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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Money Diaries: A 32-year-old SNA on €25K living in Dublin

This week, our reader prepares to return to the classroom, topping up her income with some childminding in the meantime.

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WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie running weekly and looking at what people in Ireland really do with their cash.

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

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.

If you’d like to document your spending, or lack thereof and any lifestyle changes during this Covid-19 period, we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to money@thejournal.ie and we’ll be in touch.

Last time around, we met a 37-year-old in the West of Ireland on €1,800 a month. This week, a special needs assistant earning €25K and preparing to return to school.


I’m an SNA, renting in Dublin with my boyfriend. I am currently on summer holidays getting ready for the return to school after being off since 12 March. We are currently saving for a house while renting a one-bedroom flat.

I do some childminding in the summer to earn some extra cash (around €100 a week). I am paid bi-weekly so most of my bills and direct debits are taken every second week. 

Since Covid-19 I have been good with saving and have learned that we don’t need to go out every weekend or even get takeaways or lunches out, which pre-Covid I would have done a lot.

I am trying to be better with my spending and try to save €500 a month. This isn’t always possible and I do have to dip into my savings some months, especially if I haven’t done any childminding.

During the summer holidays, I find it more difficult not to spend extra, as normally, with the school term it’s all packed lunches and staff room coffee in school. 

Occupation: Special Needs Assistant
Age: 32
Location: Dublin
Salary: €25,704
Monthly pay (net): €1652.88

Monthly expenses

Transport: €40 pm car insurance I spend around €30/40 per month on petrol but since covid I have spent much less only filling my car 2.5 times since March, also my boyfriend likes to drive his car so all long journeys and weekend driving is done by him.
Rent: €475 - Rent is €950 per month which I split with my boyfriend.
Household bills: €18.50 Bins €65 phone and broadband combined (my boyfriend pays the electricity bills)
Health insurance: €50 pm (paid by my parents)
Groceries: €70 per week (split between myself and my boyfriend)
Subscription: Gym €120 per month, Spotify €9.99, Gadget insurance €8.99, €0.99 Apple iCloud
Saving: €400/500 per month
Car Loan: €250 per month
Pension: €29.56 (Bi-weekly before tax)
Union: €7.88 (Bi-weekly before tax)


8.15 am: Trying to get up earlier these days to get back into a routine but had an awful night's sleep so I’m struggling. I lie in bed and check my phone, I have a text asking me to childmind today at 3pm, so I decide it's best I get up, as I’ve lots to do. 

9 am: Mondays are our shopping day while I’m on summer holidays, so I check the fridge to see what’s needed. We were away in the West last week so I didn’t do the shopping until Wednesday and we still have quite a bit. I jump in the car and head to Lidl to do the main weekly shop. It costs €49.46 for the two of us. I couldn’t get a few things in Lidl so will go to Supervalu later.

10 am: I have a place in the gym for 10:30 so I unpack the shopping and get ready for the gym, on the way I stop in Supervalu to get the bits I couldn’t get this comes to €4.95. (My boyfriend sends me half the shopping amount €27.50).

11.30 am: After the gym, the girls ask if I want to go for coffee, I suggest going back to mine as it's just beside the gym and we can have coffee there, at no cost. There's only a couple of us, so within guidelines.

1.30 pm: I get stuff ready for dinner as I won’t be home till after 6 and head off at 2:30 to start childminding. I check my bank quickly and see that €0.99 has come out for my iCloud. 

6 pm: Just as I am leaving childminding the parent asks if I can come Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. I agree it's more than I normally do but happy to have the extra work. 

6:15 pm: I get home from childminding and my boyfriend is finishing off making a  curry. We sit down and eat together.

7.00 pm: I’ve received lots of emails from school that I haven’t had a proper chance to read. There is a lot of information about the reopening of the school. I’m excited about getting back to school and back into the swing of things but it does bring me some nerves. It will be a strange few weeks getting used to everything.

8.00 pm: We would normally go for a walk after dinner but the weather is miserable, So it's tea and Netflix.

10:15 pm: Time for bed, I check my phone to see that EFlow has taken €5.20 (I can’t even remember when I went through the toll!)

                           Today's total: €33.10


7.00 am: Time to get up, I’ve been awake since 6 am, (damn the cat and the rain!) but I spent an hour scrolling through my phone. I have volunteered to go into school today and give one of the teachers a hand getting prepared for the new term. I make an omelette and a coffee for myself and my boyfriend. I have heard the staff room is out of bounds so best to have a good breakfast.

8.00 am: Tuesday is sheets day so I strip the bed and get them into the washing machine. I do a bit of cleaning around the flat and send a text to the teacher to see what time she wants to meet at school.

9 am: Getting ready to leave for school I remember I have to go to the bottle bank so I pack up the bottles and head off.

9:15 am: I get to the bottle bank and drop off the bottles and decide I fancy a coffee, I text to see if the teacher wants one and she does, she sends me €3.50. Two coffees come to €6.10 (cha-ching!).

1.00 pm: Get home from school. There is more to do but we did everything we could today. We will be back and forth for the next two weeks helping out. I have some leftover curry from last night and sort out the washing I put on this morning. We only have a washer/drier combo in the flat and the drier part is useless so I take the sheets down to my local Tesco and use the driers there, it costs €4.00 and takes less than half an hour to do so it’s worth it, we just don’t have the space for drying sheets.

2:30 pm: While the sheets are drying, I head into Tesco to get cigarettes (awful and expensive habit but I know I’ll cut down/quit once I get back into school). When I’m in Tesco I notice the cat food we get is on special, I probably have enough at home until next week but I always like to buy it when it's discounted. I also get a 5litre bottle of water as our tap water at home is gross, the total in Tesco is €20.99.

3.00 pm: On the way home, I stop into the fish shop to get salmon for dinner, this comes to €8.90 and my boyfriend sends me €5.00.

3:30 pm: I’m booked into the gym for 5:15 pm so I’ll get ready for the gym and wash potatoes and prep salad for dinner. I then watch a bit of Netflix before I go to the gym (feel like I’ve hardly stopped today).

6.00 pm: Get home from a very hot gym session the humidity is crazy. I finish the dinner and my boyfriend arrives home, we sit down and eat and listen to the government’s latest restrictions, the numbers are really starting to go up again I’m starting to get worried about the return to school. 

7.00 pm: Finally, a break in the rain so we decide to head down the pier… it seems everyone is taking advantage of the bright sky, the pier is packed.

8.00 pm: Tea and Netflix as the nightly routine continues, I did see an email with some back to school training from the department but I decide it can wait till tomorrow.

10:30 pm: Time to hit the hay.

                            Today's total: €31.49 


9:15 am: I ended up staying in bed a good bit later today, just couldn’t get myself up. I get up and have a coffee and a bowl of cereal. I’m booked into the gym for 10:30. My shoulder is killing me I’m not sure if it’s from the obscene number of burpees in yesterday’s session or that I slept funny, I’ll just be sure to do a good stretch and see how it is. 

10.00 am: Getting ready for the gym and have a quick check of my bank account, my car insurance direct debit has come out, €40.00 not ideal the day before payday but there’s just about enough in my current account to cover it. I have to transfer €100.00 to one of the girls as well for a trip down the country in a few weeks but I had put that away from my last pay so it’s not too bad, although I’m not sure it’s even going to happen at this point with the new restrictions, I send it anyway.

11:30 am: Get home from the gym and jump into the shower, I remember I’m childminding again at 2.00 pm so I take a look in the fridge to see if there’s anything I can prepare for dinner. There is loads of veg so I decided ill make ratatouille and some pasta and it can be a pasta bake that can just go in the oven when one of us is home, and there will be plenty leftover for lunch and for the freezer.

1.00 pm: I have a tuna wrap for my lunch and check some school emails and head out the door at 1:30 pm for childminding. 

3:30 pm: It’s been lashing rain all afternoon and cabin fever is starting to set in so I ring the local play centre and book in, this costs €7.00 but I will I get it back from the parents. 

4.00 pm: While at the play centre I grab a coffee, €3.00, I really try to resist it but tiredness had really hit in.

6.00 pm: I’m home first so I get the pasta bake into the oven, I’m so happy I made this earlier as the person in the flat upstairs had just eaten as I arrived home and the smell was so tempting.

6:30 pm: Himself arrives home and we sit down to eat.

7.00 pm: There’s a storm coming so that puts our walk out the window, I browse online for some reusable facemasks i'll need for work (we have been given an allowance to get one) but I decide not to get one yet.  

8.00 pm: Yep, you guessed it, Netflix and tea again (I never did realise I was such a creature of habit but sure there’s nothing else to do).

11.00 pm: Bedtime zzzZZZ. 

                                  Today's total: €143 (But €100 was put away 2 weeks ago)


8:15 am: Payday, YAY! I check my bank and see Spotify has come out €9.99 (been really meaning to set up a family plan with my sister and parents.) I put €500.00 into another account for savings and rent.

9.00 am: I get up and make some boiled eggs and sourdough, I’m booked for the gym at 10 am but I decide to cancel as my shoulder is still at me and I’ve been every day this week so far so I don’t feel bad. 

10.00 am: I have an appointment at 12 which I scheduled for today being payday this will cost €40.00.  I text my mum to see if she’s around to meet for a coffee beforehand as she works close to where I am going. A quick bit of tidying around the flat and I head out.

10:30 am: Get to my mum's work and as a nice surprise my dad’s there too. Mum is too busy to leave the office for coffee, so I go in and make three coffees for us and we sit down and chat. My mum gives me some post from home and one is my Tesco Clubcard vouchers €19.50 (I did a lot of Tesco shops for my parents over lockdown) so a lovely treat, it will go towards a cheeky bottle of wine for the weekend, whoop whoop.

11:30 am: I’m bit early for my appointment so I pop into Penny’s (dangerous!) but all I need is fake tan and I have €10.50 left on a voucher so I head straight for the tan, I decide to treat myself to a fancier one that costs €10.00. Straight to the tills and out with €0.50c left on the voucher. That took serious discipline not to go into full ‘Treat Yoself’ mode.

1.00 pm: I reheat some pasta bake for lunch and I watch a bit of tv before heading off at 1:45 pm for childminding. Not bothered with cooking today so I take out a freezer batch of three-bean chilli for later.

5:30 pm: I stop, drop and roll into Lidl on the way home from childminding and grab some sour crème, tortilla chips and an eight pack of coke zero (it’s gonna be a wild night) this comes to €6.50 and my boyfriend sends me €5.00.

6.00 pm: We decide to make burritos with the chilli so dinner is nice and quick.

7.00 pm: It's lashing rain again... the weather this week really makes it feel like winter, so TV for the night again.

10.00 pm: Early night, feels like its been a busy week.

                       Today's total:  €51.49


8.00 am: Up early this morning, the cat was sick in the middle of the night which really kept us both up half the night and the wind outside didn’t help either. The cat seems ok this morning will just keep an eye on her rather than ring the vet straight away.

9.00 am: One of the girls is calling over this morning to talk about our trip down the country in a few weeks, we really just need to decide if we think it will go ahead with everything. I walk up to the shops to get cigarettes before she comes €13.70. I check my phone and I’m booked into the gym for 11:30 am.

12:30 pm: I get home from the gym with not much time before childminding so I have a quick shower and my boyfriend arrives home for lunch with wraps from the local deli. I head off for childminding at 1:30 pm.

5.00 pm: I stop in Lidl on the way home and grab a top-up of bread and milk, etc for the weekend - this comes to €6.17.

6.00 pm: We had leftover pizza dough last weekend that we froze so we’ve left them out to rise all day. We eat and then go for a walk up Killiney Hill.

8.00 pm: We go out to see our nephew who was sleeping so we just watch him on the baby monitor.

9:30 pm: Home to unwind with a bit of TV and bed.

                    Today's total: €19.87


8:30 am: Up early on a Saturday as I’m booked into the gym for 9:15 am for a double class (strength and sweat, make up for missing Thursday) I make a quick coffee and head off.

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11:30 am: Get home from the gym and have some eggs toast and put on some laundry. I’ve booked in for a haircut at 1 pm, I haven’t had my hair cut in ages so decided to treat myself with my childminding money.

12.30 pm: I check my bank and see that my gym membership has come out at €59.50 (bi-weekly) 

3:30 pm: Wash cut and curly blow dry cost me €55.00, we are heading out for dinner tonight, it’s the first time we have gone out to a restaurant since March so I’m very excited we have a €100 voucher for the restaurant.

6:30 pm: Can’t got to the pub for some pre-dinner drinks so we make some cocktails and watch the start of the rugby.

8.00 pm: I order the taxi and we head out the taxi comes to €12.20.

11.00 pm: Dinner was lovely and it felt really nice to be out again, my boyfriend paid the excess on the voucher, we get a taxi home and I pay for that €10.00.

12.00 am: A few more drinks at home and bedtime. 

                               Today's total:  €136.70


9.00 am: Woken up with a very fuzzy head and craving all sorts of stuff, I walk to the shop and get a loaf of bread and my hangover stirs me towards 3 Yorkie biscuit and raisin bars. This comes to €4.50.

9:30 am: I make some vegetarian sausages and egg sandwiches, and head back to bed for a sleep.

12.00 pm: Feeling a bit more normal but defo a day for a couch and tv, make a cup of tea and have my Yorkie bar and binge watch Netflix.

2:30 pm: We pop down to Dun Laoghaire for a stroll and a visit to the market to grab some lunch, I get a small noodle salad for €3.00.

6.00 pm: On Sundays, we go to my parent’s house for dinner, always have a nice dinner and dessert tonight my mum has made a Toblerone cheesecake (one of my faves).

8:30 pm: Home for some Netflix. 

10.00 pm: Early night to finish off the last weekend of summer holidays! Hoping school goes back this week and some sort of normality can return!!  

                                     Today's total: €7.50

Weekly subtotal:  €423.15


 What I learned –

  • We are very lucky to be paying below-market rent for our flat, I think if rent was anymore, I would really struggle to save.

  • My gym membership is pricey but I can’t add up the amount I’ve thrown away on €29 gym memberships and never used them, I make sure to use this one and its small groups PT so it’s very beneficial. 

  • I pop to the shops to get top-ups a good bit but I don’t think my spending is too bad.

  • Since Covid I have really learnt that I don’t need to go out all the time and spend a lot of money.

  • Although for my age my salary is very low but I love my job, it’s so rewarding and I enjoy going to work every day, I just wish the salary matched the hard work SNAs do every day.

  • I was lucky to have lots of childminding this week (rarely happens) but once school goes back this will stop, I will look for a more permanent second job in a creche or afterschool come September as it’s hard to manage paying rent, saving and really doing anything without an extra income.

  • I have really enjoyed writing this money diary, it’s really given me an insight to how the little things add up.


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