money diaries

A Week On The Central Coast, NSW, As A High School Teacher On $97,600

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Today, we meet a secondary school teacher diarist who goes for a run almost every day, shops for new bras and makes Hello Fresh meals for her weekday lunches and dinners.
Occupation: High School Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 38
Location: Central Coast, NSW
Pronouns: She/Her
Salary: $97,600
Net Worth: $921,000. Debit Account: $7,000; High-Interest Savings Account: $43,000; Offset Account: $73,000; Current Home Value: $700,000; Superannuation: $170,000.
Debt: $111,984.36 total. $32,927.61 in HECS/HELP and $7056.75 on credit card. I balance transferred this at the start of last year with a 0% interest rate so I can pay it off over time. Mortgage: $72,000.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,550 (excluding $400 salary sacrifice into superannuation)

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $540. I live alone in a small 1980s two-bedroom unit that I purchased about 10 years ago. My mortgage is fully offset, so I am only paying off the principal.
Strata, Home Contents Insurance & Council Rates: $500
Electricity: $120
Internet & Phone: $95
Health Insurance & Prescriptions: $270
Car Maintenance & Insurance: $125
Subscriptions (Chat GPT, Apple TV and Prime): $60
Union Fees: $65

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

I hold a double bachelor's degree, a prerequisite for becoming a secondary teacher in Australia. Please note that I am not an English teacher, and my language skills may not be the best—so please be gentle. My parents paid for my university education upfront, securing a 20% discount. I am incredibly fortunate that they did this for both my brother and me. Being the first in their respective families to attend university, my parents were able to do so for free, courtesy of the Whitlam government in the 1970s. They wanted us to have the same benefit, and I am deeply grateful to have started my career without any debt.

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

My dad often emphasised the significance of superannuation and the importance of early investment for compound interest. He used to give me $100 every year for my birthday, which went straight into my super. As a teenager, it sucked, but looking back, it was a pretty savvy move by my dad. My mum also assisted me in setting up automatic payments of $50 every fortnight from my pay when I first started working.

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

Dominos Pizza. My friend saw an advertisement in the newspaper. We were both 14 years old and wanted to start working together for fun! It was a great little job, even though it didn't pay well at all.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not at all. I grew up thinking we were rich. We lived next door to a housing commission area (specifically for ex-prisoners), so the difference between our home and theirs was quite stark. I didn't realise just how different the world could be until I attended high school in Sydney. It was a culture shock for me and for them.

Do you worry about money now?

No, I used to worry about it in the past, but through conscientious planning, I've managed to secure myself a good position for the future.

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

29. Yes, I'm one of those millennials. Once my brother and I turned 18, we would contribute 20% of our income to cover board. Any expenses outside of the household were our responsibility (except, of course, the university semester fees). So, without a doubt, living with my folks for almost three decades made it easier to save and purchase my own home with my own savings.

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

High Interest Savings Account with 5.5% interest (monthly accrual). I'll likely earn approximately $2000 this year (before tax)

Day 1

6:45am: The alarm goes off, and I drag myself into the shower, still half-asleep. I assess how tired and sick I feel from last night's vomiting episode. Surprisingly, I feel better and decide it's time to glam up for the races. I convince myself I can totally conceal the lack of sleep.
8:35am: Outfit is on, hair is attempted, and makeup is acceptable. I may not look smoking hot, but at least I won't bring shame upon the family. I shoot a message to my Aunt A. in Sydney to inform her that I'm just leaving the Central Coast now. My cousin H. and uncle N. will join us later.
9:30am: I arrive at A.'s place on time. She's a bit flustered like me but once we're sorted, we hit the road for Rosehill.
10:30am: We made it! Now we hustle to find a table for the day. The first race doesn't start until 12:15, but it's Golden Slipper Day, and like everyone else, we want a table. We manage to snag one of the last available tables and settle in.
12:15pm: The first race is on, and we've placed our bets. I've wagered $5 on Tenderise, but no payout for me. A. queues up at the café and grabs me a coffee and an apple cinnamon muffin for our very belated breakfasts. She's the best. $5
12:40pm: H and N arrive. The whole area is now completely packed. We place our next bets, and this time I put down another $5 on Alamania to win. Unfortunately, no luck this time either. $5
1:00pm: We're all a bit peckish for lunch, so we take turns hunting down some grub. I find a nice vegetable quiche at the little café downstairs next to the bar. The line is short, so I quickly join it. $8
1:25pm: Getting a bit frustrated now, as I've had no wins yet. This time, I bet $2 each way on Yankee Hussel. Nope, he didn't perform today. None of us at the table have had a win or place yet. I ask H if she wants to take some photos for her Instagram. We head down to the old betting ring where various race sponsors have set up fancy spaces for public photos. I snap some shots of her sitting on a large gold slipper; she looks very chic and tall. I wish I had inherited those genes. $4
2:00pm: For the next race, I decide to place a $4 bet on the favourite, Schwarz, to win. You guessed it, another loss for me. If I weren't driving, I'd be hitting up the bar to get merry on some prosecco right now... N. got the winner this time; at least someone can celebrate. $4
2:35pm: I'm starting to lose hope, but I still put another $5 win on Via Sistina. This time, Via Sistina wins, and I receive $10 in return. Yay! Gained $5
3:15pm: Feeling more confident after that last race, I put another $2.50 each way bet on Tom Kitten. Confidence shattered... Tom Kitten didn't even get a place — another loss! N. wins again, which is good. $5
3:55pm: I place a $4 bet on Militarise to win. He finishes third. Darn it! Didn't have it each way. N. is cleaning up... again. He's having a great day! Poor A. and H. haven't had a place or win yet. $4
4:40pm: It's the Golden Slipper. I bet on Lady of Camelot. I take the last $5 note out of my wallet and put it on her to win. Lady of Camelot wins! She bravely holds on to the very end to beat the colts. I pocket $35... I watch her prance back into the winner's yard, ears pricked and very pleased with herself. She's a tough little filly. Gained $30
5:00pm: There are still two more races to go, but we leave early to beat the rush of traffic. I bid goodbye to my family members before heading back home to the Central Coast. While driving, I do some mental arithmetic and discover that I spent $37 on bets and won $35.
6:45pm: I've made it home and am utterly exhausted from the lack of sleep. I order some Greek chicken gyros for delivery and to meet the $25 minimum, I add a lemonade. My bank app gives me $5 cashback for using Menulog. It arrives, and it's the best decision I've made all day! It just hits the spot. I put on the latest episode of New Look on Apple TV and scoff down my dinner. $26.79 (not including $5 cash back).
8:00pm: Can't stay awake much longer, so I take off my makeup and hit the sack.
Daily Total: $36.79 ($71.79 - $35 of winnings)

Day 2

4:00am: I am wide awake. I go out to the kitchen and decide this is probably a good time to clean up the clothes pile I created yesterday when trying to figure out what to wear to the races.
5:00am: I’m still wide awake after the clean-up, so I have a coffee and watch some YouTube clips of whatever the algorithm has recommended for me. It’s almost time for me to get ready for my early morning jog.
5:45am: I’ve done my stretches, put on my running playlist and am out the door. I’m feeling good, probably because the humidity is now gone and it’s a bit cooler — I love autumn! My aim today is just to run slow and enjoy it.
6:30am: My body is completely shattered after that run… that last kilometre was not awesome. Somewhat grateful the clouds blocked the sunrise; the other recreationalists would have seen that my shirt was completely soaked through with sweat. I jump straight in for a cool shower to bring my body’s temperature down.
7:00am: Body wants sleep and I may as well give it what it wants, it’s the weekend. I put my alarm on for 9:30am and fall asleep.
9:30am: Up and clothed; ready to mow my parent’s lawns. I drive round to their place and pass on all the gossip from the family get-together yesterday. My Dad has just had back surgery and needs to rest. So far, he has enlisted my brother and I to do all sorts of jobs for him.
10:30am: I ask my Mum if I can have a bit of breakfast after mowing the lawns. She offers me some Special K and I gobble it down. Thanks Mum! Mum and I chat for a bit before I head off to the shops for groceries and other errands.
11:30am: I log into the Just Cuts app and check-in. It looks like I don’t have to wait, I go straight in — yay! I ask the hairdresser to take off about an inch and a half. My hair is so much better than before. Should have done this last weekend, before the races… Thank you, kind hairdresser. $42
12:00pm: In Aldi purchasing some groceries for this coming working week. I’ve got my dinners and lunches sorted through Hello Fresh this week (used a 30% discount) so won’t require meat or fresh vegetables. I’ve already cancelled my subscription after receiving my first box of food. I only ever use it when it’s a 30% or more off deal. From Aldi, I grab some almond milk, Greek yogurt, cheese, strawberries, popcorn, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpea chips, croissants, mini flatbread, dark chocolate, lemonade, and paper towels. $39.95
12:30pm: I’m so hungry at this point when I get home, I crack open one of the lemonade cans and the chickpea chips. They are so good. Ok now that my hunger has waned a little, I think I can muster up a proper little lunch without devouring the food before it hits the pan. I make myself some scrambled eggs with spinach, feta and the newly purchased sun-dried tomatoes. So quick, so easy and so tasty *mwah*
1:00pm: I potter around the house getting things done like the washing, vacuuming and cleaning. I ponder, how I, one human being, can make so much work for oneself in one week!
5:45pm: I begin cooking my Hello Fresh meal. It is the chicken parmigiana with wedges and apple salad. It’s taking ages (for me at least) to prep and I don’t have enough trays for the oven to get this done. I get out my cake slice tin and put the chicken tenders in there.
7:00pm Dinner is done and just in time for MAFS. I settle into my own couch and tuck into my meal. It’s massive and I devour all of it while I watch people on another couch get interrogated by relationship experts. I much prefer my couch right now…
8:30pm: MAFS finished and I look at my phone to check the weather for tomorrow — 28 degrees and 85% humidity! I’m done for… I’ll think about what to wear tomorrow. That can be a tomorrow problem.
9:00pm: In bed, nuff said.
Daily Total: $81.95

Day 3

6:50am: I begrudgingly get out of bed and have a quick shower. Remembering it’s a hot and humid day, I take out a light cotton dress that should keep me cool while teaching, as well as being suitable for a walk along the beach this afternoon with an old colleague, R.
7:35am: I shove a croissant in the oven and make my flat white coffee for the morning. I pack my lunch and fling my stuff across my car seat. I’ve got to haul my ass to work.
8:30am: I’m at work and chin wagging with my fellow colleagues. We catch up on what’s happened over the weekend. One of our colleagues is away so we all help the casual covering her classes gather resources in preparation for the day.
9:00am: School starts, let the games begin… 11:15am: First break. I bust into the staffroom and grab my food out of the fridge and shove it in the microwave before anyone else gets it. I sit down and wolf down my apple salad and potatoes from last night’s dinner. While eating, I track down some truancies from earlier, print out progress concern letters and input some marks into the system before I lose the piece of paper.
11:45am: Back to teaching another two lessons.
1:45pm: Second break. I come back into the staff room, sweaty and tired. Still got a class to go but at least it’s in a cooler classroom that has a working fan. I reheat the chicken parmigiana and make myself a cold fruit tea. As the designated “young” teacher, I help a fellow colleague understand how to use the school iPad for transferring photographs to student emails.
2:15pm: One last lesson!
3:15pm: Tired, thirsty, and relieved this humid stinking day is almost over. I type up a low-level incident from last lesson. I review what I am required to have prepped for tomorrow and see that I need to get a new resource together for one of my Year 9 classes. I start researching and formulating a worksheet, as well as find an appropriate skill-building activity for us to do.
4:00pm: I plod myself down into my very hot car and blast the air conditioning — car temp 34°C. I realise I’m still thirsty, so decide to do a Macca’s run for a Frozen Coke Zero ($2). Ah… it hits the spot. I let R. know that I’m on my way to the beach for our weekly walk. $2
4:30pm: R. and I walk along the beach. We enjoy wading in the water and sitting down in the shade while the surfers ride the break. It’s relaxing and we both enjoy this ritual walk we do every week.
6:30pm: Back home from the beach and I start cooking my next Hello Fresh meal – it’s a Chicken and Veggie Traybake.
7:30pm: I am just now eating my dinner with another little can of lemonade (I'm super slow in the kitchen). I’m still so thirsty and am not that keen on continuing to drink room-temperature tap water. So…. scrounging around, I find my plum wine in the fridge. I fill the tall glass halfway with ice and wine, then fill the rest with water. While eating my dinner I do more schoolwork for that Year 9 lesson tomorrow, as well as complete more student reports.
10:00pm: I’ve missed my TV shows amid doing schoolwork. I switch over to check Facebook and see that a small group of my friends are interested in going to the Lovedale Long Lunch. I inform them of my very keen interest to eat and drink all day.
11:00pm: In bed.
Daily Total: $2

Day 4

5:50am: Didn't get great sleep last night. I get out of bed, stretch, change into my running clothes, and head out for a quick jog around the block.
6:20am: Finished and sweaty from the humidity again. This is not autumn weather!
7:00am: Showered, clothed, and eating my croissant. I read the ABC news online while sipping on my flat white. It’s not as hot today, but most definitely not autumn either, so I choose once again another cotton dress to wear.
7:30am: On the road with my packed lunch – feeling so organised today!
8:30am: Arrive at school at my usual time. I chat with my colleagues while sorting out the last printout for another Year 9 class I’ll have tomorrow.
9:00am: After snaffling down some Greek yogurt and strawberries, the teaching day begins.
11:40am: My first break in the day. It’s a lesson I have off for class preparation, but I need to leave at the beginning of next break for Sport, so I use this time to eat my lunch and then end up consoling a teacher buddy, who is stressing out. I’m feeling like I need a little kick of energy to get through the afternoon, so I head on down to the canteen and purchase an iced coffee. $4.50
12:40pm: Off to sport with a ragged but lovable crew. A few kids use the café to purchase some ice cream, drinks, and lollies. I notice a student who, for previous weeks, has given out a dollar here and there to others. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any cash today. It’s also stinking hot, so I slide over a $5 note without the other kids noticing. She purchases a Milo ice cream cup. $5
2:40pm: Back from sport and now off to an afternoon staff meeting in the air-conditioned library.
3:40pm: All of us teachers walk straight out of the meeting and into our cars to drive home. We’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow – Parent/Teacher Night.
4:35pm: I'm home and feeling pretty blah. It’s probably a mixture of my jog this morning, humidity, and that time of the month that is surely going to arrive soon. I honestly can’t be bothered to do any extra schoolwork right now, but I do eventually haul in the washing I had hung out on Sunday. Afterwards, I just mindlessly lie on the couch and watch Tipping Point on free-to-air TV. I start to feel a little peckish, so I make myself a Vegemite and cheese toasty.
7:30pm: Not feeling that hungry; however, I still cook myself scrambled eggs with spinach and char-grilled capsicum. While eating, I unfortunately venture onto my work emails and get stuck there for half an hour. Afterwards, I prep my Year 11 work for tomorrow.
11:00pm: I go to bed and am not that tired now. Darn it!
Daily Total: $9.50

Day 5

6:30am: I really want to slap that alarm off, but I have an early start today. Yep, Aunt Irma is here — great... It’s not overly hot or humid today, but I do have parent/teacher interviews tonight. So, I choose to wear a floral linen dress and pack my makeup bag, in case I need to look more presentable later in the day.
7:10am: After a quick shower, no breakfast, nor a packed lunch, I am off to work with nothing in my stomach. Will I regret this decision? We will see…
7:55am: Just made it to work after some hold-up — turned out a little P-Plater car was side-swiped by a truck. Thankfully, everyone looks to be okay.
8:00am: Class has started, my senior students wander in at various times — five, 10, 25 minutes late.
10:15am: My first break of the day. I head out to the local café and get myself a substantial chicken and avocado toasty with an almond mocha. It’s expensive but this has got to last me until 5pm. $17.50
10:30am: Back on school grounds and devouring it all, probably at an unhealthy rate. After finishing my meal, I go collect the photocopying for my next class. The librarian ends up enlisting my help for some students who need to print their work for their history assessment. I’ve run out of time at this point to help them and let them know they can see me second break to sort it out.
11:45am: Back to teaching for another two lessons.
1:45pm: The students from the library are waiting at my staff room, desperate to figure out how to print their assessment. I guide them through the long arduous process, and they print out their magazines. The app they chose does make their work look amazing; however, it was an absolute punish to deal with.
2:15pm: Back in class.
3:15pm: I’ve finished the teaching for the day. So tired but we’ve still got a long way to go. I search up my final list for parent/teacher interviews and it’s not too full. I print the list off and make some notes. I check my Mandatory Training and am horrified to see that a two-hour course has lapsed and requires renewal. My colleagues chuckle at my demise. I now attempt to work through a two-hour course in less than two hours. I also try to quickly slap on some tinted moisturiser, mascara, and lipstick to make myself look alive before the interviews start.
5:00pm: Parent/teacher interviews commence. In between interviews, I fill up on vegetable curry, rice, fruit and a carrot cupcake that my teacher buddy and her Year 10 students prepared. They did an amazing job.
7:50pm: I’ve finished all my interviews and that two-hour mandated course. I get to pack up and go home. The Year 10 students did a great job of cleaning up after the catering so there was nothing left to do. I walk past a few of my colleagues on the way out who still have some interviews to go and wave goodbye.
8:15pm: On my way home, I discover that I need to get petrol. Eugh! $2.09 per litre is the cheapest I can find on the app. I fill up half a tank. $30.47
8:45pm: I’m home and completely knackered. I make myself a chai tea and have half a bar of dark chocolate from Aldi. Time to decompress and watch some YouTube clips of whatever the algorithm gives me… somewhat a dangerous strategy. It already knows I’m a woman who likes shopping, hiking and food — I’m basic and I don’t care.
11:15pm: Off to bed.
Daily Total: $47.97

Day 6

6:30am: Yay, it’s my day off today. I get up, put on some running gear and jump in the car for my sunrise beach run.
7:45am: I get home and am pleased with my effort. It was sprinkling while I was jogging and dark, but sunlight now peeps through the dark clouds, so I put on a load of washing. I eat my last croissant with a bowl of yogurt and strawberries. I’ve now finished my pack of croissants and it makes me sad.
8:30am: The washing machine has finished so I get in the shower to get fresh and clean again.
9:10am: I flick through various supermarket catalogues to see which has the best deal for my decaf coffee that I like to have after midday. I drive down to the local IGA and pick up zucchini, apples, cherry tomatoes, milk, coffee, juice, dishwashing liquid and of course a pack of hot cross buns. I also peruse the flavoured milk section and find a marked-down Dare iced coffee. $32.77
9:45am: Am home and feeling sleepy. I put away the groceries, drink the Dare iced coffee and somehow one hot cross bun didn’t make it into the cupboard. It’s been devoured with a slab of butter. Hmm… so good. At this point, I decide it’s time for a little nap. No-one can stop me. I slip back into my pj’s and roll back into bed.
11:30am: Ah, that was nice. I change back into my previous clothes of a maxi cotton dress and light cardigan — the weather is a bit cooler. I need to get some new bras; the ones I currently wear day to day are looking a bit grim.
12:30pm: Yikes the roads are packed! It’s as if the long weekend has already started. The shops are already filled with parents and school kids. I was hoping for a quiet shopping experience. Oh well. I walk through Myer and notice they have a 30% discount on all bras. I check out my favourite brands and take note of my size before heading into Uniqlo.
2:10pm: Escaping from the crowds, I get back into my car and am happy with my purchases. I got four bras from Myer; they ended up being better (for me personally) than the Uniqlo ones. Uniqlo still delivered with a new light grey t-shirt and a dark grey fleece top. $178.25
3:00pm: Back home again. I should really make the most of this time and do some housework but can’t be bothered. I put on the TV and stream the second last episode of the New Look.
5:15pm: I begin cooking my last Hello Fresh meal. This one is the Greek-style beef rissoles and salad. Can’t say this is going well. My rissoles have fallen apart in the pan and the small bowl I chose to mix everything in had spinach literally flying everywhere. Now there is no dill-parsley mayo packet. What? I throw some plain mayonnaise into the meal, but it just doesn’t hit the spot like the other recipes. I finish dinner off with the rest of the half-eaten Aldi dark chocolate bar.
6:30pm: I log into ABC iView and catch up on my shows that I missed earlier in the week. I do like being updated about what’s going on in our society.
8:15pm: I receive a text from friends who want to change our hike tomorrow morning to Saturday instead. One is too tired after a long day of work and another from going too hard at the Sydney Royal Easter Show (i.e. trying out all the gins). I let them know, Saturday works well for me too.
8:20pm: Cousin Y. texts me. She’s up from Canberra and wants to do coffee tomorrow. Perfect.
10:00pm: I finish my ABC iView binge with a Bluey episode of Hammerbarn. It makes me happy after absorbing some harsh realities from the other shows I had just watched. Off to bed.
Daily Total: $211.02

Day 7

6:30am: Rain and wind have woken me up and I decide to just get up anyway. I realise that the washing I did yesterday, I did not put out — darn it. I check that it still smells fresh and it’s fine. Every door and door handle now has my lingerie and clothing hanging from it.
7:15am: I turn on the TV and select a YouTube online workout to follow. I deliberately choose one with no planks hehe. It’s clear that I don’t follow any workout plan. I shower afterwards and change into comfy leggings, a tank top, and an overshirt.
8:00am: I make a bacon, egg, cheese, spinach, and tomato relish wrap. It’s one of my favourite breakfasts and it’s just right.
8:30am: My Mum calls to find out if I’ll still be coming around for my usual Friday family dinner. Of course, I am — I love other people cooking for me! She asks what she can make, considering it's Good Friday. I realise at this point, that I just ate bacon…
9:30am: Before picking up Y. for coffee, I see that I need to vacuum my car. I’ve created my own sandpit to play in while I drive. I use my Kmart car vacuum cleaner to try to suck up all the sand — it does an okay job.
10:00am: I pick Y. and we start driving around the neighbourhood looking for a quiet café open. We discover there is no such thing as a quiet café on Good Friday. The few cafés that are open are already packed, so we decide to go for a Macca’s drive-through. I get an almond mocha and Y gets a cappuccino. My shout this time. $10.75
10:15am: Y. and I decide to just stay in the car; it’s raining on and off. We drive down to Pearl Beach and Patonga. Y. and I admire all the fancy holiday/weekender homes and ponder how many are full of people right now.
11:45am: I drop Y. off back at her parent’s place and head back home. I toast a hot cross bun and savour it. I could do some housework right now but just not feeling it. Instead, I hop on the computer and start researching a short solo trip away that I’d like to take in the upcoming school holidays. I look at Orange, Mudgee, and Oberon.
1:00pm: Yeah, that was probably a waste of time — still not decided. I eat the leftovers from my meal last night and am clearly not abiding by the religious law of no meat on Good Friday.
1:15pm: I decide it’s time to be productive, so I clean my bathroom. When I finally get around to renovating it (which is what I am saving for), I certainly will not be choosing small tiles with lots of grout to keep clean — I’m lazy, what can I say?
2.25pm: Speaking of lazy, I’m back on the couch. I’ve found a movie to watch on Prime called The Boys in the Boat. It was an O.K film. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t tell people to go out of their way to go watch it.
5:30pm: At my parent’s place for dinner. We’re having crumbed fish, chips, and salad. My Dad loves his air fryer. The food is lovely and crisp, even though plated up, it looks like a kid’s meal from the local RSL. Mum and I chat for hours afterward, while Dad goes back inside to watch the telly to sit on a comfier chair. I help clean up, and Mum informs me of the schedule for Easter Sunday. I ask her if she needs me to bring any food, and she decides that I can buy the blueberries because they are expensive right now. Considering she doesn’t want me to cook anything, I accept that I’ll be buying some stupidly expensive blueberries for this Easter.
9:10pm: Home again, and I check with my friends that we are right for our hike early tomorrow morning. It appears we are good to go.
9:50pm: I can see the pack of hot cross buns sitting above my microwave. One disappears down my gullet. Content with everything, I go to bed — ready for a full morning of hiking along the coastline tomorrow — yay!
Daily Total: $10.75
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