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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C

Money Diaries A civil engineer and farmer on €75K living in Leinster

This week, our reader is busy running his farm and working as an engineer, while also building his own home.

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 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 manager at an NGO earning €53K. This week it’s a civil engineer and farmer on €75K. 


I’m a civil engineer in my 40s, primarily working from home with the odd day in the office. I also have a small beef farm (35 cattle) and do some agricultural contracting for neighbours on a small scale too. This allows me to drive which I love doing and gets me out of the office work to clear my head.

I live with my wife and four-year-old son. We are expecting a new child in October. We rent a small three-bedroom terrace house and are building a new house. We started last September and just finished the roof. This is a self-build and my father-in-law has building experience. He’s doing a lot of the project management. We’d be lost without him. The windows are ordered and are the next big item to go in. We’ve spent just over €100k so far on the build, all from our savings which are nearly empty. We’ve been approved for a mortgage and drew down in January before the last couple of rate hikes. We were lucky to avoid those hikes and fixed the interest rate for seven years.

My days are busy, and no two days are alike. It’s great to have variety. My wife works three days per week which allows her to mind our child at home and save on childcare. We felt that made sense and we are actually better off losing two days’ wages versus paying childcare. When we are stuck our parents help out, which is fantastic. On days we both work we take turns on entertaining him during the afternoon when he returns from play school.

For leisure, I try to do some running and cycling. It’s hard to find time at this time of year but I always try to get 30 minutes in somewhere along the way to loosen the body.

I used to save some money each month, but that stopped once we started building. I also used to invest around €100 a month in stocks and shares but again stopped that when building began. I prioritised ones that paid dividends so that there would be a small regular income. I reinvest any dividends to try to take advantage of compounding.

Occupation: Civil engineer and farmer

Age: 40s

Location: Leinster

Salary: €75,000

Monthly pay (net): €3,700

Monthly expenses

Transport: €250 diesel

Rent: €700

Household bills: €170

Phone bill: N/a (company pays)

Health insurance: N/a (company pays)

Groceries: N/a (wife covers groceries, I cover bills/rent)

Subscriptions: None

Pensions: €375 + €500 AVCs

Mortgage: €221 (split between two of us [only a small amount has been drawn down so far])

Life insurance and mortgage protection: €43 (split between two of us)



5.30 am: Alarm goes off and I get out of bed, dressed and drive 10 minutes to my friend’s yard where I milk his cows while he’s away.

6.00 am: Start milking and turn cows back out to a fresh paddock. Some held back for the AI technician.

7.30 am: Drive home for the cornflakes and play with my four-year-old for a while before he goes to play school.

9.00 am: My wife makes me a packed lunch. I grab that and head to the yard. I’m taking some annual leave to take advantage of the sunny weather. I check my own cattle before starting the tractor and go mow silage on contract. I start that work around 10 am.

5.00 pm: I get back to the yard. I didn’t stop and ate lunch on the go. It’s great with GPS and autosteer on the tractor to allow eating while moving.

5.30 pm: Second contract job of the day is to spread some fertiliser for a neighbour. Switch machines on the tractor and quickly do that.

7.00 pm: Arrive home for dinner. My wife and child already ate. I heat mine in the microwave. Chicken, potatoes and peas. Lovely.

8.00 pm: After saying goodnight to my kid, I head out to the new house and start chasing walls for first fit electrics. Need to try to keep costs down. This is hard work but doable. We know where we want sockets and light switches. I’ll chase those. Any extra can be added later when we get an electrician.

10.00 pm: Quick check on the cattle again and finish for the day.

10.30 pm: Have a cup of tea followed by some YouTube and reading up on the day’s events on the internet. My go-to sites are Twitter and Boards. I’ve a lot of work lined up for tomorrow, so I shower before bed and hit the pillow for midnight.

Today’s total: €0.00


5.00 am: Wake up before the alarm with the sun shining through the blinds and the birds singing. Find getting up early in this weather a breeze. Grab breakfast and head for the yard.

5.30 am: Get the tractor going and head off to spread slurry for a neighbour. Since the start of this year, he has had to spread using LESS (Low Emission Slurry Spreading) and hasn’t managed to get his own tank fitted with the equipment yet. Luckily, I got the job for a bit of extra income. There isn’t much to do today for him.

9.00 am: I’m back home to change equipment again. It’s lovely and sunny outside. The next job is to ted the fields I cut yesterday. I fill the tractor with diesel, put on the tedder and head away.

1.00 pm: Finished that job and it’s time to head home. Stop at the local filling station for lunch. Grab a chicken roll with cheese and onions, some wedges and a coffee. I do the Euromillions as well. All told I’m €24.70 worse off. I eat it outside on the benches and scroll through Twitter on my phone.

1.45 pm: I’m back in the yard and straight to the new house. I’m meeting an electrician to see if he’s interested in the wiring of the place. I’ve got three quotes so far that range from €21k to €29k. I might have to cut out some of the fancy lights I’d wanted, though I feel lighting is important and I want to get it right now.

2.30 pm: Straight to the house now for a quick clean and change of clothes. We have the anomaly scan in the hospital at 3 pm. Time is against us for making it on time.

3.30 pm: Scan over and all is great. That’s a big relief. We celebrate with a coffee and hot chocolate. €7.20 covers that.

4.20 pm: I’m back in the yard and back on the tractor. I’ve to move some bales for a farmer a few miles away. It’s not a big move but it can be slow work as his yard is small. Drop the tedder and put on the loader and trailer and off I go.

8.00 pm: I’m home, and hungry. I put on a bit of pasta for myself to keep me going. Still have more jobs to do. The bright evenings are great.

8.30 pm: I better check the cattle. I’ve not had a chance all day. They are all fine but I see a water leak in their trough. I turn that off and move them to fresh grass. They needed a move. Grass is growing rapidly these days and management is a little harder. Better to look at it than for it all the same.

9.00 pm: The evenings are cool and there is some dew on the ground for the last few nights. I’ll put on the sprayer and spread some ground with a foliar application. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, and it improves soil health and reduces the need for chemical nitrogen. This is a good time to do it as strong sun can affect the product’s effectiveness.

11.00 pm: Finally in. Have a quick pint of milk before a few minutes on the internet to see what’s new.

11.40 pm: Call it a day and head for bed.

Today’s total: €31.90


6.10 am: No alarm set for this morning, and I had a lie in! Wake up fresh and decide I’ll go for a run. Quickly get changed and out the door. I do 7.5km and it takes me 42 minutes. I’m content with that. I have lost a lot of fitness and what I lost in fitness I gained in weight. I’ll lose it again once I get back into a more regular routine.

7.00 am: Home and sit down to the breakfast. Weetabix today. I like to change it up. I hear the child stirring too.

7.20 am: The little man is wide awake and I call into his room. We play for a while and then head down for his breakfast and get him ready for play school. My wife has a cold and is resting up.

8.50 am: Off to drop the child to play school and from there, I’ll head with the car to get tested. It failed its NCT a couple of weeks ago, but I got the parts and it’s fixed up now.

9.40 am: Car passed. Another year of driving permitted. €28 for the retest. I bought the car new in 2009 and it’s still going strong. It has 345km on the clock. I have thought about changing a few times but then sense kicks in. Car prices are crazy, and my own car is near worthless to trade. Best keep it going. Better for the environment too and not be scrapping something that’s working and replace with new.

10.15 am: Home again. My wife is curled up on the couch. I make her a Lemsip and head to the co-op to get a few pieces to fix the water leak from yesterday.

11.00 am: Home again with new joiners. They and other bits cost €34 which will come out of the farm account. I head to the field and fix the leak and check the cattle while I’m there. All is good. They are relaxing under the hedges for shade.

12.00 pm: I head to the play school and collect the little man. We stop at the shop on the way home to grab lunch. He has a grá for cheese sandwiches these days. We grab a few sandwiches and sausage rolls. I also do the Lotto for tonight. Fingers crossed. Spent €26.20 in all.

1.15 pm: The Lemsip and sandwich have done wonders for the wife and she’s up and about. Herself and himself have plans to go out in the little backyard to play in the sun. I head to the tractor and get set to mow my own silage. I wait until after lunch to ensure all the dew is gone and the grass sugars are at their highest. I’ve six hours or so mowing ahead of me and I bring some crisps, water and a packet of biscuits for sustenance.

5.20 pm: I get a notification on my phone from Revolut that I’ve paid €33.60 to Eddie Rockets. Scam or dinner? Let’s wait and see.

5.55 pm: Here’s Eddie! Dinner brought to the field. I’m handed a box of chicken tenders and bacon/cheese chips. Lovely.

7.10 pm: Back in the yard. I’m back to the office work tomorrow but I’ve some things to do first before I start that. I get the tractor and things ready to roll bright and early.

7.45 pm: I stop at the shop and buy three ice creams. A Snickers ice cream is €2.50! I really shouldn’t have bought it. Anyway, spend €9.39 in the shop.

9.00 pm: Check last night’s Euromillions ticket, and it’s disappointing as I have won nothing.

9.30 pm: A cup of tea and a browse through YouTube before bed is in order.

11.00 pm: Lights out….

Today’s total: €97.19


6.00 am: Alarm goes off and up I get. The first job today is to bring cattle to the factory for my neighbour. I don’t bother with breakfast and head off.

8.20 am: Back home and in to join the rest of the family for breakfast. My wife, feeling better, gets the young lad ready while I finish off my food.

8.50 am: Bring the young lad to play school and then head back home for the office job.

9.15 am: Laptop on and I get a cup of tea while it performs one of its regular updates. It doesn’t take long. The first job is to quickly glance through emails. Any that look important from the heading I respond to, and the rest I delete. If it’s important, they’ll send it again. A look at the calendar shows I don’t have many meetings today. I open the last project I was working on and do a bit more to it. I’m currently working on plans for flood defences. This seems like a waste of time in this instance due to the proposed plans in the EU to raise the water table in areas.

12.30 pm: Young man is home from play school, and I join him for lunch. Today’s lunch consists of brown bread and boiled eggs.

1.10 pm: Back to work. I plan to finish early. I’ve a great employer who trusts me to do the work given to me on time. After that, I can tip away at other things. And today, I need to get my grass baled this evening.

3.30 pm: A call from the contractor says he’ll be on in an hour. I close the laptop and head for the yard and get set up to rake the grass so he can bale it.

6.00 pm: My wife delivers tea and sandwiches to the field for the workers. I always liked this part when the machines stop for a break. Years ago, in my parents, the house would be full of men in for food. Nowadays with time pressure, the contractors hardly have time to stop but these lads must be hungry.

7.00 pm: I’m finished raking and the bales are still being made. I change equipment on the tractor again and start to bring in the bales for the winter. A lot of work ahead and I won’t get done tonight.

11.30 pm: I’ve enough done for the day, and I head home.

11.50 pm: Hit the hay…..

Today’s total: €0.00


5.00 am: Out again at the bales before the crows get a chance to peck holes in them. I’ve a banger set up to scare them in case, but they usually won’t go near them while I’m in and out of the field.

9.00 am: Head home to log back into work. I’ve the house to myself today as the rest are gone to Bloom. I grab some tea and toast and head to the spare room.

12.30 pm: Busy morning with meetings today. My attention span is not what it used to be and if the meeting has little to do with me, I often start scrolling on the internet and reading articles about stuff I’d have an interest in. I cycle down to the shop for a roll and get my Lotto ticket checked. No winnings again. Spend €6 on a roll, crisps and drink. Some sort of special offer on there.

1.20 pm: Lunch over and it’s back to the laptop. I’ve a good bit to do today but it will have to wait until tonight. The bales are on my mind.

3.30 pm: Right, that’s enough of looking out at the sun. Time to get out in it, albeit in the cab with air con turned on.

7.10 pm: All done. Phew. I park up and head home. No one there so it’s a takeaway dinner for me. I stop in the chipper and get chips and pizza. Another €15 gone.

7.30 pm: I bring the food to the laptop and try do a bit more work. Mind isn’t in it though.

9.00 pm: Wife and child are home and he’s heading to bed. An hour later than usual but he was full of chat after his day and had a nap in the car too.

10.30 pm: I’m nodding off to sleep myself on the couch. I decide to go for a shower and then go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.

Today’s total: €21.00


7.00 am: I’m awake a little while and no one else is. I’ll go do a small run.

7.40 am: I did a 5k which took me a little over 24 minutes. I tried to do each km faster than the previous. It was cool this morning, but I lost some sweat. Holy moly.

7.50 am: Everyone else is up for their breakfast. I join in and then head for a shower.

8.30 am: Myself and the little man head off to the yard. Our first job is to check the cattle. They are very content. Where they have great shade from the trees and they spend the hot hours resting there. I check their water and all is fine.

9.30 am: Off to the new house build now and do work there for a few hours. First up is to finish putting insulation in around where the windows will go. It’s not hard work but is slow.

11.30 am: Insulation done, it’s time for some hammering. I have to put a few wall ties (may not be the actual name – the things that hold the wall plate down to the wall. Like metal straps) on to keep the roof secured to the blocks.

1.10 pm: Lunch time. Ham sandwiches made by those at home. I can easily tell which was made by the four-year-old, who is all proud of himself for making a sandwich. I’ve eaten worse.

2.00 pm: I leave the house and head back to the site and finish off the work.

4.00 pm: Tractor time. Hooray. A friend is digging out some clay to put in a new garage and I’ve kindly volunteered to take the clay from him and use it to form my lawn.

7.00 pm: Job done. Nice pile on the site now. No panic spreading it out yet. That can be done in 12 months. Now though, dinner time. Bacon and spuds.

8.00 pm: After dinner and a bit of playing, it’s time to take the kid to bed.

8.30 pm: He’s fast asleep, and so is the wife. I make a cup of tea and watch a bit of YouTube.

9.45 pm: I’m up and dressed and it’s time for pints. Won’t go wild.

2.40 am: I get home. I text the wife as I left the pub so I’d remember the time for this report. The pub had a special offer of four pints for €20. It’s not that long ago when it was three for a tenner. According to Revolut, I spent €40 during the night.

Today’s total: €40.00


7.30 am: I’m woken by the child thinking a belly flop onto me while I sleep would be fierce funny. In fairness, it probably was but at the time I didn’t see it that way.

8.30 am: I fell back asleep but I’m up now and grab the breakfast. We all go for a stroll and the chap on his bike. He’s just getting used to peddling after being on a balance bike. He’s very wobbly. So am I.

10.00 am: Back home and I make a coffee and a slice of toast. We’re dropping the little man to his grandparents, and we head to Ikea. First though, we must go to mass in the cemetery.

11.20 am: Mass over and I am wrecked. It was a major struggle to stand in the heat. On the road now to Dublin.

12.40 pm: We’ve arrived and parked up. I’m hungry again and we head straight for the canteen in Ikea. We both get soup and a roll. I grab a sandwich too and a bottle of water. €7.50 is all it cost. That’s great value. However, I have a major problem with food prices in general. The problem is food is too cheap and people put no value on it.

3.15 pm: Finally finished walking around. We went primarily to look at beds but weren’t too impressed with the quality of the children’s beds. They didn’t look like they’d stand up to much hardship. We bought a few other bits and pieces and spent €66 in total.

4.20 pm: Stop on the way down out of Dublin for an ice cream but got a coffee and scone instead. This cost €14 for that. Some markup there compared to a lunch in Ikea for nearly half the price. Back to my previous point. A lot of people have no problems paying €3.50 or more for a coffee but complain like crazy having to pay 90c for a litre of milk. To me, it makes no sense at all.

5.10 pm: Arrive back and the little man has a desire for a pizza. I head off to get that from a nice restaurant who do lovely pizzas about 10 minutes away. There’s eight of us to be fed now and I buy six pizzas. Total €90.

7.30 pm: We head home after eating and then running around the garden playing chase with my child and his cousin of the same age. I’m tired now.

9.30 pm: I flick on the laptop to see how much work is lining up for me tomorrow. Turns out none seeing as it’s a bank holiday. With the shame of that mistake, I go to bed.

Today’s total: €177.50

Weekly subtotal: €367.59


What I learned –

  • I seem to eat out a lot more than I realised. It might be a good idea to cut back on that spending a little bit. I used to go for a coffee or stop for one every day if I was driving around. I’ve cut that out already, mostly.
  • This week had little or no outgoings really for the house. But I know once the bank holiday is over, suppliers will be sending me their monthly bills. I suspect there’ll be €7,000 or so payout for materials next week. These are hard to accept, but necessity. One thing I have learned this week is our main supplier of materials is now charging more than their competitors in the region. I’ll be ringing on Tuesday to complain. It keeps them on their toes, and they match prices if I can show they are more expensive. We do shop around all the time, and they have honoured lower prices to date.
  • The farm work will quieten a little this coming week as the weather is still too dry. Once rain starts coming then I’ll have long hours contracting at slurry. This is a time-consuming job but it’s not difficult and the pay is good versus the effort needed.

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