Money Diaries

A Week In Sydney’s Inner West As A Senior Advisor On $128,000

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Today: a senior advisor who makes $128,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on ground coffee beans.
Occupation: Senior Advisor
Industry: Government
Age: 33
Location: Inner West, Sydney
Salary: $128,061
Net Worth: $433,000 ($382,200 equity in a flat worth approximately $850,000, $20,000 in an offset account, $4,800 in a holiday savings account, $110,000 in super, and a car worth approximately $26,000).
Debt: $467,800 owing on my mortgage.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $3,540
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $2,747, but I always pay extra so this is probably closer to $3,000. I live alone in my flat, which I really enjoy. I’ve been seeing my boyfriend J. for a little over six months, but we haven’t spoken about living together yet. For now, this suits me fine!
Private Health Insurance: $131.60
Union Fees: $30.50
Food Bank Donation: $20
ClassPass: $69
Netflix: $10.99 (I use my parents' Prime Video and my boyfriend's Binge and Disney+)
Spotify: $11.99
Apple Cloud Storage: $1.49
Internet: $80
Petrol: $35
Utilities: I pay my electricity, gas, water and council rates quarterly — on average this comes to $775/quarter.
Strata: My strata levies have recently jumped significantly to $1,300 a quarter. This is largely due to the increase in strata insurance premiums.
Car Insurance: I also have car expenses that I pay annually (CTP, registration, insurance). This came to $1,820 this past year. I transfer $700 a month to my offset savings to try and cover these expenses (I tend to put any gifts, tax returns, as well as extra pay from temporary work in a higher role into this account too).
Savings: I also transfer $250 a fortnight into a 'holidays and fun' savings account.

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

I did a five-year combined undergraduate degree in Law and Science, which was covered by HECS (including a semester abroad, for which I also received a university scholarship for living expenses). I paid off the remainder of my HECS debt (with savings) before buying my flat. I also completed a Master's degree in the UK. I saved up and paid for two-thirds of my tuition, with my parents paying the balance. Their assistance meant that I could use the rest of my savings to cover my living and travel expenses, which I supplemented with a part-time hospitality job.

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

My parents always spoke of the importance of saving, minimising waste and living within your means. A lot of this stemmed from their experience growing up in a developing country, then living as migrants with limited means in their early years in Australia. Over the years, my parents have taught me a lot about finances, and their advice was super helpful when I was looking at home loan options. What I love about my parents’ approach to money is that while they’re very careful, they also taught us the importance of making sure we had enough money set aside to enjoy life, to travel and to help those in need.

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

I started working as a Christmas casual in retail after I finished my HSC. My parents didn’t want me to have a job while I was still in school as they wanted me to focus on my studies. I was a total nerd with very simple needs so this suited me fine! I worked in retail for a couple of years before moving into part-time office work— it helped me to pay for my daily expenses while I was at uni and allowed me to save up for holidays.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not really. I knew we weren’t rich but I always had what I needed. I now know that my parents were often very worried about money. Things were tight when I was younger, as my parents were new migrants and we were all living off my dad’s modest income. We rarely ate out and I don’t think my mother ever did anything nice for herself (not even a haircut, let alone nails or eyebrows) but she made sure we were always dressed immaculately. Once my sister and I started school, my mum started working full time and things gradually became easier. My parents were able to buy a house when I was in primary school and they're now comfortably middle class.

Do you worry about money now?

I’m grateful for the position I’m currently in but I do worry about the future. I still think I’d manage but I want to have children so that would create additional financial pressure. While I earn a good income, as a public servant my pay is not likely to go up substantially if I stay in the sector. On the flip side, if my boyfriend and I move in together, that could make things a lot more manageable in the long run. Food for thought! For now though, even with costs going up, I’m able to meet all of my essential expenses and still have enough to enjoy life.

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

This is a hard one to answer precisely because apart from a semester abroad, I lived at home until I was 25 (and also moved in and out until I was 30). Multi-generational living is the norm in my family and there was never any expectation that I would move out or pay rent or board. I know this isn’t the Western norm, and while I did sometimes feel judged for it, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I was able to spend a lot of time with my late grandparents and help with their care as their health deteriorated. Being able to live at home rent-free was an incredible privilege and it helped me to save for my overseas Masters, pay off my HECS debt and buy an apartment. I have the added advantage of getting along really well with my parents. When I did move out, they were incredibly supportive, as they were when I moved back in after a difficult break-up. As long as they’re able to, they will always provide a safety net and I’m eternally grateful for my good fortune.

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

Yes. My parents gave me $60,000 towards the deposit for my flat, which included an amount my late grandparents had left me (with interest, that came to around $10,000). Without this, it would have taken me longer to buy a place, and I would have had to borrow more.

Day 1

6:15am — Most work days I set an alarm for 6:45am but I’m usually up before it. I wish I could say that I make the most of this and always head out for a run and seize the day, but often I just have a coffee and stare into space. This morning I make a coffee and Facetime my mum for a bit, before having a shower and getting ready for work.
7:45am — I’m out the door and head to the station to catch the train to work. $4.71
9:15am — I’ve been at work for about an hour when one of our admin team suggests we go out for a coffee. I tend to have a second coffee on my office days, mainly as a social thing — this morning my colleague insists on paying for my coffee which is very sweet of her (apparently I bought hers last time so we’re even). The rest of the morning flies by as there are a few urgent requests for advice from senior management that I need to finalise by midday.
12:00pm — I eat my packed lunch. Today it’s a roast vegetable salad from last night which I always knew wasn’t going to be enough so I also packed a thick slice of bread and a small tub of Greek yoghurt. I go on Instagram while I eat and see that the Sydney Symphony Orchestra have a recital in a couple of months’ time and text my mother to see if she’s interested. I’ve always enjoyed classical music but I’m definitely no music scholar. I’ve started listening to ABC Classic in recent years and my love for the genre has grown — I’ve gotten my parents into it too. Mum responds almost immediately with an emphatic “yes” so I book us tickets. Mine is $45 – I’m thrilled to still be considered “youth” somewhere — and hers is $72. With the booking fee, it comes to $125.
3:00pm — As I’m making an arvo cuppa I notice that someone has left a pack of Tim Tams in the office kitchen with a little post-it reading “eat me”. I obey (x2).
5:00pm — I race out of the office and catch a train across the city to meet a friend to check out a new exhibition. $3.79
5:45pm — My friend and I decide to have dinner at the Gallery. We each get a bowl of pasta, a glass of wine, and share a salad. It’s been a couple of months since we last caught up so it’s fun to catch up on work, family, love and life. The bill comes close to $100 but my lovely friend snatches it away and insists on paying as a belated treat for my birthday (which was last week). We then spend a delightful hour or so checking out the exhibition (tickets are $25 each, and I shout because of the generous birthday treat!). I don’t know a great deal about art and art theory but I’ve always loved going to galleries. I’m enjoying it even more these days as exhibitions get more representative and diverse — not just in terms of the subjects, but also the artistic styles. I catch a train home around 8:30pm ($2.65). $52.65
9:00pm — Once I get home, I hop straight into the shower. I do my night-time skincare routine, which is super simple: cleansing oil to remove light makeup, followed by a gel cleanser, then jojoba oil and Paula’s Choice Intensive Repair Cream. I also prep some overnight oats for tomorrow (oats, almond milk and some frozen berries on top — will they thaw by the morning?), drink some water and hop into bed. I attempt a page of my book before succumbing to sleep.
Daily Total: $186.15

Day 2

5:45am — I’m up a lot earlier than I need to be — embarrassingly, I think it’s because I had a small glass of red wine last night. I make a coffee and pack my work bag then splash some cold water on my face before walking to a reformer Pilates class.
8:20am — That class was hard. I can barely feel my legs but manage to shower (I forgot my towel so I have to hire one for $3) and make myself somewhat presentable before hopping on a bus, then a train to work ($4.99). $7.99
9:00am — I arrive at work pleased to have a bit of time to prep for my first meeting. I then spend the next half hour stuck in a lift — this would have terrified me except it happens fairly regularly. This time, a lovely lady from one of the other floors is stuck with me and we pass the time waiting for the technician chatting about our jobs and exchanging overnight oats recipes (when we realised we were stuck, she told me she had overnight oats in her bag in case we were there for hours and starvation kicked in).
9:30am — We’ve been released from the lift and I’m finally at my desk. The 10am meeting has been postponed so I spend the next half hour warning everyone in the office that the lifts are at it again. I crack into the overnight oats (the berries have indeed thawed, this is perfect).
12:00pm — One of my regional team members is in town for the day so we go out for a team curry (the lifts appear to be working again). I get a naan with two veggie curries and a lemonade. $19
2:15pm — It’s a relatively quiet day so I start to scope out some research our team has been talking about for a while. We have a team meeting at 3pm and I share a few of my initial ideas.
5:00pm — I’m knackered and very glad to head home ($4.71). I’m looking forward to a quiet night in. $4.71
6:00pm — I did a big Aldi shop earlier this week so I have everything I need to make crispy Brussels sprouts and spaghetti with a simple marinara sauce and lentil “polpette”. I put on a playlist of classic French pop songs and get chopping and frying. The spaghetti recipe is from a cookbook I was given for my birthday and is an absolute winner— a little fiddly to make but I will definitely be making it again! After I’ve washed up, I have a quick shower and settle in for an episode of Queer Eye (it’s the one where they go to a frat house and I find myself getting a little teary because this group of 19-year-old men just seem so lovely and kind).
9:00pm — Episode done. I get into bed and read for an hour before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $31.70

Day 3

6:45am — I’m up! I’m working from home today so after a coffee, I potter around, watering my plants and then wash my hair (which takes the whole day to dry naturally in winter). I Facetime my mum before breakfast, which is a piece of toast with peanut butter and a small tub of Greek yoghurt with some thawed frozen berries.
8:45am — I log on to work— I don’t have any meetings today so I’m looking forward to using the time to catch up on some research and to make a start on some longer-term projects. One of the best parts about working from home is that I can get up every so often to stretch, put out laundry, tidy — it’s the best.
12:30pm — Lunch time! I reheat some of the spaghetti as well as the Brussels sprouts — just as good the day after, although I’m paranoid that the flat now has a sprouty odour so I light a few candles and wipe down surfaces.
3:40pm — Everyone in my team is logging off — including my boss — so while I stay logged on in case anything urgent comes through, I very much start to disengage from work. The first half of the week was pretty busy so I don’t feel too bad about this. I vacuum and start to get myself sorted for the evening.
5:00pm — Nothing major has come up so I officially log off and walk to my local yoga studio for a class.
6:30pm — I float (or so it feels, after a blissful hour of yoga) up the road to meet my boyfriend J. and a couple of friends at a bar. I haven’t seen these friends since I got back from a recent overseas trip so it’s especially nice to see them. The bar we’re at does Thai food and we each order a main— mine comes to $18. Over the next couple of hours, I also buy two glasses of Merlot ($24). $42
8:45pm — We’re all a bit spent after a long week so we say our goodbyes and head home. I walk back to mine because I want to get a few things done in the morning and J. is most definitely not a morning person.
9:45pm — Showered, I fall straight asleep.
Daily Total: $42

Day 4

7:00am — I wake up without an alarm — this counts as a sleep-in for me! Pleasingly, the two glasses of red from last night haven’t interrupted my sleep (got to celebrate the small wins, you know?). While I have my morning coffee, I start trying on outfits for tonight. J. is taking me to a concert in the city (another birthday treat) and while I know it won’t be fancy, I figure it’s a good excuse to dress up! I’ve noticed my body starting to change as I get into my 30s. I’ve always exercised regularly and eaten well but despite this, I’ve noticed some weight gain that I can’t really explain with anything other than “age”. It’s been a process coming to terms with and accepting this. This morning, I try on a couple of older dresses and am thrilled to find that a couple do still fit — I choose one with fun (slightly ridiculous) sleeves for tonight.
8:00am — Breakfast is two slices of toast with peanut butter. I hop in the shower afterwards (and speed-clean the bathroom while I’m at it) then start getting ready as I’m heading into the city to sort out a farewell present for a friend who is moving interstate this morning.
9:11am — I catch the train to the city ($2.65). I’ve got a generous budget of $280 (it’s a group present) plus the department store I’m at is having a sale, so I’m able to buy the fancy cheese board we’d all agreed to as well as a gift card. Since the others have already transferred me their contributions, my share comes to $40. I take advantage of being in the city to pick up a book for my friend B.’s baby ($28). I’m seeing B. tomorrow and her baby recently turned one. I get on the train home (when I tap on it’s free, it turns out to be my eighth journey of the week). $70.65
12:00pm — Throw some things into a bag, grab my dress and drive to J.’s place. We decide to have a quick lunch (two sushi rolls for me, $7.50) before heading to the park for a walk. It’s a beautiful day so it’s wonderful to spend some time in the sunshine and in nature. Towards the end, I start yawning a lot so I decide to grab a small coffee ($4). $11.50
4:00pm — We get back to J.’s and we both start getting ready — this does not take long at all. I keep thinking I should nail a “glam” evening makeup look but for now, I’ve accepted that a bit of eyeshadow is as glam as I’ll get. I feel pretty great and J. says I look beautiful so that’s good enough for me!
5:15pm — We catch the train into the city ($1.32) and have an early dinner at a Malaysian place J. has booked. We order a few share plates, as well as a glass of wine for me and a beer for J. Dinner is apparently part of J.’s birthday treat, which is very sweet and generous! $1.32
7:15pm — We arrive at the concert, which is incredible and just a magical night overall. Once again, I’m reminded of how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful city and to have access to such wonderful cultural events.
10:00pm — The concert ends and we walk to the station to catch the train home. $1.32
11:00pm — Makeup removed and teeth brushed, it’s lights out.
Daily Total: $84.79

Day 5

8:00am — A real sleep-in for me! J. has nothing in his place so I head out to grab a large coffee and banana bread ($10). I decide to have my coffee and cake in the café and read the newspaper there (J. won’t be up for a while yet so there's no point rushing back!). $10
8:45am — I get back to J.’s, shower and get ready for the day ahead. J.’s up at 9:00am and we hang out for a bit before I drive over to my friend M.’s place.
10:30am — I arrive at M.’s and we head out for a walk. I haven’t seen her all year, which feels crazy but we establish that between our respective overseas trips, sickness and life in general, somehow 4+ months have passed and that doesn’t make either of us a bad friend! We stop for coffee mid-walk, which M. insists on paying. After a solid two-hour walk and a good catch-up, I drive over to my parents’ place.
1:00pm — My parents are just about to have lunch, so my timing is impeccable. We have a delicious home-cooked meal and then I help my mum tidy up. She suggests we go for a walk and despite feeling a little tired, I agree.
3:30pm — After a post-walk cuppa, I drive home to mine. I’m meeting my friend B. for dinner and just need a little downtime — this weekend has felt a bit “go, go go”. I lie down and read for a bit, pleased that I vacuumed and got other chores out of the way on Friday. I throw on a long sleeve top and a black tulle skirt. I’m probably overdressed for a Sunday dinner but the skirt has a generous waistline so I know I’ll be comfortable no matter what I eat tonight!
5:30pm — I drive over to B.’s place — her kid loves the book that I bought! B. and I say goodbye to her partner and baby before walking over to the restaurant B. has booked. We catch up for a couple of hours and order a salad, two plates of pasta, a glass of wine each and a chocolate mousse. The bill comes to $120 with a small tip included— but B. insists on paying for the whole thing as a birthday treat despite my protests (I do have very generous friends but this week it’s been extreme!!).
8:15pm — I walk B. home then drive back to mine. On my way home, I commit to a quieter and healthier week ahead. I’ve definitely eaten out and drank way more than usual. A lot of it’s down to belated birthday celebrations, plus seeing a few friends for the first time since I got back from my trip.
Daily Total: $10

Day 6

6:15am — I wake up, a little tired from a busy weekend but I get up and make a coffee before walking to Pilates.
8:20am — Pilates done. I head home and log on to work (it’s another work-from-home day). I check emails while I make some porridge with berries. I have a fair bit to get through today and I need to finish up early to meet a friend in the late afternoon.
12:30pm — At some point in the previous three hours, I promise I took a shower! I heat up the last of Thursday’s spaghetti and eat at my study desk while I join a lunchtime webinar.
3:30pm — Log off, run to the station to catch a train into the city ($3.79) I’m on my way to meet a friend who has flown in unexpectedly for a family emergency. She’s only here for a few days, so I’m grateful to have the flexibility with work to finish up early. $3.79
4:15pm — I meet my friend at a café and we each get a pot of herbal tea and massive slices of cake, which comes to $30.21 (my treat for a change this week!). I can’t finish my slice so I take the remaining piece with me. We go for a stroll afterwards before I hop on a train home around 6pm ($3.79). $34
6:40pm — I get cracking on dinner as soon as I get home. It’s another roast veggie salad with mixed leaves, with some sourdough and labneh on the side. This is a go-to when I’m time-poor but want something healthy but filling.
7:30pm — Dinner eaten, I settle in for an episode of Queer Eye. I’m exhausted when it’s done, so I quickly do my evening skincare routine and hop into bed with my book. I think I fall asleep before 10!
Daily Total: $37.79

Day 7

6:45am — I wake up and it’s raining, so I reconsider my planned walk. It’s one of my friends’ birthday today — she lives interstate so I go online to buy her a gift voucher to her favourite local cafe ($50). Hopefully, we’ll be able to celebrate in person soon! $50
7:45am — After a coffee, I decide to drive to the local supermarket and pick up a few things for dinner. J. and I try to cook together at least twice a week, and tonight it’s my turn to go to his. He already has some of what we need so I pick up some cauliflower, silverbeet and cream, as well as some ground coffee beans and bananas for home ($33.27). I also duck into a gift shop and pick up a jazzy bag for the present I bought on the weekend ($5). $38.27
8:30am — Back at home, I log on and start responding to emails and reading the morning news while I make sauteed asparagus and a boiled egg on toast for breakfast.
9:30am — Once I’ve responded to a couple of urgent requests for advice, I get in the shower.
12:30pm — I meet my friend outside and we head to a local café for lunch. She has recently moved down the street from me and we’ve been talking about going for lunch for a while now. It’s great to finally get around to it and catch up properly. I end up getting a toastie and a piccolo. $17.20
3:30pm — The remaining piece of cake from yesterday goes down well with my afternoon cuppa!
5:00pm — I finish work and start to chop some vegetables for dinner. I pack these, along with an overnight bag and my work bag. I’ve decided to drive to J.’s because I’m heading to a work event tomorrow that will be easier to get to by car. I get to J.’s at around 6pm and we start cooking.
7:00pm — Dinner is a risotto with greens, with a creamy cauliflower bake on the side. We demolish this while we watch a couple of past episodes of Foreign Correspondent on iView.
9:30pm — After a quick shower, I hop into bed with my book. We quickly FaceTime J.’s family (who live overseas) before it’s bedtime.
Daily Total: $105.47

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

The past week was atypical with the amount of eating out (and meals being paid for by others!) as it was recently my birthday. I tend to eat at home a lot more, drink far less often and split the cost of meals with J. and friends.
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