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Money Diaries follow-up A student air traffic controller on €24K living in Shannon

This week, our reader revisits her spending habits in her second Money Diary and finds out she’s doing OK.

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 nurse on €40K living in Dublin and saving to buy a home. This week, a student air traffic controller on €24K living in Shannon does a second Money Diary, following up on one they kept for The Journal in 2021


A lot has changed since I did my previous Money Diaries, which I wrote while living in my parents’ house while saving for a deposit for a home. In my previous diary, I worried that I would never be able to afford a home. The good news is that this dream became a reality (although I bought it in Galway City rather than Dublin City). I am now the proud owner of a two-bed apartment!

Previously I had been working remotely as a software developer, however, I was offered a place on a training course for my dream career: Air Traffic Controller.

I gave up a lot to take the job. The training from March this year until March 2024 is unpaid apart from a student stipend of €300 per week with no perks. The training is in Shannon and I tried to live in Galway and drive back and forth every day, but this proved too challenging. So I had to let out my apartment and rent another home in Shannon instead.

I am living on an extremely small budget in an apartment that isn’t as nice as I’d like, but it will be all worth it when I get my license and start working next year. I am currently spending my savings rather than adding to them.

Occupation: Student air traffic controller

Age: 34

Location: Shannon

Salary: €24,000, plus €22,000 in rental income

Monthly pay (net): €2,800

Monthly expenses

Transport: €200

Rent: €1,750

Household bills: €200

Phone bill: €20

Health insurance: n/a

Groceries: €150

Subscriptions: Disney+, Netflix, NowTv, Spotify, pole dance lessons = €120



8.00 am: I get up for work and have a banana for breakfast and make a coffee in my machine to take to work. The machine at work charges €0.50 per cup and it’s not even nice coffee! I walk to work, which takes 10 minutes.

12.30 pm: I have lunch in the canteen at work. My employer covers the cost of my lunch each day so I use this as my main meal and have a large salad.

5.00 pm: After work, I walk home and have cereal as a snack with a spoonful of Nutella. I then pay some bills and make some online purchases (laser hair removal – €111, Lotto – €20, portion of apartment management fee – €100).

6.30 pm: I drive from Shannon to Limerick for a pole dance lesson. I don’t take the toll road as it is only four minutes quicker to avoid it.


Today’s total: €231.00


8.00 am: I have a banana for breakfast before walking to work: I bring my own cafe-au-lait.

12.45 pm: I have my lunch free in the canteen.

6.15 pm: I drive to Claregalway as I have rehearsals for a show that I’m doing there in November.

9.15 pm: Despite being hungry in the car home, I resist the urge to get drive-thru McDonalds. I just can’t afford it!

10.30 pm: When I get home, I have some cereal and then have a beer from my fridge while video calling with the guy I’m dating. I go to bed afterwards. 

Today’s total: €0.00


8.00 am: After a quick shower I have Greek yoghurt and a banana for breakfast. I make a cafe au lait for the walk to work.

1.00 pm: I walk home during my lunch break as I have to take an antibiotic (that I had forgotten to take in the morning) but I had my free lunch in the canteen first!

5.00 pm: After work, I have a snack of cereal and some crackers.

6.15 pm: I drive to Claregalway in the evening as I have rehearsals there again. I stop at a petrol station for €20 petrol. I was feeling really tired and I also get two bars of Dairy Milk chocolate for €3. Sometimes you just need to treat yourself.

10.30 pm: Dinner at home is cereal as usual and an apple.

Today’s total: €23.00


8.00 am: Work is as normal: I bring my own cappuccino and have lunch free in the canteen.

7.00 pm: After work, I have a dinner date so I pick up a bottle of Champagne in Lidl to bring (€20) to his house where we eat dinner and then watch France vs. Ireland on TV.

Today’s total: €20.00


8.00 am: Work is as normal: I bring my own cappuccino and have lunch free in the canteen.

3.30 pm: I finish work early on Fridays so I head home and try and get some chores done around the house (laundry, cleaning, changing sheets).

4.30 pm: I go for a 6k jog, but feel very tired during it.

6.00 pm: I have a beer from my fridge and cereal for dinner.

7.00 pm: Spend the rest of the evening chilling and watching Netflix.

Today’s total: €0.00


8.30 am: I have a coffee and after waking up a bit, I drive (5 mins) to my local park run. After running my 5k I return home and have breakfast.

10.30 am: I attach my surfboard to my car and drive to Lahinch for a session. I previously was paying €30 to rent a surfboard and wetsuit each time, but my parents bought me a board, wetsuit and roof rack so I could surf for free while I’m a student. I’m aware of how lucky I am to have parents who are eager to help out like that.

2.30 pm: I have cereal for a snack when I get home from surfing.

7.00 pm: In the evening I contemplate going to the cinema as it’s National Cinema Day but there isn’t anything interesting on (I’ve already seen Barbie and Oppenheimer) so instead I get a takeaway (€20) and watch Queen Charlotte on Netflix.

Today’s total: €20.00


9.30 am: I start the day with a 4k jog and then breakfast at home.

1.00 pm: I have to drive to rehearsal in Claregalway so I stop in Lidl on the way to pick up some bananas and energy drinks as snacks for today and throughout the week. I also get a pain-au-chocolat as it is free on the Lidl app (€3.54 altogether).

5.30 pm: I have to stop for petrol but I only put in €20. I think my car runs more efficiently when I don’t fill the tank up fully, it’s less heavy that way.

7.00 pm: Once I’m home, I have a video call with my sisters and then have the Chinese takeaway leftovers for dinner.

Today’s total: €23.54

Weekly subtotal: €317.54


What I learned –

  • Some people might comment on how boring my food choices are (mostly due to my budget) but I love having cereal for dinner every day. It’s a treat for me.
  • I didn’t realise how much I was spending on subscriptions. But after reviewing them now I haven’t cancelled any as I legitimately use them all! I’m trying to be frugal but at the same time, we have to retain some of life’s little luxuries.
  • My sister sent me a quote that said that if people switch from a long drive to work to walking to work their happiness increases as much as if they’d fallen in love. I definitely agree with this! (I’m also spending a lot less money on petrol.)

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