Money Diaries

A Week In South Brisbane As A Registered Nurse On $60,000

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Today: a nurse who lives in South Brisbane and makes $60,000 a year spends over $2,500 on a Melbourne-trip-gone-wrong.
Editor's Note: This is a follow-up diary. Before reading this diary, we recommend you read this Money Diary from last year.
Occupation: Registered Nurse
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 29
Location: South Brisbane
My Salary: $60,300
My Husband's Salary: $95,000
Net Worth: $487,642 (Combined superannuation: $269,073, property equity: $260,000, micro-investing: $7,857, cash savings: $140,000, overseas cash and investments: $51,000.) My husband and I have joined all of our Australian accounts together, barring one for his personal spending money. We have both budgeted $38 a week for discretionary spending. Anything other than what is budgeted for amounts over $100 needs to be discussed with the other half.
Debt: $240,508 for the mortgage.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $4,095 (I make $1,400 a fortnight, but this can fluctuate due to shift penalties, overtime or sick leave. I also get an extra $356 by salary sacrificing. My husband makes $2,695 a fortnight). I've been trying to earn a bit extra for about a year now by picking up extra shifts to save up for travel. While on long service leave at half pay next year, we intend to travel around Australia, camping, working for food and accommodation or maybe even doing some odd jobs.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,476, split between the two of us. We own a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit that we live in. However, we anticipate further costs due to a small roof leak in our second bedroom.
Loans: My parents generously loaned us $30,000 to sit in our offset account. There is no particular due date for repayment.
Phone: $95
Electricity: $55
Internet: $65
Medical (Medication, Doctor, Psychologist & Physio): $208.34
Health Insurance: $330
Massage: $73
Disability Insurance: $87.50
Income Insurance: $175
Netflix: $18
Amazon Prime: $0 (Our friends kindly shared their account details)
Additional Super Contributions: $320
Micro-Investing App: $360
Charitable Giving/Tithe: $500
Paid Quarterly
: $300
Gas and Hot Water: $250
Council Rates: $370
Body Corporate: $850
Paid Yearly
Nursing Registration Fees: $185
Nursing Union Fees: $442
Public Speaking Club: $240

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

My parents paid for most of my degree, a Bachelor of Nursing. Coming from overseas, my parents expected to pay for my university and wanted me to focus on studying prior to getting a job. I put myself through most of a Graduate Diploma in Religious Studies while working part-time for around five years as I wanted to try something different.

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

I feel like we have much better conversations about money now. Growing up, we were taught by example to be frugal and live within our means. My mother in particular came from a poor background, whereas my father was the third generation of immigrants. 
My parents can be aggressively well-meaning about utilising family wealth to get us ahead of the game. They're also extremely generous. We tend to have a stock mentality over real estate due to our previously nomadic lifestyle with my father’s work.

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

My first job was as a new graduate nurse at the facility I continue to work at. There weren’t many job options when I graduated due to politics, but I was grateful to have a job and work where I had some contacts.

Did you worry about money growing up?


Do you worry about money now?

I worry about not being able to fund big changes in our lives, rather than meeting our day-to-day living expenses. As I'm about to stop work and travel for a year, I worry that we'll miss out on building wealth in our early years.

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

At 22, I became financially independent when I moved out. I have profession-specific disability insurance as a safety net, but I also know my family and my husband would support me if needed.

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

I received around $32,000 from my parents for my studies. My aunt also left me $10,000 USD a few years ago after she passed away from cancer. I’d much rather she was alive than have the money.

Last time we spoke, you had just left your regular church as it became emotionally unsafe for you. Have you found a new church? 

I have found a new, much smaller church. They have a really lovely, vulnerable time during the service. People share how they are really going or how they’ve seen God in their lives. I am still finding it hard to integrate back into a community after old hurts. I have to remind myself to pace myself, not jump in at full blast and not feel guilty if I’m not present every Sunday.

During your last diary, you mentioned that your nursing workload had increased, you were short-staffed and you were seriously considering quitting. What's it like now? 

We seemed to have a period of less sick leave, but it seems to be creeping up again. I don’t know if anything has changed a lot. However, having a future plan of something exciting and new — travelling around Australia — has really helped my attitude. I feel like I’m working towards something. In fact, most of my life is consumed with prepping for our travel, rather than getting sucked into the worries of work. 

You were also working part-time to focus on your marriage after H. identified as agnostic. How has your marriage been since we last spoke?

Our marriage is strong. We were considering job changes and a move interstate when we realised we just needed more space for us and downtime. From the get-go of our marriage, we had to deal with family illness, mental health and the pandemic, so the year of travel is really to give us that ‘honeymoon period’ back that we missed, and time to grow without interference. 

Day 1

3:00am — My husband, H., wakes me up. He’s wondering if he has appendicitis. He’s felt bloated since getting up yesterday morning despite doing a bowel motion, but it’s escalated to pain in his lower right tummy. We’re meant to be on a flight to Melbourne to see my brother, G., and his wife, B., at 7:55am. I decide we should go to Emergency early while it’s not busy, but H. calls my dad, who is a doctor, to get a second opinion, while I have toast and pack a bag with extra clothes, water, chargers, a book and some cross stitch to pass the time. We get to Emergency by 4am and settle in for a wait. We don’t pay anything as we go to a public facility and parking is free during the weekend.
6:00am — H. is seen, and the doctor thinks something may be wrong with his gallbladder. The blood test will indicate if it’s perhaps just sludge or if it's inflamed. H. has not been eating or taking any pain relief so he can watch his symptoms. However, they encourage him to take some pain medication.
8:00am — The blood tests are clear. They give H. breakfast (the porridge is good, apparently) and tell him to organise a follow-up with his GP and an ultrasound. I snack on sandwiches that come with H.'s breakfast, but on the way home, we do a Macca’s run ($16). Once we get home, H. calls his GP and makes an appointment for 11am. We call some of the family to give them an update and crash after setting an alarm. We joke that H. is getting a reputation for medical emergencies on holidays. He got a kidney stone on our honeymoon. $16
11:00am — We head to the shopping centre where H.'s GP is. While he's in there, I wander around and check out camping gear to prepare for next year (we're not campers at all). We also only have pantry staples and extras in the freezer at home as we expected to be away for a fortnight, so I pick up some groceries — bananas, apples, ham, eggs, bread and wraps ($28.59). H. gets out of his appointment and pays $57.75, post-Medicare rebate. The GP isn't worried, but we want to have an ultrasound before we rebook our plane tickets, particularly if he’s still in pain by Monday. $86.34
12:00pm — Now that that's all sorted, I finally have a chance to process this morning. We didn’t book travel insurance for the first time in ages as we didn't think we'd get our money back if either of us got COVID. So much for taking a plane for the first time in three years! Now, we'll probably end up booking another one-way ticket to Melbourne and just use our initial round-trip flight home.
3:00pm — I send some messages to family overseas about our trip next year. I feel like I want to do something productive since we have unexpected free time. Then we watch TV as I finish the final bit of my cross stitch. It's for a friend's wedding and it's my biggest piece so far. I only picked up the childhood hobby again earlier this year. It's soothing. We watch Star Trek: Lower Deck, then try out a new murder mystery on SBS called Holding. H. manages to fall asleep a couple of times. He has minimal pain, although it shoots up when he moves. I get up for a nibble only to find out he’s eaten all the crackers!
6:30pm — I'm feeling quite stiff after a lack of sleep and lots of waiting room sitting, so I have a warm bath with magnesium salts. I bought a 25kg bag of salts for $50 two years ago as I got sick of buying more tiny, expensive containers. I doubt I’m even a quarter of the way through the bag, but it makes for a nice accompaniment to presents in a jar.
7:00pm — We defrost some pumpkin soup and I coerce H. to make some garlic bread. It's just bread, butter and garlic heated in the pan, but I want us to work on some of our ‘camp’ food recipes. It ends up getting burnt and H. drops one. Goodness help us in an outdoor kitchen. We don't think we'll have a fridge, so we need food that can be stored at room temperature.
7:30pm — I'm wrecked from all the meal planning, so I go to bed super early. H. comes in for our nightly cuddle as he's a night owl and stays up much later usually.
Daily Total: $102.34

Day 2

7:20am — I'm up, scrolling through my phone. My cousins reply to my message saying their kids will still be in school when we plan to visit. Bummer, but we'll still be able to catch up. The other side of the family has also replied and is keen on a Hawaii holiday. Woo. I do some French on Duolingo as I want to keep it up for travelling purposes (not that that's likely to happen anytime soon). I have a 257-day streak. Celebrating the little things. H. wakes up with mild pain, so we lounge in bed until I realise I promised to make pancakes. I also want to make church at 10am.
10:00am — Finally! And just on time. It ended up taking us three tries to leave the house. I asked H. about my outfit and he told me that the skin coloured no sleeve top combo is too casual/exposing. Cue the outfit changes.
12:15pm — I am wiped after church, as usual. It's tiring as I have to work through negativity from past experiences every time. It is great to sing songs together (albeit just off YouTube) and spend time together. It's been a bit of a tough week for most, with a death, stillbirth and surgery amidst the community. We're associated with a domestic violence organisation, so a lot of women are rebuilding their lives.
2:00pm — I'm surprised I'm not more devastated about our Melbourne plans going askew. H. will have an ultrasound tomorrow — as long as he has no pain, we'll just book flights down for Tuesday. I lounge in bed for the arvo with the occasional cuddle from H. in between his computer game. We are heading to his parents for afternoon tea and a light dinner. H. tops up the car with petrol ($14.18) on the way as the price isn't too atrocious. $14.18
4:30pm — We dig through Mum and Dad's old camping stuff in preparation for our road trip next year. They have a four-man tent, two inflatable mattresses with in-built pumps, a self-inflating mat, three sleeping bags, roof racks, a car awning, a toilet/shower tent and a gas run fridge. We give the mattresses a clean, but one deflates by the end of the day. We have a nice catch-up before my sister-in-law drops by for afternoon tea. We enjoy a honey cake and red velvet melting moments.
5:30pm — Mum drives us in her new car to the shops to get a cooked chicken for dinner, but they've run out. Instead, we get an 18-pack of chicken patties ($14). We can always freeze the extras for another day. $14
6:30pm — We teach Mum how to play a game, Kingdomino, and of course, she wins on her first try. We regale the family with our plans for next year. It's nice to receive support. Once my sister-in-law goes home, we have a good conversation about our finances and what the future may hold for each couple.
8:00pm — We do our State of the Union during the car ride home. We feel we had good family conversations and handled the medical emergency well. Once we're home, we do H.'s Wordle, talk and cull our DVDs. Ever since we tossed up the idea of doing something different next year, I have been culling our stuff. I would have liked to say that we don't have heaps, but I've dropped at least five garbage bags off at Salvo's so far. I jump in the shower with H. before we chill on our phones in bed. 
11:30pm — I give up reading in bed and fold the laundry. I calculate how much water we can carry in our current water containers. We have 18.5 L which, while impressive, is not the 10 L per person per day we need to cross the Nullarbor. I find an Igloo cooler jug which takes us over to 22 L, then head to bed, accomplished. I fall asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $28.18

Day 3

8:20am — Unusually, H. is up before me. He's looking up flights. Most are around the $1,000 mark for two one-way fares. We paid $600 each for a return ticket!
9:30am — I get up for a leftover pancake breakfast. H. has to fast for his ultrasound this morning. We head out to the shops and have a productive morning. The travel agents are super busy, so we chat with people in the line and smash our Wordle for the day. I feel for a lot of the service industry that has just been pulled left and right throughout the pandemic. Our agent keeps apologising for checking on other people waiting or popping in as we chat. We chat with them and organise our Hawaii and USA trips. For nine flights, it'll come to $4,600 per person (we have multiple legs to make it to all the states my family is scattered in). It seems reasonably priced.
10:30am — I pop into Kathmandu to inquire about sleeping mats. They’ll be better at keeping us warm than inflatable mattresses. Then I hunt around for packing cubes. They’d be a nicety, rather than a requirement. H. finishes his ultrasound without weaselling results out of the staff ($193.40 — a Medicare rebate of $90 is pending). He makes a GP appointment for when we return from Melbourne. $103.40
1:30pm — Lunch and laundry done. We finally book flights for tomorrow at 8:15am ($1,014). We do some life administration and Mum offers to drop us off at the airport. $1,014
3:30pm — H. drags me out the door for a walk in the nearby reserve. We see three koalas! We nearly missed the last one, a baby, as he just happened to poke his head out of his sleeping mother’s arms. So cute. When we get home, we settle in to watch Savage River while I cross-stitch.

7:00pm — We break for a dinner of pumpkin soup, and Mi Goreng for H. We’ve had a slew of calls from fam and friends wanting to touch base. It’s lovely, but a bit tiring.

9:15pm — We finish another episode of Savage River. I think I'm hooked. Shower and bed.
Daily Total: $1,117.40

Day 4

5:15am — The alarm goes off. I'm quite groggy and a bit confused. Change. Toast. Check-in for our flight online. Take meds. Brush teeth. Toss rubbish and compost. Mum arrives. Toss recycling. Wait for H. to finish the dishes.
6:15am — In the car.
6:30am — Bags dropped. Security is a breeze. I forget how much travelling used to be second nature to me. We're super early, but decide to walk some laps. I'd rather be early than late.
7:15am — H. can't find a smoothie place he likes. We browse through the Lego, Peter Alexander and Mott and Mulberry (my favourite) stores before pausing at our gate ahead of boarding at 7:55am.
9:30am — The ham and egg sandwich on the flight really hit the spot. I try to sleep, but end up watching videos related to next year's travels.
12:00pm — We land 20 minutes late, but I'm just glad we made it for our holiday without too many more dramas. Our bags come out quickly and we take an Uber to pick up the rental car. I tip $1. $40.24
1:00pm — Picking up the car ends up being the most stressful part of the trip. We get a call saying our delayed pick-up didn't go through. We finally sort it out and pay $1,303.30 for a 10-day rental. Then we head to B. and G.'s place. $1,303.30
2:30pm — We have a great catch-up with B. Then H. and I pop out for a late Vietnamese lunch ($32). I ask the waitstaff a question and H. tells me I'm being defensive. I feel hurt. We've just been rubbing each other the wrong way with the stress of travelling, I guess. He asks to hold my hand and we settle down. $32
3:00pm — We enjoy walking around and checking out the shops. It's so much more hip and historical compared to Brisbane. Brisbane is more relaxed though. H. notes there is so much graffiti. We stop for H. to get a Biscoff thick shake ($9). Such a good buy. $9
4:00pm — Melburnians really don't seem to care that they're not supposed to drive in the tram lane at peak times. I'm glad we were warned that drivers are terrible here.
6:15pm — Another great chat at B. and G.'s before going for a W-A-L-K (we don't want to get the dog too excited). I love all the flowers out, and B. stops by Woolies to get stuff for dinner.
7:30pm — Back to our temporary home for the night. B. is kindly cooking dinner, so I hop into a shower. We have a wonderful catch-up about family and travel. 
10:00pm — After some ice cream and tidying, it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $1,384.54

Day 5

8:00am — H.'s alarm goes off. The bed and sheets are really comfy and hard to leave. B. is up though, so we head out to walk the dog to the cafe. H. gets a hot chocolate ($5.50), but I give it a miss. $5.50
10:00am — Breakfast of toast and apples and as usual, I'm ready, but H. is still getting organised.
11:00am — On the road to Cape Paterson. We are arriving a day later than expected due to our ER visit, but we're just glad we made it.
12:20pm — We pop by a rest stop as I need to pee. However, I decide I better cash in my free McChicken burger from our last Macca's run. I pay $7.60 from my personal allowance for medium fries and water on the side. H. gets a McSpicy meal for $15.45 that he charges to his personal account. I promise we don't eat this much fast food normally, especially as the lack of recycling facilities at Macca's annoys me. $7.60
2:00pm — We stop at Aldi for muesli, six packs of Quick2Go, bananas, chocolate and plain custard creams, oat bars, spinach, eggs, two noodle bowls, peanut butter, shelled pasta, pasta sauce and a loaf of bread ($36.52). We reckon it should get us through a few dinners and most breakfasts.  $36.52
2:15pm — We decide to check out the State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi, a free attraction and the only historic coal mine experience in the southern hemisphere. Underground tours are available for a fee but they're currently suspended. The doctor calls H. and says his scan is clear. What a relief.
2:45pm — The gardens and old buildings are beautiful. Someone has patiently constructed a lot of miniatures of the original sites. Mining was hard, dirty work, and miners were paid by the amount of coal they removed. However, some areas were more difficult to work in, so the men would rotate. Mine accidents were common though, and 85 men were killed over the 60 years that this mine operated.
3:50pm — We head out before the gate closes at 4pm. I'm really impressed with the State Coal Mine. We find our Airbnb easily. There are some gorgeous pink poppies in the front. It's not as clean as I'd prefer, but we decide to chill out a bit before checking out the beach. I accidentally fall into a nap.
5:50pm — We walk the promised five minutes to the beach. It's stunning. The wind is cool, yet the sun is shining. A wind farm is in the distance. The rock pools are full of plant life. Some of the rocks are honeycombed. You can see salt circling evaporated puddles. Fish swim in it. Teenagers play cricket nearby. 
6:45pm — I am starving, so we head back for a dinner of pasta, tomato sauce and spinach. H. has a firmer idea of al dente, but it's great after it's topped off with two custard creams.
7:15pm — H. lets it slip that the surprise activity tomorrow involves a boat ride. He keeps saying we may or may not see Wilson's Prom this trip, so I'm excited.
8:00pm — We watch Lucan on DVD while we eat the rest of the custard cream pack. I put on a blanket from the couch to fight the night chill. I start sneezing. I've already noticed dust around and realise it's setting my allergies off. Super annoyed, I wipe things down with the anti-bacterial wipes. No wonder they had a no-refund policy outright.
10:00pm — Lucan is good, but terrible at the same time. The power goes out briefly during the movie but quickly resolves itself. H. heads to the shower as I settle into bed.
Daily Total: $65.07

Day 6

4:30am — I get up for the loo and tend to my nose. The main room is definitely musty. Should have brought antihistamines.
7:30am — I snuggle back into H. as the alarm goes off. It's cold. We get ready for the day. H. has muesli while I have leftover pasta for breakfast. I do some online administration. Last fortnight, I was paid $1,744. Anything over our budgeted $1,400 goes into our travel fund, post-tithe. I got a little extra this fortnight because I did an extra shift and a bit of overtime. Instead of tithing to church this week, I remember a friend is doing a fundraiser for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Donations will be doubled from 9am today, so I note it down for later. After breakfast, we head to the car for our day of adventuring.
10:00am — Quick toilet stop and relief from motion sickness. I did take tablets prior, but they're not working very well. Our first nature sight is two dead wombats on the side of the road.
10:26am — We're just a bit before our arrival time at Tidal River in Wilson’s Promontory for our boat ride. Departure is a bit delayed due to a front wheel not turning properly. However, a restart of the engine sorts it out and allows us to get to know our travel companions. There are a few couples from Queensland and a Dutch couple who's been in a campervan at Uluru and locally.
The weather is perfect. The views around Wilson's Prom are spectacular. The water is clear. The rocks, mostly granite, range from grey to black to red to orange stripes. We see a sea eagle and its nest at Sea Eagles bay. The dolphins come for a play and the cavern at Skull Rock is impressive. The 9,000 Australian seal colony is smelly but impressive and cool to watch. It'll grow to 13,000 in a week for the breeding season. The lighthouse stands the test of time in its isolation.
2:00pm — What a great ride. Hungry, we get burgers at the nearby takeaway ($34.50) and slather on some more sunscreen. $34.50
3:00pm — We pick up two hitchhikers on our way to hike up Mt Oberon. They are trekking to the lighthouse and their van broke down. Someone brought their packs up, so we set them off at the carpark. 
4:00pm — The name Oberon reminds me of King Fae in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The climb is tough, as our fellow boaters of the morning attest, but the view is totally worth it. And we're the only ones there to revel in it.
5:30pm — I take a turn driving. It's a big responsibility in a rental. We see a wallaby on the side of the road and pop into a couple of lookouts. We see some galahs, an emu (my first time in the wild!) and two wombats who apparently have no fear of people, judging by how close they walked to us. As we leave, we see a couple approaching the emu, attempting to get the other in a photo or video with it. Emus are quite dangerous, so I opt to get out of there quick-smart to not have to deal with their stupidity. I think I may have a blister forming, but I'm satisfied with my fairly new La Sportiva hiking shoes from K2. I've done 16,225 steps overall.
7:15pm — We get back and I find the washing machine on the side of the building. Too late to be of any help to us. I leave the doors open to clear the musty smell in the house. H. goes for a run, so I have my noodle soup on my own, donate to the Royal Flying Doctor Service ($175). Then I shower. $175
8:00pm — H. has had the news on, but we swap to The March of the Penguins, befitting our location near Phillip Island.
Daily Total: $209.50

Day 7

7:55am — The alarm goes off. I laze around in bed for quite a bit. H. is surprised I manage to be ready before him, even though he got up first.
9:00am — On the road again. This time to Omeo. We have a great sing-along on the way. The driving conditions are great. I think we're in the shoulder tourist season, so there are not a lot of cars around.
11:00am — Petrol is reasonable in Traralgon, so we pull over to fill up. $63.41
12:00pm — While we're bored in the car, we make a list of things to do next year and discuss side hustles. I don't know if cross-stitching is worth a side hustle when you consider the time required. It starts to rain a bit. I put on the Road Trips Australia podcast.
1:00pm — We stop for toilets and lunch in Bairnsdale. We get subs from a totally decked-out Subway ($16.90). They have leis, grass skirts, octopus, starfish, flamingo balloons and pineapples as decor. $16.90
2:30pm — We do another driver swap, getting our shoes muddy. The landscape has utterly changed. A wall of dark cliffs on our left and a river on our right. Blackened bark and dead trees along the valley and cliffs are evidence of the Black Summer Fires three years ago. The damage is so consistent throughout the area, but the green hills tell of new beginnings. Weeping willows are picturesque by the water.
3:30pm — We make it to Omeo. It looks like we have the place to ourselves. Our motel has a big kitchen and sitting room and it's clean. I'm so relieved.
4:30pm — The rain abates, and we take a stroll around town. The librarian is super helpful at the information centre. Our host arrives as we return to the motel. I pay $100 per night and find out we're the only guests for the night. Winning! We set out to walk around the Oriental Claims. $300
5:30pm — We get back to the motel a little wet, but content. It's sunnier than when we left. I make omelettes with the spinach and decide to cook all of the leftover pasta as I'm hungry. We may have cooked too much now.
We set out all the information we got from the information centre on the wooden dining room table and plan our attack for tomorrow. The five-hour Montane loop is a bit ambitious. We settle for the Carmichael Falls and Room With A View walks. We consider the summit Mt Hotham track, but there are meant to be thunderstorms and rain tomorrow.
7:30pm — We consider watching a show together but end up on technology separately. I think we just need the alone time.
9:00pm — Bedtime. I can feel the sheets are clean!
Daily Total: $380.09
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