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Money Diaries: A language specialist in IT & partner earning a combined €75K saving for a home

This week, our reader says she and her partner tried hard to save as much as possible to buy a house.

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 a public sector manager on €96K working remotely. This week, one woman outlines how she and her partner saved hard to get a mortgage for a new house.

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I came to Ireland with my long-time partner, who is Irish, in October 2017. Like a lot of couples, buying our own property to live in became the main goal straight away, after realising very quickly how brutal the rental market was.

We started from scratch. At the time, I couldn’t work for about six months due to my visa status. My partner got a €23K salary job at a call centre in the midlands. We began putting away money in May 2018, when we both started working and renting in Dublin.

By July 2020, after a short two years of saving, we put together €28,000 and got the keys to our first home in north Co. Dublin in November.

Our plan was to put away €500 per person per month, but it was very difficult and seemed ambitious at the time. Quite frankly, our approach was on the “lack of fun” side. But if we managed to do so, it was a good (tough) month. The budget below is based on an average week while we were saving, just before Covid hit. It gives an indication of how we tried to curb spending.

Occupation: Linguistic Specialist
Age: 30
Location: Dublin city centre
Salary: €35,000 (my partner earns €40,000)
Monthly pay (net): €2,334

Monthly expenses (between us)

Rent: €800 (before our mortgage)
Transport: €10
Household bills: €200
Phone bill: €50
Health insurance: €230
Groceries: €215
Subscriptions: €35
Leisure (takeaway): €450
Visa renewing: €25
Motor tax and insurance: €117
GP: €35
Video games: €30
Travelling: €170
Concerts/movies: €20
GAA matches: €10
Parking: €22
Presents and cards: €70
Irregular spending (furniture, car tyres, donations etc): €27
Wedding-related booking (once-off): €2,100

***

Monday-Thursday

My partner and I have quite stable patterns on workdays. They’re pretty much the same every day:

8:00 am: My partner would always have cereal (unbranded bran flakes or Weetabix with milk), then usually packs a cold mayo chicken/tuna lettuce/pepper sandwich then ride his bike to work. He would shower at work before he starts.

9:30 am: I get up, wash, then have breakfast, usually eggs and toast or boiled noodles. While having breakfast, I usually check social media and the news. I’ll also check the post before work.

10:00 am: I turn on the computer and make myself a cup of tea, then start to work.

11:00 am: My partner would usually have coffee from the cafeteria spending €2.00. Sometimes fruit.

12:30 pm: My partner’s lunchtime. He brings his homemade sandwich down to the office cafeteria to have his food. He tried going to the gym near work, but he didn’t like it at all, as it was always packed. Then he tried to go jogging at least twice a week, with occasional social sports with work. Sometimes he would crave a fancy cup of coffee from the café nearby and would go get coffee about twice a week, spending €8.00.

I stand up from the desk and go check the fridge or kitchen press for something to snack on. Usually bananas, orange juice, or all sorts of crisps and biscuits.

2:00 pm: My partner goes back to work. It’s my lunchtime now. If I didn’t have noodles for breakfast, I’d most likely have boiled noodles for lunch, with an egg … There’s a Tesco nearby that sells hot food at lunch. I usually head to the shop for a walk twice a week to pick up some hot pies or chicken pieces, spending €15.00. On Wednesday or Thursday, I would also pick up a few grocery items, if our Sunday shopping is running low, spending an additional €25.00.

4:00 pm: My partner gets some coffee at work for €2.00. I would make a cup of tea and search for some snacks once again… I would also check the fridge to see what to make for dinner, then take out a few items from the fridge and put them on the chopping board. Back to work.

5:30 pm: My partner finishes work and bikes home. It’s uphill on the way back, so he’s usually wrecked when he’s home by 6 pm. I finish up work and start cooking our dinner. I cook stir fry vegetables with pork and steamed rice most of the time, and change up the vegetable combination on other days. Sometimes I cook curry, roasted chicken wings, lamb stew etc. We cook together, my partner makes an amazing roast chicken dinner with gravy, boiled potatoes and veg, and stuffing. Leftover chicken would go into our sandwiches the next morning.

7:30 pm: We head out for a post-dinner walk at least three times a week. If it’s summertime, we mostly head to the park. Might sneak in a small pack of crisps if we walk by corner shops… probably spending about €10.00 a week. The length of the walk is usually 4-5k.

9:00 pm: We sometimes turn on the news. We mostly read the news during the day already, so it’s kind of an excuse to sit together on the sofa and chat, or maybe look at our phones until bedtime.

                                  Monday to Thursday’s total: €62.00

Friday

8:00 am: The weather is quite miserable today. My partner gets up having cereal as usual, then decides to get the bus to work. It costs €5.00 (have to get two buses).

9:30 am: I decide to have a lie-in. After getting up, I put on breakfast (noodles, surprise surprise), then turn on the computer.

10:00 am: By the time breakfast is ready, I have to start work. I bring my bowl of noodles to the desk and sit down, start to check work emails and my task list. I skipped tea today.

12:30 pm: My partner didn’t pack lunch today, so he got a cafeteria meal (subsidised) for €5.00. He also headed to the café nearby and grabbed a fancy cup of coffee for Friday, spending €4.00.

2:00 pm: I made myself a toasted smoked paprika chicken bagel with leftover roast chicken.

Regarding food waste, I think we are quite good at managing it. We always hate throwing away food when we bought too much or leave it there for too long and let it go off. “Fridge salad/stir fry/casserole”, that’s a phrase I learned from a coworker when you cook something just to use up the leftover ingredients in the fridge.

5:30 pm: My partner gets the bus home, spending €2.00 (€7 Dublin Bus daily cap on Leap card). We decide to eat out tonight. We go to a small burger restaurant in town. Both of us get burgers, a side each and fizzy drinks for €38.00.

7:00 pm: After burgers, we go to sit outside a small pub across the road. We get a few drinks, along with peanuts and bacon fries for €37.00.

                              Today’s total: €91.00

Saturday

10:30 am: We get up and go out for brunch. My partner gets a gourmet ham and cheese sandwich, a small soup and coffee. I get a full Irish (it’s rarely a real down-to-earth full-Irish in Dublin city centre nowadays, the trend is about half a full-Irish with “fancy” ingredients but costs more than a real full-Irish), and tea to go with. That was €33.00.

12:30 pm: We decide to head to Temple Bar and stroll around for the afternoon.

I always take a bottle of water with me, mostly because that’s how my mom raised me, and also because 1. I just hate not being able to drink water straight away when I’m thirsty and 2. plastic water bottles are the worst – everything’s in them and despite the effort in trying to avoid buying them, they always find their way to fill your house, e.g. all of the bottles of water I bring with me are in these plastic bottles. (Remember the order: reduce, reuse, then finally, recycle)

We get the Luas to get to O’Connell street first (€5.60) then walked south. My partner stops by a book shop and a charity shop to pick up some books. A new book for €23.00 because he really likes the author and a few second-hand books for €6.00. I pop into M&S for a pair of good trousers, and Penney’s for a couple of pairs of cheap jeans and other bits and pieces, €75.00 altogether.

2:30 pm: We sit down at a café and got tea and dessert for €16.00.

3:30 pm: We got home by bus (€4.50) and set off to head to the family home in the midlands. On the way, we get diesel spending €40.00 (we don’t usually fill up the tank).

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5:00 pm: We arrive, only to find that one of the tyres has a nail stuck in it. It was lucky it didn’t give up on the middle of the motorway. After checking the opening hours of the tyre shops, we drive to get a car tyre for €65.00.

6:30 pm: We have dinner and chat with family for the rest of the evening.

                              Today’s total: €268.10

Sunday

10:30 am: We have breakfast and sit in the garden with family for the morning.

1:30 pm: Have dinner together and watch GAA and rugby for the afternoon.

4:00 pm: We take off to head back to Dublin.

5:30 pm: We put together a shopping list and go to Lidl to getting shopping for the week. We usually buy a few types of vegetables, meat, bread, cereal, milk, eggs etc, some daily essentials, and snacks. It was €35.00 in total.

6:15 pm: We put on a couple of frozen pizzas for supper. We almost never cook on Sunday evenings. On the odd days, we would get takeaway instead.

                           Today’s total: €35.00 

Weekly subtotal: €456.10

***

What I learned –

  • We have learned from experience that we should be careful of unplanned costs. You’ll never know when your tyre might burst, your tooth gives you a bad kick, or spending too much on a work night out. There’s very little you can control about these things, but to balance this out, just be mindful of the things you want to buy, but don’t necessarily need them.
  • Don’t be afraid of being called “stingy”. Tell people you’re saving money and they can make up their own minds. When you have a goal to save money, the “stingy” ones will reach their goals faster. Don’t be discouraged.
  • The so-called money you have to spend: “You should spend at least two months’ salary on the engagement ring”, says every jewellery salesman ever. If you’re engaged, it means you’ll get married, it means every penny your partner spends on that token ring of yours is your money. My partner and I got our rings together in an antique shop, plus adjusting them, for about €100 in total. We’re very happy about it.
  • Never say things such as “I’ll never save enough money,” or “nothing is affordable” etc. “That’s fatalism”, as my partner likes to say. If we can do it, you can too.

About the author:

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