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Money Diaries: A student and retail worker earning €14K and living in Dublin

This week, our reader is getting ready to return to college while earning some extra money baking for friends and family.

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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 finance analyst on 60K outside Dublin. This week, a student and retail worker earning €14K and living in Dublin. 


I am a 24-year-old student working part-time in retail and living at home with my mam, who’s a special needs assistant in a primary school. I am in my third year of a baking/business course and I’m trying my best to save with the hopes of someday starting my own business. I try to save at least €50 per week (I get paid weekly), but it can be more or less than that depending on whether I have extra expenses or if I earn extra money from working or baking.

I decided to go back to college two years ago after working in retail for a few years while I figured out what I wanted to do with myself. I previously did one year of a course in social care straight after doing my Leaving Cert, and while I did enjoy the course, I was struggling big time with my mental health at the time, and I didn’t feel like that sort of a job was an option for me. One of the things that helped my mental health was picking up a hobby (baking), which I ended up loving and I decided to look into courses on it.

Being a baking student, I sometimes earn extra money by baking for family or family friends and it’s good practice for me when I’m not in college. My mam buys most of the groceries, so most of the grocery money I spend is on baking ingredients as I like to practice and try out new recipes whenever I can. It’s tough still living at home at this age, but unfortunately, I have no other choice at the moment.

Occupation: Student/Retail worker
Age: 24
Location: Dublin
Salary: Around €14K
Monthly pay (net): Around €1,000

Monthly expenses

Transport: €30 (this will increase once college starts again)
Rent: €200 (I give extra whenever I can)
Household bills: Included in rent
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: €0
Groceries: Around €150
Subscriptions: Netflix: €11.99, Disney+: €6.99, Spotify: €9.99, iCloud storage: €2.99



8.00 am: I wake up early (not on purpose) and have tea and toast for breakfast. I’m off work until Thursday, so I don’t have much to do today. I tidy up a bit after breakfast then chill and watch TV for a while.

12.00 pm: I put on the immersion to let the water heat up while I make a batch of brownies. This week, my sister’s boyfriend needed cheesecakes and brownies for an event. He rings me the day before he needs them and usually picks them up the next day. He is paying me €20 per tray of brownies and €20 per cheesecake. He needs one of each for tomorrow.

1.00 pm: While the brownies are in the oven, I quickly take a shower, knock the immersion off and get ready for the day after my lazy morning.

2.30 pm: I head to the shop as I don’t have enough ingredients for the cheesecake. I usually go to Aldi as it’s much cheaper, but they don’t have the chocolate I need, so I head to Super Valu instead. (€25.54)

3.30 pm: Once I get home, I put my apron and my comfy slippers on, make myself a cup of tea and make the cheesecake – Galaxy chocolate flavour today.

4.30 pm: Once the cake is finished, I clean the kitchen and start to make dinner for my mam and I, as we’re both starving.

5.00 pm: We sit down to eat dinner and watch a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. 

7.00 pm: I head upstairs to try to organise my desk area before college starts in a few weeks. Afterwards, I just relax for the rest of the evening by playing some Animal Crossing and head to bed early. 

Today’s total: €25.54


8.00 am: I wake up and have tea and toast for breakfast again.

9.30 am: When breakfast is finished, I get ready for the day. I’m going shopping with my friend this afternoon. We decide to go to Dundrum for something different as we don’t normally go all the way out there. 

12.00 pm: We arrive in Dundrum. Before we do any shopping, we both sit down outside for a coffee and a chat first. I get a tea (€2.70) and a box of mini doughnuts from Krispie Kreme for later (€4.95). 

12.30 pm: We begin our shopping spree (God love my wallet). I don’t think too much about what I’m spending as I don’t get out much these days besides work and some walks. I pick up a few random bits throughout the day like a birthday card, some new clothes for going back to college and even a new whisk! This all comes to €90.40.

4.00 pm: At this point, we both definitely need another break, so we head down to Five Guys. I just get chips and a Diet Coke (€9.10). Some very expensive chips! It was a big portion though. 

5.00 pm: After our meal, we head back in to look in the few shops we missed before heading for home. 

7.00 pm: I have some toast as I’m a little bit hungry since earlier on. 

8:00 pm: I sit down to watch some more Grey’s Anatomy with my mam. I don’t do much more for the rest of the evening and no more money was spent (thankfully!)

Today’s total: €107.15


7.00 am: My alarm wakes me up, but I lay in bed for 15 more minutes because I can’t bring myself to get up yet. Once I finally get up, I shower, get dressed and get ready for the day.

8.05 am: I leave the house and walk to the bus stop to get the bus to Drogheda. I have an appointment with the orthodontist to get my braces tightened. The appointments are supposed to be every six weeks or so, but they’ve been more spread out due to Covid. I pick up a bottle of water (€1.85) in the garage and top up my Leap card (€15.00) before the bus arrives. 

9.45 am: I get off the bus and have a ramble around Drogheda town center as my appointment is not for another while (I don’t spend any money though!)

10.15 am: Once it’s time for my appointment, I head over, get my braces tightened and pay off the next installment before heading back for the bus home. (€200.00)

12.30 pm: I get off the bus and head straight to Tesco to get myself some lunch. I missed breakfast and at this point, I’m starving. I pick up soup, some rolls and a packet of cookies (€5.78) because it’s going to be hard to chew anything solid for the next probably 48 hours!

1.00 pm: I eat my lunch and just relax for a little while and watch TV.

2.30 pm: By this stage, my face does not feel good as it’s my first time getting a thicker bar on my teeth (if you have or have ever had braces, you’ll know my pain). I take a Nurofen and end up dozing off. 

4.00 pm: I wake up from my nap and my face doesn’t feel like it’s been hit by a truck anymore – thank you, Nurofen! (Other brands of painkillers are available) I watch some more TV for a while.

5.30 pm: My mam orders us a Chinese because neither of us feels like cooking. I get boiled rice, chips and curry sauce. It was hard to chew the chips, but I soldiered

7.00 pm: I FaceTime my friends for a little while and then watch some more TV.

10.30 pm: Once I head up to bed, I fall asleep pretty much instantly. I’m really tired for some reason, even after my nap.

Today’s total: €222.63


9.00 am: I wake up and get out of bed. It’s the best day of the week – payday! Thank God, because it’s been an expensive week so far. After making some baked oats and a cup of tea for breakfast, I put some money into my savings straight away and give €50.00 to my mam off the rent.

11.00 am: I get dressed, make my bed and clean up around the house. My dad is dropping over to visit this afternoon.

12.30 pm: My dad comes over and I make some soup for lunch – I still can’t really chew anything after having my braces tightened yesterday. After we eat, I make us a cuppa and we sit down for a catch-up.

2.30 pm: We decide to go on a walk around the park as I haven’t been out of the house all day.

4.30 pm: After saying goodbye to my dad, I get home and make pasta for everyone; we are babysitting my little cousin, so we all watch Wreck It Ralph together after dinner.

7.00 pm: I get a call from my sister’s boyfriend for a cheesecake for tomorrow, so I head to Aldi to pick up some ingredients I needed. (€9.54)

8.00 pm: I make the cheesecake, clean up the kitchen and then head to bed.

Today’s total: €59.54


9.00 am: I wake up, have breakfast and scroll through my phone for a little while.

11.00 am: I ring my sister’s boyfriend to see does he need any more cheesecakes or brownies for the weekend since I have some free time before work starts. I’m only doing a 4-8 shift today. He asks for two of each, so I start with the brownies (they take an hour in the oven) and then while those are baking, I make the cheesecakes.

12.00 pm: While the brownies are in the oven, I put on the immersion so I can have a shower before work.

1.30 pm: I finish off the cheesecakes as the brownies cool down a bit in their tins. I clean down the kitchen and head upstairs to have a shower and get ready for work. 

2.30 pm: Back in the kitchen, I remove the brownies from the tins, cut them up evenly, box them up and then clean the kitchen again.

3.15 pm: There isn’t much to eat at home, so I decide to leave early for work and grab lunch from Burger King (€6.65) before I start work and eat it in the canteen.

6.00pm: I have a little bit of paperwork to do. The very nice lady that I work with makes me a cup of tea and gives me a chocolate bar. The shop isn’t busy, and the paperwork doesn’t take as long as I thought it would, so the evening seems to drag on. 

8.00 pm: I leave work and walk home. The place I work is only a 20-minute walk away, so it’s very handy to get to and from and doesn’t cost me any extra money. 

10.00 pm: I watch a bit of TV with my mam and then head to bed early, I have an early start tomorrow

Today’s total: €6.65


7.00 am: The dreaded sound of my alarm wakes me up. I get up, have a shower, get dressed, have breakfast and make my lunch for later. 

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8.10 am: I leave for work as I’m on an opening shift today. I open up and get the shop ready before 9 o’clock. 

11.00 am: I make myself a cup of tea and bring it out with me while I get on with getting through the delivery. 

1.30 pm: I have my lunch break (30 minutes). I brought a sandwich with me and I have it with a packet of crisps and more tea. I’m really bad for remembering to bring lunch with me to work so I don’t have to buy it, but recently I’ve been bringing in lunch more often.

3.00 pm: For some reason, everybody’s really tired at work today which makes the day feel much longer, but there’s lots of delivery to get through, which serves as a good distraction.

4.00 pm: Time for my 15-minute break. I make more tea (I have a problem) and eat the little packet of chocolate buttons I brought with me. Only two more hours to go!

6.00 pm: I walk home from work. My mam has the dinner made once I get in, which is great because I’m starving. We sit down to eat and watch a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy afterwards.

9.00 pm: I don’t do much more for the evening and go to bed relatively early.

Today’s total: €0.00


9.00 am: I wake up and get dressed for work. Sundays are a nice day to work where I am as it’s only an 11:30-6 shift and it’s usually pretty quiet and goes by quick enough.

11.10 am: I pack my lunch and leave for work.

1.00 pm: Work is actually very busy for a Sunday – just my luck. Everyone is getting last minute stuff for the kids going back to school, so I should’ve really expected it to be like this. I buy myself a bottle of water. (€1.40)

2.30 pm: I’m glad to see it’s time for my lunch break. I brought in my lunch again so I have that with a cuppa.

6.00 pm: I walk home from work. Some of my family are over when I get home, so I make pasta for dinner for everyone.

7.00 pm: We eat dinner and watch TV for a little while.

9.00 pm: I head upstairs and play Animal Crossing in bed for a while before going to sleep.

Today’s total: €1.40

Weekly subtotal: €422.91


What I learned –

  • I definitely spent a lot more than usual this week, so the total is quite shocking, but I know it’s not normally that bad. My braces appointment made it a lot higher, which is a price I’m willing to pay for straighter teeth and a better bite.
  • I definitely don’t think enough about what I’m spending and found myself looking back on my banking app at the end of the day when I was writing this and forgetting what I had spent money on.
  • I could be better at saving, but a lot of the money I make (especially for baking stuff) I put “back into the business” by buying cake equipment and supplies, like cake boxes, tools, or ingredients. One thing I’ve done this year that has definitely helped me in regard to the cake stuff is to buy more ingredients in bulk when I can off wholesale websites.
  • Another thing I’ve realised this week is that I eat far too much fast/junk food out of convenience and laziness, and I could definitely save more money if I cut down on some of that.
  • Going forward, I definitely want to be more aware of my spending and try to be better at saving.

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