Money Diaries

A Week In Fairlight, Sydney, On A $86,000 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 penny.
Currency written in AUD
Occupation: Producer
Industry: Media
Age: 29
Location: Fairlight, Sydney
Annual Salary: $86,000
Net Worth: $139,000 ($870,000 in home value, $70,000 in equity ($140,000 total, but this is equally shared with my partner), $20,000 in savings, $49,000 in super).
Debt: $403,000 ($365,000 on my mortgage, $38,000 in HELP debt).
Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $2,343.00
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1347 (My partner pays the other half of our monthly repayment; also $1347).
Student Loans: $430
Utilities: $318 ($636 total, but split with my partner)
Sponsor Child: $30 ($60 total, but the other half is paid by my sister)
Public Transport: $50
Yoga Membership: $150
Hustl Membership (Online Workouts): $21.75
Private Health Insurance (Extras Only): $16
Phone: $13 (Prepaid in bulk every six months)
Netflix: $6 (This is a family account, paid annually)
Home Fund: $600 (This is for groceries, home improvements, and anything we need for the house. My partner also chips in $600 a month.)

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

Yes, I went to uni for five and a half years. For my uni fees, I used the government HELP/HECS scheme. I worked all throughout uni, with the exception of the year I lived overseas, which was a compulsory part of my degree. While there, I received $12,000 from the government for living expenses (which I was able to put towards paying off HELP/HECS debt), and I was really fortunate that my dad paid my rent for that year ($400 a month — much cheaper than Sydney!). When I got back and moved out of home, I was eligible for Centrelink as a student. That money covered my rent, and I worked in retail for a few hours a week for my day-to-day expenses. 

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

I feel like my parents did a lot of teaching by doing when it came to finances. Both of my parents had secure jobs and fairly good salaries, from what I understand. But they were still conservative with their money, and never just bought us exactly what we wanted 'just because'. Presents were saved for birthdays and Christmas — we didn't often receive toys and other random things we asked for throughout the year unless it was something we really needed for school, or clothes as we outgrew them. In this way, I feel like I built good spending habits. It also encouraged me to get a job when I was young so I could buy the 'unnecessary' things I wanted, like makeup and clothes.
When I was in the middle of high school, my dad was made redundant from his high-paying technology job and moved into the not-for-profit sector with a reduced salary. At this point, my parents discussed with us that while we didn't have money problems, we would be cutting back on a few things, like the takeaway meals we would get once a week, and my mum's magazine subscriptions. From examples like this, I feel that they taught me to live within my means.

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

Collecting and delivering brochures around the local neighbourhood when I was 14. I wasn't able to work a proper job at that point as I was under 14 and 9 months, but I wanted some sort of income to start buying things for myself (like going to the movies with friends!).

Did you worry about money growing up? 

No, we were fortunate that our parents never let on if they were worried about money.

Do you worry about money now? 

Sometimes. This year I bought my first property with my partner, after spending six years saving for the deposit. I can comfortably pay off my mortgage (I was adamant that we didn't borrow an unreasonable amount!), but now I'm working towards building up my savings again. This is so I'll still be able to make mortgage repayments without too much stress if I happen to find myself without a job. This can be a little bit stressful, but for the most part, I just try to keep my spending within my budget and I'll eventually reach that goal.

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

I became financially responsible for myself when I moved out of home for the last time at age 22. (I'd previously moved out for a year while studying overseas, then when I was back in Australia, I moved home for five months). I'm fortunate that I know my dad will support me if something drastic happens and I find myself without any money. However, I haven't wanted or needed to ask him for money, apart from a couple of times when I was overseas when I asked him for a loan of $1000.

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

I received $2 a week of pocket money when I was growing up, which increased to $5 when I reached high school. When my mother passed away, I received some of her valuable jewellery — but these are sentimental and not items I want to sell. I received a few hundred dollars from my aunt when she passed away too, and believe I might receive some inheritance when other family members (my grandparents and father) pass away — but this hopefully won't be for a very long time.

Day 1

7:30am — It’s a Sunday morning, and my partner is still sleeping as he came in late last night. I get up and potter around the house for a bit — I tidy up and clean, do a workout, watch a TV show, and listen to some podcasts. My partner and I bought an apartment together this year (we moved in a couple of weeks before the last lockdown), and weekends are very much about cleaning up the mess we’ve made around the house during the week. It’s great having our own space now and saying goodbye to the sharehouse life, but it's way too easy to leave my crap all around the place now!
11:00am — My partner finally wakes up, and the chill start to the day continues. I have a little nibble on yoghurt and berries at home for brekky, then we drive to the beach for a coffee ($4.50) and a swim. $4.50
12:00pm — When we're home, my partner makes a banana smoothie for his breakfast. He pours me a little glass which gets me through till my late lunch. My hanger is terrible to behold — he knows me well and how we gotta play it safe. I drop him at his cricket game and get ready for lunch with a friend.
3:00pm — I drive to the Inner West and have a late ramen lunch with a friend who's just arrived back from living overseas. We met at uni and I haven’t seen her in real life since November 2019, so it's great to see her. We’ve spoken sporadically over the COVID years, but not super regularly, so we had a lot of life to catch up on — relationship changes, job changes, life plans, all of that. The last time we hung out, we went to this same ramen place, so it was like coming full circle and no time had passed! I drink an IPA beer and eat a big bowl of vego ramen ($31.20). Lunch wasn’t enough time for a couple of years’ worth of catching up, so we walk down the road to the local brewery and have another beer ($10) while rain pelts down outside — it's so nice and cosy. $41.20
6:00pm — On the way home, I stop into the supermarket and do a light grocery shop for dinner (which will be ravioli and pesto) and pick up some extra brekky bits and bobs (bananas and more berries) for the morning ($10 total). We tend to do smaller shops based on the day and during the week depending on how much we’ll be home. This week ended up being a busy one with us being out every night, so we probably won’t do too much shopping unless we really need something. $10
7:00pm — Aaaaaand like clockwork, once I get home I can't be bothered to make the pasta for dins (despite it being the easiest ever!). Instead, I nibble on crackers and dip while watching Shameless on Netflix, which I recently started watching from the start. I’m still not sure if I even like the show, but the characters really seem to grab me… and considering I watched everything else I could possibly think of during lockdown, I’ll probably keep going with it.
Daily Total: $55.70

Day 2 

7:00am — I’m still working from home, so every weekday I try to get up between 6:30 and 7am so I can try to do something productive before sinking into my office chair for eight hours. This morning, I get up and walk straight to the coffee machine. My partner was gifted a coffee machine — milk frother and all — recently, and it’s a lifesaver. We used to have a cold brew or Aeropress coffee at home, and it just wasn’t the same as a coffee out. Now I feel like we have our own little cafe in the kitchen! I don't manage to do much else this morning — Mondays amiright? I always feel a bit ick when I don’t exercise in the mornings because of working from home — every day’s kinda the same. I make a banana smoothie for brekky, which is my partner and I’s go-to when we’ve been lazy and haven’t made granola.
8:30am — I sit down at my desk and start the day! Teams meetings galore.
11:00am — I love a mid-morning cup of tea and treat — today it's a Tim Tam to get me through.
12:30pm — For lunch, I make that pasta that I was too lazy to cook last night. My partner has a nibble of it too. For lunches, I’ll normally have either meal prepped food, leftovers from the night before, or I’ll make something super easy that doesn’t take too long. My partner and I try to eat together when we’re home, so we normally end up doing the same thing for lunch and dinner.
2:30pm — I do an online workout with Hustl to sweat a bit and get the body moving. Hustl is an online platform for HIIT and Pilates, based in a studio in Byron Bay. A friend found, loved and recommended their online classes during Covid, and after doing a trial, I found I really liked it. The classes really motivating and cheap, and I obviously don't live in Byron Bay, so it's a great way to do classes from so far away. Before Covid, I wasn’t into workouts at all. But during this latest lockdown, I finally signed up for something ongoing instead of doing random classes online or Zoom workouts with friends. My auto payment for the month was taken out of my own account today, too ($21.75, covered in my monthly expenses).
4:30pm — I finish work, have a quick shower and start getting ready for dinner at my dad’s place. We normally see each other at least once a month, if not more frequently. My dad and his wife live in the Hills District, and my brother and sister have moved out of home now, but also live in that area. It isn't super close to my place, but we try to do at least one meal as a family on the last Sunday of every month. I’ve only seen my dad and his wife a couple of times since lockdown finished, and I have to pick up some keys from their place, so we thought we’d combine it with dinner too.  
5:00pm — We leave home and stop in at Mecca along the way. My partner is hunting down a specific perfume he wants to buy his mum for her birthday, but we have no luck. We head to my dad's place and enjoy some Mediterranean-style wraps for dinner, and I pick up the keys to my grandmother’s holiday apartment in Port Stephens, where I’ll be going next week for my birthday! Being another Covid year, and suspecting everything would book out way in advance and be super expensive, I thought this would just be a nice chill way to celebrate my birthday. Organising something just seemed like a headache this time, if I’m honest! We were super lucky to have this apartment growing up, and we used to come up every year as a family, so I’ve always loved being up there, going to the beach and exploring the national parks around. 
8:30pm — I arrive back home from dinner and pay the electrician’s invoice for some work he did on our house last week. We'd only contacted him a week before and he just so happened to be free at that time, which was lucky. He was at our place for a full day, replacing almost all of our lights. It’s the first time we’ve done anything major to our new place. The lights were all reaaalllyyy old and dark, so it was time to replace them. We put in LEDs, which are hopefully a lot more environmentally friendly than the 20-year-old ones we had before. It was a somewhat unexpected cost that we hadn't had much time to save for, so I took most of my half ($860.50) out of my savings, which pains me, but it was necessary. Moving forward, I probably need to re-jig my budget so I have this sort of money handy. We’re keen to replace our fly screens, convert a cupboard into a bookshelf, and get a new toilet (the current one is wood and I hate it). $860.50
Daily Total: $860.50

Day 3

5:30am — My alarm goes off, and I haul myself out of bed to my 6am yoga class which charges me $20 if I don’t show up. It’s a good kick in the butt for me. I drive for 5 minutes to the studio and sweat it out for an hour.
7:00am — I drop off a library book that was due — Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. It was great — so much so that I’ve added it to my list of books to buy. I like using the library to read books that are on my list, and then I only buy ones I really like and would like to read again. Saves a lot of space that way too — I grew up with loads of books in the house and used to have to lug boxes and boxes of them around every time I moved. I did a big cull a couple of moves ago, so it’s a bit more manageable now, and I only have books that I know I’d like to read again or would recommend to a friend. I drive home and make a coffee plus scrambled eggs on toast for brekky.
8:30am — Today’s another busy workday full of meetings, so I'm pretty much talking to colleagues for most of the morning. A lot of my job involves talking to many different teams across the organisation I work for, so I end up having lots of chats with people each day.
10:30am — My usual work is interrupted by a virtual panel talk for uni students about my job, which is fun and something different in my day. I’d responded to a shout out in an industry Facebook group and after chatting to my manager, we decided it was something I should do for career development and practice. There were two other panellists and it was fun to hear from them about our industry and bounce around ideas with each other in real-time. I’d definitely like to do something like that again!  
12:30pm — I put down the tools for a quick lunch of leftover pasta, then head back to the desk for the rest of the afternoon.
5:30pm — Work is done! I drive to a pub in the next suburb over to meet a friend for dinner. We have pizza ($27) and a couple of beers each ($18), which were yum. $45
8:00pm — I leave the pub and pick up boyf’s Zeus Street Greek wrap that he’s ordered for dinner. It’s his favourite takeaway when he can’t be bothered to cook (there’s a lot of that this week!), and I’m not a huge fan of it, so he orders from there when I’m out or not eating with him. We watch Red Notice on Netflix together and hit the hay.
Daily Total: $45

Day 4

7:00am — The usual groundhog day routine — up around 7am, have a coffee and a smoothie, and then head to my desk pretty much straight away. Work has been hectic this week and I feel the need to start early. I’m pretty keen to get back into the office to mix up the routine a bit and work in a different environment, but management at work is playing it safe and waiting until the new year for more people to head back into the office.
12:00pm — We've been really lazy with the groceries this week. Normally we try to do meal prep on a Sunday night — something like a big roast veggie salad or a stir-fry to reheat. I’m a vegetarian and have been for about eight years — for a few different reasons including environmental, animal cruelty and cost. I find that being vegetarian really cuts down on grocery costs. I also never really loved the taste of meat, so it was easy for me to stop eating it. My partner usually just eats vegetarian with me, but sometimes he might buy some fish or chicken and add it to whatever we’ve cooked for himself. But this week, we’ve both been so busy and have social stuff on every night, so we kinda gave up on the groceries! I scrounge around the house for things to eat and find eggs in the fridge and frozen roti in the freezer. So I have an easy cheese scrambled egg roti wrap, which was surprising yum. I’m a huge fan of breakfast foods for lunch though. 
5:00pm — I finish work and get ready for dinner. It’s my birthday next week, and my partner is taking me out for an early celebration. Well, he claimed it was for my ‘birthday month’, but I think he just wanted to check out a new restaurant in the area.
5:30pm — We go out for a pre-dinner drink at a bar and have one schooner each before heading to our 6pm dinner booking. We share a beer, have a cocktail each (I get one of those bubble ones you see on Instagram all the time ‘cause I’m basic), and a glass of red each too. The food is so yummy — it's a share-plate Modern Australian style, made even yummier because my partner shouted it. Maybe I can get on board with ‘birthday month’ after all.
8:00pm — A new gelato place just opened up around the corner from the restaurant that I want to try, so we walk over and get a scoop each — I think it's my turn to pay after my boyfriend got dinner ($13). We head home and my partner is in a food coma, so he goes to bed almost as soon as we're home. I binge a couple more eps of Shameless and read a bit of my book (Sally Rooney’s new one) before going to sleep. $13
Daily Total: $13

Day 5

6:30am — I get up nice and early, and head to a nearby French bakery for when it opens at 7. I want to buy some cake for my partner’s mum’s birthday today so she can have a treat for morning tea. I was going to bring the cake to the city tonight for a dinner we're having with them, but figure it would be too hard to transport it all the way over. I drop the cake off and come home for my regular morning coffee before starting work.
9:30am — I have a late light breakfast as I'm still quite full after our date night dinner. I finish off the last of the yoghurt and blackberries (really scraping the barrel this week with food) during a work meeting.
10:30am — In between meetings, I try to do a Hustl workout, before realising that I’ve done the same one before. I immediately lose all motivation and stop 12 minutes in. I've still managed to work up a good sweat though.
1:00pm — For lunch, I again have my roti egg wrap combo because that’s all I can find in the house (plus, it wasn't so bad the first time!).
5:00pm — I head down to Manly to meet my partner, who has been at a work meeting nearby. We get the ferry together into the city, then Uber up to Darlinghurst for a pre-dinner drink. He pays for this on his work account which he's occasionally able to do when he's just left a work event, which he did today. We meet his family here, have a couple of cocktails each ($40), and open presents. Today is my partner’s mum’s birthday, and we often end up celebrating mine at the same time too. We got his mum a massage voucher, perfume, and some choccies. His parents buy me Hamilton tickets (so keen!) and his brother and fiance give me some wine and the new Ottolenghi cookbook, Shelf Love. Feeling very loved and spoilt! We walk to the restaurant, where we have dinner and a few bottles of wine (shouted by my partner and his brother, which is super lovely). We walk a bit and share an Uber home with his brother and partner. I chip in $20 for the trip. $60
Daily Total: $60

Day 6

6:30am — This morning, I have to pack because we're driving up the coast in the evening! I manage to pack some food and all my clothes for next week. I can’t wait to get out of Sydney and hopefully chill a bit while we're away — swimming, walking, eating... all the good holiday things! We’ll be gone for two weekends and the week in between — we have a couple of friends coming up this weekend, and the next weekend I'll have a group of school friends coming up.  
8:00am — My partner makes me coffee and a smoothie, and I jump into the study for my day working at home.
3:00pm — I manage to clock off a bit early, finish the packing, and get on the road by 4pm. We run into horrific traffic out of the city, plus a little bit extra due to a crash on the freeway, but still manage to get there with plenty of time to enjoy ourselves.
7:00pm — We meet a couple of friends at a brewery, drink a few beers, and eat pizza ($36). These friends are from the UK, but have been up to Port Stephens before so we speak to them about what they did last time and what new things we should show them over the weekend. $36
8:30pm — We get to the apartment and have a few drinks that we’ve brought up, and start playing Telestrations, which is a lot of fun. It’s kind of like the whispers game, where the original message is misconstrued, but it includes drawing too. My friend gives me a huge box of Butter Boy Bakes cookies, and now I’ll be eating huge sugary cookies for the next few days. No complaints — just sugar highs!
Daily Total: $36

Day 7

8:00am — Get up to my partner and friend banging on the door because they’d gone for an early run and had forgotten the key. Not happy! We get up and slowly get ready to head out.
10:00am — We drive into town to a café for brekky. After a short wait for a table, we sit down and order. I'm stinging for a coffee, and I also order some sambal scrambled eggs — it’s the week of spicy eggs for me! ($28) While I'm out, my sister reminds me to transfer $30 to her for our sponsor child, which she does every month because she knows I’ll forget otherwise! We first signed up about four years ago with Compassion, and support a child in Uganda, with the funds going towards her schooling and making sure she has all the clothes, stationery, books, and food she needs to complete her education. We grew up sponsoring children — my parents always emphasised that it was important to share what we had wherever possible, and my sister and I wanted to keep it going. 
11:00am — We head back to the apartment and get ready for a walk. We end up walking for ages because I took us the wrong way — oops! We grab a coffee ($5) to keep us going, and then hike up the local mountain, Mount Tomaree. It has glorious views of the ocean and the entire area. We notice that the mountainous area around makes it look like we're in Thailand or Vietnam. We can’t quite travel overseas yet, but having places like this so close makes that not so bad.
2:00pm — Back down the bottom of the mountain, and we walk to the local pub for a beer and a feed ($30 each). My partner and I share a pumpkin salad and some chippies (he has fish too). $30
3:00pm — Continue our walk and chill for a while — the ladies reading, while the guys insist on watching cricket. My partner is a huge cricket fan (and likes to think he can play, too), so we often end up with games on in the background of whatever we’re doing. Yep, even on the phone while we’re out! The others attempt a swim, but I stay back — it’s been rainy for the past couple of days, and I’m definitely a hot weather swimmer only.
5:00pm — Arrive at the apartment and crack open a bottle of wine on the balcony and enjoy the view. We book in some wineries for a trip the four of us are doing to Adelaide and the surrounding wine regions in December. It’s the third time we’ve tried to go, with border closures cancelling it every other time! The other couple we're staying with isn’t from Australia, so now that we’re able to travel again, they’re jet setting almost every weekend and trying to make the most of it. We’ll also be going to the Ashes one night, so the cricket theme of my life will continue there. 
6:30pm — We walk to the bar across the road for a couple of cocktails each ($36). We spot kookaburras and dolphins while chilling there — it's such a great spot. There weren't many restaurants or bars in Nelson Bay for such a long time, so it’s cool seeing more and more pop up in great places. $36
8:00pm — We head into town and go to the local pub for snacks ($33) and drinks ($20). It turns out there is some live music there, with some all-round good vibes, so we end up staying until 11 before walking home. $53
12:00am — Roll into bed after having another bev at home. It's been a great night out with friends, and a fun way to finish quite a busy week. I'm definitely going to need a little rest in the week ahead to recover!
Daily Total: $119
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