Money Diaries

A Week In Chatswood, Sydney, As A VFX Artist On $63,000

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 VFX Artist who makes $63,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a scoop of Biscoff-flavoured ice cream.
Occupation: VFX Artist
Industry: Film
Age: 30
Location: Chatswood, Sydney
Salary: $63,000
Net Worth: I have $26,000 in savings and $19,379 in my superannuation. My husband and I don't have shared accounts yet, but we split bills and groceries.
Debt: $50,000 in HECS debt (Thanks to a worthless fine arts degree! Yay!)
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $4,095
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $880. Our rent is $2,720 a month, but I live with my husband, F., and a friend, M., so we just divide it between the three of us. We also divide the bills equally. We live in a lovely apartment with big windows and trees all around us. We also have a dedicated gaming/work room.
Electricity: $257.34/quarter
Internet: $45
Gas: $174.66. Our gas is a bit screwed at the moment. Apparently, the gas guy can't read our meter because of a plumbing issue, so we have to pay the max amount. We keep trying to get this fixed, but the agent won't get back to us. It's been two months!
Gym Membership: $60
Netflix: $17
Health Insurance: $49
Savings Contributions: I usually put half of my paycheque away into my savings account, so about $2,000 each month.

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

Yep! I made a bad decision and did a Bachelor of Fine Arts (which was a big waste of time and money), and have an Advanced Diploma in Screen and Media. I used HECS to help pay for these.

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

Ah, I have been very open about money and so have my parents. But they worried about money a lot and complained that they never had enough. They were always expressing to us that they were fighting debts. We were never left without though, and are far luckier than most. I think they were just frustrated that they didn't have enough money to do the things they wanted to do and compared themselves to others quite a lot. But they had enough to easily get by. I think they tried to teach us about the importance of saving, but I don't think it worked really well.

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

My first job was in childcare when I was 18. I got it because I wasn't ready to study at university after leaving high school and also just really wanted my own money.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I worried about my parents not having enough money to do what they wanted to do rather than what money I had. I wasn't very money driven when I was younger.

Do you worry about money now?

Not really. I mean, I would always like more money, but I am very comfortable right now. I am lucky to be in the stage of my life where I can afford the things I want to afford without having to make many sacrifices. It's a blessing I try not to take for granted.

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

I would say I only became financially responsible when I finally moved out with my husband and our friend at 27. Before that, I was living at home.

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


Day 1

6:20am — My alarm goes off and it's time to wake up.
6:30am — My second alarm goes off and now it's really time to wake up. Throw on my gym clothes, pack my breakfast and lunch, and away we go. 
7:00am — I'm dying at the gym. By the end of the session, we've done six rounds of 20 single-leg deadlifts (that's 120 per leg!), 120 goblet squats, 120 situps, and a bunch of other bullshit that makes me sore. But my goodness, I love it. I have a shower at the gym where I hurt my already injured shoulder trying to take my sports bra off. I love being 30.
8:30am — I drive to work because I get free parking, paying $4 for tolls on the way (anything to save 20 minutes). I swipe my badge and feel like the biggest VIP, waving my hand like a queen to security as they watch me go off to work in the exclusive world of movie magic (with the other 500 people who work there). $4
9:00am — I start work, and by start work, I mean eat breakfast and chat with my colleagues for half an hour. Everyone's in the kitchen making coffee and tea and stealing all the free fruit we're provided. I've brought some Greek yoghurt, granola and berries from home for my breakfast. But tbh, I'd rather toast.
9:30am — Breakfast is done and it's time to log in and find out what tasks need to be done today. I put my head down, music up and get to work. As a VFX artist, my job is to basically do Photoshop for videos. I remove unwanted things in backgrounds, like markers and wires.
12:30pm — Lunch! I've brought a wrap from home with some Stella ham on it. *drools* A delightful person in the FX department has made brownies. I have zero self-control. RIP. I was trying to eat well today.
3:00pm — Another quick break from work, courtesy of an afternoon tea work is providing. Gourmet sausage rolls and pies, fresh fruit, brownies and doughnuts, oh my! Send help.
6:00pm — Log out and finish work. My drive home only takes me about 20 minutes. I love this school holiday traffic. I pay $4 in tolls. $4
6:30pm — Unpack my stuff, brush my cat (he hates me, meow!) and get annoyed that the house is messy. Hubby is at the gym, so I get to work.
7:00pm — I go a little ham on cleaning for a Monday night. I vacuum, mop and clean the balcony. I take the buns out, move stuff to the garage downstairs, and put the washing away. While also taking the bins out, I move stuff to the garage downstairs and put the washing away. Living with men, huh?
8:00pm — F. comes home and we have dinner. It's a gross pre-packaged meal — they actually make me want to throw up, but we need to eat them to get them out of the fucking freezer. After dinner, we meal prep some spaghetti for our dinner tomorrow.
9:00pm — We sit down and look at rugs for the living room. We've just rearranged it so there's now SO. MUCH. ROOM. I want a mushroom lamp, but my husband thinks they're ugly.
11:00pm — Bedtime. We play with our cat for 15 minutes, then do our nightly routine of Wordle, Framed, Heardle, Quizzle, Numble, Rankdle (big gamer girl energy) and Guess That Game. Who are we? I ask if we should read or watch a show tonight, but every night, we always end up watching TV. Tonight, it's season five of Bojack Horseman (again — it's so good!). Then it's lights out.
Daily Total: $8

Day 2

8:00am — Alarm goes off. It's a work-from-home day. Yay! I don't have to wear a bra! I wake up feeling a bit shit, but try and make myself better with my skincare routine. I wash my face, apply my The Ordinary serums (praise be to their vitamin C serum!), and put on sunscreen. I never forget to put my sunscreen on, even if I'm just sitting inside for most of the day. I feel like a new person and I'm ready to take on the day (ew, not really. I'm the same — just cleaner).
8:30am — I start work early today so I can finish early as I have a gym class later (fit girl, coming through!). I work on high-budget movies and television shows, but I can't talk about a lot of what I'm working on because of all the NDAs we sign.
1:00pm — I head to the bank. I'm having a meeting because I need to change my name as I've recently gotten married. I have to put a bra on... boo. Before the meeting, I quickly go and buy some sushi ($12). The lady at the bank is so lovely and does the name change and orders me a new card. Changing names is weird. I feel like I'm losing a part of my identity. In some ways, I'm excited, but I also feel like I have zero attachment to my new last name, besides the fact that I love and married the person attached to it. It doesn't feel like mine and it doesn't feel like me. After my meeting, I withdraw $350 as I need to dry clean my wedding dress. Then I slowly walk home. $12
2:00pm — Back to work. More podcasts, more music. I churn through podcasts very quickly. I'm a big murder mystery, true crime and horror fan (but I'm also a big scaredy-cat), so my fave podcast is Casefiles (so original). The best one I've found for working is a horror podcast called NoSleep.
6:00pm — I log off work and don't go to the gym. I'm feeling very sorry for myself. Once dinner is heated up, I don't eat it. Instead, I go on a cleaning tour of my desk. I vacuum all the cat hair that's somehow managed to get everywhere. Please, send help. This hair will be the end of me.
6:30pm — I finally sit down for dinner. I send some messages to my sister and my family friend about catching up on Friday night. I also look up and order a new phone case and charger from Google. It's meant to be $168, but I have store credit so it ends up being free.
8:00pm — I recently deleted all my social media off my phone and I feel like it's freed up a lot of time. Inherently, I also now think I'm better than everyone else. I'm looking down at you from my high horse! With all the extra free time I have, I get to do something really productive — playing a video game for two hours. I'm making my way through Horizon Forbidden West. More big gamer girl energy.
10:00pm — Time for bed! I shower with F. Then I wash my face, brush my teeth and put on an oversized tee. I put on my nighttime serums and oils and jump into bed ready for our nightly ritual — more Wordle and its friends, Framed, Heardle, Quizzle, Numble, and Rankdle. Then it's back to Bojack Horseman. He is now addicted to painkillers. Delightful.
Daily Total: $12

Day 3

8:00am — Alarm goes off. It's another no-bra day! I didn't sleep great so I'm feeling a bit tired, but I'm not feeling as sick as yesterday, so that's a win in my books. Very slowly get out of bed, get dressed in the same trackies I wear all week and wash my face. My hair desperately needs a wash but I'm not seeing anyone today, so eh.
8:45am — I start work early in the hope that I'll feel alright enough to go to the gym this afternoon. Log into my computer to find out what needs to be done today, and then I go and make myself some breakfast. Hubby is also working from home today. He informs me we are now on duty to feed our neighbour's turtle (called Turt) for a week while they are away. We go and feed Turt. He's very cute and excited to see us.
9:00am — Heads down, podcast up and back to work. I message a fellow artist and we discuss the new people who have joined the company. It's become really clear that every time people are hired, women are hired for production roles and men are hired as artists. VFX is a very male-dominated industry. It's very masculine — everyone has to have tough skin and work a billion hours overtime. It's changing, but it doesn't attract a lot of women, especially because it isn't very family-friendly. I have a feeling it might be a bit better in the gaming industry. My cat comes and sleeps on my lap. I've decided that I'm going to wash him as I read that it helps with malting hair.
1:00pm — Lunch! Make food with F. and put my washing on. We decide to do some stretching. He's trying to get more flexible because he is the most inflexible person I know and wants to get better at his kinesthetic gym. While we stretch, he shows me a video of the best Valorant plays in 2022. Then it's back to work.
6:00pm —  Hubby goes off to a board game night and I log off work. I lay down on my bed for 15 minutes and contemplate the meaning of life. I get a headache. Great. I end up driving to the shops to buy cat shampoo and a bunch of groceries I really don't need. I buy granola, strawberries, blueberries, Greek yoghurt, frozen fruit, and almond milk. We also get some veggies — tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce — and ham, chicken, and salad ingredients. I need some sweet treats, so I get some dark chocolate and a bottle of Coke Zero Vanilla. It comes to $52.80 in total. I also need to get $100 more cash out for my wedding dress dry cleaning. I'm meant to be taking it in this week as I haven't dry-cleaned it since my wedding last year, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.$52.80
7:00pm — I come home, have dinner and put on an episode of Taskmaster — it's a very fun show. I also buy a very belated present for my friend's birthday — an art poster from a cool Japanese artist ($85). He keeps saying he wants some art on his walls. I hope he likes it. $85
8:00pm — The time we've all been dreading. It's cat wash time. Don't judge me! Or do. It's a warm evening, so he should dry off really quickly. I Google how to bathe a cat. I run a warm bath, light a candle and dim the lights for a romantic evening.
My cat likes water and he's very curious, so it all starts out fine. Until it isn't. The minute his tail is wet, it's game over. Water is everywhere and he's clinging to the side of the bath desperately. I quickly finish washing him and start drying him off. I've always had dogs who love being dried after baths, but this cat does not; he's not having a bar of it. I give him a treat, tidy up and leave him to lick himself dry. The whole ordeal is a big failure.
9:00pm — I put on a TV show and start to relax. I've been recommended Happy Valley on Binge. F. comes home from his board game night and we watch two episodes while drinking tea.
11:00pm — Bedtime! You know the drill. I have a shower, brush my teeth, wash my face, pull on my oversized tee and jump into bed, ready for our Wordle-type games. I take some meds to help with my sinuses and then it's back to Bojack Horseman. He's now in rehab. I'm living a thrilling life. Goodnight! xoxo, VFX girl.
Daily Total: $137.80

Day 4

8:30am — Alarm goes off. It's another work-from-home day! I wake up feeling better than yesterday. I roll over a have a quick cuddy with hubby. Aww, how cute. My cat has magically dried overnight, so it's obviously been a raging success. I get up, wash my face, put on sunscreen, and throw on my usual trackies. F. has a meeting at 9am, so I go and feed Turt on my own. He's delighted to see me. I put my hand in his tank as I want to pet him and share a special moment, but he thinks my finger is a worm and bites it. Great.
9:00am — I log into work and go make breakfast. I have a pretty tricky shot to work on, so I watch it through a few times to try to figure it out, then it's heads down, music up and I get to work. 
1:00pm — Lunch time! F. and I make lunch and sit down to watch Taskmaster. Season six, to be precise. He does some stretching while I lie down.
2:00pm — Back to work! I'm back on the same shot. It's a very slow afternoon and I'm feeling very snacky.
6:00pm — I log off work. I fold my dry clothes and put them away. I water my plants with a mixture of plant food tonic and a teaspoon of sugar because I read that it's meant to help if you do it every so often! My plants are doing really well at the moment, so I think it's working. They're finally growing! I chat with my roommate and a few friends and convince them to come to Run Club — a group of strangers who meet in North Sydney and just... run? We head off to meet them.
7:00pm — Run Club! I have such a love/hate relationship with it. I love how I feel after, but I hate running. I can run with purpose, if it's in a sports game, after a ball, or for the bus. But I just hate running for the sake of running. I love exercising, but pure running can eat dust! It doesn't help that I'm always the slowest at Run Club. I would describe myself as a seal — I'm a really good swimmer, but when I'm on land, I just don't get anywhere and blubber around a lot.
I meet hubby and my friends there and we get started. We do 6 x 200-metre sprints, 4 x 400 metres, and 2 x 600 metres. It's hard but I feel great after. One of the great things about this club is that anyone can join regardless of their running experience. Somehow, I keep coming back each week. I enjoy the challenge, and it's nice to exercise with F. as we go to different gyms during the week. My friends also tell me that they'd like to come to it again — success! My roommate? Not so much.
8:30am — I get home and have a shower with F. and finally wash my hair. He jumps out for a work meeting, and I heat up dinner. I sit down and watch more Taskmaster.
11:00am — Bedtime. Usual routine. I wash my face, put on my moisturiser and face oil, and brush my teeth. I remember that I have to go to the dentist. It has been... a while. Then it's bed, Wordle variants, and instead of watching Bojack (a shock!), we decide to read. I'm reading a Steven King novel, Needful Things. Shit's about to hit the fan (in a very Steven King way). Juicy!
Daily Total: $0

Day 5

6:30am — I wake up. Yay, it's Friday! I feel well enough to go to the gym, but I also need to wake up early. The ups and downs of life. I throw on my favourite sports bra and shorts and brush my teeth. It's so hot already. My hair is a fizzy mess. I'm sweating so much and all I've done is stand up. I give F. a quick cuddle, pat my cat and off I go.
7:00am — Gym time. Friday is always a doozy. Half weights, half cardio. It's hard after a long week, but I'm proud of myself for coming. The class goes quickly, but I'm a huge sweaty puddle at the end. I have a very cold shower and I'm still sweating after. Off to work!
8:20am — I drive to work, paying $4 for tolls. School holidays mean no traffic. Delightful. $4
8:45am — I drive to the studio in my formerly gold (now gross beige) 2000 Ford Laser with paint chips and no driver's side visor. So much class. Again, I wave to security like the VIP I am. I'm a very busy and important person. Can you not tell by my car?
 9:00am — I log on and see what needs to be done today — the same as yesterday. I chat with my coworker and before I know it, it's been 45 minutes. Heads down, music up, back to work.
10:30am — Nothing exciting happens for a while but as I go to make tea, looking cute in my overalls, I get the best compliment of my life. A coworker walks in and says, "Hey, you know you kind of dress like a Stardew Valley character?". Thank you, dear coworker, for making my day, week and month.
12:20pm — I've brought lunch from home, but everyone else is eating out so I go and eat a lonely lunch on the balcony by myself. Shit. I don't want to be alone with my thoughts! I have no social media to doomscroll! I scroll through my phone to find a distraction and decide to play a game of Hearthstone. It's fun for old-time's sake. I play a game and suck hard. I guess I'll go back to work.
1:30pm — I start having a bit of trouble with my shot. There are always deadlines in VFX, and I end up having to ask for another half-day to finish it. This can sometimes be bad, but my manager is really nice this time. We all good, fam.
6:00pm — It hits 6pm and I decide to potter on my shot for a bit longer as I'm waiting to meet someone for dinner. VFX is notorious for working overtime, but my team is really good at making sure we all log off on time. My team asks me to log off, go home, or have a drink with them. I decline the drink and decide to head in earlier to meet my friend.
6:30pm — Drive to dinner. I find untimed parking in the city (on a Friday night? Unheard of). I meet up with my friend and we decide on where we want to eat — there are too many options, but we end up deciding on Vietnamese. My favourite!
7:00pm —We order food and catch up. She also works in the film industry but in feature animation over in Canada. She inspired me to study and pursue a career in film and TV. We chat about what's been going on in our lives and talk shop, including how hard it is to be a woman in this industry. Sometimes you aren't taken very seriously. She has to catch a train at 9pm, so I pay for our dinner ($35) and we say our goodbyes. I hope it isn't long until we catch up again. $35
9:00pm — I drive home. When I get home, I'm bombarded with a bunch of messages from my hubby and my best friends, asking me to play Valorant with them. It's rare that we're all online at the same time, so it doesn't take much convincing. Plus, it's really fun. I take some Panadol and get gaming. We win some, we lose some. But what's most important is the friends we make along the way.
12:00am — I'm very tired now. Usual bedtime routine — skincare, Wordle variants, set our alarms and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $39

Day 6

7:30am — Wake and get ready for the gym. It's going to be a tough one. I throw on some shorts and jump into the car. It's raining a lot and it's very humid. Perfect gym conditions. 
8:00am — Saturday classes are by far the worst, but also the most fun. This class is the biggest slog I've ever been through. It's really, really hard.
9:00am — Afterwards, a group of us head out to get some coffee and hang out. I feel very faint at this point, so I order a large tropical juice and a muffin ($12). I message F. to meet me close by so we can look at running shoes. He rocks up at 11am. $12
11:00am — We head to a specific running shoe store nearby. His Christmas present to me is running shoes, but we haven't had time to go and try some on, so today is the perfect day. The guy at the store is very helpful and I walk away with a light pair of purple ASICS runners ($240, paid for by F.). Very chuffed.
12:00pm — After, we head to a rug store. It's the classic rug store that's been closing down for the last 14 years with a 90% off everything sale. We have a look around and decide on a forest green Persian rug ($300). Persian rugs never go out of style, right?! $300
1:00pm — Jump back into the car and head to a different set of shops as we need more shoes. F. needs a pair, and I need some for the gym (yeah, I need two different pairs — so what?!). We are both pretty hungry, so we order some Vietnamese rolls ($16). We take a detour via JB Hi-Fi to look at TVs because we need to upgrade. We're looking for something under the $1,500 mark. While I'm there, I see something I worked on being played on one of the TVs. Look Mum, I'm famous! Then we finally head to Rebel. F. finds a pair of cute white, pink and blue shoes. I find a nice white and blue pair that will be great for strength training. They cost $359 altogether, but I have a $200 voucher so we only pay $159 out of pocket. $175
4:00pm — We come home and pat the cat, tidy up and watch Taskmaster. We're meeting some friends for dinner tonight, so we let them know that we'll see them at 6:30pm.
6:30pm — We arrive at the Korean BBQ. I let everyone else do the ordering and have a sip of peach soju. Relaxing. It's great to see all my friends. F. pays the bill and Beem's everyone $31 each for the meal. Everyone in our group has Beem, so it makes it really easy to pay everyone back (this isn't sponsored, I swear!). My friend suggests we get ice cream from a place we all haven't tried but has been really highly reviewed. After taking a while to choose, I get two scoops of Nutella banana and Biscoff ice cream. Yum. Then we walk home. $39
9:00pm — We finally get home and I'm pooped. I should have had a nap today. My roommate suggests we watch The Menu and we're all keen. It's a very fun and original movie and the trailer givers nothing away. The perfect balance of dark comedy and a thriller mystery.
11:00am — Time for bed. I am wrecked. I message my friend about going on a hike tomorrow and I pack my bag so I don't forget anything (like my rashie! Big pale, white girl energy). I do my usual skincare routine, brush my teeth, put my alarm on and put one second of Bojack on before falling asleep. I've spent a lot of money today — Money Diaries, eat your heart out.
Daily Total: $526

Day 7

8:00am — Wake up at 8am as I need to go pick up my best friend from her place at 9am. We are going to the Blue Mountains to hike and swim. Exciting! Nature! I put on an extra layer of sunscreen as it's going to be hot and sunny today. We pack our bags and rush out the door, but we're already late.
9:00am — We get to my friend's house and pat her cute dogs and say hello to her mum. We jump into the car and load up Google Maps. We're taking a detour by F.'s parents' house, so we pick up some yummy and cheap treats from a local Blue Mountains bakery on the way. We buy like, six treats, and it only comes to $15.
10:00am — It's hot up here. We go inside and say hello and they make us all a cup of tea. We cut up the baked goods (a cinnamon scroll and some finger buns) and catch up. Our other friend rings to let us know that he'll meet us at Glenbrook soon, so we pack up, say our goodbyes and head out.
11:30am — We stop by some shops to pick up food in case we get lost in the bush. We find a really cute local cafe with a wide variety of salads and sandwiches so I buy a nice salad ($12) and an iced tea ($4). Our friend arrives and away we go. Four friends, a sunny day, some nice food and a swimming hole in the Australian bush. What more could you want? (Some more shade, probably. I'm too pale for this!). $16
12:30pm — We make it to the hike and pay $8 for parking. A quick 1.2km hike down to the gorge quickly turns very steep. As we reach the end with what seems to be the swimming hole, we're a little dissatisfied and keen on finding a better pot. So we decide on some classic bush-bashing to reach our new destination. Our first obstacle is crossing a small river. Lucky for us, there is a small log to help us cross. Success! As we continue our bush-bashing adventure, we sing the Indiana Jones theme song loudly and make our way through spider webs, trees, rocks, sand, water, grass and even a warning sign that there's asbestos in the area, thanks to a rock fall (yes, you read that right). $8
We eventually get to our spot and I desperately search for a shady spot to hang out in. We find a little cave that's perfect for shading us and holding our things, and immediately jump into the water. The water is perfect. The scenery is perfect. The company is perfect. The sun, however, is too hot. We have this huge gorge to ourselves and swim around, climbing on slippery rocks, and acting like six-year-olds. It's glorious.
4:00pm — After hours of swimming, we try to leave. Hubby decides that extreme bush-bashing is the best way out. It's hot, we are dying, and we have to rock climb up a steep cliff. I imagine one of us getting bitten by a snake, falling off a cliff, or being killed by a falling tree branch. Intrusive thoughts, right? We scramble up a cliff, sweating profusely, and finally, make it back to the path — a set of stairs that are almost vertical. As we start climbing the stairs, my friend starts struggling. The air is muggy, it's humid and hot, and before we know it, she's having an asthma attack. It's a good thing she has her puffer, but it doesn't help much. I hold her hand, offer cold water and order F. to run ahead and get the air conditioning running in the car for her. She somehow powers through despite her airways closing up (legit, my worse nightmare).
4:45pm — We finally make it to the car. We jump in the car and my friend feels better quickly. She apologises for being dramatic, but I have to remind her that she doesn't need to apologise for a medical emergency — plus, I would have been equally, if not more, dramatic! We pass Macca's on the way home and order four large free waters, a ten-pack of chicken nuggets, and some frozen Cokes ($16). We drop our friend home, the other at a bus stop and head to my parents to pick up my birth certificate. I'm exhausted at this point. $16
5:30pm — I get to my parents' place. My dad is out but Mum is home, so we sit down, have some cheese and biccies, and catch up. I pat my two beautiful babies (my dogs) and grab my birth certificate. I need it as F. and I need to apply for new passports ahead of a planned Japan trip in May.
6:30pm — We head off and do some grocery shopping for the week. We head to our local ALDI and pick up some quick groceries (including breakfast things, salad top-ups and meat) and frozen pizzas for dinner. $63
7:30pm — Finally get home. I put the pizza on and jump in the shower while it cooks. We finally sit down, put an episode of Taskmaster on, and eat our glorious pizza. It's been such a fun day. I had a stupid amount of fun (aside from that short hour where my friend nearly died, oops!).
10:00pm — Finally, bedtime. Wash my face and add the usual serums. I see that I am slightly sunburnt — sad. We do our usual routine of Wordle variants, then F. reads, I watch Bojack and then we both fall asleep.
Daily Total: $118
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