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Money Diaries: A civil servant in Dublin on €24K missing socialising with friends

This week, our reader is enjoying a new job and trying to be careful with spending, while missing catching up with friends.

TheJournal.ie reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie that looks at how people in Ireland really handle their finances.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of how much they earn, what they save if anything, and what they’re spending their money on over the course of one week.

Are you a spender, a saver or a splurger? We’re looking for readers who will keep a money diary for a week. If you’re interested send a mail to money@thejournal.ie. We would love to hear from you.

Each money diary is submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that their situation will not be relatable for everyone, it is simply an account of a week in their shoes, so let’s be kind.

Last time around, we heard from an IT consultant living and working in London with a young family. This week, a civil servant in a new job in Dublin.

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I recently moved out of home for the first time to Dublin to start my new job. So far, it is going okay – I’m getting to grips with living independently, and I’m managing to stick to the budget I set for myself when I planned to move out.

I’m renting a single room in a house in South Dublin with four other professionals. I am trying to save as much as I can; for what exactly, I’m not so sure, but I guess I’ll thank myself for it when I am in the market to buy my first home (God knows when that will be!).

I get paid weekly, which took a bit of getting used to at first. In pre-pandemic times I loved going to gigs and clubs every other week, but they’ve stopped since March of last year – they were my main source of entertainment, as well as going to the cinema.

I got into a good habit of saving last year when I was living at home and working in a hospital – one thing I do miss about it is being able to save well over half of my paycheck! At the moment, I aim to save €600 per month.

Occupation: Civil Servant
Age: 24
Location: South Dublin
Salary: €24,586
Monthly pay (net): €1,608
Savings: €13,750

Monthly expenses

Transport: BleeperBike – €8.33
Rent: €520
Household bills: Approx. €60 per month (my share split among my four housemates)
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: Paid for by parents
Groceries: Approx. €180
Subscriptions: News – €12, Patreon – €5

***

Monday

7.00 am: I’m awoken by my alarm and get up out of bed. I wash my face and get ready for work. I grab my breakfast and my lunch from the fridge. I’m out the door by 7.30 am. I use the bike sharing service, Bleeper, to get to work. It’s the quickest and cheapest way for me to get in. You can pay as you go, or buy a membership – I’m on a 3-month membership at the moment, which cost €25 – I used to spend that in one week to get the bus into town. It’s handy too, as I’m never more than a 5-minute walk away from an available bike, plus I don’t have to worry about punctures, or the bike being stolen. It’s good for getting a bit of exercise as well. I find a bike, put on my helmet, and I’m on my way at 7.35 am. I arrive at the office for 7.55 am.

7.58 am: I clock in and get ready for the day. I work in a social welfare office. I started recently, so I am still learning aspects of the job, but I’m busy enough that I have a regular workload.

8.10 am: I head up to the canteen to put my lunch in the fridge and make my coffee. I come back down and have my breakfast at my desk. I don’t really buy coffees unless I want to treat myself or if I’m meeting a friend, so the instant coffee I buy with my Sunday grocery shopping does the job. I have a banana and a couple of biscuits with my coffee for breakfast. I read the news on my phone and then check my work email.

9.30 am: It’s been quiet enough this morning. According to my colleagues, in pre-pandemic times the office was much, much busier compared to now. I’m only here on a temporary contract until August – I missed out on the permanent Clerical Officer recruitment campaign last year (I was up to my eyes working on the frontlines in a hospital back then), but hopefully there will be another one next year. I would like a career in the Civil Service, and I think this job will be a good start in getting to where I want to be.

11.30 am. Some things are landing on my desk now, and I’m getting through some emails from customers.

1.00 pm: I head up to the canteen for lunch. my lunch is generally the same as what I have for dinner the previous evening – I make a little bit extra for lunch the following day. Today I’m having some penne with chicken that I made last night. It hits the spot. Learning to cook pasta has been a godsend since I moved out. I also have one of the scones my housemate made for us all yesterday. I finish up and I’m back at my desk at 1.35 pm.

2.00 pm: It’s quietened down a little, but I have enough work on my desk to keep me busy until I finish.

3.30 pm: I’m done for the day – I clock out and check the Bleeper app to see where the nearest bike is. Conveniently, there’s a bike right across the street. I unlock it and start to make my way home.

3.55 pm: I get in the door and head up to my room. I’m tired after the early start this morning, so I just relax and scroll on Twitter and TikTok for a while.

5.20 pm: I put on my washing and I go for a shower and a shave. 

6.00 pm: I head downstairs, hang up my laundry, and make my dinner and lunch for tomorrow. This evening, I’m making a stir fry done in hoisin sauce. I make a little bit extra for lunch tomorrow which I put in a reusable container and set it aside. When I’m done, I clean up and head up to my room and lay my clothes out for the morning. I have a few snacks and watch some TV. There’s a new episode of Line of Duty out, and I’m starting to get into watching The Sopranos as well.

8.30 pm: I put my lunch in the fridge and check if I need to buy anything. I add chicken and shallots to my shopping list on my phone.

10.00 pm: I’m settling down for the night, watching The Sopranos and checking my phone now and then. I’m ready for bed at 11:30 pm.

                             Today’s total: €0.00

Tuesday

7.00 am: Up early again to be in for around 8. I get dressed and ready. I’m out the door by 7:25.

7.50 am: I’m a bit early thanks to the traffic lights being in my favour. I clock in and start my day.

8.20 am: I have my breakfast as usual. I get a reminder that I have some training later, which takes up most of the day, which I don’t mind! Before that though, I have a couple of things on my desk to get through.

9.30 am: I head off to a quiet room so I can attend my training, which is being held virtually. I have a quick break in the canteen at 11:00 and I return at 11:20.

1.30 pm: Finally, training is over, time for lunch. I have some of the stir fry I made last night in the fridge which I was looking forward to having (again). On the way back to my desk, I see that someone in the office brought in some homemade cookies, so I take one as a treat.

2.00 pm: Back at my desk now, I’ve a few things to scan and some emails and a call to make before I’m done for the day.

3.25 pm: I clock out and head to Aldi to pick up some shallots and chicken for making dinner. They cost me €3.24.

4.00 pm: I return home, put away the things I bought and head up to my room for a bit. I’m still full from my lunch earlier. I watch some more Sopranos and check my socials. I really wish there were places open that I could go to and things to do, but with this prolonged lockdown, this isn’t a reality, unfortunately.

6.30 pm: I get showered and head down to make dinner after. Tonight, I’m making some pasta (surprise surprise). I have some cannoli which I had in my press for dessert. I give my mum a ring to see how she and my family are doing.

9.30 pm: Back in my room now, and I’m reading the news about pubs being back open over in England. I wish that were us. Combined with the issues around the AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson vaccines, it really feels like it’ll take forever for the country to be inoculated. I’m incredibly lucky that I got vaccinated back in January (as I was a frontline healthcare worker back then) but this whole rollout just seems like a shambles at times.

10.30 pm: I head to bed early.

                      Today’s total: €3.24

Wednesday

7.00 am: I lie in for a few minutes. I get up eventually, and I’m out the door at 7:25 and find a bike a minute’s walk down my road. 

7.45 am: I’m in work a little bit early again. I clock in and have my usual breakfast while checking my work emails.

8.30 am: It’s another quiet morning, but I have more training at 9:30 am.

11.25 am: We take a break from training. I feel like getting a nice coffee, so I go to a café around the corner from the office, and get an oat milk white chocolate mocha, which costs me €3.50.

12.30 pm: Finished training. I order my lunch from a local deli on WhatsApp, for collection later. Have a few forms to scan before that though.

1.15 pm: Lunchtime – I let myself buy a hot lunch once a week – it’s something for me to look forward to getting halfway through the week. The deli is a few minutes walk from the office. I get a chicken fillet sandwich which costs me €3.50. It never misses the mark.

1.50 pm: Back from lunch. A lot of letters with forms from customers are waiting for me when I return to my desk. This will keep me busy for the afternoon.

3.20 pm: Another day done – before I head home, I remember that I was running out of handwash in the bathroom, so I get a bottle of it in Aldi. It’s only €0.59. I find a bike right outside the shop which is handy. It’s nice and warm out for a change which makes the trip home enjoyable.

3.50 pm: I’m home – I lay down for what felt like a few minutes, but I end up napping until 6.15 pm. I shave and shower when I get up.

6.45 pm: I make stir fry for dinner (again). I’ve been trying a new sauce with it which changes things up a little. Looking forward to having it for lunch tomorrow. I run out of soft drink which I usually have with my dinner, so I head to the Tesco down the road and get two 2-litre bottles for €4.00 – they had them on offer.

8.45 pm: I sort out some laundry and iron my shirts. I felt I had a good day today because I’m starting to get more confident in my job after the training I did – the nice weather helped, too. I spend the rest of the evening on my socials and watching The Sopranos. This is what most evenings have been like for me during the lockdown.

11.15 pm: I call it a night. Looking forward to having another week over.

                 Today’s total: €11.59

Thursday

7.00 am: I’m up again – I could start my workday later, but I’m so used to being up early from my days working in a hospital so getting up at this time is like second nature to me. I’m out the door for 7:25 am.

7.50 am: I arrive at the office and clock in. I put my lunch in the fridge and make my coffee like usual.

9.30 am: It’s a normal day for me so far – I’m still busy by 11:00 am.

12.30 pm: The day has kinda flown so far so I take my lunch a little bit early.

1.05 pm: Back to my desk now, I have a lot to get through now until home time.

3.25 pm: I finish up for the day. I have a few things to get before I cycle home. I get some chicken from Aldi for making dinner for the next couple of days which costs €2.49. I want to get some ice cream to have over the weekend, so I pop into Tesco and see that my favourite ice cream is on offer – it’s €3.50 instead of €7. I feel like getting some snacks that are also on offer, they’re only €3.00 for 3 boxes, where one box would cost €1.79 usually. After, I go to Dunnes for some biscuits which cost €3.79. When I’m finished, I find a bike and make my way home.

4.05 pm: I pack away my stuff and head upstairs to watch some TV for a bit.

6.15 pm: I shower, then head downstairs to make some pasta for dinner. I’m feeling more tired than usual.

8.10 pm: It’s nice enough out, and I’m bored with not much to do, so I head out on a walk for an hour. I’m really hoping we’ll be allowed to go to cinemas, restaurant, bars soon… most of the joys we had in pre-lockdown life. The lack of opportunities to meet and socialise with people is having an adverse effect on everyone, especially young people like myself. I’m pretty much isolated at the moment and I miss being able to see my friends and meeting new people. I hope we’ll see a change soon.

9.30 pm: I watch the new episode of First Dates with my housemates. I head up to my room after and scroll on my phone for a while before heading off to bed.

                       Today’s total: €12.78

Friday

8.00 am: I let myself lie on for an extra hour this morning – well worth it. I get ready as usual and I’m on my way to the office at 8:25.

9.05 am: A colleague ordered breakfast rolls for us and I get one too. This fills me up, so I don’t think I’ll be needing lunch today. It’s much busier today, too.

12.00 pm: It’s payday – I check my bank account to see my wages of €402 have gone in. I transfer €130 into an account I use to separate my rent money from my main account. I then put €150 into my Credit Union – I keep all my savings with them.

2.15 pm: I feel like having a treat, so I pop round to a Brazilian shop down the street and order some fresh churros. I pay €7.00 for them.

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2.45 pm: Back at my desk now and it’s all go until I finish for the day.

4.15 pm: Another week done. On my way home I get an oven pizza in Tesco for dinner (€2.50). This is something I let myself have once a week – it’s nice to have on a Friday since I don’t have to worry about food preparation and cleaning up. I take a little detour on the bike on my way home since it’s sunny out. I arrive home at 5:20 pm.

8.00 pm: I have my dinner and head back to my room and chill out. I order some pastries from the local bakery down the road, to collect tomorrow morning (€3.60).

                 Today’s total: €13.10

Saturday

10.30 am: I wake up, get dressed, and head to the bakery down the road to collect my pastries. On the way back, I’m tempted to get a takeaway coffee from a place beside the bakery. I get an oat milk mocha for €3.50. I get back to the house and have a nice breakfast.

12.00 pm: I get showered and decide to head out on the bike for the day since it’s so nice out. I cycle out to Poolbeg lighthouse and watch the ships pass for a while. After, I head out to Dun Laoghaire.

4.00 pm: On my way back, I stop at Portobello and decide to have a (takeaway) pint by the canal (€5.00). It’s been well over a year since I’ve had a freshly pulled pint, so I savour it. Summer seems to be starting slowly but it’s a lovely day for it. I think I might do this more often.

5.00 pm: I’m home after my little day out, and I start to decide what takeaway to get for dinner.

6.00 pm: I decide to get a duck rice box from a new Chinese place in town that recently opened up. One good habit I’ve kept up from living at home is limiting myself to one takeaway every fortnight. I used to get more than one every week for much of last year, but for the past 8 months or so I’ve been able to stick to just getting one every two weeks. It helps with saving money, and it also makes getting takeaway a more rewarding treat. I order it on Deliveroo, which deducts €15.49 from my bank account. I get free delivery because I’m on a free trial with Deliveroo Plus – I set a reminder on my phone to cancel my subscription the next day, so I won’t get charged. When my food arrives, I give the delivery guy €5.00 as a tip – I feel those guys don’t earn enough for what they do, so I do what little I can to help them out. The food was excellent, and I have some ice cream after.

7.30 pm: I’m once again back up to my room and watch some TV and scroll on my phone. I stay up for a while but I’m ready to sleep by 1.00 am. I’m really missing being able to go out at the weekend, as I’m sure most people are.

              Today’s total: €28.99

Sunday

11.00 am: I have a nice lie on and have breakfast. I get showered and after that, I make a quick shopping list for later.

2.00 pm: I watch Formula One for the afternoon.

4.15 pm: After the race, I head out to do my shopping for the week ahead. The total from three different supermarkets comes to €25.94

7.00 pm: I head downstairs to make dinner. I watch Reeling in the Years with my housemates after – it’s wild seeing the events of 2011 played back on screen, it doesn’t feel like that long ago. I ring my mum after to see how she’s doing.

9.00 pm: I watch the new Line of Duty – this week it’s left us on a huge cliffhanger and I’m not ready to find out what happens next week. I spend the rest of the evening just taking it easy and getting ready for another week ahead of me. 

              Today’s total: €25.94

 Weekly subtotal: €95.64

***

What I learned –

  • This is a fairly typical week for me, spending wise. In normal times I probably wouldn’t be able to save as much as I do now – one thing I learned in the pandemic was how to save my money. I’d say when things slowly start to re-open, I might be spending more on things like going out, meeting my friends, cinema, etc.
  • Keeping the money diary for the week showed me that I do spend a little more than usual on snacks – I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, but what I bought this week will last me for around 2 or 3 weeks. Also, I noticed that I can sometimes buy things on a whim which would normally be a treat – I bought two takeaway coffees this week when I would usually only get one. There was the pint that I got, too. But alas, these are incidentals.
  • In a few months’ time, if my contract at work gets extended, I may consider searching for a slightly cheaper room to rent. Even if it were saving of only, say, €50 a month, it would be worth a lot to me. I want to spend as little as possible on rent, since it’s such a rip-off in Dublin, though I am managing to keep my monthly rent spend to just under a third of my net monthly income – something which I allowed for in my original budget for moving out.
  • Example: After keeping the money diary for a week, it really opened my eyes to how much I’m spending on coffee. 

  • Example: One tip I have for people is to definitely make use of Spotify’s family plan. I only pay €30 a year (rather than €120) for it because I split a family account with six other people.

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