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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019

How I Spend My Money: A civil servant on €23,000 who took a large pay cut to get her job

She has €12,000 saved and feels too focused on saving for her age.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on that looks at what people in Ireland really do with their cash.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of how much they earn, how much they save, if anything, and what they spend their money on over the course of one week. Want to take part? Details on how to do it are at the bottom of the piece.

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.  

Over the weekend, a sales worker on €70,000 a year told us how she is saving €1,000 a month for her mortgage. Today, a civil servant working her way up the ladder talks about how she spends her money. 


Occupation: Civil servant
Age: 24
Location: Dublin
Salary: €23,000
Monthly pay (net): €1,440 (deductions before tax – pension, union, Public Service Friendly Society)

Monthly expenses
Rent: €0 (thankfully)
Household bills: €80 (split between both places I stay)
Transport: €80
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: €0
Groceries: €120
Gym membership: €28
Subscriptions: Work tea club (€5), Netflix (€8)
Car and driving lessons: €200 (car running costs are split with my boyfriend but the lessons are the bulk of the cost. I have my driving test next month so light a candle that I pass and this expense will drastically reduce!)
Savings: €400 to my local credit union, €80 to a work savings scheme (there’s a monthly car draw and it always has to be your turn next)

I live between my dad’s house and my boyfriend’s place. Thankfully I don’t need to pay rent in either, but I pull my weight and contribute financially as far as possible. I make savings by not renting and direct debit on payday straight into a Credit Union account that’s a pain in the arse to access. I have around €12,000 saved that I dip into very occasionally for big things like holidays and car costs.

I’m on the starting point of the civil service pay scale, but I’m playing the long game. I have a masters degree and took a €6,000 pay cut from my previous private sector job, but the job security, promotion opportunities and working conditions are what attracted me.

People probably think I’m reckless taking such a pay cut. New entrant pay is a big issue at the moment. The union is currently working on trying to increase starting salaries precisely to attract qualified people. I’m in competition for a promotion right now, which would give me about a €6,000 pay rise, so I could be making up for it in no time!



5:50 am – I arrive at the gym by 7:00 am. I’m out of the office this morning at a conference, which is in a hotel five minutes walk away from both my gym and office. I eat my homemade breakfast when I arrive at 8:00 am. I also take a complimentary pastry from the conference reception area.

2:00 pm  My lunch is leftovers from a huge falafel salad I made yesterday.

4:00 pm  I get the bus back to my dad’s after work. I don’t spend a set number of days in my dad’s or boyfriend’s place, it just depends on all of our schedules. I spend usually around four or five nights at my boyfriends, and three are generally consecutive over the weekend. I keep clothes and a hairdryer at both places. 

6:00 pm  Dinner is more leftovers. This time from Saturday’s pasta bake. I clean out the vegetable drawer in the fridge and make a veggie medley to go on the side. We finish off my homemade cheesecake from the weekend for dessert.

9:00 pm  I make a big pot of soup for lunches and a curry for dinner tomorrow.

Today’s total: €0 (I normally start the week quite well, so I’ve already peaked.) 


5:50 am  I have my clothes laid out from last night and go for a run. This freakishly warm weather means I can comfortably leave the house with wet hair so I enjoy my shower and catch the 7:00 am bus.

7:45 am  I arrive at work. We have flexitime and can start work anytime between 8:00 am and 10:00 am. I’ve brought porridge oats and the final dregs from a box of protein powder that my boyfriend hated the taste of and donated to me.

11:00 am  My largely reliable cycle-tracking app notifies me that my period is due to start and I go to the shop to buy sanitary products. I get a small fruit salad for a snack and a bread roll to have with my soup at lunch (€5.50).

1:30 pm  Lunch is soup from home and that roll, followed by a nice coffee made from a colleague’s “good stuff” – with permission of course.

6:30 pm  I leave work after doing 2.5 hours overtime and get the bus up to my boyfriend’s house, I have a couple of portions of the curry I made yesterday in tow for our dinner. We share a slice of cake that he brought home from work for dessert. The weather is miserable, which means I don’t bother practising my driving. We settle into Netflix with a little rum tipple.

10:00 pm  We read in bed and fall asleep early enough.

Today’s total: €5.50


7:00 am  This is a lie-in for me. My boyfriend isn’t as keen on early starts so this is our compromise. We have an absolute feast for breakfast, which included the last of some salmon on toast followed by a breakfast dessert of pear, yogurt, nuts and honey. And TWO cups of tea each.

9:30 am  I arrive at work to the regular “we were going to open a missing person’s case for you” jokes that never get old. This is the ritual when someone arrives later than their normal time.

2:00 pm  I brought snacks and some of the curry from home. The rice cakes serve as an adequate vehicle for said curry. I visit a health store and pick up a course of probiotics (€23.50) to last a month as today is my last day of 10 days taking antibiotics.

5:00 pm  I have a doctor’s appointment to have my IUD removed (€75).

6:30 pm  I get the Luas back to my dad’s in Tallaght and meet some friends in the pub. I take it easy and just have the one pint of Guinness (€5.10). I get home around 8:30 pm. Tallaght village is basically all takeaways and a few banks. The lovely fatty, greasy smells tempt me on the way out, but I somehow resist and fry my own fish and chips at home.

10:00 pm  Zzzzzzz.

Today’s total: €103.60 (These costs are medicinal, so I’m not too upset by the total. Some weeks are worse, some are better. I’m just grateful to have the financial flexibility for these kind of exceptions.)


6:20 am  At this stage in the week I’m not really feeling it, but I still manage to be up and out for 7:00 am. Thank you to half asleep me for putting the meal packing graft in last night.

7:45 am  I carefully transported two eggs from home in a sandwich bag full of cotton balls and tissue (egg trafficking tips welcome, please.) I scramble them in the microwave for breakfast.

1:00 pm  I run some errands at lunch: get a key cut (€7), pay some tolls with penalties (€12.40) and top up my Leap Card (€20). I eat lunch at my desk, which is soup and a sambo from home.

4:00 pm  I leave work and head to the gym. I’m finished by 5:00 pm and get the bus to my boyfriend’s house.

6:00 pm  He was working from home today and I’m greeted at the door by the smell of cooking. We have dinner and lounge around for the evening.

10:00 pm: We’re both in work for 8:00 am tomorrow so adjust bedtime accordingly.

Today’s total: €39.40


6:40 am  He’s working near my job today and drives in so I get a lift. We skip breakfast, instead I bring oats with me in a lunch box.

7:55 am  I arrive at work and make my tea and porridge.

1:00 pm  In a bittersweet turn of events, our accomplishment of almost zero food waste means that there wasn’t anything left to make my own lunch with. I try a new independent café near the office and go with their sandwich and coffee meal deal (€7).

4:30 pm  I leave work to meet my boyfriend who will be finished a job nearby soon. I pick us up an M&S meal deal and some milk and eggs on the way (€16.39).

7:00 pm  Dinner and dishes done, we are IN for the night!

Today’s total: €23.39 (That’s not bad for our first Friday treat in a while.)


11:00 am  We sleep in and I bake eggs into last night’s leftover curry for breakfast. We also finish off the naan bread. My boyfriend has to go across the county to pick up something for work and I drive us to get some practice in. He drops me at my dad’s house afterwards.

2:00 pm  I go food shopping with my dad. He insists on going to Dunnes because he has a voucher, but I usually shop at Lidl. The total is over €100 for the household weekly shop and I give €50 towards it.

6:00 pm  We eat like kings for dinner as per the newly packed fridge and presses.

9:00 pm  I meet my boyfriend in town for a cocktail (€12 for two) before we go to a gig with friends. We have guestlist which means free entry, and I have two more drinks inside (€10).

1:00 am  We go dutch on a taxi home (€7 each).

Today’s total: €79


9:30 am  For breakfast this morning we construct a cheese board from a few bits he was sent as samples.

12:00 pm  My driving test will be in the Tallaght test centre so I go back to my dad’s to meet my instructor. I’m on the home stretch now with driving lessons and marginally fail a pre-test (€40).

1:30 pm  I make today’s and tomorrow’s lunch.

7:59 pm  I remember in the nick of time to pay some tolls (€6.20).

10:00 pm  Early night.

Today’s total: €46.20

Weekly subtotal: €297.09

What I’ve learned:

  • I probably am TOO focused on saving for my age and employment level. I definitely could afford to live a more exciting life or treat myself more. I won’t be able to if I ever do get locked into a mortgage and other household responsibilities, so I might as well make the most of it while I can. 
  • I will absolutely be sticking with food shopping in cheaper supermarkets, I don’t eat meat bar the odd bit of fish and tend to cook in batches so generally can get a week’s worth of food for €30. 
  • I need to get a toll pass. 
  • It made me realise how essential good support networks are as a young person trying to get a start at living independently. For example, my dad supports me financially by not charging me a set rent, which allows me to save. I couldn’t imagine anyone on my wages being able to do that and still feed themselves and have a social life if they needed to pay rent. Also, my boyfriend was able to share the responsibilities of my first car with me, which reduced my insurance by almost €2,000, not to mention halving all the running costs. My mam even said she would help me pay for new birth control. My advice to anyone with access to such a supportive network is to take all the help they can get.

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 

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