Antibiotics, coffee, and a mop: What a public servant on $125,000 spends in a week
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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.
Today: an assistant director in public service who makes $125,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on medicine, and records for a DJing gig.
On Money Diaries this week, a public servant who makes $125,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on records for a DJing gig.Credit: Refinery29 Australia
Occupation: Assistant Director. I also have a couple of side hustles in Depop, DJing, and writing.
Industry: Public Service
Location: Braddon, Canberra
Net Worth: $79,340 ($20,000 in investments, $80,000 in super, and a car worth $20,000)
Debt: $2660 in credit card debt (but I’ll pay this off this month) and $38,000 in HECS.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $2984
Rent: $2000. I rent by myself in the most beautiful old apartment in Braddon. It’s close to the city, work, trendy eating spots and you can see the mountains from my balcony. As I initially relocated to Canberra temporarily, I was happy to spend a bit more to get something nice (it’s twice the size of my old apartment in Sydney!) It has a cute study nook that’s perfect for working from home, as well as a gym downstairs I can use for free. I’m super happy here.
Debt: My HECS repayments are automatically deducted from my pre-tax salary, which is about 8 per cent, or $183 a week. My credit card expense is a one-off (it’s a brand-new card to get those Qantas Frequent Flyer points. I put my wisdom teeth surgery on it, which was $4000).
Fun Money & Groceries: $1290
Savings Contributions: $600 for short-term things like holidays, $605 into long-term savings, $420 into my “mojo account”, and $450 towards investments.
Health Insurance Extras Only: $50
Health & Productivity Apps: $64
Transport (petrol, taxis and parking): $160
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
I did a double bachelor’s degree (communications and international studies) and paid for all of it on HECS/HELP. I also took out two HELP loans (which were about $10,000) to study twice overseas. This is why my HELP is at a higher level – it’s currently at $38,000 down from the original $44,000.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I was fortunate in that my dad started his career as an accountant and worked his way up to being a CFO of a small company. My brother was also a financial planner and my grandmother invested in property. They had very different views on money though, so I had a wide range of discussions and opinions about money to hear. I could always ask questions about tax or super. Then at about 12, my dad taught me how to trade on the ASX – although I didn’t buy my own shares until I was 29. I feel very fortunate because I feel relatively financially literate and have a great base of people to ask questions when I need them.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
McDonald’s when I was 14 and 9 months old. I wanted a job so bad. I thought my friends who had one were so cool and I wanted to save money for myself – although my parents encouraged me not to rush and told me I’d have the rest of my life to work!
Did you worry about money growing up?
No. My parents didn’t buy a house until I was about 12, so we moved through rentals heaps growing up. So we weren’t flush with money, but it was never an issue.
Do you worry about money now?
No. I am very comfortable and grateful for my situation.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself, and do you have a financial safety net?
Even from 15, I have always tried to pay my way, but realistically I wasn’t truly financially responsible for myself until I was about 23, when I was working my first “proper” job and finishing uni. Throughout uni, Mum would give me a few hundred dollars a month to help with living out of home costs. I lived in a share house and still worked 20-hour weeks in bottle shops and did about 20 hours of uni, so the extra money really helped me live a little and cover costs.
I absolutely know if I ever needed it, I could ask my folks for money, or even my siblings, which is fantastic. But I don’t need to and like the feeling of being responsible and mature.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I get some minor dividends on my investments that I reinvest. My interest is pretty good right now – I’m getting about $110 a month.
8:15am – I wake up in Sydney as I’m here visiting my partner and I have the day off (it’s a public holiday back in the ACT). I laze in bed and check my emails. I see I have a $20 voucher for the new MILKRUN app (bought out by Woolies) which they don’t have back in the Bush Capital. My partner is working long hours at the moment and has no groceries and I want some for the week ahead. Oh, and as you’ll come to learn about me, I love a bargain.
8:47am – I buy us $33.10 worth of groceries ($13.10 after the voucher), including a bunch of vegies I can take home for the week and bacon for breakfast which we can cook with eggs and bread we bought at the farmer’s market on the weekend. Full list: bacon, milk, two tins of tomatoes, spaghetti, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, capsicum, cauliflower, sweet potato and two mandarins. $13.10
10:00am – I head to my sister-in-law’s place for a belated birthday massage (she’s a massage therapist). We catch up bec ause it has been ages.
11:30am – Afterwards, we head to the cafe around the corner and I buy her a tea and myself a coffee ($10.50). We talk about her plans for going to Dark Mofo. $10.50
12:35pm – I head to my favourite Sydney op-shop and have a poke around but don’t end up buying anything. I head to the bookshop close by where I buy The Saturday Paper ($4.80). I head back to the boy’s house and lie around in his loungeroom reading the paper while he works. We sadly don’t get to hang out much as he has a huge workday. Then, before I know it, I have to head back to Canberra at 4:40pm. $4.80
6:00pm – I stop and buy an ice cream and snacks! It’s unusual for me, but I’ve been stuck in a traffic jam and I’m grumpy. $10.50
7:55pm – I crawl into Canberra with five litres left in the tank. I fill up at my local before heading home. $73.46
8:20pm – At least I have leftover lamb curry! It’s all I could think about while driving home. It’s frozen so I reheat it and read the paper before getting an early night.
Daily Total: $101.86
6:00am – Wake up to the alarm, have a shower, read The Guardian and The New York Times on my couch while drinking black coffee. Oh, how bohemian. Then I get ready for work.
8:20am – Eat toast for breakfast before walking to work, On the way, I stop and get a soy flat white ($0 with a loyalty card, hooray for freebies!).
12:37pm – Work away until lunch. I’ve brought my own lunch from home (vegetable soup).
2:09pm – Time for an arvo pick-me-up. My boss and I walk to the nice cafe around the corner and I buy us a coffee ($11). He’ll get me back later – this is part of our weekly tradition. I catch up on the goss, and it’s well worth it. $11
3:40pm – Leave work a bit early to head to the dentist for my post-wisdom teeth check-up. It’s been two weeks since the operation and it’s flared up a bit these last few days. He says it’s not healing great, so I walk out with a huge script to fill.
5:02pm – Fill the script, which includes two types of antibiotics, a probiotic and Panadeine Forte. Eep. $91.10
5:48pm – Head home and heat up some batch leftovers from the freezer (bolognese) and watch MasterChef. Then I take all of my new prescription drugs, read and go to bed at about 10pm.
Daily Total: $102.10
6:10am – Let my alarm go off for ten minutes before eventually pulling myself out of bed and into the shower. I scroll through the news while I make myself a black coffee and get dressed.
8:41am – Eat toast for breakfast before getting the tram to work ($3.22, prepaid). As usual, I stop and get a soy flat white ($5.30). $5.30
10:52am – I’m feeling a bit queasy from all the antibiotics, so I feel like I need to eat more food. I head downstairs to the cafe in my building and buy a piece of banana bread ($7). Luckily, the feeling subsides after eating, and I get back to work. $7
1:42pm – Brought my own lunch from home. It’s soup … again! I’m working my way through all my frozen batch meals. I eat it at my desk because I’ve got a busy day of meetings.
4:59pm – Having left the office a little early, I stop at the convenience store to buy some oat milk ($3.73) so I can make porridge for breakfast. It’s been getting really cold in Canberra, and this is such a nice way to start the morning. $3.73
5:04pm – I walk to the tram stop and top up my card with $20 before tapping on and going three stops to head home ($3.22, prepaid). $20
5:48pm – I heat up some more batch leftovers from the freezer (bolognese again) and watch MasterChef before reading and going to bed. I’m a bit of a routine creature and during the early part of my work week, I love my introverted nights. My work requires a lot of stakeholder engagement and negotiations, so I’m pretty much a hermit during the week in order to recover. And cold Canberra is great for that too!
I am also a seller on Depop. This year, I expect to make $5000. Last financial year, I made $20,000 off the back of lockdown. But this year’s been harder and I don’t need the money as badly, so I’m slowly trying to get rid of all my stock and get my time back. I get two notifications for sales – a bag (+$18.45) and a skirt (+$22.50). Rent also comes out today ($1000) and monthly payment for a time-management app I use ($30.82) – both covered under my monthly expenses.
Daily Total: $36.03
8:32am – I snooze my alarm from 6am. Eventually, I get up and into the shower.
9:07am – I work from home on Thursdays and Fridays so I make coffee at home today (black). I also make some porridge with frozen raspberries for sweetness.
12:33pm – During my lunch break, I pack my two Depop packages ready for drop off on Saturday. I also make a fried egg focaccia sandwich for lunch.
5:16pm – After work, I go to the gym downstairs and do a weight workout. I listen to the latest Imperfects podcast and take it easy because my face is still healing.
6:55pm – I head to the shops. I go to BWS to buy an alcohol-free wine to drink at a friend’s dinner tomorrow night ($15). I’m still trying to find a good one and haven’t had any luck. $15
7:12pm – Off to Woolies to buy groceries. Tomorrow night, I’m making some Mexican tacos for a group of about eight. I also need to pick up some other things, including canned chipotle, two soy milk cartons, floor cleaner, olive oil, tomato relish, tortillas, pork sausages, beef mince, coriander, Turkish bread, and a mop. $59.91
7:35pm – Recently I’ve been buying lots of end-of-day discount meats from Woolies and freezing them, which is absolutely not glamorous but as I mentioned earlier, I am a sucker for a bargain. So tonight, I pull out a piece of salmon and make a delish salmon filet with mashed potato and peas for dinner while – you guessed it – I watch MasterChef. From memory, it was about $3 for four filets. I pour a glass of that wine, and as expected, it’s not great, but not terrible.
10:00pm – Sleep time!
Daily Total: $74.91
Read the rest on Refinery29 Australia here.
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