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A Week In Footscray, Melbourne, As A Research Officer On $80,000

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Today: a research officer who makes $80,000 a year spends some of her salary on a new therapist.
Occupation: Research Officer
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 36
Location: Footscray, Melbourne
Salary: $80,000
Net Worth: -$15,265. I have $8,200 in savings, $14,100 in shares and a term deposit of $13,000.
Debt: $4,814 in credit card debt and $45,751 owing on HECS.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $3,994
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,090. I live in a two-bedroom Victorian weatherboard and split the rent and bills equally with my partner. We have our own bedrooms (modern!) and our dog has a front and back yard. We love the place, but we continue to get rental increases and I'm not sure how much longer we can afford to live here.
Internet: $45
Electricity: $50
Gas: $75
Water: $25
Stan: $16
Spotify: $12.99 Phone: $25
Fruit and Vegetable Box Subscription: $90
Exercise Classes & PT: $180
Medication: $7.20

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

I’ve spent way too much time at uni! In high school, I had no ambition to go to university (although it was the only advice I ever got from parents and teachers about what to do with my life). Eventually, I completed a Bachelor of Social Science (I also spent a year failing a Bachelor of Media and Communications degree, but that’s another story). When I graduated, the global financial crisis hit and I found it difficult to secure meaningful work. I floated around volunteering and working for badly organised not-for-profits. Then after a few years of failing to get a career going, I enrolled in a Masters of Public Health. While I was studying undergrad and post-grad, I supported myself on Centrelink (AusStudy) and working shitty casual jobs. I made ends meet by living in low-price dumpy rentals, stealing food from the supermarket and buying all my clothes from op shops. Last year, I was awarded my PhD. I received a scholarship while studying of $28k a year and worked as a casual. In total, I owe $45,751 in HECS.

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

My parents never discussed money but I have vivid memories of them having screaming matches about finances, usually related to tax. I do remember someone giving me a copy of The Barefoot Investor when I was 17, and although I barely paid attention to much of the content, I think it taught me how to live within my means and always have some savings, even on a low income, which is all I’ve ever had until now.

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

As a teenager, my parents urged me to get a job so I could develop a 'work ethic', which my parents both valued. I often heard my mum compliment someone by saying they were a 'hard worker'. I got my first job 14 and 9 months (the minimum legal age) at the local chemist, where I worked every Saturday and during school holidays. I spent most of my money in high school on overpriced surf brand clothes and CDs. Interestingly, my baby brother never worked during high school but instead was told to 'focus on his studies'.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I never worried about money growing up. I always longed for more, but wanted for nothing. My parents lived pretty simply. We never ate out and our holidays were usually camping somewhere (although we did go on holidays overseas too). Our house was old and always freezing during winter and we were never allowed to turn on the heater (“Put a jumper on if you’re cold!”). In high school, I got sent to a modest private school which my parents sacrificed a lot for. My brother and I were also sent to private music lessons and sports on the weekend, and looking back, I can see that we were very privileged. My dad made all the financial decisions in our family and when he passed away, my mum had no idea how to manage her own finances. When I was young, I remember my dad telling me "Never let money get in the way of doing what you want in life". In many ways, this has shaped how I live and inspired a generosity towards the people I love in my life.

Do you worry about money now?

I constantly worry about money. I often lay awake thinking "How am I going to survive?". I especially get anxious thinking about housing affordability and dream of living in more comfort with more stability. While I worry about money constantly, it doesn't seem to quash my hedonistic/indulgent side. I often find myself blowing huge amounts of money on a night out, shouting all my friends and anyone else near me rounds of drinks. I'm also quite partial to a refreshing and restorative mini break, which is not cheap.

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

At 17, I left home and moved overseas with money I saved up from working various crap jobs and I've been financially independent ever since. I’ve never asked for money from my family, except once, when I asked my mum for a loan to buy a car (but she said no). I'm really proud that I put myself through university, but I'm starting to see the difference it makes when you've had supportive parents. I doubt at this stage if I will ever be in a financial situation to have kids or buy a property, and that makes me feel a bit sad. I do have some money saved, a term deposit, some shares (which keep going down so I must have bad ones) and some savings, but it's not a lot in the scheme of things.

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

When I was 19 my father died and left me and my brother a property, but my mother swindled us out of it. In my early 20s, my grandpa passed away and my brother and I were his only living grandchildren. Strangely, all the inheritance went to my mother again. Enough said!

Day 1

8:15am: I wake up with a brutal hangover from a birthday celebration the night before. After the birthday party, my friends M and S came back to my place and we polished off a bottle of duty-free booze that I bought on a recent overseas work trip. M stayed the night and we both call in sick to work. She orders Uber Eats, but I'm not ready to eat yet.
9:20am: M leaves. I go into the kitchen and tidy up. I take two Panadol and drink some Hydrolyte. I decide to devote myself to the couch and Netflix for the entire day. I vape some of my partner R's medicinal marijuana, take an anti-nausea tablet and put on a documentary about ice-skating. I'm a professional at hangovers!
12:20pm: I begin to feel hungry and go to the fridge and heat up some leftover rice and curry. My partner R makes me a coffee and counsels me through the anxiety I feel about how drunk I got the night before. I put on another movie, it's about prisoners of war in WWII. I regret my decision as it's hardly soothing, but continue to watch it anyway.
3:00pm: I take my dog for a walk to a nearby dog park with R. My body is aching but it's a nice day outside and it's cute watching our dog play. Eventually, another dog joins and a fight breaks out. We leave.
4:00pm: I'm hungry again, and consider ordering take-out but my funds are pretty low, so I look at what I have in the fridge. I settle for a packet of ramen and add vegetables and a boiled egg. I eat it and nap in front of the TV.
7:00pm: I wake up and R is making a chicken souvlaki with chips in the air-fryer. He makes a small one for me and then I eat some chocolate.
10:00pm: I make a bowl of pasta. I'm eating my way through the hangover! R and I watch The Little Mermaid together in bed with the dog and I fall asleep. I've managed to spend no money today and I'm very proud.
Daily Total: $0

Day 2

8:30am: I wake up but decide to snooze a little longer, the pain from the hangover lingers. I'm no spring chicken anymore!
9:30am: I wake up again and when I see the time, I panic as I have a psychologist appointment at 10am with a new therapist. I head to the kitchen and make a coffee, turn on the dishwasher and get changed. I check my emails. I'm working from home all week as my boss is home marking students' work. My appointment will eat up a fair bit of time, so I'm likely to be working later than usual.
9:50am: I drive to my therapy appointment and when I arrive, I'm only five minutes late. The session goes well and I think I will continue seeing her for now, even though it's bloody expensive! She said she will invoice me $120 for our session later in the day.
11:05: On my way home I respond to some work emails and then stop off at Coles and buy dog food and cleaning products ($20.80). I purchase them from the group account I have with R, so technically, I'm only paying half. — $10.40.
12:20pm: I decide to make some breakfast (more like lunch now) and whip up an omelette with vegetables and some toast from ingredients I already have. Our fridge is playing up, and I talk to my partner about buying a new one. He also tells me that our gas bill is due and that it's a big one. I feel stressed. I head back to my desk to do some work.
3:00pm: I make some toast and vacuum the house.
3:20pm: I get back to work and finish a few tasks. No one is getting back to my emails and I'm struggling to maintain motivation. My therapist invoices me and I decide to pay her straight away. I transfer her $120.
4:50pm: I drive to my reformer Pilates class (I pre-purchased a multi-pack last week). The class is so hard I'm shaking afterwards. I haven't been for three weeks and my body has lost some strength!
6:00pm: I get home and put a potato in the oven, defrost some kangaroo bolognese and cut some cheese and other vegetables to put on the baked potatoes. I'm trying to use up everything in the fridge. I finish off some emails and tasks while the potato is cooking.
8:00pm: I eat dinner and the baked potatoes are yum! I feel utterly exhausted and lie down to watch some TV, but fall asleep doing so.
10.00pm: I join R in bed and put on a podcast to drift off to (Don't Ask Tig) but I can't relax. I spend the next three hours tossing and turning before I eventually drift off.
Daily Total: $130.40

Day 3

9:00am: I wake up and make myself and R a coffee. Out of curiosity, I decide to weigh myself and I'm not surprised to see I have gained weight — no wonder my pants don't fit! I make an active decision to not give a shit or let it ruin my day.
9:15am: I check my work emails while drinking coffee and lying in bed. I respond to emails and get on top of tasks. I'm happy to see that $800 worth of expenses from a recent work trip have been approved. I should get reimbursed next week.
10:00am: I sit at my desk and the real work begins. I write a list of things that I want to complete today — it's ambitious but I will do my best.
11:00am: I take the dog for a walk in the park. It's overcast and windy, but I run into a familiar dog walker and stop to have a long chat. On the way home, I get hit with a wave of crippling period pain. I walk slowly.
12:00pm: I make some toast and put some of the leftover bolognese from last night on top. I take some Naprogesic (my last two!) and wait for the pain relief to kick in.
12:30pm: The pain is unbearable and I call in sick for the afternoon (twice in one week! Oh dear...). I take two more Panadol and eat chocolate and fall asleep on the couch.
3:30pm: I wake up in far less pain. I'm happy to see an online delivery has arrived! A white Smeg kettle I bought on sale last week for $204. I make a cup of rooibos tea and decide to finish some work tasks, even though I have taken the afternoon off, as it will make tomorrow much easier.
5:30pm: I finish half of the tasks on my ambitious to-do list and decide to call it quits for the day. I turn off my computer and feed the dog.
6:00pm: Our fridge is completely fucked and not keeping anything cold. My partner says he's going to buy us a new one. I paid for the last expensive item (a couch for $600) so he says he will buy the fridge. We choose one together, a Westinghouse for $805. It will be delivered tomorrow.
6:30pm: We go to the Mona Castle Hotel in Seddon for a knock-off drink. I buy the first round of drinks, a pint of beer and glass of red ($28.22). It's steak night so we decide to get steaks, and my partner shouts me dinner and another glass of red.
8:30pm: On the way home, we stop and get a scoop of ice cream from Kariton Sorbets, I pay for both of us. — $13.82
9:00pm: When we get home, our weekly fruit and vegetable box ($45.63) has been delivered and left on our doorstep. R and I split the cost of groceries so it works out $22.80 each. My period pain is back with a vengeance, and I got to the bathroom cabinet and take some pain relief meds. — $22.80
9:30pm: R and I watch the movie Vivarium, it's okay, not great.
11:00pm: I go to bed and fall asleep immediately.
Daily Total: $64.84

Day 4

9:00am: I wake up and jump straight into the shower. There is only one scoop of coffee left. I make one cup for myself and check my emails.
9:55am: I walk to the shops to buy more coffee. Sensory Lab is on special, so I buy it and some other groceries ($25.50) and pay from the group account, so technically it's ($12.75) and walk home.
10:20am: I make another cup of coffee and sit down at my desk to work.
12:00pm: I take the dog to the park for a walk while I listen to the 7am podcast episode about the media's campaign against trans kids.
12:45pm: I make a quick lunch — some eggs on sourdough with tomatoes and spinach. I also bake an orange cake for afternoon tea with ingredients I have in my cupboard. It's my speciality cake with only four ingredients!
1:10pm: Back to work at the desk, I'm trying to work on a presentation I have coming up.
2:30pm: I eat a slice of the cake I made with a cup of tea and it's delicious!
3:30pm: I move from my desk to the couch and do some reading for work, a paper about Narcofeminism.
4:50pm: I drive to Pilates, it's hard but not as bad as last time. My body is getting stronger again.
6:00pm: I arrive home and finish off some work emails. Our new fridge arrives! It's so clean and beautiful compared to the monster we had. I can't believe how excited I am over a fridge. I must be getting old!
7:30pm: I finish up at work and make some red lentil dahl with rice and roti and sit down with R and chat about our new fridge. I'm so hungry after Pilates I eat three bowls.
9:00pm: I put a documentary about blue zones on the television and doom scroll on my phone for a few hours. I should really finish the book I'm reading (Wifedom) but I'm too tired.
11:30pm: I head to bed and put on a podcast (You're Wrong About) and fall asleep about five minutes in!
Daily Total: $12.75

Day 5

7:00am: I wake up, but decide to snooze a little longer.
9:00am: I wake again, and can't believe how much longer I slept in. I make coffee and send some work emails, approve a timesheet and schedule some meetings for next week.
9:50am: I drive to M's house and we go for our weekly PT weight session. It's been three weeks since I've gone and I'm worried about my strength, but I do just fine. We gossip in between sets. I pay the trainer $40 and then I drop M home on my way back.
11:00am: I have a quick shower and get to work. I have a meeting with my boss at 2pm and have lots to get done! The dog is annoying me and I can tell she is busting for a walk but it will have to wait.
12:00pm: I eat lunch at my desk. I'm too busy to take a break.
2pm: The meeting with my boss goes well and we arrange to catch up again soon to discuss an upcoming conference.
3pm: I take the dog for a walk around the block and a man approaches me and shows me a baby magpie on the road that has been injured. We move it to a safer place and then the mum magpie begins swooping us. I walk home and call the council but they are no help. I ring Wildlife Victoria and they say they will send a volunteer over to rescue the injured baby.
5:30pm: I drive to Western Hospital to pick up my aunty who's had surgery. We come back to my house and she has a cup of tea and cake. R and I have a gin and tonic — it's Friday after all!
6:30pm: I drop my aunty back home in Port Melbourne and ring to see if I can book a table at Mizuzu'z, one of my favourite Japanese restaurants. They have space for two! We drink saké and eat lots of delicious sashimi and tempura. The bill comes to $140 and I pay. I check my phone and the Wildlife Victoria volunteer said she found the baby magpie and has taken it to the vet. Hurrah!
9pm: We drive home and R begins to feel sick. He has a slight fever and nausea.
9:30pm: I give R some cold and flu tablets and we start to watch a film together, but I fall asleep in the first 20 minutes.
Daily Total: $140

Day 6

9:30am: I wake up with a very mild hangover and drink a large bottle of water to rehydrate.
10:30am: R says he feels very sick and he has run out of cold and flu medication.
11:15am: I drive to Pilates, and leave feeling very refreshed.
12pm: On my way home, I stop at a bakery and buy a loaf of sourdough bread ($9) and use the group account to pay. — $4.50
12:15pm: I make myself poached eggs on toast.
1.00pm: I drive to a GP appointment to get some bloods done and a repeat on my prescription. I pay the gap in fees ($58) for the consult. Then I go to my chemist to get my prescription filled and get R some cold and flu meds. I end up grabbing a few extra things ($41.77). — $99.77
2pm: When I get home, I clean my room — it's been messy for weeks! I take in some washing that's finally dry and think about taking the dog for a walk, but I'm too tired and need to rest.
3pm: I go to my favourite discount supermarket chain Cheaper by Miles because you never know what bargains you are going to get! I buy all sorts of nonsense including a slab of Fever Tree tonic water, strange flavours of tinned tuna and dried tofu lol. In total, I spend $27 from the group account. — $13.50.
6pm: I'm getting hungry and R is still feeling unwell. We decide to have a night in and order pizza. We place an order for a large pepperoni, R pays ($36), and I go pick it up. We gorge and watch TV. I vaguely remember putting on a film with Melissa McCarthy in it, but I fall asleep halfway through.
11pm: Lights out.
Daily Total: $117.77

Day 7

9:30am: I wake up feeling very refreshed after a long sleep. I make R and myself coffee and we drink it together in bed. R is still feeling sick. I message my friend, M, to see if she wants to take her dog out for a walk with me and my dog, and she says yes.
11am: I drive to M's and we go for a long walk with the two dogs. We gossip and debrief about our weeks. We end up at a park and both dogs find a huge puddle to sit and splash about in, they seem very proud and are absolutely filthy!
1pm: I reheat leftover pizza and eat two slices and drink a cup of tea. I lie on the couch and listen to two podcast episodes in a row (How's Work? with Esther Perel). Then I read some of Wifedom, which is becoming more harrowing the closer I get towards the end.
5pm: I drive to Yin Yoga class (with my pre-purchased class pack). I really couldn't be bothered going, but I feel great after the class.
6:15pm: I defrost some chicken thighs and make a green curry with ingredients in the fridge and pantry. It's delicious and there is plenty of leftovers for tomorrow. I eat a slice of the orange cake I made earlier in the week with cream for dessert.
8:00pm: R and I decide to watch a movie and settle on Cocaine Bear. It's a ridiculous film and I enjoy it thoroughly!
10:00pm: R plays games on the computer and I finally finish reading Wifedom. I feel sad but I really enjoyed reading the book. I watch some interviews with the author Anna Funder on YouTube to hear more about her writing process.
11:30pm: I put on a podcast (Design Matters) and try to drift off to sleep, but I'm kept awake by thoughts of work tomorrow and my ever-growing to-do list. Eventually, as always, I fall asleep and get in some good rest. I'm ready to do another week!
Daily Total: $0
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