Money Diaries

A Week In Surrey Hills, Melbourne, On A $14,000 Income

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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Occupation: Student and Part-Time Worker
Industry: Hospitality
Age: 18
Location: Surrey Hills, Melbourne
Annual Salary: $14,000
Net Worth: Around $20,000 ($9,000 in my savings account, $750 in my side hustle account, $3,500 invested into various shares, $3,000 in a separate bank account ready to be invested in shares (I don't really know much about shares and the ones I have bought seem to be continually losing money so I'm not sure what to do with this money really), $1,300 in my super account and $2,500 that I have lent to my parents that they owe me, plus whatever is in my checking account on a given day).
Debt: My HECS/HELP debt, which is sitting at $4,444 currently (I'm only 1 year into my 3-year degree, so this will increase with time).
Paycheque Amount (weekly): $750 (I'm currently getting the COVID-19 Disaster Payment as I usually work in a cafe).
Pronouns: She/Her
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Monthly Expenses

Rent: $200, since I live at home with my parents and sister. This was a compromise on how much I needed to pay to live at home (Dad thought $100/week was fair, while Mum was all for not making my sister and I pay). I honestly wanted to get away with not paying at all for as long as possible, as my biggest savings goal is for a house deposit. This money goes towards the overall rent for our 3-bedroom house, electricity, water, gas, internet, some food as well as my monthly phone cost as we're on a family plan.
Loans: $0 — I don't make enough money to start paying off my HECS/HELP debt yet.
Spotify: $5.99 (I get a student discount)
Apple iCloud storage: $1.49
Netflix/Foxtel/Stan: I use the family account (which I guess I help pay for in my rent contribution?)
Savings: I usually put around 75% or so of what I make directly into my savings, but if there is anything left over I will put it into my account to be invested into shares.

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

Yes, I am currently in the first year of my Bachelor/undergraduate degree. Luckily, we have the HECS/HELP scheme, so all I had to pay to start this year was my $350 student amenities fee, and the rest went straight to the loan. I also managed to get a scholarship for my course due to financial disadvantage and academic merit, which is $5,000 per year for the full 3 years of my degree, so if I really wanted to, I could leave uni without any debt. I'm also hoping to go on a semester of exchange in my third year (hopefully borders will be open by 2023!). I can get around $8,000 in a loan that will also go on my HECS too, alongside another scholarship from my university if I am lucky enough!
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Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances? 

My parents never really talked about money with my sister and me, but we could tell that they were struggling and things were tight. In the last few years my parents have been a bit more open with money, but it has never really been them educating us on what to do and what not to do. I opened my own bank account, and since then I have been managing my own money without any of their input really. I guess in a way they have educated me though, as now I am pretty frugal and am really trying to save as much as possible so that I never am in the same position that they are in.

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

I've worked for my Grandma as well as my parents in their businesses, but I guess my first proper job was at Priceline when I was 16; after I'd applied to McDonald's and was rejected 3 times :( I really just got it so that I could have a little bit of my own money for anything that I wanted or needed, as my parents often weren't in the position to — as well as to start saving as much as I could.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, it was often on my mind. I could hear my parents talking and arguing about it at night when they thought my sister and I were in bed, and I could sense that things were worse than they were letting on. I remember times when my Mum had to sell her own mother's jewellery to pay bills, and my Dad would have to ring his mum/my grandma for money just to keep us afloat, and then I guess it became me that fronted up money when it was needed. Since then I've kept my savings to myself really and don't let on to my family how much I have saved, but I always know that if I need anything I have money set aside, so it eases my worries a little.
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Do you worry about money now?

Yes, I really do. I know that for my age I think I'm in a good spot financially, but you just really never know what is going to pop up. I've had a few health problems recently that I know could seriously cost me if anything were to go badly wrong. I also don't have a steady job or income due to Covid, and my government payments are stopping in a week. I'll be without an income for around a month as I've had to push back my 2nd vaccine dose due to said health issues. Also, as my parents are getting older they should be getting closer to retirement, but I know that they won't have anything close to enough in their super, so I feel like it'll be on my sister and me to look after them as they get older.

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

I'm not yet financially responsible for myself as I still live at home etc, but I do have a financial safety net (my savings) that I feel like I could fall back on if anything were to happen.

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

No.

Day One

7:50am — It’s my Mum’s birthday! I go with my dad to get fresh bread from Baker’s Delight for a birthday breakfast ($4.50, he pays). When we get home, we do presents in my parents' bed like all birthdays; I got her a blue dress, some socks and a year-long subscription to a puzzle magazine. She got her hip replaced around two months ago and after surgery when she couldn’t do much, she went through a puzzle book in less than a week and is now obsessed with doing them! She also gets some perfume, another dress, some gin and some shoes.
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9:30am — My Dad makes scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast for my Mum in bed, and I join her with a few slices of my handy-dandy fruit loaf. (Just letting y’all know from here forward: I was recently diagnosed with IBS, so my gastroenterologist said to be on a low FODMAP diet for around four months or so to help it all). I sit with her while she goes through the multitudes of birthday Facebook posts she has and wonder how Mums and middle-aged women manage to get so many Facebook messages with so few Facebook friends. She then does a fashion parade of the dresses she got, and even puts on heels! (She hasn’t been able to wear heels in around 2 years, so this is a big deal!).
My mum, sister and I set off for a walk to the strip of cute shops near our house. I’ve also been having other health problems relating to my heart/chest, so less than 500m into our walk I have to stop, and then walk at a snail’s pace. I get a piece of lemon ricotta cheesecake ($9, Mum pays), some salt and vinegar buckwheat chips and a pink guava lemonade ($7.80, my sister pays!) and treat myself to some ice cream for lunch — a double scoop of blood orange and rock-salt caramel. It’s so good and perks me up a bit ($5.50). My Dad comes and picks us all up and drives us home, thank gosh! $5.50
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4:00pm —I help my sister to make a red velvet cake as my Mum’s birthday cake, which is a lot of work. My whole family sits down to a game of Trivial Pursuit in the garden, with my sister and I using the “young players edition” card box because we can’t answer the proper questions, they’re so old. Whilst we are playing, I get a delivery from Snowgum with a sleeping bag, raincoat and foldable cutlery that I bought for a hike at Wilson’s Prom in late November. When I get the things, I talk to my family and realise I probably won’t be able to walk up to 20km a day if I struggled to walk 1km this morning, so I text my friend and tell them I might not be up to going :(.

7:00pm — My Dad goes out to pick up Chinese takeaway for dinner, and we get spring rolls, san choy bow, Cantonese beef, satay chicken, sweet and sour chicken and rice (my parents pay). It’s yum but I always used to get a sore stomach from eating Chinese food so only have a little bit to appease my silly digestive system. When we finish eating, we also finish off our game of Trivial Pursuit, and I win!

9:00pm — My family then decides to watch the movie Pixie, but I’m feeling really tired and even though I tried to be careful with what I ate my stomach still is sore and bloated, so I decide to go to bed early. Scroll through my phone before going to sleep around 10:30 or 11.
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Daily Total: $5.50

Day Two

8:00am — I wake up and realise it’s Monday, so it’s officially my last week of uni for the semester! Yay! I do the usual phone scroll and see that my hiking friend has responded in the nicest way possible, and said I can also call them and rant about not knowing what’s wrong with me if I want to. Almost makes me cry. I take my birth control pill, then have some fruit toast with butter and sit with my Mum to eat while she puts on her makeup. I also have a slight discussion/argument with my dad regarding Covid, vaccinations, and politics as we have rather different views which have only been exacerbated in the last two years. I get so annoyed with him that I tell him I’ll get an Uber to my doctor's appointment at 10am.

9:45am — Book my Uber ($8.66) and get to the doctors in time for my 10am appointment for a nurse to put on my Holter Monitor for 24 hours to check that my heart is doing ok. The nurse puts the 3 stickers on my chest and then puts sports tape on top, telling me that they never move or come off on anyone. Then when I sit up the weight of my boob moving completely takes off a sticker. Thanks, Mum, for the massive boobs. Once I’m hooked up and look like an old person with health issues, I go and get my Mum her blood pressure medication since I’m near the chemist ($6.00). I also pick up the next two books in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich from the library, and my Dad says he can drive me home. I only say yes because I’m too tight to spend another $8 to get home. $14.66

2:00pm — Well, where has the day gone? I’ve spent the day watching a mixture of Emma Chamberlain, Chamberlain Paintings, 24 hours in A & E and GPs: Behind Closed Doors. I’ve also read about 100 pages from one of the books I got from the library this morning. Nothing looks good for lunch, so settle on the chips I bought yesterday as well as some caramel sea salt Lindt chocolate: a balanced diet. I take a long nap.

6:00pm — Wake up and cook some dinner. My Dad has made Teriyaki sauce that I can actually eat (woohoo) to have with chicken, rice and vegetables. After dinner my Mum, sister and I decide to catch up on this week’s episode of Gogglebox. Truly a highlight of the week and easily my favourite TV show.

9:00pm — Go upstairs to my room and scroll through my phone, and also do a bit more reading. The book is Four to Score, and they are the most crazy, insane, odd books around but are so lighthearted and easy to read. Fall asleep around 11pm I think.
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Daily Total: $14.66

Day Three

8:00am — Had a terrible sleep last night from the monitor and I can’t wait to get it off. Do the usual phone scroll and take my pill. I make myself yoghurt with raspberries, granola and peanut butter and sit with my Mum while I eat it, annoyed that I can’t just take the monitor off and shower as my skin’s really itchy and irritated.

9:30am — My dad drives me to the doctor’s office in time for my 9:30 appointment, but don’t get in the see the nurse till 10am after a baby takes a long time crying while they get their vaccinations. My skin is all red and blotchy and irritated but at least the monitor's off and I can shower now! When I get home, I see that I have a bill from Ambulance Victoria for $1,284 for the ambulance I had to get two weeks ago for really bad chest pains that put me in hospital overnight. They weren’t sure if I had a heart problem from my Pfizer vaccination or a blood clot in my lungs from my pill but couldn’t find anything. I can tell something is not right with my body. I stress out a little bit at the thought of having to spend that much, so I go online and submit a form saying I should be covered with ambulance cover. I then shower and use my Cerave cleaner on the sticky patches on my skin, and my face of course.

2:00pm — Get a call from JB Hi-Fi that the iPad I want is in store, so I click and collect my order: an iPad 9th Gen, a tempered glass screen protector and an Apple Pencil ($647.95). The Apple Pencil is going to be my Christmas present from my sister, so she’ll transfer me the money soon. I go to collect it, and my sister and I also attempt to stop in at the café we both work at, but they closed before we get there.

We also go to the new Coles local and they have a self-serve mochi station so we get a lychee mochi each, as well as chicken schnitzels, mozzarella and pork for dinner ($25.20, but I use my parents' card). Once we get home I set up my iPad and put on the glass with my sister’s help and it’s almost perfect! I also buy Procreate ($14.99). I watch a couple of uni lectures about the Australian aquaculture industry. Doesn’t turn me off eating seafood like the other lectures I’ve had on pork/pigs, chickens/eggs and dairy and cattle, so that’s a win! $662.94

6:45pm — Help my Mum make dinner, and we top the schnitzels with tomato paste, cheese and ham to make chicken parmigiana. I, on the other hand, pan fry some plain pork steaks to have with some salad and sweet potato chips. I really need some new low FODMAP recipes, but I swear everything has gluten, onion, garlic or any of the seemingly other million things I can’t eat in it. Sad reacts only.

8:30pm — Treat myself to some more uni lectures that I’m behind on and feel semi-productive! I then decide to have some fun and use Procreate to make an edit for my small business side hustle. I’m currently making bikinis to sell, so I draw a pool and photoshop pictures of myself in the bikinis and it turns out pretty cool. I post it to my Instagram and hopefully other people like it too. Hit the hay around 11pm.
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Daily Total: $662.94

Day Four

7:14am — I feel terrible because I stayed up too late reading my book. Same phone scroll (lots of AITA Reddit this morning), pill-taking, some fruit toast for breakfast (again). I sit outside to eat. It’s the Genius Fruit Loaf if anyone is wondering, and it’s suitable for gluten-free and low FODMAP individuals like myself. I then go back to my bedroom/office/study and start on the assignment I have due in 2 days. It’s about genetics and the different genetic phenomena that cause increased grain weight per cob of corn. Oh, such joyous times.

10:00am — It’s class time, which means it's time to lay on my bed in my pyjamas with my camera off, half-listening to what’s happening. It’s the last week so these classes are just exam revision and tips. I probably could have skipped this class, but I just read my book some more and occasionally glance at what is being talked about. At the end of the class, the teacher says she is only casual and that my university won’t make her a permanent staff member even though she’s asked for multiple years, and now I feel sad for her.

12:25pm — Have some lunch before my next class, which is a hot smoked salmon, quinoa and black olive salad bowl thing, and eat outside while my dad sweeps our undercover area. I also pop in to see my Mum while she’s working before I go back to class.

1:00pm — Watch my genetics class, but completely zone out even more and by 2:30pm I have finished my book! Immediately go on my library app and reserve the sixth book for when I finish the fifth one I already have borrowed. It is by far my favourite one in the series so far, and hopefully the next one is just as good. I then go for a walk with my sister to the local grocer's where we get a bag of chips (Burt’s Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar; it's so good, and I highly recommend it), some flatbreads for my sister and an avocado ($8.56).

Then I walk to the supermarket, but out the front of the supermarket I get bad chest pains and heart palpitations, so I sit down and take a Panadol. We then go into the supermarket and get custard, premade crème caramels, ice cream (Coyo, on sale for 50 cents instead of $10!), bread, pesto and raspberries ($12.55). When we get home I crash, and my Mum checks on me. I treat myself to a peppermint crisp custard and a bit of ice cream, then spend the rest of the afternoon watching things in bed. $21.11

6:30pm — Time has flown by and I actually have a meeting for my footy club to go to, so I quickly check that my hair looks ok and log into Zoom (with my camera on for once!). I only started playing this season but wanted to help out with sponsorships for the club, so I went to the AGM tonight. I get nominated to be a committee member!

Once it’s over, I make myself some pesto gnocchi with tomatoes, olives and mozzarella for dinner, which I eat with my Mum while she does a word puzzle. I then go back to my room to do a bit of uni work. More corn grain weight calculations, and some work on the future of Australian crops with climate change.

11:00pm — Stop doing my uni work as I was starting to get bored and not being productive. Start on a cool collage with all my family members while watching Ted Lasso. I manage to get through 5 episodes while doing a collage for my Grandma’s birthday, and decide to hit the hay at 1:30am.
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Daily Total: $21.11

Day Five

7:40am — The usual morning of scrolling. I get out of bed at 8:12, get dressed, brush my teeth then get in the car for my Mum to drive me to the doctor for an 8:30 appointment. (Yes, I’m 18 and turning 19 in a few weeks and only have one hour on my Ls, so sue me!). The doctor fills in a form for my uni for special considerations, then I ask if I should push back my second Pfizer dose as I don’t want to make all my symptoms worse. He basically tells me to suck it up and get the jab. I feel like he isn’t truly listening to me and taking me seriously when I say I’m exhausted and it's really affecting me, so I decide to see another doctor from the same clinic that I’ve seen in the past for a second opinion (these appointments are free as I go to a bulk billing clinic). Then I go to the chemist to get a script for my sister, and also get some jellybeans and Werther’s originals (Mum pays!).

9:30am — Get home and have yoghurt, peanut butter and granola that my Mum says looks like birdseed, for breakfast. Eat outside and talk to my Mum through the window as she logs onto work while doing her makeup. I go upstairs and do some Hardy Weinberg equilibrium genetics; what more could a girl want?!

12:00pm — Not sure where the time has gone this morning but now it’s time to log in to a revision tutorial for my animals class. The questions are so easy but people still manage to get them wrong, so I feel a little better about myself. Then my internet cuts out and I go downstairs to find my Mum on the phone to tech people from her work telling her to reset the internet. Ah well, the class was getting boring anyway, and I notice that my dad has brought home sushi for lunch.

2:00pm — Submit my uni form from this morning, then look at potential exchange options for uni, and do an online module for it. Although I’m a year early looking at all of this, I know it’s going to be hard to find universities that are compatible with mine and offer the subjects I need in the semester I’ll be going in. I have lots of time to worry about it all, but I get excited to think that I could spend a couple of months living in Europe and also get to see my family over there!

6:30pm — Start cooking steak for dinner that my dad got at the market this morning, as I’m the designated steak cooker in my family because, according to my dad, I’m “good at it”. My dad has made homemade potato chips to go with dinner which are always good, but I can tell he tried to be healthy and put less butter on them :(. After dinner, my mum, sister and I watch last night’s episode of Gogglebox. Like I said earlier, it truly is one of the best parts of the week. You can’t beat the editing and narration of the show, and if there was a Gogglebox fan club you can bet I’d be in it.

9:30pm — Go upstairs to bed and watch a bit of Ted Lasso while making another collage. I started it just trying to edit 2 photos of myself into one, as my face in one was good and my body was good in another, but then I just kept adding family members into it so now it had my sister, mum, dad, grandma and also my grandma’s dog. Go to sleep around 11 or 11:30.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8:30 am — A little sleep in, but then do the regular morning routine. I should have class at 9am but decide not to go and instead enjoy my breakfast outside this morning as it’s sunny and almost hot, dare I say. This morning I venture away from the fruit toast and have the healthy version of cocoa pops, which basically just means they taste 1/5 as good as the proper ones. I've just launched bikinis in my clothing business/side hustle, so I have around six sets of bikinis that I need to sew. I put on the movie Matilda and get to work cutting out all the different bikini sets in their reversible fabrics, ready to be sewn.

1:20pm — I’ve been able to cut and pin together three full bikini sets and also a single bikini top. I take a break and have lunch with my mum while she’s on her lunch break. When I get to the kitchen, I see both of my parents are having chicken schnitzels for lunch, and I have a little meltdown about how I’m sick of not having yummy food to eat and constantly having to sort out my own food and cook separate meals for myself. I then make myself some pesto gnocchi with tomatoes, olives and mozzarella and then sit outside alone and eat.

I feel like something sweet after my lunch, so I make brownies from the recipe on the back of the frozen raspberry bag. It comes out like a bit of a wet, soggy mess, but it still tastes good so that’s all that matters. I also make an egg, spinach and roast tomato frittata while the brownies are cooking which is yummy too. I get an email while I’m waiting for everything to cook saying I’ll get special exams for my special considerations, which are just redemption exams if I’m not happy with the marks that I get during the upcoming exams. The idea of doing exams a week or two out from Christmas sounds horrible so hopefully my first ones are good enough.

2:30pm — Text my sister to see how she is going, as she got her second Pfizer vaccination this afternoon. She says she is feeling fine, and I’m feeling a little sad/jealous that I’ve had to push mine out as I was meant to be getting mine with her this afternoon as well. Today is officially Melbourne’s “Freedom Day”, but I don’t feel free as I’m not yet double dosed so still won’t be able to go out anywhere for the foreseeable future.

My sister tells me she is going to a local deli that my family likes, and also happens to be owned by my friend from uni’s family. She gets pate and I ask her to get me a slice of lemon polenta cake. She says that I have to transfer her the money if I want her to get it, so I oblige ($6.50). I do a little bit more sewing of the first bikini set I have to do and think of how long it’s going to take me to do them all. $6.50

6:45pm — I hear my mum get up from her desk so go and help make some salad to go with dinner, and I cut up some of my spinach frittata thing that I made earlier. My mum and I go to the local Red Rooster drive through and pick up a roast chicken and some chips, and although chicken is most definitely not my favourite dinner, it’s pretty yum tonight and the chips make it 1000 times better.

After dinner, I attempt a bit of sewing but two threads on my overlocker get caught and tangled and I have to rethread it and fix it. My mum and I then drive to pick up my sister from her friend’s house, and the drive there is really nice, but on the drive home it starts to bucket down.

10:15pm — We get home, and I see that I left the bedroom windows open a little for some fresh air, so I run upstairs and see only a little water got in. Luckily it only wet a glasses case, not my old computer sitting about 10cm behind it. Say goodnight to my family, then get into bed and scroll my phone for a little bit before going to sleep a bit before 11.
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Daily Total: $6.50

Day Seven

8:45am — Wake up to the sounds of my sister rushing to get ready for work. She starts at 9:30 but from what I can hear she still needs to shower, get dressed and get to work. My bet is that my dad will end up driving her. I do my usual morning lie-in, and see the exhaustive Instagram stories of people out last night for the first-time post-lockdown.

9:20am — Walk downstairs to see my Dad getting in the car to take my sister to work. Am I a genius or what? Go and have a cuddle with my Mum in her bed then make eggs on toast for her and my dad once he’s back from dropping off my sister. I make some pancakes for myself, and they’re ok; they are the Woolworths gluten-free bottle mix ones, and the Coles ones are honestly just way better on multiple levels: taste, texture, cooking time.

10:40am — Go shopping with my mum for some weekly groceries. First stop is Aldi, where we get zucchinis, celery, tomatoes, sweet potato, potatoes, smoked salmon, cheese, ginger cookies, home brand Nutella, napkins and a cake turntable for my sister from Christmas ($70.89, Mum pays). We then go to Coles for more shopping and get lamb, chicken tenderloins, pork loin roast, mince beef, my holy grain fruit loaf, avocados, two dozen eggs, string cheese, milk, cream, cooking chocolate, lychee mochi, snow peas, Asian greens, frozen sausage rolls and party pies, chorizo salami, brie, crackers, orange juice, gluten-free gnocchi for me, two kinds of wraps (some I can eat and some for the rest of the family) hand soap and liners ($202.67, Mum pays). When we get home, we have to completely reorganise the fridge and freezer because we bought so much food and it won’t fit otherwise.

2:00pm — Have a little platter of salami, crackers and cheese for lunch with my mum. My sister gets home from work (her first shift back post lockdown), and she’s sad and cries because the friendship with her bestie since prep is kinda over, but my sister doesn’t want it to be. Personally, I think the friendship should have been over like five years ago and I try to keep that to myself, but my sister already knows what I think of said friend (Sorry if you’re reading this sister’s friend — but I also don’t think you’d care otherwise you’d put more effort into your friendship with her... but also sorry not sorry, you’re a terrible friend!). I comfort her and tell her we can have hugs, but she decides she’d rather lay in bed and watch Parks and Recreation.

6:30pm — I help organise some dinner, which tonight is lamb souvlakis. I have special gluten-free wraps that look like they’d be terrible, but they’re actually pretty yum! I also have some tzatziki (Yes, I’m sure this has garlic but I like it too much to give it up, and it’s the only flavour I can get) and lettuce and tomato. Overall, not terrible, but I used to love eating the wraps the rest of my family are eating and I really have to remind myself of the physical discomfort I have if I eat one of the wraps; it doesn’t work that well as I still want one quite a lot.

8:45pm — Do some more sewing of bikinis and actually manage to get one finished! I shot myself in a foot a bit when I was cutting them out though, as the straps are so skinny and I’m struggling to sew the elastic to them and still leave myself enough room to flip them right sides out. Scroll through my phone a bit more and sleep around 11:30.
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Daily Total: $0
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