Money Diary #6: A more typical week

This Money Diary follows on from the fairly abnormal week prior.

Monday

I pack my breakfast of a hard-boiled egg sandwiched in a slice of bread with sriracha. Lunch is a poke bowl inspired situation with rice, tuna, edamame, takuan, black beans, and baby spinach that I put together in the morning for T and myself (I cooked the rice and black beans the night before). I also take a banana.

I train to and from work.

For dinner, I am intent to use up the last of the expiring milk so I make a blitzed potato soup for T and add milk but I severely underestimated how much milk was left. The soup is a lot more liquid-y than I had planned but T says it tastes fine. I bake some vegan patties we got to try and toast some slices of bread to make little sandwiches with baby spinach and cheese. They’re not spicy as labelled though, so I add some of T’s mum’s homemade chilli sauce and almost die. We also share out some stir-fried yam bean T’s mum gave us (I was introduced to it after meeting T’s family and love it sooo much so she always tries to make some/a lot for me). I also eat a slice of a roasted purple sweet potato instead of the potato soup. On the side, I cook some egg, potatoes and green beans so T can eat that with leftover rice and a beetroot soup in the freezer for dinner tomorrow. I am all about preparing ahead so we don’t eat out (and I know T tends to make less healthy meals when on his own). I enjoy cooking and he doesn’t so I’m happy to plan and make meals.

Tuesday

It’s tutoring day. I made sandwiches (it was super inconvenient having a tupperware lunch last week so from now on it’ll be sandwiches on Tuesdays) with baby spinach, egg, ham and cheese for us both. I also bring a banana and apple just in case. My breakfast is another hard-boiled egg sandwiched in a slice of bread.

I get to work and then leave at 11 for the university. I eat my sandwich without drama and tutor for three hours (12 to 3). I do leave my trusty water bottle behind though and the unit coordinator doesn’t see my message to locate it when all the workshops finish at 6pm. I’ve been using that bottle at work for like five years now and I’m quite sad. (I locate it in the same spot I left it at a week later – hurray!)

After I finish at 3, I drive to my parents’ house to work (they are roughly halfway between the university campus and the city). I eat dinner with mum – fried fish, japchae, stir-fried green beans and potato, and a tofu dish that is way too salty. She pays me back for the sim card and a phone holder for the car I got her, minus what she paid for some Costco goods I asked for. I set up the sim card for her but it is problematic and she ends up without a working sim for almost 24 hours. I pick up the two Sephora Favourites (skincare) boxes recently released that I shipped over to my parents (I despise that Sephora does not ship to parcel lockers) and am horrified by the size of the parcel box compared to the actual boxes of product, which themselves are enormous compared to the actual products inside. I give my Mum some of the products that I’ve already tried or don’t see myself using. I also order some gardening thing from Germany on eBay that my Dad tasked me to buy on a piece of paper. It’s about $200 and half of it is shipping, LOL.

Wednesday

I make an egg with two falafel balls to pack for breakfast and also bring a banana and apple. I make T the same sandwich as yesterday.

I train to and from work today.

Our department goes out to eat lunch because one of our members who works for us overseas is here for two weeks. I have a chicken and avocado toasted sandwich. $12

For dinner I make Malaysian-style udon (similar to hokkien mee except swapping the noodles) with chicken, green beans, carrot and a dark sauce concoction. I also roast cauliflower. With the leftovers, I pack three lunches with udon and cauliflower and another portion for dinner the next day!

Thursday

I noticed that avocado ripened quicker than expected. I pack a quarter of an avocado and some falafel balls for breakfast, the udon for lunch, an apple and a ruby raspberry Kit Kat.

I train to and from work.

It’s a super full on day and I pretty much have to eat my lunch in the middle of a meeting. We also have birthday cake for a colleague in the mid afternoon.

For dinner, we eat udon with cauliflower, finish that purple sweet potato which I roast up again, and have Korean soybean stew with wombok and zucchini (I add kimchi to mine). After I also eat an orange and the last green tea ice cream mochi. I also roast orange sweet potato and some falafels for lunch the next day.

Friday

I pack some crackers, cheese and a quarter of the avocado for breakfast. Lunch is a salad with sweet potato, the remainder of the baby spinach, half an avocado and falafels. I also pack a banana and a banana Kit Kat. T’s lunch is the last container of udon.

I train to and from work.

T’s parents invited us and his brother-in-law over for Ipoh Hor Fun, which is one of my favourite Malaysian dishes. There’s also curry puffs (I have one) and fried chicken (I pass), then fruit for dessert. Delicious!

Saturday


For brunch we go to Breakfast Thieves. I order the “fried rice” chilli scrambled eggs on toast, sambal, bacon, peas, corn, spring onion, parmesan, puffed rice ($21); T orders the crispy potato roesti, grilled smoked ham, sauerkraut, poached eggs, apple hollandaise; and we both get a latte (2 x $4). I am quite creeped out by my dish because the charred puffed rice looks like grubs. $51

For dinner we are invited over to T’s parents place again. Because T’s brother-in-law is back, they are going to town cooking Malaysian food. We usually don’t eat with them so often in a week! Tonight T’s mum is making another of my Malaysian favourites – po piah. We all fail at wrapping our po piah but who cares because it’s delicious. She reheats some of last night’s soup and we also have a small helping of Ipoh Hor Fun (with choose-what-you-want inside, so I only have soup, noodles and chives). We have fruit after dinner.

Sunday

In the morning, I take the train to the suburbs and meet my Mum and we drive to Chadstone for a spot of window shopping. I want to look for a new foundation. I have been trying for years to find a foundation as good as my discontinued favourite foundation. I get a bunch of samples from Lancome and YSL in David Jones. I am also looking for a new compact wallet and we check out the ones I’m interested in at Loewe, Dior and Louis Vuitton. I also hopefully walk into Celine just in case but of course there’s no OldCeline small leather goods (I found a handful of Old Celine wallets at Marais just one/two months ago but sadly none were in the size or combination I vaguely wanted).

I don’t even realise how hungry I am when we are about to leave. I didn’t have breakfast and it’s already passed lunch time! We have nachos and a taco each at Fonda and I pay. $32

We go back home and my Mum heads off to her singing club. Dad and I drive to my apartment because he is helping me to move two pieces of Ikea storage units that I want to keep and my parents will kindly hold onto for me. T drives to the apartment as well to help. Luckily we are able to fit one set of drawers in Dad’s car and the cabinet in our small car. As there’s room, Dad also takes the TV that I’m giving them. I hang around the apartment to take pictures of all the other furniture I want to sell.

Back at my parents place, we wait for my Mum then go out to dinner at Koi Ramen Sushi Don. We share gyoza and a soft shell crab roll, Mum has udon, Dad has a beef bento, T has a pork katsu bento and I have una don. We pay because my parents paid for the last meal we ate out together. $79

Time for our weekly grocery shop. We buy: broccoli ($2.54 at $3.50/kg), cauliflower ($2), mushrooms ($6.86 at $12/kg), 450g tomatoes ($2), 200g cherry tomatoes ($3), 120g baby spinach ($3), bananas ($0.65 at $3.90/kg), 20-pack L’or coffee capsules ($8), 95g canned tuna ($1), ham ($4.03), 700g sliced bread ($3.40), 1L ice cream ($5), 2 packs of 500g sausages ($14 at $7 each). $55.48

Total spend: $229.48 (joint account)

Money Diary #5: An atypical week

I did two back-to-back money diary weeks and this is the first (highly atypical) week because I auction my apartment and we eat out so much.

Monday

I wake up at 6am with a sore throat and email work to say I will work from home unless I get more sick. I sleep for a few more hours.

Working away. I make a spinach and ham omelette and coffee for breakfast. I also pay off one of our credit cards.

I realise the prepaid 12-month sim I wanted to buy is sold out since it got discounted last week ($300 to $200). What a rookie mistake. I decide to drive out to the shops and get carrots (because they were over $2/kg at Coles when we did our grocery shop the night before and I know they are $1.20/kg at Woolworths, hmph!) and to get the other 12-month prepaid sim that is on sale this week that my Mum wants to switch to. Prepaid sims are ridiculously competitive now!

The sim card is sold out at the one supermarket I try. I walk passed a Tattslotto and cash in a winning ticket (T’s family sporadically buys us lottery tickets and I am wondering if it is their way of worrying about our finances, haha). (+$13 gift). I also get 3 1kg bags of carrots ($3.60) and another zucchini because they look so nice and are on sale $3.90/kg), even though I bought two the day before. After 5% discount using prepaid gift cards, $5.11

Back home, I heat up the hokkien mee I had packed for today’s lunch.

Around 4, I start cooking Japanese curry (I always used Curry House roux) with beef chuck, potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. I get it finished up to the point of boiling (sans roux) at about 6 (at which point I had stress-eaten a bag of delicious Japanese gummies), when T gets home to drop off his bag. Then we take a tram and walk to my real estate agent for a catch up before Wednesday night’s auction of my apartment. It’s a little depressing because he is not expecting any active bidders on the night, but it is what it is and I trust his next strategies.

We get back home and I finish off the curry. I started the rice before we left. I also make a clear soup with wombok and zucchini on the side. There’s heaps of curry leftover so we put the whole pot in the fridge. I also eat a green tea ice cream mochi which T agrees is good – he can’t even tell it’s vegan.

T’s parents source that sim card that my Mum wants for me – legends. They drop it off. It cost $140 and I’ll pay them back later when I have cash ready.

Tuesday

I get up and feel much the same as yesterday morning. I want to get in early today so my alarm is set earlier than usual. I make an egg with some zucchini and pack it for breakfast. I also take hokkien mee for lunch. I drive to work because I am also heading to my first session as a teaching associate further away at a university campus. Last week I drove there for a meeting and it took me 1 hour.

I leave work at 11 to get to the University campus, where I use the parking permits I was given. I go to the teaching lounge to catch up with the other tutors and unit coordinators, and eat my lunch with a fork I find in the kitchen drawer because my fork fell into a dark abyss in the car.

I’m taking two workshop sessions (12:00-1:30 and 13:30-3:00) in group teaching style (120 students in a large teaching room and each tutor is assigned three small groups to alternate between). I’m really glad I took this on because it’ll be a great experience, I enjoy teaching, and the money is so SO good. It is totally going to be worth putting in some extra hours for my normal job. I almost wonder if I should have just agreed to do all four workshops over six hours since the commute is pretty long for me to and from the city.

I make the long drive back home. My usual plan is going to be driving to my parents’ house and working there and then having dinner with my Mum every Tuesday, since it’s halfway between campus and the city and I don’t have to struggle with peak traffic. However today I have dinner plans in the city. It takes me over an hour to get home and I work two more hours. I stress-eat the rest of a packet of spicy Korean chips (not that good).

It’s T’s dad’s birthday and we go out for dinner at SPQR. His Mum pays. We go back home for cake (pear tart from Le Petite Gateau) and give him his birthday present.

Wednesday

I set my alarm early again (gotta make up those hours slowly), but I have bad cramps all early morning and don’t sleep well. I decide to just let myself sleep a bit longer. After getting up, I make an egg with spinach and zucchini to pack for breakfast. I also cut up a nashi pear and pack the last of the hokkien mee for lunch, a banana, and some Chinese rice cracker snacks.

I train to work.

I eat the banana just before leaving work and hope I won’t be too starving tonight. I train back into the city and head to my real estate agency office. My apartment is going on auction tonight at an in-office auction (last of three lined up). I have a quick chat with my agent and sign my reserve price. He is not expecting any bidding today. Afterwards we sit with the crowd and watch the first two auctions. There are (non-alcoholic) drinks and snacks. I take a lollipop for later but don’t feel like eating anything. When my property gets auctioned, I leave the room and sit in a private office.

Surprisingly one person is bidding (against himself… such is the auction process in Australia!). It passes in under reserve and my agent spends the next hour and a half negotiating. I totally didn’t expect it to happen but the buyer ends up agreeing to my final counter offer. It works out similar to if I had gotten my actual asking price because he does not get a subject-to-finance cooling off period and he wants a short settlement period. It’s not a great result, but I’m at peace and relieved it is over.

It’s passed 8:30 when we leave the offices and T convinces me it is too late to eat at home and we should “celebrate”. We settle on going to a nearby ramen place but eating their side dishes instead (the full side dishes menu starts at 8:30 so we’ve never actually been able to before). We order some homemade citrus sake, oden, fried mackerel, gyoza and a seaweed salad. $52.90

Thursday

I make egg, spinach and zucchini and pack it for breakfast, make a coffee to bring, take rice and curry for lunch, and a banana.

I train to and from work.

For dinner, I make some pasta sauce with chicken, spinach and carrot but I don’t eat it because there’s one more serving of curry left so I eat that on its own. T’s dinner is pasta with my pasta sauce. I pack the same for him for lunch. I pack the remaining pasta sauce with zoodles for my lunch. We also have some clear soup with wombok and enoki. After dinner I eat another green tea ice cream mochi!

Friday

I make an egg with zucchini and a slice of ham to take for breakfast, take a coffee, my zoodles and pasta sauce, and a banana. I train to and from work.

I wish I had cut the zoodles because they are infinitely long and difficult to eat. Lesson learned. I also don’t end up eating the banana and have to take it back home!

T is going to Sydney for almost a week for a conference in mid-September. I decide to also head up with him for the weekend for the free accommodation. I buy expensive return flights with Virgin (why did he have to leave it so late?!) so it is the same flight departing from Melbourne. With the reimbursed accommodation and his reimbursed flights, it’ll still be worth it. $294.63

For dinner, I roast a broccoli and a purple sweet potato, and make non-spicy tteok-bokki with pork, fish cake and wombok. I had some leftover pasta from last night and make T a quick pasta salad (just added ham and Kewpie mayo) to eat while I’m making all of the above. In the end the sweet potato takes too long and we are pretty full so we cut off only two end segments of the sweet potato to continue roasting to eat. T finishes that banana I brought back home because I think it’s turning black. I eat an orange instead and another green tea ice cream mochi.

Saturday




We are taking T’s parents and his grandmother to lunch. We head out to Chadstone Shopping Centre, where parking is a nightmare, for lunch at Shanghai Red. Luckily they got the last free table and we don’t need to queue. We get kao fu, xiao long bao, Shanghai fried noodles, sheng jian bao, stir-fried beans with olive leaf, and fried barramundi. $83.80

We go for coffee/something sweet next. It takes ages to find a table in the food court. T heads off for three coffees (for himself, his mum and grandma) from Little Sparrow ($12.60) and I get an iced sencha with matcha syrup and pearls (for myself; $5.50) and a matcha and houjicha swirl ice cream (for T’s dad; $4.30) from Kyo Tea House ($10.80). $24.40

We stop by the amazing fresh food market in Chadstone for daikon, sweet potato (orange and purple) and fresh udon noodles. $8.73

T also runs off when he sees an ATM to get us some cash and to pay back his parents for that $140 sim.

We had back into the city and I make a small coffee at home.

For dinner we eat galettes at Roule Galette. $35.50

We aren’t really full and Roule Galette is closing so we can’t have sweet crepes there. We get a chocolate fondant and a pear and raspberry cake from Brunetti ($16.70), then one of the new caramel dougnuts from Krispy Kreme ($3.60). $20.30

We go home and watch a movie and episodes of The Black List. I end up unable to even eat one third of the desserts, sigh.

Sunday


We are meeting my cousin and her partner for lunch. We are a bit early so detour to one of our favourite Asian grocers. T grumbles because he finds a new Japanese Kit Kat flavour (peach and mint). $6.95

We eat at Krimper. We are celebrating my cousin finishing her last assessment for her Master’s she’s been doing part time, and to have a good planning session for their upcoming Japan trip. I have been drafting and revising their itinerary and this is a face-to-face session to continue revising it. I have the salmon scramble (pretty blah), the others have burgers and bacon and waffles. Four coffees are ordered. We pay. $93.84

We head home and drive out to do our grocery shop. I’ve activated an offer to received $10 worth of points back for spending over $50, but it really means we are aiming for $60 in order to get two Coles Mini collectables that I am collecting, haha. T is in charge of the shopping tally. We buy: 4 apples ($2.52 at $4/kg), 2 oranges ($1.63 at $2.90/kg), 5 bananas ($3.64 at $3.50/kg), 2 pears ($1.79 at $2.90/kg), 1 avocado ($1.90 – so cheap!), 500g green beans ($2.50), 120g baby spinach ($3), 700g eggs ($3.95), 425g tin tuna ($4.50), 95g tin smoked tuna ($1.15), flat tissue pack (for the car; $1.20), 2kg dishwashing powder ($18), chicken wings on clearance ($2.99; in the freezer and can’t read the sticker but it was probably half to a kg) and chicken thighs ($13.07 at $12/kg). $61.84 (and getting $10 worth of points back)

We have dinner with T’s parents and his brother-in-law who has just flown back for a month (wedding and work). We’re having hot pot at their home. There is way too much food and even fruit for dessert. I take home a big loot of Coles Mini collectables from the Aunty network (T’s mum’s friends).

Total spend: $688 (joint account)

Money Diary (Japan travel edition): #4 What we spent during 9 days in Japan (Tokyo and Tohoku region)

We spent about 9 full days in Japan (plus the morning of our flight out). This trip was significantly more in peak season that I am used to, as it coincided with the Tohoku region’s cherry blossom forecast. As always, we buy too many souvenirs from Japan.

We exchanged some cash beforehand at AU$1 : ¥78.5139. We withdrew cash in Japan to top up, from 7 Eleven ATMs, which were the second ATM I tried with our Citibank debit card (one of the two most popular debit cards in Australia for overseas ATMs). Mizuho Bank ATM quoted me ~8% worse value than 7 Eleven, which came out ~1% within the global market rate so I just relied on 7 Eleven ATMs from thereon, since they’re everywhere anyway.

All costs in ¥ or the exact AU$ charged (or both), for TWO PEOPLE.

Pre-trip

Airfares – Royal Brunei Airlines: 2 x $739.31 = $1478.62
JR Tohoku pass (choose 5 days): (¥19,000 when purchased outside Japan, but realistically the travel agents will set the price themselves). 2 x $244 = $488
Data SIM for 30 days: 2 x $39 = $78
Hotel – The Knot Tokyo Shinjuku (3 nights): $545.41
Hotel – Hotel Vista Sendai (2 nights): $208.49
Hotel – Montein Hotel Kitakami (2 nights): ¥16,600 = $214.78
Hotel – Art Hotel Hirosaki City (1 night): ¥38,880
Hotel – Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo (1 night): ¥23,000 = $294.23
(Total cashback for four hotels except Hirosaki = $46.36)
Tickets for Teamlab Borderless: 2 x ¥3,200 = ¥6,400 = $80.73

The hotel and price in Sendai is more typical of what I am used to in terms of excellent location, compact yet clean rooms and price. The Shinjuku hotel was excellent but a bit far from the station. I would trade the size of the room for better location in an instant, but April is peak season so I had to make do and pay a bit more than I am used to for Tokyo and slightly worse location. It wasn’t bad though, and I’d prefer this location in Shinjuku than to not be near Shinjuku. The Hirosaki hotel was right next to the station but absurdly expensive. Welcome to the sakura festival in one of the top sakura locations in Japan! It was the most stressful finding a hotel in Hirosaki. The city is not that big and populous. The hotels there are on the old side and not too tourist-friendly (difficult to find smoke-free hotels). I would not have considered this hotel given its ratings if it wasn’t the only non-smoking option left in the city. The price was still ouch though.

Some transport prices may not be exact as I noticed sometimes IC cards gave ¥1-5 discounts on actual actual fares. All fares were retrospectively calculated. I’ve tried to categorise souvenirs clearly as things we bought to bring back for ourselves or other people (although this gets muddy because we did bring lots of snacks from convenience stores back home for ourselves/others). We are used to doubling or tripling our luggage with shopping because we buy so much in Japan! I think our luggage weight at least doubled.

Day 1 (Tokyo and Takao-san) *JR Tohoku pass*
Narita Express to Shinjuku: covered with JR pass
Lunch (tempura soba and tendon at Tenya Tendon): ¥1,440
Vending machine (drink): ¥150
Train to Takao-san: covered with JR pass except one stop, 2 x ¥130 = ¥260
Cablecar roundtrip: 2 x ¥930 = ¥1860
Tickets for Monkey Park: 2 x ¥420 = ¥840
Goshuin: ¥300
Vending machine (drink): ¥170
Train to Shinjuku: covered with JR pass except one stop, 2 x ¥130 = ¥260
Dinner (skewers izakaya at Kushiyaki Bistro Fukumimi): ¥6,778
Drugstore (lip balm): ¥306
Convenience store (salad, fruit, snacks): ¥678
Total: ¥13,042

We started our time in Japan around midday by the time we’d got into the city from the airport and dropped off our luggage at the hotel. We had a quick lunch at a chain restaurant before heading off to Takaosan. I got my first goshuin of the trip and had to pick up a lip balm from the drugstore back in Shinjuku because I lost mine on the flight. Every night we go on a conbini crawl as I try to stock up on vegetables/fruit and T tries to eat as much ice cream and junk food as possible (not that I don’t also join the junk food party). Typically a non-snacker, he turns into a different person in Japan! The other category that I spend a lot in is goshuin (also here), which I will categorise separately.

Day 2 (Tokyo and Kamakura)
Vending machine (drink): ¥140
Train to Kamakura: 2 x ¥920 = ¥1840
Convenience store (onigiri): ¥120
Bakery (2 breads): ¥480 (?)
Taxi: ¥1000
Tickets for Hokokuji: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
New goshuin-chou + goshuin = ¥2200
Tickets for Hokai-ji: 2 x ¥200 = ¥400
Goshuin (3): 3 x ¥300 = ¥900
Sakura mochi: ¥200
Lunch (soba at Fukuyu Soba Bar): ¥1836
Tickets for Hase-dera: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Tickets for Kotoku-in: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Souvenirs (2 small face towels): ¥1200
Goshuin: ¥300
Vending machine (drink): ¥130
Train to Shinjuku: 2 x ¥920 = ¥1840
Reserving Narita Express for airport: 2 x ¥3210: ¥6440
Dinner (skewers izakaya at Yakitori Nanbantei): ¥7123
Souvenir (2 alcohols from Bic Camera): ¥2364
Drink (alcohol from Bic Camera): 2 x ¥110 = ¥220
Souvenir (T-shirt from Uniqlo): ¥1065
Souvenir (insulated Tiger drink mug from Bic Camera): ¥1998
Convenience store (snacks): ¥588
Convenience store (ice cream): ¥500 (?)
Total: ¥35,584

We started our day an hour later than I had hoped, so I decided we would take a taxi to the first site in Kamakura instead of walking to help make up some time. It is such a temple and shrine town that we had to not visit many temples and shrines (and not get goshuin) so we could actually complete the itinerary. We like walking everywhere and visiting ALL THE TEMPLES AND SHRINES so this one day ended up not being enough time for us, since shrines and temples can start closing around 4pm. We will need to revisit. For lunch we had Yamagata soba, which T loved but I didn’t. I got my second goshuin-chou (book) at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu because the book was so pretty and I only had a few pages left in my old book, so I bit the bullet. I later realised the book is slightly bigger and in retrospect I would have preferred all my books to be the same size. Goshuin at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu also cost a premium – ¥500. Back in Tokyo, we picked up some alcohol to bring back. I also picked up the Tiger mug that was on my shopping list (half the price of what it would cost me in Australia/online). I think we both discovered the Haagen Dazs crispy ice cream sandwiches that night – they’re amazing.

Day 3 (Tokyo)
Vending machine (drink): ¥140
Goshuin: ¥300
Lunch (okonomiyaki at Kotegaeshi Okonomiyaki): ¥2764
Goshuin: ¥300
Metro: 2 x ¥200 = ¥400
Souvenirs (2 plush toys and 1 toilet cover (LOL) from Pokemon Centre DX): ¥6900 (tax-free)
Metro and train: 2 x ¥500 = ¥1000
Dinner (tonkatsu at Tonkatsu Wako): ¥3150
Tickets for teamlab Borderless: pre-purchased
Train and metro: 2 x ¥580 = ¥1160
Convenience store (cake, ice cream, chips, drink): ¥667
Convenience store (Kit Kat, purin): ¥313
Convenience store (sweets): ¥103
Total: ¥17,197

We just wondered around for most of the day. I checked out like ten consignment stores and then we spontaneously decided to go to the Pokemon Centre DX in Nihonbashi before heading to Odaiba for an early dinner. I heard Borderless is least busy around dinnertime so I was aiming for 6pm. When we returned to our hotel, we went on a conbini crawl for snacks for that night and to eat on the shinkansen the next day.

Day 4 (Sendai) *JR Tohoku pass*
Convenience store (breads and onigiri): ¥386
Shinkansen to Sendai: covered with JR pass
Lunch (gyutan at Rikyu): ¥3564
Goshuin (2): 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Souvenirs (mug and tumbler from Starbucks): ¥4104
Dinner (izakaya at Aburiyajubey): ¥6166
Snack (?): ¥432
Snack (Hyotan-age): ¥250
Snack (shu-pie at Papa Beard): ¥170
Snack (mochi): ¥200
Snack (Hokkaido milk cake): ¥290
Coin laundry (wash then dry): ¥300 + ¥300 = ¥600
Convenience store (2 ice creams and bananas): ¥1002
Total: ¥17,764

We had the afternoon to wander around Sendai after checking in and trying gyutan (ox tongue) at the famous Sendai chain, Rikyu. I didn’t really like thick cut gyutan the way it’s done in Sendai, so we didn’t eat any more during our stay. I picked up the Sendai Starbucks mug in the new design (I absolutely prefer the old design for regional tumblers – the new series is kind of awful, but I’ve never been to Sendai so I can’t get the old ones anymore…) and the new Starbucks “Japan” mug because it’s so pretty. After dinner (our only bad meal for the whole trip), we ate a bunch of cool food in the train station and went back to do laundry at the hotel (with ice cream, of course).

Day 5 (Sendai and Matsushima)
Train to Matsushima: 2 x ¥410 = ¥820
Snack (curry bread at Pensee): ¥300
Matushima Bay ferry (with upgrade to green car): 2 x (1500 + 600) = ¥4200
Lunch (Seafood at Nanbuya): ¥5700
Tickets to Zuigan-ji: 2 x ¥700 = ¥1400
Goshuin: ¥300
Tickets to Entsu-in: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Snack (fishpaste skewer): ¥200
Souvenir (grilled garlic): ¥540
Snack (regional sakuranbo Hi-CHEW): ¥150
Toll for crossing to Fukuua Island: 2 x ¥200 = ¥400
Train to Sendai: 2 x ¥410 = ¥820
Dinner (ramen at Misoichi): ¥2100
Souvenir (regional gyutan Pretz): ¥600
Souvenirs (amazake dango, 2 umeshu): ¥1016
Snack (sakura doughnut at Mister Donut): ¥129
Souvenir (lightning cable from Tokyu Hands): ¥1836
Souvenirs (stainless steel Tiger drink mug and soup/food mug from Yodobashi Camera): ¥4670
Convenience store (ice creams and fruit liqueur): ¥1030
Vending machine (drink): ¥110
Total: ¥27,221

I was informed by the Internet that upgrading to green/first class on the ferry of Matsushima Bay would be worth it as you are able to go outside on the deck. I found a Hi-CHEW I’d never seen before and T managed to sneak in a packet of grilled garlic because he is a garlic monster (the verdict is he wishes he brought back ten more packs…). Back in Sendai, we started getting serious about souvenir shopping. T says he got the lightning cable despite it being expensive because he has for years been particular about a certain cable length and will try any that he stumbles on in a quest to find a good quality one. I picked up a second Tiger mug and also a soup/food thermos even though I don’t need one (I prefer this one and have been using it though).

Day 6 (Sendai, Yamadera, Kitakami) *JR Tohoku pass*
Convenient store (2 breads and 2 onigiri): ¥493
Train to Yamadera: covered with JR pass
Goshuin (3): 3 x ¥300 = ¥900
Tickets for Yamadera: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin (8): 8 x ¥300 = ¥2400
Lunch (soba at Enzou): ¥2780
Souvenir (wooden plate): ¥700
Train to Sendai: covered with JR pass
Souvenirs (2 boxes of seafood senbei): ¥2376
Souvenir (lotion toner from Matsumoto Kiyoshi): ¥799
Souvenir (tamagoyaki pan from Tokyu Hands): ¥4622
Souvenir (T-shirt from Comme des Garcons): ¥7344
Dinner (tonkatsu at Saboten): ¥3881
Convenience store (drink): ¥129
Shinkansen to Kitakami: covered with JR pass
Shuttle bus to hotel: complementary
Convenience store (ice cream, purin, bananas, Starbucks coffee, onigiri, bananas): ¥1023
Total: ¥28,047

We got an absolute tonne of goshuin at Yamadera!!! I picked up a cute leaf-shaped wooden tray/plate made in Takaoka to hold trinkets in. We returned to Sendai for a few hours of speed shopping because we still hadn’t really made a dent in our souvenir shopping. We picked up these impressive seafood senbei for family and I finally decided on a tamagoyaki pan, which was on my shopping list. After arriving at our hotel in Kitakami, we immediately set out to find the nearest conbini!

Day 7 (Kitakami)
Laundry (wash then dry): ¥500
Goshuin (2): 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Lunch (takoyaki and yakisoba): ¥1070
Dinner (shabu shabu at Porco Blu): ¥6480
Convenience store (bread and drink): ¥491
Convenience store (onigiri, ice cream, drink, warabimochi): ¥558
Total: ¥9,699

We had a late start and also did laundry since it was raining heavily. The town was smaller and quieter than I expected and there was almost no option for lunch so we had a quick lunch in a tiny cafe that seated four people and the store-lady literally made one serve of food ready for customers. She actually couldn’t give me what I ordered because she didn’t have enough takoyaki, haha. We were able to enjoy one of the top cherry blossom spots in Tohoku all afternoon. After some difficulty finding somewhere for dinner, we ended up at a shabu shabu restaurant. It was super fancy and we had a huge private booth to ourselves. The food was great and we were stuffed! THat doesn’t mean we didn’t do a conbini crawl for more snacks and stuff to eat during transport the next morning.

Day 8 (Hirosaki) *JR Tohoku pass*
Shinkansen and train to Hirosaki: covered with JR pass
Bus: 2 x ¥100 = ¥200
Chicken skewers: ¥500
Squid skewer and pork skewer: ¥1100
Sanshoku dango: ¥200
Goshuin: ¥300
Tickets for Hirosaki castle: 2 x ¥310 = ¥620
Souvenir (Hirosaki castle postcards): ¥424
Bus: 2 x ¥100 = ¥200
Dinner (izakaya at Izakaya Tsugaru’s Liquor Worm Watami): ¥5108
Souvenirs (face cleansers, oil cleansers, face masks, mascara, lotion toner from a supermarket/drugstore): ¥19965
Convenience store (pickles, drink, ice cream, Hi-CHEW): ¥571
Total: ¥29,188

Hirosaki was crazy busy! We headed straight for the park and ate some overpriced (and not very good) skewers from the food stalls, and a not-quite-defrosted dango (I was terribly sad by this). We went into the Hirosaki Castle keep, which was priced unusually. I don’t think I’ve ever paid for a temple, shrine, castle, garden etc that wasn’t a denominator of 100 in Japan. We had a fantastic dinner at an izakaya, trying a bunch of local (Aomori) specialty cuisines. We definitely over-ordered and it was still so cheap! Since it was still early, I convinced T to go to Mega, which I saw was a huge drugstore/supermarket. I went to town on face masks (for myself and my Mum) and stocked up on longtime favourites that I usually pay two or three times more for. I only bought three or four of each item but I bought out the stock for each product! To end the night, I wanted pickles and T wanted ice cream, and while I was at it I also found a Hi-CHEW I’ve never seen before.

Day 9 (Hirosaki, Tokyo) *JR Tohoku pass*
Tickets for Saisho-in: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Souvenir (2 alcohols): ¥1080
Bus: 2 x ¥100 = ¥200
Convenience store (2 breads): ¥273
Snack (hanami dango): ¥140
Convenience store (onigiri): ¥140
Lunch (2 ekiben): ¥1810
Vending machine (2 drinks): ¥320
Train and shinkansen to Tokyo: covered with JR pass
Souvenir (stovetop grill toaster from Tokyu Hands): ¥2462
Souvenirs (3 different packs of Tokyo Bananas): ¥2541
Souvenirs (6 different packs from Kit Kat Chocolatory): ¥4266
Dinner (Beer Hall): ¥3596
Convenience store (sweets): ¥103
Convenience store (lollies, chocolates, ice cream): ¥625
Total: ¥18,456

We walked around the city and visited over 20 or 30 temples. Sadly I was only able to get a goshuin at one major one. By the time it was midday, we were near Hirosaki Park again. We went to the visitor centre to use the bathroom but also left with two bottles of ringo-shu/apple liqueur (Aomori is famous for its apples). Back at the station, I found hanami dango that I was really craving after the terrible one from the previous day (it was divine!). We’d decided to have a late lunch on the shinkansen so we picked up two ekiben to share. Back in Tokyo at 6pm, we checked into our hotel and started a night of frantic shopping by 6:30pm. We had a lot of stores we needed to visit before they closed in a few hours. I found a stovetop grill toaster (on my shopping list) and T decided to pick up a box of Tokyo Banana to share at work and we got two small packs in different flavours for ourselves. We also visited the Kit Kat Chocolatory since T is serious about collecting his Japanese Kit Kats. The Chocolatory is incredibly premium these days. You can pay some $20 for small box of containing three small sticks of single origin volcanic something-or-another chocolates. That’s so different to a few years ago when the Chocolatory first started! He got some Kit Kats to share at work, and picked up three things that he didn’t already have. After a late dinner, we tried to run down our IC cards on snacks and ice cream so the balance would be closer to 0. I’ve kept my IC cards for many years (for subsequent trip) but I prefer to keep a minimal balance on them in case I lose them or they become nonfunctional.

Day 10 (airport day)
Convenience store (drink, bread, banana): ¥378
Convenience store (2 onigiri, Kit Kats): ¥400 (?)
Narita Express to airport: reserved and purchased on day 2
Souvenirs (2 tumblers from Starbucks): ¥3596
Souvenirs (2 eyeliners and 2 stockings from Matsumoto Kiyoshi): ¥3500 (tax-free)
Souvenirs (3 different packs of Kit kats): ¥3680 (tax-free)
Total: ¥11,556

We had a late morning flight and got up super early. On arriving at the airport, I popped into the Starbucks and found an airport exclusive tumbler, and the new series Hiroshima tumbler, which is incredibly beautiful and I couldn’t not have it! Once through customs, I finally found one of my favourite eyeliners at Matsukiyo. I saw the brand of stockings I’ve been buying on every Japan trip but they had different lines. I grabbed two to try as I figured they must not make my exact one anymore. Unfortunately we found more Kit Kats T didn’t have at another souvenir store and had to buy them (including the premium Tokyo Banana with Feuilletine Kit Kats!).


*JPY estimates are based on 1 AUD : 78.5 JPY for simplicity

Sightseeing is relatively cheap in Japan for exploring nature and temples/shrines. The majority of the sightseeing costs we had were the Matsushima ferry and Teamlab tickets. Once again, food was the real winner. Despite eating all the food and drinking every night, eating out and snacking only cost ~¥4500 or ~AU$58 per person per day. The real cost would probably be lower as we really didn’t need to eat that much convenience store junk food, and some of it might technically be “souvenirs” as I brought them home. Unsurprisingly, we spent a lot on goshuin and shopping/souvenirs – 18%! Here’s everything we hauled back… *hides*

Money Diary: #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 Diary: #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.