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Money Diaries An eCommerce agent on €44K living outside of Dublin due to house prices

This week, our reader has moved back in with her parents in order to save money to buy a house with her partner.

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 software manager living in Tipperary on €75K. This week, an eCommerce agent on €44K living out of Dublin due to house prices. 

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I have rented in Dublin since I left home for college 13 years ago and have just recently moved back in with my parents in the Midlands to save for a mortgage. My partner is a Dubliner but we’ve both resigned ourselves to the fact we will not be able to afford Dublin house prices and will be buying outside the Pale. My partner also moved back into their family home in Dublin so we’re living separately and only see each other sporadically.

I worked from home for the last two years but now my company is forcing us into a hybrid model: two days in the office in Dublin and three days from home, but the commute is a killer.

Now that we have minimal expenses, I am saving about €1,700 a month (more if I get my bonus) and my partner saves around €1,000 a month.

Neither of us was ever “bad” with money, but I returned to college as a mature student a few years ago and we were both furloughed during the Covid pandemic. We’ve had part-time or minimum wage jobs for years until recently so we have never made such a conscious effort to save before like we are doing now and have no track record of savings/expenses to support a mortgage application.

I think I live a very boring (but happy) life. I am not an outdoorsy or particularly outgoing person and spend most nights curled up on the couch with a book or film.

Occupation: eCommerce
Age: 31
Location: Ulster
Salary: €44,000 gross and 10% quarterly bonus. Partner earns ~ €30,000
Monthly pay (net): €2,800 (€183.33 for pension deducted from pay which employer matches)

Monthly expenses

Transport: €100 on petrol and ~ €50 on car tolls depending on how often I travel to Dublin
Rent: €200 to my parents. I mostly eat at home so this covers groceries and bills but I budget for food separately too in case I’m the one doing the grocery shopping that week
Food: €200
Phone bill: €10
Health insurance: €0 (paid for by company)
Subscriptions: Amazon Prime – €10, Audible – €20
Gifts/Other: €100
Clothes: €50
Entertainment: €100

***

Monday

8.15 am: I am not a morning person and will leave it as long as possible to roll out of bed to my ‘office’ (childhood bedroom that is now a dumping ground of all the things I carted home from my rented flat). I have the same breakfast I have most days: yoghurt, fruit, granola and tea before starting work.

11.00 am: Tea break. I have my morning chats with my dad who is retired and my mam, who still works part-time. My mornings tend to be quieter as I mostly work with the American market.

1.00 pm: Lunch time. Sandwich of leftover roast chicken, lettuce and coleslaw and another cup of tea. I usually try to get some housework done at lunchtime so dishwasher unloaded and loaded and some general cleaning.

2.00 pm: Back to work. I’m on calls for most of the afternoon.

6.00 pm: Finish work. Mam has made dinner this evening of pork chops and mashed potato for us. I was on dessert duty – apple crumble.

7.00 pm: Lounge around for the rest of the evening reading, watching TV and mindless scrolling on social media. I will be going into the office tomorrow so I have to pick out my grown-up clothes, shower etc. I owe my brother €22 for a part for my car so I transfer that to him.

11.30 pm: Off to bed.

Today’s total: €22.00

Tuesday

6.00 am: Up earlier today as I’m commuting to the office. I usually pack a bag the night before which is always such a faff as I need two/three days’ worth of stuff. Have the same breakfast I always have and bring a travel cup with my tea. Leave for work around 6.50 am.

7.30 am: Stop for petrol (€50) and pick up a Coke and communal office biscuits (€5.20). I hit three tolls on the way to work, I have a toll tag for the M50 one so I get a bit of a discount but the trip costs me €5.20.

8.30 am: Arrive at the office. We have free parking which is great because I would not survive the commute if I had to use public transport as I would have to take four modes of transport to get there.

10.00 am: Tea break. Notice my Amazon Prime subscription has come out of my account (€10.41). I mostly use it for the ‘free next day delivery’ but I share the password with my partner, their mam, my parents and my siblings as they share their Netflix and Disney passwords with me. Share and share alike.

12.30 pm: Lunch time. We get (not very nice) sandwiches for free in the office. I won’t complain because it’s free and saves me money and time but sometimes I do pack a lunch and bring it with me as there are no shops or cafes near the office so we can’t pop out anywhere for lunch.

5.30 pm: Finish work. I usually do Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the office and stay over at my partner’s parents’ house on Tuesday so that I don’t have to do the 1.5-hour drive home and back up the following day. I head to theirs after work.

6.30 pm: My partner works shift work and is off today so they made dinner of bolognese which I love. We catch up on the day and plan out days off/time together/events coming up for the next few weeks.

7.15 pm: We are both HUGE movie buffs and most weeks we go to the cinema. I used to have a monthly cinema subscription when I lived in Dublin and went five or six times a month, but my nearest cinema is 40 minutes away from my parents’ house, so I cancelled it as I wasn’t getting enough use from it any more. I pay for our popcorn and my ticket, which comes to €31.25. (Partner still has their ticket subscription)

11.15 pm: We see Killers of the Flower Moon. I had read the book and hadn’t thought much of it (three stars on Goodreads) so was surprised they made a movie out of it. The acting is superb but as usual, Scorsese has no editing abilities and it’s a 3.5-hour marathon. Would only recommend it if you love DeNiro. I gave it 3.5 stars on Letterboxd (Goodreads for movies). Back to my partner’s house and in bed by 12.30 am. 

Today’s total: €96.86

Wednesday

7.30 am: It’s handy being able to stay over in Dublin and not have to face the morning commute again but I’m always conscious that this isn’t a permanent solution. When we get our own house, I will be travelling both days and potentially more as my company is pushing for us to be in more often and I dread the thoughts of it. It definitely causes me anxiety about the future.

8.15 am: The office stocks cereals and some fruit so I have morning tea and some cereal at my desk. My younger brother asked me to order something using my Amazon Prime (€9.76). We don’t really keep a ‘tab’ for each other for things like this so he may or may not pay me back or he might just grab me a tea or lunch.

11.00 am: Check my personal emails on my tea break and I notice my Motor Tax is due. (€180)

1.30 pm: More free sandwiches but I also buy a Coke from the vending machine. (€2.80)

6.15 pm: Time to head home, hitting the three tolls on the way (€5.20). My older brother hitches a lift home with me as he doesn’t drive. I stop to pick up cat food for my very, very picky cat. (€14.50)

7.40 pm: Home sweet home. The drive home is always a little easier than the one up. I have an Audible subscription which gives me three credits a month, but I eat through them and usually end up buying more. I listen to audiobooks on the drive and while working, so I think it’s worth it. I do also use my public library card, giving me access to BorrowBox (eBooks and audiobooks) for free so I usually check if I can get a book there first, but the selection is a bit limiting. Mam has dinner made again (vegetable stir-fry).

8.45 pm: I unpack my bag, shower, have cuddles with the cat and help my mam with some housework.

9.30 pm: We all sit down and watch a movie together (Four Lions). I had seen it before but it’s still outrageously un-PC and funny.

1.00 am: Off to bed after some reading.

Today’s total: €212.26

Thursday

8.15 am: Same time and same breakfast as usual. Mam works part-time two days a week so I’m on dinner duty this evening. I take some chicken out of the freezer. I feed my cat who lives indoors and my mam’s cat who lives outdoors. They hate each other.

11.00 am: Tea break. Two of my colleagues are going out on maternity leave soon so I chip in for some baby shower gifts which another colleague is doing a collection for. (€40)

1.00 pm: I have leftover stir-fry for lunch. I got paid yesterday so spend some time organising my accounts. I get paid into my AIB current account, and then I transfer whatever I am putting aside for savings into an AIB savings account. I leave a small balance in the AIB current account but the rest all gets transferred to Revolut and I use Revolut exclusively for spending. My partner transfers their savings to my AIB and I add that to the savings account also.

6.00 pm: I make dinner of garlic chicken pasta bake for everyone so it’s ready when my mam arrives home from work.

7.00 pm: I’m always tired after my two days in Dublin, the commute and interactivity of the office takes it out of me as I am very introverted. I’ve adjusted ok to being back home but I really miss the evenings on the couch with my partner. It can get lonely sometimes without your best friend. I spend the evening reading (The Haven by Emma Donoghue, not finished yet but not impressed so far) and am in bed by 11.30 pm.

Today’s total: €40.00

Friday

8.15 am: Same time and same breakfast as usual.

11.00 am: My ‘rent’ has come out of my account (€50). I’ve read lots of these diaries and I know commenters get very annoyed at people not paying rent as it’s ‘unrealistic’ for people. I’ve been one of those detractors but now I think that moving home is the reality for a lot of people. When we were in Dublin, we were renting a one bed flat for €1,600 a month and we saved very little. It was a big decision for us to split up and move back in with our retrospective parents after living together for so long. I know I’m privileged to have this option because I have friends who can’t do this but it’s not easy. My parents are supportive and want us to be able to get our own place as soon as possible so I just contribute to food and bills (same as my partner) so that we can save more.

1.00 pm: Lunch time. Leftovers again. I don’t mind cooking but I don’t like having to do it every day so I usually make lots so it covers a few meals.

6.00 pm: Finish work. Go for a walk with my dad and older brother while my younger brother cooks dinner. My younger brother also works from home (does one day in the office).

8.00 pm: Called my younger sister who is working and renting in Dublin. She is planning a solo trip to London soon and wanted to get some travel tips on places to visit and where to stay as I’ve been a few times before. Dublin is bad but London is worse. I remind her to get my Oyster card from me next time we see each other. I watch a movie with my brothers (Death on the Nile. Rubbish. One star). I read for the rest of the evening and am in bed by 1.00 am.

Today’s total: €50.00

Saturday

10.00 am: Up and shower. Meeting a friend for lunch and a mooch about today so skip breakfast and into the car to meet her. My mam is coming with me so that she can have a nose around the shops too. We take my car.

11.30 am: We go for brunch in a café. I get a BLT and a coffee (€16.50). We’ve known each other since school and don’t live that far away from each other but we don’t meet up that often so we spend hours catching up on life events.

2.00 pm: We wander around the shopping centre and I buy a mascara as I have been pumping the wand on my current one for weeks and it’s drier than the desert (€14.50). I have a gift card for M&S (we get gift cards as a perk at work and they are a life saver for my more frivolous purchases) so I also buy a shirt and add €4 of my own money to it.

3.00 pm: Say goodbye to my friend and meet my mam who shows me all the Christmas shopping she has done. I wish I inherited her preparedness. We go for a coffee and cake which I pay for. (€12.50)

4.00 pm: We decide to do the grocery shopping on the way home. Go to Aldi (we’re usually Lidl people). I pay but mam transfers it back to me later, despite my protests.

5.30 pm: Unpack the groceries and help my mam make dinner. I’m exhausted, leaving the house really takes it out of me.

7.00 pm: During the pandemic, I bought lots of stuff on Amazon so that I could do my gel nails at home. It takes me ages (like two hours) and I am not good at it but I do it while watching TV so I don’t mind and it saves me €50 every three or four weeks to just do it myself. I also do my mam’s now that I’m at home. I wax and tint my own eyebrows etc. as well to save money and usually, I can get gift cards from work to cover my hair appointments.

9.00 pm: My partner calls on their break from work and we chat for a while. We’re going to see a play in Dublin next week so we work out the logistics of what time they are off work, what days I will do in the office to work around it etc. I watch a movie (Dangerous Minds with Michelle Pfeiffer which I had never seen before. It’s kind of a good ‘bad’ movie) and then read some more before going to bed.

Today’s total: €47.50

Sunday

10.30 am: Up and breakfast of my usual yoghurt, fruit and granola. I do a lot of the clothes washing in the house so go around collecting the various laundry baskets, separating out loads and washing. I am always amazed at the amount of clothes that need to be washed on a weekly basis but my dad does a lot of outdoor work and my brother plays a lot of sports so they always have piles to get through.

1.00 pm: My parents and I decide to go for a walk to a local Abbey. I throw a roast chicken in the oven on a timer so that it’ll be ready for later. We go for lunch afterwards – soup and a sandwich, which my parents pay for.

5.00 pm: Weather takes a horrible turn so I light the fire when we get back and we have the roast dinner.

7.00 pm: Do pretty much nothing for the rest of the evening, bouncing between the TV, my book, more mindless scrolling on social media and generally chatting with family. My dad grows his own apples and brews his own cider so I enjoy a few glasses, probably a few too many. Go to bed by 11.00 pm.

Today’s total: €0.00

Weekly subtotal: €468.62

***

What I learned –

  • Excluding the motor tax (€180), I would say this is a typical week of spending for me. There are some once-off purchases like the baby shower presents but honestly, there is a ‘once-off’ purchase basically every week.
  • You can really see the difference in expenditure on the days I am in Dublin vs the days I am at home. Because I only see my partner once a week, we always like doing something and usually doing something involves spending money.
  • I should re-evaluate my Audible subscription. I definitely make use of it but it’s expensive. I also have a public library card and get access to BorrowBox but the selection isn’t the best. I should make more of an effort to check there first before spending more money on Audible.
  • I know all too well how hard it is in the Dublin rental market. For 13 years, most of my money went on rent. I needed to get out of the spiral and moving home was the only viable solution. My hats off to anyone who can save while renting. We couldn’t.

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