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This article originally appeared in Refinery29 Australia.
Welcome to Money Diaries, where we ask real people how they spend and save their money during a seven-day period, tracking every last dollar. Anyone can write a Money Diary! Want to see yours here? Here’s how.
This week on Money Diaries, a government worker who makes $130,000 a year and spends some of her money on a silk eye mask and Botox.Credit: Refinery29 Australia
Today: a government worker who makes $130,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a silk eye mask and Botox.
Occupation: organisational development
Industry: state government
Location: West End, Brisbane
Net worth: $1,649,768 (three properties valued at a combined total of $3,060,000, $221,700 in a joint offset account, $98,000 in shares (just mine), and $115,363 in my superannuation). This excludes my partner’s superannuation and shares, and of course, is dependent on the property market at any given time.
Debt: $1,828,991 remaining on three home loans and $16,304 in HECS debt (just mine). My partner’s is paid off which I will have to consider doing after the astronomical recent indexation!
Pay cheque amount (fortnightly): $2,700.57
Combined mortgages: $10,812 (for our primary residence and two investments)
Combined council rates: $183 (for three properties)
Strata: $1,275 (for two properties)
Utilities: approx $200 (for two people in our primary residence)
Share portfolio contribution: $400 (mine only)
Phone: $30 for data only. The phone was purchased outright.
Internet: $60 (partially covered by my partner’s employer’s phone and internet reimbursement)
Car: $120 (rego, maintenance and petrol only as it was purchased outright). This is for my car only. I drive very little most days as we’re very centrally located and I work from home most days.
Home contents insurance: $80
Car insurance: $70.83
Pet insurance: $41.95
Other miscellaneous insurances: $180
Private health cover: $390 (for a couple)
Groceries & other domestic expenses: $1,600
Amazon Prime: $9.99 (which we share with a friend)
Binge: $0 (our friend shares with us)
Public transportation: $40
Full disclaimer: It’s probably obvious that my partner, D., earns significantly more than I do, and it was really hard to accurately capture just my monthly expenses! All of our accounts and properties are completely intertwined. All monthly payments come from our joint credit card, savings or offset accounts and both salaries are paid into a single joint account. Our superannuation is separate and we each have a car and a share portfolio topped up monthly from a joint account; everything else is in both our names. Some of our monthly expenses are subsidised by D.‘s work, such as phone, internet and Uber account. We don’t have any separate major purchases and, while I’ll occasionally question D.’s expenditure (he has an insane bike habit), we’re both pretty relaxed about each other’s spending habits. Financial security has always been important for us both, and we focussed on building a property portfolio as soon as we got together. We were able to achieve this as D. worked fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) roles both domestically and internationally. This significantly reduced our expenses but essentially meant we had a predominately long-distance relationship that revolved around his schedule for the first four years we were together. So it’s a very loose itemisation of monthly expenses and I’m sure I’ve forgotten or underestimated some.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, I have three degrees, all put on HECS. I took a gap year between high school and commencing my undergraduate degree (international relations) and worked several part-time jobs. At the time, there was a threshold you needed to earn to be considered financially independent of your parents and eligible to get the full Youth Allowance amount while studying. Once I hit the threshold, I moved interstate for uni. I also worked part-time and received financial support from my parents in addition to receiving Youth Allowance during my undergraduate degree. I graduated during the worst of the GFC when there were very little graduate roles available, so I took a short break to travel and then commenced my second degree. I chose a Commonwealth-supported degree which cost very little and I continued to receive Youth Allowance. I recently undertook a third degree to better align my education with my current role. This one still has a HECS debt.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were so private about money to the extent that my siblings and I all developed a really warped understanding of economic disadvantage. It was only in my late 20s that I was able to recognise that I had an extremely financially secure and privileged childhood. I had mentioned to a friend that I enjoyed sailing holidays, and they looked at me and exclaimed: “I thought you said your parents weren’t rich!”
My parents were very frugal in some areas, typically in areas where children make assumptions about wealth. We rarely ate out, were never bought clothes with recognisable labels and received significantly less pocket money than our friends. My siblings and I received both informal and formal financial education throughout our childhood which largely focused on accumulating significant savings with a six-month buffer at any given time to cover unforeseen circumstances.
We were rewarded for hitting major savings milestones, doing additional chores beyond our household contribution and combining study with part-time work. For example, my parents bought my first car, contributed to my living expenses on campus, bought textbooks or paid for the occasional flight home — but never directly gave money unless it was requested for birthday or Christmas presents. They also guided D. and I through purchasing our first property together and how to leverage equity to buy additional properties.
What was your first job, and why did you get it?
My first job was in Year 8 picking herbs with my best friend on a small property that supplied local restaurants in the town I grew up in. We were paid $4 per hour for semiregular shifts during the summer holidays and had so much fun together. Unfortunately, we weren’t very good and often accidentally uprooted entire plants… we weren’t invited back the following summer. Once I was old enough to get a proper job, I worked in an ice-cream shop, a bakery and then a bookshop before getting regular shifts at Target. All of my friends had jobs in addition to receiving generous allowances, and I wasn’t prepared to be left behind. And once my savings account started growing, I was hooked on making that number as big as possible.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I never worried about money until I left home. Despite their frugal habits and privacy, my parents would never discuss everyday expenses in a manner that would cause us to worry. They made it clear that being careful with money was their choice, rather than a necessity. My parents wouldn’t even joke about expenses despite three teenagers emptying the fridge daily, attending school camps and needing braces. We were often frustrated at missing out on things our friends had (do you know how long it takes an 11-year-old to save up for a Tamagotchi?!) and occasionally my parents would relent so we didn’t feel excluded from our social groups, but we never worried about money.
Do you worry about money now?
A little, but overall, I feel quite financially secure. We have three loans to service and interest rates have risen incredibly fast over the past year. Each rate rise causes some anxiety and a review of our finances, but we haven’t yet had to defer major expenses such as travel or renovations.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Around 19, when I moved interstate for uni. My parents self-appointed themselves as my safety net even after I graduated and met D. I know that they would still offer help and support today if it was ever needed, although D. and I have ensured our we have a significant financial buffer and plenty of options.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, we receive rental income from two investment properties and dividends from shares. The dividends are automatically reinvested and the rental income covers the majority of costs for the two investments. I also received a $50,000 payment in my early 20s which D. and I used to quit our jobs and travel for a year.
9:30am — I wake up with a hangover and a slobbery tongue in my ear. I’ve slept in after a big night out and our four-year-old spoodle is hungry for breakfast. He pats my face with his fluffy paws until I scoop him up for a cuddle. D. remains steadfastly asleep and snoring the way he always does after one too many. I can’t tell whose morning breath is the worst — the pup’s, D.’s or mine — but it’s enough to get me out of bed. The pup sits beside his bowl and fixes me with a steely gaze until I scoop out his kibble.
10:00am — Pup gets the zoomies and races up and down the hallway before pouncing on D. who is still in bed and also suffering from a hangover. The hangovers needs coffee and carbs and the pup needs a walk, so we head out along the river to our favourite café. I order an extra strong almond flat white and a tuna melt. D. orders a batchie coffee and breakfast burger. $41.50
12:00pm — There’s nothing like having your parents decide to drop in for an open-ended visit with little notice to really reinforce those Sunday scaries. After learning that they’ll be arriving at 3:00pm and are planning to stay with us for at least three days, I have a minor meltdown, swap the remains of my coffee for a large gin and soda ($12) and quickly text my boss with a profuse apology and request for leave tomorrow. D. takes one look at me and decides one gin and soda isn’t enough. He suggests we relocate to a nearby dog-friendly bar where he proceeds to order another round and a mountain of truffle fries ($36). It might be bougie but it hits the spot. Our four-year-old spoodle gets his own doggy brew and a few sneaky fries (yes, we are those people). $48
3:30pm — D. and I are pleasantly buzzed with a few more drinks under my belt ($33) by the time my parents meet us at the bar. I listen to a long litany of complaints ranging from traffic and the price of fuel to the use of pronouns and the size of the tattoo on the bartender’s shoulder. I bite my tongue and stuff more truffle fries into my mouth rather than engage — trust me, it never ends well. $33
5:00pm — D. prides himself on his pizza dough skills so we decide on homemade pizzas for dinner. D. heads home with my dad and the pup to make a start on the dough while Mum accompanies me to the grocery store to pick up pizza toppings. Mum helpfully outlines every pizza topping that she doesn’t like (olives, anchovies, red onion, pepperoni and more) and I lose my will to live somewhere around the cheese aisle. Mum-approved toppings finally purchased ($42.95), we walk back to our apartment, open a bottle of red and start preparing dinner. $42.95
8:30pm — My head is pounding and I’m not convinced it’s entirely due to an unexpectedly boozy weekend or the wine. My parents have spent the better part of an hour bickering about how many kilometres they’ve driven. They’re eventually diverted when Dad asks for a calculator only to learn that, like most people, we do not have one. We spend some time trying to locate the calculator app on his phone.
9:00pm — We’re still no closer to a resolution, so I call it a night and head to bed. It’s going to be a long week…
Daily Total: $165.45
9:00am — D. escaped to work hours ago but I’m not so lucky. Nursing the effects of two successive hangovers and unable to listen to my parents squabbling any longer, I leash up the pup and walk along the river to my favourite café. The barista is already prepping for my usual, an extra strong almond flat white, as I hand over my Fressko cup. I tell him my parents are visiting and he insists it’s on the house! I enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet, scrolling Instagram and completing today’s Wordle before my parents track me down.
10:30am — Mum narrowly avoids being scammed by the classic toll road payment text. Thankfully she’s in the habit of reading her texts out loud so I quickly grab her phone just as she asks dad to find her credit card. I’m relieved to see she hadn’t clicked on the link. Crisis averted! Another coffee is in order and it’s mum’s shout. Unfortunately, she doesn’t like how they’ve made her Earl Grey tea so she sends it back… twice. I apologise repeatedly to the barista as we leave.
12:15pm — I’m now both hungover and over-caffeinated which makes for an unpleasantly jittery afternoon. I literally have no idea what to do with my parents who often proclaim they are “very easy guests who can entertain themselves”. They can’t. I put on a load of washing, pack the dishwasher and do a general tidy. Mum and dad make salad sandwiches for lunch which feels very wholesome except for the running commentary from mum… “where’s the butter? Oh, there’s the butter! What an unusual place to keep your butter. We keep our butter on the top shelf so we can see it. I’m going to put the butter on the top shelf for now. Is that okay? Do you mind if I put the butter on the top shelf? It’s much easier for your father.” Apparently, dad doesn’t care where the butter is, so it’s returned to its usual location.
1:35pm — There’s still a whole afternoon until D. gets home to restore some much-needed sanity. I suggest a few games of Upwords, a game mum and I have been playing since I was 16. We have a scorebook with every game in it since we started playing and it’s tradition to always play at least one game when we see each other. I’m currently on a 10-game winning streak dating back to 2019. It’s a close match with some very high scores, hotly-debated words and a few controversial moves but ultimately, I win. My record remains intact!
6:15pm — D. finally gets home and takes over entertaining my parents while I get dinner organised. Dad and D. barbeque fish while I prep salad and veggies. There are enough leftovers for two lunches for D. and I the next day, but fish in the office feels a bit risky so I swap it out for tofu. Mum and Dad are hooked on Alone so they commandeer the TV and binge-watch episode after episode offering “helpful” advice along the way.
8:35pm — Alone is looking more and more appealing right now. We use an early start at work tomorrow as an excuse to head to bed early. I’m too wired to fall asleep, so I read a few chapters on my Kindle for this month’s book club choice.
Daily Total: $0
6:00am — Never have I been so glad for a day in the office! I rush through my morning routine to take the pup for a walk, skipping coffee in favour of a longer walk, before catching a bus into the city. $3.55
8:00am — It’s so nice here in the office! I catch up on my emails from yesterday and spend some time chatting with colleagues. My office days tend to be very social and there’s a good team culture. So much knowledge sharing and relationship building, both of which are key to my role, takes place via unplanned coffees and conversations to the extent that my performance and development agreement actually includes social activities. I meet my friend, B., for coffee and order our usual — extra strong almond flat white for me and a large long black for B. $10.50
10:20am — Dad sends me pics of him and the pup going for a walk and having coffee. He looks so sweet and happy sitting on dad’s lap despite pup’s hefty size.
12:45pm — After a morning of attending back-to-back meetings and delivering several information sessions, I finally find time to have last night’s leftovers for lunch as well as fruit, yoghurt and nuts. I’m feeling restless and snacky which is never ideal for a productive afternoon… I go for a quick walk and buy some cheese and crackers. $4.50
2:30pm — Endless emails and Teams calls. I’m in the middle of coordinating a corporate event as well as delivering training modules to staff. There are so many separate elements and people involved for both, it feels more stressful and complex than planning my wedding — everything from organising catering and dietary needs, to developing training plans and speaking notes for our leaders.
5:00pm — D. texts to let me know he’s heading home, so I pack up and catch the bus home ($3.55), stopping at the grocery store to pick up some extra dinner ingredients ($32.70). $36.25
6:30pm — Mum and dad fill me in on their day while I cook dinner and a tomato and ricotta tart for tomorrow’s lunch (my go-to when I’m time-poor), and D. feeds pup. Then I put on a load of washing, order dog food and treats ($139) and treat myself to a new sleep mask. As someone who has struggled with insomnia for over a decade, I’m very precious with my sleep. I need a sleep mask, earplugs and a cold, dark room at a minimum. I settle on a silk one after reading a bunch of great reviews ($45). $184
Daily Total: $238.80
Read the rest on Refinery29 Australia here.
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