Money Diaries

A Week In NSW’s Central Coast As A Strategist On $90,000

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 strategist who makes $90,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a paddleboard (after using Christmas vouchers and a friend's store membership to knock $500 off the price).
Editor's Note: This diary was written in January 2023.
Occupation: Strategist
Industry: Marketing
Age: 28
Location: Central Coast, NSW
Salary: $90,000
Net Worth: $41,812 ($15,000 in savings, $46,000 in super and $700 in shares.)
Debt: My HECS debt is $19,888. Thankfully, that's my only debt at the moment. I've had credit cards in the past but I thought of them more as free money instead of an emergency fund, so I got rid of them pretty quickly.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $5,070
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $400. My boyfriend and I moved from the city and in with my parents at the start of the year. It's a small town, so while we're still commuting to the city for work most days, our lives and finances have completely changed. 
Little things like not having Uber Eats or anywhere fun to frivolously eat and drink has already made a huge difference to our finances and overall smugness. It's definitely not as fun as our 'old lives', but it's not forever, so we're pushing through. 
Before we moved, we split our rent based on our incomes (he was paying a higher %) and split living expenses 50/50. Now we pay a measly $100/week to my parents to cover some expenses. We also alternate the grocery shops. Overall, we’re in a very lucky position.
Salary Sacrifice: $200
Shared Account Contributions: $125/week (For groceries, shared expenses, etc)
Private Health Insurance: $300/quarter
Grammarly: $88/quarter
Phone: $50
Streaming: $0. I've snagged free Stan and have managed to get logins for everything else.
Specialist Appointments: I also see a specialist every three months, which is an emotional and financial drain. This is usually $300 + meds + related appointments. 
Anything Else To Share?: I hate finances. Hate them. So everything's automated. More automation = less thinking = less anxiety. I got into the habit of splitting my income between two banks, so my savings and fun money were physically separated. I then 'pay' myself (and the shared spending account) weekly so I don't crawl to the end of the month with all my money blown.
I recently switched to Up Bank and it's completely changed my relationship with money. That's not an exaggeration. This is not an ad. If Up wants a very average person with no social clout to be their spokesperson, I am AVAILABLE. Now, I get the bulk of my money sent to my Up bank account and segment everything into easy little buckets, while the rest goes to my other account as forced savings. 

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

I studied for a Bachelor Of Communications and Advertising. All of it was paid for on HECS.

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

My parent's had pretty shaky upbringings where money was tight, but that’s where the financial similarities end.
My mum's incredibly frugal and creative (she can make *anything* out of nothing), while my dad's more showy and proud of how far he's come. As a result, my sister and I swing between two spending mindsets — it’s either counting pennies or spending lavishly. There is no in-between.
My dad tried (in vain) to get us interested in finances, but it was usually a long-winded lecture that ended in an argument. Naturally, the karma for being an entitled brat was to make every financial mistake in the book before any of their savings advice stuck... like... three years ago.

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

I got a job at McDonald's the second I hit 14 and 9 months. I was desperate for a job, mainly because I wanted to make more friends and feel like a grown-up.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I wouldn't say I worried, but I was very aware that some weeks were tighter than others.

Do you worry about money now?

In this economy? OF COURSE! But while the world's a big steaming pile of chaos, I feel like I'm finally finding my feet with my money (and once again, for that, I can thank Up Bank).

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

I moved away for uni at 17, but there were plenty of frantic calls home for rent money. I’d say once I started working full-time, I got my shit together a bit more (so at around 21). Although I'm not sure if I'd consider myself financially independent now that I'm living back at home.

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


Day 1

5:00am — I have an extremely restless, anxious night's sleep and wake up well before my alarm. I'm a ball of nerves for no good reason, so I get up, have a cold shower and journal for a bit to try and shake it. 
5:30am — My boyfriend wakes up. We grab some leftovers and cold brew from the fridge and head to the station. I commute to the city a few days a week, which I find much more calming than expected. The early starts pay for themselves with sunrises, time to read and overall smugness.
6:30am — Tap on to the train. Start snacking. Drink coffee. Do my makeup. 
8:30am — Get into the office and have two interviews straight up for a new role in the team. They're both amazing, so there's lots to think about! Bounce from that into more meetings, try to get work done, get distracted, have lots of side chats, realise the time and quickly bash out some deadlines. 
1:00pm — Have a BYO lunch on the balcony (tuna patties and salad) in the sun with some friends. There's a reeeal Friday feeling in the air (it's Wednesday).
6:00pm — Quickly chat to a friend navigating the post-break-up-still-hooking-up zone while I'm RACING for the train and trying to coordinate the timetable with my bf. It's chaos. End up on an all-stations line home. 
8:00pm — Tap off at the station. Jump in the car and drive home via the bottle shop and the petrol station. Obvi treat myself to a roadie to recover from the petrol prices. I pay $110 in petrol and $79 for booze, both on the shared account (so it's $94.50 for my share). Mum's got schnitzels and veg on the table. We have a few drinks, talk some nonsense and pass out around 10pm. $94.50
Daily Total: $94.50

Day 2

6:00am — My body clock's on autopilot, so I wake up at 6am even though I'm not working today. I faff about for a few hours, reading, writing, and scrolling mindlessly while the rest of the house wakes up.
8:00am — My boyfriend and I head down to the beach, dodging all the families lugging cabanas and eskies trying to secure the best spot of sand. It’s a public holiday so there’s chaotic energy in the air. While he goes for a swim, I walk the length of the beach and do the locals nod at all the leathery walkers doing the same. The water is perfection. Clear, a little icy, rolling waves. We head home to escape the heat before the beach gets properly overrun. 
10:00am — After some eggs on toast, a couple of coffees and more scrolling, I'm influenced by the TikTok girlies to make a skirt using old jeans
11:00am — The craft journey begins. I don’t think it’s a difficult exercise if you’ve got any skills, but I consistently overstate my abilities, so there’s lots of starting over. Once I've finished, I show my boyfriend expecting a celebration or (at least) a round of applause. Instead, he says he likes how much I like it...
12:30pm — We have a pub lunch with family friends and shout my parent's lunch and a round of drinks. It's $117.40 on the shared account, so $58.70 for my share. A friend buys a round, dad buys a round, I get into an enthusiastic discussion about Depop and we head home. $58.70
3:00pm — Once we get home, I throw on my swimmers and head to the lake to have a solo swim, washing off the post-pub brain fog.
5:00pm — Instead of dinner, Mum throws together a cheese platter. We scoff it down, watching the storm roll in from the deck. I call it a night around 9pm and immediately pass out. 
Daily Total: $58.70

Day 3

6:00am — Another accidental wake-up, so I do the usual — write, read, scroll. 
7:30am — I meet a friend and her baby at the beach for a walk. I was nervous I wouldn't have anyone to hang out with moving home, so it's been nice reconnecting with old friends. Her baby is also extremely chill and genuinely beautiful (you know sometime’s they’re not), so it's the perfect morning. After the walk, we grab a coffee and a scroll (she pays — I'll get it next week) and gossip for a little longer until I head home. 
9:00am — I jump online and start my day. Most people opted to bank their leave versus taking it on Wednesday, so it's a pretty uninterrupted day making it a lot easier to power through all the niggly tasks. 
1:00pm — Break for lunch (leftover schnitzel on a salad sambo) and have a quick smooth-brain session watching interior design videos on Youtube. The rest of the afternoon is business as usual — meetings, working, occasional scrolling. 
5:30pm — I shut the lappy, grab a beer and head to the beach for a blustery afternoon swim. It's a smugness overload. I'm so happy I think I even yell "I'm so happy!!!" into the wind. It's insufferable and I love it. 
7:00pm — I haven’t cooked in a while, so I do the only thing a completely unique and original millennial woman can — I cook Alison Roman's anchovy pasta and serve some chilled pinot noir. 
10:00pm – After watching some mindless TV, having some chocolate and drinking more wine, I call it a night.
Daily Total: $0

Day 4

6:00am — You know the drill. I decide now is a good time to go through my phone's photo library and start culling excess photos and weird selfies. Turns out my photos are mostly of friends buying food, making food and/or eating food which makes me really, really happy. 
9:00am — Head to a lil cafe and get a coffee each and a toastie. Average but cute. Run into someone I went to school with and do the classic 'hi' 'omg' 'yessss' 'totally!!' 'no we muuust!!'. $23.90 on the shared account, so $11.95.
10:00am — Going full coastal suburbia, we head to BCF to buy a stand-up paddleboard. We use a friend's membership to knock $300 off the price, then use $200 in Christmas vouchers to bring it down to $100. I transfer half. $50 
11:00am — Head straight to the lake with the paddleboard, beach umbrella and snacks and spend the rest of the afternoon paddling, swimming and reading. 
3:00pm — After getting salty and sunburnt, we head off on a mission to find our new local. As someone who grew up in this town, I know the mission's futile, but I relent. 
3:15pm — Pub number one: Buy two beers ($18.60) We sit in the front bar while a bunch of blokes make jokes about their nuts. Status: not the local. $18.60
4:00pm — Pub number two: Buy two beers (bf pays). We sit by the bowling green and take in the view of suburbia. It's sunny and cute, but not The One. 
5:00pm — Head home via the bottle shop. It's my parent's anniversary, so we grab some champagne and misc booze. $111.90
6:00pm — Dad's in the kitchen whipping up grilled turmeric prawns (delish), steamed ginger/garlic oysters (sounds rogue but five stars) and grilled fish with greens. We night cap with some shiraz gin negronis, and I fall asleep fully clothed. Do with that what you will.  
Daily Total: $192.45

Day 5

8:30am — Very dusty. Not smug. 
9:00am — Eat sourdough with cheese and butter. Have as many cold brews as I can stomach. 
10:00am – I catch up with another old friend, meet her ginormous puppy and see her new home. It's a cozy coastal bungalow and I'm insanely jealous/proud of her. 
12:00pm — I head home, pick up my bf and get a bakery lunch. He gets a pie and a sausage roll, I get a chicken roll and a ginger beer. What hangover? He pays.
12:30pm — We do the weekly shop and shake our fists at the cost of living. Two baskets of shopping hit $145.50. It's a week's worth of meal preps, but sheeeesh. We use a voucher he got for Christmas to cover $100 and I pay the difference. $45.50
2:00pm — Prep two veggie loaves (I'll freeze one) for in-transit breakfasts and some bliss ball things. I'm always starving in the morning so need to have something satiating on hand at all times (like a small child). 
3:00pm — Grab the paddleboard and head to a different part of the lake and swim, laze and paddle. I pop on some gogs and fins and try to bash some laps. Quickly lose interest in exercise and read on the shore. 
6:00pm — Head home, turn some sad cauliflower into rice and bake that with loads of oil and spices. Dad cooks some kebabs and makes a slaw-style salad. 
7:00pm — After dinner, we all go our separate ways and have a lazy evening winding down. 
Daily Total: $45.50

Day 6

8:30am — I snooze a few alarms and wake up to a dreary, muggy morning. I make a piece of veggie bread and a coffee before jumping online for the day just before 9am.
11:30am — Distraction snacking takes over, so I rummage around for a while, grabbing a bliss ball, a banana and a coffee. I feel like the lazier/more harried my mornings are, the more I snack. Not mad about it, but… why?
2:00pm — I break for lunch, scroll TikTok and make a salad wrap. 
4:00pm — The day drags on and I can’t really find my rhythm. When mum gets home from work around 4pm, I use it as the perfect excuse for a cuppa and a debrief, trying to find some afternoon motivation.
6:30pm — The motivation never hits so I end the day feeling sticky and stagnant from all the rain and heat. I shut the lappy and take the dog for a walk around the lake. I end up getting caught in the rain halfway through so I start speed walking (it's hot) to get home. The dog’s completely unphased which makes it worth it.
7:00pm — I’m on dinner again and make some rice paper rolls for the family. Everyone’s in a charming chatty mood. We watch 8 Out Of 10 Cats and try and outdo each other with the challenges. A family classic.  
10:00pm – After a pretty unremarkable day, I’m happy to call it early. I head to bed to scroll for a while before passing out. 
Daily Total: $0

Day 7

5:00am — I'M AWAKE! It's one of those awful, startling wakeups where everything's thrown out of whack. I have a cold shower to shock my body into action and spend the next 30 minutes fussing with my makeup and outfit before grabbing my lunch, making some veggie bread and a coffee and hitting the road. 
6:00am — Get to the station and wait in the drizzle with a bunch of high-vis tradies all doing the Sydney schlep.
8:15am — Get into the office, tidy my desk after leaving in a state when I last left the office and have a few silly convos. Most of the team's down with the big C so it's going to be a quiiiet week in the office. 
10:30am — Quickly make matcha using office supplies and realise I'm late for a meeting. As per. 
12:00pm — See a delayed charge for public transport ($16.80) and realise there's another there too ($15), they're both on the shared card so I transfer money over to cover them. $31.80
1:00pm — Quickly make a desk lunch using things I brought from home: tuna, microwave rice and salady bits with kimchi, sriracha and some kewpie. 
5:30pm — Review my last piece of work for the day and race to the station to grab the last train. I intentionally left my lappy at work so I'm not tempted to keep tapping on the way home. I have neglected my book for the past few days so get some solid reading in
8:00pm — I get home and a wave of exhaustion takes over. My boyfriend's made pasta for dinner, so I eat that, half watch something on TV and crawl into bed. Setting another 5am alarm and hoping tomorrow's wakeup isn't as abrupt.
Daily Total: $31.80
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