Money Diaries

A Week In Brisbane, Queensland On A $103,000 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.

Content Warning: This Money Diary mentions an eating disorder.
Editor's note: Currency is written in AUD
Occupation: Underwriter
Industry: Insurance
Age: 33
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Salary: $103,000. I have recently become the manager of my team as a secondment opportunity, which increases my fortnightly wage by $450.
Net Worth: $85,000 ($22,000 in savings, $65,000 in superannuation and $6500 in bank shares from two previous employers, which each pay me dividends of $70 and $40 twice a year.)
Debt: $7,000 owed on my credit card and $1500 owing to my orthodontist for Invisalign. I don't have HECS debt anymore as I managed to pay it off back in 2012.
Paycheque Amount (2x month): $2,697
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1660. I live in a three-bedroom house by myself, twenty minutes from the city. It also has a big backyard for my sausage dogs! I pay a lot of rent as an individual, but it's a good deal considering how expensive other Australian capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne are. I also don't want to share with roommates — been there, done that!
Credit Card Interest: $175
Internet: $90
Mobile Phone: $30. I owe the handset outright so I just top up each month. I had a nasty bill for overseas data use when I was living abroad so I decided to never have a phone plan again!
Barre Fusion Studio Membership: $145
Stan: $14. I use my ex-partner's Netflix account and yes, he knows.
Spotify Premium: $12
Car Insurance: $39
Contents Insurance: $38
Savings: Each fortnight, I move $500 to my savings account, but for a few years now, I've been depositing that money and spending it in the same pay cycle. This is a bad habit, I know!

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

My parents never had any expectations for what they thought I should do. I grew up in a liberal household — my three siblings and I were always encouraged to participate in art and sports, but there wasn't much pressure around our futures. I was quite a serious, mature child and expected myself to complete higher education. Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer until I took legal studies in high school and realised how dry it was.

My parents went through a protracted, difficult separation when I was 13, and I became anorexic at the age of 17. Since I was trying to avoid all thought of food, I studied really hard in my last year of school and was ranked in the top ten percentile of the state in my final exams. I undertook a Bachelor of Arts at university because I wanted to become a historian, and humanities subjects were always my strength. I used a HECS loan to pay for this since neither I nor my family could pay the full fees.

In my second year, I started work in finance part-time and realised that I preferred having money to studying — so I withdrew from my degree to work full-time. In hindsight, I should have continued my degree. But I've worked in finance and insurance ever since, so from a career perspective, it hasn't had a negative impact. I can still read about all the subjects I enjoy and provide useless trivia to my long-suffering family and friends!

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

My money education was fairly limited growing up. We were given pocket money from chores, and my grandparents always gave us money for birthdays and Christmas. We were an average, middle-class family. We never went without — my father worked full-time and my mum stayed home, but our lifestyle wasn't lavish. We were comfortable. When my parents split up, my mum had no income. She had gone from being a stay-at-home mum for thirteen years to needing to find a job. Although she received child support from the government, this didn't go far with four children. I watched my mum work three jobs — cleaning, cooking and baking (often with my youngest sister in tow) and I vowed that would never be me. I would never be dependent on someone else for money as an adult, and I would never not understand money. I love my mum dearly and she did her best, but those years were a struggle and as a result, I think financial independence is vital.

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

My first job was as a register operator at Toys R' Us, age 15. My dad applied for me (who knows what he put on my resume!) and the money I earned I put into a savings account, or spent on myself.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Before my parents split up, not really. I was like any other kid — I wanted pocket money for the shops, snacks, things like that. After my parents split up, I did worry about money. I hated that my mum had to work three jobs and I felt guilty that she was supporting us alone. I was angry at my dad for allowing that. It took me a long time to get past those issues.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes. I'm a single woman who lives alone, so it seems natural to worry about money. I am also a natural-born worrier (hello, Scorpio!), so it does consume a certain amount of my thought process each day. I am glad I have something of a savings buffer, but I know I could be in a much better position than this — I just need to be more disciplined.

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

I moved out when I was 21 and paid my own rent, bills and expenses. My girlfriends and I have talked about what would happen if one of us lost our jobs. Two of us live in different states from our families, and we are close, so it seemed logical to talk about it. I know I could always move in with one of them temporarily if something drastic happened. I could also move back home with my mum and stepdad, but that would mean leaving the state and also living quite rurally.

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


Day One

4:30am — It's payday Wednesday! I've booked a desk at my office in town, so I get up early for my 6:30am vinyasa yoga class. When I get out, I reward myself with a skinny cappuccino from my favourite cafe in the city, and a slice of banana bread from the best donut shop in town ($13.80). I recently started managing a small team, so I want to make sure I'm on top of everything when I go in. The office is very quiet — work is struggling to get people to go back to the office, even though we have been very lucky in Queensland not to have a lot of community transmission. I have relapsed into bulimic behaviour four times this past year, and I find coming into the office is actually really beneficial to me in terms of structure and routine. We are having a system upgrade in a couple of weeks, so my meetings this morning are predominantly around that. $13.80
2:00pm — I normally prepare salads in bulk to have for lunch throughout the week, both for the office and when I'm at home. Given my relationship with food, I find it helpful to have good staple supplies at home, and to eat mindfully. I eat a salad of kale mix, sweet potato and tabbouleh quinoa that I have thrown together, as well as some tuna and a pear. While eating at my desk, I look at flights to Sydney. It's one of my girlfriend's birthdays in a couple of weeks and I've been invited to go celebrate! Flights seem to be getting more expensive every couple of days so I decide I'm better off just booking now ($318.29). I'm nervous about whether or not there will be any border closures between states in the meantime because of Rona. $318.29
4:00pm — I try to do a food shop a maximum of twice a week. I write myself a list during the week and a menu based on what I want and what I have. IMO food is exxy in Australia and frequent grocery purchases are probably my biggest expense. I catch the train back to my car, drive to the local, and visit the supermarket and fruit shop. I buy salmon portions, tinned tuna, veggie crackers, macadamia milk, pre-made salads, vegan chocolate spread, avocado dip, bananas, eggs, parsnips, pears, carrots, broccoli, corn, basil, avocado and tomatoes ($142.07) Hopefully, this lasts me until early next week. I head home and watch Ginny & Georgia on Netflix, and have more salad with some oven-baked salmon. For dessert, it's a few spoonfuls of Pana chocolate spread. I go for a walk, call my mum, and after coming home to shower, I read a few pages of my book about 80s music. I go to bed after my excessively early start to the day! $142.07
Daily Total: $474.16

Day Two

7:00am — I'm working from home today, so I leisurely arrive at my desk wearing almost nothing — I've got no meetings today, so a T-shirt should suffice as a reasonable outfit for the rest of the day! I make coffee and a two-egg omelette with tomatoes and basil, and properly sit down at my desk. I have inherited an employee who has (knowingly) taken a pay cut for this job and is now basically refusing to even learn the role because she thinks her salary is untenable. I started this secondment a few weeks ago, and in that time I've had a chat with her about role expectations, company values, and the importance of face-to-face training where possible. It all sounds like a cliché, but it's important to hold her accountable for her work. Today is her first day in the office with her trainer for face-to-face training, so I keep an eye on how that is going.
11:00am — In between emails and team discussions, I look at hotels in Sydney for my upcoming trip. I reserve a room with free cancellation at a hotel I have stayed at before. The cost will be $368 for three nights, but I won't have to pay anything until I get there. I make a mental note to bear this in mind next pay. I'm from Sydney, so trips back are always good for catching up with my nearest and dearest, and I message one of my friends in Sydney to tell her I'm coming down. She mentions she will start looking at places for us to have dinner and drinks. So exciting! I feel like I have nothing to wear for the visit, but I know most people would disagree with this upon seeing my wardrobe.
4:30pm — I top up my Go Card on my phone ($10.50) and get ready for a 5.30pm yoga session in the city. I drive to the station, catch the train and arrive to class with ten minutes to spare. I see a guy I've seen before and we chat a bit about the class. I am a fairly insular person but I wouldn't say that I'm shy — making friends as an adult can be difficult, so I'm generally happy to speak to people. After class, we walk part of the way back to the train station together — it turns out he is from country Queensland and has recently moved to Brisbane. On the way home, I think about how much I value human interaction after everything that has happened in the last year. I have kind of made a friend today! $10.50
11:00pm — I shower and watch the latest episode of The Graham Norton Show on my laptop. It's late, but this seems to be a recurring habit of mine on Friday nights. I scroll Facebook for a little. I'm trying to cut down on screen time before bed as it really impacts the quality of my sleep and my dreams. I read a few chapters of my book and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $10.50

Day Three

6:30am — I'm in the office again today so I get ready for work. I don't have a big skincare or makeup routine — 50+ SPF sunscreen always, followed by this amazing green stuff from Erborian skincare which peps up my skin immediately, a little Nars concealer, Too Faced complexion powder, Hourglass eyebrow definer, Clinique mascara and a little of Charlotte Tilbury's 'Eyes to Mesmerise' in Bette — gotta flatter those baby blues! I'm having a good hair day, but am also getting my hair done this afternoon which I am looking forward to. I got a Keratin treatment on my hair two years ago which was the biggest mistake ever as it lost all its natural curl. Since then, I've been having my hair tidied every ten weeks to try and get it back to its best. I top up my Go Card again ($10.50), drive to the station and head to the office, listening to my 'Cheery-O' playlist on Spotify which is just perfect for a Friday! $10.50
7:45am — Because of Rona, we're not allowed to leave anything in the office so I'm forced to lug my laptop, charger, and headset to the office every time I come in. After I set up my desk space, I head out to get some banana bread and a coffee ($13.66). It might sound really sad, but I look forward to this ritual every time I come into town. I review my emails when I get back to work — Fridays tend to be quieter. My ex-partner sends me pictures of our sausage dogs — we split up a few years ago because he wanted kids and I didn't, but we are still good friends. Sometimes I really miss him, but I think he is well and truly over it. We do a week on/week off with our dogs. This might be kind of pathetic, but it means that we both get to see them and spend time with them, plus we both get a bit of a break from our fur children. $13.66
11:45am — I get changed at the office and head for a lunchtime yoga class. It's only 45 minutes which is perfect for my lunch break. Afterwards, I change back into my favourite office-appropriate Zimmermann dress and eat my pre-made lunch. Today I am having veggie crackers with little tomatoes and a tin of tuna, washed down with a powdered soup mix — thrilling culinary choices, I know! I follow it up with a banana as an afterthought and call one of my colleagues in Victoria for a work-related chat plus personal chat as we are good friends.
4:00pm — Salon time, baby! My hairdresser comments on how Rapunzel-like my locks are looking, which is a view I also share. He gives it a wash, trim and blowdry so I have big, beautiful curls. I am supremely grateful to have a hairdresser who knows what I want so well. I pay $136.60 and head home, feeling like I'm on a catwalk the whole way. When I'm home, I can't decide if I want to be indulgent and have a few gins and a cigarette. It's not a habit I indulge in regularly, but I have really wanted one recently. I have a couple of big weekends coming up, so I decide against it, and head out for a run around the neighbourhood instead. Afterwards, I speak to my mum about our days — we're really close and we speak pretty much every day. I finish watching Ginny & Georgia, which I enjoy but it makes me seriously worry about the state of teenagers these days — I'm clearly showing my age! I laze around looking at clothes and other unnecessary purchases online and go to sleep around 11pm. $136.60
Daily Total: $160.76

Day Four

8:00am — I have a habit of being a hermit on the weekends, which isn't great for me mentally. So I decide to get up at a reasonable hour this weekend. I make an instant coffee, an omelette, put on a load of washing, and vacuum the house while listening to music. Having hung out the washing, I decide to wear all black today — being almost summer and humid AF in Brisbane, this is possibly not my brightest idea, but black is perennial. I put on some makeup, (my hair is great, thanks), and have chosen to go to my favourite vinyl record store. I drive there with the windows down and the Rolling Stones up. It is that kind of morning.
10:00am — I browse the vinyl store with a coffee in hand from next door ($5). This is a risk and I'm sure the owner isn't a fan, but I manage to flick through records and drink it at the same time. I find a record I have been wanting for a while — it's a secondhand copy of the Cruel Intentions soundtrack, but in mint condition... sold! ($29.15) I leave and browse through the other stores nearby, before heading home in the same fashion in which I arrived — music loud and windows down! $34.15
2:00pm — I spend some 'quality time' in bed by myself. I find a climax is a great addition to an afternoon — and excellent for stress! After, I tidy the house a little more, read for a while, and generally try not to hoover down ALL the food. Up until last year, I had been in recovery from my eating disorder for nearly ten years. I think the isolation of coronavirus made it really difficult to maintain my health, with my diet all over the place for much of last year. I have relapsed once this year — and by relapse I mean on one day only — and really try to keep myself accountable for my food intake and exercise. I don't see a psychologist or a counsellor though. I did when I was very unwell years ago, but have since learned how to manage myself. Learning how to properly feed yourself again as an adult is a humbling experience, and it is paramount to me to maintain a good routine and be kind to myself without being lax about my triggers.
5:00pm — I have been revisiting my Urban Outfitters wishlist a lot in the last few days. Year of Ours is one of my favourite activewear labels and Urban Outfitters tend to stock them on sale fairly regularly. The leggings I've been looking at are finally on sale, too. I purchase them through Afterpay ($40.98). I know it isn't a lot, but this pay has been expensive between the cost of my hair and flights, and I am trying to be careful. $40.98
6:00pm — After my small shopping indulgence, I go for a run and listen to David Tennant Does a Podcast. When I get back home, I watch It's a Sin on Stan. I'm on the last three episodes and honestly, I cry for most of them. Part of my role at work involves understanding medical conditions and I've developed a keen interest in infectious diseases. I find the history of HIV to be really fascinating and simultaneously heartbreaking. It's sometimes a shock to remember that it has only become treatable in my lifetime. I read about the show and the actors while I am watching it, (anyone else look up IMDB while watching TV shows?) and put on Gossip Girl repeats afterwards to shake off the sadness. It's getting late now, so I head to bed, proud of myself for getting out and living life today and also being productive.
Daily Total: $75.13

Day Five

8:00am — Another early wake up to satisfy my urge to be productive, even if it is just for myself. I make a coffee and toast a slice of banana bread, both of which I take back to bed to read the January issue of Vogue. Vogue is my thing — previously we were one month behind the rest of the world but thanks to Coronavirus, we're now two months behind. I read and eat and drink and look up new books to buy. Vogue is great for recommendations and pretty pictures. After a lazy start, I call up one of my girlfriends, who has recently had a bereavement, and see if she wants to go for a walk. She is free so we meet at a local waterfront cafe and go for a walk. It's packed with people and seems pre-COVID busy. It's so good to catch up with her and see how she is going. We hug goodbye and head our separate ways.
2:00pm — I have a hankering for dinner already. I am going to have chips and dip. I know I want it and I justify it knowing that I have been eating well recently, having had roast veggies and tuna for dinner for most of the week. I drive to my local and pick up farmhouse cheddar brown rice chips, (to go with my pre-purchased avocado dip). I also grab some treats for my sausage dogs for next week — pig's ears! ($16.39) I head home and watch some Gossip Girl reruns for a few hours while scrolling through my phone and updating various wishlists. $16.39
6:00pm — I go for a run and come home for my treat meal. As part of mindful eating, I sit at the table. Dinner is wonderful. While I feel guilty for it — that feeling never really seems to leave me — I remind myself that I'm not going to explode out of my jeans overnight, that I have been consistent with my exercise and diet, and remind myself that everything is okay. I text my friend who is on the west coast visiting her family, and she sends me some pictures of some amazing bars she has been checking out with our other friend. I tell her I'm jealous but also so thrilled she finally got to go home after constant border closures.
7:00pm — I truly dislike Sunday nights. I don't know why, but the Sunday blues are a thing. It's important to me to do things that I find really comforting. Tonight, I'm reading a couple of chapters of a Sarah Maas book and watching the live-action version of Cinderella. That dress! And Helena Bonham-Carter! It's worth the late bedtime. I set an intention for the working week — I try to do this every week, as it gives me some solid goals for both my work and my personal life. This week I have a lot of one-on-one meetings with my team, and a lot to get through in terms of development conversations for them and myself. I intend to be receptive to assistance from my predecessor and my other close colleagues, and focus on developing my own management style. Satisfied that this seems reasonable, I set an alarm and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $16.39

Day Six

7:15am — Monday! I'm working from home though, so that makes it easier. I make an instant coffee and an omelette, as usual! I kick off my day with a meeting about a privacy breach with a colleague from another area of the business. She is lovely and our meeting is interesting and productive. I follow this up with scheduled one-on-ones with my team. I check in with them regularly to see how they are going, how their week is feeling, and if there are any concerns. This feels more important than ever as we are mostly all working from home and we are a national team.
1:00pm — I eat some salad and tuna at my desk, followed by some Pana spread. I quickly check some phone calls, prepare for a team discussion later in the week, and chat briefly with my mum.
5:00pm — I realise I can make the 6pm Pilates class at my studio, so I throw some magical green stuff on my face, plus concealer, eyebrow definer and mascara, pop my hair up, top-up my Go Card, (forever topping up — $10.52), and catch the train into town. My instructor is a very intense woman so the class is hard work, but I feel good afterwards. I finish talking to my mum on the train home, and when I'm home I have a shower and go to bed to read. $10.52
Daily Total: $10.52

Day Seven

7:15am — I meant to go into the office today, but it was raining when I woke up to my 4.30am alarm, and bed felt like a much better option — so here I am at home! I have more team member catch-ups, and previously agreed to create an agenda for yet another meeting this week, so I have lots to do today. I make an instant coffee and have a refined-sugar-free chocolate chip bun from the greatest donut shop ever, which I froze last week and am defrosting today.
12:00pm — I refine my agenda, prepare for another meeting, and by late afternoon, I'm feeling very accomplished. I have had great feedback from my predecessor about my approach, and I feel like I'm genuinely getting the hang of this role. I decide I would very much like a real coffee, so I drive to my local for a takeaway skinny cappuccino. Worth the trip! $6.80
4:00pm — My ex drops my extremely excitable dachshunds at my house on his way to work. I have missed them this week and I'm glad to see them. My gardener (included in my rent), has also mowed my lawns so they have a tidy backyard to play in. I briefly catch up with my ex and talk about his work, and he leaves. I sit down and have a chat with my sausages, before finishing up my workday. Time for walkies! They are not great with other dogs, but my ex and I adopted them when they were five from a woman who was not coping with juggling them and a child. That means that socialising them at this age is difficult. We don't encounter anything on our walkies except for possums and a couple of cats — although these are exciting events in themselves! I chat to my mum when we get home, take a shower, and the snags retire to their bed at the end of my bed. I read until I feel like it's time to go to bed. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $6.80
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