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Dublin: 18°C Wednesday 22 September 2021

Money Diaries: A project engineer in the north east of the country on €32K

This week, our reader is working hard and managing finances while trying to save for a mortgage.

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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 product manager on over €140K with a young family in Dublin. This week, a project engineer in the north east of the country on €32K is saving hard for a mortgage. 


I am a 25-year-old working in the engineering industry as a project engineer. I live in the northeast of the country. I enjoy work and the company I work for. My main aim is to save for a deposit for a mortgage.

With the cost of rent, college and car loans to pay off, the lack of a ‘bank of mammy and daddy’ and the current cost of living, I find it very hard to save anything significant and cannot really see myself owning a house any time soon. It annoys me that between rent, loan and saving payments, I give out over €1,300 a month, as well as living expenses. A mortgage repayment could be half that, but I currently would not be considered for anything half decent. I rent on my own – the place is small, but it has everything I need.

My spending habits do vary. I am fond of online shopping, takeaway coffee and eating out. I never carry cash and the contactless payments, as well as Apple Pay, make it all too easy to spend money. I wouldn’t ever really splurge on anything crazy for myself. I think about it, but always talk myself out of it. I have a Revolut Vault to round up spare change and set a target – I have currently reached my target for a smart watch, but I probably won’t buy it. I would rather use that money to pay off a loan – boring I know.

Thankfully, I am not a big drinker, so the pubs closing during Covid really didn’t bother me too much. In saying that, I do enjoy a beer from time to time. I’m currently trying to be healthier and shift the extra lockdown lbs. I found the lockdowns okay, just very unhealthy for me. There was a lot of extra eating and less moving and no motivation to do anything. This is just my opinion, I know some people thrived during them.

Occupation: Project engineer
Age: 25
Location: North East
Salary: €32,000 (also get travel expenses which vary month-to-month)
Monthly pay (net): €2,068

Monthly expenses 

Transport: I pay €71 per month on insurance. I spend around €240 per month on Diesel, some of which I can claim back from work.
Rent: €690 – this includes electricity, heating, WiFi and bins.
Household bills: As above
Health insurance: I don’t have health insurance
Groceries: €240 on average
Subscription: Spotify €9.99, Apple iCloud Storage €2.99, Netflix and Amazon Prime €0.00 (I borrowed a password)
Savings: €200 per month
Loan: €433 per month



7.00 am: I have an onsite meeting this morning first thing. Have a bowl of All Bran. I never usually eat breakfast, but I’m trying to break that habit.

2.30 pm: Finish up and back to the office. I go to the deli for a wrap. (€4.50)

6.00 pm: Work flies by. Once I finish up, I leave to head to the airport to collect my cousin and his girlfriend. I pass the toll twice. (€3.80) After dropping them off, I go to SuperValu for some groceries. (€25.66)

8.30 pm: Get home, cook steak, veg and rice for dinner and prep lunch for tomorrow.

9.30 pm: I spend about an hour scrolling my phone before falling asleep.

Today’s total: €33.96


8.00 am: Get up, shower and head to work. I’m at the main road when I turn back for my prepacked lunch. Determined to stay on track this week.

9.00 am: At my desk, few cups of coffee to help me through the morning.

1.00 pm: Lunchtime, I head to shop. Pick up a garlic potato side for later on, some low-calorie bars and a can of sugar-free energy drink. (€7.10) I heat my Mexican chicken, veg and a bit of rice.

1.30 pm: I mull over the current credit union loan I have. The interest is high on the loan but there is no penalty for paying off early which I intend to do. I want to get it cleared ASAP, so I pay a chunk of it off. (€1,800) That should decrease it by about 11 weeks going by my calculations. I am aiming to be loan free by January 2022, and I will then set up a direct debit into my savings of what I am paying back on loans.

6.30 pm: Leave work and head home.

8.00 pm: Throw half the side of garlic potato in the oven and cook a steak. Eat, clean up and pan out in front of the television for the night.

9.30 pm: Scroll through TikTok and Instagram. Bed.

Today’s total: €1,807.10 ☹


7.30 am: Up, showered and on the road for work. I stop in the shop for a bottle of water and chewing gum. (€2.30)

11.30 am: Slow start to the day, can’t get motivated. Have a protein bar and coffee. Bar was a treat from a co-worker. Coffee and tea are free at work.

1.00 pm: For lunch, I heat up left-over chicken and veg I cooked Monday night – this is grim.

5.45 pm: Go for a haircut after work. (€19) I like that you have to book in now since Covid and don’t have to queue. I don’t like the price though – I miss haircuts for a tenner or €12.

6.30 pm: I jump in the shower and heat up a chicken fillet and throw together a small salad.

7.30 pm: Going on a Tinder ‘date’ this evening, which is a lockdown-inspired walk and coffee. Two coffees and two brownies cost €9.60 – cheap date!

10.15 pm: I am home. Pan out on the couch, scrolling Tinder again. That was definitely a first and last date.

Today’s total: €30.90


6.30 am: There is a large project coming to its end at work, so I head in early to help tackle the workload.

12.40 pm: I had planned to go out for lunch today with a colleague, but got an emergency call and have to attend a site ASAP. I stop in the shop on way. The deli looks grim, so I pick up an energy drink instead. (€2.40)

3.30 am: Finished on site and I am starving. I stop at another deli for a salad, but the salad selection is nonexistent. Healthy eating is ruined – I tried. I get a ham and coleslaw roll instead with a bottle of water and head back to the office. (€4.50)

6.45 pm: I finish up at work, it’s been a long day. I change at work and go to a running track close by.

8.20 pm: I’m a sweaty mess. Head into Aldi for some chicken, veg and a pineapple. (€7.70)

9.10 pm: Once I’m in the door, I head for a shower then contemplate making food. My friend from college who lives in London phones me, so chat with him for about an hour or so. I’m starved, but it’s too late to start cooking so I have a bowl of cereal and a tin of tuna instead.

10.40 pm: The earlier I am up the harder I find it to sleep, I put on Ozark on Netflix. It is a great show. End up falling asleep shortly after 1 am.

Today’s total: €14.60


8.00 am: Sleep in this morning, up and at work for 9. I pick up two coffees on the way in for me and a workmate. (€5.20)

11.30 am: I get an email from a sports nutrition company giving away a freebie with order over €19. I order a case of sugar-free energy drinks (guilty pleasure), some calorie-free flavourings and a protein mix for pancakes. (€33.70)

1.00 pm: Out for lunch and the diet is out the window, burger and chips are ordered. The boss man pays. 

6.00 pm: I leave work and head into town. I buy a new frying pan in Argos (€16), a pair of tracksuit bottoms and two t-shirts in the shop next to it (€76), and a paintbrush in a little hardware store. (€3.50)

7.45 pm: The weather is pleasant; I visit my sister and bring the nephews to the ice cream shop. I resist the temptation and go for an iced coffee instead as I am still stuffed from lunch. (€11 for coffee and two ice creams)

9.30 pm: Uncle duties completed, I head home. Car tyre is making a noise every time it rotates. Pull over and find there’s a screw in it. My car doesn’t have a spare so that’s a problem for tomorrow. I get home and head to bed shortly after.

Today’s total: €145.40


8.30 am: I get up, have a coffee, put on a wash and go for a shower.

9.30 am: I investigate the screw in the tyre, the tyre is fairly flat, it was due to be changed anyway so this was the final nail in the coffin (excuse the pun). I pump it up at the house and set off to get two back tyres. (€310) The car has big alloys and as I do a lot of driving, I prefer to spend the extra money on premium quality brands. Tyres are one of the things I wouldn’t skimp on. While I am in town I go to Tesco to pick up some groceries and cleaning supplies. (€33.22)

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11.20 am: Go through the McDonalds drive-through, I have a craving for a McMuffin but miss the breakfast, so settle for an Americano. (€2.00)

11.50 am: Get home, unpack, unload the washing machine, load tumble dryer, make some bagels, eggs and medallions with coffee. Then go out and give the car a mini valet. Postman comes on a Saturday, which is rare, with my order from yesterday. I am still shocked by the next day delivery.

4.30 pm: Still inside, I have no plans for the evening. I was away the last three weekends, so I’m having a quiet one this weekend. Watch an episode of Ozark.

7.00 pm: I’m bored, so I drive to the running track. The roads around me are not enjoyable to run on. I end up getting thirsty so head to the shop to pick up a few beers and a bag of crisps. (€12) I meet a friend I work with in the car park by chance and sit talking to him for a good hour.

9.15 pm: In the door and crack open a few cans. Watch more Ozark on Netflix and then bed.

Today’s total: €357.22


8.00 am: Up, dressed and load the bike onto the car. Meeting a friend to go mountain biking today.

12.45 pm: I’m home and straight into the shower. Cook some lunch – bagels again.

2.00 pm: Spend most of the day pottering around the apartment cleaning and doing a little DIY job of painting an old coffee table my sister was throwing out. Online looking at houses for sale, see a few nice fixer-uppers which are still totally out of reach. The dream is a small cottage/bungalow in the countryside which I can expand over time.

7.30 pm: Friend texts me and we go for a spin to McDonald’s. Two McFlurries cost me €4.40.

9.45 pm: Home. It’s the nephews’ birthdays next week, so I go online and order booster car seats online for them. (€150) They have lots of toys so I went for a practical gift instead that is required. Watch some Netflix, scroll my phone and head to bed around midnight.

Today’s total: €154.40

Weekly subtotal: €2,543.58 ( €2260 of this was the loan
payment, tyres and a birthday present)


What I learned –

  • This isn’t the average weekly spending as I had to get tyres and decided to pay off a chunk of a loan and had a birthday present to buy. However, most weeks I do buy lunch every day at work – this adds up to over €40 or more a week. I need to start doing one big shop for the week rather than several small trips throughout the week. All the small trips add up. Since restrictions have lifted gradually, I find myself out and about buying a lot of takeaway coffees. During the height of Covid, I didn’t bother getting coffee at all. Prior to Covid, I could have bought 7-8 coffees a week.
  • Keeping the diary, I realised my eating habits are quite varied. I really need to start eating regular meals at regular times as well as doing a solid 3-4 days of training. In fairness, this week I was making a conscious effort to try and be healthy – this is not always the case. I usually get about 3 takeaways per month.
  • I have contemplated moving into a house share, but realistically that would only save me about €150 per month. I would rather have peace and my own space. I really need to adjust my spending overall if I want to save any sort of money towards a deposit in the next few years. Although in saying this, saving for a house isn’t the be-all and end-all. I am not going to totally limit myself – if I want a new pair of jeans, I’m going to buy them. With the current housing situation, I am just going to continue to save slowly.
  • I have really enjoyed writing this money diary. It’s really given me an insight into how the little things add up.

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