Money Diaries

A Week In Epping, Sydney, On A $225,000 AUD Joint Income

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: Tax Manager
Industry: Tech
Age: 35
Location: Epping, Sydney
My Salary: $135,000
My Husband's Salary: $90,000
Net Worth: approx. $950,000 ($750,000 for a one-bedroom investment property in Neutral Bay; $850,000 for our three-bedroom unit in Epping that I live in with my husband and our baby; about $250,000 in a mortgage offset account; $45,000 in portfolio and EFT investments; $105,000 in super; a vehicle worth $25,000; and $3,000 in crypto. My husband and I have joint accounts for everything.)
Debt: $956,000 (The total mortgage for our two properties is $950,000. We also have $6,000 in credit card debt.)
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $11,300 total ($6,800 for my pay, $4,500 for my hubby's pay).
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $3,000 for both of our properties, which my hubby and I split 50/50. I live in a three-bedroom unit with my husband and one-year-old baby, which we bought together. We used to live in a one-bedroom unit in Neutral Bay that I owned, but it was too small after we had the baby.
Rental Income: Our rental property has a monthly income of about $1,500.
My hubby and I split all our expenses 50/50, which come out of our joint credit card.
Internet: $109
Mobile: $30 (This is for data only as I paid for my phone outright. My husband's work pays for his phone.)
Google / YouTube Premium: $18
Netflix: $17
Amazon Prime: $7
Xbox Gamepass: $16
Childcare: $540 (This is for two days a week at $135/week.)
Private Health Insurance: $225 (Basic family cover)
Micro-Investing App: $100
Public Transport: $55
Fuel and Tolls: $110
Baby Expenses (for formula, nappies, etc.): $40

Paid quarterly on the two properties:
Water: $310
Electricity: $700
Body Corporate: $2000

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

Yes, I completed a Bachelor of Commerce/Arts at the University of Sydney, majoring in Accounting and Sociology with a minor in Performance Studies. I paid for it through HECS/HELP, which was roughly around $30,000. I paid it off a few years ago.

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

Absolutely. I was born overseas and came to Australia with my immigrant parents when I was nine. We were never well off back home and started in Australia with even less, so we had to build everything from the ground up. Even though my parents were both engineers back home, they had to work multiple manual jobs here just to make ends meet. I got into the habit of checking the prices of everything and only buying stuff when it was on sale because that's what my parents did. They always taught me to save as much as I can and drilled into me that financial independence is extremely important.

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

I worked in my parents' takeaway shop growing up. They wanted me to have work experience, plus it was an easy way for them to save money. They paid me peanuts (like, $50 for the whole day!) but I could eat my meals for free and study during downtime.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not really. Even though my parents worked multiple jobs, they never made us feel poor. They tried to spoil me whenever they could and always ensured that I could have things like braces, tutoring class and holidays away. We never really splurged or got anything luxurious, but I never felt like I was missing out.

Do you worry about money now?

Sometimes. Even though we have set ourselves up well with years of saving and making smart financial decisions, it's instilled in me to always think about the future and to continuously work towards being financially comfortable. I feel this even more now that we have a baby to take care of — I have to think about her future, not just ours.

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

I started working at my parents' shop when I was 14, but my first proper job with a company was when I was 20. That's probably when I became officially financially responsible as I started to pay for everything myself. I did have a financial safety net as I was still living at home, but everything I used, needed or wanted, I saved up and paid for myself.

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

I received $40,000 from my parents that was put towards the deposit of my Neutral Bay investment property. This was amazing as I didn't have quite enough savings for the deposit. It really gave me a leg up into my first big investment.

Day 1

4:40am — Baby wakes us up with her piercing cry, as always. What a lovely start to the day! It's Monday, so my husband gets up to tend to her as I roll over, back to zzzland. The early morning baby routine goes: hubby wakes up, changes her nappy, makes her milk and his own espresso and they drink together on the couch. He has some playtime with her involving books and an assortment of toys, while trying to keep noise to a minimum. I get up a few hours later.
6:30am — I stumble out of bed and go do my bathroom routine. This usually takes less than 5 minutes — time is of the essence for mums! I come out and say hello to my baby, B., and my hubby, J., while he makes my coffee. We're trying Starbucks pods this week as they were on special — $4.80 for 10! I have my wakeup juice with some raisin toast. 
7:30am — Hubby leaves for work and I get bub ready for daycare. She’s 13 months old and currently at daycare two days a week to get used to playing with others. Once I get home, I get a jump start on the workday. It's the end of the month, so there's always a lot of reporting to be done around this time. I take a break at around 10am and snack on some cookies.
12:00pm — Lunchtime rolls around and I decide to go for a stroll to the local cafe and get some fresh air. I get a large weak oat latte (yes, roll your eyes!) ($5) and a spontaneous Japanese bento box on the way home ($15). I try not to eat in front of my computer, so I move over to the larger screen (the TV) and squeeze in an episode of Line of Duty while I eat. $20
4:30pm — I finish up some emails and get ready to pick my daughter up from daycare. She's excited to see mummy and my heart explodes when she jumps into my embrace. We get home and I make her dinner. Tonight's menu is minced-up chicken, broccoli, beans, corn and rice — lucky girl! She swings her little feet in happiness as I feed her.
6:00pm — Daddy is home and we start the bedtime routine for Baby B. — bath, milk, book and bed by 7pm. We're both exhausted today and have no energy to cook. We decide to treat ourselves and get Indian food through Uber Eats — butter chicken, Aloo Baingan, jasmine rice and an assortment of naans ($64). We enjoy our delicious feast with a bottle of Pinot Gris. After washing up, we watch some Queer Eye on Netflix and head to bed by 9.30pm. $64
Daily Total: $84

Day 2

5:00am — Baby wahhhs, we wake up. Hubby gets up for the day and I try to go back to sleep. B. is fussy this morning and her wailing means I should probably get up to help. I drink my homemade oat coffee gratefully while playing with her. I'm still full from last night's meal so I don't eat anything else.
8:00am — B. is dropped off at daycare and J. heads off to work. I'm still working from home, so I fire up the laptop and work on the tax provisions for the month. The morning goes by quickly, and I have a quick break at 10am to eat an orange.
12:00pm — I heat up the leftover Indian food for lunch. It's more delicious the next day! It's a scorching hot day today, so I decide not to go for a walk. Instead, I take a break by continuing with Line of Duty. This show is so freaking good — it has interesting 'villains' and awesome, honest coppers! I also make an online grocery order for the week, to be delivered tomorrow. We normally do an online shop once every week or so, depending on how often we cook. Today, I get some essentials — fresh produce, chicken breast, sauces, dry pasta, pantry snacks and household cleaning products ($80). $80
5:00pm — Work is piling up and I'm late with picking B up. We usually try to get her at around 4:30pm as it can get quite busy after that, but that's gone out the window today. Hubby gets home at roughly around the same time as us, and he feeds her dinner while I do some more work.
7:00pm — B. is put to bed and I throw the leftover vegetables in a curry (using our trusty Philips all-in-one cooker!). We eat it with some leftover rice from last night. It's nothing exciting, but it fills the tummy and clears the fridge. Hubby and I unwind with some more Queer Eye. Antoni is possibly the most gorgeous human ever made, but I’m Team Bobby, baby!!!
Daily Total: $80

Day 3

4:30am — Tiny human alarm clock goes off. I get up today to give J. a sleep-in. I try to read her a couple of children's books, but she gets bored and walks off. Sigh.
6:30am — I hear hubby turn on the shower and I start to cook everyone's breakfast (You get an egg! You get an egg! Everybody gets an egg!). I turn on the Nespresso machine, hear its familiar sound and try to catch a whiff of the coffee. *Homer drool noise*
7:30am — Hubby is working from home today and the baby is also home. We both log in to work early while keeping an eye on the baby. She recently got the hang of walking and often attempts (emphasis on the attempts!) running but just falls over in the process.
10:00am — J. and I go for a walk up the road with B. in the pram, hoping she'll have a nap in there. We succeed and celebrate by getting takeaway coffees ($10 for two large coffees with oat milk). B. has been a fussy baby since day dot and is a terrible sleeper. We’ve tried everything under the sun, even trying sleeping school for a whole week, but it's been to no avail. It has been a long and arduous journey of patience and perseverance, but we have become so much stronger because of it. $10
11:00am — The baby wakes up from her nap and we go home and get back to work. J. manages a small team in IT and is currently working on a project, and I’ve been reviewing the risk framework for our company. Our groceries turn up and I start cooking lunch for everyone. Baby B. gets chicken mince and assorted veggies. J. and I eat something similar as I'm feeling lazy and not very creative.
2:20pm — B. is looking tired again, so we try to put her down for a nap. She struggles for 15 minutes and after three attempts, she finally goes down in her cot (aka "the baby prison"). Hubby and I take this opportunity for peace and quiet to really focus on work. We blitz through as much as we can with fierce intensity.
3:50pm — B. wakes up and breaks our concentration. Oh well, it was good while it lasted! I get her out onto the playmat and surround her with some toys and books, hoping that she'll let me go back to work. It does the trick...for about 10 minutes. Ha! I half-work and half-play for the next hour.
5:00pm — Dinner time for le bebe. I make her some baby spaghetti with pureed tomato and mince. She loves it so much that she throws it all over the floor — yay. I clean her and the floor up and she gets some Wiggles time.
6:30pm — The baby has had her milk and is peacefully sitting with her toys, so I read to her for a bit while hubby cooks dinner. We bought some salmon in our last grocery shop, so he jazzes it up with some asparagus and a mysterious sauce that he's made. Fancy! We put B. down for sleep and eat at the dinner table, sipping on a Furphy each.
7:30pm — J. and I decide to play some games on the Xbox — today we go with Death’s Door. He's an avid gamer and pays for an Xbox Gamepass subscription (it's like Netflix but for video games!). I'm more of an amateur gamer (my favourite is Zelda: Breath of the Wild) so I never win if I go up against him. I stop playing because I'm a sore loser.
9:30pm — We head to bed and jump on our phones to catch up on social media, messages and the news, passing out by 10pm.
Daily Total: $10

Day 4

5:00am — Get up. Baby routine. Coffee. Raisin toast. Chase the baby around the house 57,382 times.
8:00am — My parents are nice enough to come over and look after B. today. We hand her over and make a run for it! Unfortunately, we don't run that far as we're working from home. Instead, we make a run for the corner desk. We get stuck into work and try to drown out all the background noise.
9:30am — I take a break and go for a walk to get everyone some proper coffees (and fresh air!). I'm able to take a breather as B. is miraculously down for a nap. I grab four coffees at the local cafe ($19) and stop to smell the flowers on the walk home. $19
10:00am — After the caffeine pick-me-up and a chat with my folks, I get back to work with my battery recharged. Hubby's working in the spare room and my mum is pottering around the house with chores. Dad's watching the tennis, trust.
10:30am — B. wakes up with a shriek and my parents tend to her with haste. I put my earphones in and listen to my 'chillhop' playlist to drown out the noise.
12:00pm — My dad is a fantastic cook, so he whips up a feast for lunch. There's fried rice, beef brisket and some delicious cold side dishes. Mum feeds B. while J. and I stuff our faces.
5:00pm — We get through our afternoon work without too much disruption, thanks to my parents who take B. out for some fresh air and playtime. Once they come back, I feed the baby her early dinner (a bowl of baby-friendly fried rice and salmon). I ask my parents to stay for dinner and J. cooks chicken pesto pasta for everyone.
7:00pm — B.'s asleep and my parents head home. I clean up and complete some housework before sitting down again to finish up some more work. It’s been so amazing to have help with B. It's something that I never take for granted and I do try to be as productive as possible when I get that time.
8:00pm — I log off and chuck Netflix on. Tonight, we're watching something frivolous and fun — Emily in Paris. It's not bad, but it makes me miss Paris.
9:30pm — I have a shower and it's off to bed I go.
Daily Total: $19

Day 5

5:00am — It's Friday! J. gets up to tend to the baby, allowing me to get some extra zzzs. I am forever grateful. 
6:30am — I roll out of bed and do my 5-minute morning routine of face-washing and teeth-brushing. Sometimes, if I'm being extra indulgent, I have a morning shower. Oh, the luxurious lifestyle of being a mum!
7:00am — I finish up my coffee and raisin toast while feeding B. her morning spinach and eggs. J. makes a bacon & egg muffin for himself. He offers to make me one, but I don't feel like anything heavy this early in the morning. He leaves for work.
8:30am — It's the same routine as yesterday — my parents come over to look after B. for the day while I work from home. I log on as soon as they get here. They play with her while I play with numbers.
9:30am — My parents take B. out in the pram and I decide to stay and keep working. They're out for a while as she ends up falling asleep in the pram. I cram as much work as possible into this precious uninterrupted time.
11:00am — They come back and break my concentration. I make tea for everyone and turn on the air-con to cool the house down.
12:30pm — Lunchtime. I offer to buy everyone lunch as a thank you, and they say yes. I head to our local Vietnamese joint and grab everyone a Banh Mi (I get crispy pork rolls with crackling — $28 for 4). Economical and delicious! $28
6:00pm — After powering through the afternoon, I close my laptop and mentally check out of work for the week. It's much easier said than done, but I'm working on making that work/life distinction. I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic by any means, but I do find it difficult to shut down when I’m off work. I feel like I’m constantly thinking about what I’m working on and the jobs I have coming up — it can be all-consuming. But honestly, having B. has completely changed my perspective and shifted my priorities. I still get those small anxieties when I see 10+ unread emails in my inbox, but I also know the difference between what I 'need' to do and what's a 'nice to have'. My parents hand over the baby as they clock off their 'workday', bidding us a good evening. J. and I heat up some leftovers and put B. to bed.
7:00pm — We eat in front of the telly (bad, I know!). Tonight, we watch a movie called Copshop on Netflix. It's surprisingly really good and we're satisfied with how we're spending our precious evening time. 
9:30pm — Shower, brush teeth, and chitchat in bed for a while before drifting off to sleep.
Daily Total: $28

Day 6

4:25am — It's the weekend, but for parents with a baby, it's like any other day. We wake up to the sound of B. wailing and both get up to tend to her. 
7:00am — Mornings go so slowly when you get up before the crack of dawn. By 7am, we're exhausted. We decide to all head out for fresh air and some exercise. We grab coffees on the way and head to a local park ($10). Hubby and I take turns running a few laps while the other keeps the baby company. We then get her to waddle around on the grass for a bit and throw a frisbee around for some added bonus exercise. $10
9:00am — As soon as we get home, we give B. a bottle of milk in the hope that she will go down for a nap. She does, surprisingly! We shower and make breakfast as quietly as possible. Today, we are having my famous omelette (it's famous because I throw in a bunch of leftover vegetables from the fridge — it's delicious, I swear!) We eat in peace and quiet. It's beautiful.
10:30am — We go and pick my mother-in-law up from the station. She visits once a week and stays for a day or two, helping with the baby. She plays with B. for a while and they get reacquainted since last week. She's brought some books with her and reads them to B. Unfortunately, B. is unamused and walks off after a few minutes. She has the attention span of... my husband? Just joking!
12:00pm — We order pizza for lunch since it's easy, plus our local Pizza Hut is surprisingly fantastic and reliable! We get our usual — two pizzas, two sides ($30.95). It arrives pretty fast, and it's hot! We all dig in, except for B. — she's having a delicious lunch of savoury pancakes. $30.95
2:00pm — My mother-in-law decides to have a nap after lunch, so J. and I take B. out for another stroll. She gets stir-crazy at home, so it's an easy way to calm her down. We walk around the block a few times and she falls asleep in the pram. We sit in the park and chat while she sleeps. Today, he’s brainstorming some ideas about a tabletop game that he wants to create and we try to iron out some gameplay kinks that he’s been having trouble with.
3:00pm — There are some cricket players in the park that are loudly shouting, waking B. up. Boooo! We take her back home and feed her some yoghurt with fresh berries and chopped bananas. Hubby and I have a Paddle Pop to cool down (rainbow flavoured, of course!).
4.45pm — My mother-in-law comes out of her room and plays with B. for a bit while The Wiggles plays on TV. I literally can recite every single one of their songs. I ponder whether I should audition to be the next Wiggle.
6:00pm — B. has dinner and the bedtime routine is initiated. When she's down, we eat some leftover pizza. My mother-in-law stays up to read and keep an eye on the baby, while J. and I walk down to the local pub for a rare 'date night' (aka we get to have a couple of wines and unwind!). I get a Squealing Pig sauv blanc and he gets a Pure Blonde ($20). I chat to him about my future of being a famous Wiggle. We leave after a couple of rounds of drinks ($40). We might be time-poor, but we still try and do one of these date nights at least once a month. Sometimes, we get a deluxe sushi platter to have at home. Other times, we have a few drinks at the pub! $60
9:00pm — We get home pretty late and get ready for bed. I try to read for a bit to unwind — Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It's a bit boring though and I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $100.95

Day 7

5:00am — B. wakes up and J. gets up to tend to her. My mother-in-law also wakes up as she's an early riser. I roll over back to sleep.
7:00am — I jump out of bed as I've already slept in too much. My mother-in-law has made toast for everyone. I spread mine with butter and Vegemite and wash it down with an oat latte from the Nespresso machine. I'm ready to take on the world now! We've decided to go to the National Park for a picnic today as it's a nice day. My parents are also free so we make plans to meet there. 
9:00am — We stop at the local supermarket to get some food for the picnic — gourmet sausages, bread rolls, mushrooms, chicken skewers, assorted veggies and some drinks ($76.50). We've also made sure to bring some pre-made baby food, just in case. $76.50 
10:30am — We make it to the National Park entrance and pay a $12 entry fee. I find a park near the BBQ facilities and we claim our table. We get the picnic rug out, and B. starts rolling around almost immediately and getting up to go explore. J. and I start up the BBQ and start cooking. It's such a gorgeous day and a lot of families are out, packing out the area quickly. $12
12:30pm — We cook some chicken skewers, lamb chops and buttered veggies on the BBQ. We chomp this down and sip on some coconut water and beers (but not together... ew!). Once we've finished eating, we clean up the area so others can use it. We move over to another area near a lake and just sit, taking in the gorgeous surroundings for a while. There are so many little paddle boats out on the water and we contemplate whether we should also hire one. It’s not cheap, though (like, $25 for 30 mins), plus we haven't really come prepared, so we figure that now isn't the time to do it. I make a mental note that we should hire kayaks next time — J. and I have kayaked a few times and we both love it!
2:00pm — I get coffees for everyone as an afternoon pick-me-up. It costs $35 (!!!) for five coffees because it's a national park, not a highway robbery! $35
3.15pm — We start packing up as it's been a long day, and an even longer one with a baby in tow! My parents drive off in their car and I drop my mother-in-law off at the station. By the time we get home, it's dinnertime for B.
7:00pm — B.'s bedtime routine is done and dusted. Hubby and I decide to skip dinner as we're not hungry from eating so much today. We snack on some fruit and play a few rounds of Cook Serve Delicious 2 on Xbox. Before we know it, it's late and we get ready for bed.
9:00pm — We chat about what an amazing day we had, and how blessed we are to live in this country. We take a moment to lament how much harder everything is with a baby. I think there should be no shame in discussing how much your life changes after having a baby — both mentally and physically. Some days, I just burst into joyful tears because of a simple thing B. does that she isn’t even aware of. Other days, I find myself so excruciatingly exhausted that I don’t even have the energy to cry. But then we have days like today, and it's all worth it.
Daily Total: $123.50
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.