Money Diaries: #3 Back to the grind

I am trying to be more mindful of our finances starting this month as we really need to buckle down to save for a house in the next two years. I’ll not be counting my Airbnb expenses but I will note prices if I’m purchasing something.

Day 1: Monday 21 January

Usual morning routine – I pack breakfast (mango with yoghurt and muesli), lunch I cooked last night (kimchi rice, Japanese egg roll – tamagoyaki – and sugar snap peas), a banana, and a bag of spicy snap peas (my Mum can’t eat spicy food anymore so she gave them to me because they were going stale).

I drive to work as it’s a Monday and I visit my parents for dinner. I lend T my transport card.

Every Monday, money is taken out of T and my separate accounts to go into our joint bank account which we use for joint spending (cash and paying off credit cards). We decided this was the easiest method and usually there is enough money or else I will just have each of us deposit a bit more (I am the chief financial officer of the household, haha). This way we can still keep most of our money in our own mortgage offset accounts but there is a communal pool that is easy to access. I go ahead and pay off last month’s credit card bill.

After work, I visit my parents. When I leave, my Mum sends me off with lunch for the next day (rice, cabbage and carrot stir-fry, tofu, and a prawn-egg-corn dish) as well as her (slightly famous amongst friends) pork floss bread. She’s really into making it!

When I get home, I make T’s lunch for the next day. I make a pasta salad with corn, edamame, lettuce and egg (and I will add tuna the next morning).

Day 2: Tuesday 22 January

I add dressing and tuna to T’s lunch. I pack my own food – lunch from leftovers from my Mum, coffee, breakfast of nectarine with yoghurt and muesli.

I train to and from work today.

In the morning, I go down to Coles to get bin bags for my Airbnb ($2; the size I need has been sold out during our weekly shop for the last month – get your stock right, supermarkets!) and David Jones gift cards which are on offer with 10% added value. I was planning to get maybe $200 ($220 value) but they’re sold out. I should have taken this more seriously… argh!

After getting home from work, I make Japanese curry (potato, carrot and peas) with rice, which I cook with quinoa mixed in. We also pack our two lunches, but there is still some leftover curry (no rice)… I’ll think about it later. I also start making sponge cake because I want to have a second go at making mango cake (Natasha’s Kitchen recipe). I didn’t think I used enough filling for my first attempt at Christmas.

T is invited to go out and Pokemon Go raid for a bit and I want to go too. The cake-making is put on hold. (For anyone interested, we are playing hard in these two weeks because of an incredibly meta-relevant Pokemon)

After getting home again, I finish making the cake but I definitely put too much filling between the layers this time. Plus I don’t have time to cool everything in the fridge between steps so it’s a sloppy mess when I cut two slices for us to eat. I consider this attempt a bigger fail than last time and I am not going to try making this again because the recipe’s ratios are all wrong for me. The kitchen is a nightmare and T helps me clean up.

Day 3: Wednesday 23 January

I take my breakfast (peach with yoghurt and muesli today), curry lunch, banana and a slice of cake, which is holding itself together now that it’s cold.

I train to and from work.

I leave work early to go see my allergist and pick up my kit as I’m starting immunotherapy. It’s $120 and the Medicare rebate goes through overnight. $54.80 (personal account)

After I get home from work, I make tacos using the vegetable mixture I use to make vegetable puffs (I froze the leftover after making vegetable puffs for Christmas) and frozen crumbed fish (taco toppings are lettuce, cherry tomatoes, pickles and cheese)

After dinner we go and clean my Airbnb. I’ve gotten good at predicting which guests will give me a minor or major headache. I was right about this one. 🙁

After we get home, I cut up nectarines and we eat that with some more mango cake.

Day 4: Thursday 24 January

I pack breakfast (peach with yoghurt and muesli), coffee, a banana and some Vegemite bagel chips.

I train to and from work.

For lunch, our department goes out to lunch to farewell our colleague. I’ve worked closely with her and I will really miss her. She’s returning to another country but will be working with us via distance. I order a breakfast tortilla ($19.50) and surprisingly, the boss pays for all of us!

As I’m leaving work, eBay notifies me that an item I am watching is ending. I put a lot of things on my watch list and most I’m not serious about and often just curious to see the final price. This one I will commit to if it sells low (near the asking price) as it’s a Saba silk dress and I’m a sucker for silk. It’s starting at $25 plus $8.55 shipping so I bid $33 as I’m only ready to pay a little over $40 for it. I’m the only bidder so I win! $33.55

It is like 42 degrees when I leave work and I think I’m going to die. I do make it home. It’s a mishmash dinner. I make a potato pasta salad with leftover pasta from Monday night, some vegetable dumplings from the freezer, and heat some pork floss bread from my Mum that I totally forgot about and now we need to hurry up and finish. I decide I’ll have to finish it for lunch the next day because I don’t think I should keep it much longer.

I have to have an icypole, and we somehow manage to finish the mango cake (T thinks we can’t keep it in the fridge any longer) but we do regret this decision…

Day 5: Friday 25 January

I pack breakfast (banana with yoghurt and muesli), coffee and lunch (leftover salad from taco night, and the remainder of the pork floss bread). I’m very please because we had enough leftover curry that T also took curry for Thursday’s lunch and today’s lunch. This marks the first week ever that we have not bought any lunches during the work week! It wasn’t intentional but I’m very happy.

I train to and from work. It’s also over 40 degrees today… ugh.

After I get home, I get to work making slow baked (boneless) beef ribs with onion, carrots and mushrooms. We bought some meat from Costco a few months ago, portioned and stored them in the freezer but actually I’m not good at cooking meat so I’ve been trying to work out how to cook this. The last attempt at slow-cooked ribs was pretty bad. This time I go with a slightly different approach. Unfortunately I realise we don’t have canned tomatoes or tomato paste (the former is my fault since we have a house inventory rule of putting items on a grocery list that is shared on both our phones when one opens or uses the last of an item, and I was the last to use the canned tomatoes). I send T out to get tomato puree and he comes back with a huge bottle. I make two cling film balls with the remainder that I don’t use and freeze. $2.75 but paid with a 5% off gift card so ~$2.61.

We eat close to 9pm, haha. We eat with some broccoli, but it’s not much food, oops. Also the beef wasn’t good. Braised beef isn’t a good weeknight idea.

Day 6: Saturday 26 January

It’s Australia Day today (and Monday is a public holiday in lieu).

We go to Louis for a (late) brunch. T gets the green chilli scrambled eggs ($18) and a latte ($4). I get the salmon baguette ($11 – I order this in an effort to be more frugal at brunch as I’m weary that we might eat out more than usual this long weekend if things get hectic…) and an iced latte ($4). The eggs are nice but not spicy at all, the salmon baguette is super stingy on the filling, and the iced latte is pretty horrible. $37

We spend all afternoon out and about (Pokemon Go) and pick up a slurpee from 7/11 to keep hydrated. $1

But by the time we get home at like 7:30pm, I am super hungry and dehydrated. T suggests we go have Vietnamese so we drive to Thanh Ha 2 (I’ve never been before). We get beef satay skewers ($8), and a broke rice dish each ($14 and $15) plus ice tea for me because I need to rehydrate as quickly as possible with sugar ($4.50). $41.50

Day 7: Sunday 27 January

We decide to eat in for lunch but don’t have much breakfast/lunch-friendly food. I make french toast (savoury because I never liked sweet french toast!) and some broccoli. I rationalise that we can pick up a snack in the afternoon since I’ll probably be hungry very soon. T gives me a blind taste text of the two coffee capsule brands I’ve been buying for the Nespresso machine. I can’t tell the difference because they are both so terrible so seems logical that I’ll just continue to buy whichever is more discounted (I think all capsules including Nespresso taste bad, but do not want to regularly pay for someone to make me coffee).

We spend all afternoon walking around the city again (Pokemon Go). The snack situation never eventuates but we grab another slurpee from 7/11. $1

For dinner, we visit T’s parents for our near-weekly catch up. We have chicken rice, loh bak, snow peas pumpkin shoots, and try the 2X spicy Samyang HEK Buldak chicken ramen. The ramen is painful and I go through half a glass of milk while almost crying. We also have fruits after dinner, including the best cherries I’ve had this season!

After dinner, we hurry to do our weekly grocery shop. I have $30 of rewards stacked up from spend-and-earn offers I’ve been doing for the past three weeks (it didn’t require us to spend more than we were already going to), but somehow the whole shop goes out of control because quite of lot of discounted meat that we talk ourselves into getting since the freezer is looking a bit empty. We usually buy meat when cheap to freeze in portions (T likes his meat so we try to keep the freezer stocked). We buy (deep breath): bulk-pack free range chicken thighs ($13.41 at $15.00/kg); 6-pack chicken, rosemary, thyme and chive sausages, 6-pack Italian beef and pork sausages, and 8-pack sweet and chilli chicken tenders (3 for $17 offer); organic chicken drumsticks ($4.67 on clearance as expiring); quarter red cabbage ($1.47); half green cabbage ($2.94); gold sweet potato ($3.94 at $5.00/kg); purple sweet potato ($3.48 at $5.50/kg); broccoli ($2.49 at $5.90/kg); a bunch of kale ($3.00); flat large mushrooms ($1.33 at $9.00/kg); nectarines ($3.07 at $3.00/kg); bananas ($2.84 at $2.00/kg); 700g wholemeal bread ($3.20); 750g sliced cheese ($8.75); Marion’s Kitchen Thai green curry and Thai red curry kits ($3.72 each – highly recommended by Ozbargain when it went half price this week so I want to try it!); 105g beef stock cubes ($2.60); 1kg iodised cooking salt ($1.09); 1kg yoghurt ($4.00); 3 cans 400g diced tomatoes ($0.60 each); 230g chipotle in adobo sauce ($4.50); 120-pack surface wipes ($5.00); 48-pack liners ($3.80). The total is $101.80 minus $30 of rewards, and we pay with a 5% discount gift card. I almost cry because I can’t believe our total grocery bill (minus rewards) is so high and can’t remember this happening before… $68.21

Notes on the grocery shop: the sweet potatoes broccoli were both very expensive but I did really want them (I love both so much!). Otherwise everything was pretty cheap, but we just bought a truckload of meat.

I also buy fresh milk for my upcoming Airbnb guests ($3.20 for 2L because they are staying a long time).

We retreat home and I’m still moping about how large the grocery bill was. I was really hoping it would be low considering we had $30 of rewards. 🙁

Total spend: $239.67 ($184.87 joint account; $54.80 personal account)

We had the Thai green curry the other night and it was pretty good. I’m impressed! Even at half price, I find it a bit pricey so I’ll have to think about whether I’d repurchase.

Money Diaries: #2 Week before Christmas

This will definitely be an abnormal week as it was the lead up to Christmas, and T and I celebrated our anniversary. T and I share expenses now so everything is charged to our joint account (cash and credit) unless otherwise stated. I’m not tracking T’s own spend from our joint account though, as I just don’t track that! I’m sure I spend a lot more money than he does, in any case!

Day 1: Monday 17 December

I prepare lunch for T and myself – a sandwich each and some carrots and sugar snaps I prepared the night earlier. I also prepare my breakfast to take to work (cut up an orange with yoghurt), and make a coffee to take and drink after lunch (I don’t like our work coffee beans so if I can be bothered in the morning, I just take my own in an insulated mug).

On Mondays, I drive to work so I can then visit my parents and eat dinner with them after work.

At work, I add some muesli to my fruit and yoghurt. I keep around 3 serves in a small jar at work so I am able to add it just before eating it. I don’t like soggy muesli.

For lunch, I eat what I brought, and then drink my coffee. I forgot to bring snacks today and struggle a bit. I don’t have any snacks in my desk drawer either. Sad times.

After work, I drive to my parents’ house. Mum cooks a feast (as always) as though it’s someone’s birthday. I can tell my parents really enjoy our family dinners, so I let them go overboard. Mum gives me some cash to pay for her half of Dad’s Christmas present (snow pants from Macpac) and a dress I recently ordered from J. Crew because she didn’t know what to get me for Christmas and insisted on “buying” it for me when the package arrived at her house. She then told me I had to bring it back to her so she could wrap it and put it under her tree. This means in total I moved it back and forth four times, haha! (Since I moved into T’s apartment and his building doesn’t have a concierge like my building, I send all my parcels to a parcel locker. Unfortunately my research indicated that the courier J. Crew used would not deliver to parcel lockers. In those rare instances, my parents are happy to accept my parcels. Why is online shopping still so difficult in Australia?!)

I sit through the first half of Home Alone (LOVE IT!) and then make myself leave as it gets late. I drive home.

Day 2: Tuesday 18 December

I prepare breakfast with banana and yoghurt this time, and make my coffee to take to work. I add my muesli at work. T did not tell me he didn’t want to take lunch (he had a work Christmas event), so my weekday lunch plans are thrown off somewhat. I decide to just buy today and pack our two lunches the next day. I remember to bring a snack today. I want to bring fruit but I poke the peaches and they’re definitely not ripe yet. I pack a small serving of biscuits as emergency snacks.

I take the train to work. I buy 4-week public transport passes and let T use it on weekdays when I drive. He works one suburb outside of the CBD, so usually only rides the tram through the free city zone and then alights at the end of the free zone and walks several blocks to his work so his transport is free (unless the weather is shocking or he has a really long day). I work in the suburbs now so public transport is a must. Driving would actually be cheaper since work is within 10km of my house, but taking the train is more time efficient if I don’t want to arrive early, and better for the environment. I’m usually at work after 9am. It’s a very relaxed environment.

For lunch, I buy a mini cherry, spinach and ricotta quiche and a mini spinach and ricotta pastry from a nearby gourmet food store, deli and bakery. It wasn’t the best choice and a bit much. This place is always really expensive but I didn’t feel like sushi today. I drink my own coffee. $15.45

I decide to buy a white water kayaking experience. It sounds awesome even if I’ll be miserable when I’m soaked, haha. I book it for the Friday during the Christmas break (forced break for me). We are always talking about doing cool and new things, but never actually doing them. This sounds like a great plan to me. I’ll surprise T later (today’s our 5th anniversary) even though I don’t consider it a gift. I don’t think we need to get each other gifts. Unfortunately I receive an email from the company a few hours later saying the date was labelled as available in error. I’m upset (a few days later we book it in for the start of January). $118 (personal account)

I email Jo Malone because part of my friend’s Christmas present was ordered late November and arrived at the Melbourne sorting facility at the end of November but hasn’t moved since. Of course being Australia Post, they did not respond when I opened a lost item enquiry a week later. T said I needed to jump up and down some more, and also make it Jo Malone’s responsibility. So I email Jo Malone asking if they could do anything for me. They respond almost immediately saying I could pick something else out and they’d send to me. The item (one of JM’s Christmas gifts) was long sold out, and I had since purchased some things from Sephora to replace the JM items for my friends gift, so I pick out a candle since it was closest in price. I tell the JM customer representative and offer to pay the price difference, but they said it would be posted and the price difference waived. I am super impressed by the customer service at Jo Malone, especially as it’s not their fault.

I purchase discounted tickets to Artvo, a ‘trick art’ gallery I’ve been meaning to visit for a long time. They’re usually $28 but I get them for $18 each. $36

I leave work early to get to the post office to pick up a package before they shut. The parcel lockers are all full so I have to collect from the counter, which is super inconvenient! I wish there were more parcel lockers! I take the train, which is stalled (as always) and rush to the post office. I make it before close and there is a long line of people waiting to pick up parcels. After I get my two parcels, I meet up with T and we walk home together. I drop off my stuff, change bags and grab a shawl.

We take a tram (T validates his pass today) to “Tempura Hajime”, a 12-seat tempura omakase restaurant. We both pick the more expensive tempura and sushi course ($115) and order a drink ($13). The food is nice and actually I wasn’t that full at the end. It isn’t amazing though, and I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it. T thinks we had nicer tempura at a simple lunch place on a tiny island in Japan… Our bill is an extravagant $256 and we argue over whether to tip and how much (settle of $15). $271

We tram back home.

Day 3: Wednesday 19 December

I make a sandwich and a heap of vegetables for our lunches. I am pleased to find one peach is ripe, so I cut that up and pack yoghurt and muesli for breakfast. I also take a banana but skip making coffee.

I take the train to work and same back home.

Once I get into the city, I wander around a little bit. I walk past a Koko Black pop-up store and decide to go inside. I get handed some free chocolate and then decide to buy some of my favourite Koko Black chocolate, Tasmanian Leatherwood Honeycomb. For 150g, $16.50

I get home and T is on day 2 of cooking his infamous pasta sauce (he makes a huge Le Creuset pot of pasta sauce over, typically, two nights). He started on Monday and is finishing it off today. We eat it with pasta and pack it for lunch too. Looks like it’s a small batch this time and we’ll get four more serves out of it (eight total). I also cut up some peaches for us to eat.

Day 4: Thursday 20 December

I make a coffee to take, cut up a banana to have with yoghurt and muesli for breakfast, and also cut up an orange and peach to eat throughout the day.

I take the train to and from work.

As I’m heating up my pasta lunch, a colleague whips out an apricot cake for her birthday. So I eat pre-lunch cake and then my lunch. It’s a lot of food…

After I get home, we eat more pasta with T’s pasta sauce. He packs two lunches as well and we are pleased that at least there’s two sauce serves left to freeze for rainy days. I also have some ice cream.

Day 5: Friday 21 December

I cut up a peach for breakfast with yoghurt and muesli, cut up an orange for snacking, make a coffee to take, and take my pasta lunch. I drive to work because I may need to pick up my mum from a surgery she is having later in the day.

Update from that missing Jo Malone parcel. I get a tracking notification that it was sent back to the seller because I didn’t pick it up! I phone Australia Post (20 minutes on hold) to ask what the heck is up. Apparently it was never scanned in when it reached my post office, hence I was never made aware. Then AusPost somehow forgot to respond to my lost item enquiry. Then some three weeks later it got automatically sent back! To their credit, the representative I was speaking to thought it was a unbelievably huge ****-up and profusely apologised to me. She said the company would be able to just send it back to me and she even transferred me $15 for the inconvenience. (The following Monday, the Jo Malone representative I was emailing said the package would indeed be sent back to me, and to keep the extra candle as a guesture of goodwill when I offered to pay for it! At the end of the day I somehow came away happy with the excellent service, a free candle and money…!)

Mum is staying overnight in the hospital so I drive home. Dad will pick her up the next morning.

For dinner, I make okonomiyaki with cabbage, mushroom, carrot, potato and egg. This is my second attempt and not as good as my first attempt, which turned out really well.

Day 6: Saturday 22 December

It’s a slow morning and we only leave the house after midday. We drive to have brunch at Bawa. I have a salmon gravlax dish and T has the chilli scrambled eggs dish and a latte. My salmon gravlax is an awful dish, and the chilli scramble was always our favourite in Melbourne but today it’s not as good as before. We probably won’t come back here. I lost the receipt so do not have itemised costs. There was a 10% weekend surcharge. $47.30

We go to the Bunnings Warehouse next door (partly why we chose to visit Bawa) because I need to purchase a replacement globe for my Airbnb. $9.30 (personal account for Airbnb and not included in total)

We head to South Melbourne. I need to start shopping for everything I am making for Christmas day lunch and dinner (the former is hosted by T’s Aunt and the latter by my Mum), hence our grocery buys over the next two days are not typical of our usual grocery shopping habits, which usually involves hoarding things only when they are at their lowest unit price (I have a strange talent of being able to remember unit prices on almost everything we usually buy…). This applies less to fresh foods – I will begrudgingly buy fruits and vegetables that are not on sale, haha.

The things I need to buy for that I don’t already have ingredients for are a fruit salad and a mango cake. I look at mangoes in Woolworths so I can time them to be perfect by Tuesday (I need some ripe and some a little underripe). I buy 7 mangoes ($1.80 each), 1kg of carrots ($1) and 200g of fancy blueberries ($6.50!). I have a $10 of rewards credit that I use off the $20.10 total, and pay the rest on a 5% discount gift card (we buy everything under the Woolworths family on gift cards pre-purchased at 95% value). $10.10 but really ~$9.60

We walk across to Dan Murphy’s because the only gift left to buy is something for my Uncle. I pick a white wine. We pay using the 5% gift card. $19.99 but really ~$19

I decide we might as well also visit Coles because I want peaches for my fruit salad and they probably need the extra day to ripen (we otherwise will do our major grocery shop on Sunday as usual), but they didn’t look very nice at Woolworths. I buy ~800g peaches ($3.50/kg), ~1kg oranges ($4.90/kg) and a packet of reindeer ice cream sticks because I got an offer to redeem them for free (otherwise $4). $7.80

For dinner, I booked Hell of the North, one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne. We haven’t visited in a couple of years and want to make sure it’s still excellent. It’s funny because I rather dislike French food, but I adore everything here! We drive there. T wants to get the chef’s menu ($75/head) so we do that because it’s Christmas (I much prefer a la carte – $75 is a lot, we already had a super fancy meal earlier the week, and the last time we had the chef’s menu here we could barely move…). We also order a cocktail ($18) each. The food was impeccable and divine. Our bill comes to $188 with an included $2 donation to feeding those in need. We spent way too much on food this week and it makes me anxious. We tip $12 so it rounds to $200 but it turns out there’s also a credit card surcharge!! $203.10

Day 7: Sunday 23 December

We go to the florist and I pick three flowers to make a bouquet for my Mum. $40

We go visit my parents. Mum is doing poorly and couch-ridden after her surgery. I send T out to get some supplies for a cranberry vodka punch I am making for Christmas dinner so we can just leave them here. I also struggled to find half pineapples yesterday (I don’t want to accidentally pick a whole pineapple that is underripe and half pineapples are easier to time because you can see inside already) so I get him to hunt that down at the local grocery stores too.

T successfully finds half a pineapple at Coles. $1.90

T also gets 2 1.25L bottles of lemonade ($0.75 each) and 2 1.5L bottles of cranberry juice ($3.80 each) at Woolworths for the punch. He pays with a 5% gift card. $9.10 but really ~$8.65

After leaving my parents’ house, we go to Huff Bagelry for a quick lunch. We get our usual “Autumn Brekky” bagels (THE BEST) ($11 each) and T gets a latte ($3.80). $25.80

We also fill up petrol because petrol predictions say we are sitting at the low point on the price curve. We fill unleaded 98 (140.9c/L) and use our 4c/L discount. We pay using our 5% gift card (effectively around 130c/L after all discounts). $63.06 but really ~$59.90

We go to Woolworths to do our weekly grocery shop. We always do it on Sunday but this time we buy ingredients for Christmas lunch and dinner dishes, and don’t buy much for ourselves. I buy ingredients for the mango cake I am making and more fruit for the fruit salad. For ourselves, we only pick up some vegetables. I lost the receipt and can’t really remember what we purchased so I won’t bother trying. We pay with our 5% gift card. $39.44 but really ~$37.47

For dinner, we go to visit T’s parents. We usually eat with them every Sunday night. They say we are going out for dinner instead of eating at home. We eat at a Chinese restaurant and T’s parents kindly pay. We return back to their house to chat and eat fruit – YUM!

Total spend: $917.47

I hope you had a wonderful end of year season and New Year’s. The day after the end of this money diary (Christmas Eve), I ended up sending my Mum to the emergency department. She returned home a few hours later and is now much better. She still insisted on going ahead with Christmas dinner but was unable to do anything. With the combined effort of my Grandma, T and myself (but mostly my amazing Grandma), we ended up making pretty much the whole dinner for ten and I think it meant a lot to my Mum that we were all able to be together.