Money Diaries

A Week In Redfern, Sydney, On A $75,000 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.

We're on the search for new Money Diaries! Submit yours here.
Today: a recruiter who makes $75,000 a year spends some of her money this week on a midlife crisis tattoo.
Occupation: Recruiter
Industry: Information Technology
Age: 31
Location: Redfern, Sydney
Salary: I have a base salary of $61,800 and then earn a small commission for every hired recruit. Averaging over a year, that brings my salary to around $75,000.
Net Worth: $202,000 ($170,000 in personal saving accounts, $16,000 in super and $28,000 in a joint savings account with my partner ($14,000 is my share), and around $2,000 in my checking account). I don't own any assets (property or cars) or shares. I think it's important to be independent and have your own savings account, even when in a committed relationship. My spending habits are very different to my partner's and you never know what might happen down the line.
Debt: None. I used to have a credit card (which I always paid in time), but I recently closed it off.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $4,500 — $5,200 (depending on that month's commission).
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $2,100. I live in a one-bedroom apartment that I share with my partner. We have a shared expenses account where we each contribute $430 a week to cover rent, bills, groceries and date nights.
Utilities: $160, split 50/50 with my partner.
Mobile Phone: $30
Opal Card: $120
Cat Expenses: $50 (My partner didn't want a cat, so I cover this on my own).
Savings Contributions: I put $250 each week into our joint savings account (which my partner matches) as well as $150 each week into my personal savings account. These are both set up as recurring auto-payments.

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

Yes. I completed a Bachelor's and Master's degree at a university in Western Europe. Where I'm from, education is heavily subsidised and only costs about $1,500 per year. As a result, five years at university only cost me $7,500, which my parents paid for.

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

My parents didn't give me any direct advice about money, but they weren't big spenders — we never went to any restaurants and rarely went on holidays. They made it quite clear that if I wanted something, I'd have to save up for it myself. I think that led to me being quite frugal with my money.
My main finance philosophy comes from a quote I read years ago: "The richest people aren't those that earn the most, they are the ones that save the most." While I definitely earn below the industry average right now (I'm just don't have the energy to find a new job), I still manage to save a decent amount. I consider myself to be quite a thrifty person and care a lot about sustainable practices. I make a lot of smaller, more conscious choices which end up making the biggest impact on my wallet.

For example, I'm very low maintenance in regards to beauty — I rarely buy makeup, never get my nails done and always wax at home. I also make my own coffee rather than buying one each day, and set my laundry and dishwashing machine on a timer so they run during the off-peak rate.

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

My siblings and I didn't get any pocket money growing up. If we wanted something, we had to earn it ourselves. I worked about a dozen different jobs on weekends and school holidays from the age of 15 until I was 22. I worked in a laundry factory, a potato factory (it was a tedious job but night shifts paid really well), a clothes shop, as a postperson, in a supermarket and as a bartender. I also babysat one or two evenings each week, which earned me just enough cash to cover my nights out and other expenses. Most of the money from my 'real' jobs went straight into my savings account.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I didn't spend much time thinking about money when I was younger. I had quite a low-maintenance lifestyle so my spending was easily covered by my little jobs on the side. It wasn't something I worried about, nor did I think about the future much.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, I definitely do. My friends and I don't talk much about money, so I can't compare, but I assume that I have more savings than the average person. Even so, I'm one of the few people in my friendship circle who doesn't own property. I also have a lot less super than most as I worked overseas for so long. This causes me a bit of stress, especially when I think about my future. I do what I can, though. When making any purchase, price is the number one thing I look at. I don't see this as limiting, though — it can be quite fun and rewarding to be thrifty!

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

I became financially responsible for myself when I left my home country after university at 23. I'd been paying for my own spending since I was 15 (things like holidays, nights out and transport), but my parents covered my university housing. The moment I left to go travelling, I had to fully pay my own way. My safety net is my savings. I would never borrow money from friends or relatives — I would die of embarrassment!

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

When I was born, my parents put money into a long-term investment account in my name. When the term expired a few years ago, I received about $10,000 — a surprise that I'm quite grateful for.

Day 1

8:00am — I wake up. I've decided to take the day off today as I've barely taken any annual leave throughout the neverending panini. Plus, I feel like having a long weekend! I start my usual morning routine — scooping out my cat's litter tray and feeding her. I catch myself in the mirror — I'm really starting to look old. I grab my yoga mat and laptop, choose a 20-minute video on Youtube from Yoga With Adriene and get stretching.
8:30am — I wrap up my yoga mat and go to the bathroom to do my morning skincare routine. Then, I make myself a stovetop coffee and have my standard breakfast — granola, Greek yoghurt and banana while I scroll aimlessly on my phone.
9:30am — I take the train to Newtown, tapping on with my Opal card. I've decided to finally get that tattoo I've always wanted! I feel like I might be heading towards a midlife crisis soon, so it's only suitable to signify a new chapter. I want my tattoo to be unique, so I have the tattoo artist draw up a few sketches based on my very vague ideas. She's great and after only 15 minutes, we have a small custom flower design ready to go! I pay her $200 and walk out feeling like a new woman. This is quite a large expense for me, so I decide to not waste any more money on transport, walking home instead. It takes 40 minutes but I don't mind — the sun is out! $200
12:00pm — I look through the fridge and throw together a hummus and falafel wrap for lunch.
1:00pm — I spend the afternoon doing life admin. But let's be honest, I spend most of the time scrolling on my phone. It's a habit I really want to get rid of, but the addiction is strong.
4:00pm — Our apartment is small and short on storage space, so I've been going through our stuff and trying to sell a few items on Marketplace. The number of people that express interest and then ghost me is so large, it's slightly annoying. But today's my lucky day as a buyer actually shows up as promised. They give me a crisp $30 in exchange for a plant and some fairy lights. I found the fairy lights in a council pickup stash, so this is pure profit! It's a shame how often perfectly fine things get tossed out these days, so I feel good that I've saved something, whilst also earning a bit of cash on the side.
6:00pm — The doorbell rings with our Marley Spoon delivery. I paid $53.56 for three two-person dinners, using a discount code to bring it down (I would never pay full price!). I also have a HelloFresh account, so I pretty much alternate between the two, using the discount codes they send to lure you back in if you haven't ordered with them in a few weeks. Works for me!
7:00pm — My partner comes home and we make dinner together with one of the Marley Spoon meal kits — steak with a garden salad. Yum!
8:00pm — We spend the evening playing Scrabble. Much to my partner's annoyance (but to no one's surprise), I win.
Daily Total: $200

Day 2

7:30am — I start the day by making myself a stovetop coffee at home. It's more effort than buying one down the road, but I've made it a part of my morning routine and it's just as tasty (and cheaper!). Add some granola to yoghurt and a few cuddles with my cat for breakfast, and I'm ready to start the day. 
8:30am — Working from home today. My day off yesterday was relaxing, but now I have a million emails to push through. Before I know it, it's lunchtime. I rush out of my house as I have an appointment with the hairdresser — ah, the benefits of working from home.
12:30pm — I walk to Surry Hills and get a wash, cut and blow-dry at Edwards and Co. The cost? Zero dollars! I discovered this Facebook page ages ago where apprentice hairdressers look for 'models'. Trust me, you don't have to look like a model, you just need to have hair. The entire session is supervised by a senior hairdresser, so you really can't go wrong. This time, I'm just getting a cut, but I've previously had a balayage done and only had to cover the cost of the product, saving me $300! So good!
2:00pm — I walk out of the salon feeling refreshed, but also starving. I stop at my favourite bakery to grab a meat pie. Sadly, they're all sold out, so I leave empty-handed. I really need to get back to work, so I make myself some two-minute noodles at home and get back behind the laptop.
6:00pm — Just as I'm replying to my last few emails, I get a notification on my phone that our Woolworths Everyday Rewards points have reached 2000, earning us $10 off our next shop. I've linked my Marley Spoon spending to the card, so yesterday's delivery got us over the 2000 point mark. Woohoo! I decide to go to Woolies for some treats — chips, chocolate and Optic White toothpaste (for half price!). I use my $10 credit and spend a grand total of $3.90 out of pocket. $3.90
7:30pm — My partner left for a three-day work trip this morning, so I guess it's my turn to cook dinner tonight. I choose the quickest option out of the two remaining meal kits which is a couscous, veggie and goats cheese bake. I spend the rest of the evening relaxing on the couch with my cat, while reading a book on my Kindle.
Daily Total: $3.90

Day 3

7:30am — The usual morning ritual and breakfast. While I munch away, the doorbell rings. It's another Marketplace sale. They've come to pick up a muffin tray I bought during the first lockdown and — you guessed it — didn't use even once. The lady pays me $4 for it and goes on her way.
8:00am — I have to go into the office today, so I give my cat some cuddles and head off. The weather is exceptionally nice today, so instead of cycling or taking the bus, I walk to work and get my steps in for the day. I make the most of it, plugging in my headphones and listening to an episode of the Hidden Brain podcast. Funnily enough, the latest episode is the first in a series called 'Money 2.0'. It's all about how 'Money Scripts' (your unconscious beliefs about finances) affect our everyday behaviour. It's quite interesting!
10:00am — I make myself a coffee from the office coffee machine. It's a proper machine that freshly grinds the coffee beans, not just Nespresso cups. As a result, the coffee is great (and free!). Despite this, I'm one of the few people who uses it. Everyone else goes downstairs and buys their coffee from a cafe. I just don't understand why you would go and buy coffee if you can get it free here?!
12:30pm — I have my leftover couscous from last night and have it for lunch. Most of my colleagues around the table are having overpriced sushi they've just bought. They clearly haven't watched Seaspiracy yet!
6:00pm — Done with work for the day. I take the bus and tap on with my Opal card. During the bus ride home, I scroll through my phone and go through my personal emails.
7:00pm — Hump day is hitting hard and I definitely don't feel like cooking this evening. I order a bottle of red wine and a pizza through VOLY (an instant grocery delivery service) and add on a single banana to reach the 'free delivery' threshold (and to make me feel a bit healthier!). $30.80
7:30pm — I watch a Netflix show while having my pizza. I don't pay for the subscription myself — I got my sibling's password three years ago when I was visiting them back home and have been using their Netflix ever since. I'm not sure if they're aware of this arrangement, but we never watch at the same time due to the time difference, so it works out just great for me.
9:30pm — I shower and read my Kindle in bed before dozing off.
Daily Total: $30.80

Day 4

6:30am — I wake up, quickly chug three glasses of tap water and grab my bicycle to get to my 7:15am Lifeblood appointment. I try to donate plasma every two weeks and even with my brand-new tattoo, I'm still eligible. The nurse says I have "a beautiful vein" and " a great flow" — compliments that only make sense in this setting. It takes about 40 minutes and I pass the time reading on my Kindle. After I finish, I move to the refreshments area where I enjoy breakfast — coffee and a spinach and ricotta roll (totally free!) before heading off to the office. 
12:30pm — I normally always bring my own lunch from home, but this morning I didn't have the time to prepare something. I find myself aimlessly wandering around the CBD and getting overwhelmed with all the food options and the high prices. After 15 minutes of indecision, I end up at a salad bar and buy a cold crumbed chicken pasta and Greek salad combo for $11.90. I eat it in the kitchen area back at work and have a glass of tap water. $11.90
6:00pm — A few colleagues are going for after-work drinks and I'm the last person that would say no to this. We go to an Irish pub, have some beers and talk about all the things we can't talk about at work when HR is in earshot. The more senior colleagues are shouting every single round and I don't feel guilty about it one bit — we all know they earn double what I do. 
10:00pm — My colleagues are still going, but I'm a responsible cat mum, so I hop on the bus home. I feed the cat and realise I haven't actually eaten dinner myself. Luckily, there are still some slices of yesterday's pizza left in the fridge, which I heat up in the microwave and happily devour.
11:00pm — After a quick shower, I finish the day with my two-step skincare evening routine. I apply The Ordinary's Buffet serum, followed by their Granactive Retinoid 5% in squalane formula. I'm far from a skincare expert, so I stick to The Ordinary as it's affordable with great reviews from people who seem to know what they are talking about.
Daily Total: $11.90

Day 5

8:00am — I've snoozed my alarm about seven times now, but finally get myself out of bed. I put on another Yoga With Adriene video on my laptop and try to manifest some energy to get me through this last working day of the week. At least I get to work from home today. I make the usual stovetop coffee and granola breakfast while starting work.
12:30pm — I have two piles of clothing next to my bed that are collecting dust. Two weeks ago, I did a closet clean and put 20+ items on Marketplace. Unfortunately, I haven't had any success with selling them. I accept defeat, stuff them into a bag, and walk to the local op shop to donate them. I pretty much buy 90% of my clothes secondhand, so I sneak in a browse around as well. This particular op shop is my favourite as every single item is only $5! I walk out with two pairs of jeans, one summer dress and one crop top,  paying only $20 for the lot — huge success! $20
1:30pm — I quickly make myself a pesto and cheese toastie for lunch and get back to work, trying to avoid getting crumbs all over my work laptop.
5:30pm — Freedom! I close my laptop for the week and head over to Woolworths to do some grocery shopping. I pick up breakfast and lunch supplies including bread, granola, muesli (for my partner), yoghurt, cheese and eggs ($26.15, paid on our joint account). I know Woolworths isn't the cheapest supermarket around, but it's just around the corner from us whereas Aldi is a 15-minute walk. When it comes to grocery shopping, convenience is king. $26.15
6:00pm — My partner is finally home again which makes me happy for so many reasons — including the fact that I don't have to cook dinner tonight! We catch up while he preps the last meal from our meal kit — veggie dumplings with sesame rice and Japanese vegetables.
7:00pm — My partner is tired from his work trip, so we have a cosy 'Netflix and chill' night in together, finishing the bottle of red I bought the other day.
Daily Total: $46.15

Day 6

9:00am — My entire family lives overseas and it's been years since I last saw them. With the restrictions finally eased and the weather turning colder here, a European summer is starting to sound very tempting. I walk to Flight Centre to get a quote for a flight home to Europe. The spokesperson isn't very helpful and the cheapest flight he can offer is $1,800... ONE WAY! I leave. Back at home, I have a quick browse on Skyscanner and Panflights and instantly find a flight for $800. I remind myself that this is why I arrange my travel myself. I don't book it yet as I want to have my leave from work approved first.
12:30pm — I'm still thinking about that sold-out meat pie from earlier in the week, so I finally head over to the bakery. They're in stock! And they're so good! The crumb, the chicken and mushroom filling, the consistency. It scores high on every single meat pie criteria checklist. $7
1:30pm — The brakes on my bicycle aren't working as well as they should and I've been postponing having them looked at. After a quick Google, I find a place just five minutes from our apartment — Cycle Re-Cycle. It's a community bike workshop led by volunteers, where they teach you how to fix your bike yourself. The volunteer who assists me is nothing short of amazing and insists on fully servicing my bike. Before I know it, I've not only realigned my brakes, I've also fine-tuned the tyres, the spokes and the steering wheel mechanism. An hour later, and my bike is like new. I ask what I owe and they tell me that I don't have to pay a cent — I only used the tools and did everything by myself. I think they're exaggerating, but I am quite content with the result.
7:00pm — I head to the city for dinner and drinks with my girlfriends. It's not raining, so I choose to walk there (plus, taxis are expensive!). The bar where we meet has a happy hour until 8pm where it's only $6 for a beer or house wine. I take advantage of the offer all night, also ordering a burger with fries to fuel me. It's freezing tonight and I'm not really dressed for it, so I end up heading home quite early, only spending $46 this evening. $46
10:30pm — During my walk home, I promise myself to start eating healthier next week. My partner isn't home yet — he's gone out for drinks with his own friends. I put on a face mask and have a catch-up call with a friend from Europe before going to bed.
Daily Total: $53

Day 7

8:00am — I wake up because the cat is kneading biscuits on my chest. Clearly, someone is in need of attention and food. I get up, feed her and do my usual morning face care routine. Nothing too fancy. I wash my face using Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser. Even though I use it in the morning as well as the evening, one bottle seems to last me for ages — and I love how it leaves my skin feeling so fresh. After my cleanse, I apply The Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum. It's been an absolute gamechanger for me since I went off the pill two years ago (I'm definitely not trying to get pregnant — we use condoms instead now). Since then, I've been struggling with adult acne, but after just three weeks of using this serum, my skin completely cleared up, so now I'm hooked. Lastly, I put on some SPF day cream, which is currently Nivea's Q10 Power Anti-Wrinkle SPF30.
8:30am — It's Sunday, so I break away from my usual granola breakfast and make some scrambled eggs on toast, as well as my usual coffee. My partner was out late last night with his friends, but the smell of coffee wakes him, so I make another cup and bring it to him in bed.
10:00am — I'm close to finishing the book I've been reading on my Kindle and realise it's time to get a few new books from my neverending to-read list. I don't pay for my e-books, instead using a free online e-library. I'm not sure it's totally legal as it seems too good to be true, but I tell myself that the website would have been taken offline already if it wasn't fully kosher. I grab my reading list, download five new books and put them on my Kindle. 
12:00pm — It's quite warm today and I can already feel the work week anxiety approaching, so I don't want to waste the rest of the day sitting indoors. I easily convince my partner to head to the beach for a coastal stroll, so we jump in his car and drive over to Coogee Beach, struggling to find parking as always. We finally find a spot and my partner pays for parking. It's lunchtime, so we head over to a cafe and order a falafel bowl (for me) and a burger (for my partner). It comes to $31, paid out of our joint account. $31
4:00pm — Over 10,000 steps, a swim and sufficient lazing in the sun later, we jump back in the car and head home. 
6:00pm — I go through the fridge and freezer and discover there's not much in there besides sandwich stuff. My partner wants to order food again, but we've already had lunch out today, so I feel like that would be a bit much. I quickly run over to Woolworths and buy two frozen pizzas ($15.80 on the joint account). It's okay — I'm starting my healthy eating habits tomorrow. $15.80
7:00pm — The oven timer goes off. We nibble our pizzas, watch Netflix and cuddle with the cat.
Daily Total: $46.80
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.
For many of us, money can be a major source of stress. But it doesn’t have to be. Become more confident with our beginner's guide to managing your money.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it here.

More from Work & Money