Money Diaries

A Week In Melbourne’s Inner North On A $170,200 AUD 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.
Today: a programmer who makes $170,200 a year spends some of her money this week on Aje crop tops for her mum and sister.
Occupation: Programmer / Team Lead
Industry: Fintech
Age: 30
Location: Melbourne Inner North, Victoria
Salary: $170,200
Net Worth: $137,900 ($85,400 in savings, $19,100 in a mutual fund, $25,400 in index funds and $8,000 in company stocks.)
Debt: $0. I've paid off my HECS.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $9,313
Pronouns: She/Her/They/Them

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,643. I rent a studio apartment in Melbourne CBD.
Netflix: $16.99
Spotify: $11.99
Disney+: $11.99
Phone: $40
Internet: $70
Apple iCloud: $1.99
Water: $40
Gas: $40
Electricity: $60
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Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

I went to university and graduated with a Bachelor's degree. During university, I worked a casual job in retail to pay for my day-to-day expenses, usually earning anywhere between $250 - $450. I was lucky as I lived at home. I paid a small amount each week for board and helped cover some of the groceries. For the degree itself, I took out a HECS loan, and managed to pay this off last year.

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

Growing up, the household income was very volatile. Big bursts of money would come in, then it might be a while before we'd have any money come in again. As a single parent, Mum knew how to save. But she also really enjoyed treating herself to nice things.

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

My first job was at a bakery. I got it through some family friends and was the minimum age required to be employed. I got paid $5 an hour and made $20 a week. As we were poor immigrants, that made a world of difference! $20 would cover my lunch for the week and then some. I was very proud to be a participating member of the household.

Did you worry about money growing up?

A little bit. Mum told us stories about her early life and money scarcity — everything from spending her childhood escaping a war, to being down to her last dollar as she was about to give birth to me. When we were children, she was honest when money was a bit tight. She was also effectively a single mum, so there was always some concern.
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Do you worry about money now?

I don’t worry about my day-to-day expenses now — I feel like I earn enough to cover my needs (and some of the things I want). Financial wellbeing wasn't a big conversation growing up, so I feel like I'm not amazing at managing my money. I love splurging and spending money, so my biggest fear is that I'm really irresponsible with it, especially given my income. I'm concerned that people on the same income as me have a much higher savings rate than I do. Lifestyle creep is a thing!

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

I was 21 when I became completely financially responsible for myself. My safety net is my savings, but I also have some friends that I know could help me if I needed it.

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

None. I wish!

Day 1

7:30am — On Saturdays, I like to wake up early and go to the fresh food market. My mornings always start with a coffee of some kind. Today, it's a soy latte ($6). I head to the organic food section. It's not because I think I need everything organic, but I do like the variety there. Plus, it's a bit quieter than the rest of the markets. I grab some tomatoes, cucumbers and berries ($19.35). Next up, I hit the deli and get some antipasto ($13.21). $38.56
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8:15am — On the way home, I swing past Woolies to get some shelf staples ($15.75), as well as some waxing strips from Chemist Warehouse ($11.91). $27.66
1:15pm — I put on a load of washing in the communal coin laundry in my building ($4). As usual, Saturdays are full of errands to help set me up for the week. $4
3:30pm — I'm flying to Sydney to see my family for dinner. I bought my flights last week, but I still have to get to the airport. I jump on the SkyBus, setting me back $19.75. While I wait for my gate to open, I have a snack — a coffee and an eclair from Brunetti's ($13.95). $33.70
7:30pm —  We're in the sky, and before I know it, we've landed! My sister picks me up from the airport and we drive over to her house. Mum's made dinner. Nothing beats Mum's cooking! 
8:30pm — I help my sister with the kids' bedtime routine and read my nephew and niece their bedtime story. Then it's lights out!
9:00pm After dinner, my sister and I stay up chatting until late. I raid her bathroom for skincare and set myself up on her couch for the evening. Luxury!
Daily Total: $103.92

Day 2

6:35am — I wake up to the sound of my nephew and niece walking down the stairs. They're seeing if I'm awake so I can play with them. We hang out for a bit and I get them dressed for the day. It's fun hanging out with them and just doing normal, everyday things.
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8:00am — My sister and I decide to go for a little drive this morning to get breakfast with the kids. It's miraculously dried up after weeks of rain, so she's eager to get out. I pay for breakfast as a thank you for letting me stay with her ($95). Us adults get multiple coffees because the kids are very high in energy. $95
10:30am — I’m currently going through an obsession with the clothing brand, Aje. I’ve bought items from them every release! I ring Mum to see where she's at and ask her to meet us at the Aje flagship store in Sydney. My mum, sister and I all go absolutely crazy in store, trying on everything. We end up settling on some cute crop tops. Mum gets the same one as me — she absolutely rocks it! I foot the bill for the three of us — $465. My love language is definitely giving gifts. Just let me buy you things, please! $465
11:00am — We spend the morning wandering the shops before the kids get bored. We reluctantly head back to my sister's place to appease them.
1:00pm — Mum takes us out for lunch by the beach. We grab an Uber there (Mum pays), and have some food (Mum pays again). To say thanks, I pay for ice cream for the kids ($8). We grab an Uber back to my sister's house — I pay ($13.47). I miss living in Sydney sometimes — the coastline here is just unbeatable. $21.47
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5:00pm — It's time to head home. My sister drives me to the airport. While waiting for my flight, I spend some time debating between Macca's and Sumo Salad. I opt for Sumo Salad ($10.50). It leaves me unsatisfied. I head to my gate and see a cafe with a giant Wagon Wheel in the window. I buy it ($6). Ah, much better! $16.50
5:30pm — Leaving my family is always a bit hard. I need to make more of an effort to come back more regularly. Before the pandemic, I’d fly to see them frequently or they would come to me, but I haven’t seen them as much recently. We haven’t gotten back into the cadence of seeing each other regularly as things have opened back up. 
7:00pm — I land back in Melbourne. It's raining. I catch an Uber home — $56.93.
8:30pm — I'm back home! I throw my clothes from my suitcase into the laundry hamper and head into the shower to wash off the day. Most of my skincare routine happens in the shower. I'm loving the Youth To The People kale and green tea cleanser at the moment. When I get out of the shower, I slap on some Antipodes moisturiser. A two-step skincare routine is the only thing I can realistically stick to.
10:00pm — Excited to start the work week tomorrow, I jot down a to-do list. Otherwise, I'll be too excited to sleep. I'm working on a personal finance and budgeting tool. This aligns well with my values as I think financial literacy and independence are so, so important. Understanding the ins and outs of your money and staying educated on the topic is key.
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Daily Total: $654.90

Day 3

8:00am — Every day starts with coffee. I grab one on my way to the office ($5). My office is a 30-minute walk from my house. I’ve been going in four or five days a week as a way to connect with people. Recently, I've been trying to skip breakfast as a trial for intermittent fasting. It's one less thing to worry about in the mornings, especially when I already feel pressed for time. $5
9:00am — My work day starts with checking my inbox. There's nothing urgent in there today.
9:45am — Every morning we have a quick team check-in where we say hi to everyone on Zoom and see what everyone's focuses are for the day.
10:00am — I’m in meetings, organising the next bit of work. I chat to external stakeholders and learn about the project requirements, timelines and goals. I use this time to consult the broader team on what I think is achievable given the goals and the timelines, as we deliberate tradeoffs.
11:00am — Feeling a bit sluggish at my desk, so I go for a walk to get my colleagues some Haigh's chocolates for afternoon tea — $22.
11:15am — I review a spreadsheet for another ongoing project and answer some of the questions that are left there for me.
12:25pm — I find some colleagues to have lunch with. Today, we're getting brunch for lunch! I get the breakfast plate as it has a little bit of everything — eggs, sausage, a tiny croissant, toast and yoghurt! $26
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2:50pm — To beat the 3pm slump, I make a coffee in the work kitchen. I whip out the choccies I bought earlier and share them with some of my colleagues.
4:00pm — There's a technical issue with one of the products my engineering team is responsible for. I take the time to look into it and understand the root cause. I speak to some team members about my proposed solution to see what they think. 
6:30pm — I finish work and take the long way home so I can listen to a podcast.
7:00pm — Eating out is the default for me on most days. Given that I eat out a lot, I always at least attempt to eat in on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Those days usually have less social events on, plus I'm usually really tired anyway. Since I did a grocery shop on Saturday, I throw together a cold antipasto salad. I head to bed and tie off the evening with a few Digestives biscuits from the cupboard and herbal tea.
11:55pm — I fall asleep doing a crossword.  
Daily Total: $53

Day 4

7:00am — I start the day with an endless scroll on social media and do my Wordle.
8:26am — You know the drill — coffee time! I grab a soy latte from my local ($5).
9:30am — I scroll through my personal emails and see that the electricity bill has come in. I pay it — $56, covered in my monthly expenses.
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10:00am — I jump back into the technical issue from yesterday. My senior team members are happy with my proposed solution, so we get started on implementing it.
12:00pm — Lunch time! I head out with some team members and go to my favourite salad place. I get a peri-peri chicken salad — $13.50.
1:40pm — My job involves a mix of people management, project management and technical work. It's a fine art balancing all the priorities that come in throughout the day, but this also keeps the work deeply engaging. My days and weeks normally fly past! Today, I decide to review HR's career growth policies to understand what the philosophy is and how I can ensure my team are aligned with it. I want them to continue to grow their careers at the company.
3:00pm — I've powered through a bunch of meetings today, and the afternoon slump is hitting me hard. I bring back the energy with a doughnut ($5.50) and a cup of coffee from the office. $5.50
4:35pm — Some colleagues and I agree that we want to see a stand-up comedy show together tomorrow evening. We buy tickets for $45. At checkout, I'm asked if I want to add in cancellation insurance for $11. Sometimes my job requires me to be available outside of office hours, so there's always a tiny risk that I have to pull out of things to be available for support. With all the bugs at the moment, I feel like I'm on high alert, so I buy the ticket insurance. $56
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7:00pm — I potter home after work in no particular rush. I still have some stuff left over in the fridge and throw together another antipasto salad. I want a little bit extra, so I pop in a can of tuna from the cupboard.
8:00pm — In the evenings, I check the world news. I'm trying not to let all the news bum me out too hard, so I donate $100 to a humanitarian relief fund for the war in Europe. $100
11:45pm — I fall asleep listening to an audiobook. 
Daily Total: $236

Day 5

7:40am — I'm really proud of myself because I've nailed the 10-minute make-up routine recently. The key player in this is the Chantecaille Just Skin tinted moisturiser that I've recently been introduced to. It's so good!
8:30am — This morning, my mentor (and friend!) is coming into the office. I save my morning coffee for them, knowing that we'll have one together. They arrive and we head out — they pay for my coffee.
10:20am — My favourite heels broke, so last week I dropped them off at the cobbler, begging him to fix them for me. He told me that the outlook was grim, but I left them with him anyway to see what he could do. Today, I head out to pick them up. They charge me $65. Back in the office, I try them on. It seems like the fix didn't work. Defeated and sad, I put my original shoes back on. Even though it didn't work, I'm glad I tried. $65
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12:00pm — I watch the clock tick down to lunch. As soon as it hits 12pm, I ask my mentor what they feel like for lunch today. They suggest Japanese, as they don't have any decent places near their home, so we head out and get some bento boxes together. $18
3:00pm — My sweet tooth is calling! I head to a cake store and buy a slice of chocolate chiffon cake ($10.50). On the way back to the office, I pop into a pharmacy to buy a big tub of my favourite CeraVe moisturiser. I also grab the CeraVe facial sunscreen while I'm there because I'm curious about it ($47.98). $58.48
5:00pm — It's stand up comedy time! My colleagues want to get dinner before the show, and I'm feeling tacos. We leg it over to the taco place only to find that it's too busy. We pivot and get pizza instead. My colleague pays for our dinner — thanks!
7:00pm — We find our seats at the show and enjoy the laughs. It's nice to see something live after so long. I love it when the Melbourne Comedy Festival comes around!
8:20pm — The night is still young, so we decide to get a cocktail at a bar. Another colleague pays for a round.
10:30pm — I scroll on TikTok for an hour before grabbing an almond Magnum from the freezer. I finish the night watching a true-crime documentary on Netflix, The Worst Roommate.
Daily Total: $141.48

Day 6

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8:50am — I bounce out of bed and into the office, grabbing a coffee on the way ($5). $5
12:00pm — My morning flies past with everything I have to do. Today, the office is having catering in, so they bring some delicious pasta and salad. I pile my plate as sky-high as I can and grab a coke from the drinks fridge. The office provides us with a drinks fridge; everything from soft drinks to juices. 
1:00pm — This afternoon's focus is on the people in my team. I have one-on-one catch-ups to see how each person is doing and discover any challenges they're experiencing.
3:00pm — For today's afternoon tea, I raid the snack cupboard in the office. A protein ball and a small bag of chips will tide me over till dinner.
3:30pm — My manager has requested that I put together a presentation on all the work my team is planning on accomplishing over the next six months. I put together a few slides and timelines.
5:45pm — I leave the office in good spirits after a productive day, taking a detour to the shopping centre to see if anything catches my eye. It's always a risky move and I never know how much I might spend. Recently, I've been buying a lot of clothes and homewares, but I feel like I should slow down a bit. Still, this doesn't stop me from going in there.
6:10pm — David Jones is right there! I'm a bit early for my dinner plans, so I kill time and have a browse.
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7:00pm — Phew! I manage to survive a trip to the shops unscathed. Nothing has caught my eye, so my bank account is intact!
8:15pm — A friend from Brisbane is visiting. I’m bouncing off the walls in excitement to see her. We head to a Japanese hot stone BBQ place. They bring out a hot stone and you cook your food on it! I stay clear of alcohol for the night as yesterday’s beer was enough. We end up with four kinds of meats and waaay too much food. After nibbling on some dessert, we split the bill ($90), feeling so full that we could burst. $90
9:00pm — I peel off my clothes that smell like food and try to wash the smell out of my hair before heading into bed. 
Daily Total: $95

Day 7

7:30am — I see that Afterpay has withdrawn $43 overnight. I bought tickets to a Lorde concert that's still ages away (2023, to be exact), and wanted to spread the cost out a tiny bit, given that the concert isn't going to be for a while. Plus, it helps with tracking as I won't have a huge spike in my entertainment category. I tried to convince a friend to come with me, but no one was keen. I'm excited to go by myself, though! $43
8:00am — For today's make-up look, I decide to give my new Laura Mercier blush a try. The ginger shade is amazing and I'm in love.
8:40am — My toxic personality trait is that I leave the house at 8:42am in order to be at the office by 8:30am. I'm late, but I still get a coffee on the way ($5). I'm starting to feel a bit sluggish from everything this week. $5
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9:20am — A new team member who doesn't come in very often pops into the office. We banter all morning and have some coffee. It's nice to get to see people in person after spending so much time on video calls all day. I take the opportunity to just chat and get to know them a little bit better throughout the day. 
11:20am — We hit up the snack cupboard at work and try out some new protein balls, trying to tide us over until lunch.
12:00pm — A team member owes me lunch, so we get some takeaway burritos and bring them back to the office. I grab a juice from the drinks fridge. Delish!
1:30pm — I realise that I haven't paid my phone bill for the month, so quickly jump onto that. $40, covered in my monthly expenses.
3:15pm — I spend the afternoon reviewing some documentation around one of my ongoing projects. I'm really excited about this one as it's a feature around engaging people and helping educate them on some investment options. 
5:00pm — The clock hits 5pm, so I FaceTime a group chat of three friends and ask what they're up to for the evening. With another work week done and dusted, I want to decompress with them. They're both feeling lazy and want to order in, so I walk to one of their apartments and we all meet up. We order some dumplings and every side dish under the sun ($35 for my share). It's Friday, after all. We go wild and get some extra bok choy. $35
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Daily Total: $123
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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