Novelty socks and ramen: What a consultant on $84,000 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 environmental consultant who makes $84,000 a year impulsively spends $3 on a pair of cow-themed socks.

This week on Money Diaries, an environmental consultant who makes $84,000 a year impulsively spends $3 on a pair of cow-themed socks.Credit: Refinery29 Australia

Occupation: Environmental Consultant
Industry: Consultancy / Construction
Age: 32
Location: Northcote, Melbourne
Salary: $84,000
Net Worth: $656,807 ($8,312 in my savings account, $26,578 in superannuation and $53,071 in my mortgage redraw account. I own a house that is worth approx $1.2 million. I currently rent out the house as I’m trying to pay off as much of the mortgage as I can until I move in a few years from now). My partner and I do not have a joint account. We’ve been meaning to set one up for years, but still use Splitwise for larger charges. For small things, we just take turns in paying and hope it evens out.
Debt: $50,128 in HECS debt and $581,028 left on my mortgage.
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $5,128
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $820. I share with my partner and one housemate, and we split the rent evenly. As my partner and I share a bedroom, the third bedroom of the house is our dedicated study. Our house is nice enough, and we’ve worked hard to make it a nice place to come home to.
Mortgage Repayments: $3,225
Gas: ~$10
Electricity: ~$25
Water: ~$11
Rented-Out Home Expenses: $500. This includes the land tax, council tax, water connection fees, home insurance, and parks charge.
Spotify: $11.99
Streaming: $10. I use my family’s Netflix account and my housemates Stan and Disney+. In return, I share my Binge with them.
Veggie Box: $75. I get two fortnightly boxes and split the cost with my partner.

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

Yes. I did a Bachelor of Environment and received a Commonwealth-supported place, which my parents very generously paid for upfront. They did this as at the time you could get a discount on upfront payments. I paid for my Master of Environment via the HECS/HELP scheme.

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

My parents always encouraged us to save from an early age, and I cottoned on to that mindset very early. I had a Dollarmites account at primary school, which I didn’t love — having my money go where I couldn’t see it or use it didn’t sit well with me, but I’m grateful for it later in life. We received pocket money as well, with which I was very good at saving. When I was about eight, I saved my $2 each week in pocket money and was eventually able to buy a Pokemon Red Game Boy game. It cost $53, but my parents struck a deal with me that they would buy the Game Boy to go with it if I saved enough to buy the game. It was a very slow process, but I eventually made it!

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

I got my first job at 15 where I was working shelving books at my local library. I did my year 10 work experience there, and when I was finished, they offered me the book shelving job. It was such a great job — just four hours a week that I was able to fit it in around school, and later uni. I stayed there for ten years! I got the job because I wanted money to spend on things that I wanted. My parents also insisted that I worked as they wanted me to have my own money to pay for non-essentials.

Did you worry about money growing up?

No, I knew we had enough money to be comfortable, though I also knew my parents were very conscious of how they spent their money. We had holidays each year, but they were almost always local driving trips. We always had enough to eat and my parents owned their own house.

Do you worry about money now?

Yes. Even though I think I’m in a good situation financially. My mortgage/rental income/salary/own rent is balanced enough so that I can cover all my expenses and pay a bit extra off on my mortgage regularly. But I still worry. I think a lot of this comes from having anxiety, which affects my relationship with money.

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

I became fully financially independent when I moved out of home at 26. I was very fortunate to be able to stay at home during uni, which allowed me to save as much as I could while I was studying. The only things my parents still pay for are rego and servicing on the car that I use — it’s technically their car, but they bought a new one and no one but me regularly uses this one. It’s definitely not fancy (a 1998 rusted Corolla, anyone?), but it gets the job done, and I’m grateful to not have to pay car expenses beyond petrol. The money in my mortgage redraw account is my financial safety net.

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

Yes. I received $10,000 when my grandma died, which I added to my savings. I also used some of it to travel during uni. I later received $310,000 when my grandpa died. This money came with the stipulation that it was to be spent on a property in my own name — no going in with anyone else. My grandparents were very savvy with money and wanted to ensure that my sister and I were well set up, regardless of what our futures held. I am very aware I’m incredibly lucky to have received this and to have been born into a family that was able to provide this. I’d still rather have my grandparents, though. I currently receive $2,578 per month in rent which goes towards the mortgage repayments.

Day 1

7:30am — Alarm goes off and I scroll on Instagram for half an hour. It’s a bad habit that I’m trying to break, but I’m feeling a bit worse for wear after going to Golden Plains Festival over the weekend, and it’s harder to bounce out of bed when tired.

8:30am — After a cup of tea, two crumpets and a banana, I log on to work from home for the day. My work is nice and flexible with office/home work, and I appreciate being able to work from home today given I’m not feeling my best. This morning I’m mostly answering emails and adding things to my to-do list.

10:00am — I have a one-hour break between meetings and have arranged to meet my mum for a coffee. We walk around the corner and sit at a cafe for a while. It’s nice to have a chat. The weather is ideal and the sun, breeze and caffeine freshen my headache. Mum picks up the bill ($4.50 for a soy flat white for me). Then I walk home and continue with my meetings

12:30pm — Lunch time. I have some leftover frittata, another cup of tea and some pizza Shapes. Not the best, but the Shapes were open and I didn’t want them to go stale.

1:00pm — I have a three-hour break until my next meeting, so I get stuck into some data crunching from a field assessment last week. I have a peppermint tea from the kitchen.

5:00pm — Finish work. I turn off the computer and have some yoghurt from the fridge before continuing to unpack from the weekend and do a general tidy-up. The bedroom is mostly my stuff and I feel bad when it’s messy, so it feels good to make some headway in the tidying. I also update my payment details for the password manager I use as my old card has expired.

6:30pm — Realising I haven’t really done any exercise today, I head out for a walk. I head over to the shops and buy pasta and some shampoo since I ran out last week ($10.60). When I get home, my partner is back from the bike ride he went on. He cooks us dinner — a quick pesto pasta. The pesto was a gift from a friend and the tomatoes are fresh from the garden. I spend ten minutes writing in my journal to get out some thoughts that had been swirling around in my head. $10.60

11:00pm — After a couple of episodes of Veronica Mars, we head to bed.

Daily Total: $10.60

Day 2

6:40am — Alarm goes off and I accidentally snooze for nine minutes before I roll out of bed. It’s dark and I make some tea, along with cereal and a banana. Although I don’t love getting up in the dark, I much prefer having long daylight in the evenings, so I’m happy to suck it up. I read a couple of chapters of Infernal Devices by Phillip Reeve before I brush my teeth and pack my bag for work. I pulled the book out of a street library knowing nothing about it and I’m not sure if I’ll continue — I didn’t realise it was a kid’s book.

7:50am — I arrive at work after a 20-minute bike ride. I love riding to work as it gives me a bit of time to myself, as well as helps get my body moving before a day sitting at the desk. My office in the city has really good facilities, so I wash my face and make my hair a little less helmety before heading upstairs.

8:30am — Cup of coffee from the machine in the kitchen while I put my lunch in the fridge. I feel very grateful that the coffee in this office is quite good and I don’t need to buy coffee on the days when I’m here. This year, I’ve been mastering the steam wand on the coffee machine. It was a bit intimidating, but I figured I shouldn’t be intimidated by a noisy metal stick anymore. I’m actually getting pretty good at frothing milk! I get stuck into my emails before a morning of meetings kicks off. The meetings are a bit of a mix, but they’re usually either catching up with team members on various deliverables, hearing updates on the progress of projects, or providing ecological advice for the design and approach.

10:00am — There’s a catered morning tea! I have some fruit and a little mushroom pie while catching up with colleagues.

12:30pm — Usually lunchtime, but I’m not hungry after the morning tea. Instead, I opt for a 15-minute walk outside given it’s a really nice day. While trotting around the CBD, a pair of socks with seagulls on them catches my eye in a shop window. They cost $3, but there’s a card limit of $10. The shop assistant haggles and lets me pay for it on card if I get two pairs of socks. I select a pair with cows on them as a present for Mum ($3). $6

3:00pm — I walk back to the office and am greeted by a bowl of figs in the kitchen! Someone must have a fig tree. I have two while making a cup of tea. I LOVE figs, but they’re usually expensive so I don’t buy them. But I noticed the other day that the fig trees hanging over fences in the neighbourhood are starting to ripen. Fingers crossed I can beat the birds to them this weekend.

5:00pm — Log off and ride home. I’m feeling pretty hungry when I get home, so I have an Up & Go as a snack and chill out for half an hour. I see that the fortnightly veggie box that we subscribe to has also arrived. We have bread, eggs, sweet potato, capsicums, eggplant, cavolo nero, grapes, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and broccoli and a bottle of dumpling dipping sauce. I love this veggie box as it includes a ‘grocery surprise’ which is always an exciting time! It’s like Santa for boring adults.

6:00pm — Wednesday night is ride night. I’m going mountain biking with some friends, so I get changed, put some air in my tyres and roll out. We ride around Yarra Trails for an hour and a half before heading to the pub for dinner.

8:00pm — I’m so hungry that I’m not sure if I messed up ordering my food, or the guy messes up taking the order, but I end up with a beef burger instead of a black bean burger ($23). I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 13 years, so this really isn’t ideal. But I’m so hungry and I don’t want it to go to waste if I send it back, so I eat it. It’s not a good decision. It’s kinda gross and my stomach is not happy afterwards. On the plus side, the beer I have is perfect for a warm evening — a tropical sour by Hargreaves Hill ($7). Highly recommend. $30

9:30pm — After riding home and having a shower, I have a peppermint tea to try to settle my stomach. My partner and I lie on the couch and watch a YouTube video about a guy walking 90km to go to work. It focuses on a philosophical journey about finding adventure in your own backyard. I like his outlook on life.

10:30pm — Head to bed. We have a neighbour who has been singing in the evenings for the past couple of months. This sounds lovely in theory, but unfortunately, the neighbour is tone-deaf and seems to prefer a wailing sort of singing. I do my best to block it out and fall asleep.

Daily Total: $36

Day 3

6:40am — Alarm goes off. I lie in bed for 20 minutes before getting up. My stomach is feeling pretty off from the meat last night, so I just have a cup of tea before getting on my bike and heading to work.

8:00am — Arrive at work and freshen up before I head upstairs. Thursday is my day with the most meetings and the most people in the office, so it’s going to be a long day of talking to people. I make a coffee in the kitchen which I drink at my desk with a banana.

9:30am — Apparently today is international happiness day. I had no idea that was even a thing, but the company that runs the building are celebrating by handing out sunflowers. Mine is a genetic abnormality with three flowers growing out of one. It’s really cool and makes me smile.

12:30pm — Lunch time. I join some colleagues in the work kitchen where I have leftovers from last night. It’s an Ottolenghi recipe tomato salad made with tomatoes from the garden and the veggie box, on sourdough from the veggie box. Definitely the best work lunch I’ve had in a while! It’s delicious.

3:00pm — Time for a break. There are Kit Kats in the kitchen, which make a nice snack along with an apple and a cup of tea. As mentioned, today has been chock full of meetings and chatting with people. It’s nice to have a collaborative day like this, but it does mean that report writing doesn’t really happen. I’ve been using the time between meetings to stay on top of my emails and do my best to finish processing the data from a vegetation assessment that we finished last week. I often feel on Thursdays that I spend more time talking about work than actually getting any work done.

5:00pm — Log off and ride home. It’s a nice sunny afternoon, and as I ride past the Carlton Gardens, I check on the progress of the set-up for the Flower and Garden Show which is happening in a couple of weeks. I like going to the show and seeing all the possibilities for what you can create in a small garden space. I do enjoy gardening, but our garden at home is pretty sad … mostly concrete with a small garden bed. We do our best, but the weeds are so tenacious. And it feels hard to be motivated to put too much effort in when it’s a rental place.

6:00pm — After saying hi to my partner and housemate, I get changed and ride to Collingwood to have dinner with my sister. She’s just finished up at a crap hospitality job, so it’s my treat in celebration. We go to Shop Ramen for veg miso ramen and peach saké. The marinated shiitake mushrooms in the ramen are so tasty — tangy and vinegary. $70

8:00pm — My sister and I walk back to Northcote through Edinburgh Gardens. I arrive at home and watch an episode of Gossip Girl while working on my knitting project. I’m making a present for a friend’s baby. Her baby shower is on Sunday, so the pressure is on to get it finished!

10:30pm — Sleep time! I toss and turn a little bit listening to my tone-deaf neighbour wailing away.

Daily Total: $70

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