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Money Diaries: Customer service clerk on €38K who bought a home outright with savings

This week, our reader earns some extra money by renting out the spare room in her apartment.

TheJournal.ie reader

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 PhD candidate earning €16K and managing in Dublin. This week, a customer service clerk on €38K who bought a home outright with savings.

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I’ve been living in Dublin for four years now. I work in a customer service/collection/billing department and I’m quite happy with my work arrangement since the pandemic started last year as I am working from home.

Unfortunately, this will end sometime in Q1 next year. I’ve lived in Ireland for 19 years. I’m originally from Germany and came here for work. I was in shared accommodation since the first week in Ireland, but at some point the previous landlord wanted to increase the rent, which was fine for me but my other three housemates were not able or didn’t want to pay this, so we decided to leave after the notice period ended.

After that, I decided to look for something for just myself. I started looking for apartments in late 2016, even as far away as Baltinglass in County Wicklow as it was cheaper to buy, (around €80K) but after careful consideration, the 100km commute every day would be a huge waste of time along with money for car maintenance and fuel, so I tried something more local and got lucky.

I bought a 2-bed-2-bath apartment, the asking price was €120K in a bank sale but after a little bidding war it ended at €130k and the other party didn’t bid any more which was good for me. I bought it with cash with 100% of my savings of the previous 12 years up to that month in 2017. I was planning to take out a small mortgage – €40K over five years which is the minimum amount – but the bank delayed it unnecessarily so I had no other choice as the end of notice period on my rented home was approaching fast.

I recently paid off my car loan but decided to sell the car before it lost any more value. I only did a few 1000km within three years. After selling the car I decided within two weeks to buy a “new” used car which would not lose any more value as quick as a new car. There’s about €3000 left from that first sale which I somehow cannot save because the two savings accounts are maxed out.

Pubs and going out were never my thing, so I was able to save money early on. Not in the first 2-3 years because my salary was very low at the beginning, but later on I was able to save larger amounts. My hobby is cycling and PC games (Truck Simulator like ETS2+ATS). I’m renting out the second room (en-suite) in my apartment which gives me an additional income of €600 per month. I’m keeping the rent low to make sure my tenant/housemate stays for a long time.

The pandemic definitely helped me with saving money as there was nothing to spend it on like holidays abroad, which I quite enjoyed the previous three years at the other end of the world once per year. I save at least €1,000 per month on the first day of every new month into a notice account which I don’t touch and put whatever is left into an instant access savings account.

This is usually €500 minimum, but since the car was paid off I can now save €2,000 in total. When the month reaches “half time” (two weeks or less to the next pay day) I will estimate how much money I need for the remaining two weeks and fill up the instant savings account with the remaining €500 since the monthly limit is €1000 for both accounts. The reason for saving is mostly for retirement since I don’t have/want a pension. I believe the state pension will be enough if you don’t have to pay rent.

My week is quite uneventful as I do the exact same things every day. I don’t smoke or drink alcohol except the 3-4 cans of cider every few months when I feel like it.
I drink about 3-4 mugs of filter coffee each day which my parents send me from Germany every 2-3 months which I, of course, pay them for. I bought a secondhand indoor rowing machine two months ago so I could have something to do when the weather is not suitable for cycling and I also have a credit card which I clear every month.

Occupation: Customer service clerk
Age: 44
Location: Dublin
Salary: €38K now (it was not always that high but increases gradually, a little more every year)
Monthly pay (net): €2,520 + €600 rental income

Monthly expenses

Transport: Car insurance ca €31 eur (paid yearly), motor tax €16 (paid yearly), bicycle insurance about €33 a month with Bikmo
Rent: €100 management fees, LPT €20
Household bills: Virgin internet €50 (not split 50/50), electricity €40 for my half
Phone bill: €35 with Vodafone Red unlimited
Health insurance: €73.93 
Groceries: €120-€150 max. I only shop at Lidl
Subscriptions: Netflix €13, Spotify €9.99, eFlow tag €1.23 (for convenience), Strava €5 (paid yearly)

(Total fixed monthly costs: €573)

***

Monday

7.45 am: The alarm rings on my phone. I get out of bed to the bathroom and switch on the work PC.

8.00 am: I start my work day.  The 1st thing I do is check emails, invoices from the previous week and send that to the customers.

9.00 am: I get myself a quick coffee.

12.00 pm: Time for my break. I do a 15-minute rowing workout (3km) and grab something to eat after that.

12.30 pm: Back to work.

4.00 pm: The work day ends. I eat some toast with cheese and Cornflakes. 

5.15 pm: The weather is not looking good or I’m just too lazy, so I switch on my home PC to watch some Netflix or play a game. I like Korean dramas and since it’s Netflix, there is no stopping now. I also watch love stories, period pieces that play in the time before Korea became independent (Joseon). Many Korean movies and other crime dramas are just copies of US TV shows so I don’t watch those, but there is some very good self-made content. When starting a new show, I usually watch the first episode and if I like how it progresses, I continue watching. Otherwise, I give it a thumbs down and look for something else.

7.00 pm: I decide to go to Lidl to pick up some groceries. I buy some cheese, pasta, sweets, eggs, etc. (€17.23)

12.00 am: I call it a day and go to bed.

Today’s total: €17.23

Tuesday

7.45 am: My alarm on my phone goes off and I get out of bed. I switch on the work PC before I get ready for the day. 

8.00 am: I start the work day. 

12.00 pm: Time for a break. I do a 15-minute rowing workout (3km) and have something quick to eat afterwards. 

12:30 pm: Back to work. I continue to work for the rest of the day. My workload is very manageable and sometimes I think I’m getting paid too much for what I do, but then I remember that everyone in my team gets paid the same (more or less) and there are also days when I’m very busy, especially towards the end of the month and when I need to take time off (holiday/bank holidays) and a lot of stuff needs to be squeezed into four days. Since the recession in 2010, we pretty much have a ban on overtime, so the rule is if I cannot do it today, then I’ll just finish it tomorrow.

4.00 pm: The work day ends. I turn the computer off and make myself some dinner as I am quite hungry by now. 

5.00 pm: Once again, the weather doesn’t look too good, so I decide to stay in again instead of cycling. I switch on my home PC to watch some Netflix. 

12.30 am: After a chilled evening, I decide to call it a day and go to bed.

Today’s total: €0.00

Wednesday

7.45 am: The same morning routine. My alarm goes off and I turn on my work PC and get ready for the day.

8.00 am: I have a quick breakfast before I log on and start the work day.

12.00 pm: Like yesterday, I do a 15-minute workout (3km) on my rowing machine on my break and have something to eat afterwards.

12.30 pm: Back to work!

4.00 pm: I finish up at work, but I need to leave the PC on for some stuff running in the background which needs to finish.

4.15 pm: It’s (finally) been sunny all day, so I decide to go out for a ride before it gets dark. My routes are mostly the same. I avoid the city like the plague. Since I live in a part of the southwest of the city, I usually go west – Celbridge, Maynooth, Clane, Naas, Blessington, which have some nice new road surfaces in most parts. Most rides I do are around 50-60km as this is all I would want to do during the week and it only takes 1h45min to 2 hours max, so it is very predictable and leaves room for other things to do when I get back home.

6.00 pm: 50km done. I get home, have a shower and make myself a cup of coffee.

7.20 pm: What to do first, watch Netflix or play my game? I go with the former. I put something on in the background while looking through the Facebook, news, YouTube and TikTok apps on my phone. 

8.00 pm: I want to make something to eat and notice that the bread is almost gone off, so I mentally prepare to go to Lidl again later (it’s only 800m from my place, nice walk).

8.00 pm: I finish off the bread, but that’s the only thing. If I get hungry again, I’ll just stay hungry until tomorrow or eat some pasta, of which there is plenty in the cupboard.

8.30 pm: To finish the day, I make another cup of coffee for which I use two coffee spoons per cup (400ml) into the French press. Lidl sells these sometimes for €10 each and they are the cheapest way to make filter-like coffee. I’ve had mine for around two years now.

8.45 am: I’m too tired for games, so I continue the drama that I started on Netflix. I’m currently watching ‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’. Things like Squid Game are not my thing! I usually watch two or three episodes per day and as most of them are over one hour long, it’s a good way to kill time.

12.00 am: Once again, it’s time to finish the day.

Today’s total: €0.00

Thursday

7.45 am: The alarm goes off on my phone and I get out of bed. I get ready for the day and switch on the work PC to check my emails before the day begins. 

8.00 am: I start the work day with a cup of coffee.

9.00 am: I make another cup of coffee. 

12.00 pm: Break time and, you guessed it, I do a 15-minute rowing workout (3km) and get something to eat after that. 

12.30 pm: Back at my desk.

4.00 pm: We have a team meeting at this time once a week. After that, I’m free for the rest of the day.

4.50 pm: The meeting ends and I shut down my PC. 

5.30 pm: I go for a ride, but what looked like rain in the distance turned out to be rain, just not where I live so I cut it short. 15km today. The weather forecast said it would be dry…

7.00 pm: I head out to Lidl to stock up on stuff, especially bread, milk, corn flakes, banana, pancakes, sweets (€13.00). My usual shopping list is milk, cornflakes, bread (toast), cheese, sometimes pizza. I stopped buying lemonade a while ago and make my own in the summer months. Take an empty plastic bottle, fill it with tap water and put that into the fridge. If I want to drink some lemonade, I just take two squeezes of lemon juice from those bottles you can buy in Lidl and add that to cold water. The lemonade is not expensive in Lidl but it adds up over time and I don’t need to carry 1.5L bottles home.

8.00 pm: I haven’t played for a while, so I go for a drive… in my virtual truck in EuroTruckSimulator2.

8.15 pm: Tour finished. I put on Netflix after that.

12.00 am: Time for bed.

Today’s total: €13.00

Friday

7:45 am: The Alarm rings on my phone and I get out of bed to the bathroom and switch on the work pc on the way and make some coffee and eat a banana.

8:00 am: I start the work day. The first task is to finish what I started on Thursday so that I have time for any additional tasks later which might come up. Most of the time I’m looking forward to Friday as there are two free days ahead.

12:00 am: I’m taking a break, doing a 15min rowing workout (3km) and eat a bowl of corn flakes after that.

12:30 am: I continue with my working day.

4:00 pm: My work day ends.

4:15 pm: I’m checking emails, Facebook, etc, watching some YouTube videos since the weather is not good for doing anything outside. I mostly watch the Russian crash channel, Misha Charoudin, JP Performance and related things. I rarely wach documentaries, but if I find something good or interesting, I’ll watch those too.

5:30 pm: I’m feeling a bit hungry so I eat another banana, two slices of toast with two eggs and another cup of coffee.

7:39 pm: Time to play a game.

11:34 pm: I’m feeling tired somehow, so going to bed.

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Today’s total: €0.00

Saturday

7:45 am: Alarm on the phone rings but I stay in bed until 9:00 since there is nothing to do.

9:00 am: Eat a banana and make a cup of coffee, eat a bowl of corn flakes.

9:10 am: Checking Facebook, emails, YouTube and other stuff.

9:30 am: Playing some game called Cyberpunk 2077 but not in the mood to progress in the story, so I’m just fooling around doing side missions, collecting money from access points, etc.

11:35 am: I’m looking out of the window and it seems to have dried up, so I will probably go out for a bit.

5:00 pm: I’m back home after doing a 100km ride. I take a shower, eat 10 peach rings for energy, prepare a new cup of coffee, clean the bike and wash other clothes. Now that the “work” is done, I can relax and spend the remainder of the day with games and/or Netflix.

7:00 pm: I make some pasta for lunch.

7:15 pm: I continue the game I’ve been playing.

                                      Today’s total: €0.00

Sunday

8:00 am: I get up, eat a bowl of corn flakes, a banana and make a cup of coffee.

8:29 am: I switch on the PC and kill some time, the weather is not looking good rain/sun/rain/sun etc.

11:00 am: I eat four slices of toast with cheese and made another cup of coffee.

2:00 pm: I have another coffee and five pancakes.

5:15 pm: I’ve done another 15 minutes on the rowing machine.

6:45 pm: I have two slices of toast with cheese and eggs… and a cup of coffee.

7:00 pm: Netflix/game time.

11:00 pm: I call it a day.

                                        Today’s total: €0.00

Weekly subtotal: €31.23

What I learned –

  • I’m already saving the maximum amount possible for me at the moment. I could cancel the bike and health insurance which would save money in the short term but is not beneficial in the long run so I will definitely keep it.
  • Weekly spending is typical and nothing out of the ordinary.
  • When I have to go back into the office I will most likely switch back to instant coffee and keep the “good stuff” for home as I did before Covid.
  • If you want to save money and live alone consider renting out unused space/rooms. It helps to pay the mortgage if you have one and if not then for company with the added benefit of extra income under the rent-a-room scheme up to €14,000 per year are tax-free.

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