Money Diaries

A Week In Rockhampton, Queensland, On A $180,010 AUD Joint Income

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we tackle the ever-present taboo that is money. We ask real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we track every last penny.

Currency written in AUD.
Occupation: Administration Officer
Industry: Government
Age: 30
Location: Rockhampton, Queensland
My Salary: $70,010
My husband's Salary: $110,000+ (Made up of a base salary, shift allowance and variable overtime throughout the year) 
Net Worth: $668,121 ($96,642 in cash and assets, $288,993 in super, $44,502 in shares and $237,984 in property equity)
Debt: $378,409 for the house we live in and $228,607 for our investment property. I also have HECS debt of $18,971
Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $4,590.11 (combined)
Pronouns: She/Her
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Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1,382 a month for the house we live in. We bought a 5-bedroom house across the road from the primary school we plan to send our daughter to, as the school has a strict catchment area.
Investment mortgage: $940 per month. Depending on what repairs and improvements we do to the unit during the year, it's generally cash flow positive. We bought our unit in Brisbane ten years ago and lived there before we moved across the state for work.
Phone & Internet: $190 (Two mobile plans and unlimited NBN internet)
Private Health Insurance: $762.45 (Top hospital and extras)
Petrol: $120
Bills: $1,920 (This covers all of our bills and insurance)
Daycare: $2,400 a month for 3 kids, 3 days a week.
Gym membership: $100
Netflix/Spotify/Disney+: $0. We share these services with family, so we’re only responsible for Netflix. I use rewards points to buy Netflix vouchers, so I end up paying nothing.
Charitable Giving: $75
Sinking Funds (Christmas, Birthdays, Dog, School Expenses, Kids Activities, Unexpected Expenses): $400
Savings (Overseas family holiday, Emergency Fund, Misc. Savings): $260
Shares: $600 + $240 invested on our kids’ behalf

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

I have two bachelor's degrees, and I am slowly paying down my HECS debt.

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

Growing up, I got used to money being hard earned and harder spent. I was the eldest of four and while we didn't go without, money was always tight. I was taught to budget and save but had to learn about investing in shares/property, compound returns, and the concept of financial independence, myself.
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What was your first job and why did you get it? 

I was a waitress at the local pub. I worked there for five years and took the job because it was the first one I got offered out of high school. I earned decent money while I studied full-time at university, and learned a lot — including the fact that I never want to go back to hospitality.

Did you worry about money growing up? 

Not as a young child. But when I was twelve, a major financial event left my family close to homelessness. We had no financial backup, and I think those few weeks made me fearful of ever being without money. From that point on, I saw money as a path to freedom, and a way to have control over my life.

Do you worry about money now? 

Honestly, yes. My husband and I have our bases covered and we both earn a decent income, but I still worry about the future and whether my choices now will pay off down the track.

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

I moved into my boyfriend's place at 19 years old, so I became responsible for my own finances then. We bought an apartment together at 21, and I took over all the finances after that. Currently, we have an emergency fund that will cover a couple of months of bare-bones expenses for our family, plus some savings we could draw on if necessary.
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Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain. 

My passive income includes rental income from our investment property —$18,200 per year — and varying dividends from shares.

Day One

4:30am — The baby wakes up, and my husband and I have a half-asleep debate over who should get up with him. I lose. After he has a bottle, I convince him to lie down in bed with us until my alarm goes off at 5:30am.

5:45am — I'm hauled up again because the two older kids are up and running up and down the hallway with some balloons they got at daycare yesterday. Loudly. I fix them breakfast, throw a load of washing on, make coffee, and pack our things for work/daycare.

7:15am — The three kids and I leave for daycare, and then I head to work. An advantage of living in a regional town is that work is only ten minutes from daycare, which is five minutes from my house. I walk in the door at 7:45am and log in. I brought a coffee from home and sip it while I sort out my tasks for the day. I have a Frank Green travel cup and it's the best thing ever, keeping my coffee hot with no spills, all the way to work. I’ve only recently come back to work from maternity leave, and I’m super proud of the fact that I haven’t bought lunch or coffee since my return four weeks ago.

10:00am — A coffee van pulls into work a couple of hours later and I’m so impressed with myself for not buying lunch and coffee for a month that I treat myself to an organic iced latte ($6). It couldn’t last forever! $6

12:00pm — I have leftover spaghetti and meatballs for lunch. It’s great, but I eat at my desk because our team has been snowed under for weeks. The whole office has been tense for a while, caused by personality clashes and the general pressure we’re under to catch up on work.

2:30pm — I chat to my best friend, E., about a hen's night we’re organising for our other bestie. We’re joint Maids of Honour, and E. is contacting vendors to get quotes. We need to travel for both the hen’s weekend and the actual wedding, so I’m watching our costs skyrocket every day. The flights alone will be $400 for each event! We’ve also had drama in the bridesmaid's group chat while trying to nail down the glam itinerary the bride wants, on a budget that all the guests will be able to afford.

Total Spent: $6
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Day Two

5:00am — I definitely do not get up this early on a usual Saturday morning, but we are going camping this weekend with my husband’s family and have a 7-hour drive to meet them on the Sunshine Coast. I walk the dog and when I get back, the older two kids are awake. I set them up with breakfast and the TV, make a coffee, wake my husband up, and take the dog to the kennels for her 'doggy holiday'.

9:00am — We're on the road — I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. Our camping obsession is fairly new. We’ve been saving for around six months and finally bought a camper trailer. We paid $21,000 for it — a 10-year-old Jayco — and so far we're really happy with it. It's not as flash as a caravan, but it's convenient to have a kitchen and decent beds when camping, especially with kids. We used to do a fair bit of travel overseas, but this has slowed down since we started having kids (and obviously in the current state of the world). As we enter the wonderful world of school terms, our travel is going to be limited and we wanted the option to go away for weekend trips and travel on the cheap. Hence, camping! On the drive down the coast, I remember that I haven’t upgraded my husband’s roadside assistance to include caravan recovery. I log on and upgrade it online ($111.06), but there is a 72-hour waiting period. Fingers crossed this trip goes smoothly. I also get an email that our Amazon subscription for nappies has been placed ($46.58). I find it easier to buy nappies in bulk and have them shipped to me instead of purchasing them during our weekly grocery shops. $157.64

1:00pm — We stop at Gin Gin for a break, but the park we find doesn’t have any cafes nearby, so we don’t buy lunch.

4:00pm — Finally arrive at the campsite. We paid $234 last week, and have a powered site for three nights. The weather’s freaking beautiful! My nieces and nephew are close in age to our kids, so they keep each other busy. My in-laws have already cracked open the first bottle of wine, and I don’t hesitate to join them.

Total Spent: $157.64
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Day Three

4:50am — I'm woken up bloody early by the kids. We are camping with my husband’s parents, his sister, her husband, and their three kids. They are all disgustingly early risers and insultingly chirpy first thing in the morning, whereas my husband and I communicate in grunts until we’ve had caffeine and an hour to wake up. Luckily the sun is already up, so we have a quick breakfast at the van and then head out for coffee. There’s a cute little coffee van at the campground, overlooking the beach. Skinny cappuccino for me — my father-in-law pays.

9:00am — We spend the morning at the beach, and pack snacks for morning tea.

12:00pm — Come back for lunch and a sleep. The kids refuse to sleep, but eventually pass out mid-tantrum, arguing that they're not tired. The baby slept the entire time we were at the beach, so naturally doesn’t want to sleep now. I put him in the pram and walk across the road to the shops to buy some supplies — bread, moisturiser, cleanser, and a juice for me ($20.50). The baby is still chirpy when we come back.

3:30pm — We hit up the pool with the cousins in the afternoon. I am absolutely ready for cocktails — the same van that does coffee in the mornings also happens to do cocktails from 4pm — a win! Unfortunately, the camp managers send a text 30 minutes after we arrive saying they’ve had to close the cocktail van unexpectedly. Boo! My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I leave the kids with the blokes and head back to our vans for nibbles and wine instead. The kids come back and ride their bikes while we cook dinner — making tacos while tipsy is an experience!

Total Spent: $20.50
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Day Four

5:00am — Another early wake, another free coffee. Thanks, father-in-law.

7:00am — Pancakes for breakfast today, supplied by my sister-in-law. After, we load up the car for our trip to Australia Zoo. We were given the tickets as a gift last Christmas (I have made a point over the last few years of asking the grandparents for experience gifts over toy gifts, so it's a minimalism win!). I check my emails in the car on the way but get overwhelmed and shut it down again. My holiday brain can’t deal with the everyday life admin. For example, our investment unit is coming up for a lease renewal and the property manager has recommended that we increase the rent by $20-$40 a week. We’ve kept the rent the same for the last seven years, so we do need to increase it. I’m a little worried about increasing the rent though, because we have great tenants, and I don’t want them to leave!

9:00am — The zoo was just as amazing I remember! I used to volunteer there during my uni days, so I got to go full animal nerd and bombard my nieces with facts. We saw every exhibit, and managed to pack lunch and snacks for the kids and save some cash. We got in 8,000 steps, rode the train several times, and saw Robert Irwin do the croc show! Everyone is knackered by the end of it, so the trip home is entirely silent.

4:00pm — Get back to the van and it starts pouring with rain, soaking us all in the process. Tonight is pizza for dinner — father-in-law pays again. We’ve organised dinners so that each family cooks for everyone one night of the trip, but my mother-in-law said she wasn’t doing that and that she’d just buy us all takeout instead. We manage to lose our campground gate key — probably sometime last night. My son is an agent of chaos — it’s honestly like living with a poltergeist. He moves items around all the time, so I’m constantly wondering where that thing I just put down went. We pull the van and the car apart looking for it and find nothing. We’ll probably be up for a replacement fee when we check out tomorrow.

Total Spent: $0
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Day Five

5:10am — I’m up to see the sunrise yet again. Seriously, nobody tells you that holidays with young kids is nothing like a holiday. I’ve been in bed by 8:30pm every night and out cold two minutes later. I'm just so exhausted from these super long days. With six kids between us, someone is always awake. The baby wakes up twice overnight and 5:30am turns out to be a sleep-in. Have I convinced anyone to stay child-free yet? It was raining all night and is still raining this morning, so we get soaked when we pack up. My husband finds the gate key jammed beside one of the beds in the van, though. We win this round!

7:30am — We have a long drive back to Rocky, so we’re packed and on the road by 7:30am. We get petrol on the way — $77.39.

11:00am — We stop in Gin Gin for an early lunch: burgers for us, and fish and chips for the kids. $36.90

2:00pm — Petrol again at Beneraby ($88.19). I hope you're enjoying our driving tour of Central Queensland. $88.19

4:00pm — Once we’re home, I head back out to pick up our dog from the kennels ($112 for the four nights). She’s a ridgeback and a complete sook, but the best guard dog in history — I miss her when we’re away. $112

5:30pm — I’m exhausted, so we run the kids through the shower and feed them whatever is in the freezer. I order dinner from a local burger place ($17), because I could eat burgers for every meal. They’re running a special where you get free chips with every burger special. $17

9:00pm — Hit the hay after sorting through my inbox and catching up on the life admin I’ve ignored while I was away. I ask our property manager to offer the tenants a 12-month lease renewal and increase the rent by $20 per week. If they decide to move out, the property can be advertised for rent at an increase of $40 per week, and we can negotiate it down.

Total Spent: $331.48
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Day Six

8:00am — The kids don’t have daycare today and I work from home. I have a stack to catch up on, and spend the first couple of hours just sorting through emails. Being interrupted every two minutes for snacks or to referee an argument isn’t ideal, but WFH saves us so much money on daycare fees, so I suck it up. I get a notification that my meal delivery box has been paid for, and I kick myself because I signed up for a discounted plan and forgot to cancel it before the trial ended ($123). Why don’t they ever email before the box gets paid for? Our baby formula subscription also renews today ($56). $179

11:30am — I’m still organising the Hens weekend for my bestie, so I jump into the group chat with the other bridesmaids throughout the day. The group chat has been hectic — 3/4 of the bridal party are 'strong personalities' and we don’t all live in the same city, so coordinating everything has been tough. We finally have the guests on board with the cost and have the numbers to book the package we want. I have a separate bank account set up so everyone can send their deposits through for the bridal shower and hens weekend, which means I’m responsible for putting down the initial deposit ($950). My share would be $375, so once the deposits hit the account, I will transfer $575 back into my savings. $950

2:30pm — An electrician arrives after lunch to install some ceilings fans for our playroom and hook up a light switch in the laundry. We saved some money by purchasing the fans ourselves from Bunnings, but it turns out my husband bought one fan without a light in it. He runs out to Bunnings to get a replacement while the electrician is still there but comes back with the wrong style of fan ($221). I will need to return it and buy the right one, but the electrician can’t hang around ($614.77 for the labour). $835.77

Total Spent: $1,964.77
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Day Seven

7:15am — I’m in the office today, so I hustle the kids out the door to daycare and head into work. My job involves a lot of coordination of staff across a huge area, but it’s all assigned overtime so people usually pick up my phone calls. My husband has today and tomorrow off, but will work through the weekend. He did some overtime early this morning (no nepotism, I promise) for a couple of hours, so he plans on getting some yard work done this morning and then napping later. I’m jealous. He takes the green waste to the dump, which has (outrageously) started charging a fee to dump green waste ($2). Considering our council rates are $3,400+ annually, we were a bit miffed when this was announced earlier this year. $2

10:00am — The coffee van arrives, and I buy another organic iced latte ($6). Looks like this is becoming a weekly thing. I send the same amount to my investment account to counteract it ($6). $12

12:30pm — I use my lunch break to do the banking — I track all our expenses on a weekly basis, and this helps me budget accordingly for next month. I use an Excel spreadsheet that I built myself because I could never find one that suited my needs, and my banking situation is complicated enough that automatic trackers in apps can’t keep up. Honestly, it’s probably too complicated, but it helps me sleep at night knowing we cover our expenses, invest and put money away for savings. The actual tracking only takes 15 minutes once a week, and planning for the coming month is usually around an hour from start to finish. I eat lunch at my desk (leftover risotto — not as good as it was fresh), and jump between tasks for the afternoon.

4:30pm — Pick up the grocery shopping I ordered last night ($100.69). It's usually a bit more than this, but our meal kit covers the bulk of our meals. This is just topping up other supplies. Get the kids from daycare, power through the evening routine, and spend the evening re-watching the first season of The Witcher in preparation for season two. $100.69

10:00pm — I’m reading Bulletproof Investing before bed, and it’s giving me plenty to think about regarding property investing and using the equity in our properties to leverage further investments. My husband would buy another property tomorrow and I am firmly in favour of shares, but this book is making me reconsider.

Total Spent: $114.69
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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