Money Diaries

A Week In Sydney’s North Shore On A $154,000 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 recruitment consultant who lives at home and makes $154,000 a year spends some of her money on Lanolips Tinted Lip Balm.
Occupation: Recruitment Consultant
Industry: Technology
Age: 22
Location: North Shore, Sydney
My Salary: $154,000
Net Worth: $64,289 ($32,300 in savings, $12,300 in investments, $10,689 in superannuation and a car worth $9,000.)
Debt: HECS Debt — $18,000 remaining
My Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $7,807
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: I live with my parents so essentially for free, though I do pay 'board' through food and takeaway dinners.
Loans: I pay off my student loans automatically through work, which ends up being about $1,000 a month. I have no other loans.
Gym: $75
Health Insurance: $100
Phone Bill: $55
Stan: $20
Savings Contributions: $4,500 to $5,000
Advertisement

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

Yes, I completed a Bachelor of Social Science. Thankfully, my parents encouraged me to do this as soon as I left high school as I, a) wanted a gap year, and b) didn't want to go to university at all. In hindsight, I absolutely made the right decision. I graduated from my three-year degree just before I turned 21. It cost $21,491 in total, but I used a HECS loan.

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

One of the biggest things my parents drilled into my head growing up was 'quality over quantity'. They told me that when we were lying on our deathbed, we won't remember the designer handbags we bought, but we'll remember the holidays we took with our family. I was taught about saving as much as I could, while also having enough spending money to enjoy my life. As a child, I was fortunate enough to have amazing experiences — we travelled a lot, we often went to the theatre and we did lots of fun activities. It showed me the importance of spending time with your family and placing a higher value on experiences rather than material things. With that being said, if we needed new clothes, my parents would encourage us to invest in one or two good-quality pieces that would last a long time instead of buying lots of lower-quality items.
Advertisement

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

I first worked in my local cafe when I was 15. My parents encouraged me to get the job as they weren't paying me pocket money and I was getting to an age where I wanted more independence with my time and money.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, never. We were so privileged growing up that it never crossed my mind that we could go through financial hardship. If I remember correctly, my parents paid my brother and me $12 each in pocket money every week. I would usually spend this money on magazines. Although we were very conscious shoppers, we only really bought items if they were on special and we weren't allowed to buy things just for the sake of it.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, I am saving up for a house deposit. Because I get paid monthly instead of fortnightly, I often go through my 'leftover' money before the month ends, meaning I have to transfer it back out of my savings. As I get older, I'm also paying for more of my own things like health insurance, phone bills, monthly medicine (I have an autoimmune disease), food, transportation costs, the rising cost of petrol and a plethora of other things. I do have to remind myself that I am in an extremely fortunate position with my finances and I don't need to buy property anytime soon — I just want to.
Advertisement

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

Just before I turned 21 and got my first full-time job. I had to buy work-appropriate clothes, pay for public transport every day and buy my own food for the week. Yes, my family is still my financial safety net, although I don't want to have to rely on them.

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

I received $10,000 from my grandparents when I turned 21. This was a deal we had made a year prior, where if I saved $10,000 within a certain time period, they would match it. I also received $5,000 from my parents. Both sums of money went straight into savings.

Day 1

6:00am — Happy Friday! I make my way out of bed and get ready for work. I find a way to fly through my shower, makeup and hair routine, pack my bag, and I'm out the door by 6:30am.
7:00am — I hop on my train straight to Sydney City ($5) and get to my office building cafe. I order my usual small almond cappuccino ($4.70). $9.70
8:00am — Arrive at my desk and get started with work. I keep a box of porridge sachets in my drawer and get one of those out for breakfast. I bought the box a few weeks ago when it was on sale and it usually lasts me a few weeks, as I have a hybrid working arrangement so I'm not in every day.
Advertisement
11:00am — I've felt a little funny all week and put it down to my autoimmune disease and change in medication. I stand up and fall back down onto my colleague — that's embarrassing! I lay down on the beanbags and have a chat with my manager who ends up taking me to the doctor's downstairs. I get a quick checkup. My blood pressure is a little bit too high, but it's nothing too bad. I get told to drink a lot of water and rest, as well as make sure that I'm getting enough sugar in my diet. Then, I'm sent on my way. I pay $90, but $39.10 of this will be refunded to me by Medicare, so I really only spend $50.90. I jump into a cab and head home, which is thankfully paid for by work. $50.90
1:00pm — I get home and make myself some toast before I slump on the couch and watch some Ginny and Georgia on Netflix. To cure my boredom, I do a lot of research into my newly diagnosed autoimmune disease, Crohn's. These past few months have been tricky, as I’ve spent a lot of money on specialist appointments, procedures in hospital, follow-up appointments, new tablets and more. Since January, I think I've spent almost $3,000 purely on my health. Because I know this is going to be an ongoing cost for the foreseeable future, I attempt to write up a budget so I know when I’m due for medicine and how much it will all cost. A tablet I need to take twice daily costs me $45 each month, so I'll need to know when the money comes out.
Advertisement
3:00pm — I try to do some stuff around the house to help mum out before she gets home from work. I tidy the kitchen and feed the dog. My dog is a 60kg Rhodesian Ridgeback, so he eats a lot of food. I'm sure you can imagine the size of everything that comes out! He has a cup of biscuits, plus 600g of raw beef. He'll also eat our leftovers from dinner later (if there's any left!), and if he's still hungry later in the night, I'll give him a handful of cheese. After I feed him, I unpack the dishwasher, wipe the bench and empty the bin.
6:00pm — I get changed out of my comfy tracksuit and put on something more suitable. I opt for some chocolate brown ribbed pants from Glassons, a white turtleneck jumper from The Iconic, and a black leather jacket from Dotti to match my black leather ankle boots (also from The Iconic). I try to add a bit of colour by wearing my pink and red Marc Jacobs snapshot crossbody bag.
7:00pm — I head to my local RSL to meet my partner, my friend and her partner. Even though I'm not feeling great, I didn't want to cancel as it's so hard to find a day and time to all meet up. My lovely partner pays for my dinner — tofu Hokkien noodles and two lemon, lime and bitters. I end up not spending a cent and drive us back to my partner's place.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $60.60

Day 2

7:00am — After staying at my partner's last night, it's a quick wake up and rush home to get ready on time. It's Mother's Day tomorrow, so my Mum, brother and I are all heading out to a beautiful restaurant for lunch today, followed by tickets to Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 at the theatre. I take a quick detour at a Maccas drive-thru for some coffee ($14.05).
10:00am — I shower and get made up. My Mum and I leave the house and meet my brother at his apartment about 35 minutes away. We catch the train to the city together ($8.15).
11:50am — Arrive at our lunch destination. It's a beautiful restaurant in the heart of the city. We arrive ten minutes before our reservation, so we sit at the bar and have a drink (I have a mocktail). We eventually sit down and order some food — steak, olives, broccolini, potatoes, salad and more. It comes to $116 (minus the drinks). I pay using my card, but my brother reimburses me for the full amount shortly after, as I paid for our theatre tickets a while ago (which were almost $300!).
1:30pm — My brother heads off as Dolly isn't his thing. We say goodbye and I order an Uber for Mum and me to head to the theatre. They're doing some roadwork so it's a bit hard to find the car, but we eventually spot him. It's a Santa Fe, which is also our family car! $12.98
Advertisement
1:45pm — We arrive at the theatre. I decide that I feel like something sweet, so I line up and buy a box of Maltesers and a bag of peanut M&Ms ($14). As I'm heading to my seat, it's a bit dark and I end up dropping half of my Maltesers on the floor. Oh well, lucky I have my M&Ms as a backup! The show is amazing and really addresses important issues such as women in business and powerful positions. I’d really recommend seeing it — Mum and I loved it! We’re very similar in that we love anything that promotes female empowerment, while also having an excuse to dress up and go out. Looking around the theatre, I would say about 90% of the audience were women — there are lots of girl groups and grandma, mum and daughter outings. It's so nice to see. $14
5:30pm — We walk back to Central station and hop on the train to where our car is parked ($10.46). I'm thankful that Mum drove, as I'm running low on petrol. Little did I know at the time that my partner, who was driving my car while we were out, popped $40 of petrol in. Bless him! $10.46
7:00pm — Arrive home, have a stir-fry for dinner using ingredients Mum had bought earlier on. I'm in bed by 9pm because I'm exhausted!
Daily Total: $59.64

Day 3

8:00am — Happy Mother's Day! I wake up and wish Mum a great day but tell her not to expect anything today. But I can't help myself and head out to Coles to buy her favourite biscuits and some other special treats ($12.75). My partner buys me a coffee, which is lovely. $12.75
Advertisement
9:00am — Arrive home to my mum cooking some bacon and eggs for herself, my brother (who slept over last night), my partner and me. It's delicious and I'm very full.
12:00pm — I have a slow morning and eventually head over to my partner's house. We stop off at our local Westfield to grab food for the rest of the day. I can't help myself and run into Mecca. I grab some new Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser and a Lanolips Tinted Lip Balm (highly recommend — it's got SPF 30 in it, so you're hydrating your lips and keeping them protected from the sun. A two for one deal, in my eyes!). I also pick up my Mecca Beauty Loop box, which includes a Kylie Skin lotion sample and a Diptyque Eau Rose perfume sample. I love the smell but I can’t justify spending $207 on a full-sized product. I pay for my goodies ($35.95) and head to Woolies. $35.95
12:30pm — I buy some food for the rest of the day. It's nothing exciting — just some salad and tuna to go into our garlic and herb wraps. $14.55
1:00pm — Arrive at my partner's house where I lay down and catch up on some YouTube. I love watching beauty gurus test out new products and rate them. 16-year-old me desperately wanted to be a makeup artist after school, and there’s still a part of me that would love to go down that route. Some of my favourite YouTubers are Tati Westbrook, Laura Lee and ShaanXO. After a few videos, I decide that it's time for my Sunday afternoon nap.
Advertisement
5:00pm — I wake up and realise I've wasted another weekend afternoon asleep — when will I learn?! Oh well. I drive back home for dinner with my mum. We have a tofu stir fry, bulking up on the veggies. I try to eat mostly vegetarian where I can, and while my dad is overseas, my mum and I can do that as much as we like. During my nap, Mum headed out to Coles and meal-prepped in advance for the week. Both of us work until late in the day so we don’t have a lot of time to think about dinner. 
9:00pm — I sort out my clothes for tomorrow and pick my usual comfy jeans and my new Veja trainers. We're lucky that we can dress quite casually at work so I never worry too much about what to wear. I’m in bed by 9:30pm and fall asleep pretty easily, which is surprising considering I had a long sleep today.
Daily Total: $63.25

Day 4

6:00am — Boo, it's Monday. Wake up and get ready to go into the office and pick up my laptop. I'm still feeling not great since Friday, and I've exhausted myself from my weekend activities. #autoimmunediseaselife
6:37am — Hop on the train. $5.23
7:50am — Arrive at my office, say hi, and quickly pack up my things, say bye and head home. Back to the train station, I go! $5.23
9:00am — I'm a bit naughty and go through the Maccas drive-thru again. I'm hoping my almond cappuccino ($4.40) wakes me up so I can work from home properly. I also run into Coles to buy an avocado for lunch ($1.90). $6.30
Advertisement
9:30am — I'm home and quickly begin my workday. I sort through emails that have come through over the weekend, call the people I need to speak to and deliver an offer. As a recruiter in the tech industry, I find myself speaking to a lot of different people throughout the day. The first thing I normally do in a workday is call active job seekers — these are people who have updated their CV on Seek or LinkedIn, as well as people who've applied to my job ads. Once I’ve spoken to these potential candidates, I fix up CVs and write up sells before I send them across to my clients. 
10:30am — I have a quick look at my monthly billings to see what money I’ve brought into the company over the past month. I solely work with contractors, meaning if I place someone in a 12-month contract, I get a commission for the next 12 months. My job is amazing in that it has an uncapped commission structure, so the work you put in equals what you get paid. As I run a book of contractors, my commission is consistent and will be for as long as the contracts run. If I know someone is leaving early or a contract is going to end soon, I'm able to find a replacement and keep my book the same. I feel very lucky to be so young and earning a lot of money, though sometimes I do find it stressful as I place a lot of pressure on myself to make sure I never go backwards. 
Advertisement
1:00pm — It's my normal lunchtime, however as I started work late, I decide to eat at my desk and work through my lunch break, munching on avocado and eggs on toast. We have seven chickens at home so we have fresh eggs every morning. Our girls are amazing and we normally get about two or three fresh eggs each day so we never run out. We have quite a large bit of land where they're free to roam during the day. As the sun sets, we lock them up in our DIY coop. We have a lot of bush turkeys that roam around as well, so we have to make sure they are separated as much as possible. 
6:00pm — I finally finish work and it's been a struggle. I'm not feeling any better, despite my numerous efforts with Panadol and Nurofen. I have a constant headache and I’m feeling dizzy, which in turn makes me quite nauseous. For me, having Crohn's means no two days are the same. My symptoms often start off with stomach pain which makes me tired, which leads to a headache, which leads to body aches — the cycle goes on! As it’s still very new to me, I regularly read through posts on a Facebook group for people with Crohn's to see if they have any tips or tricks on how to manage different symptoms throughout the day. 
6:30pm — Dinner is a meat pie with leftover veggies from our stir fry on the weekend. Delicious.
Advertisement
9:00pm — Bed! I watch TikToks for half an hour before I realise my headache isn't going to get any better, especially when 'my money don't jiggle jiggle, it folds' keeps popping up on my FYP.
Daily Total: $16.76

Day 5

7:30am — Wake up and get myself ready for work. We have our first Zoom call at 8am, so I need to look presentable. I feed the dog and the chickens, and have my eight (yes, eight) morning vitamins. My vitamin cocktail includes: two children's Vitamin C gummies, two Vitamin C and zinc tablets (all left over from when I had Covid), followed by two women's multivitamins to try and get in some iron, finished off with two collagen gummies in the hopes that I'll stay wrinkle-free forever!
8:00am — First meeting of the day. My team has a Zoom call three times a week to catch up on the work we’ve done and our plans for the next day, as well as targets we want to hit. For example, this could be organising three interviews, finding new clients, or closing a deal. It all goes well and I head to the kitchen to make some brekky.
9:00am — I pop the other half of yesterday's avocado and some fresh eggs on toast. I make a homemade coffee with our coffee machine. I get back to work.
1:00pm — It's lunchtime and I'm struggling with my nausea and dizziness. I text my manager that I feel too unwell to work for the afternoon. I book in the last available time slot with my doctor — 9:45pm! It will be a late night, but I need some relief. I’m hoping the doctor can prescribe me something to take away the nausea and check that my blood pressure is back to normal.
Advertisement
3:00pm — I decide that retail therapy is the only way to fix my problems. I buy a dress from Zara and a pair of boots from Famous Footwear. Oops! $175.95
6:00pm — I have vegan chicken tenders for dinner with some vegetables. Mum and I sit down and watch the final four episodes of Selling Sunset, managing to cry during the reunion. We love Chrishell and Jason so much, but can't take a liking to the new girl Chelsea, especially as she's Christine's ally! My favourite is Mary, and I love how open the girls are with their fertility journeys. As a woman, it’s so important for these things to be spoken about, especially as women’s issues are still very taboo. My biggest goal in life is to eventually start my own family, so I admire Chrishell and Jason for openly communicating and realising that being together won’t help them reach their goals. 
8:30pm — My doctor calls me to let me know that they've had a cancellation and I can come in at 9:30pm instead of 9:45. Sounds good to me!
9:30pm — I see my trusty doctor. I wear my Ugg slippers as I don't think anyone's going to be out at this time of night on a Tuesday, but boy, am I wrong! My blood pressure and heart rate are relatively normal, so there's no real reason that explains the dizziness and nausea. My doctor also uses the stethoscope to check that I have no chest infection hiding away (thankfully, I don't). I get given a new script for an anti-nausea medicine but the chemist is shut so I'll have to pick it up tomorrow. My doctor's visit is bulk billed so I don't have to pay a cent.
Advertisement
10:00pm — Finally get home and hop into bed. Good night!
Daily Total: $175.95

Day 6

7:30am — I wake up and get ready for my 8am Zoom call. It's the same morning routine as yesterday, although I don't have any brekky this time as I'm not super hungry.
9:00am — Mum has left me a note this morning as she needs bread and milk. I run up to the shops, script in hand, grabbing some groceries ($15.85) and my medicine ($14.95). $30.80
1:00pm — It's lunchtime. I decide to make my trusty oats — frozen berries in the microwave, topped with rolled oats, almond milk and cinnamon. I definitely poured too many oats in my bowl as I'm really struggling to finish it.
6:00pm — An evening of FaceTime before I leave to see my partner. First, I speak with Dad who has travelled to England to see his parents. It's a little tricky because of the time difference, but we make it work. Next, I FaceTime my nan who is stuck in Adelaide with Covid. I teach her how to download UberEats, which is fun. While I'm doing this, I shove a sausage sandwich into my mouth, grab my keys and run out the door. 
7:00pm — Arrive a few minutes later at the train station — my poor partner has been standing in the rain. The train station is so poorly signed that I never know where I can pull over that won’t get me fined. We go straight to Coles so he can buy his dinner. I don't eat as I'm pretty full from my sausage sandwich. He buys meat pies and I see some dulce de leche pudding on sale for 75c each. How could we say no to that?! He pays for my share — I don’t think he’d ever ask me to transfer him 75c!
Advertisement
7:15pm — We get back to his house and I wait patiently for him to eat his dinner so I can whip out the pudding. It’s nice, but probably a bit too rich for me. Either that or we needed some ice cream to go with it. We play some Bondi Rescue for background noise. 
9:00pm — I watch some Youtube, which includes some product reviews of trending TikTok products. I love watching these as I reckon they save me quite a lot of money in the long run. Good night!
Daily Total: $30.80

Day 7 

7:00am — Wake up at my partner's house (all alone, as he leaves at 4:30am for work!) and I quickly get dressed and head off.
7:15am — Maccas drive-thru again. How did I end up here?! I get my standard almond cap. $4.40
8:00am — First meeting of the day and I get stuck into it. I decide I'm not hungry enough for breakfast so I wait.
9:00am — I get a call from my mortgage broker. I'm planning to buy a house before the end of the year, so we've been working together to get a better understanding of my borrowing capacity, plus what I need to save for the deposit and stamp duty. It looks like I'll need roughly $60,000 more cash before I can buy a house. I think I need to stop my coffee addiction! I'm planning on buying a two-bed, two-bath apartment and my maximum budget is $750,000. I’m looking around Epping, Carlingford and Chatswood as that's in between my current home and work, which is in the city. I've started going to house inspections so I can get a feel for what I do and don’t want. What I do know is that I need aircon as well as an open-plan kitchen and living area. I don’t want to feel closed off in any way.
1:00pm — Fresh eggs on toast for lunch. While I'm on my lunch break, I decide to treat myself to 'the' shower. You know the one where you wash your hair, exfoliate, shave your legs and put on a face mask? I've started to invest in better hair and skin products, so now I love the idea of long showers and washing my hair. I sit down and blow-dry my hair and realise that my Olaplex no. 3 is running low, making a mental note to add it to my shopping list.
2:00pm — Back to work, which sees me through until 6pm. Our afternoons are usually spent doing business development, so I call existing and future clients, map out businesses and get my LinkedIn up to date with the job vacancies I have. 
6:00pm — Dinnertime and we have leftover spaghetti bolognese. Usually, Mum or Dad will make a big batch and freeze whatever's left, so we can come back to it when we have no energy to make something new. Mum and I watch Our Father on Netflix which is a documentary about a terrible doctor in the United States. It’s a really interesting watch, but it’s also super confronting. It makes me appreciate the amazing healthcare system we have here in Australia.
9:20pm — I finally head to bed after another long day. I watch TikTok for about an hour before I put on a podcast and drift off to sleep. I often listen to She’s On the Money for financial advice, or Vicky Pattison: The Secret To if I want something a bit more light-hearted and motivational. 
Daily Total: $4.40
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.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series

Advertisement