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Money Diaries: A 23-year-old student and fast food worker on €13K living in Dublin

This week, our reader is working hard to save for college fees.

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WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on The Journal 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 civil servant on €33K living in Dublin and working from home. This week, a 23-year-old student and fast food worker on €13K living in Dublin.

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I’m a 23-year-old currently living with my boyfriend in a house share in Dublin. We’re sharing with five other people so it’s not ideal, but it’s all we can afford at the moment with prices in Dublin being the way they are. As I’m studying and only working 20-30 hours a week on minimum wage, I don’t have much money to save, but on a good month, I could save around €120.

I decided to move out of my parent’s home a few months ago because I wanted to be independent, and so far, it’s been mostly fine – the hardest part is seeing all my rent money leaving my account every month. But luckily as it’s summer, I can work extra hours. I previously dropped out of the last course I was doing in college and I now need to pay the full tuition fees for this year and next year, so I’ve been saving for that for a while. I also had to take out a loan for my college fees this year which I will be paying back over the next few years.

One of the hardest parts of living independently while only working part-time is not having as much money to spend on things like socialising, buying clothes and just going out in general. I can still go out and do things, but I find that I need to be a lot more aware of my spending now. But even still, I’m enjoying living like this and I definitely can’t see myself moving home to my parents anytime soon!

Occupation: Student/fast food worker
Age: 23
Location: Dublin
Salary: Around €13,000 (taking into account that I work more hours in the summer and less during term time)
Monthly pay (net): €930

Monthly expenses

Transport: €90
Rent: €400 for me (€800 total)
Household bills: €0 (included in rent)
Phone bill: €12.99
Health insurance:€0. Paid for by parents
Groceries: €120
Subscriptions: Spotify student – €5.99, I use my dad’s Netflix account
College fees loan: €90
Savings: €120
***

Monday

10.00 am: I wake up late and have a bowl of cereal for breakfast. My boyfriend has already left for work. I have a shower and get dressed, ready to start the day. This week I’m not working on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and it’s the summer holidays so no college either.

11.30 am: I want something sweet to eat, so I walk to Tesco and get a packet of muffins. (€2.50) The Tesco is right next to a park so I have a walk through the park and sit on a bench for a while while I eat my muffin.

1.00 pm: I’ve been trying to go to the gym as much as possible the last few weeks so I decide to go today. I usually go on days when I don’t have plans because it gives me something to do and it makes me feel better afterwards. I get the bus there. (€2.25) I should also mention that luckily my dad got me an annual subscription for the gym for Christmas, so I don’t need to worry about paying for the gym for now!

2.30 pm: Once I finish in the gym, I get the bus back home. (€2.25) I don’t do much once I get back. I have a shower and just relax for the afternoon looking at YouTube and Netflix on my phone.

5.00 pm: I go to the shop to buy groceries for dinner for the two of us, as well as some chocolate sweets. I buy frozen fish and some carrots as we already have everything else at home. (€12.30)

6.00 pm: Once I get home, my boyfriend takes the groceries and makes dinner for us. He usually cooks for us as he likes to cook a lot more than I do – luckily!

7.00 pm: After dinner, we just relax for the rest of the evening. We watch some Netflix and Love Island after that – my guilty pleasure!

Today’s total: €19.30

Tuesday

10.00 am: Have to force myself out of bed otherwise I would have probably stayed there until midday. I have some breakfast and get ready for the day. Today I am meeting up with my friends, so I decide to put makeup on and actually make an effort for the first time in ages! I’ve found that since the start of the first lockdown last year, I’ve been wearing makeup so much less than usual so it’s nice to wear it every now and then.

12:30 pm: I get the bus to town to meet up with my friends. (€2.25) I’ve been noticing the city centre starting to get really busy every day now, which is probably a good thing because it means things are finally getting back to normal. The only downside for me is that the busses tend to be fuller and the traffic is getting worse again.

1.00 pm: We have a browse around the shops for a while. I buy some sweets and some new reusable facemasks, how exciting! (€10)

4.00 pm: We have dinner at an Italian restaurant. As some of us have only had our first vaccine, we eat outdoors. My friend has a voucher for the restaurant, so there is no cost. I get lasagne and pair it with vodka and coke. Bit of a weird combination, but I enjoy it. Being in a restaurant feels so nice and to be honest, I actually like the outdoor dining, especially when the weather is as nice as it was today. I hope some restaurants keep the outdoor dining even when the pandemic is over, even just for the summer months.

6.30 pm: I say goodbye to my friends and go to get the bus home. (€2.25)

7.00 pm: I stay home for the rest of the evening and don’t spend anything else.

Today’s total: €14.50

Wednesday

11.00 am: I wake up with a sense of dread as today is my last day off work until next week. I have a shower, get dressed and ready for the day. The only breakfast-y thing I have in the house is cereal and I am not in the mood for that so I decide to go out on a walk and buy something.

12:30 pm: I go for my walk in the local park and buy a mocha and muffin on the way. (€6.50) One thing I’m thankful for is that I live right next to a nice park with a lake, and it’s so peaceful to go and look at the ducks and swans, especially in the mornings when the weather is nice. I stay there for a while and then made my way home.

2:30 pm: I walk to the local Tesco and bought groceries (€13). I prefer to go to Aldi or Lidl because they’re cheaper but the closest Aldi is a 30-minute walk from my house and I just would never be in the mood for that. I do have my driver’s license and sometimes my dad lets me take his car for a few days, but sadly this week I don’t have it. If I had my own car I would definitely drive to the Aldi rather than going to Tesco.

4.00 pm: My boyfriend and I meet up with my parents and the family dog and we go to the local park. There is such a nice atmosphere in the park on this particular afternoon as there is a group of older ladies all huddled in a sheltered part of the park singing acapella! It is very random but also very cute. There are also so many cute doggies all around the park today!

5.30 pm: Once we get home we cook a chicken stir fry for dinner.

6.30 pm: I spend the rest of the day at home. I watch a bit of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix and then go to bed early as I’m back at work early tomorrow. Sob.

Today’s total: €19.50

Thursday

6:30 am:  Time to start the day. I’ve been getting mostly early shifts the last few weeks which I’m thankful for as I absolutely despise working late. I get ready for work and head for the bus. I never have breakfast this early because I never feel the need and never feel hungry this early.

7:10 am: I get the bus to work. (€2.25) While on the bus, I top up my leap card with the App on my phone (€30). I’m noticing the bus getting a bit slower in the morning and so I’ve had to start getting the earlier bus to make sure I’m not late. It’s a sign that more people are going out to work now though, which is a good thing.

8.00 am: Start my shift at work.

11.00 am: I have my 30-minute break. I work in fast food so I get a free meal for my lunch. It’s good because it’s free food and one less thing for me to spend money on, but what’s less good is that it encourages me to eat junk food and I can feel myself getting more addicted!

2:30 pm: I have my 15-minute break and get a coffee, no cost.

4.00 pm: The end of my shift finally arrives. I get changed and goto the gym from work. I find it so hard to go to the gym after work as I’m always so tired by the time I finish up, but I just try to force myself.

6.15 pm: I get the bus home. (€2.25)

6.50 pm: I am starving once I get in so I have a bowl of cereal while my boyfriend cooks us dinner. He also bought some stuff in the shops today but I’m only keeping track of my own spending.

7.30 pm: Once I eat dinner, the exhaustion hits me so I quickly have my shower and get into bed. I watch TV for a while and then just fall asleep.

Today’s total: €34.50

Friday

6.30 am: I wake up early again today. Even though I like working early shifts rather than late, I always find it hard getting up in the morning. No breakfast again today. I get ready and left for the bus to work.

7.10 am: As I am walking to the bus stop, I realise I have lost my Leap card so I have to walk back to try find it and luckily I find it on the path! I have to run back to the bus stop, but luckily I don’t miss the bus. I constantly lose things so this was no surprise to me. (€2.25)

8.00 am: Start my shift.

10.30 pm: 30 minute break had. Get my free breakfast meal, so no cost. I always tell myself that I need to start bringing a healthy packed lunch, but I never do.

2.30 pm: I get my 15-minute break and get a small ice cream. Again, no cost.

3.30 pm: I finish my shift and get the bus home straight from work. (€2.25) I was thinking of going to the gym but I am way too tired and just feeling lazy.

6.30 pm: My boyfriend and I order a takeaway (€15 for me). As we both work on our feet all day, we get so tired in the evening and we get takeaway probably too much the last while!

Today’s total:€19.50

Saturday

6.30 am: Same again. Wake up and got ready for work. Find it really hard to wake up this morning but I force myself out.

7.10 am: Get the bus. (€2.25) I think because it is Saturday and also early in the morning, the traffic is really light and the bus goes very quickly, which means I end up being too early, so I have a walk around the city centre before going to work. It’s nice to walk around town when it’s not packed with people!

8.00 am: Start my shift.

10.10 am: Get my first break. I had breakfast from work, as usual, at no cost. I know I’ve mentioned it before but every day I feel so bad for eating this junk, but it’s just so convenient. But I’m also just lazy!

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3.15 pm: Finish my shift. I didn’t get a second break today so I got off early which I was happy about. I get changed and then go to the gym. It was so nice today because it was so quiet in the gym. I much prefer working out when it’s quiet. It was also very rainy all day which actually makes me happy, autumn and winter are my favourite seasons!

5.00 pm: I leave the gym and go to Lidl. I am starving so buy some of the cookies from the bakery (€2) and frozen fish fingers – yes I am a child. (€2.99) We already have veg at home so I don’t need to buy anything else.

5.30 pm: I get the bus home. (€2.25) It is actually quite full and the traffic is really bad. The city centre was also really busy today. I find myself falling asleep on the bus, a lot more tired today than other days.

6.45 pm: I get home and start to help my boyfriend with making dinner. I also have one of the cookies with tea right when I get home because I need some food ASAP.

7.45 pm: After dinner, I pretty much just got ready for bed – I feel so tired. I spend the rest of the evening in bed scrolling through my phone and watching YouTube videos before I doze off.

Today’s total: €9.49

Sunday

6.30 am: Up early again. For some reason, I wake up a bit before my alarm went off, but I just stay in bed until it rings.

7.00 am: Get on the bus. (€2.25) As much as I want to save money and start cycling more, I actually enjoy the early commute on the bus. It’s just calming to sit on the bus and listen to music before I start my shift. I’m also lucky enough to live right next to one of the only 24-hour bus services in Dublin, which includes Sundays! This means that I can work early on Sundays and not have to worry about transport – hooray!

8.00 am: Start my shift.

11.30 am: Get my first break a bit later today but I like getting a late break. I have free lunch again.

2.15 pm: Get my second break. I didn’t get anything to eat as I wasn’t feeling too hungry.

3.30 pm: Finish my shift and go straight to the gym after work.

5.00 pm: Once I finished up in the gym, I was starving. My boyfriend is at home preparing dinner but in the meantime, I stop off at Tesco and got myself a packet of those chocolate Nutri Grain bars (€2.50) and I also buy a bottle of Rosé. (€8) I eat one of the bars before getting the bus home. (€2.25)

6.30 pm: Once I get home we have dinner. We have chicken with veg and I was stuffed afterwards. I had a few glasses of Rosé and my boyfriend had a few bottles of some weird cider.

7.00 pm: As usual, we just stay in and chill out for the rest of the night. We watch a few bits on Netflix and I force him to watch Love Island before we go to bed.

Today’s total: €15

Weekly subtotal: €131.79

***
What I learned –

  • I didn’t spend as much as I thought I would, so that’s good. I definitely spend too much money on public transport though and I’m highly considering getting a bike and trying to cycle to work and to the gym a bit more, especially for term-time when I’m back in college and not earning as much from work.
  • I definitely eat too much fast food considering I get it for free in work for every shift. I find it so convenient getting free food even though it’s really not good for me in the long run. I have enough money to bring a packed lunch so I’m going to start making more of an effort to eat better and bring good food with me every day.
  • I want to try and save more each month going forward because while where we are is ok for now, I would love to find somewhere that’s closer to my friends and family and ideally, where we wouldn’t have to share with five other people. With everything else I need to save for and the fact that I’ll be working less when college starts next month, it won’t be easy, but if I put a bit more aside every month and make a few little changes, I might get lucky.

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