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Money Diaries: A civil servant on €33k living in Dublin and working from home

This week, our reader is busy working from home while trying not to overspend when socialising with friends.

TheJournal.ie reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie 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 recruitment consultant in the midlands who was juggling family life with working from home. This week, a civil servant on €33K living in Dublin and working from home. 

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I’m an administrative officer for the Civil Service. I’ve only been there for a few months so I’m still adjusting. I was finishing up my degree when the pandemic started, then I was unemployed and going stir crazy in lockdown until the week before Christmas when I was hired as a healthcare assistant to work night shifts in a nursing home. It was a very tough job. I worked there for four months before the Civil Service hired me and I started in April.

It has been a very weird 18 months or so, but I think we’ve all had a tough time. I’m very lucky to live in a room big enough to have enough space for a proper desk for my “office”, and to live with people quiet enough that it doesn’t interfere with my job if they’re here during the day. I only moved out of home a few weeks ago, so there’s a lot to adjust to right now.

It seems like the future will have a lot for me to adjust to as well. I’m thinking of quitting and doing a masters in primary school teaching next year. I like kids, I like learning and I like free time, so I don’t really see why not. My mam, bless her, has offered to help with fees as much as she can. I’m hoping to do it in Maynooth, so I’m planning to sit my theory test soon and buy a car next year – mostly to save time on the commute, but sure, a car would be handy to have anyway.

I try to cut costs as much as I can to save for my car and my degree, but I am very impulsive at the same time. It’s a struggle, but it’s a relief now to have a job that pays enough that I can be that impulsive and not seriously struggle. It’ll be hard to go back to studying and having a part-time job on minimum wage next year if I go that route, but it would only be for two years while I studied and there are worse situations to be in. Healthcare assistants doing night shifts during lockdown, for example.

I like playing video games and socialising with friends. I’ve been trying to eat healthier and exercise more lately. The exercise part is not going super well, but I’m trying my best. I’m trying to get someone to play badminton or tennis with me because I think they’re fun, but no takers so far. I try not to spend too much on my hobbies. My one streaming service and my game pass subscription are already too much, and I also need to be able to spend time with my friends. Not everyone is close enough to you that they’re happy to hang out in your home while you ignore them and watch YouTube. Plus my boyfriend doesn’t live in Dublin, so I have to commute to him sometimes, which also costs money.

Occupation: Civil servant
Age: 23
Location: North Dublin
Salary: €33,053
Monthly pay (net): €2,050

Monthly expenses

Transport: €40 for Leap Card, between €0 and €40 on Bus Éireann return tickets which are about €20 each
Rent: €600, bills included, for a large double room in Dublin!
Household bills: Blessed to have bills included in my rent (in Dublin!)
Phone bill: €20 a month for unlimited data from 3 Mobile
Health insurance: €77
Groceries: €250
Subscriptions: Spotify – €10, Amazon Prime – €6.60 a month, XBox Game Pass – €20 (this is basically like Netflix but for video games)
Savings: €500 at least, but usually a bit more

***

Monday

7.00 am: I wake up, brush my teeth, wash my face, have a quick shower, make some toast and eggs and tea for breakfast and get dressed.

7.45 am: Off to cycle to Lidl for my shopping. I get it done early because I like to have my evenings free for whatever fun and frolicking my heart desires. I only buy enough for a few days because it’s too hard to cycle with too many things in my bag, so I usually cycle here a few times a week. It’s good exercise. (€25.30)

8.30 am: I clock in for work. I like to clock in early because then I can leave early, but today is a little later than usual because of shopping.

10.30 am: I always try to have a cup of tea at this time if there’s no meeting because I’ve been typing away for two and a half hours and I need to move and do something that isn’t staring at the screen anymore.

11.30 am: We have the weekly meeting at work every Monday. It’s relatively informal but it’s mandatory for team building. We just go around the table (computer screen) and talk about our priorities for the week at work, and then just chat for a little while before getting back to it.

1.00 pm: Lunchtime. I always make a sandwich the night before. Today is chicken, egg mayo and various greens on brown bread. The weather is nice, so I sit in the park by my house and watch the ducks doing duck things for a while.

2.00 pm: I clock back in, but my shift is almost over now. Hooray!

4.00 pm: The last hour is always the longest. I usually get more tea around this time just to try to make the day go faster.

5.00 pm: I clock out and start making dinner. My friend lives very close by and he’s coming over, so I made two chicken burgers.

6.00 pm: My friend arrives and we eat and chat for a while. Eventually, I decide to go with him to buy another blanket because my room is a bit cold at night and it’s likely to only get worse as winter comes. Dunnes Stores has blankets and it’s also very near McDonald’s, which has McFlurries.

7.00 pm: Blanket acquired. McFlurry devoured. (€9.30)

8.00 pm: I say goodbye to my friend and make my way home.

8.30 pm: Making tomorrow’s sandwich and then I’m heading upstairs to watch Buffy on Amazon Prime, my current and forever binge-watch obsession.

10.30 pm: Buffy is over for the night. I wash my face, brush my teeth and get ready for bed/scrolling my phone for a while.

11.15 pm: Time to actually sleep.

Today’s total: €34.60 

Tuesday

7.30 am: I wake up later than yesterday because I don’t have to go shopping. I get ready for the day. My breakfast is a cup of tea and two slices of toast with some strawberry jam.

8.00 am: I clock into work to start the day.

10.30 am: I still feel hungry so I make some more toast and jam to accompany my mid-morning tea.

1.00 pm: Lunchtime. Today my sandwich is ham, cheese, lettuce and mayo. It looks like it’s going to rain so I decide to stay in my room to eat my lunch and watch some more Buffy.

2.00 pm: I clock back in to work. I have some meetings now which always bother me because they interfere with me actually doing my work. The work still needs to be done on time, and the meeting isn’t a good reason to not have it done. I hate the late afternoon meetings too. I’m too tired from the day so far.

5.00 pm: Finally free for the evening, so I start my dinner. Today is various roasted vegetables because if I don’t eat them soon, they’ll go off and that would waste my money.

7.00 pm: I go to my friend’s house and we play Mortal Kombat for a while. I buy two 2l bottles of water from Centra on the way because it’s too heavy to cycle with and tap water tastes weird to me. (€2.00)

10.00 pm: Done playing Mortal Kombat, but my friend convinces me that we need a pizza and cookies before we can start watching a film, so we open JustEat and go half on a FourStar Pizza. (€11.75)

2.00 am: Back home now. Not looking forward to my alarm going off in 5 hours.

Today’s total: €13.75

Wednesday

7.30 am: Wake up and get ready for the day. Have another quick breakfast of toast and jam before work. 

8.00 am: I clock in early for work again. Early to start, early to finish. 

1.00 pm: Egg mayo and veg sandwich for lunch with a cup of tea. 

2.00 pm: I clock back in to work and just about get over the line with something I had a deadline for. Phew. 

5.00 pm: Finally finish up and make a quick chicken curry with veg for dinner. 

6.00 pm: I decide to go for a walk in the park even though I feel wrecked after work. Working from home has its perks, but you’re still stuck inside all day, so I try to make sure I don’t spend a whole day without leaving the house. 

7.00 pm: I make it home before the rain.

7.30 pm: In for the evening. I chat to a few friends online before making tomorrow’s lunch – a sandwich with ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato. Afterwards, I grab some snacks and stick Amazon Prime on to binge some more Buffy.

10.30 pm: On the verge of falling asleep, so I have a shower before heading to bed for the night. 

Today’s total: €0

Thursday

7.30 am: Same as always, wake up early to start my day. I’m heading to the Midlands this evening to see my boyfriend though so I want to finish work early. Quick shower, get dressed and make some easy egg on toast for breakfast. 

8.00 am: Clock in for work for the day. 

1.00 pm: Lunchtime once again. I make a cuppa and eat my sandwich with some fruit and a granola bar. 

2.00 pm: Back to work. 

5.00 pm: Spend the remainder of the afternoon working and finish up. I pack a few last-minute bits and chat to my mam on the phone for a while before making some pasta to eat. I won’t get to my boyfriend until late and he is working until 8.30 pm so I’ll definitely be hungry by the time I get there. 

6.30 pm: I tidy up around my room and have a group call with some friends for a while. I buy my return bus ticket online before leaving. (€20)

8.30 pm: Arrive at my boyfriend’s after an hour and a half on the bus, which isn’t too long really. My boyfriend meets me there and we head to get some Indian food for a late dinner. (€25

10.00 pm: We hang out for the evening, play some XBox and a watch a movie before heading to bed. 

Today’s total: €45

Friday

8.00 am: Wake up a bit later than usual, get ready and have some toast for breakfast. 

9.00 am: I clock in to work from home from not my home.

10.30 am: I have my usual cup of tea to break up the morning. 

1 pm: My boyfriend makes pancakes with Nutella for lunch and we have it in his living room before he goes to work. 

5.00 pm: I work right through from lunch and head into the town centre once I’m finished. We’re starting back in the office for one day a week from the end of September, so I want to grab some new clothes to wear. 

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6.30 pm: I pick up a few things from TK Maxx and Dunnes. I also get a coffee from a nice café nearby. (€46.95

7.00 pm: I meet my boyfriend after his shift and we go for a quick walk along the canal as the weather is nice.

8.00 pm: We make homemade pizza for dinner instead of getting another takeaway. 

9.00 pm: After dinner, we settle in with some drinks and microwave popcorn to watch a few movies together before going to bed. 

Today’s total: €46.95

Saturday

10.00 am: Wake up late and have breakfast with my boyfriend before I leave for the bus back to Dublin.

12.45 pm: I arrive back home, have a shower and decide to chill for the rest of the afternoon after putting away my new clothes that I bought for work. 

4.00 pm: After a lazy day, I’ve managed to plan a cocktail evening for me and my two friends from my old job. I have some pasta with veg before getting ready to go out. 

6.30 pm: I meet my friends at a restaurant in Smithfield. We’ve all been vaccinated for months now, so we can sit indoors. We get a pizza, as well as plenty of cocktails and split the bill between the three of us. An evening well spent. (€37.60)

11.00 pm: I get home and feel the tiredness hit me. Head to bed and watch a few episodes of Buffy before going asleep. 

Today’s total: €37.60

Sunday

11.00 am: Sleep in a bit later today. Scroll on my phone for a while before getting up and making eggs on toast for breakfast. Plenty of water had after last night’s drinks. 

1:00 pm: I head out for a cycle in the park near my place since the weather is good and meet my friend there. We pick up two chicken fillet rolls in the shop for lunch before heading back to mine. (€3.50)

2.00 pm: After eating, we have the chats before playing a bit of Mortal Kombat for a while. 

5.00 pm: The two of us head over to another friend’s house for a dinner party. We’re each going to have a night of making food for each other once a week à la Come Dine With Me and see who’s night is the best. Knowing my cooking, it definitely won’t be mine. 

9.00 pm: Arrive back home. I prepare lunch for tomorrow, set out my clothes and, you guessed it, end the week by putting on Amazon Prime to start re-watching season five of Buffy before bed. 

Today’s total: €3.50

Weekly subtotal: €181.40 

***

What I learned - 

  • This was actually the first time I had looked at my expenses since I moved out of home and started thinking about a master’s next year. I don’t actually spend as much money as I thought I did! It’s not going to be as hard to save for my master’s as I was imagining, but only because I’m lucky enough to have my mam want to support me, and be in a position where she’s able to do that.
  • I tend to spend more on food when I’m with friends. When I’m by myself, I stick with whatever messages I’ve got from Lidl, but with friends, I start to look up takeaways and plan cocktail nights. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but it’s something I’m more aware of now.
  • This was the first time I ever looked at the price of a McFlurry. €2.30 is a lot, but I’d honestly pay more if I had to.

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