Money Diaries

A Week In Trigg, Perth, As A Retail Worker And Student On $23,000

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.
Anyone can write a Money Diary! Want to see yours here? Here's how.
Today: a casual sales consultant and full-time student who makes $23,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a Patchology face mask.
Occupation: Casual Sales Consultant and Full-Time Student
Industry: Retail
Age: 20
Location: Trigg, Perth
Salary: $23,000. This is what I made before tax and super last financial year, but it may fluctuate this year as I am a casual worker.
Net Worth: $20,165 ($25,841 in a savings account, a $12,000 car which I paid for in full two years ago and $2,824 in super).
Debt: $20,500 in HECS, but because I am still a student I have not started paying this back.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): Roughly $1,000, but this fluctuates depending on how much or how little I work. For reference, my base rate is $29/hour, but I often manage the store and get paid more.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: I currently live at home with my parents and brother. My parents own their home and have a small mortgage left to pay. I do not pay any rent as they expect me to put my pay into savings for a future house. If I was working full time and not at university, this would be different and I would be expected to pay board (probably $50 to $100 per week).
Debt: I have a HECS debt but as I am still a student, I have not started paying it back. Last time I checked my HECS, it was sitting at around $20,500 (we love arts degrees!). I am only halfway through my degree (if that!).
Phone: $25, paid for by my parents. However, I paid for my actual phone outright last December.
Google Storage: $2.49 
Apple iCloud Storage: $14.99
Apple TV: Parents pay
Spotify: Parents pay
Netflix: Parents pay
Savings: I try to put away $2,000 each month.
Parking: I pay $90 per semester for a university parking permit (billed twice per year).

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

Yes, I am currently a university student in my second year. I am paying for it through HECS, which I will start paying back in a few years when I gain full-time employment. I was never pressured to go to university by my parents, but the career I want to pursue requires a degree (I would love to be a HR professional/business partner and work for the United Nations one day!). I have always been a good student and could not see myself doing a trade, so it was always assumed I would attend university with a HECS debt.

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

We have had general conversations, but not a lot of them. I can imagine this will change as I get older and leave home/look at buying my first house. I am quite a big saver so whenever we do speak about money, it is more in terms of what would make a good investment and not how much I should be saving each week. My parents are very financially savvy and are always reviewing their savings, spreadsheets and investments, so I know if I ever do have a question, I can go to them.

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

The first job I had was at Kmart when I was 14. At first, I was only earning $39 per week and was definitely not saving! Once I reached 15 and started working more (which was every day during summer when I was between 15 and 18 years old), I used the money I was earning and bought a car the week before my 18th birthday. Once I bought my car, I used my Kmart money to save and spend on personal items, such as clothes, makeup and going out. My parents made it clear when I got my job that all personal items were now on me and that they would only cover necessities and significant costs that I could not afford.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No. I am very fortunate to have grown up in an upper-middle-class family in a nice suburb. My parents worked extremely hard to get where they are financially and my dad is the hardest-working person I know. He often works 12-hour days as a small business owner. My brother and I were privately educated at good schools and we were always encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities. Part of the reason why my parents got to where they are financially is because of investments and smart money decisions. I hope that in the future they can educate me on how to smartly invest. I am very proud of them.

Do you worry about money now?

A little bit. Whilst I am not worried about the present, I am worried about the future and one day buying a house. With the rising costs of living and housing prices, it is hard not to worry.

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

I am not financially responsible for myself as I still live at home and do not pay any household bills. When I move out of home or gain full-time employment after graduating from university, I imagine that I will become financially responsible for myself. I would say that my financial safety net is myself, but if some catastrophic event was to happen in the future and I suddenly found myself with no savings, my parents would probably help me out.

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

I received $5,000 from my parents a couple of months ago as a one-off gift. I don't know the exact reason as to why I received the money, but I think it was because they had to pay $5,000 towards a car for my brother and wanted it to be fair for me. I didn't even know they gave my brother any money, so it was a very big shock. I put this money straight into my savings and haven't touched it.

Day 1

7:30am — It's Wednesday, my least favourite day of the week! I have university today, but I'm also staying back later for a group meeting. I fix myself a bowl of Weet-Bix Bites (these are 100x better than normal-sized Weet-Bix — don't argue with me) and brush my teeth.
8:30am — I wash my face using the La Roche Posay Effaclar cleanser and moisturise with The Ordinary moisturiser. These two have saved my skin. I put some concealer over a few spots and brush my brows through. I almost never wear makeup during the week because I'm lazy, so this is me putting in effort.
9:45am — Arrive at uni after a 25-minute drive in the rain. I have three classes today and have done absolutely nothing for any of them. Yay! I also get an alert saying that I have been paid — woo!
2:00pm — Classes are done for the day, so I head to a local shopping centre to pick up a salad from Coles ($5) and a Fun Bun from Baker's Delight ($1.50). They are ridiculously cheap and so delicious. I am addicted. I also pick up two different brow pencils from Maybelline at Chemist Warehouse because I have almost non-existent eyebrows and I'm always on the hunt for a new brow pencil ($16.98). I head back to uni for a meeting with team members for a group management assignment. I don’t know my team members that well, so this group assignment should be interesting. $23.48
6:00pm — The meeting is finally over! We all got no work done and just gossiped with each other the whole time, but it was really nice to sit there for an hour and talk with other people my age who I don't know. I am trying to broaden my circle and make more friends because I don't want to just have my high school friends (I love them though), so I'm glad I got along with these new people so well!
6:30pm — I have sushi waiting for me at home, but I can't resist swinging by Hungry Jack's for their new $3.95 carry cup on the way home. I don't think there is anything better than popcorn chicken and chips. Let's be real. $3.95
9:00pm — I donate $10 to a friend's work who is fundraising for the Daintree Rainforest. It breaks my heart to know that over half of the world's forests have been destroyed. The company is also matching all donations made today, so I am essentially donating $20! $10
11:00pm — I brush my teeth, double cleanse my face, moisturise and head to bed. When I say 'head to bed', I mean watch an hour of TikTok. I fall asleep somewhere around 12am. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $37.43

Day 2

8:00am — I jolt awake after a weird dream. I'm not working today so back to sleep, I go.
10:13am — Good morning! I'm awake for real this time. I check social media and realise it's Thursday, my 'no-spend' day. I try to do a no-spend day once a week as I find it keeps me accountable in the long run. It also teaches me that I don’t need to spend money for the sake of spending money. No-spend days are an excellent way to kickstart a savings goal — I always transfer money that I've saved each no-spend day into my savings account. It kind of feels like I am buying something as the money leaves my spending account, but it's going to a better place that will benefit me in the long run! Today I transfer $150.
11:00am — I get up, fix myself a cup of green tea and Vegemite rye toast, and take my vitamins. I get a notification from Depop saying I sold my Carhartt green jumper for $90, so I make a mental note to stop off at the post office tomorrow to send it off.
12:30pm — My mum threatens to throw all my belongings out the front on the driveway if my room isn't clean, so I get to work. She's joking, but I get to cleaning right away ~just in case~. I spend about an hour and a half deep cleaning my room and bathroom. It looks so, so much better. 
4:00pm — I'm starving, but don't know what to eat. I cut up half a capsicum and also have a tin of mini spaghetti with a side of sourdough. Delicious!
6:30pm — After a lovely dinner of crumbed fish and vegetables, I settle down to start on some uni work. I have really been struggling to focus this semester and would love nothing more than to have a semester off and go to Europe. According to my Instagram stories, everyone and their dog is over there. One day...
9:00pm — It's fake tan Thursday (I'm a 20-year-old girl who goes clubbing every weekend — I can't help it!), so I layer on Loving Tan Ultra Dark before bed. I absolutely love Loving Tan, and it looks so beautiful on the skin and not orange. After this, it's bedtime.
Daily Total: $0

Day 3

10:00am — I sleep in again today. I'm in the middle of changing stores at work, so I've had barely any shifts this last week. This is my last day to do nothing before I start working again tomorrow. 
11:00am — I make myself a cup of green tea and Weet-Bix bowl. 
12:00pm — I head to a shopping centre near my house to send off a Depop package ($9.55) and get my passport photo taken ($19.95). As my last passport is from when I was a child, I have to start the whole process again and can't just renew it. Ugh. $29.50
12:15pm — I meet my mum for some chips at Grill'd (she pays) before heading over to Mecca. I want to do a face mask tonight before the weekend, so I grab one from Patchology for $8. I also pick up my Beauty Loop box. Unfortunately, the contents don't look that promising. $8
1:00pm — I head to another shopping centre because I want to pop into Kmart. I pick up a birthday card for mum, a lip liner and a Caramello Koala, all for the ridiculously good price of $4. 
1:30pm — Next stop: food. I head to Coles where I pick up a Quest Bar, a caesar salad, Noshu low-carb bars and some Fibre One salted caramel squares. $17
3:30pm — Hair straightening time. I do love my curls but will always opt for straight hair on a night out. I’m actually going out tomorrow night, but I am working all day tomorrow, so I have no choice but to straighten it tonight. My hair is super frizzy, so it's 10x easier to tame if it's straight.
6:00pm — Friday is 'no cook night' where everyone is in charge of sorting themselves out. I eat the salad I bought today. I'm still hungry, so I make a small portion of scrambled eggs on sourdough with capsicum. I polish this off with my Caramello Koala. 
8:00pm — I have a mini cry. I'm not too sure why I am crying, but I also have been feeling a little bit down recently due to changes in my life. It feels good to have a cry and let my emotions out.
10pm — I put on a random Netflix documentary about the ice age (don't ask why) and end up falling asleep 15 minutes into it. Goodnight! 
Daily Total: $58.50

Day 4

6:30am — Not happening.
7:00am — Much better. I have some Weet-Bix Bites before having a quick shower. I put on a touch of concealer and fill in my brows before getting dressed. I opt for a pair of black Beginning Boutique jeans, a tight black Skims t-shirt and a pair of sandals from the store I work at.
8:40am — I am managing another (busier) store today, so I arrive at work a little early. I snack on a piece of sourdough toast with Vegemite whilst getting the register set up, looking over who I'm managing today, and making sure the floor is clear for our 9am opening.
9:00am — I work at a popular shoe store and my job title is ‘Sales Consultant’. It essentially just involves me persuading people to buy shoes, but also involves me visually merchandising the store, sizing people up correctly, ordering and replenishing stock and serving customers. We are quite a popular store and it does get very busy sometimes, especially on weekends. I am the assistant manager so I also do rosters, payroll and other managerial jobs alongside the store manager.
1:00pm — Lunch time! I head to my favourite sushi hub for a chicken teriyaki roll. $3.80
1:30pm — Back to work. I am in charge today, so I spend some time out the back looking over some of my staff's KPI performance before heading back onto the floor to keep selling until close.
5:00pm — I pack up the store and head home to start getting ready for tonight. I am going out with my friendship group and a few other girls I haven't seen in a while, which is always nice.
6:30pm — I opt for my black Venderby's pants and a black low-cut top from Princess Polly. I wear a lot more makeup on the weekends when I am going out, so I opt for a full face and false lashes. Surprisingly, my makeup does not take me very long.
7:00pm — There are no Ubers available and I'm meant to be heading out to pres. I end up needing to drive and arrive a little late. I scull five Cruisers with the girls before we grab Ubers to a hotel bar. $11
9:00pm — The hotel bar is full of middle-aged mums, but we love it. I grab a vodka lemonade ($12.18) before we hit the dance floor with our new mum friends. I love them so much. One of them sends her son a selfie with me and he asks for my number (through his mum). I’m not sure how I feel about this, but find it really funny. Maybe I just found my future MIL? $12.18
10:30pm — We leave the bar and Uber into the city (my friend pays). Someone suggests a club that I have never been to before and we all agree to try it out. I don't mind it, but the club is known for their house music and I am very much a party, modern music gal. Mid-2010s any day of the week! Entry costs $15 and whilst I have a good time, I don't know if I would come back here. I spend $20.26 on two tequila shots that I will definitely regret in the morning. $35.26
11:30pm — Vomit in the club toilets. I don't ever vomit, what has gotten into me? I think it's the Cruisers. I used to drink Cruisers all the time when I first turned 18 — their sweetness doesn't agree with my stomach. I thought I had learnt my lesson, but apparently not tonight. Luckily for me, I am up and going, and back to the dancefloor a couple of minutes later, but not before grabbing a bottle of water at the bar.
12:15am — The group decides to head to a shisha bar down the road and meet up with some other friends, but my friend and I head to a kebab shop instead. I'm drunk, so $15.90 nuggets and chips it is. $15.90
1:20am — My friend and I Uber to our final club of the night ($14) as we are drunk and don't want to go home. Entry is $10.15 and we meet up with some other friends who have been at this club for most of the night. Luckily for me, it's located five minutes from my house, so if I need to escape, I can. We dance for a while with the other friends and I run into a million other people I know. This club is where everyone I know goes because it is so local. The music here is always good — they play the best bangers — so I’m not complaining. I don’t get a drink at this club because I am still so drunk. $24.15
2:45am — I am very drunk and know I need to go home, so I order an Uber. The ride costs $13.15 and I stumble into my bedroom as soon as I get home. I scull a big glass of water and take off my makeup before falling asleep almost immediately. I know I'm going to thank myself in the morning. $13.15
Daily Total: $115.44

Day 5

10:00am — I'm awake after the roughest sleep I've had. I make my way into the kitchen before gingerly eating a piece of sourdough with Vegemite. I've felt better, but I've also felt worse.
11:30am — I, unfortunately, have the absolute pleasure today of working retail whilst severely hungover. I have a quick shower to wash off the 'going out' smell and get dressed into black Beginning Boutique jeans, a Cotton On t-shirt and a knit jumper. 
12:00pm — Work time. It appears to be super busy today, which is a blessing and a curse. I get straight into selling and recommending shoes, sizing customers and working through putting away stock out the back. I am not in charge today luckily, so I don’t have to worry about pushing the other workers to make their KPIs and meet their budgets.
5:00pm — Done! My manager gives me a box of Cadbury Favourites to say thank you for my time at the store. I'm sad to be leaving, but I absolutely love my new team and am so excited to be moving to a different store.
6:30pm — No one can be bothered cooking tonight, so Dad suggests fish and chips. I'm not going to argue with that. I cut up some capsicum and cucumber to eat on the side while he goes and grabs the food. I genuinely think I could eat fish and chips for every meal.
8:30pm — I chat about last night on Facetime with some of my friends. We all ended up splitting up into smaller groups and pairs throughout the night, so it's good to debrief with the girls and hear what we all got up to. After the other girls got shisha, they ended up going back to the house music club — apparently, it was 10x better than earlier in the night. I might have to give it another shot.
10:00pm — Brush my teeth, wash my face, moisturise and then it's off to bed. Good night!
Daily Total: $0

Day 6

8:00am — Happy Monday! I'm not scheduled today, so it truly is a happy Monday. I make my usual Weet-Bix bowl with green tea and sit outside. Is it winter or summer, I really can't tell in this heat?
11:00am — I hop in the shower and wash my face. Mum has the day off work today so we sit back outside and she drinks a cup of tea. She went out for breakfast this morning with some of my friends' mums, so we gossip about what the other mums said about their kids.
1:30pm — I smash out a bit of uni work and realise that I am craving bacon. We never have bacon, so whenever it is in the fridge it goes within a day. I know Mum and Dad had some yesterday for breakfast, so I check the fridge and by some miracle, there is still some left! Bacon sandwiches for lunch, I reckon.
2:30pm — Back to uni work. I snack on capsicum and a Fibre One bar. I am studying a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Politics/International Relations and Business Management. Today, I'm working on a business management case study that I have due next week. I like my degree in terms of what jobs I will be able to get when I graduate, but I am so over uni — a travel/working gap year next year is looking very promising after Covid and isolation.
5:30pm — I have a Teams meeting with some uni friends about a politics presentation we have this coming week. It sounds and looks great, luckily, so we decide to submit the PowerPoint slides early and not worry about it for the next few days.
6:30pm — Salmon and vegetables for dinner, courtesy of Mum. Delicious.
8:00pm — I begrudgingly have a shower and scrub off my fake tan. I like to go completely natural during the week and let my skin breathe (no fake tan, straightened hair or makeup) because I do the opposite on the weekend.
9:30pm — I have come to the realisation that I wear the exact same going-out outfit every weekend and desperately need new clothes. I browse a few websites and place an order for a skirt and two tops from Princess Polly for $116. If the clothes don't fit me, I'll just send them back for a refund. $116
10:00pm — After laying in my bed for a while, I get up to brush my teeth and do my skincare routine, which consists of my La Roche-Posay Effaclar cleanser, Mecca Cosmetica Hyaluronic Acid Serum and the Ordinary Moisturiser (in that order). After this, it is time for bed. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $116

Day 7

7:30am — Up and at 'em (with a sore stomach)! I scroll on my phone for a while before deciding that the only way to fix my sore stomach is by eating. Sourdough with Vegemite for breakfast today.
9:30am — I attempt to smash out some uni work before getting ready for actual work but find myself on TikTok. Oh well. I pop on my black Beginning Boutique jeans (told you that I wear the same thing every day) and a knit jumper from City Beach. 
12:00pm — The store is surprisingly busy for a Tuesday. Not complaining. I make my budget within an hour and all my KPIs. This never happens!
1:30pm— I get my period midway through my shift and don't have any tampons on me, of course. I duck out and pick up some pads and tampons from Coles for $9. I wish these were free. $9
3:00pm — Finished! It's my mum's birthday tomorrow and since I work in a shopping centre, I decide to browse and see if I can grab her something small (my dad bought her a bigger present). I pick her up a mascara from Priceline as I know she's running very low ($15.39), a vegan chocolate block from Coles ($7.25) and some flowers from a flower shop ($12). $34.64
4:30pm — One of my friend's mum has terminal cancer as a result of being exposed to asbestos as a young child. There is unfortunately no known cure for mesothelioma and my friend has decided to shave her hair in support of her mum and finding a cure. I donate $45 to the cause. $45
6:30pm — Homemade quesadillas and vegetables for dinner! I help mum prep the vegetables whilst toasting the wraps. They turn out amazing. 10/10.
8:30pm — I go over some uni content before tomorrow's classes and talk with a friend about our Europe dream trip next year. In high school, my friends and I decided that in 2021 we were all going to have a semester off uni and go to Europe to work. Covid obviously didn’t allow this to happen, so we have all decided to go next year instead. There isn't a set plan on where and when we are going, but six of us have a group chat going, where we often send flights and places we think look good. We are in the early stages of planning, but so far, we have all agreed on going to Europe during their summer — around the end of June (and because why would you stay in Perth during winter?).
11:20pm — Mindlessly scroll TikTok for an hour before I come to the realisation that I'm scrolling for the point of scrolling. Brush my teeth and do my skincare routine before it's lights out, good night.
Daily Total: $88.64

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

I normally work five shifts per week (and six full days during the uni holidays), so I definitely had more free time this week and spent more money than usual. I also tend to only spend $50 or less on a night out, so Saturday night was a major exception. There are certain items I purchased in this diary that I wouldn't normally purchase or spend money on every week, including two different donations, clothing, multiple Ubers and a birthday present. This was definitely an expensive week for me, but I am a big saver, so it all evens out in moderation.
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.

For many of us, money can be a major source of stress. But it doesn’t have to be. Become more confident with our beginner's guide to managing your money.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it here.

More from Work & Money