Money Diaries

A Week In Perth, Western Australia As A Senior Policy Officer On $85,000

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Today: a senior government policy officer who makes $85,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on herb plants for her holiday house.
Occupation: Senior Policy Officer
Industry: State Government
Age: 40
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Salary: $85,000 (0.8 FTE)
Net Worth: $554,000 ($1,000,000 in value of our two houses ($550,000 for our primary residence and $450,000 for our newly built holiday house), $6,000 in savings, $36,000 for our new car, and $175,000 in super). The mortgages and some of the bills come out of my bank account as I have an offset account. We then use a zero-fee credit card to make everyday purchases which is paid off every month from my husband’s account. We never got a joint account as it was too much effort. We also have access to each other’s accounts, so our money is definitely shared.
Debt: $650,000 owed on our mortgages ($350,000 on our primary residence and $300,000 on our holiday house) and $13,000 in HECS.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $4,590
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,840 for the home we live in. I live with my husband, B., and our eight-year-old daughter, A. It's a small three-bedroom, one-bathroom house in the northern suburbs. We have spent about $70,000 on renovations in the last ten years, so we have a fair amount of equity in it now.
Investment Property Mortgage: $1,463. We might decide to rent this out in the future once the novelty of having a holiday house wears off a bit. In our area, holiday rentals can go from anywhere between $200 and $500 a night!
Car and House Insurance: $312
Health Insurance: $236
Spotify, Stan, Foxtel and Netflix: $101
Childcare: $250
Phone Credit: $50
Savings: $100
Internet: $65
Electricity, Gas, and Water: $400
Rates: $217

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

I completed a Bachelor of Arts (Justice Studies) when I was 21, paid for on HECS. I paid it off when I was 28. I am now completing a Bachelor of Laws, also put on HECS. I'm already paying some of this off as I earn over the HECS threshold.

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

We didn't get an education and only really had negative conversations about money. Our main discussions were about not having enough money to buy certain things. When I was little, I was told that money didn't grow on trees. As I got older, I realised we had no money because my parents had small incomes and no education. They probably didn’t have a lot of wisdom to impart, so I received most of my money advice from friends and other relatives, as well as researching things as I got older and earnt more.

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

I started working in a cafe when I was 14. I wanted spending money to buy clothes and lunch at school. I was only paid $2 an hour for the first six months!

Did you worry about money growing up?

Constantly. My parents had no education and lots of health problems so they didn't work much. But because they had five kids to support, money ended up being a constant source of stress and arguments between my parents. I learnt that I would need to get an education and work hard in order to have a better life.

Do you worry about money now?

Sometimes, particularly when my husband doesn't have much work on (he's self-employed). Like a lot of tradies, he had a good income before Covid, but it wasn't always like that.

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

I moved out of home just before my 18th birthday and worked part-time. I also received Centrelink as I was studying full-time. I don't have a safety net as such, but I have income protection and permanent disability insurance which helps if I ever get sick. I could also sell my investment property if I needed cash.

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


Day 1

6:30am — I wake up. I'm sick with a cold and I'm not feeling well. I tell work that I'm going to work from home today — I got a few dirty looks when I was at my desk coughing and sneezing yesterday! I do a RAT test just in case but it's negative.
8:20am — I get my daughter, A., off to school then have a piece of toast with honey for breakfast.
10:00am — I'm struggling, so I pop out to the chemist to grab some cold and flu tablets ($18) and continue working. $18
12:30pm — I stop work for a lunch break — some pulled pork and salad leftover from last night's dinner — and watch an episode of Location, Location, Location. It's secretly my favourite show.
2:30pm — I get study leave on Thursdays as I decided to get a law degree a few years ago. It's taking forever as I'm studying part-time, but getting study leave from work definitely helps. I'm not even 100% sure if I want to be a lawyer when I finish, but I'd like to have the option, plus it's something I've always thought about doing. Even if I don't do it, it will be an awesome addition to my resume and will help with advancing in government policy work. Some people do marathons to challenge themselves... I do a law degree.
Because I'm sick, I don't go to my uni class today and watch the online recording instead. It's on the law of trusts — not the most exciting unit in the world, but it has to be done.
5:00pm — B. gets home with A. from after-school care. We have more pulled pork leftovers for tea, but there's not a huge amount, so I roast some potato and sweet potato to go with it.
6:30pm— I have my online uni tutorial. The lecturer is not picking on people tonight which is ideal as I'm feeling very average and my brain is struggling to keep up. We have an assignment coming up on this topic, so I try my best to take it all in.
7:30pm— I put A. to bed. B. and I watch a couple of episodes of The Sinner on Netflix. I'm a bit wired on cold and flu tablets, so I don't go to bed until 10pm (this is late for me!).
Daily Total: $18

Day 2

6:15am — I wake up and I'm still feeling sick. I have Fridays off work to catch up on uni, but there's so much work on at the moment that I can't afford to lie around all day, even if it's something I really want to do. I decide to have some breakfast of peanut butter on toast and a cup of tea.
8:30am — Our poor dog, T. didn’t get a walk yesterday, so I push myself to get dressed and head out to walk T. and A. to school which is just around the corner. I stealthily avoid the traffic warden as he's in love with T. and always wants to talk my ear off while giving him a few pats. It's understandable as he is the most gorgeous and friendly rottweiler in the world, but I cannot be bothered today. I return home and then do some uni work.
10:00am — I get distracted by Facebook Marketplace. We recently built a holiday house and still need some furniture, including a chest of drawers. I've been looking for a secondhand piece for ages, but everyone wants stupid amounts of money for worn-out pieces of junk. I see a set of drawers in great condition for $60 so I jump on it. B. is at work, so I decide to be Ms Independent and go pick it up on my own. $60
11:00am — The drawers are way heavier than I thought they'd be and the seller has a bad back so they can't help lift them. Ugh. I somehow wrangle them into the car, but end up scratching and gouging the interior doors of the almost brand-new car. I kick myself for not having the patience to wait until B. finished work. On the plus side, I can tick something off my 'to buy' list. Plus, it was a great deal.
12:00pm — I have lunch — leftovers from dinner last night — and continue with uni work.
2:40pm — Pick A. up from school and take her to an optometrist appointment as she needs some new glasses. I pay $60 out of pocket after the health insurance rebate. I buy her a donut ($4.50) and then we go to Kmart to get a few bits and pieces, including a framed picture, coasters, a doona cover for the holiday house, and a skirt for A. ($58). I always need to restrain myself from buying everything in sight at Kmart. I know I’m not alone there. $122.50
5:00pm — Decide I'm not cooking tonight and get three burgers and chips from a local burger place ($43). This place is quite famous locally and they're so busy that you can't get through on the phone to pre-order. I drive up to the shop and doomscroll on my phone for 20 minutes while the food cooks. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with a burger that has a hash brown in it. $43
7:30pm — B. is watching something on TV in our semi-enclosed back patio area, even though it is freezing tonight. He does not feel the cold! I put A. to bed and jump into my bed with the electric blanket on (heaven!). I watch Yellowstone for a while. I've only just started watching this and I'm slightly addicted. Then I pass out at 9pm.
Daily Total: $225.50

Day 3

6:30am — It's Saturday and A.'s basketball has finished for the term, so I wake up and spent an hour lying in bed and scrolling on my phone. I'm feeling slightly better today, but still tired. I eventually force myself out of bed when B. goes to work. I do a couple of loads of washing and some cleaning. A. and I have toast and peanut butter for breakfast.

10:30am — A. and I take T. for a walk up to the local shops. A new dog grooming salon has opened and they are doing an open day/fundraiser for an animal charity. We give them $6 and A. gets some fairy floss. T. gets a dog biscuit which is gone in about 1.5 seconds. I also go into the newsagent and get a card and lotto ticket for my sister's birthday ($21.65). In my family, we only do official birthday and Christmas presents for the kids. It's still nice to give a little token though. $27.65

12:30pm — B gets home from work and makes him and A. some two-minute noodles for lunch. I have a ham and cheese toasted sandwich and do some uni work.
2:00pm — We head down to a nearby beach park for A.'s basketball meet-up. The wind is freezing, so we huddle in one of the shelters. Spend the afternoon chatting with the other parents while the kids run around. B. and I drink a couple of ginger beers before going home at 4:30pm.
6:00pm— We go to a pub for my sister's birthday. My whole family is there, minus my dad as he lives in the country and hates Perth, so he rarely comes here. The food here is average, but it has a playground which is gold when you've got kids. A. is a little bit older now so we haven’t been here for years, but one of my sisters has two kids under four. I have a beef and Guinness pie and a gin and soda. B. has a steak sandwich and a beer. A. has a burger. The total comes to $94.27. The food is still average, unfortunately. But on the plus side, they don’t charge a cake fee when my sister dishes up her delicious chocolate fudge birthday cake. $94.27
9:00pm — Head home and put A. to bed. Shower and do my skincare routine. I have been having massive skin problems lately (thanks, middle-aged hormones), so I'm using a prescription retinol cream and have to take antibiotics. I also use a pricey La Roche Posay moisturiser as the retinol is quite brutal. B. is watching an F1 race (boring!), so I watch Yellowstone in bed and fall asleep around 11pm.
Daily Total: $121.92

Day 4

6:45am — It's Sunday, so I wake up and lie in bed for half an hour, wishing I could sleep in more. B. wants to go out for breakfast to one of our fave cafes, but I prefer their lunch menu so I talk him into going later. 
7:30am — Make toast with peanut butter for A. and I for breakfast.
8:00am — B. and I both get up and do some house/yard work.
9:30am — I go to Farmer Jack's and do a huge grocery shop as the fridge is looking bare. I get fruit and vegetables, wraps, rolls, chicken, pork, ham, salami and a couple of pre-made meals (ravioli and a meat pie). The total is $211 and when I scan my phone through Apple Pay, the machine asks for my PIN number. I type it in, but it’s wrong. I realise that this is a new credit card and I must not have set the PIN up yet. I start panicking as I haven't brought my wallet and have no other way of paying. The 15-year-old check-out guy starts trying to explain what a PIN number is. I consider leaving the trolley and making a run for it. I get a better idea and ask him to put through two transactions — one for $100 and one for $111. It works, luckily. No PIN needed! Vow to go home and sort out the PIN number issue but promptly forget. $211
11:30am — We go to our fave cafe and snag a table outside. B. has the big breakfast and a milkshake, A. has pancakes, and I have the chicken schnitzel salad. It's amazing, as always! It has chunks of potato in it and you can never go wrong with adding potato to something. $62
12:30pm — We go to a local nursery and get some native plants for the holiday house, plus a few herbs — mint, parsley and coriander. $65
2:00pm — A. has a friend over for a playdate, so I do some uni work while they run around the house, playing hide and seek and setting up a picnic/cubby house, using every clean towel in the house. After, I plant my herbs.
3:30pm — Clean out my fish tank and realise a fish has died. It must have just happened this morning. I only have one fish left and he looks lonely, so once A.'s friend gets picked up, we take Mr Lonely Fish to my sister's house as my brother-in-law has an amazing aquarium. I love having fish and I find watching them very peaceful, but I just don't have the time these days. We also go to the holiday house all the time, so it's too hard to maintain.
5:30pm — We are still full from lunch so I make a small dinner of ham and salad rolls.
6:00pm — We watch the new Pinocchio remake and snack on popcorn and Cadbury Marvellous Creations Chocolate. I accidentally brought the popping candy version which I hate, but at least A. likes it.
7:40pm — A. goes to bed and I shower and do my skincare. B. and I watch the latest House of the Dragon episode. It's brutal!
9:30pm — I head to bed and go straight to sleep.
Daily Total: $338

Day 5

6:40am — I wake up and go pack A.'s lunch. I need to buy some new lunchboxes for her, so I go onto Amazon and order three bento boxes ($23). I eat a breakfast of toast and marmalade. I’m feeling a lot better today. Yay! $23
7:00am — I work from home on Mondays, so I log in and check some emails. There is nothing too exciting, but this is welcome on a Monday morning.
8:15am — Walk A. and T. up to A.'s school. Come home and work. I have a few projects on the go which keeps me busy. I have been in this role for about eight months and I'm really enjoying it. I left an incredibly stressful and toxic workplace, so the pace of this new job is a lot better. Funnily enough, I’m getting paid more to do less.
12:10pm — B. comes home from work and we go out to a renowned deli a few suburbs away for some Conti rolls for lunch ($24). We also get a couple of T-bone steaks and some beef koftas from the butcher ($56). $80
12:30pm — We head to Bunnings to return a made-to-measure blind that isn't the right size. We get a refund as we don't want to wait another eight weeks for a replacement, and spend the $85 refund (plus another $19.20) on things for the holiday house — picture hooks, paint tape, an aerial pole and some window tint. $19.20
1:30pm — Get home and continue working.
2:40pm — B. picks A. up from school. Her first question every day is “What’s for dinner?”. Thanks to the trip to the butcher, I already know what we’re having.
4:30pm — I finish working and B. cooks the meat we brought earlier on the BBQ. I make a garden salad and coleslaw. The steak isn't as nice as it should be for the price, but it's okay.
5:30pm —After eating dinner, I clean up and listen to A. read for a while. She’s reading a Roald Dahl book called The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.
7:30pm — Put A. to bed. Shower and do my skincare. B. and I watch another episode of House of the Dragon, then another episode of The Sinner. I go to bed at 9:15pm.
Daily Total: $122.20

Day 6

6:00am — I wake up and see that it's pouring rain, so I can't walk T. today. Sorry, buddy. Get ready for work and get A. ready for before-school care. Have an IsoWhey protein shake for breakfast.
7:00am — Drive to work and listen to the latest podcast episode of The Teacher's Trial on the way. It's about a 45-minute drive, so there's plenty of time for a whole episode.
8:00am — Because the weather is terrible, I park at the expensive carpark closest to work ($16). Work is about a 15-minute walk from the train station, so I tend to drive in these days. Spend the morning working. $16
12:00pm — I have my 30-minute lunch break and eat leftover koftas and salad. I also read a Jodi Piccoult book — Harvesting the Heart. I picked this up from the free book swap at our old work building. Jodi's books are always easy to read, and this one's been really enjoyable. It's about losing your identity when you become a mum — so relatable.
12:30pm — More work and a meeting. I snack on pretzels.
4:10pm — Leave work and listen to Spotify on the drive home. The traffic is horrendous, so I call B. and tell him to put on the ravioli and some garlic bread for dinner as I'm not sure when I will get home.
5:20pm — Arrive home and eat. B. often skips lunch when he’s working hard, so we always eat early.
6:00pm — Clean up. A. reads to me for a bit before she goes to bed.
7:30pm — B. and I watch two episodes of The Sinner. I start falling asleep at 9pm and miss the end, just as some words flash up on the screen which I don't catch. I have no idea what happened. B. missed it too as he was too busy doomscrolling instead of watching the TV. I consider rewinding it, but I'm too tired, so I go to bed instead.
Daily Total: $16

Day 7

5:30am — Wake up way before my alarm so I lie in bed for a while. It’s raining again, so I don't walk T. and decide to head to work early. B. is taking A. to school, then heading up to the holiday house to do some painting and install a gate.
7:00am — I drive into the city and the sun is sort of out, so I park at the cheap car park further from work and ride my e-scooter to work which is seven minutes away ($11.11). I don’t get wet, hooray! $11.11
7:15am — Start work. Have a protein shake and some strawberries. I try to have a low-calorie day once a week and today is the day.
11:55am — A group of us always go for a walk during lunchtime on Wednesdays, so we walk down to Elizabeth Quay and check out a new bar as a possible venue for our Christmas lunch. It looks pretty lively, but my colleague doesn’t think our boss will like it.
12:30pm — Get back to work and I'm starving. Unfortunately, there is a panic happening over whether something a high-ranking person has said to the media is correct or not. I frantically start reading legislation while the big boss comes over and questions me about it. My brain hurts from hunger and stress and I interpret something incorrectly, but we figure out the right answer in the end. 
1:30pm — Eat my spicy tomato and lentil soup that I grabbed from the freezer this morning and continue working.
3:30pm — Leave work. I manage to avoid the rain on the scoot back to my car and drive home. Pick A. up from after-school care. Get home and discover she has left her iPad there, so we go back again. Sigh.
5:15pm — Since B. is not home, I make myself a cannellini bean salad for dinner. A. has some salad with chicken nuggets, which makes her way too excited. I text B. to see how he’s going — he has had a productive day despite the rain, which is great.
7:30pm — Put A. to bed and shower. I watch a couple of episodes of Yellowstone and message some friends on Messenger until I pass out at 9:15pm.
Daily Total: $11.11
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