Money Diaries

A Week In Parramatta, Sydney, On A $109,250 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.
Occupation: Workforce Manager
Industry: Not For Profit
Age: 32
Location: Parramatta, Sydney, NSW 
Salary: $109,250 + $18,550 salary packaging due to working for a not for profit
Net Worth: $387,684 total ($132,695 in super, $250,745 in shares, and $42,413 in a savings account).
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (fortnightly): $2,923
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,516 a month. I rent a two-bedroom apartment on a leafy suburban street in the heart of Western Sydney. I used to have a flatmate but they moved out three months ago and I'm enjoying having my own space. My boyfriend, B. stays on the weekend but we don't share finances.
Loans: $0
Phone Bill: $15
Internet: $55
Private Health Insurance: $66.43
Petrol: $36
Charitable Giving To The Smith Family: $52
Electricity: $60
Extra Superannuation Contribution: $600
Sinking fund (for future car, travel and renovation expenses): $1,350
Shares: $2,200

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

Yeah. I went to university and received a Bachelor in Business Administration. Overall, the cost was around $35,000, which I paid off with the help of the HECS/HELP scheme.

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

We had limited conversations around money. My parents didn't discuss how much they earned, what a budget was, or how to live within your means. Children are naturally curious though, and I learnt a lot about money from experience rather than direct conversations. I learned that you could buy a few lollies at the shops with your own $2, or you could join forces with your siblings to get a larger value pack.

My parents also never had credit cards, always looked for good deals, and then saved the rest. These lessons of teamwork, delayed gratification and not getting into credit debt were very useful, even without any direct money conversations.  
One thing I would like to do differently when I have my own family is to talk about building long-term wealth. My parents rented (and still do) and have minimal investments. I'm very grateful that we always had a roof over our heads and food on the table, but it's clear now that we were living week to week.

This was also reflected in how I handled my own savings. I was a natural saver from a young age, though without the knowledge of what to do with larger sums of money, I would end up splurging it all. It was not until my mid-20s that I found out about investing and building wealth for the longer term. I would like to pass on that lesson to the next generation so they can get more of a head start.  

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

My first job was as a deli assistant. I was fortunate to get the job as soon as I turned 14 because my mum worked there. My mother was a good worker and to this day, I am grateful to have learned a strong work ethic from her. I got the job to have my own sense of independence and responsibility (I was always a very self-determined child). Having my first job was a real revelation about how money was earned and the value of each purchase.

Did you worry about money growing up?

We always had a roof over our heads and food on the table so I didn't worry about money in that sense, but there was always a feeling that we were poor compared to my friends at school. With four children, my parents were not always able to give us the extras it seemed that others were able to have.  
We had an older car, clothes only from cheaper chain stores, secondhand items and birthday parties at home instead of out at restaurants or play centres.  We were not able to go on many holidays and certainly couldn't go overseas like so many of our friends. These sound like frivolous things now, and surprisingly I have kept many humble habits from childhood, though at the time it felt like we were missing out. 

Do you worry about money now? 

No. I am financially secure. I have an emergency fund, investments and both active and passive income streams. I live a simple, though abundant life, and I enjoy many things that don't cost a lot of money — friends, family and the outdoors. I know money is a tool and it will be there for me when I need it.  

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

I left home at 17 and lived with another family until I could get my own place closer to university at 18 with a friend. From then, I was responsible for myself. I worked through university to pay my own way for day-to-day living, and used HECS to pay for university.  
I set a goal to finish university, move to London and travel around Europe. I saved up enough to meet the requirements to get a working visa in London and paid for flights as well as accommodation for three months. I got a job while I was travelling to pay for the rest of my time overseas, including two months of full-time travel around Europe.  
When I came back home, I got my first ‘real’ full-time job in an office. I thought it was time I learned a bit more about how to manage my money, especially now that I had a bit more to play with and no real goals besides paying off my HECS debt. House prices in Sydney seemed too far out of reach and I hadn't decided if I wanted to settle anywhere in particular. I was seeking an alternative, when I stumbled across share market investing. From there I was hooked and have been investing and growing my nest egg ever since.  

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


Day One

7:35am — No alarm today as it is Saturday. My boyfriend, B., stayed last night so we discuss plans for the weekend and enjoy a slow morning. 
8:30am — Breakfast time. Weetbix for him, sourdough toast for me. We split a banana and I have a green tea.
8:55am — My morning routine face routine — wash with warm water, apply The Ordinary Niacinamide and The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors. I find The Ordinary products to be good for my sensitive skin, are low key, effective and have a good price range. 
9:15am — I clean out and repack the freezer. It's ticking off small tasks like this that make me feel like I have accomplished something early in the day. I love to meal prep and always cook enough to have leftovers, but sometimes this piles up and I forget what might be lurking in the back of the freezer. Every now and then, I end up with a whole week where I don't need to buy much at all. This is one of those weeks. I make a mental note to use up food during the week before next weekend’s big grocery shop. 
11:00am — We enjoy a leisurely 3km walk along the river to the supermarket to pick up supplies for lunch — wraps with chicken for him and salad for me, plus snacks (some fruit and a vegan brownie we found on sale!). I know I said above I had a lot of food, however, warm weather calls for fresh food, not frozen — so off to the shops we go! The weather is perfectly sunny but not too hot. His turn to pay — $38.17. 
11:57am — We check out of the supermarket and head next door to order an acai bowl to share. $15.50
12:28pm — Our acai bowl is ready! We eat it while walking back home along the river again. It's such a peaceful walk, and we stop to watch some local wildlife. Being in nature and enjoying the outdoors are high priorities for us.  
 1:00pm — Arrive home and unpack groceries. This must be done straight away — it's another easy task to tick off and a neat and tidy kitchen makes me feel good. We are not hungry for lunch yet because of the acai bowl, so we play a game of Sorry to pass the time — we both know it won’t be long before I’m hungry again. 
2:00pm — Lunchtime. We grill the chicken for B. and make a big salad for us to split on the wraps. I like to finish off lunch with something sweet, so we try the brownie we picked up on sale. It's gooey in the middle and very chocolatey, just how we like it. 
5:00pm — We spend the afternoon kayaking down at the local lake, and the afternoon disappears quite quickly. We decide to get takeaway Japanese for dinner and pre-order for collection at 7:15pm. To our cart we add: spring rolls, udon noodles, steamed rice, veggie and avocado sushi, eggplant, mushroom and seaweed salads, veggie gyoza and of course, edamame. B. also orders chicken karaage and teriyaki beef. I am not vegetarian, but I do try to limit my meat intake as I feel the average Aussie eats more than the recommended amount. Total for Japanese food — $48.90.
5:48pm — Still scrolling on my phone…..and some good advertising sucks me in. Who wouldn’t want to try a new Thai place that does pre-cooked meals for home delivery, with no garlic and no onion? Anyone with a sensitive tummy definitely does! I order all the dishes in the range, ensuring I spend enough to qualify for free shipping of course! This should arrive in a few days. $60
7:18pm — We collect our dinner and head home to enjoy it. All of the food is delicious; we're definitely going to order from there again. There are plenty of leftovers as well which will make for an easy meal for B. to ‘cook’ tomorrow night — win!
8:00pm — We play a game of Scrabble for a no-screen-time evening. B. was winning for most of the game as I had a string of bad luck with only vowels for 4 rounds in a row. In the end, I got lucky and just slipped back into the winning spot. It's really nice to not need our phones/laptops/TV for a couple of hours and just enjoy some good old-fashioned fun in such a fast-paced world. 
10:00pm — Showers and nighttime routine. Skincare includes The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% and a local organic eye cream and rich facial moisturiser. 
Daily Total: $124.40

Day Two

10:00am — Head off for a bike ride (approx. 12km) along the local river and parklands. We are really lucky to have a huge bike track almost the entire way so we don’t have to worry about cars. It's another beautiful sunny day. 
11:00am –— We explore the wharf and local shops and food options. There are so many delicious options available, it's hard to choose what I want. I am a big food lover and want to try alllllll the things!
12:00pm — I settle on Bahn Mi and get the two bestsellers from the menu ($16). The line to order was wrapped around the store, which is always a good sign. We take them down to the wharf and enjoy them in the sunshine, watching the ferry, the people and the wildlife. Our world is amazing and intriguing if you just sit and watch for a while. $16
1:00pm — On the ride back home, B. takes us through a slightly different route — through another park and around the local football stadium. He does this so I do not have to ride up the huge hill on the way back, bless. 
2:10pm — A storm comes through just after we get home — perfect timing! We spend the afternoon watching a renovation show and playing Wii games due to the rainy weather. At times, we can be quite competitive with each other, so we enjoy games or other challenges either where we verse each other, or team up to play on the same side. 
3:00pm — I get a little peckish, so I grab some snacks from the pantry and make a little platter — apple slices, crackers, chocolate, nuts and carrot sticks with hummus. I'm not afraid to eat whenever I get hungry and instead just try to make healthy choices most of the time. 
6:35pm — My sister messages to say that her town is attempting a world record for the biggest online trivia game at 7pm. We agree to jump on and need to message our friends to push back our weekly catch up.
7:00pm — We heat up leftover Japanese for dinner and eat while we play trivia. I am naturally terrible at trivia and get most wrong. B. is good on the local knowledge game as he used to work in my sister's town years ago.
7:47pm — We finally jump on to our weekly friends’ online catch-up. We are so grateful to have such understanding and flexible friends, willing to push things back at the last minute. We chat about new jobs, moving intrastate, work, puppies — all the usual things. Having a weekly time check-in with everyone in such a busy world is something special. 
9:40pm — Time to head for showers and bedtime routine. We play Uno and chat until lights out. 
Daily Total: $16.00

Day Three

6:45am — The alarm goes off, but no work today, so I hit snooze and fall back asleep. Some mornings I spring out of bed with a real purpose... today is not one of those days. I am happy for the lay-in. 
8:30am — I decide it's time to get the day going. Breakfast of cereal, toast and fruit again, followed by my regular morning face routine.
9:10am — A morning of general house tasks such as cleaning, organising, popping on my new car roof racks. I'm feeling productive — ticking items off our list makes us feel like we have this adulting thing down pat. I promise I'm not always in control — B. is just as much into having a good list and this one was on his for quite some time. 
12:30pm — For lunch we have wraps again, plus some sweet potato fries. Simple and nutritious. 
2:30pm — It's been raining lightly all day and we have cabin fever as we would much rather be outdoors whenever possible. We put on our rain jackets and head out anyway, hoping the rain doesn’t get heavier. We walk to our favourite local lake and enjoy the quiet while everyone else is indoors. 
5:00pm — I log on for an online market research session. It is one-on-one and the researcher is lovely (and has a cute dog!). I qualified due to the work I do, and was super happy to earn $250 for talking about something I am interested in for 40 minutes. 
5:45pm — I check my emails and plan work for tomorrow while B. does his thing. I receive an email from a colleague about a charity walk she is completing to raise money for those experiencing homelessness. I like to keep a budget aside to support charities like these when they pop up. I donate online without hesitation. $52
6:10pm – Time to give B a haircut. He used to spend $25 every six weeks on haircuts. For the past 18 months or so, I cut it and he saves the cash. I am certainly no pro, but when the barbers are closed on and off (thanks lockdown), you do what you have to do. 
7:00pm — I cook dinner while B. cleans up. Using up some smoked pork rashers from the freezer and frozen veg, I put together fried rice. Simple and delicious, the smokey flavour really makes an average dish a little more special. 
7:30pm — B. wants to watch SAS Australia on TV. I get bored watching TV for too long so keep myself busy during the adverts making some custard. I serve it with warm chocolate mud cake from the infamous freezer stash. 
8:35pm — We do the dishes together, and go through a shower and bedtime routine early tonight as it is back to work tomorrow. 
9:30pm — I read in bed to really unwind and relax. I could get lost in a good story for hours. B browses car stuff online. 
Daily Total: $52

Day Four

6:45am — Weekday alarm goes off. I read some news articles in bed and chat to B. I do my morning routine and pop into workout clothes. I hate going to the gym, but I'm happy to join online classes either in real-time with friends or via a workout app.
8:00am — I join the Pilates class online — a friend from school runs classes twice a week. Social exercise does not feel as strenuous. 
8:40am — I log in to work. I work from home so don't have to go far and can stay in my workout gear all day if I want to, occasionally putting a jacket on for online meetings. B. makes breakfast and brings me sourdough toast with peanut butter and banana and a decaf green tea, and makes himself Weetbix with fruit. 
9:30am — I jump into a zoom call while B. cleans up the spare room and the balcony — it's really dirty after all the rain we had.   
11:30am — The Thai food I ordered on Saturday arrives and gets packed away for later. This will be a few meals this week along with vegetables from the freezer. 
12:40pm — We enjoy a quick lunch of leftovers before B. heads off to work. He won’t be back for a few days which is always a little sad. I keep myself busy with work for the rest of the afternoon and it flies by. 
6:00pm — For dinner, I heat up the Thai noodles and spring rolls that arrived this morning. They were tasty, though a little oily. I felt like something sweet at the end of the day, so tonight it is Medjool dates and dried apricots which I enjoy with a cup of herbal tea.
6:50pm — Kitchen clean up, shower and nighttime routine. 
8:04pm — I message B. and chat about the rest of our days. Even when he isn’t here we chat regularly about everything that is going on. He is so easy to talk to. 
9:35pm — We say goodnight and I read a couple of chapters of tonight’s book of choice — a light romance novel, At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks to wind down before bed. 
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:45am — Alarm goes off, hit snooze. I’m really not a morning person this week. 
7:15am — It's a rainy and cold morning, so I decide to stay in bed a while longer and check emails while messaging B. about some ideas for Christmas gifts. We join two secret Santa pools each year, one for his family and one for mine. The gift limits are $50. I tend to receive a new cookbook or other kitchen items while he receives tools or other similar items.  
8:10am — I make my favourite workday breakfast, a large smoothie. Adding frozen banana, strawberries, spinach, flaxmeal, chia seeds, oats a brazil nut, and a big scoop of organic supergreens powder. Topped with water and blitzed up, delish!
8:30am — Time to log in to work. Wednesday is usually packed with meetings. Project group meetings and 1:1's with each of my three team members. It was an extra busy day today for some reason. 
1:00pm — I quickly heat up some leftover pasta and make a small side salad between meetings. It's handy to have all those freezer meals prepped for times like this so I don’t reach for Uber eats. 
3:08pm — Get an SMS to book in for some paid babysitting for next month and I pop it in the diary. I am a huge fan of kids and have enjoyed babysitting on the side for the past seven years or so. I do not do as many hours as I used to (I am talking 3-4 days a week), but I still have a couple of families that reach out from time to time. It is so lovely to be able to connect with families and watch them grow. 
6:30pm — Dinner tonight is steamed wholemeal mushroom buns, mushroom dumplings and edamame from my freezer, followed by dates and dried apricots for my sweet fix.
7:00pm — I pop on an Ellen Fisher Podcast (The Bucket List Family – live with purpose and follow your dreams) and start walking. I enjoy listening to others talk about what has inspired them in life and what stimulated and excites them. I hit 14.5k steps and feel uplifted from the story.
9:10pm — Shower, night routine and reading in bed to unwind after my little inspirational high until lights out. 
Daily Total: $0

Day Six 

6:45am — Wake up and hair wash time. I take my time with washing my hair and make it a bit of a ritual. I put on some music and use a scalp scrub whilst giving my head a nice massage. It is very relaxing. I am currently using Bondi Boost products. They are far more expensive than I would usually buy so I hesitated buying them for a long time. But they seem to be the only things that calm my dry, itchy scalp. So far, they are absolutely worth the cost.
8:50am — I quickly blitz up another breakfast smoothie before jumping straight into some work.
12:30pm — I have a little extra time today so I use it to make a big salad for lunch with greens, olives, tomato, carrot, pepitas and oregano artichokes. The artichokes were a free sample from my supermarket rewards program and add a delicious texture and flavour — I will probably buy these in the future. I also cut some leftover wraps into triangles and toast them to have on the side.
1:00pm — Another Pilates class online. It was extra special today as I had an extra 15 minutes at the end to chat with my friend from high school who runs the classes. It's always nice to catch up any chance we get, as she now lives six hours away and has a little one to keep her hands full. I am very grateful that our schedules aligned unplanned.
1:40pm — Unfortunately, I have to get back to work. I enjoy my job and can see that my role makes a difference so it's not too bad at all. 
4:20pm — A big storm hits! Lots of hail, thunder and lightning. I message B to check if he's all good, as he works outdoors. 
6:30pm — B. visits in a work break and we chat about our days and where he took cover for the storm. 
7:00pm — B. heads back off to work and I heat up the Thai fried rice for dinner. It's far too salty. I get through about a quarter and cannot deal so that goes in the bin. I hate wasting food but cannot force myself to eat something that tastes that bad, and too much sodium is not good for your health anyway so I convince myself it is better to let it go. I usually make all my own food, so I feel a little disappointed in myself that I ordered so many meals and not one was as good as a simple home-cooked meal. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I make a mental note not to reorder again. I settle on Weetbix for dinner to try to get the salty taste out of my mouth. 
7:40pm — I spend a bit of time browsing real estate online. B. and I are looking to get a place. It has been very up and down with all the changes in the world and restrictions lately, which has really set back our timeline. Despite this, we choose to remain optimistic. We message back and forth, though we don't find anything that ticks all our boxes just yet. We're in no rush so we're happy to wait until we find something we agree meets all our needs.
8:00pm — I listen to another podcast on ‘How to find your purpose’ and make a list of all the things I want to achieve in the next couple of years. I have been feeling a little uncertain lately at the slow pace of life after 100 days of lockdowns. It's good to be reinvigorated and motivated to have a to-do list again that isn’t just house chores. 
9:15pm –—Wind down with a cup of herbal tea and start my bedtime routine. Otherwise, I won't be able to sleep with all the ideas popping into my head. Usual evening routine and jump into bed. Decide to read some Sapiens tonight for something different.  
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:15am — Wake up, shower, make breakfast of Weetbix, fresh strawberries, blueberries, flaxmeal and a mix of Brazil nuts and walnuts, and a large mug of decaf green tea. 
8:00am — I log in early to work to ensure I have enough time to feel good leaving for the weekend. Fridays are usually fairly even-paced with the end of week reports due and catching up on any weekly tasks that fall behind other urgent items.  
8:55am — Breaking news at work due to an announcement of industry change that affects us in ten days. Make some changes to my schedule, a few phone calls and start to work on a new workforce plan. Guess I spoke too soon about Fridays being cruisy. 
12:30pm — Quick 15 minute ab workout online before making another big fresh salad for lunch today. I also boiled up some pasta and mixed in pesto for some more carbs to fill me up. I'm no fun when I’m hangry. 
2:30pm — Pop in my headphones and walk while having two work meetings that don't require me to be at my desk. I love being able to multitask like this and not just sitting still all day. 
5:20pm — Final Skype call of the week with a Junior Developer to try to resolve data errors. We decide to do a temporary half-fix for now and let her go for the weekend — we'll revisit first thing Monday morning. I don't mind working extra hours when needed though, but very rarely ask Juniors to do this as I don’t feel it is fair or reasonable. 
5:45pm — As my day was unexpectedly pushed back, I finally get to finish off weekly reports and emails with updates to the executive team.
7:00pm — I wish everyone a good weekend (though chances are they have already left) and log off for the week, woohoo! Even though it was only a 4-day week, I feel like I need a well-deserved weekend. The dream one day will be a 3-day work week — shh, don’t tell my boss!
7:10pm — I jump straight into steaming some dinner for a quick meal. I pop in veg gyoza, mushroom dumplings and frozen peas and corn. It's all topped with Thai dumpling sauce, which makes everything taste better. Easy, quick and nutritious. I give myself a pat on the back for using up a fair bit of food from the freezer this week and look forward to getting back into cooking some new meals next week. I really miss it when I don't get a chance to enjoy the full cooking experience for a little while. 
7:40pm — B. calls and we chat about our day and our weekend plans. We'll finally see some sunshine this weekend after a week of rain. This excites us and almost all our plans will be outdoors. 
8:10pm — Time to veg out on the couch and scroll for interesting recipes to trial on the weekend. I save a few of my favourite ones and see what's on special or what looks appealing at the grocery store tomorrow. 
9:30pm — Evening routine and jump into bed to read until I am sleepy. Reading is such a simple (and cheap!) daily habit that makes a huge difference to my wellbeing. I would recommend a daily habit to anyone who asks. 
Daily Total: $0