Money Diaries

A Week In South Melbourne As A Public Health Consultant On $136,000

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Today: a senior public health consultant who makes $136,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on tickets to the Australian Open.
Occupation: Senior Consultant
Industry: Social Policy / Public Health
Age: 35
Location: South Melbourne, Melbourne
Salary: $136,000
Rental property income: $4,000 per month
Net Worth: $546,400 ($245,000 in super, $4,500 in savings and $500 in shares. I've only just delved into the world of investing! I also own an investment property that's worth around $600,000. It's a cute three-bedroom townhouse that's eight years old. I currently rent it out so I receive $4,000 a month in rental income, which covers my mortgage most of the time.)
Debt: $303,600 — A $300,000 home loan for an investment property (which seems to never go down!) and a $3,600 personal loan. I took out $7,000 for a last-minute overseas trip pre-Covid. It probably wasn't the best decision to take a loan out for a holiday, but it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I don't regret doing it. I spent two months travelling across Jordan, Egypt and Morocco!
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $7,500
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $2,100. I rent a two-bedroom apartment just outside Melbourne CBD. It's part of a big multi-complex building and has 54 floors with excellent facilities. I am very lucky to have access to two fully equipped gyms, two heated rooftop pools, a sauna, a games room, a theatre room and so on. My apartment is only a couple of years old, so the occupancy level is very low, meaning that the facilities are usually available for use.
Mortgage: $2,000 (covered by my rental income, above)
Personal Loan: $3,600 (I pay off $224 each month).
Other Debt: I’ve finally paid off my HECS (as of a year ago) and I sold my car when I moved to Melbourne so I have no car-related expenses.
Private Health Insurance: $262 ($122 for me, $140 for my mum).
House Insurance: $134 
Internet: $79 
Netflix: $16.99 (I still use my old Hinge match’s accounts for Disney+, Stan and Binge!). 
Spotify: $11.99 
Gym: I’m pretty lucky to have two gyms in my apartment complex so I don’t pay anything extra for a gym membership. 
Woolworths Membership: $15. I don’t actually use this for myself, but this allows me to order my mum’s groceries online and have them delivered. She lives interstate and doesn’t drive, so this is convenient.   
Monthly Human Appeal Australia Donation: $50
CommPocket Investing: $110. I'm very new to the investing world!
Mum: My mum is retired and I cover most of her expenses, which is probably between $500 to $800 each month (varying if there are bills that month). I also have an auto transfer set up for her to receive $300 every fortnight when I get paid, so $600 each month. I also send $300 each month to help some family members in Bangladesh.

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

I completed an undergraduate degree in education, and then a Master's in Public Policy. University education was always an expectation from my parents, who were Bangladeshi immigrants. We moved to Australia in the early 90s and they worked very hard to build a life for us here. They had high expectations for my sister and me, particularly when it came to our academic achievements. 
Both of my degrees were covered by HECS. I was also living at home during my undergraduate degree, so my parents supported me a lot financially, for which I am (now) very appreciative.

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

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my parents made sure we lived a comfortable life. My dad was the main breadwinner and he was also very savvy with money. My parents always taught us the value of a dollar, but for me, it went through one ear and out the other. Especially when I started to earn my own money while studying at university, I was more interested in buying Sass & Bide and Bettina Liano jeans (am I showing my age?!) than saving!
We never received pocket money growing up, but my parents always gave us money when we asked for it. As first-generation immigrants, there were many financially challenging times for my parents but they managed to send me and my sister to good schools, buy property and made us feel comfortable in a country that was so foreign to them.

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

I started my first job so I could support myself financially — I was also 17 and had just started university, so it was time to stop asking my parents for money! My first job was at Woolworths as a checkout girl. It lasted less than two months. I went on to work for David Jones (because their 10% staff discount was more tempting!) but soon moved to companies where I could get better staff discounts on clothes, like Country Road and Cue (which offered almost 50% back then!).

Did you worry about money growing up?

I didn’t worry about money growing up because I was oblivious to it. My parents shielded us from truly knowing how much they sacrificed for my sister and me. Both my parents worked hard and didn’t spend money on themselves. We didn’t go on any holidays, let alone go back to Bangladesh to see extended family. It was only when I graduated university and started working full-time that I understood how challenging it must’ve been for my parents to support a family, save, and live 'comfortably' on their income.

Do you worry about money now?

I worry about what my future will look like, especially as a single woman. Recently I’ve been thinking about freezing my eggs but have been so disheartened and angry about the financial implications. It’s horrible how women’s sexual and reproductive health rights are often forgotten about in government policies, or aren’t fully catered to. For me, freezing my eggs would cost almost $15,000 out of pocket, with nothing being covered by private health insurance. 
I am also trying to set up my life so I can live comfortably and have enough money to travel whenever and wherever I want to, but more importantly, to have decent savings for emergencies, including being able to help family/friends out if need be. I am constantly trying to figure out how I can increase my wealth, save and invest, but my financial literacy is low. I have always wanted to be financially independent and I am trying to set up my life so I can have a life where I am financially secure and happy as a single woman.

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

I don’t really have any financial safety net. I was 22 when I started full-time work after graduating from university. My dad passed away a few years later and I took over managing our family finances as my mum wasn’t financially educated in terms of bills, investments, or even day-to-day finances. During my parents’ 30 years of marriage, my dad took care of the household expenses and all the finances, so when he passed, my mum had no idea what to do. Trying to manage the family finances at 27 was a massive wake-up call for me. This is another reason why I want to always be financially secure, so I don't have to rely on anyone else.

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

I received about $100,000 after my dad passed away. This money was put towards purchasing my house and paying off household bills. I wish I was more financially literate then and had used a portion of it to invest.
I also make $4,000 a month in rental income.

Day 1

7:00am — I’m up and head out for a quick walk. I’m currently visiting my mum in Sydney. It’s a drizzly morning, but I’m determined to get my coffee before I start work (from the spare bedroom at my parents' place). I walk through the nature reserve next to her house and past the little lake. It’s so peaceful. I hear kookaburras in the distance and see a family of ducks in the water. I get to the coffee shop and order a strong oat cappuccino and an almond croissant ($12.50). By the time I get back home, I’ve drunk my coffee, eaten half the croissant (the other half is for my mum) and managed to get 6,700 steps in — not a bad start to the day! $12.50
8:30am — I’m logged in and ready to start my day. I have a meeting at 9:30am, so I look through my notes to make sure I’m across it all. 
12:45pm —  It’s been a busy morning with work but I finally stop for a quick bite to eat. My mum has made aloo and begun bhaji (a dry potato and eggplant stir fry, which is usually eaten for breakfast) with homemade roti (round flat bread). I try not to eat too much as I have dinner plans with a friend tonight. As I shove food in my mouth, I check in for my flight back to Melbourne tomorrow. Window seats are overrated and I always feel claustrophobic, especially when the plane is at full capacity, so I pick an aisle seat with two empty seats next to me (fingers crossed they stay empty!). 
7:30pm — It's been go-go-go all day today. I managed to squeeze in a walk for some fresh air before my friend arrives. We head off straight away to pick up some takeaway from a local Turkish restaurant called Little Istanbul, which has been around for almost 20 years. The food is consistently delicious, and the owners are just really nice people. My mum’s also having dinner with us, so we pick up a banquet for three, which includes rice, chicken and beef skewers, lamb cutlets, kebab meatballs, salad, pide, zucchini balls and some dips (told you I was hungry!). I pay for my friend too. $90
8:00pm — While our food is being prepared, we head to the supermarket to pick up some drinks and desserts. We buy some chocolate, a bottle of sparkling water (neither of us drinks alcohol), and a tub of Haagen-Dazs ice cream (dark chocolate and salted caramel crunch is definitely the winner). My friend pays.
11:15pm — I have a really nice time catching up with my friend. She fills me in on her new job and her love life, while I (unsuccessfully) try to convince her to move to Melbourne. After she heads home, I get changed, do my skincare and hop into bed. 
Daily Total: $102.50

Day 2

7:00am — I'm flying back to Melbourne this afternoon, so unfortunately I have to miss out on my morning walk and coffee as I have too much to do this morning. I start packing my bags, and my mum makes me chai on the stove with condensed milk and spices to make up for my lack of coffee. I log onto work at 7:30am.  
12:00pm — I stop for a quick break. It's been a busy day at work for me, with a deadline due at 5pm. I also have to be at the airport at the same time, so I'm stressing as I'm trying to get everything done in time. I work as a consultant for a firm that specialises in public health and social policies. My day-to-day varies depending on the project I’m working on. Today, I've spent most of the morning researching various factors that contribute to one’s sexual and reproductive well-being. This research will help give context for a project on sexual and reproductive health for women and gender-diverse people.
5:00pm — A friend of mine takes me to the airport (which means I’ve managed to save on Uber costs!). I drop my luggage off and check myself in through security. I get myself a coffee ($5), and begrudgingly pay $12 for a bland piece of banana bread. I decide to log back onto my laptop and do some work for the next couple of hours while I wait at the gate. $17
6:45pm — My flight was at 5:30pm, but it's been delayed again for a second time, so I keep working on my laptop and occasionally text a few friends to keep sane. I also message a Hinge match, who I've been chatting to for a couple of weeks. I buy myself a bottle of water. Finally, I get on the flight. $4.50
9:00pm — I finally land in Melbourne, collect my luggage and start heading towards the exit… when, I kid you not, I see the aforementioned 'Hinge guy I’m talking to'. He’s holding his iPad with my name typed in giant letters. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this is the start of a terrible rom-com. We'd been talking for almost two weeks but never met IRL, as I went to Sydney soon after matching with him (in Melbourne). He called to say hi while I was at the airport and I complained to him about what a long day it’s been, especially with the multiple flight delays. He then, of his own free will, decided to surprise me and pick me up from the airport!
He said he mulled over whether or not to surprise me at the airport for a while, but decided to do so when I mentioned I was going to take the Skybus (which means I wouldn't get home until at least 10pm with all the delays). So he thought it would be nice to give me a lift home (and to actually just meet me).
I’m still processing this move — is it sweet or stalkerish?! For now, I file it under 'sweet and gutsy' (admittedly, it's because I found him attractive, otherwise it definitely would've been filed under 'creepy and blocked!'). He drops me home and I text two of my best friends to tell them what’s happened. They’re very amused. It definitely took some confidence for him to pull it off.
10:00pm — I’ve barely eaten all day, but I’m honestly so tired and just want to sleep. I rummage through the pantry and find a pack of Mi Goreng. I throw in some frozen veggies and that’s my dinner done. I’m showered and in bed by 11pm. 
Daily Total: $21.50

Day 3

7:30am — I'm so glad I’m back home, just in time for the weekend! I get up and I'm ready to start my weekend. I throw my clothes in the laundry and take myself for a walk around the Yarra. I grab a coffee and a pastry ($9.50) while I talk to my best friend who lives in Canada and fill her in on the Hinge-airport-guy story. I’m back home by 10am and quickly head back out to the South Melbourne markets to pick up some groceries for the week. $9.50
10:00am — I love getting my groceries from the market because everything is so fresh. I pick up some chicken breast, cucumbers, avocado, a quarter of a pumpkin, a couple of bananas and a serving of fresh pasta ($37). I then get myself a cannoli (#treatyoself) and a batch brew ($11). I also buy myself an early lunch as I won't have time to eat before I head out for my hair appointment this afternoon. One of the stalls is selling fish and bread, which is one of my favourite things at the market. It’s exactly what the name implies — grilled white fish on Turkish bread with chilli, onion and lettuce. Such a basic concept, but it’s so fresh, delicious and filling ($16). I take myself home before I buy myself any more treats! $64
11:45am — I head out for my hair appointment. I'm new to Melbourne, so I'm still trying to find a new hairdresser that understands my hair and my style. I’m trying out a new place in South Yarra — apparently, it's where most of the 'celebrities' go. I haven’t had a haircut in almost eight months, so it’s time for a deep treatment and a restyle. I decide to go for a long bob and get curtain bangs (I know, I’m late to the curtain bang game). $170
5:00pm — I’m heading to the Australian Open tonight – I’m so excited! I manage to find $19 evening ground pass tickets which is perfect for this tennis newbie, so I buy a ticket for myself and my friend ($38). It's our first Australian Open experience. I was never into sports growing up, but since moving to Melbourne, I’ve started attending some sports events. I love the sense of comraderie and passion that comes with watching live sports with a whole bunch of people who are so engrossed and invested in the game.
We walk around the grounds and buy some dinner. I get a veggie katsu burger ($18) – it's terrible! We manage to catch the women’s singles and watch Caroline Garcia (France) and Laura Siegemund (Germany) play a great game. It’s a shame that women’s sports (regardless of what it is) get way less funding, exposure and buy-in than men's. But watching these elite athletes (who just happen to be women) play, is so powerful. The game finishes at around 9pm, so we walk home since Melbourne’s weather has held up for once. $69
11:00pm — My friend heads home and I have a quick shower. I’m in bed and lights are out 30 minutes later.
Daily Total: $312.50

Day 4

7:45am — I wake up to the sound of my alarm blaring. I forgot that I agreed to meet a friend for a walk (she’s the mum of a 3-year-old and early Sunday morning is the only time she seems to have free for herself!). I have a few slices of papaya and call my mum for a chat while I wait for my friend to arrive. My friend and I walk around the Yarra and grab coffees and croissants (she pays). 
11:00am — I need to get some work clothes, so I head out to have a look at the shops. In-person shopping does not interest me at all anymore, but I haven’t been having much luck with online shopping either. I catch an Uber to Highpoint ($37) in the hope of finding at least a few outfits I can rotate for work. I have a few work-safe stores in mind: Seed, Witchery, Zara, Max Mara, Uniqlo, and of course, David Jones and Myer. I spend a few hours wandering around, feeling rather despondent at my lack of shopping success. I do, however, pick up two skirts on sale from Seed. One is black silk, the other is a grey stretchy knit fabric — not ideal for summer, but I convince myself it’s appropriate given the unpredictability of Melbourne weather ($190). $227
2:00pm — I get myself some sushi ($17) and wonder if I should call it a day. I decide to Uber home ($29) and do some food prep for the week. $46
5:00pm — I cook some chicken, veggies and rice for the next couple of days. I also make some mini quiches using some of the pumpkin I bought at the market yesterday. This is my attempt to eat out less and prepare healthy food at home… It’s actually very hard to plan and cook for one person!  
7:00pm — I’m quite tired and feel like I’m coming down with something. I have two of the mini quiches and some salad for dinner. I log onto my work laptop to submit my timesheet for the previous week. I’m technically meant to submit it on Friday, but my laziness often gets the best of me. I have a shower and I'm in bed by 8:30pm — I'm exhausted! 
Daily Total: $273

Day 5

6:45am — My alarm goes off and I lay in bed for another 10 minutes before I hop in the shower. I get ready for work, and I’m out the door to catch my tram by 8:15am. I tap on with my prepaid Myki [public transport] card, so I don't have to pay a daily fee for the tram. I’m not much of a breakfast person (unless it’s Bangladeshi breakfast, then that’s a different story!), but I grab a coffee on my way in to work ($4.50). It's my first day back in the office after a few weeks away, so I spend the next 15 minutes catching up with my colleagues. $4.50
11:00am — I head downstairs with a colleague as she gets a coffee, and I opt for a little breakfast roll as I’m starting to get hungry ($7.95). I should make the most of the fruit bowl that my work provides for us, but I’d rather have a savoury breakfast roll with feta and sujuk than a bite of an apple! I head into some meetings, which occupy most of my morning. I can already tell that it's going to be a late lunch today. $7.95
2:00pm — I run downstairs to pick up a couple of sushi rolls for lunch — what’s left isn’t looking so great, but I opt for a spicy salmon roll and a prawn katsu roll ($9). I head back upstairs and decide to eat at the communal table with a couple of colleagues who are also having late lunch breaks. Today, talk turns to the Australia Open, and we brainstorm some ideas on how to convince our boss to buy some tennis racquets for the office (we’re very lucky to have a tennis court on the roof of our office building). Turns out, he doesn't need much convincing and agrees to buy a few racquets if we rally up some players. $9
2:30pm — I head into (yet another) meeting about a new project I’m working on. This one is about the prevention of youth crime through the lens of early intervention. It’s a huge collaboration with a lot of different services. It’s been an eye-opening experience speaking with the police, youth services, community legal services, courts, and schools to see how they all play a key role in steering a young person away from the criminal justice system. 
4:00pm — I’ve finish my meeting and stop by the kitchen on the way back to my desk to fill up my water bottle and grab myself a TimTam (still saying no to the fruit bowl…). I catch up on emails I’ve missed during the day and tie up some loose ends. I finish up around 5:30pm and walk home.  
8:00pm — I was in such a rush to leave for work this morning that I forgot to pack the lunch I'd spent so long preparing yesterday! I have it for dinner instead — some chicken, veggies and rice. I call my mum while I eat and she tells me about the new plants she bought for her garden. 
9:30pm — I have a shower, put on some skincare and hop into bed. I’m trying to get back into journalling every night before bed, but it’s tricky sticking to it! I read James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, on habit forming and he said that every time you miss doing something twice in a row, your brain is more likely to not pick it up again. I’ve noticed that to be true! I scribble some things down in my notebook and turn off the lights in the hope of falling asleep soon. 
Daily Total: $21.45 

Day 6

6:45am — Same drill as yesterday. Alarm goes off but my body isn’t ready to get up yet. I force myself out of bed by 7am, have a quick shower, and head out the door by 8am to catch my tram into the city. This time, I remember to pack my lunch! 
8:30am — I pick up an iced long black on my way into the office ($6 — how can a shot of coffee, water and ice cost this much?!). Then I get to my desk and log on for the day. I’m doing a literature review for one of my projects, so I block out the next four hours to focus on it. $6
12:30pm — I eat my lunch with a colleague in the kitchen. Then we both head downstairs to the grocer's to get some treats. I get myself a KitKat and a small bottle of lemonade ($5.50). I spend the next few hours working on the literature review. It's taking me way longer than I thought it would. $5.50
4:30pm — I'm not being very productive and my concentration levels are declining. My work has given us the option of choosing to work on January 26 and swapping the public holiday for another day that may be more culturally, spiritually or personally more significant to us. It's a small, yet significant step towards the right direction. I have chosen to take the day off tomorrow, so I make sure I put on my out-of-office, and tie up any impending work. I log off and head into the CBD to have a look at some shops, but I spend the majority of my time in Zara, Uniqlo and Lululemon. I buy myself a shirt from Zara which is on sale ($59) as well as a pair of tights from Lululemon ($109) and a couple of basic shirts and pants from Uniqlo ($206). By the time I get to Uniqlo, I'm feeling a bit lazy so I don't try the clothes on. I might end up returning the whole lot if it doesn't fit! $374
6:30pm — I’m home and exhausted! I lay on the couch for a while and watch an episode of Seinfeld. I think about going to the gym, but feel way too lazy. Instead, I heat up some dinner and talk to my mum on the phone. Mum tells me that my aunty overseas is having some urgent medical treatment and that we should send over some money to help with the cost. I transfer over $500 which comes to around 40,000 Taka — that should cover her expenses for a week in the hospital. I often forget how lucky we are to live in a country that has state-of-the-art medical facilities with easily accessible medicine, so it's hard to hear stories about people overseas, particularly family, who are struggling to get the right medical treatment because of where they live. $500
9:00pm — I have a shower, do my skincare and jump into bed. I read a few pages of a new book I’m reading called Safar, which is a collection of essays written by Muslim women on how travel has impacted their lives, identity and faith. It’s an easy but great read. My eyes start to feel tired, so instead of journalling, I call it a night. I have an early start tomorrow as I'm going hiking with a friend.
Daily Total: $885.50

Day 7

7:30am — I’m up and make myself a glass of Hydralyte to drink before I head out for the hike with my friend. We’re going to the Macedon Ranges — I’ve very excited as I haven’t had the chance to get out of Melbourne too often. I have a quick shower before my friend arrives. 
8:30am — My friend is running late, so I grab a coffee for both of us while I wait for her to arrive ($11). I also get us a couple of almond croissants and a punnet of raspberries (it’s called balance!) ($13). My friend arrives at 9am and we head to Hanging Rock, which is about an hour's drive from my place. My friend asks me about the airport-Hinge-guy. I tell her that we're yet to go on a date (as he now has Covid), so unfortunately, there's no exciting updates on that front. We arrive at the Hanging Rock at around 10am and are surprised to see that there are a lot of people around. $24
10:30am — The hike is meant to be a 50-minute return trip, but it takes us almost two hours — mainly because we go off track, wandering around and climbing up different sets of rocks to get good views. It’s not a tricky hike, but there are some big inclines/climbs which can be tricky if you’re not used to it. It’s a beautiful spot with massive native trees. At one point, we start talking to a guy who is hiking on his own, who tells us a lot of facts about Hanging Rock. He tells us of its historical significance — that it’s served as a sacred Indigenous site for Wurundjeri, Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung peoples. The rock is also an important ceremonial meeting place. It’s basically formed from eroded remnants from erupted volcanos millions of years ago.
12:30pm — We finish the hike and we’re ready for lunch. I invite our new friend to come join us. We head to a nearby town called Woodsend and have a pub meal. I get prawn linguini and a lemonade. My friend shouts me lunch.
3:00pm — We walk around the town for a while after lunch, then head home. I’m home by 5pm and feeling quite tired. I lay on the couch with my air conditioner on full blast, and watch a couple of episodes of The Office. I’ve watched the whole series from start to end so many times, but it never fails to make me laugh. 
7:00pm — Man, I’m still so tired! Is this what it’s like in your mid 30s? I promised myself that this year is going to be me working on my health and being the best version of myself — yet I end up ordering Uber Eats because I can’t muster up the energy to cook. I’m craving my mum’s cooking, so I get myself a chicken biriyani and kofta. $27
9:30pm — I have a shower and hop into bed to read a few chapters of the book I’m reading — Safar. I just finished the chapter on identity, told by an Australian Muslim woman named Dr Umber Ring, who identifies as a First Nations Badimaya Yamatji and Pakistani. She talks about her faith and identity and how travel has brought up painful memories of not belonging anywhere. I’m really enjoying this book so far. I get through about 30 pages and call it a night. 
Daily Total: $51
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