Money diary: What I spend – 2 weeks in Melbourne

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I mentioned previously how much I enjoyed being nosy about money diaries published online. Since then I decided to journal two weeks like the Refinery29 Money Diaries. I decided on two weeks because I tend to think of all my finances in a two-week cycle as I get paid fortnightly. I moved out into an apartment less than a year ago. I am currently living in central Melbourne and I work in science. This is my third year working, and I am making above the median starting graduate wage but definitely not six figures. All figures are in Australian dollars.

Monthly expenses

Mortgage/rent: I have a mortgage on my primary residence. I live by myself in a one-bedroom high rise apartment. I rent out my car park space. If I rented the whole place out, I would expect $2100 or up to $2600 if furnished.
Strata/body corporation: ~$200
Water: ~$65-$70
Electricity: ~$60
Hot water gas: ~$10
Internet: $60
Mobile: $20
Public transport: $131 for 4-week pass (includes all public transport)
Private health insurance: $97
Other: I’m saving ~20-25% of income (as mortgage offset) although HECS debt (university debt) will eat several points off that when my repayment bill comes through after lodging taxes. I consider my apartment’s principle repayments a form of investment too.

Day 1 Monday

9:00am – Tram to work. I eat a cheesy vegemite scroll that mum gave me the day before (think she said it was $2).
12:00pm – I have leftovers for lunch from visiting my parents the night before. Today I have stir-fry rice noodles! I also brought a kiwi fruit and eat that. I regret not cutting it up at home and bringing it in tupperware, as I proceed to get kiwi juice all over my desk.
4:00pm – Feeling peckish, so I snack on a biscuit I brought.
5:00pm – Managed to get to the bank by 5 for some banking (took the tram). Since it’s early I decide to go for a grocery run. I pick up apples, avocado, cherry tomatoes, salad leaves and bulk free range chicken thighs (on last-minute 20% clearance). They are my favourite protein to keep in the freezer for when I’m in a pinch. I spend $0.99 remaining on a gift card and $20.45.
6:30pm – Dinner is one piece of chicken thigh, broccolini, sweet chilli potato and carrots. While cleaning and doing chores throughout the night, I also snack on a Ferrero Rocher.

Day 2 Tuesday

Payday! I get my salary fortnightly, with generous salary packaging benefits. I’m able to take home several hundred more dollars (per pay) than without salary packaging.
9:00am – Tram to work.
10:00am – Didn’t get time to eat until now. Egg sandwich from home.
12:30pm – Lunch of some leftover chicken and sweet chilli potato and carrots, plus a cheese and vegemite toasted sandwich.
5:00pm – Tram home.
6:30pm – Dinner of mushrooms, tomato, potato, carrots and egg strips. Also baked a crumbed dory fillet. For dessert, a weak G & T with a scoop of ice cream – bizarre idea but it was actually nice!
10:00pm – Feeling hungry so I snack on some seaweed rice crackers Mum gave me as a souvenir.

Day 3 Wednesday

9:00am – Tram to work.
10:00am – Breakfast of egg sandwich.
12:00pm – Lunch is the dish from last night, carb bulked with some pasta… like a “dry pasta”.
4:00pm – Eat an apple and a biscuit.
5:30pm – Tram home.
7:00pm – Walk to dinner with a friend at Moo Moo Pho & Burger. I have a vermicelli noodle and spring roll salad, $12.50.
8:00pm – After dinner we tram and walk back to my apartment. Later I walk her to her tram stop.

Day 4 Thursday

Receive $15 cashback into bank account from previous purchases.
9:30am – Tram to work and breakfast of cheese and vegemite sandwich.
1:00pm – Lunch of a tiny leftover portion of the “dry pasta” from Tuesday plus salad leaves with cherry tomatoes and half an avocado.
5:00pm – Snack on a Japanese apple pie kit kat.
5:30pm – Tram into city and walk around.
7:00pm – Eating with bf and we are going to eat in. I buy salmon, green beans, avocado and frozen cheesecake from the supermarket to make for dinner, $22.32. We eat all that plus pears and kiwi fruits. He drives me home after eating and watching TV.
11:30pm – Pay my building’s quarterly strata fees for 1-bed apartment plus carpark, $812.26. The fees are really good in terms of what my building has. This was by far the best value body corp fee of all the apartments I looked at last year.

Day 5 Friday

Received a $100 prepaid VISA card from the government for switching my internet to NBN – yay!
9:30am – Tram to work and cream cheese sandwich for breakfast.
12:00pm – Lunch of leafy salad, cherry tomatoes, the other half of the avocado and homemade croutons.
5:00pm – Tram into city. Pick up a Domino’s pizza I ordered online before leaving work. This is the first time in my life I have gotten Domino’s for myself. I pretty much never do takeaway. I found a $1 off voucher online, so $6.95.
5:30pm – Walk with pizza to friend’s apartment in city for a long overdue catch up over pizza. We also Skype our best friend overseas. We live so close but rarely see each other, it’s terrible!
8:00pm – Walk home.
10:30pm – Snack on an apple and some more of the rice seaweed snacks from Mum.

Day 6 Saturday

11:30am – Bf picks me up. I decide to go to South Yarra to vote in the federal election because I want to eat lunch around there. It takes like an hour in line.
1:00pm – Lunch at a Tivoli Road Bakery. We get one latte (Bf), share a chipotle pork with crackling, charred corn and slaw sandwich, ham & cheese croissant, plain croissant, and take away a lemon curd meringue doughnut and vanilla custard doughnut. Bf pays, $33.80.
2:00pm – Drive back to Bf’s place. We have to leave in a bit but I feel like eating the lemon meringue one already. We share it. It is amazing!!!
3:00pm – Drive to Escape Room Melbourne (the original one in Melbourne) because Bf is taking me as an early birthday treat. Our appointment is at 3:30pm but we accidentally follow Google Maps to the wrong location. We are very late!
4:00pm – Arrive at Escape Room! We are meant to get 70 minutes but since we are so late, he gives us 50 minutes. We escape in 49 minutes!!! Bf already paid when he booked, $85 – thanks Bf!
6:30pm – Walk to dinner at Honcho, a popup of a relocation and reinvention restaurant from one of our favourite chefs (Adam Liston). His food is still amazing and I’m more in love than ever. We order a “golden egg”, “prawn cracker”, spanner crab udon dish, salt & pepper squid ink noodle dish, two cocktails, $96. (The description doesn’t do his food justice… it’s a lot more innovative and inspiring than that, haha.)

Day 7 Sunday

12:00pm – The person renting my carpark space is not extending. I list on Gumtree to find a new tenant.
1:00pm – Eat prawn crackers and curry puffs (from Bf’s mum), toast and kiwi fruit.
2:30pm – Walk to hair salon. I go about 2-3 times a year and I’ve been going to the same lady for some five years now. I’ve planned and saved for this trip. Today I’m getting a cut and 1/4 head foils, $130.
5:00pm – Walk home, pick up some some stuff.
5:30pm – Train home to see my parents for dinner (I usually visit every Sunday). My train line is having major construction works so I also have to bus part of the way and my dad picks me up from the bus stop. Dinner is usually about 6-8 different dishes! My mum gives me lunch for the next day and a lot of bao to keep in the freezer because she’s been making them this week.
8:00pm – We drive out to see relatives who are visiting from overseas.
9:00pm – My parents drive me back to my place.

Day 8 Monday

9:00am – Slept through my alarms! Tram and bus to work because there are construction works on my tram line this week. Breakfast of egg sandwich.
12:00pm – Direct debited my monthly internet $59.90 & mobile $19.99 fee, total $79.89.
12:30pm – Lunch of leftovers from dinner last night – prawns, pork, veg plus rice.
5:30pm – Walk, tram and train to my parent’s place. Mum also drives out to pick me up. It’s very frustrating that there are works on all my lines. My dad works late on Monday nights so I stay with Mum during those Mondays, which is almost every Monday.
6:30pm – We have hot pot! Yum!!!
8:30pm – Mum loves cocktails. She asks me to make something (and make it strong) – I make a muddled kiwi, midori, vodka and pine-mango cocktail which we drink.

Day 9 Tuesday

8:00am – Mum gives me a lift to the train station, while I eat bao she heated in the morning. I train, tram and bus to work.
12:00pm – Free sandwiches at work for lunch today.
3:00pm – Eat a banana and a big biscuit.
5:00pm – Walk and tram to supermarket. I buy sliced cheese and pak choy, $7.90. I walk home.
7:00pm – Dinner of the remaining curry puffs from Bf’s mum and some pak choy, carrots and potato. I also snack on some chips.

Day 10 Wednesday

9:00am – Tram and bus to work. These construction works are driving me crazy. My breakfast is oat granola with kiwi fruit and wheat crackers with cream cheese. I use milk from work for the granola.
12:30pm – Lunch is rice cakes, cabbage, lamb and prawns (some leftovers from Monday night’s hotpot which Mum cooked into a lunch for me but I didn’t eat yesterday because of free lunch).
5:00pm – Walk and tram to supermarket.
6:00pm – From the supermarket I pick up bread, cos lettuce, tomatoes, canned black beans and canned beetroot, $10.21.
7:30pm – Dinner is tomato drop egg soup with pak choy, and some wontons from the freezer – my mum always makes large batches and they are great to keep in the freezer for something easy and quick to cook and eat.

Day 11 Thursday

9:00am – Tram and bus to work. I eat an egg mayo pickle sandwich.
10:30am – I’ve put aside money over the last month so I can go shopping this weekend and buy myself some beauty goods. I purchase a 5% off gift card. I will use this to buy another gift card for a store where I plan to spent it, $95 (for $100 worth).
12:30pm – Lunch is salad of cos lettuce, black beans, corn, sweet potato, beetroot, tomatoes and croutons. I also eat two biscuits from the tea room.
5:30pm – Walk and tram into city. Bf and I have dinner at Shanghai Street Noodle Wizard, ordering chicken in spring onion oil, xiao long bao and braised pork belly soup noodles. This place is a disappointment. Bf pays, $33.60.
7:00pm – We walk to his place to watch TV and eat frozen cheesecake purchased last Thursday.
9:30pm – He drives me home (we live 20min walk apart, but we are sooo lazy!).

Day 12 Friday

8:30am – Tram and bus to work. Breakfast is another egg mayo pickle sandwich.
12:30pm – Lunch is another salad of cos lettuce, black beans, corn, sweet potato, beetroot and croutons (no tomato this time).
6:00pm – Walk and tram home. I also stop by the supermarket to exchange my gift card for the actual gift card I want (Myer). This is how I can get 5% off all spending at Myer…
7:30pm – Dinner is salad again (need to finish everything off) – cos lettuce, tomato, black beans, corn, beetroot, pickled jalapenos and croutons. I also make “fries” by roasting strips of potato in the oven.
9:30pm – Snacking on chips while watching a movie. Oops.

Day 13 Saturday

10:30am – Bf picks me up. We drive to brunch but stop on the way to pick up an order from the supermarket that is already paid for.
11:30pm – Brunch at Lolo and Wren. Bf orders a latte and chorizo cazuela and I order southern fried soft shell crab in a burger, $45.50.
12:30pm – We drive a fair distance to go to Eastland Shopping Centre. I want to buy beauty products using my gift card (for Mecca in Myer) and am on the hunt for pants. The reason for going to this particular shopping centre is explained in my last blog post. I end up getting not one thing and we leave just before 3 hours to avoid paying for parking.
4:30pm – We left the shopping centre before I could get a Boost juice. So we drive to The Glen and arrive literally ten minutes before closing.
5:00pm – I get my Boost juice in the tiny kids cup because I WANT A FINDING DORY CUP, $5.50! Hurray! Someone actually took mine but they made me another one.
5:30pm – We have some time to kill so we wander in the supermarket and I get black beans to cook, $2.65. Then we drive out of the shopping centre to get parking closer to dinner (like 2 minutes away).
6:00pm – Dinner at The Black Toro. We order two cocktails, potato, jalapenos and cheddar croquettes, seared Canadian scallops, soft shell crab tacos, roasted ocean trout fillet and a chocolate parfait dessert. It’s nice but given its popularity I expected it to be better. Bf’s parents purchase the entertainment book for charity so we get 25% off our bill. Bf pays, $120 with 25% off = $90 plus $10 tip.
7:30pm – I’m actually not full and don’t know why Bf is trying to stop me getting dessert. We walk around and I want to go in this little dessert cafe. He limits us to a lava cake for sharing and a passionfruit macaron and Whoopie’s Cookie for me. He insists I take the cookie for eating later/tomorrow and insists on paying, $14.70
8:00pm – Drive home to his place.
8:30pm – He says his parents have something to give me for my birthday coming up. We go to his parents place (while fending off my attempts at reaching for that cookie).
9:00pm – Bf’s mum made me a HUGE 3D MINION CAKE LIKE LEGIT THE STUFF OF MY DREAMS OMG – see Instagram. I don’t want to cut it, but it must be done. We eat the minion’s backside, haha. Inside, it is a five-layer chocolate cake with raspberry jam (and now I know why Bf made sure I had room for more dessert).
10:30pm – We return to Bf’s place and watch a movie and some TV. The cookie isn’t happening today. Later he drops me back home.

Day 14 Sunday

11:30am – I’m running late leaving to go to see my parents. I’m meant to go shopping with my mum today. I rationalise that this is the only opportunity I have of eating the double chocolate giant Whoopie’s Cookie (like a giant cookie sandwich) and I eat it. Oops. I walk to the train station and take the train.
12:00pm – My mum meets me at the train station and saves the day with homemade dumplings for me to eat for lunch, yay!
1:00pm – We go to Costco. I haven’t been since they first opened in Melbourne – it’s been many many many years. I find the prices more expensive than sale prices at supermarkets so I’m unlikely to come often. But I get cashew nuts and hygiene products. Things I buy to split with mum are edamame, kiwi, grape tomatoes and tofu. She pays and we will arrange payment later.
3:00pm – We make an impromptu trip to DFO since I’m still hunting for pants and mum is always a good second opinion. I find no pants. Instead, I buy a dress from Marcs, $259 reduced to $209 to $129 to $79 plus 20% = $63.20 and also pay for mum’s purchase for now. I also buy a sports bra from Lululemon, $59 reduced to $39 but use my Visa giftcard to buy it.
5:00pm – We drive to Bunnings Warehouse because for my birthday, my parents are buying me two large outdoor pots that I REALLY want (and soil). One pot it sold out though so mum says she’ll try a few other locations another day for me.
6:00pm – Back at my parent’s house. Mum gets busy making dinner. I’m calculating who owes who money but it’s not a clean split with the cash we have on hand. In the end it works out that I spend about $54.20 for Costco.
7:00pm – In typical fashion, Mum has made 8 dishes for three people. I make another cocktail. After dinner we eat grapefruit.
9:30pm – My parents drive me home. Dad muscles the pot and soil onto my balcony for me. Thanks, parents!

Total

Groceries: $115.08
Eating out: $166.45
Bills: $892.15
Shopping/pampering: $249.29 (including $95 spent on a giftcard for future use & not including $39.99 spent using giftcards)
Cashback/giftcards received: $115

On money diaries (& being nosy)

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This week I discovered, became obsessed with and practically devoured the Money Diaries at Refinery29. I’m such a nosy person, and I love geeking about budgets, so this was really the best thing ever to read!

Apart from being generally super nosy, I really enjoyed seeing where money tended to be spent throughout the day. Surprisingly the overall (non-fixed) spending habits were more similar across the board, despite the very different incomes levels. I really could relate when unexpected expenses popped up! I can track every cent of mine (an OCD characteristic since the days when my pocket money was $1, no kidding) and already do so in writing, so I don’t think I would discover anything new if I did a money diary. I may still be interested in doing one though, because who knows, I could learn something. Or it would just be incredibly boring.

Thanks to an unexpected and incredibly generous gift from a relative, I’ve managed to surpass this year’s savings/extra house repayments goal before the halfway mark of the year! Nonetheless I have decided to put that to the side (mentally not literally) and continue working with my current budget and goals. I still think I can reach the savings goal and even surpass it by myself! (Please be kind to me, tax time!) I’ve definitely reined in and tightened my spending habits even more in the last two months, and am feeling quite content to just very VERY slowly save and plan for the things I want/need to spend on. Unexpected expenses are hurting me though.

I’m suddenly reminded that there are a lot of things I have been continually too lazy to list up on eBay though, which I should definitely get to…

[EDIT] I have since posted my 2 weeks in Melbourne money diary!

Money: Shopping habits and goals for this year

Since moving out, the majority of my pay has been going to the bank (mortgage repayments) and towards living expenses. I’ve also set myself an aggressive savings plan with the remainder of the money, so I have even less to spend on myself than a year ago.

I don’t think I’m too spendy. I would love to be, but in reality I’ve always had aggressive savings plans. I consider most purchases for a long time, I buy beauty products when there are promotions or sales, and I can think of less than five fashion items I’ve ever purchased full price. Most would be purchased after at least two sales markdowns. Nonetheless I often get overexcited about a bargain and end up with unnecessary or poorly thought out purchases. This year I hope to change that.

I have been thinking about what my wardrobe lacks. I don’t buy seasonal or fast fashion to be thrown away as the season changes. I rarely get rid of items because they are too old, but because I never wear them anymore. I’m really bad at clearing my closet out. Usually old clothing that gets donated is several years or even over a decade old. I need to be better about clearing stuff out that I don’t wear. I occasionally pull out purchases I regret that are barely worn (or still new!) to be sold. While this “culling” process is fine and should be more brutal, I know that most likely less than half my wardrobe is in regular rotation and this signals to me that I’m not thinking hard enough about my purchases and there is wastage going on.

I’m not keen on fast fashion so that’s not the culprit. I often browses my favourite stores so that when there are sales and extra markdowns I already have an idea what I like. Unfortunately I still fall victim to finding sales bargains on other items and snatching them up as well or instead! Usually they aren’t terrible pieces but I’d like to make an effort to stick to well thought out purchases. If I’ve thought about it long enough and am confident it will be a great addition to the wardrobe, then I should make myself worry less about the sales reduction. I’ve heard people go on about “quality over quantity” and “pieces to last years and years and years” but it tends to come across as justification more than a good shopping habit. My poor shopping habit is buying a lot of pieces that I now realise are not great staple pieces. I also tend to buy things like tops and skirts because the fit is easier to work with (and I’m more excited about the print). What I lack are good quality pants, blazers/jackets and jumpers that pair well. I think I can attribute that to being frustrated with and having more difficulty finding those items, so I tend to avoid shopping them altogether. Even skirts and tops, I think I lack staples that pair well.

This year my shopping goal is to write down the clothing and shoes I’d like to add to my wardrobe, browse these items online/in store and try them on if possible. I’d like to take time to decide if each will be a good purchase by considering the fit, if it’s a staple piece, whether it pairs well, its quality and the wash and maintenance. If it’s one of those “it’s okay but it’s not great, so maybe only if it’s reduced really heavily…”, I will NOT buy it if it later becomes heavily reduced. If I am aiming for a pricier item (like a coat), I will shop around to find the one, then work towards it instead of being fearful of biting the bullet and just buying five smaller things instead. And never give up! If I don’t find something perfect this year, the hunt will continue.

My goal is not minimalism or having a capsule wardrobe, but working towards better shopping habits that will translate to a more practical and ultimately better wardrobe. This, in term, should translate to less consumption wastage.

In terms of makeup and beauty products, I don’t feel like I need to change my habits in this department. I have one/two of any product open at a given time and almost always use it up before moving on (unfortunately things don’t always work out but that’s not unexpected). These products don’t go on seasonal or end of line sale like fashion, but I buy (or stock up on things I’m faithful to) when there are promotions or during the rare sale.