Money Diaries

A Week In Sydney’s Inner West On A $95,000 Salary

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 social editor who makes $95,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on two Mecca Max mini eyeshadow palettes.
Occupation: Social Editor
Industry: Digital Marketing Agency
Age: 29
Location: Inner West, Sydney
Salary: $95,000
Net Worth: $48,000 ($37,000 in a long-term savings account, $1,000 in short-term savings, $10,000 in super (this stresses me out as it’s too low for what I should have for my age)).
Debt: $53,000 in HECS debt.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $5,400
Pronouns: She/They

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,200, my share. I live with my partner and we halve the rent. We live in a two-bedroom townhouse.
Loans: I refuse to use credit cards because to me, it feels like I'm spending money I don't have. I know it can be a slippery slope, so I don't even tempt myself. Every month, around $550 goes towards my HECS Debt which feels never-ending. 
Phone: $70
Spotify Premium Duo: $8
Health Insurance: $32
Medication: $60
Binge: $10
Stan: $10
Cat Food and Flea Treatment: $50 (my cat is currently living with my parents to keep them company and cheer them up after some bad health news).
Internet: $35
Gas/Electricity: These change every time depending on the weather!
Anything Else To Add?: My partner and I halve things like groceries, bills, rent and any large purchases like furniture, but the rest we do separately. We don’t have any joint accounts and just use SplitWise for everything we go halvsies on.

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

Yes, I did a Bachelor of Media Arts and a Master of Digital Communication and Culture. I put both on HECS which is really paining me now. It feels weird to think that we just let 18-year-olds make such intense financial decisions when they don't really know what they're doing. It hurts to think about. I sometimes have dreams of me throwing thousands of notes of money off a cliff. Ha. That said, overall I have no regrets. I'm glad I did both.

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

We didn't speak of money much at all. I think my parents tried to keep that away from me. But also now looking back, they just weren't very comfortable discussing anything that felt too personal. Even now when I talk to them about money or ask questions, they say it's personal or that they aren't sure. As a result, I've done a lot of research myself independently. They always drilled it into me that superannuation was important, however, because it wasn't really spoken about until they were middle-aged, they're both stressed about it now. That said, I didn’t take my own super seriously until my late 20s, which I definitely regret.

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

I did little jobs at a local magazine. I think my parents wanted me to realise the importance of saving and that I can't get anything unless I work hard for it. I remember being 15 and really loving things like The Sims and clothes and movies, so getting that $50 a day once a week was SO exciting. I always found it really hard though. I suffered from anxiety that was not yet properly treated, so having to be in a place I couldn't leave was scary. I ultimately left most of my early jobs pretty quickly.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not really. I think I worried about practically everything else, though. That said, money definitely affected my life back then without me really fully understanding it. My family moved a lot due to work. They needed to go where the jobs were, so that meant we were forced to leave houses often. I think we moved around 10 times in my childhood and that instability was jarring and difficult. I really hated it by the end and just wanted to feel stability. I think now I equate making good money with having a home and feeling stable, which is important to me.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, quite a bit. I really would love to own a home one day. I constantly worry about how my partner and I will make this happen. I make a bit more than my partner and saving for a house deposit is long and torturous. We can't even imagine where to buy because everything feels so expensive, but we want to be close to our families, especially mine as one of my parents has a degenerative disease that is only going to get harder and harder. We also think about having children one day and while my partner is more relaxed, I'm terrified I'm not going to be able to provide everything that child deserves.

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

Honestly, probably not until 26. I moved out right as I hit 18 to go to the city for uni and knew no one. It was terrifying and ultimately looking back, I wasn’t ready, but I felt I had no other option if I wanted to study for my Bachelor's. I suffered from bad health in my early 20s which really made working very hard, if not impossible at times. I managed to make my way through university with good marks, but working on top of that with my illness was rough. I felt a lot of shame and wanted to be 'normal'. My beautiful parents helped me with my phone bill and health insurance during this time and often spotted me for rent when I was struggling. I always told myself I’d make it up to them

I'm endlessly grateful for them, and now I'm earning pretty good money, I care for them and help them out now financially whenever they need it. I factor my family into all my financial decisions now and think about what I'll need for them when my family member gets more unwell. It’s strange seeing yourself go from the one being taken care of to the one taking care.

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


Day 1

8:30am — I’m currently working from home due to the pandemic, which has been a blessing and a curse for my money habits. I no longer have to spend money on transport, social events, or lunches at work, but boy do I love to self soothe and buy myself skincare and beauty products. Because of this, I’ve started to track all my spending. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but I’ve still been reeling it in.

I almost never buy food out at the moment, so breakfast, lunch and dinner will usually consist of food that we've bought in our weekly grocery shop. Our delivery comes today ($110 for myself and my partner, so about $55 for me). Sometimes we get our food delivered when cases are high as one of my parents is high-risk, so we like to be extra careful. Other times, we do direct-to-boot at Woolies, which is so good! $55

9:00am — I start work and have my favourite breakfast — Weetbix, milk and honey. WFH has really messed up my morning routine, so I make my breakfast, roll back into bed and read/answer emails, before swiftly getting back up to wash my face, get (half) dressed in a nice top and comfy pants, and put on a bit of makeup. Some days I just do my skincare and get on with things, but lately, I’ve been wearing makeup for probably half the week. It makes me feel better and I enjoy the process of putting it on in front of a YouTube video and zoning out.

12:00pm — So many zoom calls! I’m a person who struggles with anxiety so these are always an experience. I’ll end the call and then think, “Did I sound annoying?”, “I’m SO annoying”, “I wonder if this is all in my head and they actually like me”. God bless my brain. I think my anxiety has gotten so much worse during the pandemic because I’m sitting and inspecting myself so much because I have nothing else to do. I tell myself to read *that* book tonight as it'll probably make me worry less and put me in a better mindset. Instead, I usually decide to read it another time (typical).

5:30pm — I finish work (for the most part). I sprinkle in some extra time on my current project here and there throughout the night. My partner and I settle down on the couch and eat curry for dinner and watch bad action movies. Eating dinner early is our favourite. I Facetime my mum between films to see how my parents are going. I am extra on edge at the moment because one of my parents is very sick, and if they get Covid, it could be very serious. We chat about our days and I help them with all their tech questions (exhausting!) and then get back to watching movies.

10:00pm — I finish the day scrolling Mecca for beauty items I want to buy. I need something to make me feel anything during this weird time, and waiting for a package gives me a rush. I don't buy anything tonight, though. I scroll TikTok for far too long and fall asleep around midnight.

Daily Total: $55

Day 2

8:45am — Another day, another WFH outfit. I'm not even wearing my current wardrobe properly, yet I still scroll furiously through some of my favourite clothing sites for new pieces, because again, I wanna feel something. I don't buy anything and just window shop like usual. I eat my Weetbix with honey for breakfast and start working in the home office.

12:00pm — I pay my health insurance ($32) and phone bill ($70) today (both covered in my monthly expenses) and eat a bagel with cream cheese and avocado for lunch — all food from our weekly grocery shop.

5:30pm — An early dinner of pesto pasta with my partner as we watch Rupaul’s Drag Race. We’re currently watching the first UK Vs The World season and keep getting frustrated as all of our frontrunners are getting eliminated by other contestants. The voting in this season is wild! We both take a nap on the couch because we're exhausted from work.

9:00pm — I spot some eyeshadow on Mecca that I really want. I feel like people are going to be looking at my eyes more often as I'm going back to the office next month. I buy two of the new Mecca Max mini eyeshadow palettes ($40). I've been eyeing off this amazing green and gold shade ever since it was released. What a thrill. $40

1:00am — I don’t fall asleep until late because my brain is in overdrive. Things right now feel pretty stressful, with the conflict in Ukraine, bad weather in Australia, and the pandemic. I feel a strong sense of dread and roll around in bed for quite a few hours.

Daily Total: $40

Day 3

9:00am — Weetbix and honey again for breakfast. I find it hard to get out of bed because every day is starting to feel the same and I'm worrying far too much about my high-risk family member. I'm currently waiting for a task to come in for work, so I watch crime shows on Netflix in bed to relax. How ironic.

11:30am — I make a burrito bowl for lunch with black beans, rice, avocado and some veggies. So good. My work task is now in and it's big, so I spend the rest of the day and into the evening working. My job is based mostly on projects, so I can be hectic and working intensely for a couple of weeks, but then when it’s sent to the client I get a couple of days of respite until the next one. It feels unusual to me, having previously worked in such a structured environment to suddenly find myself having no work until midday some days, but then working into the evening on others. I think a lot has changed with the pandemic, and flexible working schedules have been something I'm endlessly grateful for. I take those quiet moments to have a bath, see my family and help them out, or get some extra sleep in.

6:00pm — I make myself and my partner a stir fry for dinner. We talk amongst ourselves as we eat and I find out quite a few people at his work are getting Covid. This always makes me anxious because I think about my family and what could happen. At the moment, he has to test every couple of days, so that helps ease the anxiety.

7:00pm — I sell a couple of items on Depop (+$80). I have been trying to sell everything I don’t absolutely love or wear anymore, plus giving it a new home feels good!

9:00pm — I hop into bed and watch things on YouTube and scroll on my phone. I don’t fall asleep until 1am again. I know this is a bad habit. I find myself doing this to self-soothe when I feel anxious, but I know deep down that reading in bed would be far better for me. I don’t do it though, do I? Whoops.

Daily Total: $0

Day 4

8:00am — I mix things up and eat Special K for breakfast today. Wild. We have been experiencing floods in Queensland and New South Wales today and I feel a massive wave of anxiety rush over me. I get to work and try to put it in the back of my mind.

9:00am — Lots of zoom calls this morning for work, including one three-hour brainstorm — oof.

1:30pm — I’m starving and my meeting is finally over. Today for lunch I have another homemade bagel with cream cheese, avocado, tomato and capers. I realise halfway into my meeting that my office chair just isn't cutting it and finally cave and buy myself a proper ergonomic office chair ($208). I will be working half my week from home once things go back to 'normal', so I tell myself it's necessary. I also pay rent today for the fortnight which is $600 for my share. $208

6:30pm — I make pasta for myself and my partner. We're both exhausted and lie down on the couch and watch Line of Duty and an episode of First Dates Australia (which makes me feel relieved to have an amazing long-term partner, finally. Believe me, there were some frogs before him!). We cringe together, we laugh together and we both breathe a sigh of relief because we both feel like we’ve found our person. You could’ve made me laugh out loud if you suggested marriage or kids just a few years ago, but now, with him, it’s something I keep thinking about. Your girl’s gone soft.

Daily Total: $208

Day 5

3:00am — I wake up with a bad feeling. The rain outside our bedroom window sounds SO HEAVY, it doesn’t even feel real. It’s like a permanent oversized bucket just spilling water over our house. I sneak out of the bedroom to turn my phone’s torch on and look outside. The water is rising around our house and I check my phone to make sure we don’t have any evacuation orders. Nothing yet. I go back to bed and slowly drift back off to sleep, clutching at my phone just in case.
8:00am — Weetbix and honey again! It's Friday which is exciting because I well and truly feel emotionally exhausted. The floods were so bad overnight — my family's house down in southern NSW very nearly flooded which freaks me out even more. I pack a bag in case we need to leave at any point. I surf YouTube before work to try and drown out my anxious thoughts. It just feels like so many things are happening at once at the moment.

9:00am — I start work and power through meetings and my recent big project. It's a fun one which is a welcome distraction.

5:00pm — I finish work. My partner and I get Thai takeaway for dinner to celebrate the end of a stressful week! ($23 for my share). We decide to play some Playstation together, which ends up being exactly what both of us needed. So many laughs. We talk about how we miss seeing our friends and how much life has changed since the pandemic. I spend quite a bit of the evening reflecting upon how much I’ve changed in that time. I’m almost 30 and feel like things have changed so much in the last two years. Some things for the better, but many for the worse. I tell myself to be kind to myself for struggling lately. It’s been a hard time for many and just getting through the day right now is enough. $23

Daily Total: $23

Day 6

9:30am — It's Saturday!!! For the first time since the pandemic started, I get a haircut — early in the morning before any other customers are in. My amazing partner got me a voucher for it right before Covid kicked off, so this is my first proper chance to go as it’s quite a drive away. It should have cost me $110, but thankfully, the voucher paid for it all. I feel very spoilt. I usually get my hair cut once every six months. I know it's not enough, but I don’t feel comfortable paying for something like that more regularly. When things get too crazy, I use my hairdressing scissors at home to clean up the ends/layers. I probably shouldn’t though, whoops.

11:00am — I pop on my mask and quickly run into the shops for the first time in TWO YEARS. I spot a jacket at Uniqlo ($129) that really catches my eye and buy it, telling myself it's the perfect winter 'commute to work' jacket. I call my mum and ask her if she’d like anything and end up buying her two basic long-sleeve tops ($50). All of a sudden, it goes from being empty to busy, and I feel overwhelmed being around so many people for the first time in ages, so we get back in the car and go home. $179

5:00pm — My partner and I take our dog for a walk. She’s ridiculous and makes friends with another dog that looks like her. She makes me laugh every day. I can’t be more thankful for what she does for me, especially during this time. I give her lots of cuddles on the couch and think about what to have for dinner.

6:00pm — We make veggie bowls for dinner. Basically lots of roasted vegetables, chickpeas, rice, greek yoghurt with Moroccan seasoning — it’s amazing. We sit on the couch and watch Fresh together, which ends up being horrifying and hilarious.

Daily Total: $179

Day 7

10:00am — My partner and I are both exhausted because it's been a big week at work, so we end up sleeping in. I slide our blinds down to make sure I blackout our room. Heaven.

11:30am — We take our dog for a walk and I get myself a juice ($8). I drop the two tops I bought my mum from Uniqlo at her door while she's not home. We enjoy some welcomed sunshine, even though the grass still feels squelchy from all the flooding. We come home and end up watching Line of Duty for hours on the couch with our dog. $8

5:30pm — I make us a stir-fry for dinner, then vacuum and do a deep clean of the bathroom as I listen to podcasts. I’m sad it’s the end of the weekend. Why does it always go so fast?!

8:00pm — We watch Rupaul's Drag Race and scroll our phones, which makes both of us feel like absolute blobs, then slowly drag ourselves to bed. All in all though, a perfect Sunday.

Daily Total: $8
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.
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