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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
VOICES
Money Diaries A lawyer on €130K living on the west coast
This week, our reader is enjoying life in Ireland but the cost of living may dictate where they buy a 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 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 mum with a young family who recently moved home to Ireland after 15 years away. This week, a lawyer on €130K living in the west of the country

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I’m based on the west coast and have lived in Ireland for the past 12 years. I’m originally from Norway and moved here to live with my wife who I met at college. I love living in Ireland, and really enjoy the beauty and culture of Ireland and the local area I live in.

I work as legal counsel for a tech company, and I’m really lucky to work remotely. My wife is a teacher in a secondary school teaching Irish (currently on leave to take care of our kids). We both love languages and culture, and she’s a fluent Irish speaker so she’s been teaching me Irish which is going well, but I have to say her Norwegian is better than my Irish! We both love nature and the countryside and we spend time with our young kids to enjoy the sea and also love to go fishing (my Dad took me fishing when I was in Norway so it brings back a lot of happy memories for me).

I’m not the best at saving or financial planning, so I’m using this diary to see where I spend my money and for you lovely readers to advise me on what I could be doing instead :) We have a good amount saved and we’re currently looking to save for a house.

Occupation: Legal counsel

Age: 34

Location: West of Ireland

Salary: €130,000

Monthly pay (net): €6,050 – depends on overtime and bonuses but that’s the amount I usually get per month. I pay 9% of my salary to my pension and my employer matches this. I’m very privileged to have the job I do and the pay, my wife would like to leave her work and stay at home and we are glad we can do this off my salary.

Monthly expenses

Transport: WFH so quite low. My wife and I share a car and spend around 300 per month per month on diesel, insurance, etc

Rent: €1,200 (Three bed house – the rent has been the same since 2011, our landlord treats us very well)

Household bills: Around €200 for electricity and gas – this will probably go up a fair bit in the next few months. We switched a few months ago and got a better rate but will still be high due to energy crisis

Phone bill: €100 – I pay for both me and my wife

Health insurance: Work provides

Groceries: Around €650

Subscriptions: Sky TV and broadband – €100, negotiated down by calling Sky a few months back and saved €35 per month; Music subscription – €20; magazines and newspapers – €50; charity – around €160; coffee/tea subscription – €40

We save around €2,200 per month on average, which we are saving to buy a house. We are considering whether to stay or to move abroad next year.

***

Monday

6.30 am: Wake up and help my wife with my two young kids. They are both under the age of 3 so very broken sleep during the night (I’m sure parents of young kids can attest, new parents we get bad sleep but we are used to it now. )

8.00 am: Make a strong coffee and spend some time with the family. I’m very lucky to work from home and spend more time with the family.

9.15 am: Start work and getting through the emails from the weekend. Some tough cases built up from the morning so I spend the morning prioritising the ones that are time sensitive and work with the team to process.

1.00 pm: Busy but productive morning – go into the kitchen and my wife has made a wonderful lentil soup with bread. It’s a cold and blustery day and we really enjoy the meal. The kids are having a nap so I have a chat with my wife on the plans for the day. We need some bread and milk so we make a list to get some food at the end of the day.

2.00 pm: Back to work and have a few meetings with colleagues from USA and Canada. One of my colleagues is Irish who now lives in the US and he’s from County Clare (very nice person and we have a great chat – he’s a fellow GAA fan too and we chat about hurling and Irish life).

4.30 pm: Take a quick break and my wife is having a nap with the kids – I make myself a cheese toastie and a cup of tea.

5.00 pm: Have a few tasks to get through; put the headphones on and listen to some classical music. Bach and Sibelius today. I find the music helps me a lot to work and relax.

6.30 pm: Finish up work and spend some time with the family; I take the car to buy some groceries.

7.00 pm: Off to my local petrol station. I get some bread, milk, and fill up the car. Diesel is over €2 a litre again. Pay €114.75 to fill up the tank to full and get a few groceries.

7.30 pm: Back home and give my kids two lollies I got from the shop – I’m supposed to wait until they had their food but couldn’t wait. She is watching an Irish documentary. I’m picking up a few words and get the gist and ask her to help me when I’m stuck. We both love languages and I’m really glad I’m learning Irish. The pronunciation is OK as in Norwegian, we have similar sounds to Gaeilge, but the grammar can be a little tough for me! It’s getting easier though, and I’m having lots of fun learning more. Irish people in my town and area are so welcoming and happy when I try to speak Irish, and it makes learning the language so much fun.

8.20 pm: Time for dinner. I help peel the potatoes. We have steak and chips and it’s delicious.

9.00 pm: We get the kids changed and ready for bed.

9.30 pm: Kids to sleep and we switch on Netflix – my wife picks season three of Love is Blind, Not my usual type of TV show, but it’s an interesting concept and a good watch.

11.00 pm: Time for sleep.

Today’s total: €114.75

Tuesday

7.00 am: Kids sleep a bit better during the night which is a relief; it is very cold this morning so switch on the heating and go shower.

7.30 am: Muesli and coffee for breakfast. My kids are playing with some toys and I join in.

8.30 am: My wife wants to do the weekly shop so I take the kids while she goes. After the toys, we watch Spongebob, which I love to watch too.

10.00 am: My wife is back and I help her out putting the shopping away. She used the phone for the tap and pay and bill is €118.75. It’s usually around €100 for the week and we can definitely see the increase in the cost of food and living at the shops.

10.15 am: Start work and get through a few tasks.

12.00 pm: Quick break for a tea. Come back and carry on with the work; music for today is John Coltrane – A Love Supreme. Fantastic album.

1.30 pm: Lunchtime and it’s a great Irish stew with bread.

2.15 pm: Back to work and a bunch of meetings and tasks to get through.

5.30 pm: Take a break. Grab a Coke and get an email notification on gas and electricity bill. €240 last month – our average is €160 per month. Prices really going up in the past few months :( We switched a few months ago too for a cheaper deal but not much you can do to get increased bills at the end, just slightly reduce the pain I suppose.

6.45 pm: Wrapping up work and a time sensitive escalation comes in – tell my wife I will be working late and process the work needed.

7.30 pm: Finally finish up and I’m exhausted. I collapse onto the sofa – the kids see the funny side at least and use me as a human trampoline.

7.45 pm: My mother video calls me and we have a nice chat; she is really happy to see the kids and speaks a little to my wife in Norwegian. My wife was worried she made an error but my mother and me praise her flawless pronunciation. My mother and father find it endearing and very nice my wife makes such an effort. My mother is ringing me to ask for ideas on what to buy my father for his birthday next week. He is a huge football fan and I tell her that buying the Norwegian football top would go down well. She agrees. I transfer 2000 NOK (around €200) when chatting with her (TransferWise is great and instant payment to her account) and tell her I can cover the cost of the football top and the other €100 or so is for her. She appreciates the gesture and asks me if I need anything from Norway. She is planning to visit me over Christmas – I just tell her to bring my winter coat from back home and make a prayer for me at her local church. My mum is a regular Mass goer and says she will light a candle for me and the family. I miss my mum and dad; I left home a long time ago but miss them dearly, they treat me with a lot of love and kindness. I tell her to put Haaland on the back of his top (us Norwegians are very proud of Erling and how well he is playing!) and to send my regards to my dad.

8.30 pm: Pasta for dinner with some butter on top.

9.00 pm: Get the kids to bed.

9.45 pm: Watch the news on the omnishambles happening in UK – what a mess. Watch some local news too and what’s happening in my area and the college strikes over high rent, etc. Fair play to them, rent and CoL are awful and I empathise with how tough it is for students and lecturers due to the soaring prices.

10.00 pm: Watch an episode of Love is Blind. For those who watch, Bartice is acting like an utter eejit and Nancy deserves better than him.

10.30 pm: Watch the Champions League highlights.

11.00 pm: Off to sleep

Today’s total: €558.75

Wednesday

7.45 am: Have a lie-in, yesterday was a long day. Get the kids ready, have a shower, and have some coffee and toast.

8.15 am: Get my payslip and check my bank – got paid. €6,104. Put €2,300 in savings for the house saving fund, and the rest keep in joint account for me and my wife. We tend to have a few hundred left over so we leave for emergencies or let it roll over. I got a slight pay raise last month but after 52% tax and all, pay increase is around €78 per month. All good, we tax higher in Scandinavia but would say it goes to better public services. I do feel Ireland doesn’t do justice to its citizens in the quality of public services. Overall though, Ireland has very progressive taxation and I am earning a lot more than I ever thought I would do when I finished my studies many years ago. Have a tradition of getting a takeout when I get paid, so will have a think about what is for dinner tonight.

8.45 am: My sister texts me and asks if she can come over for Christmas. Tell her she would be very welcome and would love to have her stay over. We have a nice chat – she is a medical researcher in Norway and is doing great work in her field. I offer to buy her the tickets and she politely declines but says I need to get her a really good Christmas present and a great festive jumper too. Challenge accepted.

9.15 am: Start work and a few admin tasks to process. Today on the music is Irish traditional music, Joe Burke, Jackie Daly. Phenomenal to listen to.

11.30 am: New case has come in and it is a very long and difficult one. Get a tea made and work through the prep notes. This will be one in which I will have to loop in two cross-functional teams so I get the notes ready and the analysis prepared.

1.30 pm: Time for lunch and today is fish and potatoes.

2.30 pm: Back to work and meetings with the US colleagues.

4.30 pm: Two cases have time-sensitive reviews so get to work on those in addition to the one from this month.

6.45 pm: Finish up for the day and I’m pretty tired. I go for a quick run and come back and shower.

7.15 pm: Play with the kids and have a chat with my wife about the day.

8.00 pm: My wife would like to do some shopping for the kids so we buy some clothes for the kids via H&M. Costs €85.

8.15 pm: Watch the football. Wife supports Celtic and me too (loved Henrik Larsson and was my favourite striker).

9.30 pm: We have a late dinner of okra and rice.

10.00 pm: Kids to bed and we watch the news.

11.00 pm: Off to sleep

Today’s total: €85.00

Thursday

7.00 am: Kids and wife are still asleep so shower and get ready.

7.45 am: Kids are up and I play some Lego with them.

8.30 am: Not feeling like breakfast so have an espresso and start work. Quieter day today so get some prep done. Music today is Radiohead and Oasis.

11.30 am: Take a break and have a croissant and tea.

1.00 pm: Lunchtime and rice and beans – one of my favourite meals, especially with the spices in the beans.

2.00 pm: Drop my son off to preschool and then take some meetings with colleagues.

5.00 pm: Take a break and have a chat with my wife over tea. We plan on going to County Sligo to visit a friend; only an hour from our house and Sligo is a very beautiful county to visit.

6.30 pm: Finish up work and time with the family.

7.15 pm: Time for dinner and we have tomato soup with bread.

8.00 pm: Kids are tired and get them to sleep.

8.30 pm: It’s a cool but pleasant night and myself and the wife spend some time in the garden. The kids have thrown some of their toys around so we clean up. My wife talks to her parents and I have a quick chat with them too; they are well and speak a bit of Irish with them. They let me know they are planning to visit next week and stay for a few days. I get on very well with my in-laws and am happy to hear they are well.

9.00 pm: House needs a clean so we vacuum and clean up.

10.00 pm: Watch the news and we have some crisps.

10.45 pm: Time for sleep!

Today’s total: €0.00

Friday

7.40 am: Wake up and have a shower. Kids wake up afterwards and we spend some time playing with the toys.

8.15 am: Toast and coffee.

8.45 am: Buy some coats and clothing for winter for me and my wife. Cost €380.

9.15 am: Start work and quieter day. Get a few tasks processed. Music today is Cream and Jimi Hendrix.

12.30 pm: Lunch – egg sandwich and crisps.

1.30 pm: Back to work and meetings.

5.00 pm: Take a break and make tea.

6.15 pm: Finished work for the week! Chat with the wife if we should get Indian or Chinese food. We decide on Indian.

7.00 pm: Indian food arrives and it’s delicious! (€50 with €6 tip for driver)

8.00 pm: Get the kids to sleep.

9.00 pm: TV and we watch a few shows on Netflix – great Scandinavian drama called Deadwind from Finland. Great show and the beautiful cold winter shots make me nostalgic for Norwegian and Scandinavian winters.

10.45 pm: Time for sleep.

Today’s total: €436.00

Saturday

8.00 am: Wake up and the kids are still asleep after a few times waking up during the night. Lie in and then have a shower.

10.00 am: Get the kids ready for the trip.

11.30 am: Drive to Sligo – we buy some chocolates and flowers from the petrol station for our friend. (€25)

12.40 pm: Arrive at our friend’s house and we have a nice chat and catch up. We go to the beach in Streedagh and enjoy the scenery.

2.00 pm: Go to a local chipper and pay for three fish and chips and Coke. (€32)

3.00 pm: Go back to friend’s house and we have a good chat – she is thinking of emigrating as the cost of living in Ireland and her hours and work at the hospital as a doctor are making her burned out. I empathise – I have thought about this too and have decided life in Ireland is good overall, but it’s getting a lot tougher to justify staying. I may in the future move back to Norway or Scandinavia but I do like Ireland and enjoy my life with my family here. I am saddened that doctors and health professionals get paid  what they do here considering their hours and worth to society. I am proud of the work I do but I in no way deserve to be paid more than a doctor or nurse. It’s an unfair economic system but that’s true worldwide sadly, not just here.

6.00 pm: We leave back for home and we offer for my friend to stay the weekend with us as she will be doing a few days at the hospital in Galway next week. She gladly accepts and we drive back home.

7.00 pm: Arrive back home and the kids are ready for bed.

7.30 pm: Want to watch football and my wife and friend decide they would rather go to the pub – fair play. I watch the matches over the day with a drink and some crisps.

9.00 pm: Ring my mam and she is happy to chat about her weekend – my Ma is sadly not in the best of health and I worry for her, but she’s doing well and doing exercise daily. My dad is with her and we have a good chat about the football and other things. My dad is nearing retirement from his work as an engineer in the oil industry, which is a massive sector for us in Norway. My mother is a science teacher and they do joke that as much as they are proud of the work I do and worked hard, that I didn’t follow them into science :) My dad’s birthday is in two days’ time, and my Ma didn’t hide the present well enough. My dad lets me know with thanks for the football shirt – he loved it – and how much he is looking forward to seeing me in Ireland over Christmas. I wish them good night and make myself a quick sandwich.

10.30 pm: They come back from the pub and are in good spirits. We have a good catch-up and chat over the news playing on TV in the background.

11.30 pm: We help make the bed for our friend in the spare room and give the house a quick clean.

12.15 am: Time for sleep.

Today’s total: €57.00

Sunday

8.00 am: Wake up. The kids didn’t sleep too great through the night but they are in good spirits. Have a shower and make breakfast.

9.00 am: Kids are very excited to play with our friends and Jenga is the game for today – I fail at the third attempt and my son beats us all albeit with some dubious tactics on holding some pieces on his turn!

12.00 pm: Go to the local park and have a nice walk.

2.00 pm: Back home and we make a nice meal of fried chicken and chips.

4.00 pm: Watch some football on the TV.

6.00 pm: A friend of mine gives me a call; he works in Wexford and we know each other from years back when we worked together. He’s doing well and has currently changed jobs. He was chatting with me and letting me know how the job market is a lot tougher now than it was a few years back. Many of the big tech companies have either frozen hiring or are sadly laying workers off. It could be a potentially tough year or two in the economy. He asks if I can have a look over his employment contract and let him know if it all looks fine. Very happy to do so and I chat with him during the check. All looks fine, a few clauses I let him know of that are a bit different to usual but those work well for him.

6.30 pm: Have the Celtic match recorded and watch a good victory for the Celtic.

8.00 pm: Get the kids to sleep.

9.00 pm: Get an email from work on a potential offsite beginning of next year and asking for suggestions; we have folks across the world and put a few suggestions in Europe which would work well for everyone to meet up.

9.30 pm: Dinner with my wife and friend; Irish stew and bread. We have a nice chat on our plans for next few weeks. My friend was letting us know of HSE and for her certificates and training she will be travelling around the country for the next few months. Fair play to her, the amount of work and learning doctors have to do throughout their career. A lot of her friends have moved in last year due to how tough it is and she is in two minds if she wants to leave Ireland. Her family live in Ireland and it would be very tough to leave them but has to consider it due to cost of living and the hours and pressure at work.

11.00 pm: Time for sleep!

Today’s total: €0.00

Weekly subtotal: €1,251.50

***

What I learned –

  • Putting a good amount away when I get paid helps a lot with the savings and means I don’t have to worry about forgetting or spending that amount. My wife gave me this advice and wish I did this earlier in my career. We have a good amount saved up; house prices are still very high but we are thinking we will have to decide of we buy a house here or move abroad next year. We are more likely going to stay, but giving ourselves a little time to make a decision.
  • Most of my bills go through direct debits and a few months ago, I cancelled a few which I don’t use anymore (Amazon was one, prefer to buy from Irish stores).
  • Due to the cost of childcare, my wife is unsure if she wants to go back to work; I’m happy we will be fine financially either way, but I am saddened by how poor childcare is here and how expensive it is. For taxes paid, a system like Norway where the government’s help is a given is desperately needed.
  • Overall, really lucky and blessed to get the income and role I have. I enjoy it and coming up to 13 years of living in Ireland; it has been a lot of fun.
  • Thank you for reading, and appreciate any advice from readers.

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