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A Week On The Bass Coast, Victoria, As A Senior Communications Officer on $131,000

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.
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Today: a senior communications officer who makes $131,221 a year lands a higher paying job.
Occupation: Senior Communications Officer
Industry: Public sector
Age: 32
Location: Bass Coast, Victoria
Salary: $131,221
Net Worth: $869,357 (property $1.180 million, car $13,000, superannuation $65,000, personal emergency fund $13,120, shares $11,645, cryptocurrency $300)
Debt: Our only source of debt is our home mortgage: $413,708. The value of our loan is very low compared to the value of our property as we were given a large amount of money from my partner's parents to help us buy the home, and since we purchased it, the value has increased by more than 25% (without renovations — which we are currently doing!)
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $7,943
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $2,502 Home Insurance: $184.75
Internet: $79
Electricity: $150
Gas: $37
Rates: $266
Amazon Prime: $9.99
Spotify: $6.49 (shared with a friend)
Car Insurance: $78.79
Private Health Insurance: $95.44
Fund For Nephews: $150 (My partner and I aren't having children — so I'm putting money away to give to my nephews as a big sum on their 18th birthdays. They are currently 13 and 5.)
Investments: $250
Gym Membership: $19.95
Phone Bill: $72
Disney Plus: $13.99

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

I studied a bachelor's degree at the University of Melbourne and paid for it with HECS. I came from a very underfunded public school in regional Victoria and was really grateful that I had the opportunity to go to university and that I didn't have to pay for it until I started my career. It would have made it impossible for me to study without HECS. I was the first in my family to go to uni.

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

Money was something my parents discussed with me a lot. They both worked full time jobs while also running the farm. Farming involves a lot of costs — every spare dollar they had was put towards paying off the extra land they had purchased, buying livestock, improving the condition of the paddocks, buying feed in times of drought and repairing machinery.
My parents both worked incredibly hard, and being their youngest child by nearly 10 years, it wasn't lost on me that they were in a better financial position when I was a teenager, than they were when my older siblings were growing up. I was taught to always pay down any debt I had as soon as possible and not to waste money on frivolous things. We were always super frugal with what we did have, and rarely bought takeaway or went out for dinners. While Mum did a weekly grocery shop, we tried to grow and cook our own food to save on money — including produce from our veggie garden, eggs from the chooks and meat we raised on the farm. I was always baking as a kid; we rarely bought sweet treats so had to make our own in big batches. I loved baking and made cakes, muffins, cookies, brownies and bread most weekends.
My mum taught me to be self-reliant and always have an emergency fund separate from my partner. She made sure I knew that a man was not a financial plan, which has really stuck with me now. I have personal assets and investments and have purposefully pushed myself to excel in my chosen career (which I'm incredibly fortunate is a high-paying field), so I know I will always be financially stable if something were to happen with our relationship.

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

My first official job was a weekend casual gig at Muffin Break, which I got as soon as I turned 14 and 9 months, but I was paid each school holiday from the time I was about 12. I 'worked' for my uncle who I helped with lamb marking — this needs to be done when the lambs are a few months old, they are vaccinated, tagged, their tails are cut and the males are castrated. Lamb marking was a really physically demanding job for me as I'd lift each lamb in a little cradle to be marked, and I'd get about $100-$150 each school holiday for helping him for about a week.
When I worked at Muffin Break, I was paid under $10 per hour and later found out my boss wasn't paying me the proper Sunday penalty rates. I was back-paid about $1,000 (crazy money for someone at that age) and decided to become a lifeguard at our local pool when I was 16. Because it was a skilled profession (requiring a first aid and lifeguard certification) I suddenly started receiving over $20 per hour!
I needed to get these jobs because, like most kids at the time, I got a mobile phone and I wanted to shop at Supré like my friends. My parents didn't give me any kind of allowance so my phone credit and any personal things I wanted to buy had to be paid for myself. I was also told very early on that my parents expected me to buy my first car — which for a kid in the country, is a necessity if you want any kind of personal freedom. I started to save money for that car as soon as I could and ended up buying a late '90s model Ford Laser for $5,000 when I was 17.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Seeing how hard my parents worked in order to get ahead financially, I think I did stress a little about money. We always had enough food on the table, were never in financial trouble (that I knew of) and had enough money to go away on a road trip holiday somewhere each summer.
However, I always saw the pressure Mum and Dad were under to not only get by, but to actually get ahead. They had big dreams of being financially free and have been a huge inspiration for me, showing me that you can work hard and pay off your home and other assets. Everything they had spare was invested in setting up their future and in recent years, they've done so well that they managed to buy an investment property, built a brand new home on the farm and have put a lot of money into their superannuation.

Do you worry about money now?

I think I have the same worries as my parents — I really, really want to get ahead financially. I also get stressed that my well-paying job might not be guaranteed forever. What if the country goes into recession and I'm laid off or it's hard to stay on my current salary?
These are the kinds of thoughts that keep me up at night. Currently, I think we are definitely in a good financial position. We're very fortunate that despite the rising costs of everything, we're comfortably managing to pay our bills. Our home loan (despite being very low compared to the value of our house) has gone up substantially this year after our fixed rate of 1.89% ended. And that coupled with the costs of fuel, groceries, electricity and gas all going up, makes me worry that we might start to fall behind in our savings. But I also recognise that we're fortunate that we're in a position to save money at all.

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

I officially became financially responsible for myself at 18 when I moved out of home, but I've always paid for the things I want since I was around 14 or 15. I do have a financial safety net now ($24,000) between my shares and personal emergency account. I want to get that personal emergency fund to $25,000 in the next year and then would like to start contributing more to my shares.

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

When my partner and I bought our home, his parents were in a strong financial position and gave us $450,000 to help buy the house. This is something I never thought I would be able to benefit from, and is something I feel unbelievably fortunate to have received. They have also helped his siblings buy their first homes, and while I'm adamant that I want to pay them back, my partner reminds me that it's basically his inheritance but paid early.
They are another example of hardworking people who got into a strong financial position because of that hard work. They started with very little but made some really strong investments in property, including buying and renovating homes for profit. So they're in an incredible financial position and are very generous with their money. One day, I hope we're able to repay them, but like many others who are able to get into the property market at our age, we've just been fortunate to benefit from generational wealth.

Day 1

8:10am: My alarm goes off and I quickly hit snooze. I've already decided I'm not going to the gym this morning, so I roll over and try to fall back to sleep. It's no use. My brain is already ticking over and going through the things I want to do today. I check social media and play this silly game I've downloaded called 'Rent Please! Landlord Simulator'. I'm actively kicking people out who can no longer afford their rent because of the upgrades I'm making and it feels pretty ironic given the current rental crisis.
8:50am: I get up, let our dog out to go toilet, feed her and then make a latte before doing my morning skincare routine. I log onto my computer just after 9am. I don't miss going into the office five days a week, especially on a Monday! I remember to take some fish out of the freezer for dinner tonight. I'm incredibly lucky that my partner, J, is an excellent fisherman — tonight we'll have flathead fillets from a trip he did a few weeks ago. This, plus my parents having a beef and sheep farm means we're never short of meat in the freezer.
10:30am: Time to make breakfast. I heat up some quick oat sachets I've had in my pantry for ages and top the large steaming bowl with a banana and some honey.
11:15am: Starting this diary has prompted me to check my Selfwealth trading account. Each month, an auto-payment transfers $250 into the account and every four months I invest $1000 into my chosen ETFs. I check and see ETHI has been falling slightly in the last month, so it feels like the right time to buy as it’s a major part of my portfolio. My cash available to trade is at $795 so I transfer over the remaining $205 I need to reach $1000 and purchase 77 units at $12.31. — $205
1:30pm: Eating breakfast later in the day means I'm not hungry again for a while. I have leftover Pasta Alla Norma, which I made on a whim last night after realising I had some eggplant that had to be used. I have a few more meetings that take up my afternoon.
3:30: I've recently interviewed for a new job and don't expect to hear from them for a few more days, so I'm surprised to see I've received a text from them. They've asked me to send along my salary expectations and what my current salary is. I answer the first part of the question but stay quiet on the second. It's not something they need to know and I'm certain my salary expectation reflects the market value, as well as the value of my skills and experience. The number I put forward is a fair jump on my current salary, but is still in the lower part of the band, giving lots of room to grow in the role. I get a little nervous — this is moving really fast! They tell me they are calling my references the next morning.
4:30pm: I struggle to think about the work I currently need to do as the thoughts of a new job go through my head. What if I hate it? What if I'm not ready for a highly stressful role again? My current role is very cruisy and I've enjoyed the 'break' after the project I worked on at the start of the year was extremely demanding. This new job would be a step up in responsibility and would involve a lot of long hours. I decide to log off and walk my dog to clear my head.
5:00pm: J heads to the shops to get a few groceries for us. He spends $54.40 using our joint account and buys lettuce, yoghurt, some fruit, and snacks that are on special. — $27.20
6:00pm: Time to make dinner! I cook the fish by coating it lightly in flour and salt and pan-frying it with a little oil. I make a quick green salad and throw some fries in the air fryer. It's ready in 15 minutes.
7:00pm: I have a bath and jump into bed to watch The Block — it's kids' room reveal night and I love the sage green used by a few contestants. I want to use sage green in our new kitchen and make a mental note to look up the colours they used.
9:00pm: I've just started rewatching Game of Thrones and fit in a few episodes to end the night.
Daily Total: $232.20

Day 2

7:00am: I wake up super early for no reason and decide it's my body telling me to go to the gym, given I didn't go yesterday. I arrive at 7:15am and do an upper body strength training session. It's been a while since I've done strength training, so I feel pretty weak and scold myself for losing the progress I'd made.
8:15am: Once I get home from the gym, I make a latte and have a shower. I wash my hair and feel so productive — it's not even 8:30 and I've done a workout and freshened up for the day!
9:00am: It's time to log onto work. I'm feeling pretty demotivated to do anything, so I call my colleague to catch up. I let slip I'm interviewing for a new role. She's super supportive and it's nice to chat it out. She's also considering leaving our workplace for the same reasons and we talk about what she's looking for. It's clear she's being very underpaid but there isn't support higher up for a pay rise for her. It's sad that we often have to leave our roles to get a better-paying job elsewhere.
9:45am: I make a quick breakfast of yoghurt and banana. I decide to keep it light as a friend is in town for work and has asked to catch up for lunch —yay!
11:15am: Because my friend and I have 1pm meetings, we decide to meet for an early lunch. J, who is off work today, and I head to the local pub and find a table outside in the sun. I can't wait for the warmer weather and afternoons spent like this. I'm tempted to order a beer but decide to be good and grab a Pepsi Max for myself and one with sugar for J ($10.23). Our friend arrives and we order. I keep it light and choose some fried calamari and a green salad, ($28.50). J had a late breakfast, so only has a little of the calamari. — $38.73
1:00pm: I finally made it home after lunch and jumped straight onto a meeting. A text from my reference distracts me — she had a great chat with the company I interviewed for. I'm starting to feel nervous now as I really want this job. I start to feel really nervous when my reference tells me they are considering another strong candidate, however, they say I'm their preferred! I try not to think too much about it and tune back into the meeting.
3:15pm: I heat up four mini party pies in the air fryer for a quick snack as my lighter lunch hasn't kept me very full. While I'm plating them I get a call from my other reference who says she's just done my second reference check and confirms the company sees me as their preferred candidate. She tells me not to let them talk me down on salary and that she gave me a glowing reference. I'm getting even more nervous now and start to wonder if I'll get the call today or tomorrow?
4:30pm: It's time to log off and go for a walk with J and our dog. It's a sunny afternoon and the beach is empty — a perfect combination. I get home and head to Aldi to grab some groceries. I pick up lots of fruits, veggies, sausages, a chicken breast for tonight's stir-fry and Hokkien noodles. I also grab J a lot of snacks which I'll no doubt steal some of. The total shop comes to $89.48 which I pay for using our joint account. — $44.74
6:30pm: I've whipped up a quick and delicious chicken stir-fry dinner and have some leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I have a bath, jump into bed and I watch Game of Thrones before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $128.21

Day 3

7:30am: I'm feeling a little under the weather this morning (thank god for WFH!) but get up to take my dog for a good walk on the beach. It’s a lovely spring morning, chilly, but the sun is quickly warming me up as we walk. I get home and make a latte and log on at 8:45am.
9:30am: I'm on a roll with this memo I'm working on but pause to make some breakfast — natural yoghurt and a fresh mango. I can't wait for the mango season to start in earnest. No word yet from the role I've applied for. I feel it's important to mention a connection I have which could possibly cause a small conflict in the role. I try to reach the contact but have to leave a voicemail and I hope she calls me back before they make a decision either way.
1:00pm: I've pushed through a few meetings and some more work. Time to reheat the leftover chicken stir-fry from the night before. These noodles hold up so well and are still absolutely delicious. I sit outside in the sun with my dog while I scroll on social media for a while. I'm starting to feel stressed now, I really want to clear this little issue up for the role I've gone for, mostly so they know I'm being transparent with them before they make a decision on the successful candidate.
2:00pm: I check my personal bank account and see I've been deducted $13.99 from Apple. I go into my Apple ID to check my purchases and see it's my Disney Plus subscription. I really should consider cancelling this for a while as I'm going to watch it even less while I'm back on GoT. I also check our joint account and see our home insurance has been deducted ($184.75), both factored into my monthly expenses.
5:00pm: Time to take my dog for her evening walk, it's an absolutely stunning evening with the sun out. I'm a bit concerned that I haven't heard about the role today but know these processes can take a while.
6:30pm: I make some pork sausages for dinner and have them with salad and some air-fried potatoes and sweet potatoes. Yum!
8:00pm: I shower, lay out some snacks I'll take when I head into the city tomorrow. Our team is having a four-hour workshop on who we are as a team and our individual strengths. I book an early bird car parking space for $20 — I hate paying for parking but it's so much more convenient.
9:00pm: I watch GoT and try to sleep early given I'll be up early in the morning.
Daily Total: $20

Day 4

6:00am: I'm up early to get ready before driving the 2+ hours into the city. I pack some snacks and make myself a coffee which I put in my Thermos reusable mug. This keeps my coffee hot so I can sip on it during the drive. I pop on my current podcast which is all about health and fitness, and hit the road just before 7:00am.
8:15am: I've had my coffee and realised I left my yoghurt and berries at home! I'll have to grab some breakfast on the way in. I stop at Macca's and order a Bacon and Egg McMuffin ($5.70).
9:45am: I arrive at the office and jump straight into our four-hour workshop. I make myself a green tea and have the banana I packed. I'm already getting hungry again.
12:30pm: The workshop doesn't have a lunch break so they've ordered in pizzas for the team. I grab a slice of Hawaiian and Margherita as we continue our team-building exercises.
2:30pm: The workshop is finally finished and I'm starving again. I eat the protein bar I packed and smash out some work I've been putting off. It's so nice seeing people but I notice how much more distracted I get because everyone is talking and catching up when we are all in the office together.
5:00pm: Tonight there are leaving drinks being held for a colleague in my team. It's on a rooftop bar and the weather is threatening rain. I order a glass of Pinot Grigio ($14.15) and catch up with some team members. Suddenly, a crack of thunder sounds above us and the heavens open and rain begins to pour. I wait it out before making a snappy exit at 5:45pm as I still need to drive the two hours home. I'm absolutely starving by this point and know I won't be able to wait to have dinner as I'll be home after 8pm. — $14.15
6:30pm: I stop off and grab some dinner at KFC. I know, I know…this has not been a great day for food choices. I have a Zinger burger, regular chips, Pepsi Max and a piece of original recipe chicken ($14.90). It's absolutely delicious and I scoff it down as I listen to more of my podcast — ironically, the one about health and fitness! I receive a text from the contact I'm speaking to about the role. She'd missed my voicemail and mentions my reference checks were great and that they need to resolve a few things on their side, hence the radio silence. That gives me some confidence again that this might be happening. — $14.90
8:15pm: I'm finally home and J and our dog are glad to see me. I'm absolutely wrecked after the long day and lots of socialising. I have a bath, jump in bed and watch an episode of GoT. I text the contact about the role and let her know I'll call her midday tomorrow to talk through the potential conflict that I had wanted to discuss. I really hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot here. I check my bank accounts and realise an auto debit has come out for my electronic tag for toll roads ($40). I take a deeper look at my toll account realise that each trip on the toll roads are now costing me $20 return every time I go into the office. This means I'm spending $40 (minimum) each day I go into the city between the tolls and parking. That’s not counting fuel and wear and tear on my car! It makes me want this new job even more as it would mean working locally and less trips to the city overall. — $40
9:30pm: Time for bed — I'm wrecked!
Daily Total: $74.75

Day 5

7:30am: It's freezing cold outside and I can hear the rain gently falling. I get out of bed, let our dog out and feed her breakfast. I make a latte for myself and a hot chocolate for J and jump back into bed and watch the news while I scroll social media. I check my bank account as my salary should be paid soon and I want to put additional money away this month in case I end up getting this new job. There is always a difficult period of irregular pays when you change roles in my experience. I see an Amazon order I placed a week ago has been deducted from my account — the book must have shipped ($59.42). My gym membership has also been deducted which reminds me I really need to go do a second workout for the week, I've been so slack lately ($19.95, factored in my monthly expenses). — $59.42
10:30am: I've been busy trying to get an urgent request for work done, I throw together some yoghurt, blueberries and banana for breakfast and make a green tea. I eat at my desk and finish off the request.
12:30pm: I've sent off the urgent request and decide to call the contact about the role I've interviewed for. We have a chat about our weekend plans. I already feel like I get along with her so well, it would be amazing to have her as my manager. I bring up the possible conflict that I want the organisation to be aware of before they decide on who to appoint to the role. We talk through it and she agrees that it would easily be managed if I was successful, and doesn't see any scenario where it would be a problem in the near future. Then, I'm delighted when she lets me know they will be making me an offer on the role! I'm absolutely over the moon and become very relieved when she mentions that my salary expectations are no problem. She lets me know she'll email through the offer and will have HR prepare a contract as soon as possible. We discuss possible start dates — I have to give four weeks' notice and let her know I doubt my current employer will let me finish earlier and then end the call. Eeeeee!!!!!!!
1:00pm: I'm absolutely over the moon and speak to J who is so proud of me. I heat up a frozen pre-made pasta meal and some leftover sausages to have for lunch. I let a few friends know that I got the gig and they're so excited for me too. I calculate what my new salary would mean for my monthly pay — almost $800 more per month in my pocket! I talk to J and agree I'll put an extra $1000 each month on our home loan. We have to save for the rest of our home renovations and this will help reduce the interest. We can easily redraw the additional funds from the loan when we need to buy materials for the renos.
1:30pm: I decide to head out to an early voting centre to avoid the crowds on Referendum Day. I happily vote YES and see people have scrawled 'no' all over the voting booth. I'm sad to think my vote will likely go against the majority of Australians. I pop into Coles to grab some veggies, chicken for dinner tonight and some protein bars and powder. I put the $49.62 cost on our joint account, and then stop by Baker's Delight to grab a few sweet treats $8.13, which I put on my personal card. — $32.94
5:00pm: After a few more meetings and tidying up a document, I log off — TGIF indeed! I'm feeling super run down and I think I'm getting sick again. I lay in bed and check my bank account. I've been paid my salary ($7,943) so I start moving money around — $3000 goes into our joint account which is where our mortgage payments are deducted from, and $2000 into my personal savings (my emergency fund). I've added extra to it this month in case I have a few weeks without pay between jobs. Wow, I can't believe this is actually happening! I call my parents to tell them about the verbal offer and they're excited for me.
6:30pm: I cook some parmesan and garlic-crumbed chicken breasts which I bought today from Coles. I steam some veggies to go with it. After showering and jumping into bed I watch some more GoT and fall asleep early — I'm wrecked!
Daily Total: $92.36

Day 6

7:30am: Am I the only one who gets frustrated when I naturally wake up early on a weekend? I'm feeling really unwell today, so take it easy and make a latte which I have in bed while I scroll on my phone. I really should have a rule that I can't do any online shopping before midday, my brain is so easily influenced in the morning. I've been eyeing off some cheap Korean skincare from this new Melbourne-based store and I end up buying three items for $65.85. I also see that the personal yearly planner I love is having a big sale and I've not bought my 2024 one yet. It's an American brand so despite getting a large discount on the cost of the planner, I have to pay over $50 in shipping! I also grab a few sticker books and the total cost comes to $140.25 but I put it on Afterpay and I'm deducted the first payment of $35.06. I use Afterpay rarely these days, and it's the first order I've put on it in months. I like spreading the payments out, and I confess I do it when I go through a shopping splurge so I feel less guilty about how much I've spent! — $100.90
9:00am: I get up and make J and I some eggs on toast, which we have in bed. We rug up and take our dog for her morning walk. It's freezing cold and starts to rain, so we have to cut the walk short and run home.
12:00pm: It’s definitely a stay-inside day so we do exactly that. I clean a little and heat up a pre-made soup I bought from Coles the day before. It's actually really yummy and has a high amount of protein.
2:00pm: After scrolling on my phone for a few hours, I decide to watch Mean Girls and snack on some chips.
4:30pm: We head outside for our evening walk and the weather is much better, clear skies and the sun is out (for now). We get home and I pick up a book I've been reading but found a bit slow — it begins to get interesting again.
6:00pm: I throw together one of my favourite pastas, prawn and cherry tomato spaghetti. It's so tasty and quick to make. For dessert, I try a new recipe — a high-protein chocolate mug cake and it turns out ok! I might have zapped it in the microwave too long though as it’s a tad dry. I make a mental note for next time.
7:00pm: J and I jump into bed and put on a movie, it starts off a bit odd but improves. J falls asleep in the middle of it (typical) and I go to sleep once it finishes.
Daily Total: $100.91

Day 7

8:30am: I sleep in a touch longer this morning and I'm feeling a bit better today. I hate being sick! I let our dog out, feed her and make a latte. J and I take our dog for a walk and it’s a much nicer morning, although it's meant to rain again in the afternoon.
10:00am: I make some yoghurt and fruit for breakfast and write up my grocery shopping list. I've planned out my meals for this week and note down everything I'll need. I head outside to our chest freezer and take out some mince for burgers tonight, blade steak for slow cooking this week, along with lamb chops for dinner tomorrow and squid for another dinner. We have sooo much meat that I only need to buy a few chicken breasts from the shops to get us through the week.
12:00pm: I head to Aldi to get the majority of the groceries. I spend $120.24 and this covers about 85% of what we need. I love Aldi! Then I head to Woolies to get the rest of the items, including a few things I don't need but want and I spend a further $54.90 on a big bag of groceries. Both payments come from our joint account. — $87.57
1:00pm: I get home and J and I unpack the groceries. I heat up some leftover chicken and vegetable soup that I had in the freezer from a few months ago. I eat, jump back in bed and read my book. It's properly miserable outside now.
3:30pm: I'm texting a few friends and one mentions she's coordinating a 30th birthday group gift for our friend. I send her $50 from our joint account which covers J and my contribution. J and I head out for our evening walk. — $25
5:00pm: I make some chia seed jam using frozen berries which I'll have on bagels for breakfast. I'm trying to increase my fibre intake and chia seeds are a great source. I start preparing dinner, we're having one of our favourites tonight! Beef burgers with sweet potato fries! I bought a Big Mac-style sauce from Coles and it tastes great with the burger.
7:00pm: I shower, wash and dry my hair and jump into bed. This book is starting to get really good again and I realise I'm 80% of the way through. I stay up late to finish it and finally fall asleep around 11pm.
Daily Total: $112.57
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