A Week In The Southern Highlands As A Digital Marketer On $115K

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 digital marketer on $115,000 spends a chunk of her income on planning her upcoming wedding. 
Occupation: Digital Marketing 
Industry: Marketing
Age: 31
Location: Southern Highlands 
Salary: $115,000
Net Worth: $51,000 – Total savings of $105,000 ($80,000 in savings for a house and $25,000 in a wedding/emergency fund)
Debt: $54,000 HECS debt that seems to never go away :( 
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $6,300 
Pronouns: She/Her 

Monthly Expenses 

Rent: I rent with my fiancé and we split the cost 50/50. It's a total of $2600 a month, so it's $1300 for my share each month. We’re currently looking at houses to buy, but everything is so expensive! We’ll do it eventually but it feels very overwhelming and I’m always scared that things will get too much for us to handle. 
Internet & Phone: $170
Streaming Services: Around $40 a month
Bills (Electricity, Gas & Water): It changes depending on the season; during winter we have to use the central heating or column heaters, otherwise we’d freeze. Typically it’s around $200 for gas and $250 for electricity each quarter. I try to be smart with the central heating and only use it for a few hours, then I’ll either use a hot water bottle or a small column heater in my office.
Medication/Therapist: Something like $300-$500 a month. Oof! I’ve just started seeing a therapist again recently and keep telling myself that it’s okay to spend that much money on myself. I was previously feeling guilty about doing it, but I know that’s silly and it’s time to put myself first.
Savings: I’m trying to put away $2000-$2500 each month. This was originally for a house deposit, but that’s on hold for now and it’s going towards my wedding, which is in six months. 

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

I have a Bachelor's and a Master's degree. I put it all on HECS – it's close to 55k, which has not moved due to the recent 7% indexation. My parents weren’t able to contribute to my studies and I completely understand — I never expected them to. Hopefully, I will one day pay this off, though I fear it will die with me.

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

We didn’t discuss money much at all. I knew we weren’t poor but I also knew we weren’t well off; we were just somewhere in the middle. My dad worked really, really hard and mum worked on and off throughout taking care of me as a child. We never really talked about money though, even when I got older. The only thing they did do was to tell me to get a job when I was around 16, for the experience and to be able to pay for the little things I wanted at the time – like lip gloss, video games and clothes. 

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

When I was around 15, I got my first job helping out at a magazine. Then I worked in a small grocery store in my hometown.

Did you worry about money growing up?


Do you worry about money now?

Definitely. I want to buy a house with my partner, because I’ve always longed for a feeling of stability. Even though my family didn’t really have any money issues, they did move around a lot and it really impacted me when I was growing up. I remember telling the school counsellor that I craved stability and a room that really felt like mine. So, now I’m trying to create this in my adulthood.
I also want to make enough money because both my parents are significantly unwell. Over the last 12 months, my dad has been dealing with Parkinson's, then a cancer scare, then in the same week I discovered that my mum had a brain tumour. Thankfully, my dad’s cancer scare was just a scare and my mum’s tumour was fully removed. That said, both my parents are older than my friends’ parents and my dad’s Parkinson's is only going to get worse. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make enough money to pay for his care if he ever needs it in the future, or at least to make it possible for him to stay at home. 

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

I didn’t truly become financially independent until I was around 24 years old. I moved to Sydney when I was 18 to study, but my parents continued to help me out financially. I did a lot of shitty jobs to try to get by but they always helped with groceries or bills if I was strapped. I’m so appreciative of that. Now, at 31, I take care of them and I feel like we’re somewhat even. 

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


Day 1 

6am: My dog wakes us both up. She’s a big dog but likes to sleep in the bed like a child. We know this is naughty and we shouldn’t. But during winter she keeps us warm, so we cuddle her and go back to sleep. 
6:45am: My fiancé gets up to go to work. He’ll be out of the house by around 7:15-7:30am and won’t be back until around 5pm. He works so hard and I’m so proud of him. I sleepily say goodbye and have a good day. I try to remind him to remember his lunch because he always forgets and then I feel sad lol. 
8:30am: I wake up for work. Working from home definitely has its benefits and being able to sleep in is one of them! I typically start work around 8:30-9am; today it’s going to be 9am. In some of my old jobs, I had to wake up at 5am and travel 3.5 hours a day, so I’m extremely grateful that I can work from home now. 
8:35am: I’ll be honest, waking up later isn’t making me feel great. I feel like I just slump out of bed, sleepily have my Weetbix and get into work. I need to get back into having a more gentle morning routine – I’m jealous of those who have mastered their morning routine! Because of my medication, I’m very tired and this makes it hard to wake up early, and sometimes not nap in the evening right after dinner. I’m trying to create a more regular routine because I know this will be good for me. I’m thinking I should get up around 7:45-8am and have that hour before work to just slowly get dressed, eat food and get into things. 
I also should be exercising and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t exercised for a long time. I play with my dog in the garden or go on the occasional walk with her and my partner (she’s super protective so I can’t take her for walks on my own as she’s so strong) but that’s it. I used to be super sporty and I really miss it. I’ve bought an exercise bike but I rarely use it, and I’m keen to talk to my therapist about how to get into working out again without it feeling like such a struggle! 
9am: We start our work day with our morning meeting, where everyone on the team discusses what our priorities are for the day. Things are SUPER busy for everyone right now but it’s also a really exciting time. We’ve been seeing so many good results lately and getting really great clients, so work is busy but fun. I’m also super grateful that everyone in my team is lovely and fun to work with. We’re able to laugh when stressed and support each other when needed. 
12:30pm: Lunch time! For a long time, I’d work through lunch and not take that time off. At the moment, I’m trying to prioritise taking 20 mins off the laptop to go sit in the sun with my dog, play ball with her and have a moment to myself. I typically listen to a podcast like Shameless or Mamamia Out Loud – I’m obsessed with both of them. It also feels a bit social. We moved here to be closer to my parents who are unwell (and also to have a break from city life) and while we love it, we miss our friends. Nearly all of them are in Sydney and we don’t get to see them enough. Listening to a podcast feels like a conversation with friends, even though I know it’s not quite the same. We’re starting to make friends with our neighbours here though, which is cute! I’m also such an introvert and homebody, so while I feel lonely occasionally, for the most part I feel like I’m living my best country life. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful and I feel like my anxiety has decreased a lot. 
5:00pm: My fiancé comes home from work and the dog goes wild. She’s like a child at Christmas and it makes my day! We drive down to the shops and do a grocery shop for the week ($147 for both of us). We typically go between Coles, Woolworths and Aldi. We try to be good and get a lot at Aldi to save money and then get some of our faves from the other stores. Right now we’re loving Aldi’s Persian feta, frozen salmon with herbs and spices, and getting Yogos for 25% less than we would at the other supermarkets. $147
5:45: We have gnocchi for dinner, put the TV on and fall asleep on the sofa. Both of us are wrecked from work and wonder if this is really what being in your 30s is supposed to feel like. It feels pretty crazy to have gone from being 27 during the start of the pandemic to suddenly being 31. I definitely feel the age difference, whether it's needing my glasses more, my back or legs aching more, needing naps more often or falling asleep after dinner. That said, so far I much prefer my 30s to my 20s! 
8:00pm: I get up, wash my face, have a shower, get into my pyjamas and hop into bed. We watch things in bed, cuddle our dog and talk about work and life until we fall asleep. 
Daily Total: $147 

Day 2 

8:45am: I wake up and my partner has already gone to work. I get sad when that happens because I like being able to say goodbye. I drag myself to the kitchen, make some cereal and go to the office. I work for an hour or two, then get into the shower. I have a quick shower, do my skincare and make myself feel more work-appropriate. 
11am: I have work meetings all day today – six client zoom calls where I’ll be talking and running through results in all of them. It’s a busy day, but it’s good to get nearly all of it out of the way at once. You tend to get on a roll and presenting feels like second nature. Despite being an introvert, I’m chatty AF and have to remind myself to shut up sometimes. I love talking to nice people, taking care of others and making them laugh. It leaves me feeling accomplished and happy by the end of the day! 
5:00pm: My fiancé is home and we’re wedding planning! We do a final check of one of the deposits we have to pay and send it through ($2,150). We’re trying to do the wedding for under 20k. To be honest, I haven’t really enjoyed wedding planning – probably because everything is so expensive and I get nervous being the centre of attention. I initially wanted to elope because I was so nervous about the pressure, but now we’re doing a small intimate wedding of around 35 people and that feels just right. I feel so lucky to be marrying such a wonderful man. All that matters to me is that we get to enjoy life together. $2,150
6:00pm: We eat dumplings and fried broccoli and kale for dinner. Yum! We talk about work, family and what we want to do for our honeymoon. We think we might hold off on the honeymoon as we’re paying for the wedding and would also like to buy a house in the next six months. Who knows. I think we’ll do something nice, but keep the big trip for when we’ll have more money and it makes more sense. We decide to watch lots of spooky movies together. We love this. We’re both big movie buffs and find it funny watching (sometimes terrible) scary movies. We cuddle with our dog, I eat a Yogo and zone out for the night.
11:50pm: We hop into bed. I read a bit of Reddit and watch some TikToks and then it’s time for sleep. 
Daily Total: $2,150

Day 3 

8:00am: I’m up! I feel like eating a bigger breakfast today. I fry some eggs, and make avocado toast with eggs, feta, tomato and balsamic glaze. Then I do my skincare and get into work. 
8:45am: I get stuck into my workday. There’s lots and lots to do at the moment as we’re prepping for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale time. I go between my office and my biiiig sofa because you can lay out on it and it’s in the sunshine, which is nice. I throw the ball to my dog now and then to keep her happy. 
12:00pm: I talk to my parents. They’ve both been super unwell and it’s been a stressful time. I try to offer support whenever I can; sometimes they’ll take it and other times they’re a bit more stubborn! I’m an only child so I’ve put pressure on myself to take care of them and make sure they’re okay. My fiancé is also an angel and has cooked them lots of food and picked them up from the hospital. I feel lucky to be around someone who doesn’t mind that I need to be there for them sometimes when things are rough.
In saying this, I’ve started seeing a psychologist again. I think having all of this happen at once made me really scared about losing people and nothing ever really being ‘simple’. It felt like every time I was happy, I was also scared something was about to come in and ruin it. I definitely felt myself losing ‘something’ during this time. I book a haircut for tomorrow night because I realise I’ve not been taking care of myself and have been working and worrying too much about my family. I’m aware of this, but not very good at implementing it. 
5:00pm: My fiancé arrives home and we take the dog for a walk together. It’s freezing all of a sudden! It’s going from hot to cold and it’s getting me very confused. We push through the cold and do it for our dog because she’s loving every minute. Then suddenly she’s done and she paces towards home. 
5:30pm: We make a pasta bolognese-style dinner with lots of cheese. The dog saunters across the living room, looks back at us and then dives into our bed to sleep. She’s so spoiled! The rent comes out of my bank account. We pay fortnightly, so it’s $1300 for the both of us. I scroll around Mecca for a while browsing makeup and buy a Rose Inc blush ($48) in Ophelia that I think might work for my wedding day. I’m going to do my own makeup because 1. It saves money and 2. I never feel like myself when someone else does my makeup. We watch some more movies together and talk about our days. $48
10:00pm: I have a shower and jump into bed. 
Daily Total: $48

Day 4 

8:55am: I wake up five minutes before I have to start work. Eugh. It doesn’t feel good. I slide out of bed and onto the sofa and get stuck into emails for a while. 
9:30am: I make cereal, do my skincare, and make a hot water bottle because I’m cold! 
9:45am: I get back to work. I have no meetings today, so I stay in my loungewear. Working, working, working. I know I’ll have more meetings soon so I do everything I can to get the grunt work of my written stuff done. 
4:45pm: My fiancé is home! I give him a hug. The dog comes racing out of the backyard too and gets excited. It’s nice that he gets a cute welcome every day. We walk out into the backyard and watch the sun slowly setting. The birds are chirping. Our dog is overjoyed to have us both here. It’s pretty beautiful — I like these relaxing times. 
5:15pm: Don’t judge me, we like an early dinner. I make a stir-fry and we eat that together and watch an episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race and I do a bit more work. 
6:15pm: I head to the hairdresser. I go in and give them a bit of an embarrassing explanation that I booked this in because things have been hard lately with my family’s health and I need to do something nice for myself. Thankfully the hairdresser gets it and tells me how important it is to take care of yourself when you’re thinking about taking care of others. Very true! I pay the balance ($60) and head back home. We watch some films together, have a chat about our work, and then I have a shower and head to bed. $60
Daily Total: $60

Day 5 

8:00am: I’m awake! I watch TikToks in bed for half an hour. My dog comes in and spoons me in the bed. I know it’s a bit much, but it makes me feel calm. I listen to a podcast and enjoy the moment.
8:40am: I make a piece of sourdough toast with avocado and a fried egg and get stuck into work. There are lots and lots of questions coming in from clients and so I go through and answer them all. I’m also training a new employee for my team and getting through a lot of tasks. Things are busy!
12:45pm: I make a rice bowl with spiced roast chickpeas, avocado, tomato and more. I love bowls like this. It feels healthy and nourishing but also tastes delicious. I call my mum and have a quick chat with her and then get back into work. 
6:00pm: Work is done! My head hurts a bit. We order Thai for dinner and I get a yellow curry with rice ($21). Yum! I eat dinner, then fall asleep on the couch. $21
8:30pm: Whoops, this is becoming a bit of a habit! Sometimes it feels good, other times I wake up feeling groggy and it ruins my sleep for the rest of the night. You know when you’re watching a movie with your partner and they ask if you’re still watching and you sleepily mumble “yes….” but you’re 95% asleep? Yeah, that’s me. 
Daily Total: $21

Day 6 

10:00am: It’s the weekend, baby! We sleep in and cuddle in bed. After a while, we slowly scroll through our socials and take our time getting up. 
10:45am: We make these breakfast sandwiches we really like with caramelised onion, mayo, boiled eggs, vintage cheddar and tomato. It’s glorious! 
11:30am: We do a deep clean of the house. Having a dog means that hair accumulates very quickly and I also tend to drop things around the place and not put them where they belong – whoops! I put on a TV show to keep me entertained while I clean. 
1:30pm: We make rice bowls again and go for a drive to visit my parents. We hang out at their house for a couple of hours and help them out with some tech questions. Sometimes I feel like tech support is my second job – except all the questions are really funny and take one second to fix. 
4:00pm: We go sit outside in the garden and play with the dog and think about dinner. How good is food? We decide to make a dahl for dinner – I’m a big fan of dahl! And we decide to have another movie night. This is making me realise we spend every night watching movies. I’m going to buy us more board games! We probably should mix it up a bit more. 
Daily Total: $0

Day 7 

9:15am: I love a good sleepy Sunday. I lie in bed and decide to finally purchase these cute Mary Jane shoes I’ve been eyeing off for a while ($98). The joy of getting an ‘out for delivery’ message thrills me at this current stage in my life. No shame! We have cereal and potter around the house for a bit. I tell my partner that I can’t wait to buy a house one day because I want to have my own vegetable garden and grow things without fear of making it look amazing and then having to leave. We discuss finally going to get loan approval. We went a few months ago and they said we would be approved for a good loan but we decided to wait a bit longer as we want to save up a bit more. $98
12:20pm: We make lunch and decide to stay home for the day and just be lazy. Work is crazy for both of us and we just want to be blobs together for a while. 
4:45pm: The Sunday blues kick in. Not so much because I have work the next day, but just because of everything going on in my life at the moment. I want to get back into waking up earlier, I want to exercise, I want to spend more time seeing friends and making new friends down here, and I want to mix up my nights a bit more. I’m a creature of habit and not very good at being spontaneous — and I’m also hard on myself. I’m definitely working on that.
I feel like I’m doing really well at work, I love my partner, my parents are doing much better for the most part, but I want to spend less time looking at screens and more time going for walks and feeling carefree. I’ll definitely work on that. I think finding balance in your life is hard – thank god for the little things that make your day sweeter, like good people, yummy food and movies that make you laugh! 
Daily Total: $98

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

This week’s spend was high as we’re paying off the wedding. It’s definitely a very expensive time in my life right now and I’m grateful I’m able to afford it. I don’t drink, smoke, or eat takeout much so I like to treat myself to nice things every now and then. And I like to make sure that I’m putting at least $2000 a month into my savings. 
Completing this Money Diary has made me realise that I need to be more spontaneous – whether that’s doing something different on a weeknight, going somewhere new, or planning something to look forward to.
I’m very grateful that I have a wonderful partner, a job I love, and that my parents are doing better. Now, I think I need to work on myself and give myself some extra love! 
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