I was supposed to have left for work five minutes ago, but I can’t decide what shoes will hurt my feet the least! I don’t even have time to grab myself some leftovers, so annoyingly, I’ll have to buy lunch. I really prefer not to, but at least I’m spoiled for choice in my area. 
8:35am — A bit late but everyone’s having a slow start anyhow. I grab the mail and check my emails. Thank God there are no meetings until the afternoon. I feel like a zombie. Coffee and Sultana Bran, give me strength! Once I’ve done my morning tasks, I sit at my desk stimming with my lipstick tube. It makes a nice clicking sound when I open it. 
12:30pm — Lunchtime! I'm actually quite hungry now. In Coles, I labour over what ready-made meal I want, eventually settling on a chicken katsu curry and a pressed juice. I want Charlie’s, but for some reason, they’re nowhere to be seen! In addition, there are a couple of house essentials I need, so I grab some cat food, peppermints, almond milk and two blocks of chocolate (there was none left in the house, which needed to be rectified immediately). $33.75
1:10pm — Back at my desk. I decide to make tomorrow a no-spend day, so I can feel a little better about all my exorbitant life choices in the last week. 
2:30pm — It’s review time, so I have lots of internal meetings to accept! My calendar is looking like a stream of confetti. I already feel exhausted at how many meetings I’ll have to coordinate. Have some quiet time and unstack the dishwasher. When I get back to my desk, there’s a letter ready to be sent. It doesn’t go down without a fight and I get a papercut (workplace injury — I will be asking for compensation... just kidding.). 
5:00pm — And that’s me done! Time for an evening of food, writing, and tea (hopefully the literal and metaphorical type). 
10:00pm — Lord knows I tried… I really did. I get some writing done, but my brain just doesn’t want to make words. I feel as if I’m back in uni procrastinating on an essay. Good night, world. 
Daily Total: $33.75

Day 7

6:45am — My form is slightly better today. I manage to leave the bed burrito before 7am. We end this little adventure as it began — with C. smooching me and T. being too adorable to warrant any productivity. 
7:35am — I scrape by my departure time, sculling my usual Berocca as I race out the door. I daydream about the peanut butter toast I’ll have when I get into the office. Amazingly, the train and tram aren't too crowded. I guess a lot more people are electing to work from home, which is fine by me. 
8:25am — I get so struck by writing inspiration on my walk to the office that I completely stack it on my own feet. I end up with a nice graze up my calf for my troubles. That’s what I get for being a clumsy writer. My colleague is off sick, so I’m in charge of setting up a big meeting today. Aaaagggghhhh! 
12:00pm — Chaos ensues. I can’t find all the drinks for the big meeting this afternoon because someone’s moved them! Eventually, I find them hiding in a corner. Why? And who put them there? No idea. 
12:50pm — I realise that I need to cut down on the coffee while I adjust to my meds as I’ve got a splitting headache. I heat up my lunch (spaghetti bolognese) for round two of 'eating at my desk like the gremlin I am' and make myself a peppermint tea. I have to rustle up someone’s fork from upstairs, as the rest are being used for the meeting. Gremlin lunch ensues. The meeting is over, so once they all disperse, I see what I can rustle up for dinner tonight. I settle on salad and a couple of sandwiches. I retire to a quiet space in the kitchen and try to bang out some writing. Amazingly, I make some progress.
2:40pm — I have a discussion with a colleague about chocolate-coated fruit and nuts. Talk turns to my favourite trail mix — Harvest Box Almond Latte. Coles stopped selling it, but I learn that I can order it in bulk online. Am very tempted to do so... but I bookmark the site for later. I feel geriatric again when I realise how excited I am for a $12 saving on a bulk purchase. 
6:00pm — Home, sweet home! Dinner, sweet dinner! I have a rather productive evening washing my burgeoning dishes, bringing in a load of washing, and having a nice long chat with C. My life is nothing if not routine. I make a big batch of Japanese curry and some rice, taking care to separate it into portions. It makes it so much easier to grab it and go. 
10:30pm — Bed! Goodnight and farewell, dear readers! 
Daily Total: $0
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