Money Diaries

A Week In Clayfield, Brisbane, On A $104,800 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 senior project officer who makes $104,800 a year spends some of her money this week on Jarritos Mexican Cola.
Occupation: Senior Project Officer
Industry: State Government
Age: 33
Location: Clayfield, Brisbane
Salary: $104,796
Net Worth: $217,937 ($4,700 in savings, $98,260 in super and $145,600 in home equity).
Debt: $279,023 ($248,373 on my mortgage and $30,650 in HELP student loans).
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2,248 (This is after tax and super contributions).
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,300 for a two-bedroom unit. My friend S. lives with me and pays $800 for rent each month, which includes her share of the bills. She moved in with me after the Great Lockdown of 2020. I can afford my mortgage on my own (it’s actually cheaper than my rent used to be), but it’s great to live with her for some company and to have some extra passive income. 
Bills: $400. This includes my phone, internet, electric, water and gas, rates and body corp levies, car insurance and rego, and contents insurance. I contribute this amount to an account I have earmarked for bills. My bills come in monthly, quarterly and yearly, so I have worked out that saving this amount per month allows me to have enough to pay them as they roll in.
Spotify: $11.99
Netflix: $9.99

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

I went to university to study law and took out a HECS loan to pay for it. To practice as a lawyer, you also need to complete an additional Diploma of Legal Practice, which I tacked onto my HECS debt.

My parents supported me throughout university by paying part of my rent. I covered the rest of my rent and other expenses through a part-time job at a jewellery store (the markup on jewellery is INSANE! My staff discount was just above cost price and could be as high as 80% off. I only wish my young self had appreciated diamonds more!).

I also received the Centrelink Youth Allowance while studying, since I came from a rural area. I’ve since made the jump from private law to government, but I didn’t need to restudy for this.

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

My parents led by example. They thought carefully about their purchases and expected my sister and I to do the same. For example, if I wanted a Christmas or birthday present that was particularly expensive, like a Gameboy, I needed to be sure the cost was worth it and that I would get enough use out of it. We didn’t get an allowance; we just asked for money when we needed it and my parents would hardly ever say no. But we lived in a small town, so we rarely needed much — we would only really go to the movies, the bowling alley or the rollerdrome (RIP to the rollerdrome!).

We didn’t have any in-depth discussions about finances or investing. My parents are very conservative with their money and trusted their super fund to provide for their retirement (which it has). They didn’t trust the stock market and only dabbled briefly when they had an investment property.

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

My parents expected us to get a job once we were legally able to. I worked at Target Country (which, as it sounds, is a small version of Target for country towns) like my older sister did, only working a couple of shifts a week. The job was more to teach us general responsibility than any financial lessons. I spent my money on clothes and hanging out with friends.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not at all. My parents always made sure we lived within our means and were comfortable, but I also had a pretty skewed vision of my family’s finances. My parents were both high school teachers so we weren’t rich by any means, but because we lived in a small working-class town, I actually thought we were pretty wealthy just by comparison to other families.

Do you worry about money now?

I wouldn’t say I worry, but I do think about my finances a lot and am actively trying to manage my money more responsibly. I am very blessed to have been given an incredible head start by my parents — because they have gifted me money and also given me other, less tangible things like a great home life and a solid education. I’ve never been super irresponsible with money in terms of credit card debt, but I’m more of a spender than a saver. I am very interested in investing and have been educating myself on it (shoutout to the great Girls That Invest podcast!).

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

I became financially responsible for myself when I graduated university and got my first full-time job. Until that point, my parents still helped me out with part of my rent. My parents are definitely still a safety net — they would lend me money or let me move back home if I needed to (love you, Mum and Dad!).

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

Yes — $800 per month from my roommate for rent. My parents also gifted me $43,000 which I put towards the deposit on my unit. This was a third of my dad’s inheritance from the passing of his mother — the other third went to my sister. I'm fortunate that my parents are incredibly generous and wanted me to break into the property market — it would have taken me years longer to buy otherwise. They've also helped me financially in other ways, like helping me paint my unit (this would have cost thousands if I had to pay for it!).

Day 1

7:30am — It’s a work from home day today, which usually means I roll out of bed precisely 15 minutes before starting work. Unfortunately, I have a doctor's appointment this morning, so I'm up earlier. Right now, I'm WFH two days a week, though we occasionally snap to full-time WFH depending on what ‘Rona is doing. Recently, as a newly minted 33-year-old, I’ve decided I should start taking a keener interest in my skin. I’ve started seeing a skin therapist and completely restocked my skincare regime with their recommended products from O Cosmedics. I cleanse, apply my serums, moisturise and put on sunscreen. Make my skin perfect, please!
7:45am — I am quickly in and out of the doctor's office. I just needed a new script for my anti-anxiety meds. I’ve been taking 10mg of Lexapro for about 9 months now, and it’s been life-changing. It took a while to find a doctor who I felt confident understood how to prescribe mental health medication, but it’s worth waiting until you have someone you trust. The first doctor I saw prescribed me an insanely high dose and told me I’d "probably start feeling better the next day". NOPE. I pay $71 for my appointment, but they give me my Medicare rebate straight away, so I only pay $31.90 out of pocket. $31.90
8:15am — I log on and start my day. Working from home has meant that my team now does a daily ‘check in’ meeting, apparently for our mental health. I struggle to see it as anything but a waste of time. It's always fun to hear what the 24-year-old in my team got up to on the weekend. Today, their story was about getting rescued from a sandbank by the water police after a drunken boat party went wrong. Ahh, youth. 
11:00am — Today is payday! I do my fortnightly money shuffle. I have five accounts set up — daily expenses, fun account, emergency fund, bathroom renovation savings, and long-term savings. They’re all no-fee accounts, and it really helps me keep track of my spending and savings. I also siphon off a few dollars into Spaceship, a micro-investing platform I throw my ‘spare change’ into. My roommate, S., pays her rent monthly, and this cycle coincides with my paycheque. It goes right into my renovation fund, which is my priority at the moment. My 1996 bathroom needs a serious update!
12:00pm — Lunchtime! I never feel hungry in the morning so I don’t eat breakfast. My whole life I’ve been told how unhealthy that is, but now all of a sudden I’m an intermittent fasting health queen! I don't want to scrape together a lunch from the odds and ends in the fridge, so I duck out to Subway for lunch. I get a footlong chicken fillet sub and two cookies, so I can have half today and half for lunch tomorrow ($16.10). What a fun and sexy food diary this is shaping up to be! I eat while I'm working, as I’m using my ‘real’ lunch break to get a haircut. One of the joys of WFH is that it makes appointments so much easier. $16.10
1:00pm — Haircut and root colour time! I have naturally dark brown hair, and my grey hairs are increasing in number to the point where I dye my hair regularly now. I will be very content to rock a fully grey head one day, but not quite yet. My hairdresser refers to the greys as ‘sparkles’ which makes me giggle. $175
4:30pm — Knock off work, which while at home just means I close my laptop and turn the TV on. I veg out and watch YouTube videos for a few hours. Alison Roman made a pantry pasta that is very similar to the pantry pasta I make, so I feel very validated in my chef abilities and nod sagely along with her. 
7:00pm — I’ve been in a regular pub trivia team for years now. Team name: Kevin Bacon & Eggs. Pub trivia means a delicious pub meal, so I enjoy a cheeseburger and fries, washed down with a Coke No Sugar ($20.50). I’m not much of a drinker, but my teammates work through a few jugs of beer. We come fourth overall, which is fairly standard for us. $20.50
9:30pm — Home, shower, and into bed where I scroll TikTok until I’m ready to sleep, around 10pm. My TikTok feed is VERY suitable for a 33-year-old — cleaning videos, cat rescues and packed lunches. It’s soothing, though constantly watching videos that are no longer than three minutes is definitely destroying my attention span. 
Daily Total: $243.80

Day 2

7:20am — I'm working in the office today, so I quickly run through my morning skincare routine and get dressed in something acceptable to be seen by human eyes. Tinted sunscreen is the extent of my daily makeup routine. I load my backpack with my laptop and lunch bag and walk to the train station, catch the train into the city and listen to a podcast on the way. Lately, I’m really liking The Cookbook Circle
8:15am — Plop down at my desk and log in. My job has flexible start and finish times, which I adore. I tend to start earlier than the rest of my team so it’s nice and quiet until about 9am when everyone starts rolling in. I use the quiet time to shoot off a few emails about my insurance claim for damage from the recent floods in Brisbane. Insurance companies are operating on a triage system right now, prioritising those who are displaced due to severe damage. I remind myself that my claim being processed incredibly slowly means I’m much better off than a lot of others. 
12:00pm — Lunch break — the exact same lunch as yesterday, but today it’s cold! Yay.
4:30pm — Knock off time! It was a very uneventful workday, but I did find myself getting irritated by the noise level in the office. A lot of people are back for the first time since WFH full time, so there are lots of loud catch-up conversations happening… all day. I am the office Grinch, apparently. I notice my Go Card (Brisbane’s public transit payment card) has recharged ($40). I've set it to automatically top up when the balance drops below $5. $40
6:00pm — I have nothing planned for dinner, so I rummage through the fridge and freezer and knock up a breakfast-for-dinner meal — a bacon and egg burger with some spinach for *health*. I wind down for the night watching Chef’s Table BBQ and polish off a piece of chocolate mud cake I'd randomly bought at the grocery store. 
7:00pm — My friend who lives in Darwin calls to discuss plans for her upcoming visit. Our mutual friend is getting married next month finally (!) after two cancelled wedding dates due to Covid. We compare schedules and choose a day to have dinner before the wedding, and also decide to go for manicures. I send myself an email from my personal account to my work account reminding me to make bookings tomorrow. Does anyone else do that? 
9:00pm — Retire to my bedchamber to watch TikToks until I’m ready to sleep. If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned my roommate yet, she works insane hours and regularly doesn’t get home until 10pm. Crazy! Work-life balance is one of the main reasons I moved from private law to government. 
Daily Total: $40

Day 3

7:00am — It’s Friday! The usual morning routine — roll out of bed, skincare, and a semi-acceptable outfit for wearing in public. I get an email notification that the TV stand I like from IKEA is back in stock, so I make a mental note to pop out there tomorrow to grab it. 
8:15am — Back in the office. It looks like I won’t be annoyed by noise today as barely anyone is here! Most people choose to WFH on Friday, but I like coming into the office for the quiet. I swear I’m not the office grouch! I do chat! Flying directly in the face of this statement, I decline an invite to attend work drinks this afternoon as I have plans to go for yum cha with friends. Since they have an 18-month-old, we planned an early dinner so he can make his bedtime. Before I officially start work, I make a reservation for dinner with my friend — clearly, I still have BBQ on the brain from watching Chef’s Table, because I book The Smoke BBQ in New Farm. I’ve heard amazing things and my friend’s boyfriend is a huge BBQ fan, so I think this will go down well. 
12:00pm — Lunchtime! I grab some grilled salmon sushi ($12.90) from the food court under my building and head to my favourite lunch table to eat and read on my Kindle for a break. I’ve been reading Atomic Habits. I just finished a whole chapter on how a British cycling team found massive success by making small changes, only to read a postscript at the bottom that says they were eventually found guilty of doping! LOL. My family group chat is pinging with photos from my mum — she’s on a dumping spree and wants to know if my sister or I want any of the old furniture she’s getting rid of. I put my hand up for a beautiful antique piano chair that belonged to my great-grandmother, who was a wonderful pianist. I don’t have a piano, but I’ll make it work! $12.90
5:00pm — Yum cha time! I can’t lie, I love an early dinner. We order an assortment of yum cha dishes, and this restaurant actually has robot droid things that deliver the food! We enjoy dumplings, fried squid, roast duck and hot and sour soup. Surprisingly, the only one of us at the table who enjoys the chicken feet is the baby! My friends pay for dinner — we usually take turns paying as we eat together so much that it evens out. 
9:00pm— Spend a little time at my friends’ house hanging out and chatting after the baby is put to bed, then head home. 
10:00pm — Shower, skincare, TikTok and bed!
Daily Total: $12.90

Day 4

8:00am — I'd planned to head to IKEA first thing this morning to pick up the TV stand, but when I check the stock levels, it's sold out! They had four yesterday! Obviously, this TV stand is wildly popular. There goes my morning plan, so instead, I potter around doing some cleaning and watering all my house plants. 
11:00am — I’m going to a late lunch today for a hen’s party, so I decide to eat now so I’m not starving by then. A Guzman y Gomez was recently built near my house, so I head there. I get spicy pork nachos with a Jarritos cola and it hits the spot. $18.10
12:30pm — Time to get ready! I change into a new wrap dress I got from ASOS last week, loosely curl my hair with my straightener, and put on makeup for the first time in weeks. 
1:30pm — Lovely long lunch with the bride-to-be and friends — we split pizza, pasta and Prosecco before heading to a nearby bar for cocktails. We split the bill between us — $67.
7:00pm — As a surprise for the Hen, who’s a musical theatre buff, we got tickets to see Frozen the Musical at QPAC. We bundle into an Uber and head to the show. It's pretty good, but it’s very hard to live up to Idina Menzel’s voice! There are several very cute little dressed up Elsas in the audience.
10:00pm — I head home after the show, luckily snagging a ride with a friend who lives near me, whose boyfriend picks us up. 
Daily Total: $85.10

Day 5

9:00am — Out of bed! I’m cooking breakfast today for a change because a) I'll make an exception for breakfast when it’s a delicious bacon English muffin, and b) I always try to eat before I go grocery shopping so I don’t go wildly off the hook.
10:00am — After eating and bumming around the house all morning, I head to the grocery store to shop for the week ($120.25). Groceries are so expensive right now! I have never spent this much, and I didn’t buy anything out of the ordinary. I Google this phenomenon, and it’s apparently some combination of everything going on in Ukraine/Russia, plus the pandemic. $120.25
11:00am — I prep my groceries for the week — I chop and store my fruit and veg, and mix up a pimento cheese dip to have for a daily snack with veg and tortilla chips. This dip is the only recipe I’ve tried from my new Ina Garten cookbook after crowing to everyone that my New Year's resolution was to cook through it. Maybe next year. 
2:00pm — This day is truly not worth recording in a diary. I’ve been laying on the couch all day watching YouTube and Swamp People, a reality show about Cajun alligator hunters (sadly I’m addicted to it). I throw together some lunch with the remainder of last week’s groceries — a chicken salad roll with veg chips and some fruit that's seen better days.
6:00pm — I decide to knock up a pantry pasta, a la Alison Roman. Anchovies, tomato paste, shallot, garlic and bunch of herbs and a very generous amount of olive oil and parmesan. Delicious. I see my roommate for the first time this week and we do a Baskin Robbins run. She treats me to a nutty salted caramel cone.
10:00pm — Bedtime! The usual routine of shower, skincare, TikTok and sleep. 
Daily Total: $120.25

Day 6

8:00am — Monday is a WFH day for me, so I get to roll out of bed as late as possible before logging in. I get in a quick YouTube workout before sitting down to work — I alternate between Sydney Cummings and Fitness Blender. I’ve decided that today I’m going to get my absolute favourite ramen (despite my recent grocery shop) for lunch, so I’m already dreaming of it.
11:30am — I can't wait any longer! I set my status to 'On Lunch' and head to Taro’s Ramen. I order a Tonkotsu ramen, with a side of kimchi and a Milkis soda, which I’m aware are very Korean, but hey, they go together ($17.80). It’s so delicious and the perfect Monday treat. Just before the pandemic, I had fully planned a trip to Japan which obviously got sidelined, but hopefully someday! $17.80
2:00pm — I get a Teams call from my Director to inform me that he’s resigned. He’s the third staff member to be poached by a private consulting firm and the latest in a long line of resignations. The Great Resignation is upon us! Our division is a good place to work, so I think the turnover is just people re-evaluating after the craziness of the past two years. I haven’t worked with this Director for long, because ironically, he was a replacement for my last Director who was poached by the same company. 
4:30pm — I log off after the requisite Teams gossip session about our Director’s resignation and potential replacement speculation with my team. We decide to host a morning tea for him tomorrow as a lot of people will be on leave from next week for Easter. I had actually bought ingredients to bake a lemon cornflake slice after getting a recipe from my friend’s mum, so I decide to bake that for the tea. It’s a very easy recipe so I quickly whip it together and leave it out to cool down.
6:00pm — I decide to be a saint and cook dinner even though I already baked something today; what a sacrifice! (Please ignore my ramen lunch). The extent of my cooking is air frying some frozen fish cakes and sautéing some green beans in garlic and olive oil. I add a dollop of tartare sauce and dinner is served. CHEF. 
8:00pm — S. gets home from work (sadly, this is early for her), so we post up on the couch for a chat. I point out the obvious — her current work life is not sustainable. To her, this job is a means to an end. It’s a Miranda Priestly kind of thing like, "If I work here for a year, I can work anywhere!", so she assures me she’s OK. 
9:00pm — Shower, skincare, TikTok, bed! You guys know me so well. 
Daily Total: $17.80

Day 7

7:00am — Funny how I never realised how onerous my morning commute was until the pandemic! Up, dressed and onto the train.
8:15am — Get into work and catch up with my coworkers who are also in the office today. I brag about my homemade slice, then immediately receive an email that our Director is quarantining as his daughter tested positive for Covid over the weekend. The morning tea is cancelled. More slice for the rest of us, I guess? It's a real shame that his daughter is sick and that we won't see him in person for his last week. I’ve heard from coworkers who have kids that Covid is tearing through the schools here though, so it's to be expected. 
12:00pm — Get out of a draining meeting with our in-house legal team (I do not miss working in law at all) and head downstairs. Again, I've ignored my languishing groceries and haven't packed lunch today. I grab a karaage soba salad from the sushi place ($12.50) and sit down in the food court to eat. While on lunch, I make plans for my visit to my hometown in North Queensland for Easter. My parents, sister and her husband and kids all still live in my hometown, so we plan what days we want to do a beach trip. I’m so excited to see my little nephews again! My first stop when I get home will be to pick out their Easter eggs. $12.50
4:30pm — Knock off! A good friend of mine is a native Kiwi and is heading back to New Zealand for a month in June. She messages me asking if I’d like to join her for a week in Queenstown between her family visits. Yes, I would! I spend the evening researching flights and accommodation — I have more than enough annual leave banked, thanks to going nowhere for two years. How exciting!
6:00pm — For dinner, I triumphantly use my groceries to make a soup for the week. It’s a copycat recipe for Zuppa Toscana, which is a creamy vegetable soup from Olive Garden in the US. I have never been to Olive Garden so I don’t know how it compares, but it’s good! I have it with some toasted ciabatta. Some lemon slice for dessert, and I leave a note on it for my roommate to help herself too when she gets home. 
10:00pm — Ending my diary on a thrilling note— shower, skincare, TikTok, sleep.
Daily Total: $12.50
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