Money Diaries

A Week In Western Sydney As A Shift Worker On $135,000

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Today: a shift worker who makes $135,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a Macca's loose change menu meal.
Occupation: Shift Worker
Industry: Government
Age: 28
Location: Western Sydney
Salary: $90,000 base and about $45,000 on overtime (but this isn't always consistent).
Net Worth: About $300,000 ($150,000 in Australian ETFs and shares, $52,000 in super and $520,000 in equity linked to the home loan shared 50/50 with my partner P.). P. and I are very different financially (he earns $65,000 a year), and to avoid conflict, we have mostly separate finances. P. contributes a fixed amount of $1,550/month into our expenses and shared savings (for holidays). I generally pay for routine expenses such as strata, council, and insurance, while P. covers the groceries and utilities. Since my income is a bit higher, I also pay for anything that we do together and the occasional clothes shopping.
Debt: Shared mortgage of around $320,000. I also have a credit card which I pay off at the end of the month.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $3,500
Pronouns: She/Them

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: I am currently paying $2,552.51 in minimum repayments (over 6% on a variable rate which really hurts) and an additional $1,600 contribution to sit in redraw. We live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. It's just myself and P.
Council Fee: $120
Strata: $330
Private Health & Extras: $325.38
Mobile Plan: $35
Spotify: $11.99
Union Fees: ~$60
Contribution to ETF: $500/week

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

Yes. I started on a business degree out of high school at a private institution because they offered me a sizable scholarship to cover accommodation. This was a terrible idea. I watched myself wracking up the balance on my FEE-Help loan, plus the quality of teaching wasn't great and what it was costing me did not balance out. Needless to say, I did not end up finishing the course.
I later completed an Honours degree in social science which was a Commonwealth-supported place. I paid for it with HECS and for four years of study, it ended up costing about the same as one year in that private institution. I received youth allowance and worked part-time throughout university.
I paid off my HECS loan this year in a lump sum right before the indexation date in May to avoid getting smashed with an extra $3,000. I was very fortunate to be in a position to have the spare money, otherwise, it would have taken me another few more rounds of indexation and cost me a lot more. I don't like how the system takes money out of every paycheque but only pays into it after your tax return, but it did allow someone like me from a poor background to go to university. University might or might not be worth it but I'm grateful the choice was there, enabled by HECS and youth allowance.

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

My childhood was complicated and I had to learn a lot of things on my own. I spent my early childhood in the home of my grandparents, the only conversation about money is the fact we didn't have any. I'm no stranger to secondhand school uniforms, hand-me-downs from my cousins, and not going to school excursions to save money.
My father did odd jobs ever since an injury in his early 20s, never left home and relied heavily on the help of my grandparents. He's always been a bit of a big kid — he buys whatever he feels like and believes everything will sort itself out. I am the complete opposite of his beam of positivity outlook in life.
Later, I went to live with my mother. We lived on my stepfather's sole income with a lot of debt, so safe to say, there was NO money (or money education).

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

I got two part-time jobs when I was about 15. The local butcher paid $6/hour cash in hand and I also worked at the local McDonald's. I wanted to have a bit of money because I never had pocket money or anything growing up.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, definitely. Growing up, our family was definitely on the poorer side — my grandfather's single income had to feed a family of four. I was also constantly trapped between the different approaches to money: my grandparents' 'stretch every penny' ethos and my dad's 'spend everything you've got NOW!' mentality.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, but I'm conscious that maybe I shouldn't be worrying so much. Our current financial situation really stresses me out as we only brought our place two years ago and have been on a variable rate the entire time at the mercy of RBA (or rather the lack of mercy). P. doesn't really have any savings and I need to save for two. Comparing my position to others on social media definitely doesn't help either (I really should stop doing that, but I can't help myself). At work, I took on a fairly excessive amount of overtime in the last two years. I don't really know how much longer the overtime or my body will last, but I'm taking everything that's on offer while I can.

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

I guess at 16. I left home, couldn't go back to living with my grandparents and moved into a youth refuge with the help of a supportive school network, youth workers and social workers. Youth allowance felt like a huge amount of money back then. Officially, I had my own rental signed about six months before I turned 18 (not sure if it was legal) and started to live on my own — and later with P.

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

Dividends from my ETFs and Shares are about $3,000/year. They're always automatically reinvested back in.

Day 1

8:30am — I wake up about half an hour before my alarm. I go through my phone to check all the notifications. I always set multiple alarms on my phone and on my watch, just in case. Usually, the alarm on my watch wakes me up and I find it less of a shock to my system in comparison to my phone alarm.
8:40am — Reluctantly get out of bed into the cold in search of food. P. has already started work but there are some bulgur fruit salads in the fridge left waiting for me for breakfast. I dish them out, microwave some dark chocolate in a cup and turn the coffee machine on. I overheat the chocolate but no matter, I steam the soy milk perfectly and it's easily cafe quality. I brought the coffee machine two years ago for P. as a birthday present — it cost me about $650 and we use it at least a few times a week.
8:58am — I start the rest of my morning routine getting ready for work and almost miss my train like every other day this week (month). I tend to cut it pretty fine. The cost of my commute is covered by work.
10:50am — I arrive at work and get the day started by chatting with a few colleagues. I grab an apple for lunch from the office fruit bowl — it's gonna be my lunch later.
11:40am — I finish a small task and start tossing up on if I should attend the NAIDOC week on-site meeting. One of my colleagues says he's going if I'm going, so I go.
12:08pm — One of the senior managers kicks off the meeting after the acknowledgement of the country. The meeting was meant to start at 12pm so they're running late.
12:28pm — The meeting isn't really about NAIDOC week at all and management as taken this as an opportunity to pat themselves on the back. I sneak off.
2:25pm — Good News! There is leftover food from the meeting. I exercise my trust and have some sandwiches and sushi pieces for lunch. The apple will have to wait until tomorrow.
3:12pm — My favourite technician walks in! Oh no, he's after another colleague but that's okay, we have a chat anyway and we complain together about last night's train delays.
6:51pm — Wrap up my day. Luckily, the train home isn't packed. Yay.
7:40pm — Spot on, dinner is served — a pad thai at-home pack from Aldi, which is surprisingly good. P. tells me it's all pre-prepared (even the chicken is pre-shredded!). After dinner, I scroll through ABC News, sharing links with P. if they're interesting. I skip the physio exercises I was supposed to do.
9:00pm — I've finally decided to move from my seat and take a long shower to wash my hair. P. asks to join me — I could do with a back massage under the warm shower, so I say yes.
10:30pm — I use Duolingo practice as an excuse to get some alone time but my plan only works for half an hour before P. joins me. We watch some cat videos (time goes fast) and then I send P. to his room as it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day 2

7:58am — Again, I beat my alarm to it this morning!
8:00am — I hear P. in the kitchen and realise it's his day off, so I come out to check on the status of my food. Steamed eggs with rice and some kimchi radish. I don't know which culture would be eating these items for breakfast, but here we are. I steam the soy milk for a Milo. I feel like an adult because I get to choose whichever unhealthy childish drink I like.
8:25am — Quick morning routine because guess what? I'm running late for the train. P. also wants attention and affection and it's really the worst timing. I pick up a warm jacket to wear but the buttons are configured wrong, so I settle for a thinner jacket with no buttons. My partner attempts to fix the buttons but also wants to walk me to the station. I end up missing my first train. Luckily, there's one not far behind.
9:54am — I make it to work and chat with a colleague while messaging another. There're still fruits available, so I grab a banana and an apple. That's lunch sorted!
10:21am — Settle myself at a desk and go straight into procrastination mode. I PANIC when I realise I forgot to send a happy birthday message to a friend yesterday. Hopefully, it's not too late. I also do my Duolingo but I get interrupted because I do need to do actual work.
1:58pm — I look at the two apples from yesterday and today and decide to wash the more bruised one. I have that and a banana while listening to two colleagues complaining about their day.
5:15pm — I overhear two colleagues chatting about cute guys at work and instantly realise who they're talking about. One of the aforementioned hot guys walks in and sits down, so I ask him about his kids ;).
6:40pm — Clock off and come home to some lamb curry and lentils. The store-brought Madras curry sauce is not that bad! I'm way too full to have dessert.
7:26pm — P. insists that we watch a movie or something. I only get 15 minutes of Duolingo in and I have no other excuses to not spend time together. I use ice cream as a distraction, which buys me 10 minutes.
10:59pm — Four episodes of Jack Ryan later, it's time to get ready for bed. I'm not renewing my membership for Amazon Prime this year — the $20 increase in yearly subscription has motivated me to cancel it, but I still have 20 days left on my current membership.
Daily Total: $0

Day 3

7:30am — I'm waking up even earlier, that's not a good sign. I force myself to go back to sleep. Whilst most people can survive on eight hours or less of sleep, my body considers anything less than ten hours insufficient.
8:35am — Here we go again, but it's close enough to my alarm time so I just get up. I make myself a soy cappuccino on the machine, it turns out perfect. It saves me from buying one, plus it's been a real hit-and-miss with the cafes around work. P. has already started eating without me — we're having eggs, mushrooms and grilled zucchini this morning. He tells me to avoid the toast because apparently the new brand of bread we've bought tastes like cardboard. I look inside the fridge in search of carbs and find a leftover packet of naan bread from last night. That's good enough. I add chunky peanut butter to it and tell myself it's okay because it's not proper naan bread anyway. My favourite is brown bread with heaps of seeds but outside of central Europe, I haven't had much luck finding it. Most of the time, I settle with a soy and linseed loaf or sourdough, but I'm constantly on the search for the perfect loaf of bread.
9:04am — I start my morning routine, I seem to be on schedule for once. Yay! I squeeze in a bit of time to do exercises my physio said I should do as well as Duolingo. The next thing I know, I'm rushing to the station again. I'm not fooled by the deceivingly warm sunny weather outside, so I grab my thick jacket (the buttons are correct this time). I go through my notifications and scroll through social media while I'm on the train.
10:48am — Time to start work. The office is quieter on a Sunday. I should be able to get plenty of work done. There are still apples left — only granny smith at this stage, but I'm surprised there's any left at all! I don't feel very social today, so I pop my headphones on and turn the music up too loud.
3:44pm — I completely forget about lunch, but it's not too late. 20g of dark chocolate and two apples later, I'm good to go again.
7:08pm — Get the train home. I do the Duolingo activities while I'm on the train.
8:04pm — Dinner's not ready yet, so I take this opportunity to put on my favourite playlist and run on the treadmill for 35 minutes.
8:47pm — Oh, it makes a lot of sense why dinner wasn't ready. It looks like I'm having homemade chickpea flour bread, Brussels sprouts, three different types of pickles, cucumber, tomatoes, cabbage, a chickpea salad, beef and pork belly — all at the same time... P. has absolutely no idea what a light meal is or what is an appropriate portion size is. I do not finish everything!
9:30pm — I've procrastinated enough, time for my long shower. P. joins in as usual.
10:18pm — I'm sufficiently dry enough to jump into bed. It smells like new sheets, bless!
11:07pm — Time for bed. I think we've definitely watched enough animal videos.
Daily Total: $0

Day 4

7:42am — I wake up and there's no point trying to go back to sleep. I open my room door and P. comes up to give me a big hug (oh, he's working from home today) and tells me I'm awake earlier than he anticipated. Trust me, I know and I feel it too. I decide to have a soy hot chocolate instead of a coffee. I take this as an opportunity to have my favourite breakfast — Greek yoghurt with cereal and pumpkin seeds. We have very different ideas of what a decent breakfast is — if it was up to P., we'd be having a full-cooked English-style big breakfast/or pancakes every day. What a nightmare.
8:15am — I start getting ready with my morning routine. Stare at the grey hair I've gained and confirm it definitely hasn't made me any wiser.
9:14am — I rush to the train. I have a headache but thankfully, the music coming through my headphones helps a little.
10:00am — I make it to work, spot on time. It's a social morning and I'm smashed with catching up with everyone.
12:40pm — I'm finally free to do some admin.
2:28pm — I eat an apple from home. Someone's also brought in some homegrown guavas to share, so I have two of those as well — they're only small.
5:02pm — Take off a little early to get dinner before tonight's show. We decide on a Malaysian place. Stir-fried noodles with starch on top? Strange, but hell yeah we'll try it! It costs $75.68 but I pay with Liven, so I get 50% off with pre-purchased credits. Because of this, it's only $37.84 in real money. $37.84
6:37pm — We get to the Opera House. I make P. go and collect the tickets because I've had enough of dealing with people. We're seeing Aida at 7:30pm and two tickets ended up costing me $40 thanks to the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation ballot. I never expect to be chosen by the ballot with my income bracket, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. Other than the occasional flashing/strobing lights towards the end of the show, everything is great and I don't get a headache. We absolutely love the energy of the conductor. $40
11:25pm — We finally get home after a long day. I'm peckish so P. cuts up two apples and a pear for me.
12:05am — I finally finish my night routine and go straight to sleep.
Daily Total: $77.84

Day 5

10:05am — It's a day off today and I'm not in a rush, so I lay in bed and scroll through my phone.
11:55am — Looking at the time, I should be safe from getting a call to go to work last minute. I finally decide to come out of my room. Before I can even dish out some yoghurt, P. rushes out and offers to make me instant noodles. I just cannot say no to instant noodles — it's usually a rare treat for when I'm sick. I eat a full bowl of instant noodles with vegetables and a poached egg.
1:09pm — I lay back in bed and message my best friend. She moved overseas just before Covid started and I can't wait to see her when she comes back home later this year.
1:51pm — I'm so sleepy, time for a nap.
4:12pm — I'm awake and I instantly want to be active — not active enough to go for a run, but I will go for a walk.
4:32pm — I leave the house and P. reluctantly come along with some strong convincing. We walk around the park and talk about finances, social policies and network security, before deciding to walk to Strathfield and Burwood to get food. A family-sized tofu pudding with four toppings sets me back $20, but we can have the leftovers tomorrow. I also order a tri-coloured pudding and remind the girl at the front that she's forgotten to charge me on the second item ($5). Then we get more food from the food court at Strathfield ($38.67). $63.67
9:04pm — 25,000 steps later, we finally get home. I'm super full but we still have dessert. I also fit in exercises from the physio, Duolingo and cooking videos.
11:24pm — Bedtime!
Daily Total: $63.67

Day 6

10:20am — I've finally had a decent night of sleep. I dish myself some tofu pudding and have it with two of the toppings it came with. I also add a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter because I'm unhealthy, then some pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil (both China and Styria are terrified at my choices right now).
10:45am — Morning routines!
11:23am — Rush off to get the train. By the time I get to the station, the train is running late. There are also police officers rushing around and they're thankfully they're only checking tickets.
12:05pm — I get to work and start my day.
2:15pm — It's not exactly lunch yet but I can't resist getting the Macca's loose change menu meal. $5.95
7:06pm — Join the rest of the commuters and head to the west.
7:58pm — Lamb curry for dinner. I also battle the customer service agent from my health insurer over chat at the same time. It's been five days and I've spoken to three agents — they still haven't been able to answer three questions consistently and fix my account.
8:30pm — The agent logs off without resolving anything, I'm in a terrible mood. P. walks a very fine line to not push me any further when I'm frustrated.
8:58pm — It's a long shower day. It's so cold. I don't want to get into the shower, but once I'm in the shower, I don't want to get out.
11:04pm — I'm still in a shitty mood. I don't know how it got so late, but it's time for bed. I use a meditation app to help me relax. It's not really working.
Daily Total: $5.95

Day 7

7:40am — I wake up to a message from my health insurer. I reply to the agent half asleep — she's not really helpful but at least she's polite. I try to go back to sleep but it doesn't work.
8:53am — P. opens up my door and catches me reading on my phone. Breakfast is ready — crepes with Greek yoghurt and two apples cut up. I have a soy cappuccino because I feel like I will need it today.
10:05am — We walk to the station after I go through my morning routine.
10:25am — I spot a colleague on the platform. We hug and hop on the same train.
12:03pm— I see a discount offer on my email and message P. to come out tonight to see a musical as I can get two tickets for $20. $20
3:00pm — I grab lunch from that same Malaysian restaurant and take a huge tub of noodles back to work to eat — half price with Liven and just $8.57 in real money. $8.57
6:40pm — After work, P. comes into the city. We grab a Thai fruit salad to eat on the way — it's got chilli, sugar, salt and spices ($10). It's delicious, but I asked for only a tiny amount of chilli and it's still way too spicy. $10
7:10pm — We get to the theatre. It's a smaller production but is absolutely awesome! I also spot a familiar face in the ensemble — the male lead from a production I saw two months ago. Almost everyone in the show played several different instruments and they seemed even more busy than what's normally expected in a musical.
11:16pm — We get home and I'm peckish. I have some tofu pudding and an apple for dessert. I go on and on with P. about how I love musicals more than any other forms of theatre — it's musicals, plays, opera, then dance and acrobatics for me.
11:50pm — Night routine and bedtime. The compulsive part of me does not allow me to brush my teeth within 30 minutes of eating.
Daily Total: $38.57

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

I've tried to not go into any details about my time with my mother and my life at the youth refuge — I hope what I have mentioned is not triggering for anyone. P. and I have been together ever since high school — we are very different in personalities but our relationship works because we give each other space. We have been following the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement. I'm in charge of saving and investing, P.'s focusing on finding a better job. Hopefully, we'll get there in the next 10 to 15 years.
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