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Money Diaries: A 29-year-old quality control analyst on €54K living in Dublin

This week, our reader is determined to get back to travelling a little more and enjoys subsidised meals at work.

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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 student and retail worker earning €14K and living in Dublin. This week, a 29-year-old quality control analyst on €54K living in Dublin.


I am a 29-year-old who works in the quality department of a large US multinational pharmaceutical company. I have always had more of a saver’s attitude than a spender’s and this has stood to me over the years. I am in the fortunate situation of having low rent due to living in a home owned by my family in Dublin. I generally have my sister living with me, but currently, it’s just me.

During the lockdown, I saved quite a bit as a consequence of the pandemic. I then went and spent a large chunk of that on a three-year-old German plug-in hybrid at the start of the year. The used car prices have increased significantly since then and I couldn’t justify doing the same now. Although it cost a lot of money, I don’t regret it for a second and enjoy the car daily and wish I had done it a lot sooner.

Now that things are open again, I’m saving less but think I am still doing ok on that front. I’m not a very frugal person, but I always shop around and like to get value for what I do spend. I love travelling and new experiences and have recently been making up for lost time by booking several trips abroad. I’m aiming to go somewhere every two months for 2022.

I am not in a rush to purchase a house, but I think it is something that I will move towards doing in the next two years. I have over the amount for a deposit saved and continue to invest savings surplus to this.

In the last year or so I have gotten more serious about my pension, particularly thanks to reading Eoin McGee’s book “How to be Good with Money”. I would recommend it to anyone looking to make small adjustments that can have an outsized result over time.

I am lucky that my work contributes 10% of my salary to my pension when I contribute 5%. I have done another 10% with additional voluntary contributions, meaning approximately 25% of my salary is going into my pension. Next year, I will up this to 15% AVCs as I can afford it and it reduces my tax bill considerably.

To reduce my tax bill further, I purchase €3,000 worth of shares as part of a salary forgoing scheme that comes out of my gross pay. I also take my bonus as shares and can sell these after three years tax-free. I always enjoy reading these diaries on The Journal so I decided to participate myself. I particularly find the comments section interesting!

Occupation: Quality control analyst
Age: 29
Location: Dublin
Salary: €54,000 (includes shift allowance) + €4,000 bonus
Monthly pay (net): €2,700 (lowered by maxing AVCs and participating in share purchase scheme to reduce income tax)

Monthly expenses

Savings: €700 into All-World exchange-traded fund
Rent: €250
Transport: Petrol €45, car insurance €53, car tax €14
Groceries: €200
Bills: Electricity (includes car) €60
Phone: €20
Gym: €25
Health insurance: €242 (paid by employer and covers myself and my girlfriend)
Subscriptions: Music and cloud storage €13, use girlfriend’s Netflix


9.00 am: I wake up in the hotel in London that I’m staying in with my girlfriend. We have been out the last few nights so it’s really catching up. I’m looking forward to not drinking tonight!

10.00 am: We get breakfast in the hotel. Ham, cheese and pastries with a cappuccino are this morning’s choice.

12.00 pm: Check out and go for a walk to the Tate Modern gallery nearby. Not my cup of tea, but interesting nonetheless. Thankfully it’s free in, as are many of London’s museums.

2.00 pm: Still parched from last night, so I purchase some fancy green tea/peach drink that looks refreshing to give it a try. (€2.20)

2.30 pm: Get the train from London to the airport as our flight home is at 6.00 pm. (€11)

4.00 pm: Now that duty free is available for UK flights, I get myself a litre of 12-year-old scotch whiskey for €37.

4.30 pm: Myself and my girlfriend get food in the airport in Wagamama, she pays €40.

8.00 pm: Back in Dublin. We head to Dunnes Stores for some milk and pastries (€4). My girlfriend is staying with me tonight. We watch some TV with the tea and pastries. 

10.00 pm: Time for bed. My girlfriend has to head to work early and we both feel tired after a busy weekend.

Today’s total: €54.20


10.00 am: Wake up, get myself some cereal. Can’t beat the Lidl flakes. Really appreciated the lie-in this morning, especially with my girlfriend having to get the LUAS to work! I work 12-hour days and took Monday and Tuesday off this week as well as Sunday. I am rostered to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend normally. Next week, I will just have to work two days, but over two weeks, it averages 42hrs a week. I give my mother a call to catch up.

11.00 am: I unpack and tidy up the house.

1.00 pm: Head to the gym for an hour. On the way in, my card doesn’t work on the door so I ring the buzzer. Turns out my membership has expired. I had forgotten due to lockdowns x 3 changing the expiry date frequently. There is an option to pay monthly but I prefer to pay for the year as it works out cheaper. (€299)

2.30 pm: Take out €250 cash from the ATM for rent (I know I’m lucky, commenters!).

4.00 pm: Buy a spirit measure (€2) and a laptop sleeve (€12) on AliExpress. I like this website a lot and often get great value there for ordinary bits and pieces. I also like the surprise when something you ordered arrives five weeks later and you can’t remember what it is you ordered!

5.00 pm: My dad rings me and we have a good chat. He tells me he’s coming to Dublin tomorrow to visit, which I’m looking forward to.

6.00 pm: Lazy evening. I do some freezer hunting and find some salmon to cook with rice and veg for dinner. This is followed by half a bun from last night’s bakery along with some TV. I am watching Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space, a Netflix documentary on the recent trip to space by four civilians to orbit the Earth for three days in conjunction with SpaceX.

8.00 pm: Make some music on my laptop.

10.00 pm: I head to bed. Do some reading and watch a few bits on YouTube before going asleep.

Today’s total: €563.00


8.00 am: I’m woken by a loud dog barking, so I spend the next hour sleepily on my phone in bed reading various news articles.

9.00 am: Have my cereal and read a free copy of The Financial Times that I got in the airport.

10.00 am: I am trying to use up the food that’s in my freezer before buying more. I find some round steak and as there isn’t that much, I decide to cut it up and slow cook it with chickpeas, tomatoes and potatoes in a curry for later.

11.00 am: Wash my clothes and realise that I accidentally left a mechanical watch of mine in the washer. I stop the washer and take it out. By the looks of it, there is some water ingress, but it’s still ticking. I place it into a sealed container with dry rice to draw out the moisture – hopefully, it will keep working!

12.15 pm: Gym.

2.00 pm: Call into the shop on my way home from the gym to get a chicken fillet roll and milk and the nice girl at the deli tells me that I can get a free drink with it, so I grab a can of Coke (€4.55). Once home, I have my roll with a protein shake.

6.00 pm: I call my girlfriend for half an hour to catch up.

7.00 pm: My dad arrives with my sister to stay the night and we spend the evening together after eating the slow-cooked food I made with rice.

10.00 pm: Head to bed and read for a bit.

Today’s total: €4.55


11.00 am: Have a bit of a lie-in on my last day off. Get up, have breakfast (Lidl flakes again) and chat to my sister who is working from home in the kitchen today.

12.00 pm: Head to the gym for a fun leg day.

2.00 pm: My dad cooks a fried lunch with sausages, rashers, and pudding that he brought from home. I supply the eggs and we all eat together.

3.00 pm: My dad’s car has an indicator light on for low tire pressure, so I accompany him to a nearby garage to refill them. Turns out they are all low and I refill them. While there, I pick up a Covid antigen test (€8) as I have had a low-level headache for the last two days and just want to be careful after my UK trip. Thankfully, it is negative.

5.00 pm: Do some ironing.

7.00 pm: I cook steak my dad got us and we have dinner together. My sister has gone out in town to dinner.

8.00 pm: Help with cleaning up and then make us tea to have with some chocolate watching a Channel 4 program on billionaires and their yachts. Some of the wealth is unbelievable.

9.00 pm: Head to bed to read then sleep.

Today’s total: €8.00


6.00 am: Alarm goes off for work and I’m back to my more usual routine.

7.00 am: Start work.

9.00 am: I have breakfast with a colleague. I have tea, two slices of soda bread, two poached eggs and a sausage for €1.64 in our subsidised canteen.

9.45 am: Back at it.

1.00 pm: Go for lunch with a colleague. On the way, I stop off and get a free drink and bun that we can get on Fridays. In the canteen, I get chicken curry and chips for €3.63.

2.00 pm: Back to work for a busy afternoon.

5.30 pm: Go for a walk to clear the head.

6.30 pm: Finish off the last few bits before heading off for the evening.

7.00 pm: Feeling tired now, but it’s time for the gym.

8.00 pm: Home to have a shower and chill for a bit. I pack a bag for staying two nights at my girlfriend’s and running gear for tomorrow.

9.00 pm: Make food then go to bed.

Today’s total: €5.27


6.20 am: Alarm goes off. Shave, then straight into the shower.

7.00 am: Plug in my car to charge at work. Thankfully I live close to work and do most of my commuting on electric.

9.00 am: Go for break with colleagues. For breakfast, I have tea, three slices of soda bread with butter and jam. It comes to €1.02.

10.00 am: Back to work.

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12.45 pm: I go for a 5k run at work. I enjoy the working weekends as it’s more relaxed, and I can fit in a run and manage my work better. I only work every second weekend which isn’t too bad.

1.30 pm: Get my lunch which is an unusual combination of crispy pork, mash, carrot and gravy (€4.23). I follow this up with a brownie and custard and wash it all down with a coffee (€1.28).

2.30 pm: Back at it.

6.30 pm: Leave work and head to my girlfriend’s apartment in town. We are going to see David McSavage perform a comedy gig in the Olympia Theatre. I got us the tickets a few months back.

7.15 pm: We get a taxi into the Olympia. It comes to €15, which my girlfriend pays.

7.30 pm: I order us two pints of Birra Moretti. (€14)

8.20 pm: Patrick McDonnell (Eoin McLove in Father Ted) has just finished as a pre-act and I manage to beat a huge queue at the bar. Due to the size of the crowd and busy bar, I order us three pints to last us the rest of the show. Unfortunately, they are out of Birra Moretti so I get three pints of Heineken which comes to €19.50.

10.00 pm: The gig finishes and we head to the Hairy Lemon. I order a Hop House 13 and she gets a Dingle gin and tonic. She pays the first round and I pay the second. (€16)

1.00 am: We leave the pub hungry and go to Charlies on Georges Street. I order us chicken balls, and a three-in-one to share. (€11)

2.00 am: Getting a taxi is proving difficult – my girlfriend has been trying to get us one on Free Now for a while now with no luck. Eventually, she manages to hail one for us back to her apartment. I have cash so I pay the fare. (€12)

3.00 am: Finally time to sleep. It’s been a long but enjoyable day.

Today’s total: €79.03


11.30 am: Wake up and lounge in bed for a while.

1.00 pm: I get a late breakfast (or brunch?) in bed of muesli, a banana and a cappuccino.

2.30 pm: Finally get up properly and we both head to the Phoenix Park to run a 5k. Conditions are lovely and sunny at 11 degrees. I’m impressed with my girlfriend’s time, she has improved her running a lot over the past year. Feel great afterwards.

5.00 pm: Continuing the theme, we have a late lunch. My girlfriend bought the ingredients yesterday and we make it together. I have two ciabattas with salami, edam cheese and mustard, toasting it in the pan. This is eaten with some soup.

6.00 pm: We watch the last episode of Kin. Good series from RTÉ, but I think the ending lacked some of the intensity of earlier episodes. Hope there is a second series as it seems set up like there will be.

8.00 pm: Girlfriend makes a delicious dinner of mozzarella chicken with broccoli and potatoes.

10.30 pm: We head to bed for the night.

Today’s total: €0

Weekly total: €714.05


What I learned -

  • I had a very low spend on groceries this week as I was trying to use up food I had and my dad visited and brought some food himself. Additionally, I ate at the work canteen too. Generally, I shop across Dunnes, Lidl and Aldi.
  • The weekly spend looks ordinary enough, although it’s not every week I would have a big item like gym membership to buy.
  • I enjoy life with my level of spending and still manage decent savings. Another big help here is my fortunate living situation. I hope to keep doing what I’m doing and set myself up for a secure future.

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