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Money Diaries A part-time adult tutor on low and infrequent pay living in Leinster

This week, our reader is busy getting to the gym and managing finances on a low budget.

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 37-year-old fibre surveyor living at home with parents. This week, a part-time adult tutor on low and insecure pay living outside Dublin.

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I’m currently living in Leinster (for now anyway). I live less than a 10-minute walk from a train station which is great. Public transport is very efficient and cheap.

My income is unpredictable which can make planning a bit challenging, but I usually aim to save 10% of my income each month and then wait until it gets to a reasonable sum before “doing” something productive with it. I use an automated feature on my bank account to transfer 10% of what comes into a separate online savings account – one less thing for me to remember to do.

I work part-time in adult education, which I love but the pay is low. I’m not a teacher so I’m on a different contract. I don’t get paid holidays and I don’t get paid for training. I also don’t get paid for nine weeks during the summer months, Christmas, Easter or mid-term breaks.

I aim to get to the gym five times a week. To relax, I read, cook or make lame attempts at DIY. Going to the gym has been a very big part of my mental health recovery. I had a personal crisis recently and needed to find a coping strategy.

I am still in negotiations with the Department of Social Protection about my job seekers’ allowance. As my hours are reduced during the summer, I should be able to claim a casual payment but it is always a stressful and unnecessarily complex situation as I am not officially a job seeker because I will go back to work in mid-September.

Right now, I am preparing my house for sale. It’s a great motivator to get all those small jobs done and I do a daily declutter. This diary was written during the summer so I’m not in the classroom. My schedule is a bit more chaotic during term time.

Occupation: Part-time adult education tutor
Age: 50
Location: Leinster
Salary: Haven’t got one
Monthly pay (net): Varies considerably – I averaged €1,800 gross per month last year

Monthly expenses

Transport: Varies. During the academic year, I am driving much more but my car is fuel efficient and I use a fuel card, average €100 per month plus c. €30 per month for Leap Card
Rent: None – paid off my mortgage a few years ago
Life policy: €15
Toll bridges: €10 approx
Household bills: Gas heating, electricity and property taxes c. €100 
Phone bill: €12.99 for mobile and €25 for broadband
Health insurance: None, it was proving very costly for not much in return so I pay for what I need to and claim it on my tax return
Monthly prescription: €20 
Health supplements, vitamins etc: €30-ish
Groceries: Varies c. €100 per week, I try to avoid throwing food out, it’s just me so I shop two-to-three times a week, menu planning dictated by specials in Lidl and Aldi, I enjoy cooking and normally batch cook
Subscriptions: c. €30 per month. I use Dropbox for backups, no TV and rarely watch it. $70 US dollars a year for my money planning software, €7-ish monthly for Amazon Audible, I use it from time to time and also use Borrow Box which is free. I like to listen to books while I’m driving, during term time I could be driving for two-to-three hours per day depending on traffic so this feels like a more productive use of my time
Gym membership: €35 for roaming
Guilty pleasure: €30 on coffee pods
Dentist: I had trouble with my teeth so I go to a dental hygienist about three or four times a year, this costs me about €50 – €60 a month but works out cheaper than expensive dental bills and it’s tax-deductible
Car loan: €240, I have 14 months left
Winter months or during bad weather: €40-ish on laundry

***

Monday

6.15 am: I’m an early riser and like to be up 6 am ish each morning. I start the morning with warm water, lemon and then a five-minute meditation. I get straight into my workout gear so that I have to go to the gym. I have zero discipline to just train at the gym. I like to do a class to give me structure. I like to do a yoga or pilates class in the morning.

7.00 am: I do a yoga class this morning. If I am working from home, I’ll have breakfast when I get back, usually eggs or porridge. If I’m heading to class, I bring overnight oats or a protein shake with me.

8.30 am: Head to work. I decide to work from my local library today for a change of scenery. Outside of term time, I am preparing new lesson plans, upskilling, catching up on all those online courses I pay for and never do, etc.

12.00 pm: I go home to have lunch – a green smoothie and some rice cakes with nut butter.

5.00 pm: Dinner. Slow-cooked eggs to use up some vegetables in the fridge. I slow cook most food because even I can’t mess it up. I have more energy in the morning and it’s nice to come home to something ready.

7.00 pm: Read a book for a bit, tidy up the house and do some laundry.

10.45 pm: Head to bed.

Today’s total: €0.00

Tuesday

6.00 am: Up and head to the gym, which is a 10-minute drive away. I am always amazed at how busy it is.

7.00 am: Back home for some breakfast and coffee. I have a Nespresso machine that I bought during Covid. I prefer decent coffee at home rather than bad, at times expensive takeaway coffee. I aim to limit my coffee intake to two cups a day usually before midday. I might have decaf later on. I like Nespresso as the subscription is better value and gives me a few sleeves of complimentary coffee every now and then and I bring the capsules back for recycling.

8.00 am: I spend some time catching up on weeding and replanting in between very heavy rain showers.

12.30 pm: Lunch. The other half of the slow-cooked eggs, with some freshly baked rolls from Lidl. I bought some groceries earlier today (€35.00) for the next few days.

7.00 pm: Dinner – chickpeas with rice and grains. I put this in the slow cooker in the morning with some veg and spices and used pre-cooked grains from Lidl.

9.00 pm: Catch up with a friend on a Zoom chat.

11.00 pm: Bedtime.

Today’s total: €35.00

Wednesday

6.00 am: Up and head straight to the gym. I really enjoy this part of the day (at the moment anyway). I may not say the same thing on a rainy, dark freezing cold morning in November.

8.00 am: Back home for breakfast, hang out the laundry. I put some food into the slow cooker for dinner later on.

8.30 am: I’m at my desk and I have a few meetings lined up. I have some mandatory CPD training to do for my adult education job so that takes a few hours. Annoyingly I don’t get paid for it.

1.00 pm: Lunch. I mix up a salad with nuts, veg and leaves from the fridge.

3.00 pm: I then decide to empty and vacuum my car.

7.00 pm: Dinner, struggling for inspiration so I put some vegetable burgers in the George Foreman and have them with some salad.

8.00 pm:  1-hour mastermind session with some of my friends. I am in a weekly accountability group which helps keep me on track.

9.00 pm: Read my Kindle for a bit.

11.00 pm: Bedtime.

Today’s total: €0.00

Thursday

6.00 am: Start and get straight into my gym clothes. Head to yoga again and then into the city to meet a friend for coffee.

9.00 am: I buy some new training clothes at a Gym+Coffee sale – €75.00 for leggings and a T-shirt. I have a wedding to go to later on this year so need to get organised for that.

12.00 pm: Book flights to the UK and one-night accommodation. I have borrowed a dress from a friend.

1.00 pm: Have lunch with a friend – we had intended to meet for coffee but we had not seen each other for a while and stayed chatting.

4.00 pm: Just in the door at home.

7.00 pm: Dinner of leftovers from last night.

11.00 pm: Bedtime.

Today’s total: €250.00 (including flight and accommodation)

Friday

6.00 am: My usual start to the day with a trip to the gym. My new leggings are incredibly comfortable.

8.00 am: Back home for some breakfast and I’m at my desk for 8.30 am. I have some training to catch up on and some work for my mastermind group.

12.30 pm:  To give myself a break, I take a walk up to my local Lidl to get some lunch and some fresh air. Lidl has a nice onsite bakery so I buy some rolls for lunch and have them with hummus. I spend €35.00 or so on groceries and some household things. I tend to avoid the middle aisle otherwise I’ll come home with random items.

4.00 pm: Home and a few bits to do on the laptop.

6.00 pm: I am starting to fade so I close my laptop and read a book for a bit. I set the timer for 40 minutes and clean the house, changing bed linen etc. In the winter, I take sheets and towels to the local laundry. This makes my life considerably easier and I don’t have wet things in the house. My local laundry has complimentary collection and delivery.

7.00 pm: Dinner time.

Today’s total: €35.00

Saturday

6.30 am: I tend to get up at the same time each day – seven days a week – where possible. This has helped me regulate my sleep pattern and it’s good for my mental health.

9.30 am: Instead of the gym today, I do my local park run and come home for breakfast at 10 am. Much as I enjoy my yoga classes, I prefer to be outside.

1.00 pm: A friend invites me for lunch so I bring a bottle of wine (€15.00) and some flowers from the garden.

5.00 pm: I fill up my car on the way back. I use a fuel card that gives me 3c off the pump price and I pay this monthly. The fuel probably cost me about €43.00.

6.00 pm: Lunch was huge so I don’t bother having anything to eat later on. Catch up on some paperwork, tidy my desk which gets out of hand very quickly and sort out some flower beds to make the front of the house look a bit more presentable.

11.00 pm: Bedtime.

Today’s total: €58.00

Sunday

6.30 am: Up I get, as usual.

10.00 am: I head to a class at the gym for the slightly later time today, 10-11.

11.30 am: The weather is reasonable so I take the opportunity to tidy up the garden and sort out some things to bring to the recycle centre. I am clearing out my garden shed as it needs to be replaced. New shed is metal and costs €600, I paid for it a few weeks ago.

12.00 pm: Book a haircut for next week which is €40.00 if I book online. I pay some bills and book a boiler service. It is always easier to get this done in the summer – €90.00 euro for the service. Head to the shop to buy some groceries and a bottle of wine – €35.00.

12.30 pm: Have some more freshly baked rolls from Lidl with hummus.

1.30 pm: I spend an hour in the afternoon reviewing my household finances and insurance. I keep an eye on things like annual contracts, insurance, etc and shop around when they come up for renewal.

7.00 pm: A friend comes over for dinner. I cook vegetarian burritos with salad and ice cream.

11.00 pm: My usual bedtime.

Today’s total: €165.00

Weekly subtotal: €543.00

***

What I learned –

  • Joining a gym is a fairly new venture for me. I had been paying for drop-in yoga classes at €15 a go; paying €35 euro a month (plus a one-off joining fee of €25 euro) made complete sense as it gives me unlimited classes. Because I don’t have one regular place of work, roaming membership works better for me.
  • Since taking up yoga and regular exercise, my sleep pattern has improved. I have not lost any weight but I feel better mentally and physically.
  • I really love adult education but the pay is not great, the work is not guaranteed and it can be quite mentally draining. There is a lot of driving involved and public transport is not really suitable because I’m going from training centre to training centre with all my class materials. Since classes finished for the summer, I realised how wound up I get in making sure all my students have the best possible experience and get the results they deserve. There is a lot of paperwork involved with QQI-accredited programmes and any administrative work outside of the classroom is not paid for.
  • I slow cook most things because it’s much easier to clean than the oven, and it suits my style of eating.
  • My screen time is way too high, especially outside of class time. I might need to bring in some discipline for myself.
  • After a look at my finances, I need to make better plans for my retirement. I need to increase my monthly contribution and I can still add a lump sum coming up to the end of the tax year.
  • I am still working out the cost of moving again. My plan is to have sold and bought again within the next 6 – 8 months. Legal fees, stamp duty and surveyors fees are costly, I am aiming to absorb those with the sale of my current house.
  • Garden sheds accumulate clutter! If I had not needed to replace the old wooden one, the clutter would probably have grown. The metal one will be lower maintenance and will make the whole house look more cared for.
  • My biggest expense recently has been the new shed – I still need to get someone to take the old one away.

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