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Dublin: 18°C Monday 15 August 2022

Money Diaries: An apprentice lab analyst on €25K saving to extend the family home

This week, our reader is working hard to build a new career while saving with her husband to renovate the family home. reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on 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 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 a banking analyst on €63K living in London but working from his family home in Cork. This week, an apprentice lab analyst on €25K in the southeast of the country.


I’m living with my husband and our two primary school-age children in a rural location in the southeast of Ireland. I am currently in the middle of a career change, I am doing an apprenticeship with a pharmaceutical company.

My week is split between two days at college (although due to Covid all my lectures are currently online) and three days at work. It is a three-year paid apprenticeship which is fantastic, I will have my BSC at the end of it as well as being trained on the job.

I save €500-700 monthly which I transfer to savings myself, €500 goes into our house savings and the other €100-200 gets split between two sinking funds – one for my annual car expenses and the other for my payments for my adult braces. I only have €900 left to pay on my braces which is great.

We are currently living in a tiny two-bed cottage which we bought and renovated over the last year and a half. We own it outright so we have no mortgage but we are planning a major (mortgaged) extension/new build and so we are saving approximately €2K per month (my husband saves the other €1.5K).

Just to note, the week I did this my husband was home. He works at sea and is on a three week on/three week off rota. I also just want to note that my mum is a part of our bubble as she lives alone and helps out with childcare when my husband is away at work.

Occupation: Apprentice Lab Analyst
Age: 35
Location: South East
Salary: €25,000
Monthly pay (net): approx €1,727 (after pension, dental insurance and sports and social club deductions also) €1,800 and child benefit of €280

Monthly expenses

Transport: €60 fills my car which lasts just over a week.
Rent/Mortgage: €0
Household bills: Electricity €110 (my husband pays this bill), internet €34,
Phone bill: €45
Health insurance: Paid for by my workplace
Groceries: €80 – 100 per week
Subscriptions: none
Storage Fees: €80
Life Insurance policies: €70 (my husband pays this bill)


7.30 am: Today is a Uni day for me. We wake up, get dressed and get out the door and into town because I read on Facebook the night before that the bridge in town was being lifted to let a boat through. As lame as it sounds, I knew my kids would love to see it as I had explained it to them before that it used to lift a lot when I was little. On the way back my petrol light comes on so we go to the garage and I fill up my car and also get some milk – €66.93. 

9:30 am: Back home and time to start homeschooling. My husband takes the eldest and I take the youngest. I have 45 mins before my first lecture so we try to get through as much as I can with him.

10.15 am: I hide in the bedroom to start my lectures. My husband carries on homeschooling with the kids and then he takes them to the park for an hour or so.

1.00-2.30 pm: I have a break in my lectures, so I clean the house a bit and put on a wash. Then my husband returns home with the kids and we make lunch.

2:00-6.00 pm: I take a phone call from a building company (we are planning a new build so at the moment I’m just ringing around companies, banks etc.) we have a good chat about what they offer. I’m excited as this is the company that I am most interested in working with.

3:15 pm: I have another lecture and my husband is going to my mums to help her out with a few jobs. It’s screen time for the two kids so I can concentrate on my lecture.

4:15 pm: My lectures are done for the day, so I head back to the kids. They’re looking for a snack…what’s new? I light the fire and give the place a quick hoover, feed the cats and help the kids look up some crafts on the iPad. They have an egg box and a small cardboard box so I leave them to it so I can start dinner – I’ll clean the mess later.

6:00 pm: My husband returns home, we have dinner and have the daily ritual of waiting for my youngest to stop talking and eat! After dinner I do the washing up, we get the kids ready for bed.

8:00 pm: The kids are asleep, so we chill out with a cup of tea and watch a few episodes of ‘Homelands’ we’ve only just discovered this series but we’re enjoying it. We watch it using my mum’s Netflix account.

10:00 pm: I head to bed and I realise I didn’t even get outside today! I must go for a walk tomorrow if the weather is good!

                                    Today’s total: €72.13


5.50 am: I’m at work today so I’m up early to get in for 7 am. I’m up and dressed and out the door for 6:30.

9:00 am: Breakfast break at work, we have a great subsidised canteen and I also use the YOYO app whenever I buy food at work. I see that I have enough points for a bowl of porridge and a banana (tea and coffee are free at work too) so breakfast is €0.00.

1.00 pm: Lunch break – I brought in my own lunch today (dinner leftovers) so lunch today is €0.00.

3.00 pm: I finish work for the day, just as I’m getting in the car, I remember that I said I would do the food shopping after work. I go to Lidl and do the shopping for the week- €73.69.

4:30 pm: I finally get home. It’s lashing and there’s a status Orange for wind and rain for the evening…no hope of a walk now. We sort out the shopping and I sit down with a cup of tea.

5.30 pm – 7.30 pm: I spend time chilling out, chatting, and playing with the kids. My husband makes the dinner.

7.30 pm: Bath and bedtime for the kids.

8.00 – 10:00 pm: I have a bath and treat myself to a clay mask while I’m at it. Sure, why not! I have an assignment due for Friday that I have already started so I sit down and finish that. We watch an episode of homelands and then it’s bedtime.

                                Today’s total: €73.69


7.30 – 9.30 am: Today is another Uni day for me. We wake up, get dressed and head out early because we have a meeting with the bank. We drop the kids off at my mum’s as she offered to mind them for the hour. Parking costs – €2.00.

11:00 am: Back home and time to start homeschooling. My husband takes the two kids to do homeschooling as I have my first lecture.

2:00 pm: I grab some lunch and eat while I’m listening to a lecture.

4:30 pm: My lectures are over. The weather is somewhat acceptable, so I head out with my eldest for a walk. My husband and youngest child are messing around in the garden. We’re very lucky that where we live backs onto a beautiful valley walk.

5:45 pm: We get back from the walk so I give the house a quick tidy and get the dinner on.

7:00 – 8:00 pm: We have a few games of Uno with the kids and then it’s bath/bedtime.

8:00 – 10:00 pm: I do an hour of study and catch up with some work emails for tomorrow. I check my banking App and realise it was payday! I transfer €500 into the house savings, €50 into my braces account and €50 into my car expenses account.

                                  Today’s total: €2.00


5.50 am: Today is a workday for me so I’m up early again and out the door.

7.00 am-3.00 pm: I brought in my breakfast and lunch today, so I had no food costs at work today.

3.30-5.30pm: I get home and the kids are playing in the garden (the weather is fab today). I sit in the garden with my husband and have a cup of tea and a chat. Then I head in and give the house a quick tidy.

5.30 pm–7.30 pm: My husband makes the dinner and I sit down with one of the kids and have a chat whilst watching some TV with them. My mum arrives, she comes for dinner every Thursday. I sit down and catch up with her which is nice.

7.30 pm-9.30 pm: My mum goes home and takes the youngest of my two kids with her for a sleepover. We have a game night with our eldest and let her have a later bedtime.

10.30 pm: I have a bath, sort out my clothes for tomorrow and then it’s off to bed for me.

                               Today’s total: €0.00


5.50 am: Work again today.

7.00 am-2.00 pm: I always have a full breakfast at work on a Friday €2.69 and then I’m full for the day so I don’t have to bother with a lunch break… but I did get a latte and a snack bar, €2.05.

2.30-5.30pm: I collect my son from my mum’s house and head home. It’s another lovely day so they play outside, and my husband is pottering in the garden. I go in and make us a cup of tea. We have a chat. I come back in and fold the laundry my husband has washed and dried.

5.30 pm: We decide to go to McDonald’s drive-thru for dinner. I’m so tired I can’t be bothered to cook and it is Friday in lockdown, after all, €30.00 (My husband paid for this, though).

7.00 pm– 8.00 pm: The McDonald’s came with a tops trumps card game, so we have a few games of that and then it’s bath and bedtime.

8.30 pm– 11.00 pm: I remembered that a girl at work had a nice sweater on that I admired so I pop on to the Dunnes website and buy the jumper in two colours and also two tops for my daughter and a polo shirt for my husband – €35.61 including delivery. I’m way too tired to do any study so it’s an evening of Netflix and then bed.

                             Today’s total: €40.35


8.30 am: Wake up after a lie in! Bliss! My husband brings me a cup of tea and the kids are straight in on my bed. We decide on pancakes for brekkie and after much deliberation on where we should go for a walk today, we decide to scrap that plan and stay home and potter in the garden.

10.00 am: I give my car a much-needed clean inside and out.

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1.00 pm: We stop for some lunch and I spend the rest of the day pottering around the house and playing with the kids in the garden. The weather is beautiful, and we seem to have forgotten we are living in a lockdown today which is nice.

4.30 pm-9.00 pm: We make the decision to take dinner al fresco and we light the fire pit in the garden. We have dinner and then toast marshmallows after. It’s the perfect end to the day.

11.00 pm: We head to bed after a quick tidy up in the garden.

                        Today’s total: €0.00


9.00 am: Wake up after another nice lie in! I make a cup of tea and chill out for a while. It’s a lovely day so we decide to get out for a bit today. Porridge for brekkie and then I get the kids dressed, etc.

10.00 am: I have a quick bath and get ready for the day.

11.00 pm: We go to a beach nearby. We are very lucky where we live to have several beaches within our 5km. We walk on the beach and explore the rockpools, we sit down for a while in the sun while the kids have a paddle. The weather is so refreshing.

1.30 pm: We realise we haven’t had lunch, so we head home. On the way back I spot a cabin selling tea and coffee. We stop and get tea, crisps and drinks for the kids. We like to support small, local businesses when we can. €13.00

2.00 pm: We have a small lunch at home.

3.00 pm: Myself and my daughter go to Lidl to get some milk and a few bits n’ pieces for school lunches (school is back open tomorrow…thank god!), a birthday card for her friend and I stock up on some cat food €29.37. We also go to Tesco to get a birthday present for her best friend. When I get there, I remember that toys are not essential, so we opt for a new set of felt tip colours, a bracelet making kit, matching best friend necklaces and a bag of Haribo jellies. Altogether with a gift bag, €20.35. We call by her friend’s house to drop off the gift. I sit in the garden with her mam (obviously at 2m distance) we have a catch-up whilst the girls play. They’ll be back in school tomorrow anyway, so I don’t mind them playing.

5.30 pm-8.00 pm: We finally arrive home and I get the dinner on. The kids are bathed and put to bed. They are back to school in the morning and they can’t wait.

8.30 pm-10.00 pm: I sort out the uniforms, and schoolbooks to send back in. Then it’s time to relax and watch a few episodes of Homelands until it’s time for bed.

                                 Today’s total: €62.72

                              Weekly subtotal: €250.89


What I learned –

  • After keeping the money diary for a week, it really opened my eyes to how much I’m spending on coffee. I am really trying not to spend, to be honest.
  • 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.
  • I spent more this week between my daughter’s friend’s birthday gift and my order from Dunnes.
  • I am saving a lot more than I would in non-Covid times, which is nice, however, I really want things to get back to normal. Mainly for the kids, they miss their friends and their afterschool activities.
  • I have always been good with meal planning and keeping my food shopping to around €100 per week or less. It kind of fluctuates between €80- €100. I don’t pay for all the food shopping; my husband pays for some weeks too. It’s just a matter of who does the shopping at the time, to be honest. This week in question it just so happened to be me. But we still work off the same budget and meal plans.
    I did realise, however, that I need to get out and exercise more! As of next week, I am going to get back to running a few times a week.

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