Money Diaries

A Week In Sydney’s North Shore, On A $207,005 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.
Occupation: Software Engineer
Industry: Information Technology
Age: 31
Location: North Shore, Sydney, Australia
Salary: $207,005 (I have a base salary of $114,240, but my total income varies because my salary package includes equity and an annual bonus. This coming year is expected to be a total of $207,005.70, including super).
Net Worth: $825,248 (This includes my half of the house (approx $850,000), $85K in super, $275K in shares portfolio from my salary package, $20K of my own savings in our mortgage offset account, $7,220 of shares invested using the Sharesies platform, and a tiny amount ($528) that I play around with on the Spaceship micro-investing app. My partner and I share some of our expenses, like the mortgage, but this is my half of our net worth. We don't share any bank accounts.)
Debt: $825,000 remaining on our mortgage, split with my partner — my half is $412,500. I also have a credit card which I use to get frequent flyer points, but I only spend within my monthly budget and always have it paid off by the end of the month.
My Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $3,504
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $3,240, split with my partner so I pay $1,620 per month.
Phone: $30
Health Insurance: $128
Home Insurance: $136
Utilities: $200
Car Costs: $170
Dog Expenses: About $200 a month on average (this can be more when there are vet visits — and this is about to at least double with a new puppy arriving!).
Technology Expenses (such as email, cloud subscriptions, website domains, etc.): $35
Netflix: $10.99
Donations: $30 (plus more that is salary sacrificed)
Leftover Money: At the end of the month, my leftover money gets split between my mortgage offset account and being invested in shares. On average, this has been about $3,000, but I expect this to decrease with a new puppy in the house.

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

I have never attended university, but I did complete an Advanced Diploma in Hospitality & Event Management at TAFE after school. I have also done short boot camp style study at private establishments. 

I chose TAFE because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and it was affordable enough —  only a few thousand dollars at the time — and my parents could cover the cost. They couldn't afford to pay for me to attend university and I didn't want to go into debt for something I wasn't sure about.

Later on, I got a Diploma of Confectionery Art which cost about $10,000, and completed a 3-month coding bootcamp which cost about $15,000. Both of these were paid for upfront with savings.

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

My parents didn't talk about money in front of us kids very often — it was (and still mostly is) a taboo topic in our family. In my teen years, I became very conscious of money conversations between my parents as they carefully tracked where every dollar went. I realised we were on a very tight budget. The only advice that I remember from them was to always save money and pay off any debt as soon as possible.

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

My first job was at McDonalds when I was 17. I got the job so that I could afford to buy things that my friends had. My parents couldn't afford to buy me brand name clothes, or concert tickets, or a car, so my job allowed me to buy those things for myself.

Did you worry about money growing up?

I didn't worry as a child as money conversations were kept away from me, but I began to worry during my teen years. Not in the sense that I was scared I wouldn't have the essentials required to live — my parents always provided us with what we needed. But I worried about my mother’s independence as a stay at home mum with my father controlling the money. I also worried about being excluded from my friends because I couldn't afford to go out with them or wear the clothes that they wore.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes — although I have begun to feel much more comfortable in the past year as I started in a job with a much higher salary. I feel now that I have enough income that I can cover our expenses, and I can put away enough for future savings and investments. I know that if something were to go wrong, I would have enough of a safety net to fall back on.

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

I officially moved out of home at 24 and was entirely responsible for myself from that moment onwards. I moved to a bigger city where I was a bit overwhelmed by the increased living expenses. But I managed to just get by for the first few years, even though it was tight.

It wasn't until I changed careers to become a software engineer that things became a bit more comfortable. I was able to buy a house with my partner, and I now have a solid amount of savings and investments.

It's important to me to be able to support myself, so having a buffer of savings that I can access in an emergency is crucial. Where possible, I try to put a decent amount of money into both savings and investments each month. However, I do know that if I found myself in a tight spot, my family would help me out.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income?

I was very grateful to receive about $20,000 in total as an inheritance from two sets of grandparents. I initially invested this money in shares and managed to double the value to about $40,000! This helped my partner and I save for a deposit for our home.

Day One

6:00am — I wake up to feed my dog and let her outside. I quickly review what I need to get done today, both work and personally. I'm picking up a new puppy tomorrow, so I transfer $5,000 to the breeder and look at my sad bank account in despair. We have been on a waitlist for a Samoyed puppy with another breeder for about a year now and no puppies have been available. We were very lucky to enquire with another breeder a couple of weeks ago and expected to go on a waitlist — but they called us last week and said they had puppies now! Thankfully, I had some savings set aside for this — although it has happened much sooner than I expected! My week is going to be very busy, with a strong puppy focus. I end up going back to sleep for a while because it's Friday and I'm exhausted as I've had a huge week working long hours. $5,000
8:00am — Time to get out of bed, for real now. Work starts at 8:30, so I have half an hour to get ready for the day, tidy the house, and do my morning journaling. I recently picked up a cheap gratitude journal from Kmart and I'm trying to start my day by writing out a meaningful quote, three things I’m grateful for, and my to-do list for today, along with what I want to do tomorrow. At the end of the day, I add happy moments of the day. I end up running out of time to eat breakfast today.
8:30am — I'm a software engineer so luckily I can work from home, and am busy in my home office until lunch. I’m taking part in a women-only leadership course this morning, which runs until 12.30pm. It’s all about building confidence and learning how to perform at our best — it's quite motivating!
12:30pm — Time for lunch! I don't have a huge amount of food in the fridge or pantry at the moment, so I think about ordering something through MenuLog. But I realise that I might need to order dinner tonight if my partner is working late, and I can't buy takeaway twice in one day. I end up finding some frozen pork buns in the freezer and steam them for lunch. After eating, I spend the rest of my break with my dog. 
1:30pm — Back to work in my home office.
4:00pm — I'm starting to feel hungry so I eat some fruit. Normally I'd have more fun snacks, but we're trying to eat a bit healthier until Christmas so there's a very limited supply of junk food in the house!
5:00pm — I finish work and hang out with my dog. I'd normally be out walking with her, but she’s under vet instructions to stay quiet this week after she had eye surgery last week. She’s an older dog and is diabetic, so she had cataract surgery a couple of years ago and has just had complications with ulcers in her eyes. I'm wishing I’d got pet insurance when she was young — surgeries are expensive! 
7:00pm — I pick up takeaway from Grill’d ($24.90) with my partner. I have a voucher for a free burger thanks to a loyalty card, so our dinner was discounted. We try not to get takeaway for dinner more than once a week, and it often ends up being Grill’d because it’s close by and affordable. We head home to eat and watch Netflix until it's time for bed. $24.90
Daily Total: $5,024.90

Day Two

6:00am — Time to get up and feed the dog! But then I head straight back to bed for a nap — it's Saturday, after all!
7:00am — I'm getting up for real now, time to get ready for a big day. I'm feeling hungry, so I remind myself to pick up some bread from the shops later. I list an old Dyson vacuum cleaner for sale on Facebook Marketplace for $70 — hopefully it gets some bites!
8:00am — I have some errands to run, so off to the shops I go. First is a laser hair removal appointment. I get laser on my lip which is normally $20, but I pre-paid for a 10 pack when it was on sale, bringing it down to $10 per session. My underarms are only $12 per session and don’t get discounted, but I still bought a 10 pack so I don’t need to think about it each time. Because of this, I don't pay anything today! Next, I need to send a parcel off at the post office — I've been selling a bunch of things lately on Facebook Marketplace, but the buyer has covered postage so I'm not out of pocket. I also deposit $500 in cash from other sales that I've made. Then I'm off to pick up a dress at the dry cleaners, which cost me $30. I haven't decided whether I'm going to keep this dress or sell it... I'll ponder this some more later. The last stop is Bakers Delight, where I buy some bread ($4.40). While I've been doing all these things, my partner has done some grocery shopping. This cost $42.50, but I purchase a $500 Woolworths gift card every month which we use for our grocery shops. I buy this through an employee benefit discount site, SmartSpending, so it actually only costs me $482.50 each month. It’s not a huge discount, but it adds up over the year! $34.40
10:00am — I'm back home, and we have our new puppy arriving today! I prepare the house and begin to puppy-proof it. I also manage to sell the vacuum cleaner, earning a nice $70! While I'm on Facebook Marketplace, I list a picnic blanket that I no longer use for $10.
12:00pm — I head off to the breeders to collect our puppy! We've already transferred the cost of the puppy, but today we need to purchase food and other supplies from the breeder. My breeder will send me an invoice for these eventually, which should be about $600. I’ve been warned that it may take weeks, or even months to be sent through! This is fine by me — it gives me time to set savings aside for it. 
2:00pm — I arrive home with my puppy and spend the afternoon getting her settled and introducing her to our other dog. My other dog is nine years old, so she’s not super keen on having a new puppy come into our lives. Hopefully, she’ll settle with time and get used to our new little family! It’s my partners first puppy so he’s very excited. It’s going to be an exhausting week! 
7.30pm — Dinner time! My partner is making tacos with the groceries he purchased earlier. After dinner, we play with the dogs to wear them out before bedtime.
Daily Total: $34.40

Day 3

6:00am — I get up to let the dogs have a play and feed them breakfast. Today will be a quiet day at home getting the new puppy settled, but we have to head out to Bunnings later to get some additional fencing for our backyard to contain the new puppy.
7:00am — Time for my own breakfast. I have a couple of pieces of toast with the bread from Bakers Delight I picked up yesterday.
9:00am — I sold the picnic blanket! Being $10, this wasn't a big sale — but it's better than nothing considering I don't use it anymore.
9:30am — I make a booking for puppy preschool ($250). I also need to order some additional supplements for the dogs — Antinol Rapid, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and great for their skin, coat, and general wellness; and Protexin, which is a probiotic ($236.92). I’ll introduce these to my older dog too. Dogs are very expensive! $486.92
10:00am — I've spent so much money this week, so it's time to update my cash flow spreadsheet and see just how much my monthly budget has blown out this month! Luckily, I had savings set aside to cover a lot of the additional puppy costs. I use the app Notion to create a spreadsheet that tracks my cashflow. I like it because it has features that allow me to filter my purchases based on labels such as bank account, type of expense or income. I started doing this when Covid began as my partner was on heavily reduced hours, and now I usually update it about once a week. It's important for me to budget and be on top of where my money is going and has really helped me be aware of my spending habits, and reach my financial goals this year — saving $20,000, investing in the stock market again, and buying a puppy!
11:00am — I go to Bunnings and buy some garden edging and small fencing, which should keep my puppy in the yard. $41.70
12:00pm — Lunchtime. We're just eating leftovers today, and adding some bacon that's close to its expiry date so it doesn’t go to waste. 
5:00pm — I have to pick up a few more groceries for dinner tonight at Woolworths — pork mince and veggies for dinner tonight, as well as some chicken breast fillets to cook for the dogs. $22.57, paid for with the gift card.

7:30pm — Dinner time for the humans (the dogs ate earlier!). We're cooking a stir fry with the veggies and pork mince we just bought, and steaming some frozen dumplings to make it a bit more interesting since it’s the weekend!

Daily Total: $528.62

Day Four

6:00am — As always, time to get the dogs out for some playtime and then it's time for me to have breakfast. Today is going to be a tough day as I have to work from home and deal with a new puppy. Let's see how this goes...
7:00am — I take the older dog for a walk and play with the puppy to wear her out. I'm hoping she'll sleep so I can get some work done!
8:30am — The puppy is in her crate — a success!!! I start work and aim to get as much as I can done before she wakes up. I quickly eat some toast and go through my emails. This morning, I’m catching up on some admin work, and I’m also running a learning session with some of the other engineers in my team. I haven’t prepared for it yet, so I'm frantically trying to put together a presentation!
12:00pm — Lunch! I had some leftover ingredients from the tacos we had for dinner the other night, so I use them to make a quick taco bowl.
1:00pm — Back to work. Today I’m picking up a new piece of work, so I’m spending my afternoon investigating a bug in our product and trying to figure out what’s causing it. 
5:00pm — Off to the vet for the puppies first check! She has a six-week pet insurance trial, but it doesn’t cover routine care, so I have to pay full price ($99). It was a bit of a waste of time — she’s healthy and fine, which is good to know, but we were only there for 10 minutes max and the vet didn’t really help us with our questions very much. We’ll try a different vet next time. On the plus side, it’s good to get her used to being there without anything bad happening so she’ll be more confident when we go back for her next vaccinations in a few weeks. $99
5:30pm — I stop by Woolworths again to get food for dinner. It would be much more cost-effective if we did one big shop each week and were able to buy in bulk and freeze things, but we have quite a small freezer and we don’t like to waste food, so we have to do more regular small shops. We buy two pieces of Barramundi, a couple of bunches of asparagus since they were on sale, and some other vegetables ($38.10, paid for on our gift card).
7:30pm — We cook our barramundi with asparagus, steamed veggies, and roasted potatoes. It was excellent! Normally, we would get Atlantic salmon but after a recent food poisoning incident we’re a bit hesitant — we'll definitely be buying the barramundi again.
8:00pm — We try watching Netflix before bed, but the puppy is way too wound up. We end up just playing with her and trying to tire her out until 9.30 when we all go to bed.
Daily Total: $99

Day Five

6:00am — Up and at 'em for the dogs' breakfast time. They both have different diets, so getting meals ready is a bit of an ordeal. The older dog requires dry food specifically made for diabetic dogs, with some additional healthy weight dry food. We also add 60g of cooked chicken breast to each meal. The new puppy is on a very complex meal plan, combining raw food with dry food and fish. It’s something a bit different each meal! They also get their supplements at breakfast.
9:30am — Another vet appointment today for the older dog — this is just a free check-up after her eye surgery last week. She’s healed wonderfully and has her cone of shame removed. Unfortunately, her eyes are permanently damaged, so she needs an ointment in her eyes twice a day for the rest of her life. The ointment cost $95.
10:00am — Working from home time! I eat some toast while I get started. I need to review some code from other engineers, and I need to continue investigating the bug I was looking into yesterday — it’s a tricky one!
12:00pm — Luuuunch! I make myself a toasted sandwich and have some pretzels as a snack. I notice our Woolworths gift card is getting low, so I order a new $500 card through SmartSpending, giving me a nice discount. $482.40 
1:00pm — This afternoon, I’m preparing for a work presentation that I volunteered for. On Friday, I'm going to talk to high school students about career opportunities and making career decisions.
5:00pm — I survived another workday without the dogs causing havoc — a miracle! The puppy is being toilet trained, so we’re trying our best not to have any accidents indoors, and the older dog still does not want to be anywhere near the puppy! On top of that, the puppy is also teething, so if something fits in her mouth, she's chewing it! I've been trying to keep them both occupied so they don't destroy the house (or each other), but it's full-on! I’ve had puppies before, but having a puppy and an older dog at the same time is so much harder than I expected.
7:30pm — Tonight, we’re cooking some kibbeh that we had in the freezer and adding some salad, as well as the leftover potatoes from last night. Considering how much we’ve spent on the dogs this week, a cheap dinner is much needed.
Daily Total: $577.40

Day Six

6:00am — You know the drill by now — up with the dogs to get them breakfast and a good play before work.
7:00am — I get a notification that my auto-delivery for dog food from Pet Circle has been processed. It’s normally about $150 for a big bag and would last us about 3 months for the older dog. We get a slight discount as we're on an auto-delivery service. This order also includes a couple of additional items for the puppy, so it totals $180.04.
8:00am — I finally get the puppy to sleep in her crate so I can get ready for the day and eat some breakfast. As usual, it's a couple of pieces of toast. Probably not the healthiest breakfast, but it’s cheap and gets the job done.
8:30am — Working from home starts. I have a lot of meetings today, so keeping the dogs settled will be a challenge! I'm already considering getting food delivered for lunch because it’s going to be a huge day of nearly constant meetings from 9-5! I'll try to talk myself out of this by lunchtime though as it's really expensive and adds up over time. With all the puppy costs this week, I need to save where I can!
1:00pm — I survived the morning! I use my lunch break to pop out to Pet Barn to pick up a smaller crate for training the puppy. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the one I wanted, but we picked up a couple of half-price toys while we were there ($14.98). She is very happy with her new rope toy, and the older dog is happy to be getting a new toy that isn’t for the puppy! $14.98
2:00pm — Back at work and I have more meetings. I didn't get time to make any lunch and I'm still residing MenuLog, so I just snack on some sliced turkey, smoked almonds and fruit.
7:30pm — Dinner tonight is pasta with barbecued chicken and brussel sprouts. My partner picked up these groceries earlier in the day for $11.80, paid on our gift card.
8:00pm — We watch Netflix and play with the dogs until bedtime. 
Daily Total: $195.02

Day Seven

5:40am — The dogs woke up a bit earlier today. It’s going to be a long day but thankfully I have today off work so it will be much easier to manage!
7:30am — To save money, we only have one car in our household. I might need it today, so I’m dropping my partner off at work. We originally had three cars (I had one and my partner had both a weekend car and a work ute), but we sold both of my partner's cars when Covid hit as we needed the money. Before Covid, I would catch the bus to work anyway, and now that I work from home permanently, it’s not too much of an issue most days. We just have to make sure we carefully plan ahead to make sure we both don’t need the car on the same day!
8:30am — After dropping him at work, I arrive back home and the dogs are finally sleeping! I get started on my huge to-do list for the day, starting with household chores. I have a huge amount of puppy supplies and documentation to sort out, the kitchen to clean, floors to vacuum, general tidying around the house, laundry to be done and plants to water! While my partners day job has severely reduced hours due to the pandemic, he is starting his own business and ends up working seven days a week. So he helps out where he can, but our deal is that he cooks our dinners and I do most other things around the house.
10:00am — Admin time. I order a present for my partner from Total Tools — a sander ($209). It doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s what he wants! I compare pet insurance and finally make a decision on who to go with, although it won't start for a couple of weeks. I tried to use a couple of comparison websites, but they were pretty useless as they only list companies that sign up with them. Instead, I combined that with research in local dog-related Facebook groups, narrowing it down to Guide Dogs and Bow Wow Meow. I end up going with Bow Wow Meow because a number of other Samoyed owners recommended them. It will be $91 per month going forward. $209
12:00pm — I make myself another toasted sandwich. I used up the last of the bread — that one loaf of bread that I bought last Saturday got me through five days worth of breakfasts and some lunches... not bad value!
5:00pm — I go and pick up my partner from work. We're in a bit of a hurry, so we're not doing our usual Woolworths trip. We'll have to get takeaway tonight instead.
6:00pm — I find a puppy crate on Facebook Marketplace and buy it for $60. The money I made from selling the vacuum cleaner will cover this, thankfully! $60
7:00pm — We head to Grill'd to pick up some takeaway for dinner ($38.90), before heading home for Netflix, tiring out the dogs, and bed! $38.90
Daily Total: $307.90
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