‘I’m terrible with money’: What a comms specialist on $118,000 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: a communications specialist who makes $118,000 a year, confesses she is terrible with money, and buys a $450 Marc Jacobs bag for her mum.

On Money Diaries, a communications specialist who makes $118,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a Marc Jacobs bag for her mum.Credit: Refinery29 Australia

Occupation: Communications Specialist
Industry: Consumer Electronics
Age: 27
Location: Petersham, Sydney
Salary: $118,000 + a $10,000 bonus
Net Worth: $28,200 ($45,000 in superannuation and $200 in savings — I’ll explain!)
Debt: $4,000 in credit card debt and $13,000 in HECS debt.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $6,444.33
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1,680 for a one-bedroom apartment in Petersham that I live in by myself. It has an internal laundry and car space and is in an old inner west building. Gorgeous lighting, but there’s construction next door, hence the cheap rent.
Private Health Insurance: $144
Electricity: $70
Internet: $75
HECS Debt: $800
Car Payment: $200
Credit Card Debt: I put whatever money I have left over towards my credit card debt.
Binge: $10
Petrol: $200
Groceries: $400
French Classes: $520 every two months
Savings Contributions: $0 currently as I’m putting anything extra towards my credit card debt right now. 🙁

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

I did a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) and paid for via HECS.

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

My parents are terrible with money! They love going on holidays and back to their home country every year. I grew up going back to Vietnam for five weeks every year despite my parents not being well off. I am very much the same way now and spend what I don’t have.

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

My first job was at McDonald’s when I was 14. I wanted to buy shoes and go to the movies. I have always wanted to work because I think people who grew up in poor immigrant homes where they couldn’t buy nice things, want to grow up and spend their money on whatever they want. I think we develop horrible spending habits because we never got anything when we were younger.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not really. My parents didn’t make a lot, but we always managed. They also always took holidays, so I just figured we were fine. I was very aware that we weren’t rich, but I wasn’t aware of how okay my parents were about living in debt.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes, because I’m terrible with it and my life circumstances have been crazy in the past three years. Moving overseas, being stuck overseas during COVID-19, flying back (which cost me nearly $10,000 alone), quarantine fees (that’s another $2,500), a horrible break up where I lost all my shared possessions and had to start again, being a maid of honour throwing really expensive bachelorette parties in the middle of all that, and a manic New York City trip because I’m reckless! I hope I can recover by the end of this year. I WILL! I can’t keep spending to make myself feel happy for a moment.

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

I became financially responsible for myself at 22 and I’d say I have a financial safety net because I know my parents will always help me, even if they have very little. I have always had good jobs because I have always been good at school and work. Even though I’m in a bad situation now, my paycheques are very good and I don’t rely on other people. It’s just a me problem!

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

No, I wish!

Day 1

8:20am — Stayed at my parent’s house last night because they got a new beagle puppy and I love him! I lost custody of my border collie after a bad break-up last year, so this is cheering me up.

8:45am — Go downstairs to make a coffee with the Moka pot. No Vietnamese iced coffee this morning because it’s too decadent!!! I had a phase where I was having three a day while staying at my parent’s place.

9:00am — Log on to my laptop to read work emails and start the day. Make some miso soup for my breakfast.

10:00am — Weekly morning WIP with the team where we run through our tasks for the week. I don’t have my contacts in, so I’m wearing my chunky glasses and everything on my laptop is reflecting back.

12:00pm — Lazily answer emails for two hours before I take the puppy for a walk before lunch. He goes nuts because he just realised he enjoys walking after spending a while being scared to leave the house.

12:30pm — Have some Bún bò Huế for lunch that my mum made. Mmmmmm. Love that for me.

1:00pm — Say goodbye to everyone (and the puppy) and drive back to Petersham. I have a dinner tonight in Newtown and have work tomorrow, so I can’t stay in the suburbs.

1:30pm — Make it back to my apartment and work from my couch for the rest of the day. I text my boyfriend, M., throughout the day. I forgot to mention him before, but yes, he exists.

6:00pm — Promised my friend, A., that I’d teach her how to drive, so we’re meeting up every Monday night before she takes her driving test. I drive two minutes to her house and we do a little practice before our friend F.‘s birthday dinner.

7:40pm — Get to the teppanyaki restaurant in Newtown. Twelve of us are here! This is not a place for introverts! There’s a lot of yelling, throwing, mess, and laughter. $46

10:30pm — Drive back to F.‘s house so we can cut the heart-shaped birthday cake that her girlfriend baked her.

11:00pm — Go home. Shower. Collapse. Text M. about teppanyaki and send him pictures of the cake.

Daily Total: $46

Day 2

7:10am — Today is an office day so I get up earlier. I had bad dreams last night about my ex, J. I found out that my friend A. saw him walking with his new Asian girlfriend and they were walking my border collie. I say “my” because he was mine. I bought him alone when I was 21, but J. had formed a strong attachment with him. One of the reasons why we broke up (and why I am broke) is because we did long distance for a year while I lived in Paris, which was a major dream of mine. But we weren’t aligned. He took care of the dog while I was away. When I came back from Paris, everything imploded further. I now have zero money because I had to fly back during COVID. Yep!

7:30am — Email my therapist to set up a session. I’m bothered by the info about J. dating another Asian girl after me. I’m Asian, his ex before me was Asian, his new girlfriend is Asian. Plus, the sighting of my old dog is triggering me. I miss my dog a lot.

8:00am — Do my make-up. Pack a banana and yoghurt to eat at work. Make a Nespresso pod coffee in my Huskee cup to drink on the drive to the office.

8:30pm — M. texts me and asks me to come over tonight after my French class, saying he’ll make me eggplant pasta for dinner. I think about my morning and realise I am so happy to be with M. I feel like, for the first time, I’m with someone who is actually compatible with me.

9:00am — Takes me an hour to get to work because it’s all the way in Macquarie Park. Set up at my hot desk and get a coffee with my colleague, K. I pay for both. $10.50

12:00pm — After working on some presentations this morning, I’m starving. Go to the shopping centre to buy lunch. I get a spicy wonton soup. $14

12:30pm — Still hungry, lol. I go to Woolies and buy chicken fingers. I also buy two bundles of bok choy and oatmeal because I’m out. $12

1:30pm — Look at my bank account and I hate it here. I have never bounced back since I came back from Paris a year and a half ago. I had to pay for expensive government flights home, as well as quarantine. Then I had my major break up and had to rent an apartment and furnish everything from scratch. In between, I also went on a gigantic trip to New York City and Montreal because I was sad. Put everything on my credit card. Damn.

5:30pm — Leave work so I can make it back home in time for my online French class. I’ve been taking it for four years now, every Tuesday night. I even took the class while I was living overseas!

8:10pm — Class runs late. Rush to M.‘s place in Glebe. I spend half my time here. Most weekends, actually.

8:30pm — Eat the delicious pasta he made. He always cooks for me.

9:30pm — We go to bed, cuddle and watch an episode of BEEF. I tell him about what’s been happening in my mind about J. He’s always understanding in general but particularly gets how I think.

10:00pm — We both fall asleep. I have my period too, so I’m indeed TIRED.

Daily Total: $36.50

Day 3

5:30am — I hear M. wake up. He always wakes up super early. I can hear him turning on the TV in the living room to watch soccer. He leaves me so I can sleep a bit more.

6:00am — I wake up after a good solid eight hours of sleep. See a text from my phone from another ex of mine, E. He’s texting me about how he’s in Brittany and there’s a painting that reminds him of The Tudors. We watched that show together. I don’t wanna talk about this relationship, lol. I had a messy few years. Anyway, ignore me. I shout “hello” so M. can hear me and ask him to come into the bedroom. To be clear, M. knows about everything in my life, including my messy era.

6:14am — Tell M. that I have a headache. He rubs my head a bit and then makes me a coffee. He makes me one every morning and brings it to me in bed when I sleep over.

7:00am — We cuddle a bit and then M. lays out some yoghurt and fruit for me in the kitchen. He knows what I like for breakfast before work. He makes a toastie for himself.

7:30am — M. irons his work clothes and my shirt so I can wear them to work. We both head into the office. He’s packed me lunch and even put a fork in my bag. We’ll see each other later because he needs to borrow my car to go to soccer practice.

8:30am — Get to the office. I have a big presentation this morning. Get a coffee before I sit at my desk. $5.30

10:30am — Do my presentation. I’m always nervous, but I like the responsibility.

12:10pm — Heat up the lunch M. packed and eat it at the food court because I hate interacting with people in the lunchroom.

12:50pm — Get a matcha latte at Starbucks because I spend money for no reason and like warm beverages. $6

5:10pm — Drive home. It’ll take an hour to get back to mine. Stop to fill up petrol. $40

6:15pm — Park my car and see M. waiting in the car park of my place. We kiss and I give him the keys so he can drive the car to soccer.

6:30pm — Make myself dinner. Dumplings with rice and steamed bok choy in chilli oil. I did a big grocery shop last week, so have a lot of food to cook with this week.

8:30pm — Watch some episodes of Morning Wars on Apple TV (I have a free trial). M. texts me that he’ll drop off the car after he has dinner at his mum’s.

10:00pm — M. knocks on my door. He gives me a kiss and we catch up about how his game went and how his mum is doing. I drive him home to Glebe and then go back to mine. I need to go to my parent’s house tomorrow, so I prefer to sleep at mine tonight.

11:30pm — Fall asleep after TikToking and scrolling on my phone.

Daily Total: $51.30

Day 4

7:30am — Wake up before my alarm because of the construction work next door. Scroll on my phone for an hour.

8:30am — Roll out of bed and make myself a coffee and miso for breakfast.

9:00am — Work from my bed all morning because I’m extra lazy today.

12:00pm — I make a kale salad for lunch because I bought a gigantic bunch last week that needs to be used. Then I head to my parent’s place. I’m meeting with a friend who is visiting from Melbourne tonight, and she’s staying at her parent’s place which is close to my parent’s.

1:30pm — Get to my parent’s. Beagle puppy freaks out!

3:00pm — Worked for a bit, then browse The Iconic for Mother’s Day gifts for my mum and grandma. I have no money actually, so I’ll have to Afterpay this. Feels bad to go into more debt. I can’t get out of the cycle. There are always expenses. Buy Mum a Marc Jacobs bag and Grandma a Giorgio Armani perfume ($450). Tell my brother that we can say it’s from both of us. He’s eight years younger than me and only an intern. I don’t make him split it with me. $450

5:20pm — Head to my friend D.‘s house to pick her up. We’re going to hot pot in Canley Vale tonight. Yessss.

6:00pm — D. and I catch up over all-you-can-eat hot pot. Also, I was D.’s maid of honour last December, which also cost me a lot of money (never-ending expenses!). She’s also Asian, so we discuss the news of my sighting my ex with his new Asian girlfriend. She confirms it’s weird and uncomfy. One is fine, two is maybe okay, three is weird! $45

7:30pm — Drop D. home after hot pot. Forgot that my cousin V. asked if her pug can come over and play with the beagle puppy. Of course.

7:45pm — V. comes over with her husband W. and her pug. Puppy beagle freaks out once again!

11:30pm — V. and W. leave and head to bed. Goodnight, I’m tired.

Daily Total: $495

Read the rest on Refinery29 Australia here.

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