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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 24 August, 2019
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How I Spend My Money: An accountant on €60,000 still paying off an unsuccessful Celtic Tiger investment

He’s saving €2,000 a month as he plans for an early retirement.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie 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.

During the week, a civil servant living in Dublin on €23,000 talked about how she spends her money, and today an accountant with his own house in the city walks us through his week. 

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Occupation: Accountant
Age: 44
Location: Dublin
Salary: €60,000
Monthly pay (net): €3,489

Monthly expenses
Rent: €0
Household bills: Electricity (€30) 
Transport: Leap Card (€20)
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: €75
Groceries: €200
Eating out/Takeaways: €100
Subscriptions: €5
French investment: €560

After being dragged away from my city of birth age 12 when my family moved to Kildare, I moved back to Dublin this year. Due to property prices, it is only now, 19 years after buying my first house, which was 50 miles away from Dublin, that I can afford to move back to the city and also own my own house without a mortgage.

I bought my first house in Westmeath and sold it to buy my second house in Kildare, and then sold that to buy my current house in Dublin. I’m delighted to be back in Dublin – closer to work and social life. When I lived in Kildare, once I went home for the evening, I’d stay home whereas since moving to Dublin, I’ve been able to go home after work and then head back out again to socialise in the city, something I wouldn’t have done when living outside of Dublin.

I lead a very basic lifestyle – I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or gamble. As a result, I get to keep most of my net pay. I continue to save, which will allow me to retire early (I’m aiming for 60). I usually save around €2,000 per month. However, as my job doesn’t come with a pension, I put €15,000 of this (Revenue Commissioner’s limit) into a PRSA at the end of the year.

***

Monday

I get up at 06:50 am and shower before cycling into work. As part of my move to Dublin, I got rid of my car as most journeys I made were for commuting or shopping. I now live close enough to both work and shops to not need a car. For bad weather days and visiting my parents on Sunday, I use the bus and so I top up my Leap Card by €20 at the Connolly Luas stop. Although most of my use of the Leap Card is on the bus, I prefer to top up at Luas stops as they take credit cards (I use the latter as a cashflow tool only – it is paid in full by direct debit at the end of the month).

I have breakfast in the office on workdays – I leave a bag of cereal in the kitchen cupboard at work for this.

Lunch is brought from home – a steak slice from Iceland left over from last week.

On the way home, I call into Lidl to stock up on a few items. They are the best value for orange juice (two for €0.79 each) and I also get two pre-packed sandwiches, which will do for lunch for Tuesday/Wednesday (€1.59 each). I finish off the shopping with three of their cherry yogurts (€0.39 each), two marzipan logs (€1.19 each) and two apple and blackberry tarts (€0.49 each). Total bill €9.29. As the amount would be rounded up for paying in cash, I pay by card. Dinner is a pasta-ready meal from Iceland, left over from last week.

Today’s total: €29.29

Tuesday

Slight detour on the way to work this morning as I had to collect a registered letter from the sorting office – first time to do this since I moved here. Where I lived previously, the sorting office was near my parents’ house so they generously collected any registered mail/packages for me.

Fortunately, the sorting office is relatively close and opens at 07:30 am so I can collect it on the way to work. It is a service charge bill from France for an unsuccessful ‘leaseback investment’ I made in the Celtic Tiger era. It also costs me €560 per month in a mortgage payment. Only nine years of repayments left ☹.

Make it into the office with sufficient time to change and have breakfast. Lunch is one of the Lidl sandwiches.

After coming home, I head out to Iceland (the store, not the country) for groceries. I buy five Birds Eye chicken steaks (five for €5) and two pasta-ready meals (€2 each) – that’s seven dinners in total.

I also get a box of six eggs (for €1 it’s the makings of three lunches) and a pack of Tunnocks Teacakes (€1.25), my addiction to which I blame on an English friend living in Scotland who introduced me to them. Total €11.25. On the way back, I call into the local chipper for fresh cod and chips (a weekly treat) – cost €8.

Today’s total: €19.25

Wednesday

Got the bus, which takes €2.15 off my Leap Card, to work as I’m meeting a friend after work. Lunch was the other Lidl sandwich, so nothing spent.

After getting home, my friend dropped me home in their car. I nipped round to Tesco and bought a pack of two white rolls (€1) to make sandwiches with the eggs from Iceland – that will be lunch for Thursday and Friday.

When I was there I glanced at the Polish section and spotted something I have been looking for for over 10 years since visiting Poland – plums in chocolate. At €3.99 for the box (with only eight in it), they are not cheap, but I have wanted them again since having one for the first time in Poland in 2005. I also got a pack of frozen mixed vegetables (€0.79c), which will be used as part of my dinners.

Dinner was another pack of the Birds Eye chicken along with a portion of the frozen mixed vegetables.

Today’s total: €5.78

Thursday

Usual cycle to work in unusually mild weather for this time of year – the calm before Storm Callum. I ditch the tracksuit trousers and revert to shorts and a t-shirt. Lunch is the other bread roll and eggs. I collect shirts from the launderette at lunchtime – as I generally cycle to work, it is easier to leave ironed shirts in the office to change into. €5 for five shirts ironed.

Those plums in chocolate are addictive so another trip to Tesco and another €3.99 along with €1.73 for a six-pack of anti-cholesterol drinks. I look at the remaindered section and spot vacuum packed bags of the brand of coffee I normally buy elsewhere because it is dearer in Tesco. At €2.80 for 150 grams, it is cheaper than €5 for the 200 grams jar I normally pay. I pick up two packs (€5.60). I also grab two bananas (€0.55) and a bottle of Tesco lo-cal tonic water for 25c. 

The astute who noted that I don’t drink might be wondering what the tonic water is for. I have a tendency to get leg cramps and find that tonic water lessens the frequency and severity of these. Total shop bill comes to €12.12.

Dinner is one of the pasta-ready meals bought previously.

Today’s total: €17.12

Friday

I get the bus to work today due to Storm Callum and pick up a breakfast roll on the journey from the bus stop to the office (€4). Lunch was provided in the office today as the company I work for celebrates a milestone anniversary, so no charge.

Bus home as well – the weather was such that I could have cycled both ways and saved the €2.15 Leap Card fare each way to be honest. Dinner was another pack of the Birds Eye chicken along with a portion of the frozen mixed vegetables – both bought previously.

Today’s total: €4

Saturday

My dad came around to help with a few DIY jobs, including replacing a plug socket and light fitting in the garden shed. Cost of the plug socket and accessories is €10 and a new LED light bulb for €9.99 in a local hardware store.

Another visit to Tesco to get a bread roll (€0.39) to use the last of the eggs for lunch, two packs of rice cakes (€0.34 each), a couple of bananas (€0.42) and another box of those plums in chocolate – damn you Tesco! (€5.48)

Due to having had a row with the bin collection company where I lived previously, I was charged a cancellation fee for not renewing with them as they sneakily changed their T&Cs to include auto renewal. I don’t have a bin collection contract as I only generate a small amount of waste, I let this build up in the garden shed and every three to four months, I borrow my dad’s car (I’m a named driver on his insurance policy) to go to the civic amenity site with the rubbish. It’s €15 for the car load.

Dinner was a snack box from the chipper – €5.90

Today’s total: €46.37

Sunday

Text message from Eir advising me that my monthly plan has expired and I need to top up. €20 top up gets me 15GB of data and unlimited Irish phone calls for 28 days. As a light internet user, this is sufficient. I can use their webtext facility for the odd SMS and I also use Whatsapp.

I have a monthly lunch outing with friends in the IFI café. To get some exercise, especially since I missed a day cycling to and from work, I walk 800m to the next bus stop that is a fare stage and get the lowest fare (€1.50). It conveniently takes me as far as the first Dublin Bike station near me. I use this to cycle into Molesworth Street to allow me to visit Hodges Figgis.

My biggest money weakness is books. I could easily spend €70-€80 in a visit to Hodges Figgis if books I wanted were available. Although on many of my monthly visits, I spend nothing. One of the things that attracted me to the house I bought this year is that the ground floor is one big open plan room, allowing me to make a combined living room/study/library out of it. On this occasion, I spent €50 on two books.

Lunch in the IFI is French toast and a couple of americanos (€12.35). I keep an eye on the Dublin Bus app as I head out to see the parents afterwards – that’s €2.60 off my Leap Card. Dinner is in their house so no cost to me and my dad drives me home so no return bus journey.

Today’s total: €62.35

Weekly subtotal: €184.16

What I’ve learned:

  • By living a modest lifestyle, it is possible to live very cheaply, even in Dublin. Excluding expenditure on holidays and books, I estimate I spend c.€600 per month on food and bills.
  • Ideally, I’d consider moving to a three-bed house, allowing me to let out two of the bedrooms under the ‘Rent a Room’ scheme and buy a small property in rural Ireland to hold my books etc. The latter would then become a retirement home, allowing me to either sell the Dublin property upon retirement or let it out as additional pension income.
  • However, I understand that this life would not be for most people and that if a significant number of people started emulating me, there would be a negative knock-on effect on the economy due to reduced spending.

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. 

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