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Dublin: 14°C Wednesday 10 August 2022

How I Spend My Money: A 29-year-old data analyst from Waterford, living and working in Brussels on €39,000

The bank worker is paying back a loan and trying to curb spending. reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on that runs on Wednesdays and Sundays 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? Details on how to do it are at the bottom of the piece.

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.  

Today, a 29-year-old data analyst from Waterford, who works for a bank and lives in Brussels. This person shares an apartment with two housemates and travels a lot.


I work in a bank and share an apartment with two housemates. I travel very often and a lot of my money is spent on flights, trains, buses, etc. I have a bank loan of just over €11,000 which I am paying off every month. My salary should increase fairly substantially in March and I am torn between finding my own one-bedroom apartment to rent and staying in my current shared apartment and paying off my loan within a year and then saving for a deposit to buy my own place.

Occupation: Data Analyst
Age: 29
Location: Brussels
Salary: €39,225
Monthly pay (net): €2,480

Monthly expenses
Rent: €508
Household bills: €50
Transport: Paid by employer
Phone bill: €40
Health insurance: Around €100 annually (more information on Belgian health insurance here)
Groceries: €200
Subscriptions: €15 for a long-term bicycle rental
Loan repayments: €260



10am: I wake up – it’s late but I’m off today and I went out for a few drinks last night with a friend so I didn’t get to bed until late. I’m home in Waterford for the weekend and my cousin is visiting soon with her new baby so I get ready for her to arrive.

12.30pm: When my cousin leaves, I go to the supermarket to pick up some beer, chocolates and a card for my dad’s birthday and also get some soup and a sandwich from the deli for my lunch. Everything comes to €40.87. Usually, my two sisters and I would share the cost of the present but I decide not to ask them for anything towards it as there are other bits and pieces that they pay for seeing as I’m living abroad.

2pm: I’m flying back to Brussels this evening so take the bus to Dublin airport. I buy a bottle of water for the journey for €2 and also buy my bus ticket for €19.

5pm: I’m already thinking of how long it is until my next pay day as I spent more money than I should have at home last weekend. I set myself a strict budget every month but always end up spending more. I browse through books at the airport and see one I want but decide against it as it’s €20. This happens to me often – I rarely make unplanned purchases that aren’t food or drink.

6pm: Before my flight, I spend €9.35 on a meal in Burger King and make a mental note to not go there again because I don’t like the chips. The burger was nice though so I’m happy about that.

7pm: Just before my flight takes off I buy my ticket online for the bus from the airport to Brussels. It’s €14.20.

7.30pm: I’m gasping on the plane so get a can of Pepsi for €2.50.

9.30pm: I fly into an airport just south of Brussels and have to get a bus and metro home. I have a monthly travel pass for Brussels which is paid for by work so I don’t have to buy a metro ticket. I get a bottle of water for €1 in the shop because I’m thirsty.

11pm: I’m finally home and really tired so I unpack my bag and go straight to bed. Before I fall asleep, I’m thinking about how much I spent today and how I really have to reign in my spending if I want to make it to my next payday which is almost four full weeks away.

Today’s total: €88.92


8am: I get up an hour later than usual because I’m tired after the weekend at home. I have a quick shower and head out the door at 8.35am. I get the bus to work and use my monthly pass, so this costs me nothing.

9am: I arrive at work and realise I have left the key for my locker at home, so can’t get my laptop to start work. Seeing as I have some time before the facilities team comes to open my locker, I get a coffee. There is free coffee from a machine so I get one of those.

12 noon: It’s lunchtime and usually I bring my lunch, but seeing as I arrived home late I have to buy it. We have a huge canteen at work with loads of options and I get soup and a sandwich. It’s €5.31.

3pm: I get an e-mail from a company that gives massages at the office saying they have to cancel mine for tomorrow. It’s usually €20 for the massage and it’s no harm that it has to be cancelled, considering my overspend last weekend.

4:30pm: I leave work and go to the supermarket on the way home to pick up stuff for lunches. I spend €8.61 and this will be my lunch for the rest of the week.

6:30pm: Some of my colleagues from Romania are in Brussels this week to work so we go out for dinner. I spend €16.40 on a burrito and a beer.

9pm: I’m wrecked so I go home for an early night. My housemates show me a new light fixture they have bought for the kitchen. It was €60 split threes so my portion is €20. We use an app that automatically splits our bills and I’m owed about €50 from them, so I’m pretending the light was free because I don’t have to hand over any cash.

They tell me they can install it themselves, even though I think an electrician will have to do it. On the way home, I buy a bag of Maltesers for €1 and have them with a cup of tea in bed and fall asleep to an episode of Shameless.

Today’s total: €51.32


7am: My alarm goes off but I don’t get up for another half an hour. I shower and am out the door at 8.05am. There’s a really nice coffee truck at the bus stop and sometimes I get a coffee there but my bus is due in one minute so I don’t want to risk it. In the end, the bus takes about 10 minutes so I’m raging. I use my bus pass so there’s no cost.

8:30am: I get to work and make a coffee. I have a Bodum travel mug that’s also a French press so I can make nice coffee at work as the stuff in the machine isn’t great. We get baskets of fruit delivered in work so I take two pieces from that for my breakfast.

12 noon: It’s lunchtime so I head to the canteen with my colleagues. I eat lunch I prepared last night and head back to my desk for 1 pm to resume working.

1:30pm: We have a two-hour planning meeting at work so I get a “fancy” coffee from the machine, which is not free but it’s only €0.70c. My boss asks for one too but I get her a free one because my bank card won’t work again for some reason. I’m secretly delighted and also realise there are lots of coffee options at work, most of which are rotten.

5pm: I leave work and on the way stop for some garlic bread. It’s €1.50. When I get home I put on a wash and make my dinner. I realise I need to buy washing powder soon.

7:30pm: I am in a choir and we have rehearsals tonight so I get the metro there.

10pm: After choir we usually have a drink together. I just have one beer tonight and it’s €2.

11pm: I get home, eat half of tomorrow’s lunch and go to bed.

Today’s total: €4.20


7am: I wake up and notice that one of my housemates has added some expenses to our Tricount, which is the app that tracks our common expenses and evenly splits them. My portion is €28 and it’s for the internet bill, food for a party we’re having on Friday night and a blender I knew nothing about. I tell them to check with me first before splitting the cost of things they want and they offer to remove the cost of the blender for me, but it’s not a big deal and it will come in handy for making soup in the winter. Even though this has cost me money, I don’t have to pay anything right now as I am still owed money from them.

8:05am: I’m out the door. I get a cappuccino at the coffee truck for €3 and I’m bawling because usually you get a little sweet with it but today there’s none. But the bus is waiting for me when I arrive at the stop so things are looking up.

8:30am: I’m at my desk and get stuck in straight away as I have meetings all day starting at 9am and want to reply to some e-mails beforehand.

11:45am: I go for an early lunch and eat what I prepared and also get a bowl of soup for €0.92. After lunch, my colleague buys me a coffee in the cafe at work. I will buy her one back the next time. We do it in rotation.

12:30pm: I’m back to work for the afternoon and it’s all meetings.

5pm: I leave work and decide to get the metro as this evening I have to go to the city hall to pick up my new Belgian ID card. I imagine there’ll be a huge queue and I’ll be there for ages so I mentally prepare myself for Belgian bureaucracy.

6pm: I’m surprised how quickly things go at the city hall. My housemates and I are having a party tomorrow night so I go to Lidl and buy beer for the fridge and a few groceries. It comes to €35.26. I put the cost of the beer on the tricount so I will get €20 back from my housemates. After Lidl, I go straight home, make my dinner and relax for the evening. It’s my only free evening this week so I make the most of it.

9pm: I’m already falling asleep.

Today’s total: €47.18


8am: Fridays are considerably more relaxed in work and I have no early meetings so I get up later. I take the bus to work and I’m there by 9am. In the cafe at work, I treat myself to a croissant because it’s Friday and I’m delighted. It’s €1.25, which is actually quite expensive.

12 noon: I go for lunch and have brought it with me from home. I resist buying a dessert in the canteen and instead get a Balisto bar in the cafe on the way back to my desk for €1.

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12:30pm: I want to finally open a Belgian bank account so I start to do this online. I’m still banking with my Irish bank because I have a €300 overdraft which is handy. But now I have everything I need to get credit in Belgium so I’m thinking of applying for a credit card for the more expensive months.

2:15pm: I go to the vending machine and get a Coke zero. I use my Revolut card for this. Its €0.80 but every time I use this card, it rounds up to the next euro and saves the “change” in a savings account. So when I bought the coke, €0.20 went into my savings. I use Revolut for all my day-to-day spending. It’s a really easy way of saving without even noticing. I’m halfway there with the cost of flights to Dubai already, where I plan to go to visit friends in March.

5:30pm: I leave work and get the metro home. On the way, I stop at the supermarket for more beer and some groceries. I spend €15.72 but this will go on our Tricount again. When I get home, I have something to eat and get ready for the party.

9:00pm: Most people have arrived at the party. We stay in for the night and horse into the food and drink.

Today’s total: €8.29


7am: I wake up on the sofa and go upstairs to my bedroom.

12 noon: I wake up again, make some pasta, bring it to bed in the pot and fall in and out of consciousness for the whole afternoon in between shovelling the pasta into my face.

7pm: I meet my friends for a casual dinner just around the corner. It’s only €15 for my food and a beer. Afterwards, we go to the shop and I buy a Reese’s peanut butter cup for €1. I go home, watch a film and go to bed.

Today’s total: €16


10am: I wake up and pull out my earplugs, which I put in at about 2am because my housemate had friends over, and they were chatting downstairs until late.

11am: I make a pot of coffee and have a bite to eat. I have some work to do on my computer, so I settle into that for the afternoon.

6:00pm: I go for a walk to get out of the house and end up meeting a friend and we go for another casual dinner together. It’s only €4.50 for a big chicken sandwich and chips. On the way home, I stop off in the shop for milk and a pack of biscuits and it’s €2.70. I go home, have a cup of tea and get ready for the week.

  Today’s total: € 7.20

Weekly subtotal: €223.11

What I’ve learned:   

  • Even without any big expenses, I still managed to spend a lot and most of it is on food and drink. I was really unaware that I was spending this amount and although I had travel expenses at the start of the week, there was nothing unusual about it as I’m travelling regularly.
  • I should start doing a big weekly shop again and eating at home most nights if I want to be able to save consistently.
  • I should also stop spending money on things I don’t want (light for the dining room and blender) as it all adds up.
  • Cutting down on travelling so regularly would also save me a massive amount of money.
  • However, I don’t really want to change anything about my life now and need to make sure my salary increases soon so I can do what I want without having to stress about money. 

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