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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Money Diaries A mum with a young family who recently moved home to Ireland after 15 years away
This week, our reader and her husband are busy saving for a mortgage while taking care of their two young children.

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 29-year-old recruiting specialist on €70K living in Dublin. This week, a stay-at-home mum with a young family who recently moved home to Ireland after 15 years away.


Myself and my husband (then boyfriend) left Ireland 15 years ago before the height of the recession. We went to Australia for a year, found it wasn’t for us and then went to New Zealand only planning to go for a year. We ended up staying there for almost six years.

We came back to this side of the world and moved to London where we stayed for eight years and had two children. I didn’t return to work once we had our first, something I didn’t think would ever happen. I always thought I’d go back to work but with childcare being over £2,000 a month, we decided against it. I actually really enjoyed ‘being home’ (even though we were never at home – always out and about).

We never bought our own place as we always thought we’d come back to Ireland much sooner than we did. We didn’t know what we were doing. Just enjoying life. Before we knew it, we were 15 years away. Some people will say we were crazy but the freedom we had was great.

We made the decision to move back to Ireland 18 months ago after a lot of property price research and work opportunities. At several points, we thought it wouldn’t happen but it finally did. It took three months to sort everything once we got the confirmation we were coming back. We’re currently renting in Dublin and saving for a mortgage. My husband works full time between the office in town and at home.

Occupation: Stay-at-home mammy, husband is a senior project manager in the commercial construction sector

Ages: 36 and 42

Salary: €95,000 basic, €17,000 yearly bonus

Monthly pay: €5,690

Monthly expenses

Rent: €2,200

Diesel: €70

Phone: €15 each, €30 in total

Health Insurance: Work pays for myself and my husband, €70 for the kids (€35 each)

Household Bills: Sky – €66, Vodafone Broadband – €30, SSE Airtricity Gas & Elec – €277 all year fixed, bins – €16

Transport to the office and around for meetings: Work covers it

Gymnastics term fees (every 14 weeks – 6 hours training a week): €210.

Savings: €500 to a mortgage saver account. Anything extra at the end of the month goes into a basic savings account for any unexpected costs. This can vary between €300 and €1,500. We would put it in the mortgage saver but we’re not able to just add random amounts unless we go into the branch and do it. I think if it ends up becoming a somewhat large amount, then we may add some of it to the mortgage saver account.

Yearly expenses

Car insurance: €880

Car tax: €190.

NCT: (from next year) €55.



12.30 am: I’m convinced that Miss 3 sleepwalks. She’s into us every single night without fail. She’s not awake when she’s in our room. I pick her up and bring her back to her bed.

5.30 am: Miss 3 is up and into us. This time, definitely awake. She climbs in and has a cuddle before telling me she needs the toilet. She does this on the daily and the clock change has completely messed with her waking times. We’ve tried everything to teach her that it isn’t time to get up but this is her body clock right now. We’ve just got to go with it. Thankfully, knowing from experience, these things don’t last so it’s all good…. Until I’m absolutely wrecked. Watch this space.

7.00 am: Miss 6 is awake. The usual chaos of breakfast, teeth brushing and getting ready for school commences.

8.47 am: Walk Miss 6 to school for 8.50 am drop off. It’s so so handy being across the road from the school. I know we won’t be this lucky when the time comes to buy somewhere. On a normal day, Miss 3 and I would hop in the car and I’d drop her to playschool until 1 pm. But, she’s full of a cold and tired. I make the decision to keep her at home so that she can rest.

9.00 am: I do some bits and bobs around the house and play with the little one.

10.00 am: Miss 3 and I go out for a little walk to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.

11.00 am: Miss 3 asks to go for a nap but doesn’t sleep because she’s non-stop coughing. She tries though but comes down after 45 mins. The poor thing. She comes down and watches some TV instead. I do the usual tidying, washing, cleaning, and sorting after the weekend. The house always ends up upside down after the weekend. I also watch the AskPaul Mortgage Webinar which is very informative. Hubby is working from home today so we have a bit of lunch together too. I can leave Miss 3 at home while I go and collect Miss 6 from school.

1.30 pm: Head out and collect Miss 6 from school. She absolutely loves the shorter school day here, compared to a 3.30 pm finish in the UK. She’s full of beans coming out of school and it’s so nice to have a longer afternoon together. We come home and I make a snack because Miss 6 is “starrrrving” (obviously) after school. Why is that?? They only had lunch at midday.

2.30 pm: We head out for a walk along the beach to get some fresh air, searching for shells and watching the waves.

4.45 pm: The girls have an early dinner as Miss 6 has gymnastics training at 5.30 pm. I usually eat with them on days like this as I’m not keen on eating really late. It plays havoc with trying to get her to sleep.

5.15 pm: Miss 6 and I hop in the car and I drop her at gymnastics. It’s only a one hour session today so I wait in the car, listen to music and catch up on life admin. It’s actually bliss – what’s that about?? There’s no point going home in rush hour traffic. I’d only be home 10-15 mins before needing to leave again. And with the cost of diesel – no way!!

6.30 pm: Miss 6 and I head home after gymnastics. She loves it. She’s absolutely buzzing. Miss 3 and hubby have been having some wind down play time before bed. Once home, we read books and play with her doll house and chat. Miss 6 is downstairs having a snack and catching up with her Dad.

6.45 pm: Miss 3 is ready to sleep and she’s out like a light.

8.00 pm: Miss 6 is ready for bed. 6-year-olds are soooo much easier to put to bed. She’s up and ready to sleep. Winner. Myself and hubby catch up on the day because it’s absolutely impossible to have a conversation with two children around. We make a point of doing this every evening because we saw a lack of communication beginning to happen… and we all know what happens when that happens. We watch some Netflix and I head to bed earlier than him as I know I’ll be up at the crack of dawn with Miss 3. Read The Journal app and go to sleep.

Today’s total: €0.00


Exactly the same as yesterday. With the additional 12am sleepwalk into our room. Except this time, Miss 3 woke up when I put her back into bed. Disaster! She was still awake at 3 am. Honestly, it hasn’t been this bad since she was a newborn needing feeds every three hours.

6.00 am: Early wake up despite the middle of the night shenanigans.

7.00 am: Normal school morning madness. Miss 3 is a bit better and asking to go into playschool so I send her in.

9.30 am: I go for a much needed walk and then meet a friend for a catch-up coffee. She got them last time so I pay for two coffees (€7). Also, pick up soup and a roll in Supervalu (€5.70).

11.30 am: Pop to the post office to send off some letters and pictures that Miss 6 made for her bestie in London. And a few other bits. (€5.75)

12.00 pm: Myself and hubby have some lunch. It’s rent day, so I log on and make sure that it transferred okay. €2,200. Rents are absolutely bonkers at the moment. It’s similar to what we were paying in London but our gaff in London was a much bigger property. However, looking at rents there now, our old house was rented out for £2k more a month than what we were paying. We were long term tenants, so when we started renting there, it was ‘reasonable’ … We were extremely lucky to have found this property where we are now, especially in the current madness, so we’re very grateful. It’s much much smaller but the location is ideal.

12.30 pm: I carry on with life admin. I need to renew my passport and also apply for Irish passports for the children.

1.00 pm: I collect Miss 3 from playschool. Her playschool does 9 am-1 pm Monday – Thursday unlike others which are 9 am-12 pm Mon – Fri. It’s nice that we have our Friday mornings together.

1.30 pm: Collect Miss 6 from school.

3.00 pm: I suggest we go out for a walk but Miss 6 insists that it’s “boring” without her pals (even though it was okay yesterday). She’s 6 going on 16. I bring the two to soft play and get dinner there too. (€36)

6.30 pm: Home and it’s time to start the bedtime routine.

8.30 pm: Both kids have been down for a while now so myself and hubby catch up and watch some Netflix.

9.00 pm: Miss 3 has woken up upset so I give her a small bit of Calpol as she says that she has a sore throat again. Hmmm. She soon settles.

10.00 pm: Time for bed. I’m done in and anticipate another bad night with Miss 3.

Today’s total: €54.45.


6.20 am: It’s a miracle!!! There was no sign of Miss 3 in the night and she only woke at 6.30 am. I feel GREAT.

7.00 am: Normal school day madness.

8.50 am: Walk Miss 6 to school. Hop in the car and drop Miss 3 at playschool. I chat to one of the other mammies for quite some time. We should’ve just gone somewhere for coffee.

9.30 am: Go to Tesco to pick up some bits that I can’t get in Lidl or Aldi (€36). I come home and go for a walk along the beach. It’s my therapy. Being on the coast is so nice. It’s a beautiful day. I bump into some other mammies from school and have the usual chats which make my walk a bit longer but it’s so nice how nice everyone is here. Completely different to London.

11.30 am: Get ‘the call’ from playschool. Miss 3 has started developing spots around her mouth. I have to go and collect her because Hand Foot and Mouth is doing the rounds. She’s in great form though, so we go for a walk. We come back for lunch with hubby before going to collect Miss 6 at school.

1.30 pm: Pick up Miss 6 and we go for a kick about on the field in front of our house for a bit.

3.00 pm: Do some homework with Miss 6 and then agree to some TV time while I prep dinner. It’s bangers, mash and peas if anyone’s interested. Play/entertain/be ‘fun mum’ while the bangers and mash are cooking.

5.00 pm: Dinner time. Miss 6 eats everything. Miss 3, just the bangers and peas. I never put the pressure on with food. After eating, the girls play with each other… as well as fight… It is what it is, while I tidy up, put the dishwasher on, etc. Hubby finishes work with a call.

6.00 pm: Start the bedtime routine with Miss 3. She’s in buzzing form and the little spots around her mouth haven’t eventuated into anything more yet. Hubby plays with Miss 6 while I’m settling Miss 3 down.

8.00 pm: Miss 6 is in bed. She’s wrecked. Not like her. I wonder if she’s brewing anything. Time will tell. November is the worst for colds and viruses, but I have to say, we have been nowhere near as sick since coming home. You can literally smell the freshness in the air. It’s amazing. Myself and the hubster catch up, watch Netflix while flicking through to keep an eye on property.

10.00 pm: In bed. Read The Journal app and fall asleep.

                                   Today’s total: €36.00


6.20 am: Awakening from Miss 3. If she had her own room, I’d be insisting that she stayed in there until 7 am. But I’m so cautious of her waking Miss 6 too early, I bring her downstairs for breakfast. The teeny spots have disappeared so she’s okay to go into playschool today.

7.00 am: The usual morning madness and school drop offs. The hubster is in the office today so I drop him off at the train station before dropping Miss 3 at playschool.

9.10 am: Go to Lidl to do the weekly shop. Have a bit of problem with the app and getting the free ParkRun item. I wonder how many other people get done like this (€60). Unpack the shopping and start prepping the veg for the lasagna dinner. I also give the house a clean. The joys of a small house… it doesn’t take long.

1.00 pm: Collect Miss 3 from Playschool.

1.30 pm: Collect Miss 6 from school. Go for a play with some friends at the playground for an hour before coming home, doing homework and cooking dinner.

4.00 pm: Early dinner as it’s gymnastics night.

5.00 pm: Drop Miss 6 at gymnastics. She’s in for two and a half hours tonight so myself and Miss 3 come home, play and do the bedtime routine.

6.30 pm: DISASTER!! I just see the message from the hubster saying he’s missed his train from Connolly and because it’s not London (with trains going every 8 mins), he’s not going to be back on time for me to leave Miss 3 and collect Miss 6 from gym. I need to message my neighbour in desperation and ask if she’ll sit in while Miss 3 sleeps and I go collect Miss 6. Of course, she says yes. She’s so nice. We’ve only been here a few months and feel like I could ask her anything. We didn’t feel like we could ask our neighbour of eight years in London.

7.15 pm: Leave to collect Miss 6 from gym.

7.30 pm: Collect Miss 6 from gymnastics. She’s had a brilliant session. We arrive home and the hubster arrives too. He’s not too happy being home an hour-and-a-half late.

8.15 pm: Miss 6 is showered and snacked up and heads to bed. The hubster has dinner while Miss 6 has her snack. Dec bought hot chicken roll in a local spar today for lunch.. €4.50!! I remember when they were €2.50/€3. 15-odd years ago.

8.30 pm: I head over and see a mammy friend. We have a few wines and some chats at her house.

10.30 pm: Walk home and fall into bed. I’m done in.

Today’s total: €64.50.


7.00 am: What an awful night with Miss 3. She was awake 2 am – 4.30 am! Finally fell back to sleep until now. Everyone is now up and dressed for school. Breakfast’s done, teeth brushed. We’re running in plenty of time so I agree to some TV before school.

8.50 am: Walk Miss 6 to school. No playschool for the little one today so we have a chat about what we can do today. She chooses the playground followed by a treat in a really reasonably priced cafe. Some friends join us too.

9.30 am: I get a coffee & a slice of lemon drizzle cake to share with Miss 3. (€3.50)

11.30 am: We get home and Miss 3 is in baaad form. She asks to go for a nap. I wonder why that is?? Hmmmm??? I wish I could just go for a nap. Haha.

11.50 am: The post arrives. A letter from Child Benefit comes informing me of what’s being paid this month and moving forward. Great news. We’ll be back-paid to when we arrived in the country. We have a post office account set up for the children, so that will automatically go into their account for when they’re older.

12.00 pm: Hubster is WFH so we have some lunch and chat together in peace. Soup and a sandwich. Nice winter kai.

12.30 pm: Miss 3 is awake and has some lunch too. She loves a bit of soup. We play, read books and get ready to collect Miss 6 from school.

1.30 pm: Collect Miss 6 from school. It’s a beautiful day but absolutely baltic. The kids just want to come home. I make some hot chocolate with marshmallows for their Friday after school treat. It’s ‘ice cream Friday’s’ during the nicer months and ‘hot choc Friday’s’ in the colder months. They love it. Miss 6 was supposed to have her pal over for a playdate after school today but with all the suspected HFM and snotty coughs, we decided to postpone. Her friend has a brand new baby brother. We don’t want to be the cause of her bringing anything home to the baby.

2.00 pm: We do some messy arts and crafts together in the kitchen. Miss 6 takes it very seriously and creates a masterpiece. Miss 3 on the other hand just covers herself in glue and uses it as an opportunity for messy play. The difference in personalities is crazy. At Miss 3’s age, Miss 6 was doing proper colouring in, glueing and sticking with purpose etc. Miss 3 is just a pure messer. It’s funny.

3.30 pm: All tidied up and the girls have some TV time while I prep the dinner. I’m making a big pot of stew to hopefully last us a couple of days. Saves me cooking dinner over the weekend. Hopefully.

4.30 pm: Hubster finishes work and plays with the girls.

5.00 pm: We all have dinner. Of course, we have protests from Miss 3 but she eats a good bit. We have a kitchen disco. A great fun, energy expelling thing to do with the kids after dinner.

6.00 pm: The usual bedtime routines begin.

8.00 pm: Myself and the Hubster crack open a beer and CHILL. We have about four bottles of Moretti while catching up and then watching Netflix. We head up to bed.

Today’s total: €3.50.


Another disturbed night with Miss 3. I don’t know what to do now. I blamed the clock change but this is going on too long now. She was such a brilliant sleeper up until now. She was awake 11 pm-2 am. Up into me again at 3:30am and 6:45am.

Anyway… Woohoooo! Our favourite day of the week.

7.00 am: No lie in for us yet. People (who don’t normally have a clue) say that I ‘should put the kids to bed later in the evening and then they’ll sleep in in the morning.’ This just isn’t the case when they’re this young. They still wake up early and will be even more tired because of fewer hours of sleep. I don’t want to wish time away because I know how fast it goes, but I often think just how nice it’ll be when they don’t need us straight away in the mornings. Miss 6 is really independent and I’d trust her to be absolutely fine. Miss 3 on the other hand? Not so much.

The hubster gets up with the kids and I try to go back to sleep but it’s actually impossible. The house is so small that I can hear EVERYTHING. I should really bring my headphones upstairs. I scroll through my phone. Peter Kay videos are popping up on my feed. God, he’s so funny. Gutted to have missed out on his tour next year and in 2025. I do manage to fall back to sleep for a bit though.

8.30 am: I get up, drink two pints of water (hydrate before you caffeinate, people) and make a coffee from our machine. It’s a bean-to-cup one and has served us for many, many years. Saves us a fortune on coffee from a cafe.

9.00 am: The girls were fed and watered by the hubster and now they’re having some TV time. A Saturday morning ‘tradition’. Myself and the hubster chat.

10.45 am: The Hubster drops Miss 3 to gymnastics and needs to get two new tyres for the car. (€340)

11.00 am: I bring Miss 3 for a walk and meet one of her playschool friends on the scooters.

12.00 pm: Myself and Miss 3 have lunch. She’s wrecked. But I don’t put her down for a nap. She had an hour yesterday and I’m wondering if that’s too much, hence the crazy night wakings. She has some chill time with a film and her blanket.

1.15 pm: I head out to collect Miss 6 from gymnastics.

2.00 pm: I head out for a walk while Miss 6 has her lunch and catches up with the hubster.

4.00 pm: We all head out to one of the locals. The girls have a MiWadi and us adults have a pint. (€18)

5.30 pm: We have dinner. The stew I made yesterday goes down well.

6.45 pm: Miss 3 goes down to bed. She’s wrecked.

7.45 pm: Miss 6 is ready for bed after a busy day.

8.00 pm: Myself and the hubster crack open a beer and watch some rugby. Once that’s finished we head into the kitchen and play some music. It’s as wild as we get these days, but we enjoy it.

12.00 am: We head up to bed.

Today’s total: €358.00


5.15 am: Gahhhh! Miss 3 is up and is ready for the day. I don’t get up with her. I’m trying to show her that we don’t get up that early.

6.30 am: Hubby gets up with Miss 3.

7.00 am: Miss 6 wakes up.

10.00 am: Myself and Miss 6 go out on our own. We hardly get any one-on-one time so we make a point of doing it every few weeks. We go for some brunch (€20) and for a walk along the beach.

12.00 pm: We get home. Miss 3 is having some lunch. The TV goes on for some quiet time.

2.30 pm: We all go out for a walk, a kick about and stop off at the playground. It’s absolutely baltic and head home.

4.00 pm: The girls play together while myself and the hubster prep dinner. We make homemade pizza bases and then the girls put their own toppings on. Into the oven they go.

5.00 pm: We all sit down for dinner. The girls do some kitchen dancing and myself and the hubster have a gin/ton – a Sunday tradition.

6.00 pm: The usual bedtime routines begin.

8.00 pm: Kids are in bed. We have another couple of gin/tons while we chat and then watch Netflix.

10.00 pm: Early to bed to start the week off positively. Or just knowing that I’ll be up in the night and woken up really early.

Today’s total: €20.00

Weekly subtotal: €536.45


What I’ve learned -

  • Not one week of spending is the same, especially with children. One week, it could be more, another one it could be less. It depends if we go away for the weekend, have parties to attend or clothes and shoes to buy, etc.
  • I’ve definitely become better at not just ‘willy-nilly spending’ like I did in London. I think that’s down to things being more expensive here and the town we live in doesn’t have the shops on our doorstep, unlike where we lived in London. I was always popping in here and there and picking stuff up.
  • I would like to return to work again sometime and I did look into it seriously when we arrived back. But after looking at the costs of after school care and school holiday care, we’d be worse off. I’m not a high earner.

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