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Money Diaries: A team leader in Galway on €37K working from home who is also a single mother

This week, our reader, who lives with her daughter in Galway and has an underlying health condition, details her spending and saving during the Covid-19 period.

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WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie that runs weekly and looks at what people in Ireland really do with their cash.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of how much they earn, how much they save if anything, and what they spend their money on over the course of one week.

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.

If you’d like to document your spending, or lack thereof and any lifestyle changes during this Covid-19 period, we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to money@thejournal.ie and we’ll be in touch.

Last week, we heard from a university administrator who is living in Limerick and working from home. This week, a single mother in Galway working from home and navigating all of it with an underlying health condition.

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I’m a single parent, currently living in a rural town in Galway. I’ve been parenting alone since I was pregnant and my daughter will be 18 in October. I’m currently trying to save for college as she starts 6th year this September.

I’ve never gotten maintenance and relied on a combination of working full-time and social welfare. I had reached a point about eight years ago where I was not on social welfare but then I became very ill and as a result, couldn’t work for a while and became homeless.

I was housed by a homeless charity, went back to work part-time until earlier this year where I was able to go back full-time. As a result, I don’t have a lot saved as up. Until January 2020 my income was closer to €25K per annum net.

Before Covid-19 I had a fairly decent social life with nights away, spa breaks and meals out with friends or my partner (we don’t live together). My daughter and I enjoy going to the cinema together.

I’m vulnerable health-wise so I’ve been pretty much at home since March which has been challenging but I’ve managed to save a lot of money which has been an upside.

    Occupation: Credit Control Team Leader
    Age: 37
    Location: Galway
    Salary: €37,000
    Monthly pay (net): €2540
    Child Benefit: €140

    Monthly expenses

    Transport: Insurance €30, Tax €20, Car Repair and Maintenance about €50, Diesel €20 (I’m currently working from home)
    Rent: €400
    Household bills: ESB & Heat €80, Sky €30, Broadband €50, Bins €30, Contents Insurance: €20
    Phone bill: €40
    Health insurance: Mine is paid by work, I pay €35 for my daughter's plan
    Groceries: €350-400. It used to be less but we’re now both home all day and I also switched from a budget supermarket to another, more expensive supermarket as they do delivery and I’m trying to avoid being out too much.
    Subscriptions: Netflix Premium €8, Spotify Family plan €7.50 (We share the plans with my partner and his children), HP Instant Ink €3, Pension: €100 per month, matched by employer
    Car loan: €300
    Savings: €300 into a college savings account and €300 into a rainy day fund for emergencies or unexpected expenses.

    Monday 13 July

    7.30 am: I’m up and into the shower. As I now work from home I can lie in compared to my old commute which was 40 minutes each way. I make a cup of tea, eat some fruit and yoghurt and am at my desk by 8 am. I have flexi-time which is great. We’re down a couple of people in the team as recruitment hasn’t been possible recently so work has been really busy and stressful. My morning is chockablock with meetings. I arrange a call with the team just to check-in and see how they are all managing and ask them to let me know if there are any problems.

    1.30 pm: I didn’t get a break this morning so I take a half-hour lunch and spend it with my daughter. She was up early and has made us an omelette for lunch.  Many Gavin & Stacey joking ensue.

    3.00 pm: Daughter drops me in a cup of tea and we decide what to have for dinner which she is cooking. Work phone rings and I leave it to her to decide.

    5.00 pm: I clock out and dinner of a veggie stir fry is ready and waiting. I’ll miss this after the school holidays! 

    6.00 pm: We do some exercise indoors as it’s raining. I do chair yoga, my daughter does a Joe Wicks online workout in her room. Then we have an evening of Netflix with tea and biccies and I go to bed at 11.

                                 Today's total: €0.00

    Tuesday 14 July

    7.30 am:  Up and at my desk by 8 am again. Work is busy again with deadlines, staffing issues and yet again I miss my morning break so my daughter sneaks in with a cuppa and a granola bar. Not the best breakfast but it does the job. 

    1.30 pm: I’m starving and we have a grocery shop scheduled for that evening so the cupboards are a bit bare. I decide we’ll phone in an order to the local café and I drive up to collect and they drop it into the boot. It comes to €10.95 for the two of us.

    5.00 pm: Shopping delivery arrives before I finish work so daughter puts it away and has dinner of baked salmon in the oven. We eat and it’s still raining today so we go for a short walk. I use a walking aid sometimes (today is one of those days) so my daughter doesn’t like me walking on my own in the rain in case I slip.  

    6.00 pm: We get soaked in a downpour so come home and its showers, PJs and fluffy socks all around. We decide to rent a movie on Sky (€3.99) and make popcorn for a home cinema night.

                                 Today's total: €14.94

    Wednesday 15th July

    7.30 am: Another bleak day, where has the summer gone? The usual routine of up, shower and commute to the home office with a cuppa in one hand. Today is another very busy day but I do manage to take my morning break as my daughter is off shopping with some friends. The masks are packed and I make sure she has everything before dropping her to the bus. She used to work in the kids club at a local hotel but hasn’t been working since the pandemic. I transfer €50.00 to her account each week and in return, she cooks and does whatever is needed on top of her usual chores. I feel it’s better to give her a set amount and let her manage it herself for phone credit, days out etc. rather than handing her money as needed. 

    1.30 pm: I take a half-day using flexitime as my partner is coming over this evening. We’ve been together a number of years but logistically living together wouldn’t be possible for a couple more years. I make a light lunch and we go for a walk (in the rain).

    6.00 pm: I cook a full roast dinner and my partner goes to collect my daughter from the bus. They come home with dessert, his treat, and we all watch reruns of Friends as none of us is in the mood for a movie and we’re chatting. We decide to do the Lotto online. He does it from his account and I give him €10.00 towards it. Then we play cards against humanity for a while with a couple of glasses of wine (my almost 18-years-old is allowed a can of White Claw which is the latest thing, so I’m told). Later to bed than normal but it was a lovely evening. Oh and we didn’t win the Lotto, unfortunately! 

                                  Today's total: €60.00

    Thursday 16 July

    8.30 am: Raining again. Partner heads back to his home early to get ready for work. I’m a bit later to my desk this morning and start around 9am.  I check the weather as the washing is mounting up but it’s promised nice this weekend so I decide to leave it. 

    1.30 pm: I make lunch of a toastie cheese sandwich as my daughter is at her friend’s house. She’s staying there for dinner so the house is very quiet but that means I have a very productive day. She might be nearly an adult but I do suffer from working mother guilt when we’re both at home and I have to ignore her while working. 

    6.00 pm: I don’t bother cooking. I usually make too much of certain dinners like curry or lasagne and freeze portions for days I’m eating alone so I dig a curry out of the freezer. I sit down with the laptop and check my bank account and am surprised to see a payment of €275.00 for the Back to School Allowance. I haven’t been on social welfare since early this year so assumed I wouldn’t get it. I move it to my rainy day account. I also move another €75.00 to my credit union loan account. This is what I pay for grinds and bus fare during term time. So now over summer, I’m paying it off my car loan instead. Which means I should have it paid off in a couple of months (two years early). My daughter gets home around 9 pm and we chat for a bit before bed.

                                    Today's total: €75.00

    Friday 17th July

    6.00 am: Still raining – the joys of living in the West of Ireland. I couldn’t sleep so got up early and started work at 6 am. Got lots done because the internet was faster and I didn’t have as many interruptions. I have breakfast around 8 am and back to it. 

    1.30 pm: Daughter makes lunch and then disappears into her room. I have a cleaner who comes once a fortnight for a few hours to do the heavy housework that I can’t. I know I could get my daughter to do it while she is off school but don’t think that would be fair to the cleaner and I don’t want to lose her for the sake of three months. She costs me €80.00

    6.00 pm: I’m wrecked and the house is spotless so I really don’t want to mess up the new clean kitchen. We decide to get a takeaway delivered which comes to €22.50. Today was payday so I spend part of the evening paying bills online and doing a budget for the following month. I decide to cancel my Kindle unlimited as the books I want are never available on the subscription. Go through the motions and they offer three months for €11.22 which I decide to take. There’s a bank charge of €0.46 also (all other bank charges are free with my account). I also order some bits I need for the kitchen online and that comes to €45.00

                                 Today's total: €159.18

    Saturday 18 July

    8.00 am: I wake up and the sun is shining! At last! I decide to get up early and get stuck into the mountain of washing. I eat breakfast outside and do some chair yoga. Daughter joins me in the garden when she gets up and we spend the morning enjoying the sunshine and rotating loads of washing from the machine to the washing line to our rooms. 

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    12.00 pm: We go for a drive into Galway city and take a walk on the prom. But it is really busy so we abandon it and head to Barna where the beach isn’t as busy. It’s a long way to come for a short walk but the change of scenery is good for us. We’ve seen more of our house in the last four months than the last four years or at least it feels like that! Daughter treats us to ice-cream on the way home. 

    6.00 pm: I cook us dinner which tonight is a very straightforward fish cakes and steamed veg with baby potatoes. We sit in the garden until it gets cooler and then pick a chick flick we’ve watched a million times before and make some popcorn. 

                          Today's total: €0.00

    Sunday 19 July

    9.00 am: I wake up early as always but spend a while in bed reading. I hear my daughter get up around ten so I get up too and make pancakes for breakfast. I am missing eggs so send her to the nearby local shop to pick some up and she gets some berries and a coffee for herself too. The total is €10.50

    12.00 pm: Another sunny day so I sit out in the garden and browse online. Decide to get started with back to school shopping and order school shoes which come to €90.00. Years of experience have taught me it’s better to buy expensive shoes as they last the full school year. Now that she’s fully grown and won’t grow out of them by mid-year, it’s worth the investment. I also buy a magazine subscription for my sister. It's four issues a year and comes to €33.00

    4.00 pm: Partner comes to visit with his youngest and we all have dinner together. I go for a chicken curry today as he wasn’t sure what time he would arrive so it was easier as it can sit on a low temperature. We eat and the kids clear up. We all go for a walk in the local park afterwards and then his and my daughters head into her room to chat and he and I sit in the garden with wine (me) and coffee (him). 

    7.00 pm: Partner and his daughter leave and my daughter has a friend over. I sit and chat with them for a little bit before leaving them in the sitting room and heading into bed. I have an online grocery shop organised for the following week so just go through it again and add anything I’ve forgotten and take off what I didn’t use this week. Then I read on my Kindle. Daughter’s friend leaves around 11 pm and then it's lights out for this week.

                               Today's total: €133.50

                                     Weekly subtotal: €442.62


    What I learned –

    • I am a bit of an impulse buyer so should probably watch my online purchases. Maybe wait 24 hours after I see something before I buy it. There were a few one-off expenses this week so I will probably end up having to transfer funds from the rainy day fund before the next payday. But overall I think I have a decent handle on my finances and will be debt-free soon (I’m aiming for September).
    • I am very conscious that my rent costs are low and this allows me a lot of comfort as a single parent on one wage. After years of struggling to pay for childcare and private rent on a lower wage than I am on now, I do not take this for granted and appreciate it daily! It’s unfortunate that it took my having a disability and facing homelessness to be in a position to have affordable rent and a secure long-term home. Something definitely needs to be done about the rental sector in Ireland. I’m hoping once I’ve put my daughter through college that I will go back to college myself and eventually work for a charity or non-profit as I would love to give back in some way.

    About the author:

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