$85 moisturiser and Twizzlers: What a programmer on $140,000 spends in a week

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 senior software engineer who makes $140,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on an $85 moisturiser.

On Money Diaries this week, a senior software engineer who makes $140,000 a year and spends some of her money on an $85 moisturiser.Credit: Refinery29 Australia

Occupation: Senior software engineer
Industry: Fintech
Age: 33
Location: Truganina, Melbourne
Salary: $140,000
My Partner’s Salary: $95,000
Net Worth: $348,000 (A house worth around $610,000, $18,000 in stocks, $25,000 in emergency cash, $50,000 in car value).
Debt: A $340,000 home loan and $15,000 of credit card debt (we pay this off monthly. This month, it’s huge because we booked stuff for an upcoming trip.)
Paycheque Amount (Monthly): $8355
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Mortgage: $1500. My partner and I are living in the first property we’ve ever bought, together with our daughter and our pup. It’s a four-bedroom, one-storey house. Our mortgage is a fixed loan, so our minimum repayment is $1500 a month. However, we’re paying a bit more so we can pay it off faster.
Credit card: We pay off our credit card debt in full every month as we use the credit card really only to get points. The sum varies each month, but usually, it’s around $9,000 to $10,000.
Netflix: $23
After School Care: $288
Gym Membership: $80
Pet Insurance: $54
Phone Insurance: $13
Private Health Insurance: $347
NBN: $80
Phone: $50
eBay Plus: $5
Ring Camera: $15
YouTube Premium: $15
Pest Control: $49
Dog Food: $45
Pet Groomer: $100
Investing: $500
Savings Contributions: Whatever is left at the end of the month goes into my savings account.

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

I was lucky to have my parents pay for my education, up to my master’s degree. I tried to contribute by getting partial scholarships for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

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

My parents are very strict about money. Since primary school, I was forced to write all my income and expenses in a book, which my mum then reviewed each week. She wouldn’t give me pocket money if the entries didn’t add up. She also insisted that I saved some of my pocket money.

They grew up very poor and worked hard to get where they are now. They taught me that money doesn’t grow on trees, and always pushed me to be financially independent on my own accord. They made me live on $1500 per month as a student, which included everything from rent to food to going out. I had to work part-time as a student to make enough money to go out with friends, but it taught me about how hard it was to earn money and how to be sensible in spending it.

That being said, they told me not to chase after money. They wanted me to focus on having the right mindset in life, teaching me that when we work hard towards a clear goal, money will follow.

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

My first job was at KFC. I got it because I needed to earn more money and it was close to my homestay. I could also get free food during my shift. I only had $1500 in allowance per month when I was a student. My rent was $1000 and $500 was barely enough for school materials, lunch, transport, or going out, so I needed to get a job.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Up until I was around eight years old, I never had to worry about money. Then something bad happened and my parents lost all their money and assets overnight. As a child, I didn’t worry, but I did notice the tension and stress. We had to sell some packaged snacks to our friends at school and all we could afford was second-hand clothes. My parents had to beg the school principal to let us join the school without paying the admittance fee. Sad stuff, but my parents never let us worry about money throughout that hard period.

Do you worry about money now?

Now that I have my own family to support, I do worry about money. I think we have enough to live comfortably, but life can be unpredictable. I know from experience that we can lose everything overnight. It only takes one of us to get really sick or a natural disaster to put us in a dire situation (I’ve been told that I am a bit paranoid). The recent interest rate hikes and our fixed loans ending definitely don’t help either.

I also notice that lifestyle inflation is real. We have been spending way too much. I am in the process of culling our expenses, which is part of the reason why I need to write a Money Diary!

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

I came to Australia by myself when I was 17 years old. I think I got my first full-time job and stopped receiving an allowance from my parents when I was 21 years old. At that time, I only had my life savings to live off – I’d been saving pocket money since primary school, so this was around $35,000.

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

I don’t, but I’m aiming to get some passive income in the future, either from property investments, stocks, or a small business of my own. I haven’t received any inheritance either, other than inheriting some wisdom from my parents.

Day 1

6:30am — I wake up, prepare my kid’s lunchbox, clean the pup’s toilet area, and prepare my husband’s and kid’s breakfasts. It’s cereal today because I just can’t be bothered. Then I get my kid ready for school and get myself ready for the day. I need to go to court today because it’s my last day of jury duty. Hubby cleans up the dishes and drops her off at school today as he starts work at 4pm.

9:00am — I take the train to the city ($9 – this covers my daily fare). The area where I live doesn’t have a metro station, so my only option is to take a VLine train, which is less frequent than the regular metro train. However, it is more comfortable and sometimes you get mini tables and even toilets, as it’s intended to be a regional train! $9

10:00am — Finally arrive at Flagstaff. I buy one glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut at 7/11 for breakfast ($3.90). This is my eighth day on the jury. We have finished sitting through all the evidence, so all that’s left to do is lock ourselves in the jury room and reach a verdict. We have 11 charges to go through, which is pretty average. The average length of a case is around seven days, but I’ve heard that some can go up for 12 weeks! *Shivers* $3.90

10:30am — Go to the jury room and deliberate until around 4pm. Lunch is provided during the deliberation stage, so I have a chicken avocado sandwich and sparkling water. I can’t legally tell anyone what we discussed in the room, but I can say that there were some pretty intense arguments between the jury members. We try to listen to each member’s opinion, and thankfully, we work well together and come out with a united verdict.

3:00pm — We’re called to give our final verdict in court. This case was quite upsetting for most of us, and a few of the members even lost sleep over it. Even though we were unanimous with the verdict, it was still hard to say “guilty of all charges”, knowing that our verdict will change a person’s life forever. After delivering the verdict, we go back to the jury room.

3:30pm — Juror debriefing session starts. We’re told that it will take a month or two for the judge to close the case. We then give back our access cards and a court staff member walks us out of the building, thanking us for our service. It’s been a pretty rewarding and interesting experience.

4:05pm — On my way back home, I decide to buy Twizzlers from the lolly shop to reward myself for finishing my civic duty ($4.99). My train was scheduled for 4.20pm, but it gets cancelled due to a machinery problem. I end up waiting for the next train, along with hundreds of other passengers. It finally arrives at 4:40pm, but it only has three carriages. People start pushing each other to get a spot on the train. The VLine staff decide to add extra carriages, which means there will be a delay. At this point, I start to panic as I need to pick up my kid before after-school care closes at 6:15pm. I think about just ordering an Uber, but it’s estimated to cost around $120. I close the app and pray the train will leave soon. Thankfully, it leaves at 5pm. Phew. The woes of living in the ’burbs. $4.99

5:55pm — I pick up my kid from school and we head home. We have a quick dinner of leftovers, as well as some fruit. Then it’s time for the usual bedtime routine.

6.30pm — I help kiddo take a shower, then dry her and put cream all over her body (she has eczema so she has to get a full-body moisturiser daily). Then she eats fruit and watches some YouTube Kids on my bed.

6:45pm — I take a shower. It’s my favourite time of the day as I get to wind down under the warm water. After the shower, I put my Innisfree barley peeling face mask on. While it’s doing its thing, I do a quick clean of the bathroom sink. Then I brush and floss my teeth. I wash off the peeling solution and put on a night cream, toner and lotion, then dry my hair with my trusty old hairdryer.

7:30pm — I call kiddo back into the bathroom to brush her teeth. We then make sure her hair is dry and she goes to the loo before we go to bed. We pick a book to read and I tuck her into bed. She needs me to sit on the bed next to her so she can snuggle me until she falls asleep. While I wait for her to fall asleep, I just read some news on my phone.

8:15pm — I not-so-gracefully slip out of the bed and tiptoe out of her bedroom, settling into my own bed. I turn on the TV and watch an episode of a Korean drama, The Glory. I usually watch light-hearted romcom dramas, but this one has a very addictive storyline about revenge. Can’t wait for season two!

9:00pm — I remember that I ran out of face moisturiser, so I jump online and buy a new moisturiser from Innisfree for next-day delivery ($85). Then I scroll through TikTok on the bed until I fall asleep at around 10pm. $85

12:00am — I hear my husband come home. He is the head chef at a fancy restaurant, so he finishes work very late most days. One of the perks of the job is that he gets a free meal and beer after work, so I don’t have to prepare anything for his supper. I go back to sleep while he usually takes a shower, eats, and plays a couple of computer games (he usually goes to bed around 1:30am).

Daily Total: $102.89

Day 2

7:00am — I wake up and prepare my kid’s lunchbox, before making some toast for everyone for breakfast. Clean the pup’s toilet, empty the dishwasher — all the usual mum stuff.

8:00am — Hubby wakes up and enters the kitchen. The kiddo and puppy start going crazy and try to jump on him. While he entertains them, I start to make our coffee. The coffee machine we bought at the start of lockdown has been one of our best investments, since we make coffee almost every morning.

8:10am — We quickly have our breakfast and change the kiddo into her uniform, then carry her to the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face.

8:40am — My husband goes to drop her off at school, and then he’ll hit the gym. Meanwhile, I stay at home to clean up the dishes and go for a walk with my pup. We usually walk along the bike path nearby. It’s quite interesting to see the development around our area with new houses popping out here and there since we moved here two years ago.

9:10am — I arrive back home and head to the bathroom to brush my teeth, wash my face, and change into a decent shirt. Then I go into my home office to start work.

9:30am — With dread, I open my laptop and check out Teams and Outlook. I have loads of messages to catch up on. Some of my team members also start messaging me and asking about jury duty. I decide to reply to the new messages, then go through all the old emails afterwards.

10:00am — Hubby arrives back home and takes a shower. He waters the plants in the backyard and plays some games on the PS5.

11:30am — Finally get through all the messages and reply to everything I need to reply to. Phew. Now I can see what tasks are left for me to do this sprint (we work in fortnightly blocks). I have a lot of work that’s piled up after being away for jury duty for two weeks.

12:00pm — Hubby calls me to eat some lunch that he cooked. I’m so busy with work that I don’t have time to eat. Later, I end up grazing on a boiled egg (leftover from my kid’s lunchbox prep) and some plain toast because they’re easier to eat while working than a huge meal.

1:30pm — I tell my manager that I probably won’t be able to finish all the remaining tasks for this sprint as we only have two days left. She moves some tasks away and assures me it’s totally fine. I’m so glad I have a nice manager – not very easy to come by!

3:15pm — Daily team meeting where we report the progress of our work. I mostly just say hi to the team and listen to what they’ve been up to.

4:00pm — Weekly company-wide meeting. We start by giving shout-outs and appreciation to our colleagues – voluntarily and unscripted. It’s a nice way to give recognition to everyone. I am not very comfortable speaking in a big group setting, so I write mine in the comment section of the meeting, which people can then read and give emoji reactions to. Then the CEO gives some announcements and news updates.

5:00pm — I pick up my kid from school, and then we have dinner at home: kimchi jjigae with rice and seaweed that my husband cooked earlier for lunch. I fry up some eggs for my kid as she doesn’t eat spicy food, so she just has eggs and seaweed. Then I feed my pup.

5:30pm — Kiddo takes a shower, has lotion time, then goes to pick out a snack from the pantry. Then she heads to my bed for her screen time while I have a shower. It’s still too early for bedtime, so we both head to the living room and play Hogwarts Legacy.

7:30pm — We both go to the bathroom and brush our teeth. Then we read a book and I sit on her bed until she falls asleep.

8:15pm — I use my ninja skill to get out of her room and I go to the laundry to fold the big pile of clean clothes. I quickly mop the area in front of the sofa and dump all the clean clothes there.

8:30pm — I find an interesting YouTube video about how wealth inequality is inevitable and how people in the Netherlands are generally happy, even with great inequality in wealth. It’s pretty interesting and challenges my perspective on life. I listen to the video while I fold the pile of clothes (the most boring job in the world).

9:00pm — I finish folding all the clothes, but it’s too noisy to put them in the wardrobe, so I stack them neatly back into the basket to put away tomorrow morning. Then I give the kitchen a quick wipe and open the fridge, trying to find inspiration for tomorrow’s lunch box. Ham and cheese toast it is. I make a note to buy more groceries because we’re almost out of fruit and milk.

9:10pm — Netflix time! I start on a new series, The Good Witch. I always like a good fantasy! As I watch, I discover it’s not as fantasy as I thought it’d be. But nonetheless, the story is so wholesome!

10:30pm — Hubby arrives home. He started early today, so he also finishes early. He’s brought home some pepperoni pizza from work, which smells delicious. But I’ve already brushed my teeth, so I just swallow my drool and continue to watch my series.

11:00pm — Hubby finishes taking a shower and sits on the bed with me. We talk about our day and I ask him to buy some fruit and milk tomorrow since I have to go to the office all day. It’s his day off tomorrow so he has a lot of free time in the morning. Then I say goodnight to him while he heads outside to have his supper and game time.

Daily Total: $0

Read the rest on Refinery29 Australia here.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are owned by Nine, which also holds the publishing rights for Refinery29 in Australia.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

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