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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 sales consultant who makes $147,000 a year settles back into Sydney life after a holiday in Italy.
This week on Money Diaries, a sales consultant who makes $147,000 a year settles back into Sydney life after a holiday in Italy.Credit: Refinery29 Australia
Occupation: Sales Consultant
Industry: Educational Services
Location: Bayview, Sydney
Net worth: $133,600 ($55,000 in savings, $24,000 in shares, and $85,000 in superannuation).
Debt: $30,400 in HECS debt.
Paycheque amount (Fortnightly): $3,486.19
Rent: $1400. I rent the master bedroom of a gorgeous house in Bayview. I pay $350 a week including bills, and I also get an adjacent room, which I use as a home office. I live with the owner occupier, M. and his partner, A. They’re a marvellous couple, expecting a baby girl in December. The house is split so they live upstairs and I live on the ground level. We share the kitchen but because our routines are so different, we’re lucky if we see each other at all during the week. They also have a Burmese kitten, who is really affectionate and playful. He’s an indoor kitten, so he spends most of the day leaning over the edge of the balcony enthralled by the rosellas, kookaburras, chickens and brush turkeys hanging out in the backyard. We have a shared backyard organised around a tall blue gum eucalyptus tree, which my home office faces. It’s the perfect set-up and I hope to stay here in peace and good company for as long as they’ll have me.
HECS Debt: I pay $2800 towards my HECS debt a month. This is taken out of my (before tax) fortnightly pay.
Phone Bill: $49
Apple One: $42.95
Health Insurance: $169.12
Amazon Prime: $6.99
Credit Card: I also pay the outstanding balance towards my Amex Qantas credit card bill. The amount varies depending on the kind of month I have had. This month my bill was $1900.
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, I studied for an Arts degree with a Sociology major. The degree was wonderful, and I took the opportunity to study in New York for a year on exchange. I took out a HECS debt for this, which is still outstanding (and growing). Hopefully, this is the last year I’ll need to make repayments
I feel that the narrative told to us at the time I began studying (in 2015) was that HECS was an interest-free loan from the government, which wouldn’t burden us because it would be repaid like a tax once we start earning a comfortable salary. In the past few months, I have been talking with mortgage brokers and learned that my outstanding balance does impact my borrowing capacity. Not to mention, my current profession has nothing to do with my degree and I learned all the IT skills I needed for my job online for a few hundred dollars.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My Abuelita (grandma) was the only person who taught me to save money. She gave me paper envelopes to save up for different expenses, which admittedly I rarely used because she was the only person handing out cash. But it did instil an understanding that self-discipline is the safest road to financial freedom.
On the contrary, both of my parents like to spend money. My dad has always lived paycheque-to-paycheque working a blue-collar job, and never made me feel like money was a stressor. He’s always been able to support me when I’ve needed him. He is also really transparent about his financial situation. He doesn’t have any assets and didn’t have any savings for most of my life, so I feel most proud about how we’ve been able to help each other save money over the past few years.
My mum inherited money when she was younger so was fortunate enough to buy her home outright, and has never been in debt. Mum doesn’t have a habit of saving or investing but she does prepay her utility bills, loves to shop on points and always made sure we had more than we needed growing up. She became unwell when I was a teenager and now relies on her Centrelink payments for income. Since I moved out of home, eight years ago, I help her pay for things like lawn mowing, home repairs and $70 a fortnight towards her groceries (which includes the cost of the cat food for the three cats we adopted).
What was your first job and why did you get it?
At 14 I got my first job at McDonald’s in the Mount Druitt food court. Ultimately, I got the job to get a feel for financial freedom. I didn’t want my dad to be the gatekeeper of my style and I knew Mum didn’t have any more than $30 a week to give me for lunches. So I had to budget and make my own money. I’m also pretty generous and found I was shouting for friends a lot and organising social stuff for our friends to do, like go to the movies or get the train into the city and head to the beach. I wanted to be able to relieve my parents, provide for my friends, and look good while doing it.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really, I always felt like the kid with money but in reality, I was just given access to more than I should’ve had access to.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I am trying to buy an investment property so that my dad has a place to live once he retires. Right now, he’s living and caring for my 100-year-old Abuelita in a social housing apartment. My mum also needs more help than ever with her home and she has no savings at all. This anxiety fundamentally motivated me to pursue a high-earning career in IT, rather than work in the arts. It was the best decision I could’ve made because a secure job grants me the freedom to live the life I enjoy in the present, while I build for the future.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I suppose when I moved back into the city at 18 and started paying my own rent. However, to this day, my dad will offer to help out with expenses wherever he can, especially if it’s to help out Mum with the house. My Abuelita helped me save some cash, which is my “nest egg” and she keeps that tucked away. Pretty old-school, but it’s nice to know I have more than what is in the bank for whatever life throws my way. I also have a really good mentor, who is the real safety net, and my emergency contact. He helped me prioritise my career and introduced the words “financial freedom” to my vocabulary when I was around 21.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. At 13, I inherited $75,000. My mum managed this money and by the time I turned 19 it was gone. To be fair, raising a child in Sydney isn’t cheap, and I thoroughly enjoyed my teenage years (the Invisalign, the car, the expensive school excursions, and my first international trip to Nepal). I am nothing but grateful.
8:00am — I was up in my feelings and putting together a playlist til late last night, so this morning I can’t get out of bed until 8am. It’s my first day back at work after taking annual leave. I sit in the sun with our cat and a hot cup of cacao with MCT oil & manuka honey. I listen to one of my queued episodes of Equity Mates Investing Podcast. They’re in New York discussing a leading internet provider for private jets in North America.
9:30am — I take my morning standup meeting and since it’s my first day back, I was able to pull the “I’m catching up on emails” line, which gives me time to go for a walk in the sun to a local coffee shop for breakfast. I can spend half my work day there today.
11:00am — I order a coffee with collagen (for an extra $3) and a mushroom omelette ($31.40). I spend a few hours here, working and writing and Googling domestic flight deals to anywhere tropical. I think my heart is set on Cairns. I’d do a hostel for a week. I just need to get back to the sunshine. It’s nice to fantasise. On the walk home, it’s much cooler and I can feel the wind in my bones. Last week, I was in Rome and enjoying 27 degree days. Now, I’m hibernating in Sydney. $31.40
4:00pm — Once I’m home, I’m hyped with energy, maybe from the brisk walk and try to exercise but the kitten, B., doesn’t allow it. B. is the most hilarious Burmese kitten. He chases my feet, chews my hair, climbs my back and licks my cheeks like we’re siblings. We play for about an hour and then I shower and put on a face mask while I read.
5:30pm — I’m unusually exhausted so I take a nap.
8:30pm — I wake up eat some yoghurt and later snack on some crackers and dip. I’ve got a nice hot tea to accompany me while I get some work done until 12:30am, and then I decide it’s lights out for real this time.
Daily Total: $31.40
6:15am — My alarm goes off and to my dismay, it’s still dark outside. I jump in the shower and quickly reach for WhatsApp to see if my friend S. is up for a call. He lives in Scotland and the time difference works nicely so we get to chat early in the morning. There’s something nice about unpacking his day, while I get ready for mine. We talk for nearly two hours as I take down my laundry, cuddle the cat and pack some fruit in my bag for lunch.
8:00am — I get the bus to Mona Vale and line up for the B1 ($6.10). The ride into the city is an hour long which is perfect for finishing my book. I haven’t had a coffee yet so I find my mind wanders as I’m reading. Scuba diving in Cairns still pervades my consciousness. This is particularly ironic because I’m reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and there’s a whole lot of emphasis on the value of being present. Reading Tolle is such a journey. It’s best read with a pen and paper to inspire journaling and self-reflection. But it’s also one of those books that won’t resonate unless you’re ready and receptive to learn and unlearn. $6.10
9:20am — I reach the office and head straight to the coffee shop downstairs. I order a cappuccino with oat milk ($5.20) and take my 9:30am standup at my desk with my three 32-inch monitors. $5.20
11:00am — I begin a sequence of in-person meetings, each beginning with a recount of my holiday and a comment on the winter weather. Between meetings, I order a Laksa ($9.50) and coconut chai latte ($5) and sit in the sun. $14.50
5:30pm — After work I head to Woolies and pick up some Turkish bread and hand soap for my Abuelita ($9) and catch the light rail to Surry Hills ($2.25). I can see the road closures around Devonshire Street from the recent building fire. I try to have dinner at my Abuelita’s whenever I am in the office. Spending time with her is my favourite pastime. We fry some salmon in the pan and dish it up over lentils and salad. Buttered hot Turkish bread on the side to lap up the lentil sauce. After dinner, I show Abuelita pictures of my time in Italy and we share the pistachio dark chocolate I bought her at Rome Fiumicino airport. $11.25
8:30pm — I walk back to the office to pick up the nearby PopCar and drive myself home listening to the playlist I put together. I shower and snuggle up to my pillows, properly exhausted and happy to be home.
Daily Total: $37.05
3:15am — This morning, the jet lag has me awake and full of gusto two hours earlier than my alarm. After failing to fall back to sleep, I shower and get in the car at 4:30am, headed for the airport to pick up my ex-boyfriend, D. He’s been staying with me on and off but flew interstate to see his family while I was on holiday. On the way, I stop at my mentor’s place (he lives near the airport) to pick up the air fryer my mum bought me on Kogan and dive gear I left from my recent trip to Lord Howe Island. I’ve been putting it off until I had both a car and a spare minute. Luckily he’s asleep, or just not interested in getting out of bed this early, so I am in and out of the apartment in a few minutes.
6:10am — I grab D. from outside the express pick-up parking lot. His cheek is icy cold. I put on a different playlist, he reclines his seat with his hat over his eyes and I drive us back to Bayview. We lay up in bed, both exhausted and glad to be home, and before I fall into a deep sleep, my 9:29am alarm goes off. Time for work.
9:30am — I creep out of the room and into my home office to take my meetings. Supported by one or two fortified coffees.
12:00pm — I drive the PopCar back to the office location and end the booking, it cost me $59. D. always gets me from the airport when I have a trip, I don’t even have to ask. So it’s only fair I returned the favour this one time he travels. I get some work done in the office and finish up on the bus ride home ($6.10). $65.10
4:00pm — I spend some time playing with the kitty and make D. and I falafel salads for dinner. He’s already eaten my nan’s leftovers in the fridge while I was out, so he looks guilty as he tells me he’s not hungry and eats his later.
6:00pm — After struggling to mouth sentences, I decide sleeping is the only thing left to do. D. grabs his laptop, turns out the lights, tucks me in and gives me a kiss goodnight.
Daily Total: $65.10
Read the rest on Refinery29 Australia here.
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