Money Diaries

A Week In Melbourne, Victoria, As A Startup Co-Founder On $0

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 co-founder of a tech startup who makes $0 and spends some of her money this week on expired Tee Vee Snacks.
Occupation: Startup Co-Founder
Industry: Tech
Age: 26
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Salary: $0. I’ve been on a zero salary since June 2022, when I quit my corporate job to focus on my tech startup — a mobile app. It doesn't drive any revenue at the moment. My startup is currently undergoing a fundraising round. Once that's completed, I'll pay myself a very small salary. Many startup founders often pay themselves up to the $75,000 mark. Most of the money fundraised goes into the business and my team is happy with me taking a salary of about $25,000 per year. The future development of the app will be funded by the funds raised from investors. I’m currently funding my everyday expenses with my savings. 
Net Worth: $243,000 ($175,000 in savings, $15,000 in shares, $40,000 in super, and a $13,000 car)
Debt: $8,500 remaining on my HECS.
Paycheque Amount: $0
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: I don’t have any housing costs at the moment as I currently live at home. I enjoy living with my parents, younger sisters and our dog as we have quite a spacious place with a large kitchen, dining and work area. I have a separate workspace upstairs that I spent a lot of time doing up to make it feel cosy, warm and inviting. I spend four days working from home, so it's super important for me to create a space I enjoy. A lot of the items sourced for the space were second-hand (mostly from Facebook Marketplace or Good Karma Network groups). I'm conscious of buying brand new items when you can find similar alternatives for a fraction of the cost. We've managed to get desks, office chairs, ottomans, and pot plants for a small amount — or free.
During lockdown, I contributed to my parents' mortgage repayments as they closed down their business. Post lockdown, my parents have an income, so I no longer contribute. I cook for my family a few times a week and cover the grocery costs. I hope that I can give back to my parents in the future!
Loans: No monthly loan payments. After working full-time for about four years, I was able to pay down my HECS from $30,000 to $8,000. I’ve never taken out a loan as I prefer to pay for things I can afford upfront.
Spotify: $3 (I'm on a family plan, of course)
Disney+: $12. This is an annual gift to my partner, but it's basically a gift to myself, too.
Pet Food & Care: $40
Apple iCloud: $15 for 1TB, but I'm looking to cancel this.
Private Health Insurance: $37.42. I'm considering cancelling this because I only got it to offset my tax.
Phone: $12.50, but I pay this annually upfront.
Food: $100
Other (Skincare, Clothes, Splurges): $50
Apart from these, I generally don’t budget for my lifestyle. I don’t spend much, except for food, skincare and the occasional splurge on clothes. This is fuelled by the fact that I don’t have an income, but I’m pretty responsible with my money in my current situation. 

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

I completed a three-year Bachelor's degree that cost about $30,000. It was all covered under HECS, so I didn’t pay a cent until I started working full-time, and then I paid off 70% of it. Now I only have $8,500 to go! At this stage, I’m not looking to go back to university to do a Master's or an MBA.

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

Three words: save, save, save. Money wasn’t a topic we spoke about growing up, but the idea of saving was. My parents are immigrants and have always been very cautious about spending money. From a young age, I was taught that money should never be spent on wants. My parents saved every dollar they earned, only spending money on essentials like food and bills. They rarely spoiled me or my siblings growing up — there were no toys, new clothes, electronics, eating out, movies, or pocket money. It was through their actions that I learned that money is finite and my family definitely didn’t have an abundance of it. 

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

My first unofficial job was working at my parents' convenience store from a very young age, up until my 20s. My first official job was at Subway when I was 15. I wanted to start working as soon as I could so I could make some money of my own and understand the value of money. I chose Subway because my friends worked there. 

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, there were money issues during my high school years because my parents sent us to private schools. They never spoke about the problems to us directly, but we could feel the tension. There were family arguments when grades did not meet expectations.

Do you worry about money now?

No, I’m in a position where I don't have to worry because I have savings. I don’t have many expenses and am in a very fortunate position where I can focus on my startup. My startup is currently undergoing a fundraising round, so once we finish that, I will be able to pay myself a small salary of about $20,000 to $25,000 a year. 

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

I started becoming financially responsible for myself ever since I started making my own money, so at the age of 15. I never asked my parents for money from then and paid for everything on my own. From food, transport, trips, my car. Everything. My parents gave me everything by giving me the best education they could afford and I hope to give back to them in future. My financial safety net is my current savings and just knowing that I can find employment if my startup doesn’t go to plan. 

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


Day 1

7:30am — Wake up and check my phone to see if there are any urgent notifications. I'm excited to watch the next House of the Dragon episode later today and my day is instantly better because I have something to look forward to. I have the Melbourne half marathon coming up, which I signed up for on a whim. I immediately decide that I'm not running today, so I walk my dog instead. We take the usual route and bump into some friendly faces. I get back home and wash her paws because they always get a little muddy.
8:00am — I make tea and write a checklist of things to get done for the day and week. I look after growth and marketing for my B2C startup, so my main priorities are finding ways to grow users (demand) and creators (supply).
8:30am — Log into Gather (a free remote digital workspace where you can build your own office) for my daily standup, where we share our daily priorities and set our weekly priorities for the week. We set up our virtual office with a desk seating area, meeting rooms named the 'Poh Room' and 'Ramsey Room', a magic carpet for our daily standups, a kitchen, bar, zen zone, garden and a time-out area. We create our own avatars, who are synced to our calendars and we freely move around the office. It’s an incredible way to virtually know what everyone in the team is up to during the day, whether they’re working, at lunch, or chilling out. It took time to get used to logging in and moving around, but it’s been so helpful for productivity. The best feature is the ability to take calls with ease. I can move my avatar next to whoever I need to speak to and it will directly create a video and voice chat room. Or for team meetings, we all move to our meeting room and a video call is automatically initiated. A friend of ours in the startup space recommended Gather to us a few months ago and we’ve never looked back. We also have access to a physical co-working space with multiple locations in Melbourne. I currently head in once a week, but I'm looking to increase that to two or three days, including Fridays, so I can have dinner and drinks after work.
9:30am — This morning, I review our marketing channels (mainly Instagram and TikTok) and derive any insights on what’s working and what's not. I set up experiments to run and hypotheses to test and track.
1:00pm — Go for a quick 2.5km run to get the blood pumping. 
2:00pm — I whip together avocado and egg on toast for lunch. I usually eat when I’m hungry and don’t eat breakfast most days. These ingredients were already in my pantry — my mum does most of the grocery shopping in the house because she insists on finding the freshest ingredients for the best price (I’m not complaining!). I feel incredibly lucky that my parents are happy for me to live at home and look after me really well. 
3:00pm — Back to work. I jump into Figma and provide guidance to my designer, who's based in Vietnam, on the development of our brand guidelines. Then I put together a minimum viable brand document, which is a document that summarises my brand values, unique pillars, how we look, our personality and tone of voice.
7:00pm — It’s dinner time. Mum's made a beef stir fry with broccoli and soup, and rice as a side. My best friend and I book tickets for a bachata dance class ($25) for next Saturday. It's our first class but our friends are regulars, so we're finally taking the plunge to check it out. $25
8:00pm — I get ready for bed, brush my teeth and do my skincare routine — cleanse using Cetaphil’s gentle cleanser and finish with a Biologi serum and rosehip oil. Then, I watch the new House of the Dragon episode. I look forward to it every week.
Daily Total: $25

Day 2

7:30am — Alarm goes off and I immediately press snooze. I’m in a really bad routine at the moment that I am desperate to change. I would much prefer to go to sleep early and wake up early. 
7:45am — I’m up again and get ready to go out for a walk with my dog and sister. These morning walks wake us up — some days we’re chatty, some days we’re groggy. We can be completely ourselves around each other. We’ve always been super close growing up and like to hang out with each other all the time, even though we have a seven-year age difference. Today, we're buzzing from last night’s episode of House of the Dragon
8:30am — Start my working day with a team stand-up, where we raise any blockers and discuss our daily priorities. My blockers are developing a strong brand strategy and identity. We’re part of a startup mentoring program, so I book in a time with two branding experts to help. 
11:30am — We have a team retro where we talk about how we’re feeling, and what we’re doing well and not doing so well as a team. Takeaways are documented and we track them for our next retro. 
1:00pm — For lunch, I have leftovers from last night's dinner. Leftovers are a very common theme in our family and I never get sick of them. Noodle soups, for example, taste better days after they're cooked, as the flavour develops and deepens. 
1:30pm — I create a TikTok advertising campaign to test a) the effectiveness of Tiktok as a paid user acquisition channel, b) the effectiveness of my content in converting video views to installs (the most important metric for user acquisition), and c) the quality of users from TikTok on my app and whether they become active users. For apps, the minimum daily budget is $50 and I generally run the ads for two or three days. This money comes from what is raised by investors, not from my own pocket. I’m also looking to hire a marketing intern to develop TikTok content, so I scroll through TikTok and Instagram to scout someone who would be suitable.
4:30pm — I'm hosting an Indian-themed dinner tonight with my two girlfriends and my family. I'm making lamb Paya, puri (Indian fried bread) and curry/cashew potatoes. My friends are bringing butter chicken and cheesecake. Dinner is at 6pm so I start prepping all the ingredients, which were already at home. The lamb Paya is a one-pot meal. Easy. I chuck a bunch of ingredients into the pot, including onion, garlic, water, spices, and lamb, and then leave it to simmer for two hours. Then it's time for the puri. I already have wheat flour in the pantry, so I create a dough and roll it out into small circles. I start on the curry/cashew potatoes, cutting them into small slices and popping them in the microwave to speed up the cooking process. Then I pan fry them with a bunch of beautiful spices — chilli powder, turmeric, fennel powder, curry leaves and cashews.
6:30pm — My friends arrive and we set the table together. It’s been months since we last saw each other. We enjoy the incredible food spread with my family and update each other on our lives since our last catchup. Work, travel, partners, all that jazz. One of my girlfriends is getting engaged on Friday (and she doesn’t know!). I keep my composure while maintaining my excitement for her all night. My other friend has just returned from Europe and Tomorrowland, so we get a huge update on all the fun she had there. It makes me miss my trip to Europe in May earlier this year!
9:30pm — I get ready for bed with a full belly and a full heart. 
Daily Total: $0

Day 3

7:30am — I’m up and get ready to walk my dog. This is the only routine I have. It’s kind of like a mental health walk. My body needs it because my days are long, and I’m not good at taking breaks for myself. On days I don’t get a walk in, I feel quite sh*t and it stresses me out.
8:30am — Log into Gather to check in with my team and start the day. I review our user growth for the day prior and how we’re tracking for the month. I run more experiments to increase users and creators.
12:00pm —  I'm hosting a Greek-themed potluck with my cousins for the first time tomorrow. My family is making baklava, spanakopita, lamb gyros and a taramasalata salad with charred greens. Food has always brought my family together. From a young age, my family would have weekly lunches that lasted until dinner. My parents, aunties and uncles would prepare this incredible spread of food and desserts (like, at least 15 different dishes! I’m amazed at how much effort goes into these events). We’d eat, drink, and sometimes sleep because we’d fall into a food coma, and play tennis or karaoke. Then we’d go back to eating and drinking. It’s a tradition that was lost over Covid, and I want to start it again to connect with my family and keep the tradition going for my generation. I dash to Coles to buy ingredients. $70.45
12:45pm — On the way back to the car, I spot a Cheaper By Miles store, which is basically a discount food store with fresh and dried foods that are almost (or already) expired. I pick up more feta for the potluck because it’s key in Greek cooking and it was almost half price the price of Coles. At the cash register, my sister picks up some Tee Vee Snacks (a childhood throwback!) without realising they're six months out of date. That doesn't stop us from buying them anyway ($8). I contemplate running back to Coles to return their feta, but I'm too lazy and running out of time, so I head home. $8
1:00pm — I jump onto a call with a marketing agency in the Philippines. They’re assisting me with my website optimisation, like SEO and site speed. We previously used WordPress, but we found that it wasn't very user-friendly, so we switch to Duda after a friend's recommendation. I have a connection to this agency, so they’re kindly helping my startup at no charge. 
Daily Total: $78.45

Day 4

8:00am — I have a little sleep-in, then head for a quick walk with my family and the dog.
8:30am — Daily check-in with my co-founders. I squeeze in some work before taking the rest of the day off.
9:30am — Prep time for the Greek-themed lunch! We have a menu with everyone in charge of one or two dishes (I'm in charge of three because I'm hosting). The house is chaotic — everyone is cooking, baking, and decorating the garden because the weather is surprisingly lovely. It's all hands on deck. It’s my first time making all three dishes: spanakopita, baklava and taramasalata with charred greens. I start with the spanakopita. It's surprisingly easy, but I need to work quickly otherwise the filo pastry is going to dry out. Then I prepare the nut mix, pistachios and walnuts for the baklava, and pop it in the oven. I bake this first because it needs time to set with the honey sugar syrup. Then it's onto the taramasalata salad which turns out to be a fairly complex salad recipe.
1:00pm — It's time for everyone to arrive… but no one arrives on time. Typical.
1:30pm — My cousins (and plus ones) start trickling in, and soon, we have about twenty people over. We all gather around the kitchen preparing the food everyone's brought. Saganaki is being fried on the stove, squid is being grilled, calamari is getting deep fried in the outdoor kitchen, chicken is on the BBQ, and the lamb is fresh out of the oven and resting. It's absolute chaos but in a fun way. Everyone's buzzing with excitement to eat and enjoy each other's company. 
5:00pm — We discover one of our plus ones is an incredible singer, so I switch on our makeshift karaoke machine and bait them into singing. Everyone else joins in with song requests. Karaoke is common in my culture and is a way for us to let loose. It’s definitely a tradition we want to continue.
6:00pm — Everyone heads home and it’s time to clean up. There's so much leftover food so we store it in our fridge for my family to eat over the next few days. It takes about an hour to clean, wash, and wipe everything down. 
7:30pm — Crash into bed. It's been a big day and I'm exhausted.
Daily Total: $0

Day 5

6:10am — It's the AFL public holiday today, but I decided to work instead. I head into the office because I know it'll be super quiet and I'll be more productive. I'm also dropping my sister at work in the city and she has a 7am start, hence the early wake-up time. I decide to bring my dog to work because the co-working space is dog-friendly. My dog frequents the office on Fridays, so she's very familiar with the space and will often settle on the cushion next to me. 
7:15am — Park at my prepaid parking space on Latrobe ($11.60, split with my sister). Arrive at the office and make a cup of coffee. I get so much joy from making coffee and frothing my own milk. Then it's time to put my head down. I work on brand strategy, PR strategy and prepare a checklist of things that we need for our new product launch in November. I'm very productive! $5.80
12:30pm — Head to an udon shop with my sister and a friend from an old job who works at the co-working space. My sister has been raving about this place for months — Udon Yassan on Bourke St. It does not disappoint! I order beef udon noodle soup to take away. It's cheap, umami and you get unlimited toppings! Get on it. I pay for all our dishes ($29.42). My friend and I shout food for each other all the time, so it's no biggie. $29.42
1:00pm — We enjoy our lunch back at the co-working space and have a few friendly chats with people who work in the area. 
6:00pm — Head home and have leftovers from the potluck for dinner. We always over cater, so we have food that will last us for days.
Daily Total: $25.41

Day 6

7:45am — It's the AFL Grand Final day! I never really watched the sport growing up, but I’ll take the free public holiday, thanks! I meet up with my dog’s bestie for a little play date. Nothing warms my heart like watching them play and tire each other out. 
11:00am — I head to my boyfriend's house to watch the AFL, and eat sausage rolls and party pies. I sneak some work in on the couch as he watches the footy. I research strong brands that I really like and jot down what they do well and how I can integrate their strengths into my startup.
7:00pm — Head into Richmond by public transport ($4.60) to attend my bachata dance class. I honestly can’t remember the last time I took public transport because I mostly drive everywhere. But my sister borrowed my car, so I had no choice. I meet up with my friend from high school and we head into the class. It's quite challenging and I realise that I don't have as much rhythm as I thought. $4.60
8:40pm — I'm craving ice cream, so my friend and I walk to Messina. I order a double scoop — salted caramel and white chocolate — served in a cup, always. My friend opts for the pandan and coconut flavour. $8.09 well spent. $8.09
11:30pm — My sister picks me up from bachata class and we head home together.
Daily Total: $12.69

Day 7

8:15am — Wake up. I have three catch-ups with friends today! I’m excited, but I know it’ll be exhausting. 
9:00am — I meet up with my friend from uni at a local bakery for fresh croissants and coffee. I usually go for the cheese stick, but I'm feeling something sweet this morning, so I chose the almond and chocolate croissant ($6). Insanely worth it. We head back to my house to enjoy the food and catch up on our personal lives, work and mental health. We met during a summer subject at uni, went on a winter exchange together and have kept in close touch since. $6
11:30am — Head into Fitzroy to catch up with another close friend of mine who is also from uni. We recently reconnected after a mutual friend passed away and have been catching up weekly. We enjoy lunch at an Italian restaurant and share two entrees and two mains. The entrees were phenomenal. My favourite was the Jerusalem artichokes with xo sauce and cavolo nero, and my second favourite was the stracciatella with Brussels sprouts and olives. It comes to $49 each. After lunch, we roam around Rose Street Market but we don't buy anything. We’re both similar in our spending habits, in that we don’t spend money on material things. We love bargains and finding cheap, but quality items from stores like Kmart! $49
2:40pm — Visit Le Labo Fitzroy for the first time and my jaw drops at the prices. I've never been a perfume gal, but my friend buys a 15mL limited edition Vanille (no.44) perfume for $210. I. Could. Never. 
5:30pm — Dinner at a Thai restaurant to celebrate my boyfriend's sister's birthday with his side of the family. I order a lemon, lime and bitters and share a pad see ew and red duck curry with my boyfriend. Dinner is paid for — lucky me!
8:00pm — I’m home and I instantly get ready for bed. Nothing feels better than taking off my makeup, showering and getting into my Peter Alexander satin PJs. It’s been a big week of events and I feel extremely grateful for the life that I have, and the people in my network. 
Daily Total: $55
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