Money Diaries

A Week In Neutral Bay, Sydney, On A $150,000 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.
Currency in AUS dollars.
Occupation: Senior Communications Manager
Industry: Financial Services
Age: 29
Location: Neutral Bay, Sydney
Annual Salary: $150,000
Net Worth: $600,000 (I own my 2-bedroom apartment in Neutral Bay which is worth $1.3 million, plus I have $95,000 in my super (In Australia, superannuation is the term for retirement pension benefit funds), $5,000 in my bank account that I use to pay for bills, booze, and brunch, and $5,000 in a savings account which is my 'travel' fund (I use quotation marks because none of us has travelled anywhere recently!)
Debt: A sweet, sweet mortgage with $806,000 remaining
Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $3972.72
Pronouns: She/Her
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Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $3,253. I live alone in the apartment I own.
Utilities: $420. These usually come out quarterly, so I have to budget for them and put money aside. This payment includes strata, council, gas/electricity, water, internet ($75/month), and my phone bill ($135/month).
Loans: Car lease repayments of $600/month.
Groceries: $500
Manicure/Pedicure: $140
Haircut/Facial/Skincare Products: $200 (I budget for and accrue this money for when I need it. For example, I get a haircut once every six months and a facial every three months).
Supplements/Health food (such as protein powder and magnesium): $125
Transport: $50
Dining out: $500
Cleaner: $75
Mobile phone bill: $135
Subscriptions (Netflix, Binge, NYTimes, Patreon): $70
Pilates (2 x classes/week): $235
Gym Membership and Personal Training: $450
Health Insurance: $120
Home and Contents Insurance: Approx $1,000 (paid annually)

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

Sure did. I completed both a bachelor's and master's degree and paid for it with HECS, which I have thankfully completely paid off (as of 2019).

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

My money story is one that's influenced by my immigrant parents. We were always well-off and my dad gives off the abundant aura of "We got this" and "Of course we have enough!". However, my mum's mentality is one of scarcity. She's incredibly organised and diligent, but constantly uses statements like "It's too expensive", "How much is it?". Yet she still spends money on things that she wants — from an entire home renovation, to new house decor, to perfume. 

I was raised to be educated about economics and the mechanics of money broadly, but as an only child and never in want of anything, I wasn't taught the details of budgeting until later than I would have liked, when I'd had a slew of late fees.

However, being mindful to never completely spoil me, my parents encouraged me to get a job at 14, and matched the amount of money I personally saved.
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What was your first job and why did you get it? 

I was a waitress at a local Italian restaurant. My parents encouraged me to get a job as soon as I could, and I loved the owners and local feel of the place. I ended up staying there for four years and they became family!

Did you worry about money growing up? 

I've felt a sense of panic when I've thought I was overspending (probably PTSD from when I spent beyond my means in my early 20s), but I never felt like I wouldn't have enough. I think this is because even when I was in my worst debt, I knew my parents would (and did) help me out of it. They were my life jacket.

Do you worry about money now? 

Since I pulled myself out of debt and paid it off, I've been working to rewrite my money story a little and put strategies in place that help me feel more in control — budgeting, setting up automatic payments, and keeping tabs on where I spend money.

I feel a lot calmer about money now. Seeing the different approaches my mum and dad have had towards money, I'm trying to approach money with a more 'abundance' mindset like my dad.

I definitely still second-guess myself sometimes and stress about the fact that my mortgage and strata bill and council payments are all going out in the same week, and panicking about whether I'll have enough in my accounts that fortnight.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net? 

When I got my first job at age 14 is when my parents first gave me 'financial responsibility' — for example, I started to pay for my mobile phone bill.

Today, I am completely financially responsible for myself and in such a different way, especially after purchasing my own home at the beginning of 2021!

I have an account with a set of savings set aside for emergencies. I'd love to add to this more regularly, but with all my ongoing, regular payments, that doesn't feel realistic.

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

No, unless you count envelopes of money from my grandparents at Christmas! I could definitely get a housemate to earn some extra income, but at the same time, I love my space and lifestyle too much for that right now.

Day One

6:30am — I make a conscious effort to complete my life admin and organise myself on a Sunday so I start the week feeling like I've somewhat got my shit together. I start my days working from home with a walk to Cremorne Point and back.
8:14am — The Nespresso machine lights up and I make myself a Gran Lungo, which I think is a bong black in George Clooney language. I make breakfast at home — avo, eggs and sourdough — and get ready to lose a little more of my soul in a day of Microsoft Teams meetings.
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12:00pm — Lunch is a big salad — rocket, roasted sweet potato, green beans, cucumber, Meredith goat's cheese (the GOAT, pun fully intended), Sirena tuna in olive oil (anyone who tells you tuna in springwater tastes good is blatantly lying), olive oil/lemon juice dressing. I did a grocery shop on the weekend and bought enough staples to last me the week. I get a kick from knowing something like this would have cost at least $18 had I bought it from a cafe or salad bar.
3:17pm — In summer, smoothies are my go-to snack and the best investment I've made is my Nutribullet (swipe up and use my code for nothing off lol). Here's my current favourite smoothie combo: almond milk, spinach, banana, vanilla protein powder, ice. Again, this would be $10 from a cafe or smoothie bar, guaranteed. I know, because I used to pay for these regularly before seeing the light.
6:11pm — Logged off and laptop closed. I make a conscious effort to shut down my work computer at the end of the day so I can compartmentalise my life. Swim time down at Balmoral before my sister and her partner come over for dinner.
7:50pm — It's summer, it's Sydney, it's BBQ szn! Steaks ($39 for 3, which I pick up from the local butcher across the road), salad (cheap as chips — greens and herbs, simple homemade mustard/olive oil/lemon juice dressing), grilled veg (zucchini, asparagus, corn), and condiments. They bring wine — it's orange and chilled and perfect. I supply the Sanpellegrino ($3.10 per bottle, and we drink two!). $45.20
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9:12pm — It's not dinner without Yalla chocolate mousse for dessert (IYKYK). $11.70 for a 450g tub, with fresh raspberries ($3.50 a punnet). There are no leftovers. $15.20
Daily Total: $60.40

Day Two

6:00am — Gym, shit, shower, shave, bus into the office ($2.10, paid on my Opal). After working from home since March 2020, getting back into a routine that involves non-elasticised pants is somewhat of a challenge. I try not to think too hard about this morning routine and rather, rely on muscle memory.
8:10am — Pick up my long black ($4.50) from a local cafe and literally run to my first meeting. $4.50
12:00pm — I am starving. The avo and toast that I packed for breakfast are still waiting to be eaten and I'm in hangry territory. I work in corporate communications for a big bank, and I'm looking after how we talk about big, digital and transformation changes to our bankers, as well as the comms for some of our senior execs. As a result, my days usually are a series of emails beginning and ending with “Hi there” and “Kind regards”, meetings about our digital programs and changes coming down the pipeline, briefings with my general managers on upcoming events for our teams and PowerPoint presentations. Sexy stuff. 
I never thought I would work in financial services (I barely know what an interest rate is), but it’s actually really interesting to map out customer journeys and think about strategy around experience design.
12:15pm — Sweet, sweet relief. I packed lunch today and whip together a toasted sandwich (leftover roasted veg, mozzarella, egg). I feel like I could be at my local cafe, minus the great service and Italian accent and...never mind.
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3:25pm — The girls and I at work head down to Bourke Street Bakery for an afternoon coffee — $4.
6:45pm — I'm home and have my standard single girl's meal of grilled fish, greens, rice. But because I'm *fancy* and love to indulge in excellent condiments, there's a whack of Chotto Motto Chilli Oil on top. This bad boy is a hefty $18.50 for 200mL but it's worth it. I picked this jar up a few weeks ago from Carriageworks Farmers Markets.
8:10pm — I munch on a banana topped with almond butter while watching Logan Roy ask his son if he's a "sicko". #Succession
Daily Total: $9.50

Day Three

7:00am — After some Pilates, I meet a colleague for a coffee/work meeting (remember those!). She pays for our coffee and croissants and I walk home. 
10:15am —  A croissant will only get you so far. Smoothie time. Today's combo is almond milk, frozen blueberries (hot tip: snap-frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh and adds an extra creaminess to smoothies), protein powder ($65 for a 1kg bag, but I buy this in bulk and it lasts me at least a few months), baby spinach, marine collagen ($78 for a 150g pouch which again, I have a monthly subscription for).
1:00pm — I whip up one of my Cafe a la Me salads at home — rocket, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber, bocconcini, tuna in oil (because springwater is for the tasteless and tastebud-less) — knowing that I'll be going out for dinner. 
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4:20pm — I eat like a teenage boy and devour a bowl of four Weetbix with almond milk, honey and banana between meetings. The benefit of hybrid working is the flexibility that comes with working from home, but I have to say: every. little. thing. is. now. a. Microsoft Teams. meeting! Don’t people text anymore? This could have been an email! I’m in a strategy development phase for one of my projects, so a lot of my day is spent developing communications approaches and key messages and then refining these with my program director. 
7:00pm — I meet mum and dad for dinner at this great little dumpling restaurant near my place. We share everything and order three sets of dumplings, salt and pepper squid, sauteed green beans, fried rice, a beef stir fry and mango ice cream pancakes. They pay and I give them a big smooch to say thank you.
9:20pm — I'm digesting with a peppermint and ginger tea and Selling Sunset.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6:00am — Morning Lagree FIT Pilates class, which I was very close to hitting snooze on, but considering you have to pre-book ($325 for an 8-class pack which I topped up this morning) and there's a no-show and late cancellation fee of $20, you bet I was showing up. $325
7:45am — Tap onto the bus into work ($1.20, paid on my Opal card). Also, side note: why are Opal charges different on different days?! I would love to know. Someone, please enlighten me.
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7:50am — Tap off.
8:05am — The guys at the cafe remember my order! Large long blacks made by someone else hit different than my Nespresso. $4.50
10:00am — I've packed breakfast and snacks for the office, so my avo on sourdough tide me over till...
10:45am — Coffee run with the girls at work ($3.50, this time for a small long black). $3.50
12:30pm — Team lunch to celebrate...not wearing leggings (?). We hit up Muum Maam for their lunch menu and I am here for the sambal calamari, sauteed greens and rice combo — $26.
3:10pm — It should be a crime to have a donut shop downstairs from your office. One honey & sea salt cruller ($4.50) and small long black ($4) coming up. $8.50
6:00pm — Stick a fork in me, Jerry, I'm done. Tap onto the bus ($1.20, paid on Opal card).
7:15pm — I love cooking and make sure I do my groceries on the weekend so I can come home and relax over a nice meal. Tonight is salmon, air-fried sweet potato and grilled broccolini.
8:30pm — Denada's new pop ice creams are an indulgence at $11.50 for a pack of three — please don't @ me. I eat one with some herbal tea as I come to terms with Big's death and Samantha's absence in And Just Like That.

P.S. Being back in the office is expensive. So is Pilates.
Daily Total: $367.50

Day Five

7:30am — It's Friday and I actually have the day off (time in lieu) and while I would love to really self-indulge, I have a very long, very detailed to-do list that involves Christmas presents, shopping centres and a mani/pedi.
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9:10am — I've gone for a walk (#mentalhealth), downed a Nespresso, showered (but definitely not washed my hair, because I don't have the patience for that as well as Chatswood Chase) and am shovelling Brookfarm Paleo Muesli and Meredith Dairy Sheep Milk Yoghurt (the tub with the blue lid, trust me) topped with blueberries into my mouth like my life depends on it.
9:50am — I'm out the door! 
10:00am — I arrive at the Chatswood Chase car park and thanks to my excellent planning and hustle, get a park straight away because the majority of people haven't yet descended on the hallowed halls of Westfield.
10:10am — There is, however, a line outside Mecca as they open up. And outside TK Maxx. Wow. SOS.
11:25am — I've finished at Mecca and feel both accomplished and absolutely glowing thanks to all the samples I've tried and gifts I've purchased for my friends and sister. The gift line-up includes a Floral Street Discovery Set ($28), Frank Body The Baby Mumma Kit ($49.95), 111 Skin The Jetsetter ($42), This Works Sleep Gift Set ($22) and a Summer Fridays Skin Regimen Set ($90). $231.95
I look at my watch and realise I've spent over an hour in paradise. Our family does Secret Santa for Christmas, which is great because it means we’re not all forking out a lot of money on unnecessary presents, but I like to buy my sister and parents something each.
12:15pm — I need sustenance in the form of Roll'd Vietnamese rice paper rolls ($16.10 for 3 Barramundi Avo Soldiers and a sparkling water). $16.10
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12:40pm — I head to Oroton to tackle my mum's present and leave with the gorgeous Sophia Maple Medium Beauty Case ($129) and the conviction that I'm a top-notch daughter. $129
1:30pm — Dad is way easier. Dymocks. Three new reads. Tick. $91.97
2:00pm — I detour past Scanlan Theodore because I'm a masochist and HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW SUMMER COLLECTION. I am this close to buying a new dress, but remind myself I a) don't need it and b) need the $650 for my next grocery bill, not to mention mortgage repayment.
2:30pm — I hustle into David Jones and pick up a shirt for my brother-in-law ($49.95) who is my Secret Santa, and then hightail it back to the car park because there is no way I’m paying for parking (which is $8 for every 3 minutes you’re past the free time limit, it seems). $49.95
3:00pm — After making it out free of charge, I make it home in twice the time it took to get there, thanks to school traffic zones. But honestly I don’t care, because I am feeling like a Marvel superhero after the success of my day.
3:10pm — I reward myself with a scroll on Instagram, double-tapping here, fire-emoji-reacting there. One of my friends is running a marathon with the proceeds going towards the Black Dog Institute. I swipe up and donate $50 + $1.50 processing fee and feel pretty proud of him, while also thinking “you could not pay me to do that”. $51.50
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6:00pm — My Uber driver, Mehmed, is here to drive me to The Dolphin, for one of my many Christmas parties. I’m ready, but I have not eaten and this is a rookie error — $20.12.
10:15pm —  Many canapes, glasses of champagne and pizza slices later, I love everybody and feel like a Dancing Queen.
11:00pm — The party has most definitely kicked on and we’re at Goros. Karaoke is being lined up and this is what memories and hangxieties are made of.
2:10am — Goros has a 3am license, and a dance floor fuelled by pop and hip hop. I stumble up the stairs to my apartment after Li has driven me home safely (five stars!) — $17.32.
2:30am — I don’t know how, but my bank account tells me I’ve spent $90 – this includes karaoke and a couple of cocktails. I munch on my Weetbix with almond milk singing The Horses to myself. $90
Daily Total: $697.91

Day Six

9:30am — She's risen and she's ready to shine... sort of. First stop, coffee ($4) and a loaf of fresh sourdough ($8) which usually lasts me 7-10 days from Berkelo Bakery (the best and friendliest on the Lower North Shore). $12
10:00am — I love my morning weekend ritual of brunch on my balcony (the aforementioned sourdough is a star feature), the newspaper (the Good Weekend quiz is a must) and a second coffee made in my trusty Nespresso Virtuo.
1:50pm — La Niña has held out and it's a gorgeous day. We've gone down to Balmoral and so fish and chips from Bottom of the Harbour ($16.50) are a given. Plus sparkling water ($3.50). $20
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6:00pm — My Uber driver, Hamza, has arrived to pick me up and gives me five stars after I pay $23.49 for my trip from North Sydney to Paddington. $23.49
6:30pm — Girls' dinner tonight and we're going to an old favourite that honestly gets better with age (10 William Street). We order basically one of everything and end up splitting the bill between us. It comes to $93 each and I round it up to $100 (including a tip). It’s a group of five of us who have worked together as a team for the better part of two years. We’re a bit of a squad and this particular night is a farewell for one of us who is moving to a different company. We don’t wear pink on Wednesdays, and you can sit with us, but no guarantees you can decipher some of the shit we talk about. $100
10:00pm — The night is not over — hot and humid vax summer is upon us in Sydney! We make our way to The Unicorn. Classics are playing and I get shouted two rounds and pay for a round for five girls — $35.50.
12:45am — Selem, thank you very much for dropping me home. Five stars, mate. $18.75
1:10am — Skincare routine complete (you bet your Money Diary I double cleanse no matter what time it is) and a Panadol downed in preemption of tomorrow's hangover.
Daily Total: $209.74

Day Seven

10:01am — Sleep in.
10:30am — Nespresso Gran Lungo is piping.
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11:30am — Meeting a girlfriend for brunch and we've found ourselves with about 43 other cheugy millennials and another 87 'food bloggers' in the line at Bills.
1:00pm — After his famous scrambled eggs and toast ($16.50) with spring greens ($4.50) and avocado ($6.50), a shared plate of his even more famous ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter ($25.50 split between two, so $12.75 my half) and a long black ($4.60), I'm left not at all surprised that most of us can't afford to enter the housing market. $44.85
3:10pm — I go for a walk to Cremorne Point and take a dip at McCallum Pool. I'm pretty sure the fluffiness of Bills' pancakes is all that's keeping me afloat right now.
5:30pm — After a shower and face mask (Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant, aka a facial in a tube), I'm at Woolies for my weekly shop.
6:30pm — My rewards card has clocked points for the $185 worth of groceries and this will last me all week (including some of my ad hoc necessities like dishwashing liquid and toilet paper). $185
7:15pm — I make a quick pasta for dinner — a creamy one-pot pasta with peas and mint (thank you Bon Appetit) — and add some grilled asparagus on the side, because *greens* and marvel at how cheap this was compared to brunch, as delicious and perfect as that was.
8:40pm — I've decided that Denada's best flavour is Vanilla & Almond.
Daily Total: $229.85
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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