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How I Spend My Money: A 30-year-old back living at home and on the dole after over a year travelling

This week, our reader details her spending while on social welfare benefits after taking a year out to travel.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie that runs weekly and looks 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.

Want to take part? We’d like to hear from you. Just email money@thejournal.ie and we’ll be in touch.

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.  

Last week, we heard from a 23-year-old clerical officer living in Louth. This week we hear from a 30-year-old who spent over a year travelling and is now back in Ireland. They are on the dole and when they were writing this diary for us, were preparing for Christmas. 

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I’m just back (two weeks ago) from a year and nine months travelling around the world. My boyfriend and I packed up our lives and set off in 2018. It was my life goal and since that’s done, I’m on the lookout for a new one. I spent a year in Australia and saved money while there knowing I was coming home. 

I’m living with my mam for the first time in a long time. I’ve had to become very good with money, but when I was keeping this diary it was coming up to Christmas and I knew it would put a dent into my bank account. I’m super lucky that I have no debts coming home and I can draw the dole. Between that and my savings, I should be OK to get myself set up again

Occupation: Campaigns Executive
Age: 30
Location: Cork
Salary: €203 a week, my dole payment
Monthly pay (net): €812

Monthly expenses
Rent and household bills: €200. I’m living back in my mam’s house
Transport: €100 petrol. I try to fill up my mam’s car when it is low
Phone bill: €14.99 for six months
Health insurance: I wish.
Groceries: €80
Gym membership: €99 for 10 weeks
Subscriptions: €0. I use a friend’s Netflix and think it’s mad to pay for things you can get for free.
Car: See above
Savings: €50 per week

***

Monday

9am I wake up, read the news and make a coffee while I wait for the postman. He should have my public services card this morning. I need it to get my dole. I have avocado and eggs left from a shop last week so I use them for brekkie.

10.30am Card has arrived!!! I go to collect my first payment which is €120, not too shabby! I’ve some Christmas presents to get so this will help. My mam lives a 10-minute walk from the city centre, which makes life so easy for me.

11.30am – 4pm Christmas shopping. I have my godson’s presents since November, I bought them online and had them sent home. I have another three nephews to buy for so from this year on I’m setting a €20 limit for them. I know some people might think this is stingy but each to their own. I also have to get my sister’s presents and something for my friends who bought a house while I was away, which my boyfriend is going halves on. In the end, I spend €218.50. 

4.30pm – Back home and I have pasta pesto, smoked salmon and goats cheese left in the fridge from last week’s shop so I have that for lunch. Sounds very posh.

6.30pm – 7.30pm Time to get to the gym. I paid €99 in advance for 10 weeks and am trying to go as much as I can.

8pm Head to Aldi for a Christmas shop and some messages for the week. I’m going to my boyfriend’s house for Christmas this year so I can’t go empty-handed. I buy some bits to make a hamper for his family. I’ll top it up with some fresh bits next week. The whole shop comes to €60.48, including four bottles of wine. I definitely missed Aldi while I was away.

9pm Catch up on the soaps with my mam. That’s more her forte so she brings me up to speed on all the goings-on.

10pm Do my Christmas wrapping and head to bed.

Today’s total: €278.98

Tuesday

9am Alarm goes off.

10am I buy a pair of shoes from River Island online for £30. I always buy in £ if it will work out cheaper. I bought these exact shoes last week but think I need another size so will return whichever ones aren’t right. I’ve noticed that my headphones are broken so put them back together with sellotape. I much prefer fixing stuff instead of replacing it straight away.

10.30am – 12pm Gym time.

2pm I walk to town to meet my mam for lunch. She buys me a chowder, which is very much appreciated.

3pm I need a few bits so head to Penney’s. I try not to buy from Penney’s if I can help it, but they have what I need and it’s cheap. My three bits come to €22.

7pm I drive to my friends’ new house. They love their presents, which I’m delighted about. We spend the evening drinking tea and catching up.

Today’s total: €57 (£30 = €35)

Wednesday

9am Wake up and the weather is horrendous. I can’t go outside the door so no gym today.

1pm I drive to my boyfriend’s house. It should take about 40 minutes but I’m out of practice with driving and the weather is still awful so it takes me an hour and a half.

2.30pm I buy a box of teabags and buns to bring to his house as he messaged me to say they have no tea. This cost €10.72. I probably didn’t need to buy the buns but I hate going to people’s homes empty-handed, even if I know them very well. It’s nice to have something when you arrive. 

300pm We just watch Netflix for the rest of the day because it is so miserable.

Today’s total: €10.72

Thursday

10am Drive my boyfriend to the social welfare office so he can finish signing on.

11am His mam asked us to get a jacket from Tesco for her for Christmas so we head for the nearest town to him with a Tesco. He swears blind he knows where the Tesco is… long story short, he doesn’t. Spend the next 20 minutes stuck in traffic trying to get out of this town. We pass the Tesco, but I’m too flustered to go in.

1pm I’m in my third Tesco of the day and still no jacket. I did get myself a lovely jumper for €25. Were Tesco clothes always this nice? I put €40 petrol into my mam’s car as it’s running low.

3pm Make it back to my mam’s and it’s lashing again but we need to go to town for some bits. We throw up two umbrellas and brave the elements.

7 pm We’re going to meet friends for a table quiz and some food. The rain hasn’t stopped so we get a taxi instead of the bus. My boyfriend pays, he’s a keeper. He owes me money from the housewarming presents so pays for my dinner and I buy one round of drinks for €15.50. Oh, and we win the quiz.

1.30am My friend is driving so drops us home. Score.

Today’s total: €80.50 

Friday

7am Alarm goes off much too early this morning. I’m minding my nephews.

12pm They’re finished school for Christmas so I get them a treat which comes to €4.30.

2.20pm I do a legger when their dad gets home. I need a nap as I’m going to a 30th tonight. I stop by my Granny’s house on the way home to do her shopping and she gives me €20 to get a drink at the party. What a hero.

8pm My boyfriend and I pick up a Chinese on the way to his house. He still owes me money so he buys mine.

9pm – 1.30am The party is on in my boyfriend’s local which is a small country pub, so the drinks are quite cheap. We have put €15 each into a card and I spend €30 at the bar.

Today’s total: €49.30

Saturday

I spend no money as we have the laziest day ever sitting on the couch, drinking cups of tea and watching telly.

Today’s total: €0

Sunday

10.30am I’m supposed to be going home but my boyfriend’s mam bought a new car and they’re going for a spin, so he convinces me to come too.

12.30pm We’re heading for Killarney and stop for petrol on the way. I give her €30 for petrol.

1.30pm We arrive and I have some bits to get so I finish my Christmas shopping. It comes to €40. I pick up some snacks in Marks (€14.50) and head for the train. The ticket is €20 and my boyfriend pays half.

3pm Arrive home and laze about for the rest of the day before having an early night.

Today’s total: €94.50

Weekly subtotal: €571

What I’ve learned:   

  • This isn’t a normal week for me at all. Christmas is an expensive time of the year for everyone, even people on the dole.
  • I would rarely buy new clothes, but I didn’t have the option of leaving much here before I went travelling, so have to get a lot of new stuff and that is expensive.
  • I saved extremely hard before I left Australia to put myself in a comfortable position and while it was tough it was really worth it.

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