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Money Diary: An office worker in the east on €26K working in Dublin

This week, our reader is enjoying a hybrid work setup.

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 technology sales executive in the east of the country. This week, a civil servant living at home in the east of the country but working in Dublin.

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I am 32 years old and I was in Dublin for a few years but am now back living with my parents outside the capital. My family are originally from Dublin but moved here about 15 years ago. My parents like the quieter pace here. My sister and her family moved nearby not long after.

I studied media but found it hard to get full-time work in that over the years so instead, I worked in various other office jobs while freelancing, and now I have a permanent role in the civil service. During the pandemic, I got the Covid payment which was a lifesaver. Glad to have a full-time job now though.

I was living with some friends in Dublin during Covid times as a family member at home was immunocompromised. We ‘bubbled up’ and did quite well. The rent was manageable for a bit. I wouldn’t go back to that lockdown phase for any money. Hopefully, we never will.

So I’m back living at home because let’s be honest, who among us can afford to pay the outrageous/scandalous/immoral rental costs in Dublin? I do feel like Dublin is my home and while I’m trying to save as I go, it’s so hard to imagine ever being able to a) qualify for a mortgage and b) afford anything with that mortgage as a single earner.

The good news is my new role is hybrid/blended so I’m not having to head up to Dublin every day of the week. That is a game-changer, for me and many of my colleagues.

Occupation: Clerical officer
Age: 32
Location: East of country
Salary: Base €26,000
Monthly pay (net): €1,800 avg

Monthly expenses

Rent: €50 a week (to my folks)
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: n/a
Public Transport: €60 Leap card average
Subscriptions: Spotify €5, Netflix €14.99, Amazon Prime – €5.99, Apple Plus -  €5.99
Savings: €400 – I try but half the time it comes back out again

***

Monday

7.00 am: Today’s an office day so I’m up early and showering before I get the bus. I let the dog out for her run around the garden. One of my folks will walk her later.

8.00 am: Catch the bus. I know some people hate public transport but I don’t mind it, gives me a chance to catch up on a podcast or read some articles. There’s usually that one person on the bus though who just doesn’t get that headphones are a ‘thing’. This morning, I manage to bag myself a quiet spot.

9.30 am: Signing in to work. I have a nice team and we chat as we go. We get on well. Today’s not too stressful but it’s busy so it flies.

11.30 am: We grab a cuppa and a break in the kitchen. Sometimes, if I’m good, this is when I’d have a piece of fruit, but today we tuck into the biscuits. We don’t get free lunches, just free fruit and bickies and then tea and coffee.

1.15 pm: Time for lunch. I have a soggy tuna sandwich at my desk (grim) and then pop to the local shop with a colleague and nab a can of fizzy drink (not great, I know) and some nibbles €4.75. I won’t win any prizes for healthy eating but it’s Monday and as I’m not in the office every day, I don’t mind. 

2.30-5.00 pm: We keep our heads down, two meetings, trying to get all the stuff done off my desk and get out on time today. I’ve been getting loads of WhatsApp messages from my friends about a weekend of fun they’d had that I missed. It’s fine, I wasn’t in the mood, but those social adventures are hard to maintain when you’re living miles away. I guess my liver will thank me!

5.30 pm: Back on the bus and chilling on the way home. The days in the office do feel long, can’t remember what it was like to do it five days a week. We have a relaxed enough hybrid model so I do two on average in the office.

7.00 pm: Home and chat to my folks. They’re good cooks, in fairness so I’m really lucky, I just nab whatever’s on the menu when I get in. Tonight, it’s roast ham, mash and carrots, about as Irish a dinner as you can get. It’s delish. I do the washing up.

8.15 pm: I take the dog out for a walk, good excuse to stretch my legs and get some air.

10.00 pm: After a cuppa and some chats with the folks, time for some chilling. I have too many TV apps, way too many really. I’m bet into Real Housewives and of course, the latest revamps of House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power. They’re good, a bit ‘meh’ in places, but if you’re a fan of the originals they’ll keep you watching.

11.30 pm: Lights out.

Today’s total: €4.75

Tuesday

7.00 am: It’s lashing rain so I decide to work from home today. I always go on Mondays and then make a choice on what I’m at after that, it’s always pretty much office on Thursdays unless I’m wiped. Again, grateful for an understanding manager. So I buy another 20 mins snooze time and then hop up for a cuppa.

7.30 am: This morning the dog is thrilled to see me arrive in my trackies and runners and ready for a coffee and a nice walk. Dogs are clever, they can sense when a walk is happening. We head out and have a good dose of fresh air. She’s a great little dog, stops to sniff everything in sight though, so it’s not the brisk walk I’d hoped for. 

8.15 am: Back to the kitchen, coffee on and I decide it’s a day for toast. Slice up an apple and we’re good to go. My dad’s already up and so I bring my mum a cuppa in bed and have a quick chat. Then it’s a shower before work. I’m lucky myself and my folks get on well, must be hard for people who don’t have the option to move home in this housing crisis. My sister is nearby with her family and they’re always in and out, too, so it’s a busy house. 

9.30 am: Sign in to work. Team meeting first and it looks like a busy day ahead.

1.15 pm: It’s been non-stop and so I don’t have time for much of a break. My mum the legend drops up a cuppa and a sambo. Happy days.

2.30-5.00 pm: Busy again, I definitely get a bit more done while at home, but I have to be careful to take breaks. Sometimes, I’ll realise I haven’t actually moved away from the desk for hours. I clock off and decide it’s time for walkies with the dog. Before I log off, I have a quick look through some sales online and decide to order myself a nice blazer from Zara, €89.95 (ok, so it wasn’t in the actual sale). If I get a night out in the next 100 years, it’ll look great!

5.30 pm: My sister and the kids have called around for dinner so it’s mayhem downstairs. I have a quick chat and grab the dog for a walk before we eat. She’s delighted. All you have to say is the magic word, ‘walkies’ and her day is made. I love this dog, clearly.

6.00 pm: Back from a quick around the block, dog happy, fresh air clocked up, all good. We all eat together, sister brought a few dishes around, some ham left from last night and I do up a salad. Dinner of champions, team effort.

9.00 pm: It’s been a busy evening so time to chill with TV. I watch the next episode of Bad Sisters on Apple. It’s getting better as it goes. Dublin looks great and the characters are well written.

11.15 pm: Flick through some social, wrecked so passing out.

Today’s total: €89.95

Wednesday

7.00 am: Back in the office today, so up and at ‘em. I have porridge and some pumpkin and chia seeds and yoghurt. Tastes like gruel but I feel virtuous.

8.00 am: Bus time, which means pod/TV/read time. Some people hate reading on a bus but I’m grand. I read a great article on the New Yorker. Pod-wise, I’m enjoying Slate Culture these days if I’m in a high-brow mood, either that or I’ll stick on a Real Housewives on Netflix. Ya gotta mix things up!

9.30 am: Back in work, meetings first and then lots going on. September tends to be really busy in our department, it should level off soon.

11.30 am: Tea time, and yep, a bickie. We have a good laugh as a team. I really think it’s the people that keep you in jobs. Working with difficult people really isn’t worth it. Back to the desk. It’s my mum’s birthday in a couple of weeks so I order her a nice jumper in Next (€56). Knowing her, she’ll send it back, she’s the typical Irish mammy, “don’t be buying me anything, I don’t need anything”, you get the picture. But we keep trying. 

5.00 pm: Worked through lunch, had a cuppa and a ham sambo at my desk, very exciting but had to be done, too much on. 

5.45 pm: Bus is a bit late so am killing time listening to music. Spotify is well handy, really. 

7.30 pm: Home, feet up. Dog’s had a good walk today with the folks and is bunched so all good there.

8.00 pm: My dad had made a spaghetti bolognese so I scoff that down. I wash up and tidy the kitchen and then sit and watch some TV with them. 

11.00 pm: Wrecked and staring at some Irish news programmes. Jeepers, they go round and round all evening, don’t they? All discussing the same stuff. Time for bed, scroll through some WhatsApp and Insta (it’s dangerous for time wasting) and off to sleep.

Today’s total: €56

Thursday

7.15 am: Had a mini lie-in and today’s an office day so up and out and have no time to waste. Quick shower, a cup of tea. Sorry, doggy, no walkies. She’s not happy.

8.00 am: It’s lashing this morning so I’m happy to be on the bus. And breathe. Too tired to watch/listen to anything so I do my second favourite past-time – staring out window and thinking.

9.30 am: In the door to the office grab a coffee and say hello/sign in. Everyone’s a bit flat this morning, always happens on a wet morning. Caffeine should help.

11.30 am: Grab a quick drink of water and a banana. Today is busy with meetings.

1.15 pm: Time for lunch. Once a week, a few of us from the team will head out and nab something nicer than a soggy sandwich. I get a burrito bowl in Boojum €12.05, cheap, cheerful. Keeps me going for the afternoon. I’m a bit distracted as the friends are planning the weekend and I’m still not sure if I have the energy for it or whether I can afford it. They’re up for cocktails tomorrow night (grand, but like they cost a fortune) and then dinner (another big spend). I always have somewhere on offer to stay but I tend to be a bit faster to agree to the nights when they’re meeting in a friend’s home first for drinks as I can afford those evenings a little better. Easier to make cocktails yourself. I love socialising but wow, Dublin is next level cost-wise.

2.30-5.00 pm: Another busy afternoon so I keep the head down. Thursdays are a bit nicer than other days in the office as most of us are in and there’s a bit of banter.

5.30 pm: Back on the bus, time for some frivolous reality-TV on Netflix. Mind you, nothing very realistic about Real Housewives. Handy escape though.

7.00 pm: Home and feeling really wrecked today so I enjoy the stir fry my folks have done and then clean the kitchen. I realise how lucky I am having dinners served up like that.

8.15 pm: My favourite little pooch watches me as I clean the kitchen with those ‘please, where’s my walkies’ look so off we go, a handy walk around the block does the trick.

9.00 pm: Wrecked so off to bed early, have a few chats with friends about the weekend. I decide not to bother going out this time, I’ll wait for another night, not feeling this one. Think of all the money I’ll save! Didn’t help that I checked my bank balance and I’m cleaned out. I really need to sit down and get a handle on the Revolut use as I’ve somehow managed to transfer €63 euro in total this week without noticing (they can just be small spends but it feels like play money half the time) and then all the small amounts that seem to come out, like Google Storage €1.99 like I can’t even remember when I signed in to this? Tomorrow is pay day, great getting it weekly in one way, but sometimes it means it’s harder to save and get ahead. I also have a credit card bill I need to sort from a trip to Lisbon earlier this year (wedding ‘sten’) so that’s eating into my income.

11.00 pm: Lights out. Too wrecked to even watch anything.

Today’s total: 77.04

Friday

7.30 am: Working from home so nab a bit longer in bed. Throw on the comfies, grab a cup of tea and myself and a happy doggy head off for a morning walk. It’s getting colder for sure.

8.30 am: Make a pot of coffee with toast, chill and read some articles. Fridays really are the best.

9.30 am: Sign in to work. Meeting first thing to look back at the week’s work. I don’t mind the work on this team, it has phases of being really busy and then not, but it’s enjoyable. There are some new opportunities coming up in different departments, I applied for one but am not 100% sure I’d be bothered leaving this crew. Will see what comes my way.

11.30 am: Quick break. My dad throws the package in that came from Zara. He’s heading out to do a shop this morning. He’s brilliant, he is really old-school and I guess my mum used to do everything, but then a few years ago she kinda retired unofficially and he started doing all the shopping and lots of the cooking. Who says you can’t teach an old dog, etc etc… He’s not a bad cook either. He asks if I want anything and I give him a handy list and Revolut him €30 for a few groceries. I actually think he loves shopping as he meets everyone he knows, bit of a social thing. And yes, he’s on Revolut, modern man.

2.00 pm: Late (ish) lunch and not much time so I nab one of the nice fresh rolls my dad got and make myself a ham, cheese and coleslaw sambo, yum. Tea as well, I’m seriously starting to drink too much tea, what is happening to me?

2.30-5.00 pm: Friday afternoons really shouldn’t be allowed. Is everyone just dragging themselves through to the end? Feels like it. I do have a bit of work on but can’t seem to get my head in the game. Doesn’t help that the WhatsApps are flying about weekend plans. I’m blocking it out. I got paid but €80 has to go to the credit card and €50 to the folks for rent. I try to save €100 every week so I’m being good. I’m not saying that 100 stays there but I try! Anyway, sometimes it’s handy being broke really, that’s the decision made about whether to go out or not. Happy to sign off work, have to admit.

5.15 pm: Right, fresh air needed. I nab the pooch and head out for a walk. Ring a mate on the way, he’s not out either so we have a good old moan about that.

7.00 pm: The FOMO is real but a good friend of mine who lives nearby is in the same boat and she calls over, so we nab some wine in the fridge and watch some trash TV. My folks are gone to my sister’s for dinner so the house is free. It’s nice to just veg out and have the chats. We always have such a laugh. TV is rubbish tonight so we give the next episode of the House of the Dragon a go. She’s seen it but is decent and doesn’t share any spoilers. Getting better as it goes, this one but I still feel all the characters are a bit ‘flat’.

12.30 pm: Friend gone home in a cab. Lights out. I don’t scroll social as I’ll see all the updates the others will be posting. I’ll wait til the morning when I’m fresh and they’re all wrecked.

                                                 Today’s total: €260

Saturday

9.00 am: So happy to have had a sleep. There are definitely Saturdays when I’ll still wake at 7am and it drives me mad. Lie-ins are harder to come by these day for some reason.

9.45 am: Chilled for a bit and up for a coffee and chats with the family. My sister and kids are coming over in a bit so we’ll just hang out. I take the dog out for, you guessed it, a walkies. This time we hit the local park with a gate, means I can let her off the leash and she has a good run around. Plenty of bags in the pocket, off we go.

11.30 am: Back and have a few chats/messages with friends about the night. Sounds like I didn’t miss too much really. Sounds like everyone had a laugh. Kinda glad now I didn’t spend a whack of money.

12.30 pm: Gas how you can just enjoy such a day of nothing, I can feel that’s gonna be one of those days. Lounging watching TV, I start browsing Insta, then click on clothes brands I like and next thing I’m nearly buying a whole heap of stuff I don’t need. I’ve started to catch myself doing it, which is great. In fairness, the old online shopping was dangerous during lockdowns. So, beware the scrolling that becomes the shopping. I pull back from the brink (the point where I click ‘pay’) and I’m relieved.

1.30 pm: Sister and kids here for the day now, we’re all just hanging out and chatting. Kids love the dog too and she’s in her element. I decide to cook a nice roast as we’ve a full fridge so that keeps me busy for the afternoon.

8.00 pm: Dinner served, tidying done, feet up. We watch a movie and chill.

11.00 pm: Bed time.

Today’s total: €0.00

Sunday

9.30 am: Grab a cuppa, back to bed, watching rubbish TV for a bit on the phone.

12.30 pm: Take the dog to the local park. My friend from the other night meets me there and we just chat and throw the ball for the dog. Park life. Grab a coffee and a treat on way back €6.70.

2.30 pm: Back home, stick on a wash and tidy the place up a bit. Sunday afternoons are my ‘get your act together’ time so I just potter a bit. Get a call from one of the lads so that takes up an hour.

6.00 pm: We have dinner with leftovers from yesterday. Handy.

7.00 pm: Veg with TV shows time. All set for another week, check my balance and congratulate myself for a weekend of frugality. Things could be worse.

Today’s total: €6.70

Weekly subtotal: €494.44

What I learned –

  • Dunno how I’ll manage to save much of anything but I’m glad at least I haven’t got high rent to pay, just don’t know how anyone manages.
  • I can see why having even tiny savings helps. This week I tried not to spend but ended up at my max, so at least having Revolut vaults and a few quid in savings gives me a bit of security, but it’s not ideal really, taking savings back out.
  • With all the talk of cost of living problems, I know I need to get my act together and start watching the account a bit more. The money apps and TV apps are something I have to watch.
  • Have definitely seen how scrolling social can often end with online shopping so I’m at least aware of that now.
  • I do think writing down your spend helps you think a bit differently about money.

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