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A Week In Canberra, Australia, On A $55,000 Salary

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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 dollar.

Today: a media and communications officer who makes $55,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on wine.
Editor's Note: All currency has been converted to USD.
Occupation: Media and Communications Officer
Industry: Government
Age: 25
Location: Canberra, Australia
Salary: $55,000
Net Worth: $115,000 (Assets of $410,500 (home value $370,000 ($82,000 in equity), $18,000 in savings, $22,000 in Super (Australian retirement fund), $500 in micro-investments minus debt of $295,500).
Debt: $295,000 ($8,500 in student loans, $287,000 in mortgage)
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,500
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $540 (My mortgage repayment is $1,100. I split this with my partner, P. He pays $560 and I pay $540.)
Student Loans: $300 (this comes out of my paycheck before tax so I don't ever see it.)
Utilities: $180
Pet Insurance: $45
Health Insurance: $20
Contents Insurance: $20
Transport: $70
Phone: $25
Netflix: $9
Internet: paid for by P.
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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?
Yes, my parents expected me to go to university. There was no other option for me. I was the first person on my dad's side of the family to ever go to university, and there was a lot of pressure for me to go. When I signed up for my degree, I had no idea what I wanted to study, so I picked a degree in Public Relations that a friend had just finished doing. I ended up loving it, which is very lucky. In Australia, we have government loans for higher education, which is how I paid for my degree. My degree ended up costing about $18,000 and I have so far paid off about $10,000. In Australia, you don't have to start paying back your student loans until you earn a certain amount of money. I'm not sure what the current threshold is, however, all my jobs have been above this threshold, so I have been paying my loans off since the day I graduated.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up my dad worked at a bank, so money was always discussed in my household. My dad opened a bank account for me when I was five, and every week we would deposit money. I think I was given about $1 a week to deposit, but it taught me great habits.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was waitressing at a family friend's restaurant when I was about 15. I got it out of pure luck. They needed a waitress for an event and I was available to do it. I used to work about four nights per week and got paid $10 per hour. It was a cash-only job with great tips. I would keep my tips aside for spending money and every month my dad would take me to the bank to deposit my pay. This set me up really well and I didn't make any big purchases for about three years.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. We were comfortable growing up. We always had food on the table and a roof over our head. We didn't have a lot, though. My mum was a stay-at-home mum for 10 years and I now realize how much of a privilege that was. My dad also had two other children (my half-siblings) that he paid child support for, so there was never a lot of discretionary spending money available for clothes, toys, etc.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I lead a comfortable life and I have a solid amount of savings for an emergency. However, I always get anxious about the future and right now I am trying to plan for a family. My partner, P., recently got a really well-paying job and earns about $4,000 per month which has eased my mind a bit, especially when planning for the future. At the moment, we have separate finances and the only joint expense we have is the mortgage. However, when we have children we will merge our finances more.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible at age 22 when I moved out of my family home. Since then, I haven't received any help from my family. However, if I were to fall into financial hardship both my family and my partner would help me out.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I was younger I received chore money from my dad, about $5 a fortnight until I got my job. I have not received any inheritance and don't expect to.

Day One

6 a.m. — Wake up and start getting ready for the day. I try to not wear any makeup to work except for special occasions, so this is a fast process. I feed my dog and take him for a quick walk around the block.
7:30 a.m. — My sister-in-law drives me to the city so I can catch a bus to work. About five months ago, I fainted while driving, so I was deemed medically unfit to drive for six months. After numerous scans and tests, my doctor deemed it to be a simple faint so I should be okay to drive in one more month.
8 a.m. — The bus is running late so I go the coffee shop and get a takeaway coffee ($3.50). The bus arrives and I swipe my bus card when getting on ($2, but included in transport costs above). I wear a mask because I don't want to get COVID and everyone around me seems to have forgotten about the pandemic. A man stands right next to me, taking up my personal space. $3.50

9 a.m. — Get to work and that coffee did not wake me up. I go to my work cafe and get another coffee. $3.50

1 p.m. — It's lunchtime and my team decides to order sushi for lunch. I get three sushi rolls and a drink. $10

5 p.m. — Home time. My mum picks me up from work because she is concerned about me catching public transport too much because of COVID. Even though it is out of her way, she drives me all the way home. I'm blessed to have such a kind mother.

7 p.m. — I feed my dog and then myself. I can't be bothered to cook anything so I check my freezer and decided on a sweet potato and lentil soup I made a while ago. I love making food that I can freeze because I am very lazy when it comes to making dinner for myself every night, especially when P. is away. He works about an hour-and-a-half from where we live, so he is gone for two weeks at a time. He was supposed to come back tomorrow but has been extended an additional week. It's tough sometimes, but we're used to it after doing long-distance for years.

10 p.m. — After bingeing Friends for a couple of hours, I take the dog outside and then we head to bed. When P. is not home, I let our dog sleep next to me.

Daily Total: $17
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Day Two

7 a.m. — Wake up slowly because I'm working from home today. After my accident, I asked my boss if I could work from home one day per week, to make it easier on my family who drive me to work. She's the best boss ever so, of course, she said yes. I feed the dog and run around with him outside. I bought my home about six months ago solely because I was living in an apartment and the dog really needed a yard. The yard is not huge, but it is enough for him.
9 a.m. — Log-in to my computer and get started on my work for the day. I work in marketing and communications for a government agency. It's enjoyable and every day is different, so I never know what to expect.
11 a.m. — Get a call from my boss, which is weird because she doesn't usually call me when I work from home. She lets me know that my city is going into lockdown for a week because they have detected a COVID-19 case and we need to prepare some crisis communication messages.
1 p.m. — After a long conference call with the rest of my team, we begin rolling out the crisis messaging. This is pretty stressful and I feel like I'm going to have a bit of a meltdown.
2 p.m. — I Facetime P. to let him know the bad news. This means he probably won't be able to come home next week and now I don't know when I'll see him again. I cry to him a bit. Not knowing makes this whole situation much more difficult.
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4 p.m. — I log off of work and lie on the floor giving my dog a cuddle. At least he is here to comfort me. I mask up and walk 30 minutes to the local grocery store to pick up some essentials before the lockdown commences.
7 p.m. — The line at the grocery store is out the door. I get the essentials that I need (soy milk, bread, chicken breast, potato chips, chocolate, and wine — $70) and wait in line for over an hour. This is ridiculous. Some people have two trolleys worth of stuff?? I walk the 30 minutes home (up a hill carrying my groceries) and then pour myself a large glass of wine. $70
8 p.m. — Even though I bought groceries, I can't be bothered to cook, so I order a burger on Uber Eats. $15
11:30 p.m. — I get a message from my boss saying that everyone can have tomorrow off while our executive team figures out what we are going to do. My workplace is considered essential and most people do hands-on work that can't be done from home, so they need to plan what to do. This will be a paid day off.
Daily Total: $85

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up a bit disoriented. I may have had too much wine last night because I don't feel great. Oh well, at least I don't have to work. I quickly log on anyway and check to make sure I don't have any urgent emails. I decide that I'll also log on this afternoon to check again. I feed the dog and let him outside.
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11 a.m. — After a morning of bingeing Friends, I take my dog for our one hour of allowed exercise. I mask up and we wander aimlessly around the neighborhood for a while, trying to avoid people, but also making sure to say hello. Everyone seems so defeated. My city hasn't had a single lockdown the entire pandemic. Even when COVID first hit, we had more freedom.
3 p.m. — After our walk, I binge more Friends and do a puzzle that I've had set up for a couple of days. I realize that I haven't eaten all day so I make a sandwich.
6 p.m. — I feed the pup and play outside with him for a while. At least someone is excited about the lockdown. I'm not hungry so I don't make anything for dinner.
10 p.m. — I go to bed but can't sleep. I am a very anxious person at the best of times, but now my anxiety is going into over-drive. I scroll on my phone for a while and then put on a podcast to help me sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — It's the weekend. I slowly get out of bed and get dressed. I'm going to make a point of keeping some sort of routine during this lockdown so I don't form any bad habits. I make myself a coffee using my fancy barista coffee machine. So much better than instant coffee.
11 a.m. — My brother messages that there is a bakery van driving around our neighborhood. As this is considered an essential service and I want to support local businesses, I mask up and take my dog for a walk to find the van. I buy a loaf of bread and a cinnamon scroll. We continue walking around the neighborhood for the rest of our hour. $7
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3 p.m. — Forgot to eat lunch again. So much for a routine. I get a frozen meat pie out of the freezer and heat it up. Not the healthiest thing to eat, but at least it tastes good.
10 p.m. — After bingeing some more Friends, I go to bed. I'm more tired tonight, so I fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $7

Day Five

9 a.m. — My dog lets me sleep in today and I'm thankful. We wake up and I let him outside quickly. A few weeks ago we went through a stage where he was peeing inside every night. I don't know why — he is toilet-trained — but now I make sure he goes to the toilet before bed and as soon as we wake up. I feed him and make some toast for breakfast. I also FaceTime P. We usually FaceTime every second day because his work schedule is crazy, but he's been calling me a lot more recently to make sure I'm doing okay. He's the best.
12 p.m. — Take the dog for his hour-long walk. He is getting better at walking on a lead. I've had him for a year now, but he is still a puppy and is still learning. This lockdown will give me a great opportunity to train him some more.
1 p.m. — Get home and make a salad for lunch.
3:30 p.m. — I am scrolling through Facebook and see that a long down-jacket that I've had my eye on for ages is on sale. It is normally $400 which I cannot justify paying, but it is down to $150 so I quickly purchase it. They also have free shipping. $150

5 p.m. — I pour myself a glass of wine and make some popcorn so I can watch a movie. I end up watching The Kissing Booth 2 and The Kissing Booth 3 on Netflix. I don't know why since the first one wasn't good, but I need to watch something easy.

12 a.m. — After watching two movies, I'm exhausted. I take the dog outside to the toilet and we fall into bed.

Daily Total: $150
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Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Wake up ready for another day working from home. My company is old school and is not set up for working from home, so it is difficult. I have a team meeting over FaceTime at 10 so I log on and prepare for that.
8 a.m. — Make myself a coffee and get dressed. I also take this time to let the dog outside again and give him breakfast. I realize he has a slight ear infection so I call the vet to see if I can get an appointment. They have one at 9 so I book it in and call my brother to see if he can drive me. I let my boss know that I'll be logging on late today.
9:15 a.m. — As I suspected, he has an ear infection. The total cost for this appointment is $245, which is mind-blowing but necessary. I hope I will get some back through my pet insurance. My brother drove me home (we are both masked up in the car). $245
10:30 a.m. — I feel very sleepy so I make another coffee and some toast to eat just before my meeting. I quickly check the news and see that my city's lockdown has been extended for another two weeks. Pretty depressing news. I would also like to take this time to say that I am not vaccinated yet because people in my age group are not eligible for the vaccine in Australia. This makes me even more stressed out because all I want is to be vaccinated.
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12 p.m. — Team meeting done and dusted. It will be interesting to see how the next three weeks go working from home. I take the dog for our hour-long walk. I need to clear my head after the news this morning and my team meeting. I really enjoy working with my team, but I am an introvert and find video calls a bit overwhelming.
4 p.m. — Log off for the day. I play with the dog outside and we enjoy the nice winter sun. I also FaceTime P. so he can see the dog playing. P. sends me half the payment for the vet.
9 p.m. — I have a busy day at work tomorrow so I try and go to bed early. I let the dog out and then we head to bed. I listen to a podcast as I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $245

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Wake up, get dressed, and let the dog outside. I make myself a coffee and bowl of cereal and then feed the pup. I realize that I am running low on coffee grounds so I put in a grocery order to be delivered. I also get spinach, cheese, eggs, frozen pizza, apples, toothpaste, tissues, vinegar, dog treats, and rice. It won't be delivered for five days due to high levels of demand. $100
8 a.m. — Log on to work and see that I have 50 emails in my inbox. This will take about an hour to get through on top of my already busy day.
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1 p.m. — I check the time and see that it's already lunch time. I have been flat-out all morning, answering emails, responding to media inquiries, and writing. I don't have time to stop for lunch — much to the dog's dismay. I quickly make a sandwich and promise that I'll take him for a walk as soon as I finish work.
5 p.m. — The afternoon flies by and I log off absolutely exhausted. I take the dog for a walk, but it's cold and windy outside so we only go for half an hour.
7 p.m. — I have chicken schnitzel and salad for dinner, very basic but super quick and easy. I eat, feed the dog, watch a couple of episodes of Friends, and head to bed. I am so tired.
Daily Total: $100
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