Ice-cream, personal training: What a couple on a $395,000 joint income spend 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 associate research director who makes $170,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on vegan ice-cream.

Today on Money Diaries, an associate research director who makes $170,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on vegan ice-cream.Credit: Refinery29 Australia

Occupation: Associate research director
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 32
Location: Alexandria, Sydney
My Salary: $170,000 base + super + about 20 per cent bonus. Throughout my career, I’ve constantly negotiated my salary. While I don’t always get the outcome I desire, it’s always a worthwhile exercise and gets easier the more you do it. I am a big advocate for doing thorough research and being prepared to have a conversation with your employer.
My Partner’s Salary: $225,000 base + super + a 17 per cent bonus. My partner works in consulting.
Net Worth: $1.15 million ($656,000 in savings, $275,000 in shares and $221,000 in super). This is joint with my partner.
Debt: $0
Pay cheque amount (joint monthly): $22,000. My pay cheque is $9800 and my partner’s is $12,200.
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly expenses

Rent: $3466. My partner and I live together in a two-bedroom flat in Alexandria.
Gas and electricity: $120
Internet: $75
Phone: $66
Netflix: $18
Cleaner: $250 (once a fortnight). Honestly, I never thought I could pay for cleaning but after realising how much time this frees up, I realise it is 100 per cent worth the cost.
Donations: While we don’t have regular direct debits set up for donations, we usually donate $1000 to $2000 a year to various fundraisers.
Savings contributions: About $14,000 per month. We also have a joint account that everything comes out of.

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

Yes, I studied a bachelor’s degree that was funded by HECS and is now paid off. I lived in a share house during university and luckily was able to pay for rent and expenses by working various casual jobs (usually a minimum of 20 hours a week). I also got university scholarships. It was hard work having to stretch my weekly earnings – packet noodles were the way!

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

My partner and I are hard-working by nature and grew up in working-class families who taught us that it was important to save money (although we weren’t advised on how to do this best!). In the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to become more financially literate and really understand not only how to save money, but also how to grow and invest it.

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

I worked at Priceline when I was 18 and earned about $12 an hour. This helped me move out of home and pay for rent and expenses. With other various casual retail jobs, I worked at least 20 hours a week while I was in university. It was tricky while studying full-time, but I enjoyed the independence it gave me.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Not really, my parents sheltered me from any money troubles they had. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I realised my parents were out of work for around six months when I was four years old. They weren’t eligible for any government assistance and used their savings to get us through this period. I remember feeling guilty any time I spent money while I lived with my parents, even though I wasn’t a big spender. I think growing up in a frugal household still makes me think twice before I spend money, although that thinking usually goes out the window when I travel (YOLO!). Nothing makes me happier than seeing the world in all its glory — we’re trying to travel as much as we can before committing to a 30-year mortgage.

Do you worry about money now?

I have to admit that I do worry about money, even though I recognise that my partner and I are in a fortunate financial position. I feel it’s only natural to do this when you live in an expensive city like Sydney. We are lucky to have a savings rate of more than 50 per cent currently. Despite having lived overseas and spending lots of money travelling extensively (across Europe, South East Asia, and the Americas), we’re looking to buy a small house in Sydney later this year (hopefully). We also want to invest in more shares to hopefully retire before 55. Of course, this assumes that our expenses will not change materially if/when we have kids and that at least one of us will be employed full-time. I also plan to put aside some money for my parents as they age, in case the pension isn’t sufficient when they’re in retirement.

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

Eighteen, when I moved out of home and was able to support myself with various casual retail jobs and university scholarships. I never felt like I needed to ask my parents for money, but know if I ever ran into trouble money-wise, they could assist.

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

Yes, I receive a small amount of cash from share dividends (about $2000 a year). At the moment we are also receiving approximately $1500 a month total of interest from our savings accounts. I haven’t received an inheritance and don’t expect to any time soon.

Day 1

7am — I wake up and lie in bed for another 15 minutes. It’s my first day in a long time with nothing planned, so I snuggle into the blanket and feel thankful I can stay in my pyjamas for most of the day. Scroll on my phone for about half an hour and check messages received from family and friends from the other side of the world before finally getting up.

7.30am — Go downstairs with my partner, F., and have some homemade coffee (we used to buy coffee all the time but now we hardly do as we’re trying to save the $$$!). I finally get around to updating my stock options so that my dividends automatically are reinvested, rather than paid out. Although I’ve enjoyed getting small, unexpected amounts of money, it’s better for me in the long run. Plus, automation for the win!

12pm — Eat some leftover Mexican bean stew with rice and an avocado that was gifted by a friend.

2pm — Go for a walk with F. and get a hot chocolate and espresso ($9.10). Then I buy some bread at the local bakery for $11! Now I know where all my dough goes. $20.10

4pm — Come back home and contemplate making some dumplings but then figure, nah, let’s go out instead. Before we head out, we watch some episodes of You on Netflix. It makes me want to visit London, stat!

7pm — We head out to satisfy our dumplings craving (I get this craving at a minimum of once a week) and get the train to Ashfield to our fave Chinese restaurant. We stuff ourselves and end up spending $65.71, which is well worth it! Head back home, full and content. $65.71

9pm — Watch The Meg. Yes, it’s a bad movie, but I still enjoy it thoroughly.

11.30pm — Sleep.

Daily total: $85.81

Day 2

8.30am — Wake up after a night of interrupted sleep, which isn’t unusual. I brush my teeth right after getting out of bed. It really helps me wake up and freshen me up, especially when I feel sluggish.

9am — Head off for a walk and to test out our new KeepCups. After taking our first sips of coffee, we realise we didn’t screw the lids on properly, so we spend the rest of the walk with sticky coffee residue on our arms.

10am — Arrive back home and start getting ready to head out for lunch with some friends. I pop on a couple more episodes of You to watch as I get ready. I’m not feeling this season, but I am loving the London scenes.

12pm — Meet up with some friends – another couple – for lunch at a cafe in Surry Hills. I get a burger and F. gets a burrito. We have this arrangement where one couple pays for our meals, then the other pays for the next, so on and so forth. This time, it’s our turn to foot the bill. $123.74

3:00pm — Head back home and do some life admin before the start of next week. Order a Coles delivery for the week which makes me (falsely) feel like I’ve saved a bunch of time not going to the shops. Unfortunately, it takes me almost an hour to actually place the order. I buy cereal, bread, cheese, milk, yoghurt, vegies, salmon, herbs, snacks, and condiments. $153

7:30pm — Heat up dinner (leftover Greek stew with feta and kale) and then decide what to watch on TV with F. We spend ages not being able to decide (typical), so I accept our loss and go read The Midnight Library on my Kindle. After doomscrolling through Instagram (and chasing those neurotransmitters), I head to bed at 11pm.

Daily Total: $276.74

Day 3

7am — Quick cuddle with F. before hopping (unenthusiastically) out of bed. It’s Monday so he is working from home with me. Yay! He sits in the spare room as he needs the monitor, whereas I can work from anywhere, so I head to the kitchen counter.

9:00am — Log on and try my best to get motivated to start the week right. I find if I have a productive Monday, it sets the tone for the rest of the working week. I work with colleagues based in the northern hemisphere, so Mondays are usually quiet for me meeting-wise, but I’ll have lots of emails from my Saturday (their Friday) to get through.

12pm — My morning hasn’t been super productive, but I still treat myself to a short break and eat some avo on toast.

5pm — Shut my laptop enthusiastically and start thinking about what to cook for dinner, deciding on chickpea, carrot and butternut couscous. I cook while the news plays in the background. I don’t really watch or follow the news much nowadays as I usually get the latest from social media (mostly on The Betoota Advocate, really).

7pm — Feel like dessert, so we walk to the local shop and get some vegan ice-cream – a four-pack of Pana Organic Chocolate Almond. Coconut milk-based ice creams are the bee’s knees! If you haven’t tried it, please do – it’s better than the real deal. $12

10.30pm — Spend the rest of the evening walking around the neighbourhood and chatting with F., before heading home, watching a bit of TV, and heading to bed at 10.30pm.

Daily total: $12

Day 4

7.30am — Wake up and check personal emails before getting ready for work.

8.30am — Make a mocha pot coffee, help F. get out the door (for some reason, only I know where all his items of clothing and possessions are located) and then log on. Most of my work in the morning involves firefighting issues that have come through overnight. After, I’ll usually have time to do more strategic and advisory work (unless I’m in meetings!).

12pm — Have a quick pot of noodles for lunch before heading back to work. I’m pretty much in meetings until the end of the day, mostly helping my line reports troubleshoot issues. I also sit in a couple of strategic meetings with senior management who are looking at new potential research projects to see if they’re worth the department investing its time and effort.

4pm — I briefly resurface and need some fresh air, so I head around the neighbourhood for a walk while chatting with my cousin on the phone. She’s on maternity leave after having a baby a few months ago and enjoys the chat while the baby has a short nap.

5pm — Check my personal emails and contemplate buying some group personal training sessions as there’s a sale — 30 sessions for $1200! One-on-one personal training is a little awkward, so I think group exercise might be more my thing. I bite the bullet ($1200) and end up regretting the purchase slightly. Oh well, I know this means I’m committing to exercising. I also check the bank account and see that F. has bought a Chromecast in his spare time, out of the joint account ($61). $1261

7pm — F. comes home and we eat dinner – baked fish and roast vegies. For dessert, we whip out our portable fire pot and cook some s’mores.

10.30pm — Fall asleep on the couch while “online shopping” – meaning I put a bunch of things in my cart and closed the window without purchasing. Super inefficient, I know, but it does mean I procrastinate on further spending. I wake up and head up to my real bed.

Daily total: $1261

Read the rest on Refinery29 Australia here.

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