Money Diaries

A Week In Waverton, Sydney, As A Scientist On $115,000

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last dollar.
Anyone can write a Money Diary! Want to see yours here? Here's how. If your diary is published, you'll receive $200.
Today: a scientist who makes $115,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on an $11 smoothie.
Occupation: Therapy Area Specialist. In layman’s terms, I am a scientist.
Industry: Pharmaceutical Industry
Age: 24
Location: Waverton, Sydney
Salary: $115,000 + bonus + super
Net Worth: $66,000 ($112,000 in savings, $4,500 in shares, $13,500 in super). When I got my first job at the age of 18, I set up a savings account with the nickname “Mosman Mansion Fund”. As silly as the name is, it has always served as a reminder to choose my larger financial goals over instant gratification. It is so easy to spend an inconsequential $5 on coffee and $150 on a pretty pair of shoes (we have all been there), but I came to realise that these small amounts add up and could potentially contribute something I would value a lot more. Hopefully, I will have close to $150,000 by the middle of next year for a down payment for a cute apartment overlooking the water (not quite at the mansion stage yet!).
Debt: I don’t have any consumer debt and pay my credit card off in full each month. I have the philosophy that I can't afford it if I don’t have the money for it in my checking account. I do, however, have a whopping $64,000 of HECS debt, courtesy of two undergraduate degrees and a full-fee postgraduate degree.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $6,304. I get paid monthly. I prefer this since my fixed expenses such as my rent and credit card payments are paid monthly. It makes it so much easier to coordinate inflows and outflows when they are using the same metric.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: My rent is $1,500 per month, which in my opinion is pretty decent in the context of the rental prices in Sydney’s North Shore at the moment. We will be having a small rental increase in two months’ time, which means I will be paying an extra $120 a month. I call it small because I have friends who have had their rent go up by more than $100 per week. How insane is that?! I live in a spacious three-bedroom apartment with my two lovely housemates. We have a 40/30/30 split with me paying the 40% of the rent for the master bedroom and ensuite. I honestly could not be happier with the apartment. I have a lot of space in my bedroom, and my housemate and I have converted our dining space into a co-working space. To top it off, we have a gorgeous view of the harbour from the balcony and our bedrooms, which is a nice reminder each morning that I live in an amazing city and that I have plenty to be grateful for. We split all other household expenses by three.
Internet: $25
Electricity: Averages at around $60 per month We also take turns to replenish household supplies like paper towels and dishwashing tablets, which on average is $40 per month.
Home: This isn't a recurring expense, but recently we also have been changing the aesthetic of decor and furniture to make the apartment look more homely. So far this month, I have spent $200 on throws and pillows!
HECS Debt: This year, I started making voluntary contributions to my HECS debt — approximately $1,500 per month. I know that HECS in essence is an interest-free loan but having completed two undergraduate degrees (equating to $40,000) and almost being done with my Master's (which is another $40,000), I was starting to feel uncomfortable with the amount of student loan debt I had. Hopefully bringing the amount down will also increase my borrowing power, which is much needed in this high interest rate environment!
Phone Bill: $30
iCloud: $4.50. I share this account with my sister.
Netflix: $22. I pay for the account that I share with my family.
Car Insurance: $42
Virgin Active Membership: $180 per month. I find it to be so worth the cost. Other Pilates studios charge around $20 to $30 per Pilates class, whereas here, I can attend as many classes as I want per week.

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

I have completed a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences and am one semester away from finishing my master's degree in Pharmaceutical Development. I deferred all the fees to HECS, and sometimes am so grateful that we have this system in place. As mentioned, the total costs of my three degrees add up to $80,000 but because of both voluntary contributions and mandatory repayments, the figure is currently sitting at $64,000. For the time being, I am quite content with my role at work, but I recently have been planning out my short, medium and long-term career goals. In the medium and long term, I am hoping to get into a leadership and business development role in the pharma industry, for which an MBA ($60,000) is generally expected. However, in all honesty, I would not consider commencing the degree by taking on any more HECS debt. I would only do it if my employer pays for it or if I get a full scholarship.

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

My parents immigrated to Australia as skilled migrants about 25 years ago. They studied hard all throughout their schooling so they could get jobs that would allow them to move out of their country and strive for a better life for me and my sister. So, this meant that my parents built their lives and their wealth in Australia from the ground up, and this was made abundantly clear growing up. There were a lot of statements like “money doesn’t grow on trees” being thrown around by my dad! My parents would remind my sister and I that it takes hard work to earn money and that they intended to use their hard-earned money only on things they valued or had a return on investment.
One big example of this philosophy was investing money in my education. They made sure I went to the best schools, went to expensive tutoring programs, went on international school study tours, and did the extra-curriculars that would set me up for success.
On the flip side, when it came to leisure activities and entertainment, they would question the need for it and would strongly encourage me to save that money instead. They do not entirely understand why I would choose to buy a $25 smashed avocado from a café instead of making it at home for a fraction of the price.

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

My parents strongly discouraged me from working during high school, thinking that it would hinder me from getting good grades. So, I got my first job as a chemistry tutor in the summer after graduating high school, mainly out of boredom. However, once I started working, I came to realise that I had the means to do all the fun things with my friends that my parents restricted me on. Thankfully, that phase didn’t last too long, and I started being more responsible, with myself and my money.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I was never worried about money per se because I wasn’t aware of the consequences of spending more than you had or the feeling of real lack. My parents were very fiscally responsible and in control of their money, so we never were in a situation where we were short on money. They also prioritised spending on the big things like living in a nice house in a nice neighbourhood, so as a child, I was always under the impression that we were middle to upper to middle class. However, when it came to spending on the “extras” like travel, I was led to believe that those things were a “waste of money” or “for rich people”.
It was more so that I was hyperaware of the power of money from a young age. I was implicitly taught that money controls what kind of lifestyle you can lead, who your friends are and how you are perceived by others. I was directed to invest my money and my efforts in pursuits that gave rise to more opportunities or mobilised my social standing. I feel as though this mindset dictates my behaviour with money to this day, for better or for worse.

Do you worry about money now?

I thankfully am not worried about running out of money, even in these economic conditions, given that I have the financial safety net of my savings. I do feel like I am in a privileged position where I am not restricted by the amount of money I have in the bank. Even when I have larger payments to make, such as rental bonds or flights, I have the confidence that I have the money available and that if I really need or want something I can indeed have it. I do however think about money a lot and that influences how I think and feel.
As a young, ambitious, working professional in Sydney, I am surrounded by a lot of very hard-working successful people. Many of my friends work in very high-paying corporate roles and live a fast-paced, expensive lifestyle. Imagine the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle that is often associated with working in law firms and investment banks. Being surrounded by these people at times can lead me to feel like I am not doing enough in my career, earning enough and/or not living life to the fullest. I know that it is not too true, but it is often hard not to compare yourself with how your peers are doing or feel pressured to spend a little bit more than you intended to, for example, at a boozy brunch with the gals. This feeds into feelings of being inadequate in my career or to spending money to keep up with the Jones.
Because of my upbringing, I also find myself feeling guilty when spending on discretionary things. After spending $100 on said boozy brunch with friends, even though I value spending time with my friends, I do still feel a pang of guilt afterwards. It stems from knowing that my parents sacrificed pleasures to save money to give me and my sister a better life and that I am letting their sacrifices be in vain. It is an internal dialogue that I am working on shifting now and I hope that one day I can strike a balance.

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

I started paying for my personal expenses such as fuel for my car, eating out and clothes once I got my first part-time job after high school. However, I didn’t become fully financially independent until I moved out of home at the age of 22. Things were more comfortable than expected since my graduate salary was decent and I had the cushion of my savings, but I do still remember the initial shock of paying the electricity bill and the cost of groceries. That was the first time I well and truly felt like an adult. Even though I can support myself, I also know that in the unfortunate event that I lose my savings or my job, I know my parents would help me out or let me move back home. Now that I am in a reasonable financial position, I know that if the reverse were to happen, I would do the same.

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

I haven’t inherited any money but up until I got my graduate role, my parents supported me here and there. For example, my dad contributed $10,000 so I could buy my car outright, which I am extremely grateful for.

Day 1

6:25am — I wake up naturally and feel refreshed, just before my 6:30 am alarm goes off. I turn it off quickly before it wakes up my housemates, and spring out of bed, ready to conquer my Tuesday. I go through the motions of my morning routine which includes a four-step morning skincare routine (cleanse, tone, moisturise and sunscreen), chugging two glasses of water, listening to a podcast as I make my bed, pack my work bag, and get dressed. If you are curious, I was listening to the Monday episode of She’s On The Money which has been a great resource in helping me become more financially literate and comfortable discussing money-related topics with friends. The podcast host, Victoria Devine, and her team are very relatable and make the topic enjoyable to listen to.
7:00am — I pop up into the kitchen, quickly make myself a coffee with instant coffee and some soy milk. Not the best in terms of taste and pleasure, but it’s economical and I know I will be buying a coffee (or two) later today. I also warm up a slice of baked oats that I made during my Sunday meal prep. I quickly eat those two and place the dishes into the dishwasher. I say bye to my housemates who are now up and head out the door.
7:30am — I get on the train and head to the university campus. Today is a bit of an unusual one for me. I have taken an intensive winter unit as a part of my master’s degree and today is the final day of four in-person workshops on campus. I have taken study leave from work so I can manage my conflicting schedule, but I can see that my work emails have already piled up during my three days of absence. I spend the train ride attending to the urgent ones.
8:10am — I make it to class with 20 minutes to spare and take a seat next to the girls I sat next to yesterday. We spend the time discussing the pre-workshop reading. As context, this unit is a crossover with the medical department and the business school, so I am feeling very intellectually stimulated by all these fresh perspectives on the healthcare system and ready to dive into the workshop.
10:30am — We have our first break of the workshop and several of us head to the ground floor café for a caffeine boost. I order my first barista-made coffee of the day — a large soy latte. $5.50
12:45pm — We have another two hours of class before our lunch break. I warm up my home-cooked lunch — a chicken stir fry with vegetables and brown rice — and eat it in the cafeteria. My peers join me once they grab their sandwiches from the café.
5:00pm — We power through the rest of the content of the workshop with only short five-minute breaks. It would have been nice if we had time for another coffee, but I leave feeling more knowledgeable and brimming with new ideas. Doing these workshops has encouraged me to think about my career progression and has motivated me to consider more leadership-focused, business development-related (and more high-paying) roles within my industry. After a quick LinkedIn exchange with the professor, I hop on the train and head home. My daily transport total is $7.60.
5:50pm — I make it home and unpack my bag. I have about one hour before I have to leave to get my soccer game, so get into my gear, take my washing off the clothesline and into a basket, and eat my dinner. I cannot eat too much before I game, so I opt for a quinoa salad I was saving for tomorrow’s work lunch.
7:00pm — I walk 15 minutes to the oval and start warming up with my team. It is a social competition but most of the teams are pretty skilled and competitive. It is well worth the $153 registration fee per season. We give the other team a run for their money and manage to get a 1—1 draw.
9:15pm — I don’t hang back any longer and walk home. I have a hot steamy shower when I get home. I start my evening routine by brushing my teeth, washing my face, and responding to my texts.
10:30pm — I swap my phone for the book I am currently reading (Last Drinks by Maz Compton). I am pretty wiped after my day, so I fall asleep by 10:45pm.
Daily Total: $13.10

Day 2

6:30am — I wake up at 6:30am on the dot today (with a little less gusto than yesterday) and I get straight into my morning routine without hesitation. I will be going into the office today and we have an all-employee meet and greet with the regional head scheduled, so I spend a bit of extra time getting ready. I decide to wear my baby blue Portman power suit because I feel inspired by the Rise and Conquer By Georgie Stevenson podcast episode I listened to.
7:20am — I make my instant coffee concoction, and consume some coffee, baked oats, and a banana.
7:45am — I am out the door and hop on the train. On the days that I commute to the office, I always pull out my notebook on the train, journal for about five minutes and write a to-do/priority list. I feel as though this puts me in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. Today, the three things I want to achieve are — introducing myself to the regional head, getting my email inbox down to zero and Googling scholarships available for the MBA program at my uni.
8:30am — I walk into work and pick a hot desk in the focus zone of the office. I put my bag down, log in and then head to the kitchen to grab a coffee. Our work has free barista-made coffee, so I ask S., the barista, for a large soy latte. S. is Latin American and knows that I do weekly Spanish classes, so we have a cute chat in Spanish as she makes my coffee.
8:45am — I return to my desk and get cracking into my emails. I power through most of them and add the action items to my work to-do list.
12:30pm — My colleagues and I head to the conference room upstairs for the all-employee meeting. As we walk up, one of my colleagues reminds me that the meeting is catered. I completely forgot about that! I guess I'm taking my lunch back home then. We sit through the formal presentation and have the provided lunch during the networking session. I managed to get a five-minute chat with the Regional Head as we both grab cupcakes after finishing our lunches — another item ticked off my priority list!
1:30pm — The rest of my workday consists of meetings with my stakeholders and starting on a slide deck for a presentation I have on Monday.
5:15pm — I wrap up my workday and jump on the train home. I leave, feeling content that I have been productive and that I've managed to catch up after the four days I was out of the office. I spend the train ride on the phone with my mum, who I haven't spoken to since the weekend.
6:00pm — I drop my work bag at home, put the uneaten work lunch into the fridge, and grab my gym bag.
6:15pm — I hop on the train and head to the gym. Because of the proximity to the city, it is difficult to drive and find free or available parking next to my gym. The next best option is to take a five-minute train there and back.
6:25pm — I make it to my 6:30pm Pilates class on time and break into a sweat in the 45-minute Virgin Active class.
7:40pm — After having a shower at the gym, I head home via train (daily total: $10.60). $10.60
8:00pm — My housemate C. has ordered pizza, so I have two slices for dinner (C. pays). C. and my other housemate N. are on the couch watching Taken as C. is going on a two-month Europe trip in a week’s time. I half-watch the movie as I Google scholarships and have a quick glance of my bank account, where I see the direct debit for my gym membership ($90) and an automatic top-up of my E-Toll ($40) have occurred today. I've also received a reminder to pay my quarterly car registration last week, so I complete that too ($214). I also owe my friend $23 for brunch last Sunday, so I transfer that too. $367
10:15pm — I call it a night, do my skincare routine and head to bed early.
Daily Total: $377.60

Day 3

6:30am — Another day, another dollar. I wake up at the sound of my alarm and complete my morning routine. I am not going into the office today, so instead of spending my time getting ready for the office, I fold the pile of clean laundry that has been staring at me for two days to the sounds of the Date Yourself Instead podcast. I eat the last of my baked oats and have an apple.
7:30am — On the days that I am WFH, I take a walk around the block to get some fresh air and sunlight before I spend my day cooped up at home. I have a favourite route that snakes through a reserve overlooking the harbour. Just seeing the boats on the water in the early morning has an immediate calming effect. On my way to the reserve, I walk past my local coffee shop, and I am enticed into getting a macadamia milk latte. I get C. a cappuccino as he's also WFH today. $10.30
8:15am — Still sipping my coffee, I sign into my work laptop and start my workday. The next few hours feel like minutes as I focus on the tasks at hand.
1:30pm — I find a gap in my meetings and have my lunch. It’s chicken stir fry and rice again. Thankfully, it is the last of the stir-fry meal prep! I was starting to get a bit sick of it.
2:00pm — I continue working for another couple of hours. I also book flights and accommodation for an upcoming conference for work, but I put that on the work card.
5:00pm — I sign off at 5pm on the dot, satisfied with the amount of work I was able to produce today. I have a nice long warm shower as a nice reset of my brain and wash my hair.
5:45pm — I get dressed and drive to my nearest Westfield. My friend and I decided that today we could meet up and do our groceries and errands together — that it would be an enjoyable way to make boring life admin a bit more fun. Here, I buy my groceries for the fortnight ($180.70) – ouch groceries are getting expensive! We get ramen to reward ourselves ($21) and then head home. $201.70
9:10pm — My car needs some fuel, so I stop by the petrol pump on the way back home. $34.50
9:30pm — I unload the car and put all the groceries away as quickly as possible. It's felt like a long day, so I make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $212

Day 4

6:20am — TGIF! I wake up nice and early and do the signature morning routine.
6:50am — Decked in my Running Bare activewear, I hop on the train. I'm Virgin Active bound for an early morning Pilates class.
8:15am — After a workout that burned my glutes and a quick rinse in the gym showers, I hop back on the train and head home to start my workday.
8:25am — I get off the train and satisfy my craving for a coffee and croissant by going to the bakery next to the station ($10.50). I could have made myself a quick breakfast at home, but I managed to convince myself that this is an incentive to get through my morning. $10.50
8:45am — All caffeinated, I log in and power through my emails and morning meetings.
12:30pm — I pull the last of my meal prep containers out of the fridge and have lunch. N. is also working from home and he makes me a tea.
1:10pm — I dive back into work and finish as much as I can before I close off for the week.
4:45pm — All done and dusted for the work week! And now I have a date! A first date, in fact. I am finally dipping my toes back into the dating pool and it’s the first ‘first date’ I have been on in while. So, in preparation, I jam to some hype music as I do my hair and makeup and throw on a LBD.
5:45pm — I get on the train in my cute fit and arrive at a French restaurant just before my date. Those in Sydney probably would have heard of Restaurant Hubert and would know that the food and ambience is lovely, but the food is quite overpriced (in my opinion). The conversation was pleasant, but I don't want to pursue things any further. At the end of the meal, we split the bill ($69) and head our own ways (daily public transport total: $6.40). $75.40
Daily Total: $85.90

Day 5

6:50am — I am up nice and early, even though I don’t really need to be. I put on some Lorna Jane leggings and head out for some fresh air. I walk around the block and stop at a bench in the park for a bit to do some mindfulness journaling.
8:45am — Once I am home, I make myself a green smoothie and some toast and sit on the balcony.
9:30am — My friend has a stall at the Kirribilli Markets today, so I get dressed and walk there. I love a good market; you can find such cute, one-of-a-kind pieces there. However, today is more of a window-shopping kind of day, so I walk past all the stalls and stop to show support and have a chat with my friend.
11:45pm — I am back at home. I have a Christmas in July potluck at a friend’s house tonight, so I pop the apricot-stuffed chicken roast that I got from the shops on Thursday into the oven. I spend the waiting time finishing off some readings for my master’s degree.
1:45pm — The chicken is out of the oven so it can rest. I chuck on my ugly Christmas jumper and get ready for the party. Once I am done, I drive over to her house.
3:30pm — We spend the afternoon and evening eating, laughing and drinking (non-alcoholic for me since I’m sober curious). The potluck is a great way to get the whole group together and have fun without breaking the bank.
9:30pm — I drive back home, feeling fulfilled and joyous and once I am there, I wind down for bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day 6

7:00am — Sundays are my life admin days. I wake a bit slower and take a bit more care with my morning routine.
8:00am — I take the train to the gym and join two of my friends for a Pilates class. We have trampolines so it's very cardio-heavy and are soon puffed out!
8:50am — The three of us catch up over smoothies in the café downstairs. $11
11:30am — After a train ride, I am back home ($3.20) and I get started on some housework. My housemates are home too so we have some music playing as we vacuum, mop and straighten things up. $3.20
1:30pm — I start meal prepping for the week. I find that this process may take up a couple of hours of my weekends but then I am not worrying about my meals on the busy weekdays. On the menu this week is breakfast burritos, a French spinach quiche, Sri Lankan chickpea curry and brown rice and sesame noodle bowls. It takes about 3.5 hours but I stay on a call with my best friend so the hours fly by.
5:10pm — I have a well-deserved “everything shower” and put on some loungewear. I am quite hungry after skipping lunch, so I dig into some warm chickpea curry.
7:20pm — I am all relaxed so I light a candle and get comfy on the couch with my laptop. Completing my tax return has been on my to-do list, so I get that out of the way. From the calculations, it looks like I will be getting a decent amount back!
8:50pm — I retreat to my room with an Earl Grey tea and spend the rest of the evening reading.
Daily Total: $14.20

Day 7

6:30am — The start of the work week! I begrudgingly get up as my alarm goes off and get ready for a day in the office while listening to the Hot Girl Energy Podcast. I have a cup of my ‘dishwater” instant coffee and one of the breakfast burritos I made on Sunday. I also pop a Tupperware container with my quiche into my work bag.
7:45am — On the train, I write in my journal that my three focuses for today will be to present confidently during my talk, squeeze in a run after work, and to write at least a paragraph for my master’s assignment.
8:25am — I go straight to S. for a coffee, talk about our weekends in Spanish and pick a desk to work at today.
8:50am — I power through some work. The presentation to the gastroenterologists went well!
12:30pm — My colleagues and I stop for lunch and reheat our home-cooked lunches in the cafeteria. Three of my colleagues went to the snow on the weekend and spoke about how expensive the accommodation and passes have gotten this year.
1:10pm — Back to work! I make progress with my work tasks and uni assignments. Two tasks down, one to go.
5:10pm — I log off and head out of the office. Catch the train back home (daily public transport total: $5.80) and have a brief chat with my sister, as well as a peek at my banking app. My monthly paycheque has been deposited. Yay! $5.80
5:50pm — I make it home and realise I do not have enough time for a run before my 6:30pm Spanish class. I change, do a 10-minute stretch, and reheat my chickpea curry and rice for dinner.
6:30pm — I have my dinner as I conjugate verbs in my Spanish class. The classes are $350 for 25 hours of lessons, split over 10 weeks. I think I get value for money for the classes; I think it’s a great way to meet new people with a common interest and make a weeknight more interesting.
9:00pm — We say adios and I have a warm shower and prepare for bed. I get into bed early, read Last Drinks for 20 minutes and turn the lights out.
Daily Total: $5.80

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

Hope you enjoyed reading the play-by-play of my week. As you probably realised, money often is a consideration when I go about my daily life, whether it be deciding to work hard at work so I get promoted, or choosing to eat out versus cook, or even what hobbies I pursue.
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. You should always obtain your own independent advice before making any financial decisions.
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