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VOICES

Money Diaries A marketing and advertising executive on €60K living in Leinster

This week, our reader is trying to manage the bills and the outgoings.

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 business specialist living in Dublin. This week, a marketing and advertising executive on €60K living in Leinster.

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I guess you could call myself and my husband the ‘squeezed middle’ that we hear a lot about. We work long hours, pay high bills and never feel like we’re doing much more than treading water. We have a lot to be grateful for, though, I know that for sure. In a housing crisis, just being able to say we have our own home at all is a blessing. That modest home comes with a not-so-modest mortgage though, so that drains our monthly income considerably. 

I have been working in my career for a good 20 years and in that time, the sector has changed a lot. Given those changes, and having moved roles many times, working for some great companies, I have still never managed to jump too high in salary, I’d be on the lower end of this sector. I’ve never been great at ‘the hustle’ when it comes to salary negotiations, I don’t think that’s me, but it’s also an industry-wide issue in that salaries have ebbed and flowed in recent years. I’ve always tended to stay in a company because I like the people, too. Sometimes, I wish I had that killer instinct, but hey ho, that’s life. Like most people, I would be happier if I’d jumped salary in any significant way but I’m with a great time now, we have a lot of fun and that counts for something. 

Having said that, I’ve had two children in the last few years and no matter how much we hear about equality, as a woman I do feel my career suffered because of it. Maybe women fare better in other sectors but there are men I was working with before I became a mother and they’ve moved on, cashed in and seem to now be in a different league to me. I am absolutely not complaining, everyone’s lives are different, and I am happy with my work-life balance. I’m also lucky my husband has a good job and that is a big help. It’s nice to still be able to work in an industry where it’s traditionally tough to keep momentum. As we always say in our office, “It’s a young man’s game”. Well, this old one is still hanging in there. For better or worse.

I get to work remotely a lot and that helps with the face time with my kids, without having to be mammy though, we have a childminder for that. I tried mixing work and parenting in the early days, it was a nightmare, so I learned back then that that’s not workable. 

The juggle is not easy for anyone and the pace of life is fast, no question about that. Not to mention the cost of childcare, it’s just eye watering. If we didn’t have the childminder we’d be in big trouble though as we both work such long hours. I wonder if we need a ‘Time Diary’ rather than a money diary at this stage because we’re always just chasing our tails? Hopefully, our kids will be in secondary in another few years and that should take pressure off the childcare side of things.

We have been saying for years that we need a joint account and it’s pure laziness that we have never sat down to get one. We’ve said this year, we’re going to sort that joint account and switch all the bills into it. For now, most of the bills come out of my salary and my husband pays money towards me then as we go. It can get messy but he’s quite good with money so he stops me from burning a hole in the bank card. 

Occupation: Marketing and advertising executive

Age: 42

Location: Leinster

Salary: Approx. €60,000 (€55 basic with 5k bonus over each quarter)

Monthly pay (net): €3,700 

Monthly expenses

Diesel: €200 a month 

Car insurance: €96 a month

Motor tax: €280 every quarter (oldish car)

Phone bill: €71 a month

Health insurance: €290 a month (this is crippling us)

Life Assurance: €167

Mortgage: €2,400 

Childcare: €850 per month

Household bills: Gas, electricity, bins etc – €400 

Groceries: Has seriously gone up, now about €100-150 per week for the family

Subscriptions: We are paying too many, we know this. I deleted my Prime last year but kept getting notifications that it would save on deliveries for Amazon so I caved and went back on it €10.55, I pay Netflix and my siblings and our family use it, about €19 overall. 

TV Licence: €13.33 a month

TV Sky service: €130 (I blame the sports channels)

Child benefit: €280 a month, always hoped I would be one of those smug people to save it but nope, it gets swallowed up.

***

Monday

6.30 am: Am in the office today so am up and downstairs sorting breakfast for the family and taking out the lunches. I keep saying I’ll get up and do a half hour of yoga or pilates but it is just SO dark at the moment. Next month, when spring comes. We’re trying to eat less bread so I make the porridge that we’re all going to eat through gritted teeth. Also trying to cut caffeine down so having hot water with lemon.

7.10 am: Time to wake the kids and hubby. One child is up and dressed in five minutes, the other you have to coax and cajole out of bed, then she moves at a glacial pace. They’re so different. 

7.50 am: Everyone fed, watered and it’s off to school. I drop them to the gates on my way to work. They’re in by 8.30 am and so I’ll be at my desk just before 9 am.

9.30 am: Some emails answered and it’s time for our team meeting. We’re busy at the moment, lots of projects on but that’s the way we want it. Just a lot of juggling to be done.

11.30 am: Have a call with clients, project coming along nicely, phew.

12.45 pm: Seems like I have an endless list of tasks that I never get to, is that just what corporate life is like now? Time for a break and some sustenance. I made a promise to myself over the last few years that I would stop spending money in my workday, on lunches or clothes or whatever. I had years of (single, pre-children) years where I went out for lunch, went shopping at lunch, and basically spent money at lunch. Those days are over now as we’ve had so many years of trying to make ends meet. I now bring lunches in (sandwiches, noodle dishes, that kind of thing) and then just eat the free fruit or biscuits on offer in the office. It makes for a boring life but I don’t feel like I’m throwing money down the drain. I tuck into my boring sandwich and have a cup of herbal tea, chat to colleagues. 

1.30 pm: Back at desk and close off to all but my neverending list of tasks, time to get serious. 

5.30 pm: Time to hit the road and head home. I sometimes head home after lunch and finish my day from there but I got a good bit done so all good there. The childminder will have the kids home and if we’re lucky, she’ll have cooked some dinner for all of us. We don’t expect it but it’s always a bonus when it happens. My husband works from home a lot so he will have let the childminder go at 6pm. 

5.50 pm: Having phoned home and done a mental check of what’s in the kitchen, I realise we have sod all food in so I divert to Aldi. It’s usually me and two kids and I come out with a trolley load of nonsense that I didn’t need, so I thoroughly enjoy walking around on my own and in a position to think straight. Still get stung for what feels like a very below-average weekly shop (€185). How is food so darn expensive lately, it is so obvious how high the bills are in the last year or two.

Today’s total: €185.00

Tuesday

6.30 am: Up again, same routine, water with lemon and porridge for the family. Adding some chia seeds to wreck all heads today and keep us going. Lunches are done and in the fridge, that was a game changer for us, last year we used to be rushing out the door after chopping apples and slicing sambos, no more. While I have a couple of minutes, I order a new round of coffee capsules for Nespresso machine (€51.60). I know they are not the most prudent use of money and perhaps even worse for the environment. They do collect them but I never seem to get organised enough to sort it, so they head off to landfill and I feel so wretched. We bought the machine thinking it could work with a reusable capsule but no joy, it’s one of the new ones where a barcode is needed. So for now, we’re forking out for capsules and feeling really guilty. I’d rather that though than shelling out €4.50 or so every time we go around the corner to the nearby cafe. We’ll try to do better soon.

7. 20 am: Gave the kids a few minutes lie in as they’re so wrecked. Is anyone else struggling to get them to bed on time since Christmas? Even now, well into January they’re a nightmare to settle at night. They don’t do screentime, etc, no phones for them yet, we’re holding off big time on that, but they just get new energy around 8.30 and then it’s a battle to have them asleep before 10 pm. How did we lose control of that one? As a consequence, I’m peeling them out of bed the next day.

8.45 am: Kids gone with husband to school, he’s driving them today. I’m going to enjoy my 15 minutes of bliss… oh… wait… my 15 minutes of putting a wash on, emptying and filling the dishwasher and defrosting the mince for dinner. Oh well, it’s good to get stuff done too. 

9.00 am: I’m working remotely today and glad of it, the weather is so grim. I sign into Teams and sort some admin before our team meeting. I absolutely love remote working, it suits me and I’ve done it for years, well before Covid. I’m passionate about it as a concept and feel it has the potential to be a huge game changer for how we work, live and the choices we make. 

9.30 am: Team meeting commences and we mostly just chit-chat. We have a great team and a genuine rapport but there are definitely days where I wish we didn’t have to waste too much time on these catch-ups. Really, every meeting should be done in 15 mins, there should be an alarm to stop the waffling. 

9.50 am: They must have read my thoughts, we’re out of meeting and I’m back on the computer sorting through work. I get a quick call from my former bin providers, giving out that I’d switched to another company and not informed them. Thing is, the other company were supposed to do it! I’m really trying this year to follow the advice and switch energy/household providers. The bin company says I’ll have to pay €45 to be excused as a customer. God give me strength! Honestly, are people having a laugh. I pay the money in a rage, politely telling the woman that I’m not in favour of their ‘policy’. That’s it, I won’t be using them again, was with them for years and it just seemed we were paying huge amounts every month. Here’s hoping the new crowd are better. 

11.50 am: Grab a quick decaf coffee, gather thoughts. 

12.00 pm: Back to work and jump on a quick call with a couple of teammates to work through a proposal we’re building. Luckily, we know each other well enough not to waste too much time and we’re out of the chat fairly fast.

1.30 pm: Lunchtime, which consists of me cooking spaghetti bolognese with the mince. I give my mum a call for a chat while pottering and scoffing some crackers and cheese. She reminds me that it’s my dad’s birthday next week so we set to planning a family meal. He’s so old school and we know for sure he won’t let us make a fuss of him, so we agree instead to just cook a nice dinner at home and make a fuss. Honestly, he’ll be thrilled with a homemade cake and his grandchildren visiting. Like I said, old school. I jump off the call and decide to order him some aftershave at least, the one he likes and wouldn’t buy for himself (€107).

2.30 pm: Head down now until 5.30 pm finish. I’ll hear the kids come in, slamming the doors and arguing, childminder with them. It’s a great thing when you have a great minder and we’re so lucky with our girl. She knows and understands the kids, they’re so used to her and she can cook. She does four days with us and we wing it on the Friday as they have a class after school anyway, so my husband usually manages to collect them. The cost is just so much though, but that is life.

4.45 pm: Youngest stomps up into the attic complaining about maths homework and presenting me with said homework. Drat! I’m starting to feel like everything I remember from primary is different to what they’re learning now. I start talking about ‘carrying the one’ and she looks at me like I’m from another planet. We get there though and she heads off again, happy enough. 

5.30 pm: Managed to wind up on time today, not always the case. I’m determined to get out for a walk so I throw on the runners and just shout from the door that I’ll be back in 10. One of the things about remote working that’s crucial is ensuring you get fresh air and exercise, otherwise a whole day can go and you’re stuck inside. I do a proper mama power walk ‘around the block’ in my local area and clear the head. I usually use this time to ring a friend but today, I’m too tired to talk and I just take in the dark, wet evening that is a Tuesday in January. 

6.00 pm: Back at base, minder going out the door and husband and kids in the kitchen, kids have had the bolognese so we tuck in then for a round. 

7.10 pm: I have a pilates class Tuesday evening so my friend picks me up and we head off. Always dread it on a cold night as it’s in a freezing local hall but you never regret the class, great teacher too.

9.00 pm: Usual bedtime dramas, battles and kids finally asleep by 9.30 which isn’t great, but I’ve seen worse. Husband and I start the new True Detective Night Country series that released yesterday. I am usually too chicken for these types of programmes. It’s watchable but exceedingly grim. I love Jodie Foster so that’s a bonus and it’s great to see two women in the lead roles. I look forward to the nightmares later though, not sure I can do the whole series, glad it’s coming out weekly so you can’t binge it.

10.30 pm: Bed. Scan the bank account and see the life assurance has come out (€167), ouch, this one always catches me! I prefer when they all come out on the first of the month. Watching my money dwindle now and we’re only halfway into the month. This is what happens, I just don’t know how other people manage to budget for holidays and cars. Anyway, tomorrow is another day. Sleep.

Today’s total: €370.60

Wednesday

06.45 am: I’m remote again today so give myself a 15-minute lie-in. Lucky me. Same deal, porridge is on (really need to vary things now, I’ll do toast tomorrow) and sort some washing while I have a minute.

7.15 am: Kids up and eating breakfast, while we frantically search for my eldest’s football shoes and shin pads with me shouting as usual, ‘why can’t you put the gear away in the same place every week’. You could write the script. Who are these families who are on top of their schedule and in control? The organised ones. I need their secrets.

8.30 am: Kids and hubby are gone so I nab a quick walk around the block. Clear the head and prepare for the day.

9.00 am: Setting up here for client meeting so we won’t have our usual meeting.

10.00 am: Client chats go well, they’re happy with progress so that’s a relief. We have a great relationship with clients and it’s always nice when everyone is in agreement on the direction we’re going in. It’s such a challenging market at the moment so we’re always under a kind of pressure. That’s the gig, I guess.

11.45 am: Grab a quick cuppa, do some scrolling of Instagram (I’m really trying not to use it these days, I’m so over the endless crap that’s showing up in my feed) and that leads me to a clothes site where I scroll mindlessly to shop for something until I snap out of it and realise that Instagram is to blame! I am not falling into the scroll-shop-repeat anymore. I really noticed that creeping up last year. At the end of the day, you end up with a wardrobe full of stuff you do not need that you’re not likely to wear again any time soon.

12.00 pm: Back at it, I’ll work through lunch today, just have way too much to do and will be caught up with daughter’s football training this evening. No one tells you that once you get them out of buggies and nappies, they jump right into football boots, ballet shoes or whatever they’re into and it’s all go, go, go from then on. It is relentless.

5.30 pm: My good intentions for getting downstairs to maybe do a chore or two while I work went utterly out the window and I emerge bleary-eyed from the attic. At least the minder is here, homework is done and the dinner is cooked. Result. 

6.30 pm: Soccer training in the freezing cold. Drop off daughter and her friend and I decide to run into Super Valu for a quick round of food shopping, because for some reason I cannot understand, we seem to need more food. We are hammering through food shops. Oh well. I fill up a basket and end up carrying a few more bits in my arms. Comes to €64. Same feeling again, ‘How have I spent so much on the basics’. This is the cost of living crisis we’re hearing about, for sure.

8.00 pm: Home and throwing kids into the bath which you’d think would relax them but no, they’re wired after. In bed with books by 9 pm and it’s anyone’s guess after that but at least they’re reading.

9.00 pm: Husband has filled the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen. Result. He’ll do for another while, I guess. He reminds me that his sister is looking to book a week camping with the kids in Spain in June and that we need to fix a date and give her the deposit. I want to be more like her, she’s just so organised and on top of things. I can’t think about what I’m having for dinner tomorrow, let alone plan that far. But I am glad to have organised friends and family who can shepherd us in the right direction!

10.30 pm: Bed, after starting some rubbish series on the TV that we’ll never watch again. 

Today’s total: €64.00

Thursday

06.30 am: I’m office-bound today so it’s up and at em and washing hair, wearing anything that isn’t a tracksuit. One of the nice things about office work at least is that you get to feel somewhat like a glamorous adult for about five minutes. Maybe glamorous is overstating it, the bar is low these days. I’m not one of the pyjama-wearing remote workers, but the leggings are just too comfortable not to wear at home.

7.20 am: It’s cereal and out the door for the gang today. No football gear needed. I drive them to the gates and we chat about the holiday this year and how excited they will be to go with friends. I have zero interest in a campsite holiday but the kids absolutely adored it last year when we went.

9.00 am: In the door and it’s all go for the morning. Meetings, more meetings and a few meetings in between. I need a day off to get some work done!

11.30 am: Head down, boxing off some jobs, trying to get ahead of the neverending ‘to-do’ list. 

1.45 pm: Quick lunch today as my head is in the game workwise. Grab a coffee in the kitchen after running out for a quick wrap from the nearby shop (€4.50). Have both at my desk and keep going.

5.30 pm: Out the door and homeward bound. Stop for €40 diesel, honestly I think I don’t drive much or spend much on diesel, but I’m kidding myself. It’s a heartbreaker, the price of it. 

6.30 pm: Defrosted lasagne for dinner this eve so a handy option. Easy. Tidy up kitchen and make sure kids have at least opened their school bags to look at their homework. They seem happy enough. 

9.00 pm: Usual bath and bedtime shenanigans and kids calm and reading in bed. Hurray! We are really trying to get the reading thing going again, we dropped the ball there for a while and I noticed how much more manic bedtime was without it. Now, after grabbing some fresh fun books from friends and the library, via one or two arrivals from Santa, they’re back on the reading buzz again. 

9.30 pm: Given it’s Thursday, we give ourselves a pat on the back and pour a glass of wine. We’ve started watching One Day on Netflix on recommendations from friends. Apart from the fact that it’s a great antidote to True Detective, it’s lovely, a bit like Normal People with a great soundtrack. Making us nostalgic for our misspent youth. 

11.30 pm: Couple glasses of wine, couple episodes watched, time to conk out. I have a book hovering beside the bed for weeks now and every night I try to pick it up but make it through about three sentences and I’m done. Intentions are good, I guess.

Today’s total: €44.50

Friday

06.30 am: Thank the lord it’s Friday. Even though, sometimes it feels like the weekend is ahead and there’s no break then either. But here we are anyway. Porridge for the win and lunches in the bags. 

07.20 am: Youngest is a bit tired-looking and complaining of a sore throat. I offer her a day in bed but she says she wants to go in as they’re ‘doing fun stuff today’ so I decide she can’t be too sick at that rate. Calpol saves the day and we’re back in business. It’s a constant rollercoaster with viruses and wondering if you’re doing the right thing. 

9.00 am: Kids and hubby gone and I’m at my desk, working remotely for today. I look at the mountain of washing gathering as I walk past and make a mental note that I’m ‘definitely getting that done during my work day today’. I’m kidding myself, it never happens. 

11.30 am: Meetings done and I get a call from my mum who wants to tell me all about a funeral she went to with a friend this week. It sounds like she had… dare I say…’fun’ at it? Maybe that’s it, you get to a certain age and that’s one of the few social outlets available. Fair play to them, at least they caught up with old friends. Time for a quick coffee. 

11.45 am: Back at desk, coffee and toast had, no washing done. I have a quick look for a towel rack on Amazon, I am sick of towels on the floor in the bathroom and the towel rail we have is rubbish. I snag a wooden one for €23, see if it’s any good.

12.15 pm: Quick call with colleagues to wrap up a few bits from the week. We’re in relatively good shape, result.

2.00 pm: Busy day, run downstairs and throw some chorizo and veg onto the pan, some rice into a pot and combine them for a handy dinner. For some reason, the kids love this dinner and it’s very easy to make. Not exactly gourmet or nutritionally dense, but we are doing our best. One of the lifesavers of working from home is throwing the dinner on at lunch, takes the pressure off later. 

3-5.30 pm: Chase tail, pull hair out, fret over the ‘to-do’ list and then give up… Monday is another day, time to chill. 

6.00 pm: Run to the local shop to nab a few bits which is always a bit of a disaster, end up spending €36 on lord knows what. 

8.00 pm: Dinner had, time for a quick walk so we drag the kids down around the block, under duress. It’s cold but good to stretch the legs.

9.00 pm: Husband tackles bedtime while I finally get a start on some housework. Oh for the days when Friday nights meant fun and adventures! 

10.00-midnight: We stare at the Late Late Show and then Graham Norton with a glass of wine, too tired to even speak after such a busy week. I must say, I do find Patrick Kielty a lot more natural in the seat, he’s a good listener. Couldn’t tell you who the guests were. 

Today’s total: €59.00

Saturday

7.00 am: What are lie-ins, anyway? And why do kids jump out of bed early on Saturdays? Least they can stay in the PJs. I guide them towards the cereals, make myself and hubby a cuppa and head back to bed. He’s no intention of waking up yet so I watch some rubbish TV on my phone. Saturdays are great. 

10.30 am: Eldest has a match at 11.30 so the usual panicked searching for the gear gets underway and we’re out the door. The next two hours involves standing around speaking to other parents with some intermittent cheerleading like ‘well done, that’s a great tackle’. They’re nice mornings once you’re not too wrecked and the weather isn’t too bad.

12.00 pm: On way home, she torments me for all sorts… jellies at X, danish at Y, why do kids always have the next hit on their minds? I stay firm for once, I’m trying to embrace the word ‘No’, it’s quite liberating once you use it. My sister is a teacher and a strict one at that and she says, ‘Just remember, No is a sentence’. Not sure what she means but I’m going for it.

1.00 pm: Husband, the legend has lunch ready for everyone so we sit down for some much-needed family chats. The weekends can whizz by in a blur so we’re trying to be a bit better on the quality time front. 

2-5.00 pm: Kids and husband watch some sport (they’re all into it) while I potter around and try to get a handle on this house. Our friends ring to say they’re going to the local pub later for food with the kids so we decide to join them, why not?

6.00 pm: Meet the gang in the pub and we all have some nice food, the adults have a pint and a proper chat while the kids hang out. It’s a nice, informal thing we do with our friends in the area and it keeps us sane. We used to have such hectic social lives but everyone is way too tired these days! Husband pays so I didn’t take the hit this time. Comes to about €92, no wonder we don’t go out much. ‘Twas nice, though.

9.00 pm: Home and happy to put the feet up, watch some TV. Kids stay up a bit late this eve, they’ll be gone up before 9.45. I check my bank balance and see two more standing orders have come out, so I’m down another €48 plus €63. Feels like an endless flow out of the account. I try to switch providers as much as possible but never feel like I’m getting ahead on these.

11.30 pm: Cannot keep eyes open, time for bed.

Today’s total: €111.00 

Sunday

08.00 am: Maybe lie-ins do exist after all! Hubby gets up and makes coffee for the two of us, kids relax with us in the bed for a bit and then they head downstairs for some TV. 

10.30 am: Hubby gets up and makes breakfast for us all… sourdough and scrambled egg with spinach and some hot sauce, a family favourite. 

11.30 am: I’m headed out with a friend for a walk, she picks me up and do a proper ‘mama strut’ for an hour down by a local river. Food for the soul – good chats and a rant or two never hurt anyone!

1.00 pm: She pulls in to the butchers so I run in with her and secure a nice chicken for today’s dinner (€12). Pricey for a chicken but this place does really lovely stuff so feels like it’s worth it. 

2.00 pm: Dinner in the oven, bit of tidying and washing done and hubby and kids gone for a walk. I absolutely love the moments like this in the house where I get five minutes to myself. Even if it is just to do some tidying, it’s five minutes where it’s not ‘mammy, I’m hungry’. No one tells you that 99% of parenting is just feeding them. 

4.00 pm: Family back and I give a call to my sister for a chat. She reminds me that our good friend’s birthday coming up so that’s €50 into the vault to cover presents. Thankfully, she’s more organised than me and will sort something in good time. Revolut is dangerous though for the ‘monopoly’ effect, you just fire money out from that account and it doesn’t feel real. Until it does. 

5.00 pm: Lovely roast dinner for the cosy Sunday that’s in it. Nothing better. Any minute now and the Sunday blues will start to kick in.

6.30 pm: We all sit down to watch Dancing with the Stars on RTÉ, hubby and myself wouldn’t be into it normally but the kids love it so it’s a nice bit of time together. So funny to see the kids acting out all the dance moves. 

8.00 pm: Time for the Sunday night battle to make lunches, pack schoolbags and face another week. 

Today’s total: €62.00

Weekly subtotal: €896.10

***

What I learned –

  • Oh my goodness, no wonder I haven’t a penny left every month. I thought this was a quiet week and yet I’ve spent so much. There are other weeks where there might be a child’s birthday party and extra expenses like that, but this seemed like a relatively quiet one. That’s me told, time to get a bit of a handle on the outgoings.
  • Bills and insurance, car expenses, they’ve all become so seriously expensive lately and we’ve really noticed that, like everyone else.
  • We seem to be hammering through food shops and food stocks. Trying to batch cook when we can but it’s just a sign that the cost of living is really increasing.

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