Money Diaries

A Week In Surry Hills, Sydney, On A $65,000 Salary

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 writer who makes $65,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on Clementine Ford's new book, 'How We Love'.

Occupation: Writer
Industry: Media
Age: 27
Location: Surry Hills, Sydney
Salary: $65,000
Net Worth: $15,000 in super. I don't have any savings or investments.
Debt: $50,800 ($45,000 on my HECS debt, $800 debt on ZipPay, and $5,000 on a credit card that I got just for emergencies, but then proceeded to live like a gorgeous heiress!)
Paycheque Amount (Weekly): $950
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $2,280, split 50/50 with my partner. We rent a tiny terrace in inner city Sydney.
Credit Card Repayments: $100
Streaming Services (Including Netflix, Disney+ and Stan): $30
Yoga: $200
Home and Contents Insurance: $30
Savings Contributions: I don't really save, but I'm trying to work on it.
Anything else to add?: My partner and I split pretty much everything as our incomes are quite similar, plus we both like to be generous when we can. However, he's a better saver than me and is much better with money (though that isn't hard). His savings are often used as a backup if anything unexpected pops up! He also owns a property, but we live in a different one that we rent together.  

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

Yes, through HECS! I have a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in journalism. I paid for my day-to-day expenses with a part-time job that I juggled during uni. Which meant I spent four years pretty poor and struggling. But it's a rite of passage, right?

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

I didn't worry about money growing up, but it also wasn't discussed, which I think is part of the problem. My dad is a business owner and Mum's a teacher, so they've always had stable incomes. I grew up in a house with holidays every year, plenty of treats, and even the odd lamb cutlet for dinner! I live like I'm about to inherit a big sum of money (spoiler: I'm not!). I think my parents didn't ever want me to be nervous or worried about money as they come from working-class backgrounds. In reality, I think it's made money really mysterious. I wish I did have more education around it.

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

My first job was at a video shop. I loved everything about it — the independence, the money, and the co-worker drama! I never earned enough to save, though. I got it because I wanted to seem more mature and worldly — money was hardly a factor. That might have actually been the beginning of my problems with money.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No. My parents didn’t ever burden us and Mum always used to emphasise that everyone spent money differently. She never said we couldn’t afford something. As an adult, she told me that she kept this attitude because she didn't want us to grow up with the same money anxiety that she did. It's sweet, but I also think it means that I haven't always had a realistic view of money. Maybe my parents shielded me a little too well?

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, all the time! It’s because I overspend and then feel guilty. I also moved out at 19, so having no money was normal for a while. But as my wage has increased, I think I've kept some bad habits. I live paycheque-to-paycheque and don't worry about savings. I'm very much a 'live in the moment' type of person. Which is okay, but often leads to me worrying about money, especially if something pops up unexpectedly. I’d really like to start saving but living in one of the most expensive cities in the world isn’t easy.

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

 Probably when I moved out at 19. That being said, my parents would always help me if I needed it, I know that I could turn to them in a pinch. My boyfriend is also better at saving than me, so he's a good backup for unexpected expensive things, like a big electricity bill! I think I’m lucky in the sense that I have partner who is super generous, along with parents that can always afford to help. But I’ve been paying rent since I was 19 and that does take its toll! It’s hard to get ahead when you're paying big rent.

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

My parents paid half of my rent while I was at university. Other than that, it's just been me and what I make.

Day 1

8:15am — Mondays are not my thing. So I treat myself to a vanilla soy latte before I head into work. While I’m waiting for my coffee, I run into one of my favourite co-workers and end up shouting her a long black with a dash of soy, coming to $9.80 for the both of us. It’s a nice way to start the day and we gossip about our weekends. She also reminds me that The Iconic has a huge sale this week. I check if Dr Martens are on sale, but sadly they aren't. $9.80
8:30am —  I get to the office and check my bank account, realising that I need to make my credit card bill repayment. I transfer $45 (covered in my monthly expenses) and see that my account has been overdrafted from an UberEats order I forgot was coming out. My love of Thai food will someday send me broke! Now, I have to pay a $15 banking fee. Annoying. $15
12:30pm — A couple of girls from the office and I head out to get Mexican food. It's $12 margaritas and $5 tacos! I use this as an excuse and treat myself to three tacos and one margarita ($27) — I figure I deserve it because it's a Monday! Mexican is also always a winner for me — spicy, but fresh! We tend to go out for a lot of work lunches which is great, but also expensive. $27
5:15pm — My boyfriend picks me up from work today and we head to his mum's house for dinner. We chat about how the world feels like it's falling apart — between all these floods and the war, things feel grim. We have a homemade pie and peas, which are really wholesome and delicious.
9:00pm — We get home and I do a bit of online shopping, buying a pair of pants ($200). I'm trying to shop ethically this year which is hurting my wallet, but the pants are ZEBRA PRINT. $200 
Daily Total: $251.80

Day 2

7:00am — I get up early today and head to yoga. A class usually costs $25, but I pay upfront for two for the week. I’m not a morning person but it does help with my anxiety and It’s only down the road. If I can get in some yoga time, it makes me a better person to be around. $50
8:00am — I promise myself that I'm going to spend less money today. Luckily, my boss ends up shouting my morning coffee — vanilla soy again, please! 
12:00pm — I already feel starving, so I head down to the local sandwich place and get a chicken and mayo situation and a bottle of water ($17). I know it's silly to buy water when I could just fill up a glass in the office, but it's not as cold and I have my needs! $17 
3:00pm — I spend the afternoon doing heaps of admin work that I've been putting off. It makes me grumpy. I’m not a detailed person — I'm more of a big picture girl. While I enjoy my work which is writing and creating content, I hate the tediousness of a never-ending email chain. So I end up buying an extra coffee (a vanilla soy latte, of course) to give me some fuel — $4.50
5:30pm — On my way home, I stop and buy dinner at the local Woolies. I get a two-for-one steak and a salad ($30). I also pick up some dog food for the love of my life, my Chihuahua cross, Frank ($30). $60
6:00pm — I'm thrilled when I get home because my boyfriend has bought wine. I have a glass and flick through my bank account. I realise my Netflix bill has come out ($10), as well as my home insurance ($30) — both covered under my monthly expenses. My boyfriend cooks dinner while I work on some freelance writing. We eat and get stuck into bingeing Inventing Anna on Netflix.
7:30pm — We discuss getting Frank desexed, but it's going to cost around $500, so we decide to put it off for a few months. I’m trying to work towards havings some kind of savings, but it feels like there’s always something coming up. Last week, I had to go to the gyno, setting me back $350. I also know that I have an upcoming appointment to get my ingrown toenail sorted, which is also going to cost money. Living in such an expensive city, whilst also trying to be social and proactive about my health is really hard and constantly leaves me broke. I don't want to feel so anxious about money, so I really need to find a way to save.

8:30pm — After dinner, my boyfriend heads off to the pub to catch up with mates and I get back to writing some freelance work. I'm currently writing about fatphobia. 
Daily Total: $131.50

Day 3

7:00am — My boyfriend and I alternate paying our rent each fortnight. This week, it's my turn, so I transfer $570 to our real estate — ouch. Unlike me, he's really good with money. He saves every month, while I spend, spend, spend. I think it's partly because he has a better history with money, usually having a decent job. Whereas when I moved out, I struggled with being poor.
8:00am — I get to work and treat myself to a banana smoothie as there's no bread to make toast ($9.50). It's super yummy, but I'm sadly already off to a bad start on the spend less game. $9.50
11:00am — I pop downstairs to get a coffee ($4.50). Partly because I want a caffeine hit, partly because I'm desperate to get away from my desk. I have too many emails to reply to and not enough hours in the day. $4.50
1:00pm  — I head off to lunch with two of the girls I work with. I deliberately pick one of the cheaper items on the menu — avocado on toast and a coffee ($19). Is this self-growth? $19
4:00pm — I finish work early today and head to the doctor's. I'm getting an IUD put in. The doctor is really lovely, explaining everything, and suggests I get a routine STI check too. Even though I'm in a monogamous relationship, I've heard enough stories to always get tested. You never know! The experience isn't as bad as I thought it would be, but I can already feel my cramps kicking off, making me feel grumpy and vulnerable. I head to the counter and see the bill — $200. It's pretty steep and is just another tax we have to pay as women. I complain to my boyfriend and he immediately offers to go halves, sending me $100. We're both invested in me not getting pregnant! $100
7:00pm — My boyfriend gets home late from work and I'm in pain from my IUD. He mentions we do have some food in the fridge to cook, but neither of us can be bothered. Plus, I’m in pain! We order chicken and chips from Chargrill Charlies with extra Perri Perri sauce instead ($50). $50
10:00pm — I go to bed and scroll through my bank account feeling depressed. I get paid tomorrow, but I'm down to my last $200. 
Daily Total: $183

Day 4

8:00am — I get paid tonight, but my mission today is to spend barely any money as I'm down to my last few hundred dollars. I still get my morning coffee though — I’m trying to save money not deprive myself! $4.50
12:30pm — For lunch, I dig around in the work fridge. I find some bread and peanut butter, so I make myself some toast. It’s delicious and free — I really should do this more often and not just when I’m down to my last cents! 
2:00pm — While I stuff my face, there's an office birthday going on. Hip hip, hooray! I scroll through my phone and am offended to realise that both my Stan and Amazon's monthly amounts have come out — $30 (covered in my monthly expenses). I keep meaning to cancel all my streaming services and only have one, but there’s always a new show out that’s exclusive on one or another — so I just end up signing back up.
7:00pm — For dinner, we have leftovers that my boyfriend scored off his mum. It's a delicious curry, and I’m pretty stoked it’s free! Today has made me realise that I could live a lot cheaper if I really tried. My boyfriend and I chat about how we need to take Frank for more walks. He goes off to play video games, and I catch up on some freelance work again. I shouldn’t accept so much, but I’m always hustling. I want to keep growing my profile and I figure if I work myself to the bone now it’ll pay off later.
9:00pm —  I'm relieved to see I've been paid! 
10:00pm — I mindlessly scroll online. Whenever I get paid, I have this overpowering need to treat myself! After almost checking out my cart on ASOS, I end up just buying a pair of ModiBodi period pants ($22). At least they are practical and I’ll wear them! $22
Daily Total: $26.50

Day 5

7:00am — To continue celebrating being paid, I treat myself to a coffee and a toasted sandwich ($15).  I’m up early as I’ve got some freelance work I want to complete before work starts. I’m want to try and hustle more this year — I’m hoping that I can save all the money I make from my freelance work and live off my main income. $15
12:30pm —  The girls at work and I head to the pub for lunch. I guess we are all celebrating! I get the $10 steak option and a cider ($19.50). It's nice to be out socialising again regularly. Lockdown was really isolating. $19.50
2:00pm —  I can no longer concentrate on work. I message a designer in Melbourne that I love. I want to commission her to make me a dress for an upcoming wedding. My best friend is getting married and I really want to have a special moment. I ask if I can do a payment plan as the dress is $400. She emails me back straight away and says yes, so I pay a deposit of $150. I figure it's worth it — it's made locally and I love the idea of supporting a one-woman business. $150
6:00pm — I have a dinner planned with my girlfriends tonight. I clock off work at 5:30pm and go to meet them at a bar. It's one of my favourites in the inner city because it's cute, but never crowded. Plus, the lighting is nice for photos — vain, but true!
7:00pm —  I order two cocktails and we get a share platter and complain about our jobs ($85). We all thought we'd be earning more money by now — it sucks because we all work really hard, but it’s depressing to realise all our boyfriends earn more then us. $85
10:00pm — We say our goodbyes. Because I live so centrally, I just walk home. At least my transport costs are pretty much always zero!
10:15pm — I spot a block of chocolate from the corner store near me. I have a craving, so I take the plunge ($6.40). I know, I'm wild. $6.40
Daily Total: $275.90

Day 6

10:00am — It's a Saturday, so my boyfriend and I wake up late. We spend far too much time scrolling on our phones. 
11:00am — I take Frank to the fancy dog store near us to buy some new treats. He gets so excited when we go there! I end up spending $70 on treats, but his happiness is priceless. Plus, don’t lamb puffs just sound yummy? $70
11:30am —  My boyfriend and I go for brunch nearby. Living in the city means we rarely get public transport. Plus we like to take Frank! We go to this cute place around the corner that makes the best coffee. My boyfriend orders some fancy egg situation and I go for the big breakfast, with some lattes for both of us on the side. We grab the bill — $55. I offer to pay as my boyfriend has his rego due this week. $55
12:00pm — On the way back from breakfast, I head into a book store and buy the new Clementine Ford book, How We Love ($33). I’m trying to make an effort to support local businesses and not chains, but it does hurt to know I could have picked up this book for a cool $20 at Kmart! $33
6:00pm — I spend the rest of the day pottering around the house and doing my washing. We don't have a dryer, so I have to plan in advance. We end up going to the pub for dinner with my boyfriend's mates. I have three ciders and a chicken burger, trying my best not to overspend ($60). It's like I live like a king for a week, then struggle for the rest of the month. $60
11:00pm — We walk home. I jump into bed and scroll through my bank account. The $5,000 debt feels like it's mocking me tonight, so I transfer $20 over to pay some of it off. I hate seeing the debt number stare at me.
Daily Total: $218

Day 7

8:00am — On Sundays, we tend to get up early and take Frank to the dog park. We get coffees on the way, but my boyfriend pays. We give Frank a big run around and I scroll through Gumtree on my phone. We're thinking about getting a friend for Frank, but all the puppies currently are at least $2,000 so we need to save!
11:00am — We go home and have some toast for breakfast. I get ready to go out as I'm meeting up with my best mate. We go to the markets together, and I promise myself that I'm not going to buy anything. I end up caving and buying some love heart-shaped earrings ($45) and a strawberry milkshake ($8.50). They are both too cute (and delicious!) to ignore. $53.50
12:00pm —  We part ways and I walk home. My boyfriend is on the way to the pub, but I decide to stay home, have a nap and hangout with Frank.  Getting a dog has been more expensive than I thought but the joy is unlimited. 
5:00pm — I text my boyfriend to see if he's coming home for dinner. He says he's going to get Thai and asks if I want to come. I decide to go and meet up with him and his friends, and share some yummy Thair food. My boyfriend pays for me, but I transfer him $30 on the way home. $30
9:00pm —  We take a pitstop at Messina. I get a cheesecake ice cream flavour which is so good. My boyfriend gets a chocolate flavour. I pay for both of us — $18.50. When we get home, we watch Yellowjackets and I check my emails. I decide to put more towards my dress I’m getting made, and transfer across another $100. I look at my credit card debt, and transfer over $10 out of guilt. $118.50
Daily Total: $202
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.
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