Money Diaries

A Week In Black Forest, Adelaide, As A University Admissions Officer On $67,700

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 university admissions officer who makes $67,700 a year and spends some of her money this week on a 'Creedence Clearwater Revival' record.
Occupation: University Admissions Officer
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 24
Location: Black Forest, Adelaide
Salary: $67,739
Net Worth: $16,558 ($6,528 in savings and $22,942 in superannuation)
Debt: $46,029.12 ($45,937 in HECS debt and $91 in buy-now-pay-later loans)
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $1,714. I don't claim the tax-free threshold, so my tax return is a great little boost for my savings each year.
Pronouns: She/Her
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Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,040. I rent a small one-bedroom unit. It's just me and my plants.
Electricity: $126
Dinnerly Subscription (x2/month): $122.86
Internet: $75
Health Insurance: $31`.93
Car Insurance and Roadside Assistance: $42.75
Apple Music: $6.99. I still use my university alumni email to get the student price!
Binge: $18. I split Disney+ with a friend each year and all other streaming services I use are paid for by family or friends.
Fuel: $75
OnePass Membership: $4
The Pill: Every three months, I pay $88 for the birth control pill. My health insurance covers $40, so I'm really paying $48. I have a yearly subscription with Kin Fertility, so I have express delivery for free.

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

Yes. I have a Bachelor of Archaeology and a Graduate Certificate in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies. I put this all onto a HECS loan. I also did an overseas exchange as part of my Bachelor's and got an extra loan for this, which was added to my HECS debt.

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

My parents had a pretty low income while I was growing up. My dad stayed at home with me and my younger brother, picking up odd jobs in the early morning or after school when he could. My mum worked her way up in IT — at the time, very few women were in the industry, which made things that bit harder. Growing up, she worked night shifts for a while. Money was explained to us pretty early on — we knew why other kids had expensive clothes and toys and we didn't, and why Mum was always gone when we got home!
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What was your first job and why did you get it?

I started working at McDonald's at age 14. My parents didn't have a heap of money to spare, so I wanted some pocket money for shopping, going to the movies, and buying lunches from the school canteen!

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes. Every time I went to a friend's house, I would become acutely aware that I didn't have what all the other kids had. It wasn't until I was in high school that my mum's salary went up enough for us to have a little something 'extra' and we were old enough that my dad could go back to work during the day. We weren't below the poverty line or anything, but we did have to be careful with spending. My parents never had a massive amount in their savings because of this, so we learnt how important it was to have something put aside for a rainy day.

Do you worry about money now?

Always! Even on the good days, I'm mentally tracking every cent I spend and checking my banking app on my phone to make a mental note of the balance. I've always lived paycheque-to-paycheque so it's hard to get rid of that mentality.

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

I became financially responsible for myself at 19 when I started uni and moved out of home and into a share house (with the aid of Centrelink). I know my parents and family are a safety net for me if things are dire, but I'm independent and I don't want to have to rely on them for anything.
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Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Only once when I bought my car — a used 2007 Holden Barina. It cost about $7,700 (the kilometres were low and I had the windows tinted). I paid $7,000 and my parents covered the last $700 so that I didn't completely empty my savings. I paid them back in instalments over a month or two.

Day 1

8:30am — My alarm goes off, I dive further under the covers and hit snooze. I snooze the alarm two more times. I'm not a morning person, so it's a rarity for me to wake up when the alarm actually goes off. I finally get up and stumble to the bathroom because I always need to pee as soon as I get out of bed in the morning (literally, on the dot). I quickly do my skincare routine — hyaluronic acid and moisturiser, for that dry skin life. I realise I'll need to buy some more products when my paycheque comes in later this week. 
Then I stumble my way into the kitchen and make a coffee. I have a nice coffee machine at home which curbs the urge to go out and buy coffee in the mornings.
10:15am — Dressed and ready to go, I head out the door. I visit my family every Sunday to say hello (it's just my grandparents, my mum and me, most weeks). I make the 45-minute drive over. In Adelaide, this is considered a long drive! My fuel tank is still three-quarters full, so I drive right by those ridiculously high fuel prices. For now.
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12:00pm — Curry for lunch, yum! Thanks to my grandparents for cooking today. My grandma has a few health issues and is on a pretty strict diet (FODMAP, gluten- and dairy-free), so she usually comes up with some very creative meals for our weekly visits. We use this time to catch up on our weeks, do the crossword and trivia questions in the newspaper together, and give my grandparents' dog plenty of pats and cuddles. I sneak in some dessert while I'm here — morello cherry cake! I take some cake home with me for later. Gotta be economical!
3:30pm — Back home. I need to get a Halloween costume sorted for a party this weekend. I intended to go to Kmart for a cheap shirt, but in the interest of not buying fast fashion and contributing to more landfill, I find an old shirt at home I can destroy a little and won't miss too much. This becomes my afternoon project. I use a bottle of shiraz for fake blood and it makes my home smell like wine. I'm going as Mabel Mora from Only Murders in the Building — specifically her outfit from the season one finale.
5:30pm — Time to cook dinner. I want something that'll give me leftovers for lunch at work tomorrow. I end up using ingredients I have at home already and make a yummy couscous dish. Sausages, green beans, vegetable stock, sour cream, and some spices. I make enough for at least two days, so I put some in the freezer for later in the week. 
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8:30pm — After dozing off on my couch watching TV for the rest of the night (I'm currently bingeing Angel), I take a shower and hop into bed with a book — In The Quiet by Eliza Henry Jones. There are a couple of street libraries dotted along my daily walk to the tram stop, so I avoid buying books and just swap them out for a new one at the street library when I'm done. Lights are out by 9:30pm today. Hurray, a no-spend Sunday! 
Daily Total: $0

Day 2

6:30am — That damn alarm again. I snooze it three times. Eventually, I get up, quickly do my skincare for the morning and make a coffee. The daily ritual. I pack my leftovers for lunch (last night's couscous), some yoghurt, and an apple.
8:15am — I head out for my walk to the tram stop. Since it's not raining yet, I put on my headphones and enjoy the stroll. My headphones double as ear muffs for the days when it's windy. I tap onto the tram with my MetroCard — I have it set to automatically top up when I'm running low, so I don't get caught out. It tops up today. $30
10:00am — I get peckish an hour into the workday and down the apple. My workload feels a lot higher today since a co-worker called in sick. We normally have our own assigned university student applications that we handle and assess, but since I'm taking on some of their workload (and they are not skilled in the art of time management), there are a lot of extra students I need to contact. The silver lining is that the day goes very quickly. The downside is that I'm absolutely exhausted!
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1:00pm — Lunch time! Leftovers and yoghurt to get me to the end of the day. Someone brought in home-baked cookies, so I have a couple. Chocolate and salted caramel!
5:30pm — Home from work, I turn on the TV and get distracted for an hour. I'm still bingeing Angel and I'm currently at the end of season four. I think there are still one or two seasons to go. Then I decide to cook dinner. I use the last recipe from my meal kit delivery — a Moroccan lentil dish. Perfect for the rainy weather. I make enough for lunch tomorrow. After dinner, I have a slice of cake for dessert.
9:00pm — Freshly showered, I hop into bed and grab my book. I've become obsessed with it. It's about someone who has passed away and their spirit is watching on. I try to limit my screen time before going to sleep, so reading is perfect for helping my eyes adjust away from looking at my phone. I check my notifications one last time and see that the electricity bill and the next meal delivery bill have both come out today. Don't you love it when it all comes at the same time?
Daily Total: $30

Day 3

6:30am — Alarm, snooze x3, and stumble in for a coffee. Same old, same old. I've woken up with a splitting headache today, so I take a couple of Advil tablets to start my day. The coffee probably doesn't help this much, but I feel a lot better by the time I leave for work.
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8:15am — I pack my leftovers for lunch and a muesli bar and head out the door. While I wait for the tram, I scroll through The Iconic. I'm tempted by some Christmas gifts and a 30% off swimwear offer. I see a bikini set I like but it's over $100, so I close it and never look at it again. 

12:00pm — After a busy start to the day, I realise how hungry I am and I have the muesli bar. Vanilla flavour today. Got to mix things up a bit every now and then. I'm a bit hangry at this point since I'm having my snack a lot later than I normally do — I got stuck on a phone call with a student and it's thrown off my whole schedule!
1:00pm — Lentil leftovers for lunch. I normally sit with whoever else is on break, but we're a bit understaffed at the moment, so some days, that's nobody. There's only one other person in today. We chat about the usual — plans for the weekend and the weather. Before I know it, the break is over.
5:30pm — Finally home and I immediately crash on the couch. My period starts today so I feel gross and low on energy. I'm on the pill, so I usually skip it, but every now and then, I have to have a 'hell week'. I have no idea what I'll do for dinner at this point. I sit on the couch and scroll on my phone for a bit. I need a minute to recharge before I start cooking.
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6:00pm — After carefully contemplating the contents of the fridge, I realise I still have some couscous leftovers in the freezer. There's enough for dinner and lunch tomorrow. Score! I mentally high-five past me for that one. I heat it up in the microwave and continue bingeing Angel. I'm now up to season five!
9:00pm — I have a shower. My back is really sore today. I get out my acupressure mat. It's the only thing that seems to actually work and was a great investment. I always sleep really well after using it. It takes a few tries to get used to it — at first, I could only use it for maximum of ten minutes! Now I can fall asleep on it, it's that relieving.
Daily Total: $0

Day 4

8:00am — The outfit I had planned today doesn't pan out. You know when something looks a lot better in your head? I scramble to figure out something else. I get a notification that an Afterpay payment has gone through for some clothes I purchased last week ($18.67). They're work clothes, so I was happy to spend the cash, knowing I'd get heaps of use out of them. I pack blueberries, yoghurt, and the couscous leftovers for lunch today. $18.67
11:00am — Back at work and I get peckish. Time for the blueberries and yoghurt. 
12:30pm — I have an early lunch today, since I have a long meeting to get through with the university academics. They usually just use the meetings as a forum to complain about their students and I zone out. Leftovers once more. I'm proud of my meal-planning skills.
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4:45pm — I'm about to finish work and I'm tired after the two-hour bludge meeting. I check my phone. It's payday. Cha-ching! Instant mood boost. I would normally move about $200 into my savings at this point, but I've got a lot to pay for this month, so I don't do that today. I've been pretty bad about it recently, especially since getting back from a month-long holiday in Egypt and Turkey. It was amazing, but all my money went into it, so my savings have been feeling the pinch.
5:30pm — I head onto the Coles website and get my groceries sorted. I always get them delivered. I live right around the corner from a Coles store and I'm perfectly capable of driving there, but I always get distracted and buy more than I intended. This way, I can view my shopping cart in front of me and cull things if I need to. Delivery is only $2, so I can live with it. Being the good Italian that I am, I stock up on pasta and canned tomatoes ($28). I also grab some toilet paper ($13), some bananas ($1.80), baby spinach ($2), potatoes ($2), sour cream ($3), a Thai green Curry kit ($8.50), grape tomatoes ($6), some feta cheese ($5.50), and some snacks. With delivery, it comes to $84.30.
6:30pm — Before I get started on dinner, I pay off another Afterpay instalment ($26.97). I have two orders going at the moment since I had to buy a pricey engagement gift for a friend. They got engaged on a camping trip, so I bought them some camping mugs (with their names on them, of course — it needs to be at least a bit corny) and some hot chocolate mix for their next trip. 
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I also put another payment towards a holiday I've booked for me and my mum ($350). Mexico 2023, here we come! We've booked some group tours with Intrepid, which can be paid off as much or as little as we like up until the full payment is due (which isn't until next year). We are planning to be there for the Day of the Dead celebrations, so we had to book a year in advance to get a spot! It also gives me plenty of time to save up for tours and flights for two people — I'm used to just paying for one since all my previous travels have been solo.
To end my expensive afternoon, I order some skincare that I'm running low on — hyaluronic acid, moisturiser, and some face wash ($65). I get free express shipping as a reward for my spending. I realise I forgot to get some more hairspray, but it's too late now, so I live with the consequences of my actions (aka crazy baby hairs everywhere). $441.97
7:30pm — I made a chorizo pasta dish for dinner. I have enough leftover for lunch tomorrow. I snack on some licorice after dinner, before my nightly routine of TV, shower, book and then bed.
Daily Total: $544.94

Day 5

7:00am — I start work half an hour later on Thursdays, so my alarm goes off later. I still snooze it three times before my coffee. I have a job interview today, so I spend the better part of the morning fussing in the mirror. It's for an admin job with a student accommodation company. It's not my dream job, but I'm getting tired of doing the same old work where I am now. The problem is that I enjoy that government-funded paycheque! I pack another muesli bar, yoghurt and more leftovers for lunch. Just call me the Leftovers Queen.
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11:00am — Time for that muesli bar. Those morning munchies. It's a Carman's muesli bar in the apple pie flavour — one of my new favourites. They're kind of pricey, but they just taste too good to pass up.
1:00pm — Lunch time. I eat the leftovers I brought (chorizo pasta) and some yoghurt. I'm nervous about the interview, so the half-hour break flies by pretty quickly. My lunch had lots of garlic, so I have some breath mints, generously given to me by a friend. Then I head to my job interview. At least the vampires won't get me.
5:50pm — As I walk back home from the tram stop, I hear some kookaburras in the trees! My favourite sound. They normally only come out in the warmer weather or after it's been raining (when there are more bugs in the ground for them to nab). There are a few regulars that live in my area, so I often get treated to their laughing sounds!
6:00pm — Finally home! The job interview was average, and my Coles delivery is (mostly) missing — more than half of my order! I'll have to wait for a refund and go to Coles on Saturday to get the rest. By this point, I'm in a pretty sour mood. The emotional rollercoaster of my period is the cherry on top. Given the day I'm having, I turn on the TV and pour myself a big glass of red wine for my troubles. I always have some in the house for emergency situations like these.
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7:00pm — The Coles driver comes back with the rest of my things! But by now, I'm too tired to cook anything. I grab some brie and crackers and have a wine and cheese night. 
Daily Total: $0

Day 6

7:15am — I wake up and scroll on my phone in bed for a bit. Before I know it, I'm behind schedule and don't have time to consider my lunch options. I don't have any leftovers, thanks to wine and cheese night, so I chuck some yoghurt and a muesli bar in my bag to get me through to lunch. I also pop in some chocolate-covered almonds to share with my friends at the office. I've still made time for my coffee this morning, but there's a machine in the office in case I run out of time. Always have a Plan B.
11:00am — Muesli bar time. My boss shouts us a coffee today, so I have a latte on the house! I have plans straight after work tonight, so it's good to have something extra today to keep me going.
1:00pm — I head to the cafe around the corner and grab a hotdog for lunch ($5). I eat this with my yoghurt. $5
3:00pm — I check my email. There's not much going on, but I really want to waste some time, so I end up spending at least 20 minutes scrolling on Instagram.
6:30pm — I head home and after a quick change of clothes and a freshen-up, I drive to my friend's engagement party. I'll need to fill up on fuel soon, but I skip it for tonight, hoping the price will go down a bit. Since I'm driving, I stay sober — I decided to forfeit being drunk tonight because it's a 45-minute drive (or a very expensive Uber) and I'll be drinking tomorrow night. I have a good time with a few old familiar faces from high school, two of which are my best mates. One friend is the reason for the engagement party (he's getting engaged to his partner of three years), and the other is married and about to have their first child! I'm the odd one out in our trio, being single and not necessarily planning to have kids. We still fall back into our old rhythm of jokes and banter pretty quickly. 
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I buy a lemon, lime and bitters ($2). 'Finger food' is provided, which turns out to be some yummy popcorn chicken pieces, arancini balls, and spring rolls (the eclectic pub mix). For dessert, there are some cakes, chocolate slices, and raspberry fudge. I have the chocolate slice and it's very rich, so I don't finish it and pack it away in my bag to take it home. $2
11:45pm — I wash off my makeup and do my skincare, and then I go straight to bed. Is it too early to say I'm too old for this?
Daily Total: $5

Day 7

10:30am — I sleep in today. Even if I'd had an early night, I can sleep until midday, easily — it's that whole not being a morning person thing. I force myself out of bed, have a coffee, put a couple of loads of washing on, and then put a record on (Love/Hope/Sex/Dreams by BoDeans). Some morning music and coffee always soothe me. I also water my plants — I have many, so this is normally no easy task! But not everybody needs water today.
12:00pm — After a few days on my period with not much action, I'm getting some semi-mild cramping today. I eat a banana and keep myself occupied with cleaning the house a bit to distract myself until it goes away. 
12:45pm — I change my meal kit service to a different one that's slightly cheaper, EveryPlate. I've been considering it for a while, but I got a flyer in the mail the other day which prompted me to finally take action. I also get some sign-up discounts to sweeten the deal. I haven't paid yet, since my first delivery won't be for another couple of weeks.
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3:30pm — I don't normally eat breakfast and I was too busy cleaning to eat lunch, so I'm starving by now. I have a bowl of rolled oats and add in some morello cherries, sugar, vanilla essence and cinnamon. I get snacky after and have a Kit-Kat. A very nutritious meal.
7:00pm — I have a Halloween party tonight at a friend's house. Some friends pick me up so I don't have to pay for an Uber. The three of us dressed up as the main characters from Only Murders in the Building. My shiraz fake blood project was a success! Everyone at the party is dressed up — I can see a Frodo and a Where's Wally, but I don't recognise the other costumes.
Food and drinks are all served up, so I don't need to buy anything tonight! My friend has decked out her house with Halloween decor and she's put an entire food spread out — there are cheese and crackers, lots of chocolates, Halloween-themed cookies and some American lollies I've never tried before. I have a few gin and tonics (okay, more than a few), a lot of snacks, and my personal favourite — party pies! After saying hello to everyone, and eating way too much, I lay down on the floor with her dog, who is dressed up as a little ghost! 
Later in the night, we get together to play a trivia game that my friend has on her TV. I'm a bit too tired by this point to do much participating, so I have some more party pies while I wait for a winner to be announced.
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12:30am — Once I'm dropped home, I do some late night (or rather, early morning) scrolling on my phone. A post on Instagram tells me that one of my favourite record stores (Dutch Vinyl in Melbourne) has got an album in that I've been keeping an eye out for. Before I know it, I'm clicking the add to cart button ($35). It's a Creedence Clearwater Revival album. My record collection has grown pretty extensively over the last few years (according to Discogs, it's worth almost $7,000!). I listen to a lot of dad music. Yes, I am that person who walks around saying "they don't make music like this anymore". Since I didn't spend money on an Uber tonight, I don't feel too bad about buying the record. I feel like the trade-off is justified. I love ending my week with a sweet record find! $35
Daily Total: $35
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