A Week In Sydney, Australia On A $17/Hour

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Today: a bartender and grad student who makes $17 per hour and spends some of her money this week on Dr. Bronner's lavender soap. Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Occupation: Bartender/Grad Student
Industry: Hospitality
Age: 24
Location: Sydney, Australia
Salary: ~$17/hr
Paycheck Amount (Weekly): ~$450 (depending on how many hours I work)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $460 (This is insanely cheap for Sydney. I lucked out in moving in with a couple friends when their housemate moved out. Anywhere else in Sydney, including the other places I've lived, I would be paying more than double this amount. My room is not ideal, as it is technically an attic and I have to walk through someone else's room to get there, but it does have its own bathroom! The price and location are absolutely unbeatable.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My student loans are currently in deferment.)
Phone: $27 (I have a student deal with way more data and international minutes than I'll ever need.)
Internet: $13.50
Electricity: ~$31
Netflix & Stan: $0 (I mooch off a couple friends, but both were offered to me unsolicited, so I don't feel too bad!)

Day One

8:15 a.m. — I wake up at A.'s house. (He's a guy I've been casually seeing for the last couple months.) I lay in bed for about half an hour unable to sleep, feeling super stressed about all the schoolwork I have to complete in the next couple days, until he wakes up and we cuddle and chat for a few minutes.
9 a.m. — I freshen up at A.'s (brush teeth and put on deodorant), and then decide to walk straight to the library rather than stopping at home. I have my computer and books with me because I got a bit of work done at his house last night while he watched footy (wild Saturday night!). I stop at the grocery store on the way and grab a banana, a Quest bar, two Califia Farms almond milk cold brews, and a pre-packaged quinoa salad. I get to the library a couple minutes before it opens and sit outside and eat the banana and Quest bar. It's nearly winter here, but today the sun is out, so I catch some rays and soak up a bit of warmth! I feel like a cat sitting in the sun — ultimate bliss. $13.81
10 a.m. — Get into the local library and get down to business! Bliss gone. I sip on cold brew while I work on a massive essay I have due tomorrow. This is my fifth day in a row at the library, and I feel like I live here now. Contemplate if I should start paying them rent, since it's basically my new home.
12 p.m. — Take a quick break from writing my essay to message my group members for our project/essay due on Tuesday. I hate doing it so last minute, but I won't be able to work on my part until tomorrow, and they've been relying on me way too heavily throughout the project and basically want me to organize the entire paper and tell them what to write. Ugh. Group projects are the worst. I discuss with them for a bit and try to get them started on their parts so I can edit it all together tomorrow. I'm getting hungry, so I eat my quinoa salad while I work.
12:30 p.m. — I should stay at the library longer, but I'm not getting enough work done here and I'm hoping a change of scenery will aid my productivity. I only live a 10-minute walk away, but on the way home I stop at a (different) grocery store to pick up chocolate coconut yogurt to use for overnight oats this week. At home, I do a bit of essay work and then a quick exercise video. $6.05
3 p.m. — I shower, make overnight oats for tomorrow morning, and pack myself a sandwich for dinner whilst snacking on macadamia nuts. Then I get changed for work.
3:20 p.m. — Leave my house and walk to work for my 4 p.m. shift. It takes about 40 minutes, but I don't mind the walk at all! I quite like walking — I usually listen to music or a podcast. I've never really been a podcast person (I space out way too easily and usually find myself needing to rewind every couple minutes), but I just started listening to Yeah, But Still and I love it.
6 p.m. — Work is sloooowww and I'm hungry, so I snack on a pack of peanuts that we sell at work. I'm reminded that I don't really like peanuts.
8:30 p.m. — Break time! I head to the back room because no one's there and work on my essay a bit while I eat my sandwich. I have literally NEVER before done homework at work, but the essay stress is real AF.
12:15 a.m. — We close an hour earlier on Sunday nights, which I am stoked about because I had completely forgotten! Work is mostly slow, but a few of the young regulars who I'm friends with come in so the last few hours go by a little quicker. One nice thing about my work is that there are almost always regulars there, so I basically always have people I know around. I've also made really good friends with some of the younger ones, and I go out after work with them almost every week. I call an Uber home; I wish there was a better way for me to get home from work, but there's no public transit from my work to my house and it's too far to walk this late at night. I usually need to unwind a bit after work, but I know how early I need to get up tomorrow, so I walk straight past my housemate and his friend in the living room with a quick hello and go up to my room. Brush and floss teeth, wash face, put on PJs, and fall asleep by 1 a.m. $9.86
Daily Total: $29.72

Day Two

6:15 a.m. — My first alarm goes off and I snooze for 15 minutes before getting up. I quickly get dressed and head downstairs. I let the cat outside and eat my overnight oats for breakfast while making a sandwich for lunch, and then refill my overnight oats container for tomorrow. Fill up my water bottle and am out the door.
7:05 a.m. — Get to Central Station, which is about a seven-minute walk from my house, and make it onto the platform just in time to catch my train. I notice the station and train are a lot emptier than usual, since it's so early, leading me to question if I should get up this early every day (lol jk). The train ride is about 30 minutes, so I take the opportunity to get essay work done. I don't mind the commute because the train goes over the Harbour Bridge and has a great view of the Opera House. (I know that's cheesy, but still.) This always reminds me how happy I am in Sydney and how absolutely incredibly lucky I am to be here. Cheese central over here.
7:50 a.m. — I get to the library before it opens, so I hang out outside for a few minutes. I transfer my roommate money for rent, which I do every Tuesday morning, since rent is paid weekly here. Then I remember that it's Monday, not Tuesday. Aaand this is why I need more than five hours of sleep. Once the library opens, I go inside and get straight to work on my paper. I drink the almond milk cold brew that I brought with me.
10 a.m. — C., my best friend here who is also in all my classes (thank god for study buddies!), arrives at the library, so I meet her since I'm basically done with my essay. We bitch about our group projects and discuss assignments as we get work done. At around 11:40, we submit our papers (hallelujah!) and head off to our first class of the day.
1:35 p.m. — We get out of class nearly half an hour early, since it's the end of the semester and today was just final group presentations (ours was last week). C. and I head to an on-campus cafe to finalize our speaking parts for a small presentation that we have next class. I would have finished it sooner, but our professor only told us about it last week, and I've been far too consumed with other more important projects. I eat the sandwich I brought for lunch, and get a latte to go with it. $4
6 p.m. — C. and I get out of our second class and head straight to the train station. While on the platform, I get sent a group member's contribution to our paper due tomorrow, and it is absolutely abysmal. I'm pretty upset about it, since he's essentially fucked over the rest of the group. I ask him to revise his part, and then spend the train ride home venting to C. about it. She sympathizes, as she also had an extremely negative experience with her group member.
7 p.m. — I get home feeling ravenous, so I eat a few macadamia nuts to tide me over and then hop in the shower.
7:30 p.m. — Post-shower, I'm feeling a bit more calm. Still extremely displeased with how this is going down, but I've reminded myself that in the grand scheme of things this is not a huge deal, and I can soon forget about it. I'm still super hungry and I don't have enough food here to make a meal, so I order delivery. I don't normally do this, but if ever I deserve to, tonight is the night! When my poke bowl arrives, I add in avocado, because I am a true California girl but also too cheap to pay extra for it. I swat away the cat, who is very interested in the salmon in my bowl, and get down to work. $16.57
11 p.m. — Still have not received either of my group members' contributions and I'm at a loss of what to do. I am also exhausted and need to get up early again tomorrow for class, so I decide to call it a night and finish in the morning. I send one last plea to my group, begging them to finish their sections tonight. Then I chat with one of my housemates for a bit before heading upstairs to bed. I read for the book club I'm in with friends from college and am asleep by midnight.
Daily Total: $20.57

Day Three

7 a.m. — Up and at ‘em after snoozing a couple times. I quickly get ready and tiptoe downstairs. Since I have to walk through my housemate's room to get to and from mine, I try to only make one trip on days like today when I leave early, so as not to wake him. I eat breakfast and play with the cat for a few minutes while chatting with one of my housemates. I miss my dogs at home more than anyone or anything, but it really helps to live with a pet here.
7:40 a.m. — I don't want to buy food on campus, so I quickly stop into the grocery store across from the train station and buy an apple, a banana, and a hummus/cracker snack. I have time, so I also deposit the paycheck I've been carrying around for a couple days. $3.63
11:45 a.m. — Get out of class and C. and I head to the cafe to finish up our papers for this group project. We are both so over it and just want to get them done as soon as possible. I'm basically resigned to the fact that my grade will be horrendous, thanks to this one group member. For lunch, I eat the hummus and crackers with a carrot, plus a banana.
3 p.m. — Well that took WAY longer than expected! C. and I finally leave campus after submitting our papers and get the train back to the city. We stop off a couple stations early to get a MUCH deserved beer at a new brewhouse that just opened in Circular Quay. It's another gorgeous day despite being late late autumn, and the spot we're at has incredible front row Opera House and Harbour Bridge views. We have pints of beer and watch the full moon rise. It is huge and so beautiful! We leave feeling a little tipsy and very satisfied to be basically done with the semester. $8.70
6 p.m. — All three of my housemates are home when I arrive, which is rare, so I chat with them for a few minutes. I planned on getting groceries on my way home but got sidetracked, so I'm still low on options and eat macadamia nuts and a hard-boiled egg. I know this isn't enough, but I have a bad habit recently of not being hungry at all when I'm drunk and not eating enough. I vow to get groceries tomorrow, and hop in the shower.
7 p.m. — I have a date tonight with a guy I've gone out with a couple times. He's British and moving back home in a month and a half, so it's super casual, but he's extremely charming and we have a lot of fun together. C. is keen for another drink, so she comes by my house and we walk to the Clock Hotel, a bar in Surry Hills, to meet him. I figure this will be okay because he knows her as well, since I met him through her boyfriend. I buy the first round for C. and me, then a second round for the British boy and me. C. leaves and I have one more drink with British boy, which he buys. $23.91
9 p.m. — This is going to sound crazy, since we're just days away from winter, but yesterday, British boy and I made plans to go skinny dipping in the ocean tonight. I mentioned that it was going to be a full moon, and things kind of escalated from there. I thought we were joking, but I guess not? I almost say no tonight, because brr, but then I think why not! It's always good to do fun spontaneous stuff like this. Plus I'm a sucker for a skinny dip under a full moon. We drive to a beach (British boy only had two beers), strip down, and hop in! We don't stay in the water for too long, and fortunately British boy brought towels and sweatshirts and trackies to change into for when we get out. We drive back to his place and have a glass of wine and a shower. We hang out for a bit before he calls my Uber home, which is kind of him.
12 a.m. — Home and bedtime!
Daily Total: $36.24

Day Four

9 a.m. — Wake up and lounge in bed for a while before heading downstairs. I eat overnight oats and do general life admin, which I've been neglecting due to school work. I'm feeling great because I'm basically done with the semester — I have one more essay due in a few weeks, but I'm done turning stuff in for three of my classes, and all of the lectures next week, save for one, were cancelled. This is the first wide open day I've had in a while and I feel like a new woman!
11 a.m. — One of my good friends and I have been meaning to chat on the phone for MONTHS, but he lives in New York so the time difference is rough. Finally it works out, so I call him and we chat for a while and catch up on our lives.
12 p.m. — I take advantage of my lack of commitments and watch the baseball game. I haven't had time to watch one in weeks, so I'm stoked! I'm a huge A's fan, so I try to keep up with them as much as possible while I'm here. While I watch, I split my time between explaining how baseball works to my Australian housemate and doing other work on my computer.
2 p.m. — My housemate has been begging me for two hours to get burgers with him at the pub up the road since they have a deal on Wednesdays, so after declining for two hours…I finally give in. We walk there and I get a veggie burger and a beer. $13.17
3:15 p.m. — I haven't been working out as much as I'd like recently, so I capitalize on my free time and go for a run. Then I do a couple exercise videos at home before having a shower.
4:45 p.m. — When I check my phone post-shower, I have a couple missed calls from my ex-boyfriend, so I give him a call back. He just came back to Australia from a super long trip, so we catch up a bit about his trip and my semester. Then the talk turns to us and he basically tells me that he wants to move back to Sydney and for us to get back together. Whoa. This is a bit more than I can emotionally handle right now, and he is completely catching me off guard, so after talking about it for a bit we agree to wait and discuss in person when he's here next weekend. It's not what I want and I tried to make that clear to him, but there's more to talk about and I'd rather have this conversation face-to-face. He's a good guy, but he has a lot of emotional growing to do, plus current mental health issues that I think he needs to attend to.
7 p.m. — I get ready to meet A., even though I'm still feeling weird from my conversation with my ex. He comes by my house at around 7 and we take the train to Circular Quay. Sydney puts on a light festival every winter with a bunch of different art installations all over the city, so we're checking it out. We get dinner first (he pays), and then walk around the Botanic Gardens and the Rocks, looking at all the light art. We stop at a pop up bar in the gardens and then a few pubs in the Rocks, before ending up on a rooftop overlooking Circular Quay and all the lights. It's a bit chilly but I love a good roof, so I am very happy! We switch off buying rounds. $37.33
12 a.m. — A. calls us an Uber back to his place. We hang out for a bit drinking wine, and he invites me to go to a wedding with him next weekend. I say yes because I have that day off of work and I'm down to go with him, but I already felt like things were maybe starting to get too serious between us recently, and this definitely confirms my thoughts.
Daily Total: $50.50

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — We sleep in, which is HEAVENLY. A. usually gets up for work around 6:30, but he took today off (his job lets him take a bunch of days off during the year), and my 11 a.m. class got cancelled. We are super lazy and hang out in bed for a few hours, which is also heavenly.
12 p.m. — We finally pry ourselves out of bed, shower, and get lunch. A. gets a coffee and a big brekkie, and I get a veggie bowl with quinoa and tofu. I offer to pay since he bought dinner last night. I don't mind — we usually switch off paying for things, and I feel like it basically evens out. This place is crazy huge and they have a somewhat famous pig named Kevin Bacon, so we give him a visit before we leave, which totally makes my day. $38.60
2 p.m. — A. drives us to the beach since it's supposed to rain all next week and we want to catch views while it's still clear out. We go for a quick walk but it is CRAZY windy, so we have to head back to the car pretty quickly. It's definitely starting to feel like winter, but at least the coast is still as gorgeous as ever! A. drops me off at home and I find the cat curled up in my bed. I pet her for a bit, then grab my backpack and reusable bag and finally head to the grocery store. I buy lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs, bread, beetroot, canned corn kernels, garbanzo beans, salmon, vanilla Skyr, kombucha, and two hummus/cracker packs. I drink the kombucha on the way home, but I'm disappointed. I have yet to find good kombucha in Australia. $34.65
4:30 p.m. — I'm not really hungry yet, but I know I won't get a chance to eat for a while, so I eat hummus with crackers and a carrot. Then I get ready for work and walk to start my 6 p.m. shift.
9 p.m. — I prefer to have my break to myself, so I usually go off-campus and sit on a nearby bench, but it's too cold tonight, so I take my break sitting by the fireplace, which is actually a pretty cozy little corner of the pub! I eat the sandwich I brought for dinner and scroll through social media.
1:15 a.m. — Finish work and call an Uber home. I'm pretty tired so I get ready for bed and am asleep by 2. $8.74
Daily Total: $81.99

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — I've been in and out of sleep for a couple hours, so I lay in bed for a few minutes before getting up and giving my best friend a call. We've been meaning to talk for weeks! We have a good chat and are able to catch up about a lot of stuff, but most importantly we discuss a good friend of ours whose mental health and drug use we are really worried about. We both vow to reach out to her more often. While I'm on the phone with her I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
11:15 a.m. — Get off the phone with my friend just in time to watch the first basketball game of the finals. Go Dubs!
12 p.m. — The ends of my hair are bleached blonde from a year ago, and they've been on and off pink since then. I desperately need a haircut but I still have dye left, so I decide to do one more go of pink, which I do while watching the game.
2 p.m. — The Warriors win! What a crazy first game. For lunch I make myself a massive salad with a soft-boiled egg on top.
3:20 p.m. — Decide to take the train to work instead of walking. It's only 10 minutes faster, which is why I usually don't bother, but it's been raining on and off today, so it's worth it just to avoid getting soaked on my way to work.
7 p.m. — My coworker teaches me to use the coffee machine. Definitely should have learned this forever ago.
8:30 p.m. — Break time! It's so cold and a bit rainy, so I stay in the pub again and I eat my sandwich while sitting with a friend/regular. Work is fairly slow but A. is here for the first few hours, so that's nice. He works nearby and a lot of the guys from his work are in here a lot.
11 p.m. — I get hungry at work, so I buy a pack of cashews and snack on those. $2.27
1:20 a.m. — Finish work! A. invites me to his, and I'm very tempted, but I kind of feel like things are moving a little too fast, so I decline since I'm going there tomorrow night anyway. I really like him and the trajectory that we're on, but I don't like rushing into things and lately I've felt like it's going a bit too quickly. My housemate texts me that he's at a bar a block from our house (a late night place that's outside of Sydney's lockout laws), so I Uber to meet him there. $10.26
1:30 a.m. — I get to the bar and have a few drinks with my housemate and his very drunk, very loud friend. I see a couple of other hospitality people I know there. I'm friendly with the bartenders, one of whom always gives me the first round for free, so I tip, even though it's not required in Australia. $21.19
3 a.m. — I walk the couple minutes home. I'm still not as tired as I wish I was, so I watch a bit of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and am asleep around 4.
Daily Total: $33.72

Day Seven

1o a.m. — Wake up and head downstairs. I eat a small vanilla Skyr for breakfast and catch up on email and news.
11 a.m. — Head off to meet a friend for coffee at a nearby cafe. We've both been so busy the last few weeks, so it's great to catch up! I get a chai latte, which is the perfect warm treat on a cold and windy day. The baristas at this cafe are always super sweet, so I leave a tip. $3.78
12:45 p.m. — Get home and work on birthday cards for friends. I make cards for good friends every year, so now that I've been in Australia I've been mailing them to people. I started doing this in college and it was very well received, so I've kept it going. It's a nice way to keep in touch with people, and I think it's good for all of us — they're appreciative of receiving a card, and I'm happy that I can do something for their birthdays, even if it's pretty small. I'll mail the ones I'm working on now early next week. I take a break and have my usual huge salad for lunch, and then I shower and get ready for work.
2:45 p.m. — I leave a little early for work so I can stop at a health food store on the way. The store is right by the train station close to work, so I take the train. My Opal card is set to auto-top up when it dips below $10, so when I tap off at the station it adds money. $30.27
3:30 p.m. — I honestly love stores like this and I could spend forever and a million dollars here, but I came for specific things, so I stick to those. I buy matcha powder ($19.98), because I've been out for a month, and a mini lavender Dr Bronner's soap ($4.50), for an upcoming trip for which I'm planning on only bringing carry-on luggage. I also buy a Quest bar to eat on my way to work, because even though I'm not super hungry yet I know I will be. $24.48
6:30 p.m. — Work is super busy but I'm feeling hungry, so I buy cashews and sneakily snack on them in the free moments. $2.27
8:40 p.m. — Break time! I eat hummus with crackers and a carrot since I'm not super hungry now. Clearly I need to learn to time my eating better. Tonight's shift is going super slowly somehow even though we're pretty busy. We definitely have some kind of rowdy and obnoxious customers, so maybe that's part of it? I feel like a drink might take the edge off for the second half of my shift, and while I could technically have my staffie on my break, I'd rather get fresh air. I duck into the pub across the road and quickly have a pint before heading back to work. $7.77
1:25 a.m. — Finish work FINALLY. I meet up with A. and his best friend, who have been out at a friend's bachelor party in the area. We share an Uber back towards their houses (A.'s friend pays), and A. and I get dropped off at his. We have a glass of wine and chat for a bit to catch up about our days and make a plan for the wedding next weekend. Then we call it a night and head to bed.
Daily Total: $68.57
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