Money Diaries

A Week In Far North Queensland As A Teacher On $108,000

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 teacher who makes $108,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on tickets to see Thor: Love and Thunder (and then proceeds to walk out of it!).
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 36
Location: Far North Queensland
Salary: $108,000
Net Worth: $182,000. This is made up of $175,000 in super and the rest is spread across an emergency fund, a short-term savings account and a travel and adventure account.
Debt: $0. But it hasn’t always been this way. I spent a few years digging myself out of a mountain of credit card debt and I am really proud of myself for staying debt free ever since. I paid off my HECS in 2020. My car is salary packaged, so I don’t count it as debt because of the tax break I get through the novated lease.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): After the pre and post-tax contributions for my car and my super contributions, I take home $2,558.
Pronouns: She/Her
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Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,160. I live alone in a two-bedroom townhouse. I am very fortunate that my rent has only increased twice, and only by small amounts, in the four years I have lived here.
Savings Contributions: $1,600. This is spread across the accounts I mentioned above — an emergency fund, short-term savings and an account that I keep separate for travel and other adventures that are outside my usual expenses, such as camping trips, concert tickets and girls' weekends. 
Bills: I set aside $400 a month in a separate bills account. From this account I pay for my phone ($40, prepaid), internet ($80), electricity (around $270 a quarter) and yearly expenses like RACQ insurance ($110) and my teacher registration (around $95). I purposely over-budget for this account, so it accumulates nicely over time and I feel like I have an extra safety net for unexpected expenses, like fixing my washing machine, which has recently died. 
Private Health Insurance: $190
Union Fees: $66
Stan: $14. I share this with my brother and my mum. We also share Netflix and Disney+, but my brother pays for these.
Spotify: $12

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

Yes. I went to university straight after school and completed my education degree. I also have a Diploma of Business. I deferred for a year after my first year at UNI and moved back home, where I worked full-time for a year. I then moved back to Brisbane and finished the remaining three years of my degree. My degree and diploma were both completely funded by HECS, which I paid off in 2020.
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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 had conversations about money with me or my brother when we were kids. Dad was the breadwinner and Mum stayed home to look after us. My dad made the money but had no idea where it went as my mum was in charge of managing the finances. She didn’t return to work until I was 12. I would occasionally hear my parents talk about the Telstra share price, but as a kid, I had no idea what that meant and just assumed it was something for grown-ups.

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

My first job was in the bakery of the local IGA when I was 15. I wanted to get a job so I could have my own money, and my parents were adamant that they would stop giving me pocket money once I turned 15. Two of my aunties were working there at the time and I pretty much got the job because of them. Over the course of two or so years, most of my extended family worked at this IGA, as well as most of my friends. It was a great first job. My high school had a tradition of taking Year 12s on a ski trip to New Zealand every year, so I was determined to save enough in two years to be able to go. It was my first taste of saving to travel, and the first overseas trip I’d had that wasn’t to the Philippines. After that trip, I was focused on saving enough money to be able to move to Brisbane for uni.
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Did you worry about money growing up?

No. My parents were financially stable enough to provide me and my brother with everything we needed. As I got older, I knew that we weren’t as well off as most of my friends, but we never missed out on sports, school excursions or birthday parties. My parents didn’t buy us expensive clothes or toys, but we went home to the Philippines every two years. They supplied us with a small amount of pocket money each week until we were old enough to get a job. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realised how much they did struggle when we were younger, but we never noticed it.

Do you worry about money now?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I earn good money and have learnt to live comfortably within my means (it’s taken a long time!). I am much more careful with my spending now — I have different priorities compared to five years ago and happily have a solid savings plan in place. I do worry about being able to buy a house though, especially in the current market. I know that at some point I will likely have to financially support my parents in some way. They are on the couple's pension and they own our childhood home, but recently had to get the roof replaced to the tune of almost $30,000.

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

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I would say I became financially responsible for myself when I was 20. I was still at uni and living in Brisbane, but I was working (in another IGA bakery!) more than I was studying and would skip lectures to take on extra shifts at work. It got to the point where I was earning too much each week to continue getting Youth Allowance from Centrelink. The IGA was on my uni campus so it was super convenient, and I would often work the opening shift in the early morning, go to uni for a few hours in the day, and then go back to work in the afternoon. I am my own financial safety net.

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

No.

Day 1

6:00am — My alarm goes off and as I roll over, I want to scream. A few years ago, I tore my rotator cuff. I've somehow slept on my shoulder funny and it's killing me. Last night I had a weird dream that involved digging, so I wonder if I was actually digging in my sleep. I spend 30 minutes slowly moving and trying to massage it, and snooze/stretch/check Instagram.
6:30am — I’m up and my shoulder is feeling slightly better, but I will have to be careful how I move it today. I have my usual breakfast — toast with honey and an instant coffee. I do the New York Times Wordle and mini crossword while I eat. I solve both and feel like a very successful adult.
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7:00am — Shower and get ready for work. I massage my shoulder a bit under the hot water.
8:00am — Leave for work. It’s a 20-minute drive along a winding country road. Usually, I like to be at work by now, but them's the breaks on a Friday.
8:30am — I got stuck behind a tractor on the drive, so I get to work just before the home form bell rings. I madly get my things together and head to our home form assembly.
9:00am — My first two classes for the day — Year 7 and Year 10 – then morning tea. Our school has a shared morning tea every Friday where the whole school comes together to feast on a variety of sweet and savoury delights. I love my school.
11:00am — Fridays are pretty cruisy in terms of my teaching load, but instead of my usual double period of spare lessons between morning tea and lunch, I have a cover lesson for the two periods. It’s Year 10 Humanities, which consists of the same kids as my Year 10 English class. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favourite classes, but we definitely do, and these guys are mine.
12:40pm — Lunch time. I’m not really hungry after morning tea, but I know if I don’t eat now I will be hungry halfway through my next class. I have a coffee and a couple of biscuits and chat with my friends until the bell rings for our next lesson.
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1:20pm — My last two classes of the day — Year 8 and then my Year 10s.
3:00pm — Home time! I tidy my desk, get a few things organised for Monday, then head off. I run into one of my friends in the car park and we chat for a while before going our separate ways.
4:00pm — Home and madly get things together to go to my parent's house for the weekend, which is an hour's drive away. My washing machine has broken down, so I have an overwhelming mountain of laundry to do at their house over the course of this weekend.
6:15pm — I stop at my brother's house to put a load of washing in his washing machine. We catch up for a few minutes as I load it up, and he tells me he’ll transfer it all to the dryer once it’s done so I don’t have to come back later. Thanks, bro!
6:30pm — Dinner at Mum and Dad’s — salmon and pasta. We spend some time catching up and talking about our plans to go to Sydney in September for my uncle’s birthday. 
8:30pm — I have a shower and get ready for bed. I have to be up early tomorrow so I try to get an early night. I scroll through social media while I wait to fall asleep.
11:00pm — I wake up on top of my bed with my phone still in my hand and I am freezing cold. I haven’t been sleeping properly lately and this doesn’t help. I get up to pee and am then wide awake, so I play chess on my phone for a bit before going to sleep properly at 12:30.
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Daily Total: $0

Day 2

5:30am — Wake up at the butt crack of dawn. I have a lot to do today, starting with two loads of washing. I put the first load on and s-l-o-w-l-y get breakfast sorted. I have my usual toast and coffee.
6:30am — Hang out the first load of washing and throw in the second load. While waiting for it to finish, I chat with my Dad, who has joined me in the kitchen. I notice a beautiful sunrise happening in the backyard so I go outside to enjoy it and take a few snaps.
7:30am — Hang up the second load of washing. One of the perks of doing my laundry at Mum and Dad’s house is their massive hills hoist — I love hanging everything out in the sun to dry. I sit outside for a while and soak up the early morning sun. Winter in my hometown is deliciously cool and it’s crushing season, so the sweet smell of the sugar mill hangs in the air. I breathe it in, deep down into my lungs. I love the smell — it’s the smell of home. 
8:20am — I head off into the city for a resin art workshop at the botanic gardens that I booked back in June. I’m nervous because I have no artistic ability whatsoever, but I’m excited to try something new. My friend, T., is meeting me there. 
9:00am — The workshop starts. The facilitator/artist spends some time explaining the process and doing a quick demo piece before leaving us to our own devices. There are about 15 of us and we are buzzing. Over the course of two hours, T. creates a spectacular golden masterpiece. I aim to create a swirly sunset. It doesn’t turn out how I had planned it in my mind, which I was expecting. It does, however, turn out better than I could have imagined and I am really proud of myself. 
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11:00am — T. heads off to a family event and I spend some time wandering around the botanic gardens before heading back to my parent's house.
12:00pm — I arrive back at Mum and Dad’s to find that Mum has set out some leftover chicken soup for lunch. She's also done a load of washing for me — thanks, Mum! I have a wax appointment later this afternoon and also need to get my car cleaned, so I ask her if she wants to come back into town with me to see a movie while I wait for my car to be done. We decide on Thor: Love and Thunder and head back into town after lunch.
1:30pm — We get to the shopping centre where the movies/car wash/wax appointment will be happening. I drop my car off at the car wash in the car park and Mum and I head upstairs to the movies. We decide we need post-lunch/movie snacks, so we get some popcorn and Coke to share, as well as two ice creams with our tickets. $45.65
4:00pm — I leave the movie 10 minutes before it ends to get my car before the car wash closes. The movie was terrible, so I am not sad about this. After picking up my car and paying $110, I go back into the shopping centre to kill some time at Kmart while waiting for my wax appointment. This is usually a dangerous activity, but on this occasion, I am very disciplined and only walk out with one intentional purchase, a washing basket ($12). $122
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4:40pm — Brow and lip wax. I have been going to the same salon on and off for over 12 years, so my appointment is quick and the ladies are lovely. $43
5:00pm — Meet up with Mum and head home. My brother is coming over for dinner tonight and Mum is making one of our favourite meals — Filipino fried chicken.
6:30pm — Dinner with Mum, Dad and my brother. He brings over the washing that I did at his house yesterday afternoon. We hang out for a while after dinner to discuss our plans for next weekend.
9:00pm — Brother bear heads home. I watch a few episodes of Criminal Minds, have a shower, do today’s Wordle and mini crossword and head to bed just before midnight.
Daily Total: $210.65

Day 3

5:30am — Again, awake at the butt crack of dawn. I have to head into town early to pick up our masterpieces from yesterday as they have to set overnight. Early pick-up is required as the facilitator flies back to the Gold Coast this morning. I am ridiculously tired, so I snooze for almost 45 minutes. 
6:45am — I roll out of bed with the promise to myself that I am going to go back to sleep once I get home. I roll right onto my sore shoulder and want to cry. It’s incredibly painful and I am worried that I have torn it again. I don’t bother with a shower or breakfast — I just wash my face, have an instant coffee and brush my teeth, before driving off to collect our resin art. 
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7:30am — I pick up our resin pieces and am absolutely blown away at how they look. I stalk everyone else’s pieces too and chat to the facilitator about her work and other workshops that she will be running when she’s in town next. She is really lovely and I decide that one day, when I am a proper grown-up and build a house of my own, I will get her to do a commission piece that will be my housewarming present to me, from me. 
7:45am — I am ravenous and realise that I can get copious amounts of Filipino bread from the markets on my way home. It’s still relatively early on a Sunday morning so the markets aren’t busy. I score a park right out the front. The Filipino bread stall has not sold out! Obviously, this is meant to be. I load up on the goodness and get back to my car, before deciding that I don’t have quite enough and do a second trip to get some more. I find this hysterical and start laughing out loud, before congratulating myself on this very fine life choice. $26.50
8:15am — I pop over to T.’s house to drop off her resin, then head straight for McDonald’s to get a coffee ($6.15). I am giddy with excitement at pairing an Australiano with my breakfast bread feast. I have to wait for a bit at the drive-thru window, and when the kid comes back, he hands me my coffee and says, “Here’s your Australiano, enjoy your day”. In my mind, I am going to reply, “Thanks man, you too”, like a normal person. Alas, I am not a normal person. Instead, what comes out is, “Thanks man, I love you too.” W. the actual. F. I break the Guinness World Record for the person who speeds out of a McDonald’s drive-thru the fastest, and laugh so hard all the way home that I cannot actually see where I am going. $6.15
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9:00am — Breakfast was di-vine. I put my very last load of washing on and try to go back to sleep. The caffeine racing through my bloodstream prevents this, so I wait for the washing to finish so I can hang it up. Then I spend some time scrolling through social media, watch some more Criminal Minds and catch up on the She’s on the Money podcast.
1:30pm — I passed out at some point and have slept for almost two hours. If you think I’d still be full from all the breakfast bread, you’d be wrong. I am hungry and raid the parental's fridge for some lunch. I start sorting out everything I need to take back to my house later this afternoon. I have three washing baskets and two bags full of sparkling-clean-beautifully-scented-and-dried-by-the-sun clothes, sheets and towels. I hang out with my Dad for a while and we go through the zillions of photos I took during the school holidays while his brother was here. Dad points out a few (a lot!) that he wants to get printed, so I transfer them onto a USB for him. My body decides that it still wants some more sleep, so I nap on the couch for 45 minutes. 
5:00pm — I load everything back into my car, say goodbye to Mum and Dad and head home. 
6:30pm — When I get home, I unload everything from the car and work out what I want to have for dinner. I have some leftover mashed potato and some leftover bolognese, so I try to create a deconstructed shepherd’s pie. It ends up looking like the slop that they feed the inmates in Orange is the New Black, but it is surprisingly tasty. 
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7:30pm — My timetable changes tomorrow, so I double-check it and go through my planning to make sure that I have everything ready to go for my Monday lessons.
9:00pm — I want to have a shower but I also need to make my bed with my sparkling-clean-beautifully-scented-and-dried-by-the-sun sheets. I spend an extraordinary amount of time debating with myself about which I should do first. The freezing cold night settles it for me — I’ll have a steaming hot shower first, then making my bed will warm me up even more, and then I can go to bed toasty and warm. Problem solved. 
9:30pm — Goddess shower — wash my hair, shave my legs, and lather myself in an exfoliating scrub. I even Scholl my feet until they are velvety smooth. I take my sweet, sweet, time — so much so that my hot water runs out. 
11:00pm — Time to make my bed and it feels like the fight of my life. Whhhyyyy did I not do this before having a shower? Winter means my bed has three layers of warmth, so it takes forever and hurts my shoulder and I wish someone would invent a portable machine that inserts doonas into doona covers. I am cranky and tired, but when I crawl into those sheets that smell like washing powder and sunshine, it’s all worth it. I make a cocoon out of my blankets and my doona and I am out as soon as my head hits the pillow.
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Daily Total: $32.65

Day 4

6:00am — How is it Monday already? I turn off my alarm and go back to sleep.
7:00am — I have slept in far too long for a work day and my morning has turned into a mad rush. I quickly shower, scoff down my breakfast and head out the door at 8.
8:20am — I speed all the way to work and get there just in time for our Monday morning briefing. It’s 15 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
8:35am — We start every Monday with a whole school assembly. It’s nice starting the week together as a school, but I am just not feeling it today and find myself wishing I could be anywhere else.
8:55am — My first class of the day is Year 8 English for a double lesson. I have forgotten that my timetable has changed so I go to the wrong class and think that I have my Year 7s. My Year 8s are very forgiving and we have a laugh about how teachers sometimes have no idea what they’re doing. I have had this class for 18 months since they first started Year 7, so I feel like they are my babies.
10:40am — Morning tea. I have some Filipino bread, of course, and a coffee.
11:00am — Morning tea finishes and our period three lesson starts, but I have a spare lesson. I am surprisingly quite productive for a Monday and get through most of my to-do list for tomorrow.
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11:50am — Year 8 again. The same class as this morning but for a Geography lesson this time.
12:40pm — Lunch time. One of the best things about working at a boarding school is having access to the dining room for meals. On today’s menu is lasagne and salad. 
1:20pm — Lunch ends and our period five begins. For this lesson, I actually do have Year 7s. I knew they were somewhere in my timetable today.
2:10pm — Our last lesson for the day. On a Monday, this would usually be a spare lesson for me, but today I have a cover with a Year 11 Art class. When I get to the art room, one of our teacher aides, B., is there running the show. The kids are in the zone, so I don’t have to do anything except be the teacher body in the room. I spend most of the lesson having a great time catching up with B. 
3:15pm — I am in hurry to leave school, so I try not to get caught up in any conversation in the staffroom. I have everything ready to go for my lessons tomorrow so I am able to make a quick exit. I am driving back down to my hometown this afternoon for a massage and am staying at my parent's house again tonight. I make a quick pit stop at my house to grab a bag of clothes and toiletries, and head back down the mountain.
5:00pm — Massage Monday! T., my friend who did the resin workshop with me on the weekend, is also my remedial massage therapist — it’s how we initially met and she’s been working on me for almost five years now. Today we talk life things and laugh hysterically at my inept social skills, while she dry needles my neck, glutes and my bad shoulder, and hand pushes me into the table for an hour. $90
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6:00pm — T. is a miracle worker and my shoulder feels so much better. After my massage, I go to a Woolworths which only opened last week. I’ve never been into a brand spanking new Woolworths before, so I try to take in all its shiny newness. I don’t actually need anything but walk out with paper towels and ice cream for Mum and washing powder for me… for my broken washing machine. $25.50
6:30pm — Dinner time at Mum and Dad’s. Mum has made roast lamb and today is officially the best Monday ever. We hang out for ages after dinner, chatting and laughing, until Mum forgets that I am a grown-ass woman now and tries to make me go to bed at 9pm.
10:30pm — Shower and sleep. It feels like the earliest I’ve been to bed in a long time and I fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $115.50

Day 5

5:30am — Up and at ‘em to get back up the hill and straight to work. I stop at McDonald’s for breakfast on the go ($12.45) and give praise to all the gods that the kid I apparently loved on Sunday is not working the drive-thru on this fine morning. $12.45
7:30am — I marvel at the fact that even though I have just driven 75 kilometres, it is the earliest I have arrived at work all year. I take advantage of this momentous occasion and get a lot of planning done for the rest of the week before my classes start. 
3:00pm — All of a sudden, the day is finished. It has passed by in a blur and I blame it on my extreme tiredness. I remember that we have a staff meeting after school today and I contemplate an escape strategy so I can get out of it.
4:30pm — The staff meeting is over and I am somehow on my second wind. I end up staying back at work for another hour and a half and get even more planning done. Who even am I today?
6:30pm — On my way home, I get petrol and pick up some Thai takeaway for dinner. A full tank costs a grand total of $88.29, but I have a fuel card as part of my novated lease, so I don’t count this as an expense. For dinner, I get a chicken tom yum soup, Thai fried chicken wings and some steamed rice ($31.90). Do I need to eat it all? No. Do I eat it all anyway? Absolutely. $31.90
7:30pm — I consider having an early shower and going to bed, but I know if I do so I will be wide awake at 4am. I stay awake with a few episodes of Criminal Minds. In the last episode I watch before I go to sleep, the killer sets fire to a movie theatre and everyone inside dies, so I am obviously never going to the movies again. I scroll through Facebook to get that out of my head before I go to sleep around 11:30.
Daily Total: $43.35

Day 6

7:00am — Today starts much like Monday. I have slept in and it’s a race against the clock to get to work on time.
8:30am — I make it — just — and head straight from the car park to my home form class. With the new timetable, Wednesday is my busiest day — I have all my classes today and I also have playground duty.  It’s another day that passes in a blur, but it’s busy in a productive way and by the time I go home, I am feeling really energised. 
5:00pm — I meet my friends, N. and A., for a walk. We decide on a route that I love that starts in a park, goes along a bush track and then goes down through a volcanic crater. They haven't been to it before, which is even better. It’s an added bonus that the track starts at the park across the road from my house, so I just need to walk down the road to meet them. 
5:30pm — We decide to turn around because I am having dinner with another friend, K., who is picking me up at 6pm, and N. and A. are worried that I will be late. We get back to the park just on 6, and they are correct. I get a message from K. that she is at my house. I make the mad dash across the road, run inside to grab a jumper and head to dinner with K. in my sweaty walking clothes. 
6:30pm — We giggle that we are the youngest people at the restaurant by about 40 years. We both order the cordon bleu and get drinks. I get a Bacardi and Coke and pay for K.’s wine as a thank you for picking me up and waiting. Dinner is ridiculously good and I get chocolate pudding for dessert afterwards. We spend a couple of hours catching up — it’s the first proper catch-up we’ve had in a few months. $54.30
11:00pm — I’ve been home for two hours and wondering why I’m not feeling tired, before I remember that I don’t drink Bacardi and Coke during the week because it keeps me wiiiiiiide awake. I scroll through social media, play some chess, do the Wordle and mini crossword, and read, before finally falling asleep around 1:30.
Daily Total: $54.30

Day 7

6:30am — I tell myself I’m going to get up RIGHT NOW… but I don’t. I snooze until 7 and it’s another race against the clock to get to work.
8:20am — Roll into the work car park and want to have a cry. I am very lucky to love my job, but I don’t want to be here today. I breathe through it, do a quick mindfulness reset, and head for the staffroom. 
8:35am — Classes start. I have my Year 8s first up, then my Year 7s, and have no cover lessons today so I am free all afternoon. Yesssss.
1:20pm — A double spare lesson and I just know I’m not going to get any work done. I’m tired and emotional and can’t focus. I try and fill the afternoon with small tasks that don’t need much brain power but still need to get done, like getting on top of some resources and sorting out my photocopying. My momentum lasts a whole 15 minutes before I get distracted by a document on the First Home Guarantee. I spend the rest of the afternoon deciding how I want to print it out, and eventually nail it when I discover how to create a booklet directly from the printer settings, instead of having to photocopy it into a booklet. This discovery changes my #teacherlyfe and is an instant mood booster. #IYKYK
4:30pm — Head home via the post office. On the drive, the big cry I managed to suppress this morning makes a reappearance in a big way. I pull over and bawl my eyes out. I can’t quite work out exactly where it’s come from, but I know there have been some huge emotional shifts lately around some trauma that I’ve been working through, so I put it down to that and just let it all out on the side of the road.
5:00pm — A big cry always gives me a big headache, so when I get home I chug a bottle of water and go to sleep.
6:00pm — I thank my past self for remembering to set an alarm before I went to sleep, because I am going out for dinner in an hour. I get a text message from an ex and stare at my phone for 20 minutes, wondering how and if I should reply, before deciding it’s a problem for another day. I jump in the shower and get ready for dinner.
7:00pm — A. and her partner, C., pick me up for dinner. C. is our driver for the evening and will pick us up from the pub later. It’s the first time I’ve met C. and he is an absolute sweetheart. He drops us off at the pub where we are meeting everyone else, and A. tells me that C. cleaned his car just for me. See what I mean? Such a sweetheart! We meet N. and some more friends — K. and E. — and spend two hours eating, chatting and laughing. We share a few entrees and each get a main, as well as cocktails, which is a bit risky for a Thursday night. It turns out, however, that we are all very responsible adults and we go home with the tipsy giggles, but are otherwise intact. I pay for N.’s dinner as she paid for mine last time we went out, as well as a round of drinks. $114
9:00pm — When I get home I stare at the message from the ex for a little while. I decide that a reply at this point could create a situationship that I don’t have the time or energy for, so I ignore it. I distract myself with some planning for tomorrow, an episode of Criminal Minds and the Wordle. At 11pm, I decide that now is as good as time as any to start cleaning my house, so I do a quick vacuum of the kitchen and the lounge room (sorry, neighbours!) before I go to sleep.
Daily Total: $114

Anything else you'd like to add or flag?

This week my spending has been higher than usual. The massage and the cost of getting my car cleaned are not regular expenses. It's also not often that I go out for dinner two nights in a row, but when the opportunity arises, I take it!
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