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Money Diaries: A barista on €19K living with her partner in shared accommodation in Dublin

This week, our reader is taking her time saving money so she can go back to college.

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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 €57K working from home and caring for her aunt. This week, a 23-year-old barista living in Dublin on €19K.

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I am a 23-year-old full-time barista and I live just outside Dublin city centre. I currently share a room in an apartment with my partner, who is working part-time and attending full-time education.

We are sharing the apartment with one other person, and while we don’t find our living situation too cramped, it is our desire to have a place entirely to ourselves in the coming years. Cost-wise, we are paying typical Dublin rent prices – relatively extortionate – but as everyone is in the same boat, we can’t complain, especially with so many without homes.

I currently work 40 hours/week, Monday to Friday. I was really lucky to get my job, as it is a lot better pay and hours than all of the jobs I have had previously. I am trying to save up to eventually be able to afford to go back to college as a mature student, but have accepted it’s going to be at least a year and a half before that is feasible financially. I dropped out of my previous course so I will need to pay full fees when I return. I am hoping to avoid taking a loan out for my fees when I do return, hence I am taking my time getting there with saving instead.

I moved out of the family home at the end of July this year. Although it was excellent not
having to pay rent/bills etc at home, the new freedom of living independently as well as not being in the town where I spent the entirety of the first few lockdowns has done wonders for my mental health.

Occupation: Barista
Age: 23
Location: Dublin
Salary: €19K/year (approx.- given my previous job was a lower hours contract)
Monthly pay (net): €1,650 (give or take)

Monthly expenses

Transport: €100-ish (I don’t drive)
Rent: €650 for me, €950 total
Household bills: €158.18 
Phone bill: €10 (go conquer I think is my network)
Health insurance: Don’t have it
Groceries: €180 – will explain further down
Subscriptions: €0 – I scab Spotify and Netflix off my family
Medication: €60
Gym: €34.99

***

Monday

7.00 am: I get up and get ready for work. 

7.30 am: I top up my Leap card by €20 for the week (I am still using a student Leap card and that’s where it caps). The bus stop is right outside my house, and I ride it for about 15 minutes into the city centre, where I then walk for around 10 minutes to work. I don’t eat breakfast before I start work as I receive a breakfast break at around 10 o’clock with my food provided from work. My partner also works a service industry job, and as they are slightly lower-paid jobs, they make up for it by providing us with free meals. I get free breakfast, lunch and coffee at work while my partner gets free dinner. It saves us a substantial amount when it comes to groceries as I never have to pack a lunch and only have to eat breakfast at home on the weekends.

8.30 am: I start my shift. 

10.15 am: Breakfast. I have two hash browns, a banana and a coffee.

1.30 pm: I get my lunch break. Today there is nachos with beans, guacamole and sour cream. I have some salad on the side too, as I’m desperately trying to up my vegetable intake, especially as it’s a complimentary lunch at work.

5.00 pm: My partner collects me from work (on foot) as they have a day off today. We go to Argos in search of a cheap iron and ironing board, as I am required to have an ironed shirt every day for work. My partner pays for this as I bought the previous household appliances. We also purchase a Brita filter jug, as I don’t like how our tap water tastes.

5.40 pm: After this, we go to the nearby TK Maxx, where I spend €102. I had been looking online for a decent winter coat as I commute to and from work and don’t currently own one. I found a really nice one in TK Maxx for €40 and I’m delighted – what a steal. I also started buying little bits of Christmas presents for my family, as I don’t like to spend a huge amount in the first few weeks of December when the shops are packed.

7.00 pm: After returning home on the bus with our iron and ironing board, we have dinner together. On Saturdays and Sundays, if I have free time, I’ll make a big pot of something or other for us to eat on Monday and Tuesday. This week, it was a Ribolita, a bean stew with bread and cheese and lots of vegetables. I’m very privileged to have picked up decent cooking and shopping (read: yellow sticker spending habits) from my mother and other female relatives, so I can take on almost any recipe I tackle with enthusiasm. The only issue about moving away from the family home (and kitchen) is that I miss all of the gadgets I took for granted. Blenders are so expensive, and although I can have soup for free every day at work, I really enjoy making it myself (my favourite hangover cure).

Today’s total: €122.00

Tuesday

7.30 am: I get the bus to work.

10.15 am: On my breakfast break from work, I take a portion of fruit salad freshly made by the chefs, and add in a few spoons of yoghurt, berry compote, granola and a banana. I also have an oat milk flat white.

1.30 pm: This week is the first week of hot food being back on in the canteen, but as I don’t eat meat or eggs, there isn’t much variety. For lunch, I have the choice of hot food or soup and a sandwich/salad. Today I chose to have the vegetarian option of tortellini in tomato and mascarpone sauce with garlic bread.

5.00 pm: I go home from work and make my dinner. I make vegetarian cheesy garlic pasta with halloumi pieces and peas.

6.30 pm: I still have lots of energy, so I go and practice roller skating in the underground carpark of my building. Skating is a hobby I picked up in the middle of the very first lockdown, and I had originally stopped doing it as the road surfaces in the area I used to live were atrocious for skating, but now I am much closer to a number of skateparks, as well as our underground car park having decent surfaces.

Today’s total: €0

Wednesday

7.30 am: I leave for work as usual, and participate in the day exactly as yesterday.

10.15 am: Breakfast, same again.

1.30 pm: For lunch, I change it up and have a soup and bread combo today.

5.00 pm: After work, I walk through the city centre. I purchase expensive ice cream from Gino’s (my lactose intolerance is screaming) as I am attending my weekly therapy appointment later and deserve a little treat. (€6.50)

5.35 pm: I then pay €3.30 for the Dart separately from my Leap card, because if I use my Leap card, it will push my weekly cap into the higher bracket. 

6.30 pm: Before my appointment, I meet up with some family members in my grandmother’s house. They eat together but I am still full from my ice cream, so I don’t have anything. I purchase a €3.50 can of some nonsense craft beer for my father to take home as a thank you for dropping me home after my appointment.

8.00 pm: I attend my weekly therapy session. I am beyond lucky to have gotten a therapist who I see for free every week. I have been attending for two years now and will stay as long as I need to.

Today’s total: €13.30

Thursday

7.30 am: Rinse and repeat, rise and grind for work.

10.30 am: During my work break, I purchase two bottles of sugar-free coffee syrup online and split the cost with my coworker – they cost €9 each and €3.50 for the pump/shipping. (€10.75)

1.30 pm: Lunch, browse online shopping but don’t make a purchase. Start comparing prices of gyms near me, as tomorrow is payday and I want to get a membership.

5.00 pm: After work, I head home and watch some Netflix on my computer. My partner works from 5 pm most days and comes back when I am asleep, and it can be a little lonely.

6.45 pm: Feeling a bit miserable, lost and out of place in my new home alone, I head to
somewhere that is always familiar – Aldi. The one five minutes away from my new apartment looks exactly like the one back near my family home. I go in without a comprehensive list but with an inkling of what I would need to feel fulfilled: a loaf of Chocolate brioche, a packet of cotton candy grapes and some fizzy pop. I also purchase a package of their vegan sausage rolls. I spend €29.70, as once again they get me in the special buys section (a sandwich toaster for €8 euro. Honestly, you couldn’t go wrong).

8.00 pm: I arrive home and realise I must have either dropped my grapes on the walk home or left them in the store. Distraught, I toast two slices of chocolate bread and have a cup of tea before bed. 

Today’s total: €40.45

Friday

7.30 am: Finally, Friday is here. I go to work at the usual time, the usual way.

10.15 am: On my break, I sign up for the gym. There’s a €30 joining fee, and then €34/month cost. I choose this particular gym as there is one a five-minute walk from my house, as well as one on my route to/from work so I can go to either. I book a slot for after work. (€64.00)

5.00 pm: Bus home.

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5.35 pm: As soon as I get in from work, I eat two vegan sausage rolls and go straight to the gym. I work out for an hour, then come home and practice skating some more. I am full of energy!

10.00 pm: I have a shower then go to bed. A wild Friday night.

Today’s total: €64.00

Saturday

11.00 am: Today I have a lazy day. I’m wrecked after my busy work week and my intense exercise yesterday. I stay in bed and eat some pastries that we bought in the Aldi freezer that you cook yourself, and drink a coffee.

6.30 pm: I order some Vegan Sandwich Co, my favourite treat takeaway, and eat that as my main meal. (€32.50) I have half a vegan cheese and bacon toastie, some vegan fried chicken dipped in vegan garlic sauce, a few wedges and a few vegan chilli cheese bites. It’s a little pricey, but it isn’t something I eat every week. I binge watch Sex Education on Netflix all day. I leave my bed as little as physically possible, playing on my Nintendo Switch and watching TikTok when I take a break from my show.

Today’s total: €32.50 

Sunday

10.00 am: For breakfast, we eat leftovers from last night’s takeout and some chocolate brioche.

12.00 pm: We then make our way to Aldi to do the actual food shop for the week. Since my partner will be doing some days of online college and some days on campus, we buy a bit more food than usual (normally spend between €20-€40, but this time we spent €80). We also purchase some household items – a new bathmat, Tupperware, washing powder refill. In all honesty, what puts the price up mostly is buying snack foods and some cans of Monster to save my partner buying them for more money on campus. It isn’t my turn for the grocery shop this week as I did the last two.

4.30 pm: They go to work, and I make a tofu curry with rice for dinner. I make extra and put it in Tupperware for them to bring to college.

6.15 pm: I hop on a bus and go meet some friends at the skatepark. We stay for a while, then skate to Lidl and buy some cans of hard seltzer. I have three because it is a school night after all! (€4.47)

Today’s total: €4.47

Weekly subtotal: €276.72

***

What I learned –

  • I think I’m relatively sensible when it comes to money, and other than occasionally getting carried away in the middle aisle of Aldi, I’m generally quite cost-effective. It is important to note that I paid all the bills off the week before I started keeping this money diary, and we pay rent at the start of the month.
  • I could save even more money and cycle to work as my partner does, but I do stand for nearly nine hours a day at work. I generally pick a few recipes before I go shopping and buy ingredients to make them once I’ve checked I haven’t got them at home. We save a lot of money on food thanks to being fed at work.
  • Most of the major purchases I made this week were either things I planned to invest in for a while (ie gym and coat) or things bought in preparation for some point in the future (ie Christmas). I definitely save a decent bit by using my family’s Netflix and Spotify, as well as by sharing a room.
  • Hopefully in the next few years, rent prices and the general cost of living will drop substantially in the greater Dublin area, as it’s a city I’ve grown to love and I wouldn’t like to be squeezed into emigration, like many of my peers already.
  • Another thing I probably save money on compared to my peers is eating and drinking out. I am quite a picky eater, and I like to cook so this is probably economic, as well as being a vegetarian. I’m quite introverted as well, and most of my friends either live back in my home town or have already emigrated abroad. My mission over the next few weeks is to make some more friends who live near me so I spend less time glued to Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley (I have joined a roller skating troupe in an attempt at this, so here goes nothing!)
  • I think I need to set some active saving and budget goals, but since I’m so new to the freedom of it all and as well as getting settled into my new place, saving just hasn’t been my number one priority. Returning to college is something I really want to achieve, so I will get my act together in the coming weeks.

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