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Money Diaries: An actor and bartender on the PUP, keeping busy through lockdown in Dublin

This week, our reader is trying to keep busy in lockdown by reading, writing and running. He also shares his thoughts on life on the PUP, oh and says hello to Domhnall Gleeson.

TheJournal.ie reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie that looks at what people in Ireland really handle their finances.

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.

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 primary teacher on €52K homeschooling and teaching remotely. This time, we meet an actor and bartender who is out of work and receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

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I’m soon to be 26 and currently renting in Rathmines, Dublin. I’m an Actor/Bartender (very original) and went to drama school in Dublin. I love this city but after a few years of doing one or two auditions a week (if I’m lucky) I’m keen to move abroad where there’s more work on offer.

I’m lucky enough to have dual Irish & US citizenship so had planned to head to the States along with my other half. We had planned to move in September 2020 and had been saving as much as possible for the move.

I’ve been lucky enough to see a fair bit of Asia but there’s a lot of places in Eastern Europe I’d love to see so we had planned to go travelling for a month around there before moving while it was still on our doorstep.

Everything was going pretty well and I was optimistic about the future until the pandemic struck and now I’ve been on the PUP since last March (the day the ‘wet’ pub I worked in closed). Through inherited scabbyness, I’ve been managing to save about €200-€300 every month.

Occupation: Actor/Bartender (Currently on the PUP)
Age: 25
Location: Dublin
Salary: €18200 (PUP) Before Covid: €26000
Weekly pay: €350 (PUP) Before Covid: €500

Monthly expenses

Transport: Bleeperbike €8, Leapcard €20
Rent: €560
Household bills: €60
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: €0 (applied for a medical card but was told I make too much money on the PUP)
Groceries: €200
Credit Union Saving Account: €20
Subscriptions: Netflix €18 (myself, my family and my girlfriend use it and I use her Prime) Spotify €10, Nutrition website €13, Scribd €10, Headspace €5.

***

Monday

10.00 am: I arise. I check my phone and pay my rent which is always a great way to start Monday morning (€560) and have overnight oats for breakfast. I have this pretty much every morning as it’s easy to prepare the night before and tastes really good. I’m lucky to have relatively reasonable rent for living in Rathmines but that is because I’ve lived in my place for over five years so with the rent caps it keeps the rent lower than the usual ridiculousness of Dublin. It’s by no means a palace (I can hear my neighbour flush their toilet) but it’s home.

11.00 am: My girlfriend has a medical appointment so I rent a GoCar and bring her to and from it. I passed my test a few years ago but I wouldn’t be able to afford both rent in Dublin and to have my own car so I had to pick one. The only way I could afford my own car would be to live at home. As a result, my family were very happy with my decision not to get a car. I enjoy driving so this is a nice way to keep the skills sharp a couple of times a week. Costs €20.00 for two hours. Would highly recommend the service (not a sponsored post but feel free to get in touch with some credit for me GoCar!). On the way home, a delivery van nearly runs into me after he pulls out of a housing estate without looking both ways. Got a serious fright over it. I blow my horn, slam on the brakes and yell some very constructive feedback from the safety of my locked car. He responds with a friendly gesture. If I ever have my own car I’ll be sure to invest in a dash camera.

1.00 pm: Make some lunch when I get home and then read for a few hours. I try and read one play/screenplay/acting book per day to get some inspiration. Today it’s a play called Proof which is fantastic.

3.00 pm: Head out for a walk to get some fresh air and listen to a podcast, currently working my way through Table Manners with Jessie Ware. Listened to an old episode with David Schwimmer. Then back home and onto the laptop to write a bit. A lot of my writing involves writing quickly for sixty seconds and then staring into space for the next twenty minutes. I’ve yet to find a better system.

6.00 pm: Since this lockdown started, my housemates and I have been taking it in turns once a week to cook dinner for the house. It has to be something you’ve never made before. My housemate knocks it out of the park with a salmon risotto and victoria sponge for dessert. The bar has been set. Four people living in a small house can be very tough in lockdown with everyone under the roof 24/7. Back when we had lives, you often wouldn’t see a housemate for several days at a time due to different schedules. Now though, you can occasionally find yourself sharpening a butter knife when someone has the audacity to sneeze loudly. I’m very lucky that I live with three genuinely lovely people. I’m sure they feel as lucky to live with me.

7.00 pm: The greatest film to never win an Oscar is on (Mean Girls) so we watch that and then I head up to my room to read before bed.

                              Today’s total: €580.00

Tuesday

11.00 am: I arise. I was tossing and turning until 3 am last night so turned off my alarm. Lack of routine this lockdown is tough on the body clock. I usually go for a run first thing before eating but wake up starving so will go later instead.

11.15 am: Have some oats for breakfast and attempt to read a play but find it very hard to concentrate.

2.00 pm: Go for a 5km run. 28mins exactly which I’m happy with as it’s a 3min improvement on a week ago. I was pretty good for running before Christmas / Lockdown 3 but all of January was pretty much a write-off. I prefer going to the gym to running and with no end to this lockdown in sight I had zero motivation until a week ago.

2.30 pm: Shower, eat and try to write something. Very unsuccessfully.

4.00 pm: I order a new running jacket as I need to look cool when I run by people at a very slow pace. Find a nice Adidas one that is 40% off. Love a bargain. €28.50

5.00 pm: Was gonna go do a shop but am not bothered with the weather so rummage at the back of the freezer and find some frozen veg which I make into a basic curry.

6.00 pm: Watch the Arsenal v Wolves Match. Enjoyable first half. Never a red.

6.45 pm: Flick over to the Chase to watch the Final Chase. A time of my day that worryingly has become set in stone.

7.00 pm: Watch the second half. Resist the urge to put my foot through the TV.

8.00 pm: Have a headache so take paracetamol and lay down reading for the rest of the evening.

11.30 pm: Lights out. My roommate gave me a melatonin tablet to help me sort out my sleep schedule. It’s either working or a placebo but either way, I’m going to sleep before midnight which is good for me.

                            Today’s total: €28.50

Wednesday

7.30 am: Wake up still feeling tired and debate trying to go back to sleep but compromise by scrolling on my phone for 45 mins.

8.15 am: Grab a shower, have my oats for breakie and listen to the radio while getting ready.

9.10 am: Get some work done on the laptop for a few hours. Stop several times for tea breaks, etc.

1.00 pm: Lunch. More curry from last night and they’ll be enough left over for dinner tonight too. Lush.

1.30 pm: Walk into Rathmines to do a food shop for the next few days and get some daylight. (€32.17)

2.30 pm: Back home and procrastinate a bit more by doing some tidying. Before getting back on the laptop.

6.00 pm: Found today very tough mentally worrying about the future and work at a snail’s pace. I do a meditation on the Headspace app and after 10 mins already start to feel a bit better. I’d really recommend this app, especially during these times. A few deep breaths when you’re feeling overwhelmed can really be the difference.

8.00 pm: I skype my Mam for an hour. We’re quite close as I’m an only child from a single-parent family. She’s in a different country and we haven’t seen each other for more than six months and it looks like it will be over a year before we get to again. I spent Christmas alone in my house as my Grandparents are both 75+ and we didn’t want to risk it. The joys of Covid.

                             Today’s total: €32.17

Thursday

9.45 am: I arise. I had a good night’s sleep. It’s raining so I decide to eat and wait a couple of hours before going for a run. I read until 12.

12.00 pm: I tidy the kitchen while listening to an episode of the podcast Happy Sad Confused which Domhnall Gleeson is a guest on. Big fan of his. I presume he never misses the Money Diaries so big shout out to Domhnall.

1.00 pm: Go for a 5ker, shower and have some lunch when I get back. Pasta, chicken and broccoli today.

2.00 pm: Read another play, The Flick, and it’s another good read. (I’m working through a list of plays that have won major awards so rarely come across a bad one)

3.00 pm: Write for a bit.

3.30 pm: Delete what I’ve written.

4.00 pm: My girlfriend ordered Where the Crawdads Sing for me as a little surprise and it’s delivered today. Have heard great things and am looking forward to reading it when I finish The Alchemist.

5.00 pm: Look into caffeine gum as I hate coffee and am absolutely knackered by 2 pm most days. Strong tea just doesn’t seem to cut it. Might order some in a few days.

6.00 pm: Cook dinner, chicken, sweet potato and tender stem broccoli covered in Hoisin sauce, and watch The Chase with one of my housemates.

7.00 pm: Watch another excellent movie, Hairspray, with the rest of the house. I’m sporty, I swear.

                         Today’s total: 0.

Friday

10.00 am: Shower and have a big breakfast, spinach omelette with toast, as I’m donating blood today. Read a bit and then cycle into town for 12. Have so few things to look forward to that I’m genuinely excited about this. Put on jeans and everything.

12.00 pm: Blood donation appointment on D’Olier Street. Unfortunately, halfway through my donation, they have to stop as the blood flow is too slow. This would have been my 12th donation and it’s the first time this has ever happened. The nurse gave a few different reasons as to what might have caused it. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again. I ask what will happen to my blood that’s already gone into the bag and am told it’ll be disposed of safely. What a waste. I’m tempted to ask them to stick it back in. I can’t even donate blood successfully at the moment.

1.00 pm: First time in the city centre for a couple weeks so I walk back to Rathmines via Grafton Street which is quite depressing with all the closed shops. Stop in Dunnes on the way back and grab a few bits €7.24.

2.00 pm: I spend the afternoon learning a Shakespeare monologue as everyone in my industry knows how essential that is. Ah sure, To thine own self be true.

5.00 pm: Nothing to report. All quiet on the western front. Disclaimer, I forgot to make note of what I did on Friday evening and for the life of me can’t remember. I presume it involved me out galavanting and not having my ear pressed to my sitting room wall trying to guess how many people next door are entertaining this weekend.

                               Today’s total: €7.24

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Saturday

10.00 am: I arise.

10.10 am: After customary phone checks I read a little bit of Matt Haig in bed before getting up and heading to the sitting room. One of my housemates is working in the sitting room during the week so the weekends are the only time you can chill it during the day really. I’ve always loved to watch movies in the mornings for some reason. I’m a big fan of Taika Waititi and in an interview he said that the film Big Trouble in Little China from the 1980’s was a big inspiration for him when he directed Thor: Ragnarok (fantastic flick and I’m not even a big Marvel fan). I can see what he meant and really like it. An easy watch.

12.45 pm: Then I watch Arsenal play Aston Villa. Not an easy watch.

3.00 pm: Lying in bed reading. Was gonna go for a run but don’t want to do more than three runs per week as my right hip gets at me from running on the street. Will try to push the usual 5k to an 8k Sunday morning instead as my dream for the Ironman race continues. Do a small yoga workout on YouTube instead.

4.00 pm: Go for a walk to get the last of the daylight and grab some headache tablets from Boots on my way back. (€5.50) Have been getting a lot of headaches recently from straining my eyes I think (not from age I hope?!) so book an eye test (€25.00) in the local opticians for next week.

6.00 pm: Make Shakshuka for dinner. More of a brunchy food but I’m feeling crazy so go for it.

7.00 pm: I finished I May Destroy You (excellent) last week so am watching Michaela Coel’s first show Chewing Gum (pretty good) which was added to Netflix recently. Find Michaela Coel very inspiring. Apparently, she turned down a Netflix offer of €1 Million so that she could retain creative control of I May Destroy You (IMDY) and went with BBC/HBO instead. I wish I could say that I’d do the same in similar circumstances but I’d be lying.

                         Today’s total: €30.50

Sunday

10.00 am: I arise. Get dressed and go for a run. 8km. Planning to do my first ever 15 km next Sunday. Family flowers only, please.

11.00 am: Shower and have the trusty oats, then do a few bits on the laptop and read for the next couple hours. I also made a small risotto with Chorizo, pepper and courgette for the first time and it turns out very well.

2.00 pm: Have been looking forward to today with all the sports on. First up is Ireland v Wales. Despite the result, I really enjoyed it. To play over in Cardiff with 14 men for over an hour, prevent Wales from getting a 4 try bonus point and still leave with a losing BP is seriously impressive to me. Don’t enjoy reading the comments slaughtering O’Mahony and Burns. Both made silly mistakes (which I’m sure they’re already beating themselves over) but POM in particular has rescued Ireland on numerous occasions. Some people only remember you for the thing you last did. France will be… tricky.

5.30 pm: Watch the rest of the Liverpool-City game. Seeing 20 year old Phil Foden absolutely lord it against Liverpool makes me wonder will my professional career ever take off. Time to take a break for a few hours until the Superbowl tonight. This time last year I was in Sinnott’s with a few friends watching it until the early hours. This year, I’m watching it with my other half who confidently tells me she’ll be asleep before the end of the first quarter. Her loss.

7.30 pm: We get a Camile and walk down to Tesco to grab a few sweets as well. €15.00 each.

4.00 am: Seeing 43-year-old Tom Brady win the Superbowl for the seventh time reassures me that there’s still plenty of time for my career to kick off! P.S. Herself made it to the midway through the 3rd quarter before heading up to bed wisely stating that “there’s no stopping the GOAT now”. Adieu.

                        Today’s total: €15.00

Weekly subtotal: €693.41

***

What I learned –

  • Since I started working I’ve always set myself a max budget of €200 per week in my current account and everything else goes into my savings account which I generally only touch to pay my rent and household bills. At the end of the week, any leftover money remaining from the €200 also gets put into my savings account and I reset my current back to €200. When I was in college, my Mam gave me €50 per week for expenses. Three years of living in Dublin Monday-Friday, feeding myself and supporting Workman’s student nights has left me well able to survive on a small budget per week. This has made me a good saver. Thank you, Mother.
  • However, I rarely have more €30/€40 leftover from my weekly €200. Generally the first week of the month after paying rent I’m a little bit more frugal to get my balance up again. I’m able to manage on the PUP but can only imagine what it’s like for anyone that has a family and a high mortgage.
  • I was always angry at having to work in bars for 35+ hours per week as I thought it was preventing me from committing myself fully to my desired path but actually, I’ve come to realise that most of my best ideas came to me from experiences I had while I was working in that job I didn’t want to be in. How’s that for coming full circle?
  • With this extra time on my hands, I looked into doing a course online to upskill and I did do a writing course during the first lockdown but I was already planning to do more physical acting training in the US when it’s possible to do so as well as travel as much as I can so would rather save what I can at the moment.
  • I’ve spent a lot of time berating myself and putting pressure on myself to write the next Fleabag / IMDY / Atlanta but I’ve enjoyed writing something that is literally about my boring mundane day to day life. Maybe that’s the key? Be boring? Maybe not.
  • I’m fortunate that Covid happened before I moved to the US as I can claim the PUP and haven’t had to use the money I had saved for moving. I would not like to be in the US right now the way things are over there with Covid. I am even more fortunate that I haven’t lost anyone due to Covid. At the same time, I’ve lost at least a full year of my 20’s and am down €600 per month. Could be worse, could be better.
  • A friend of mine in similar circumstances said that it really feels that this year all she’s doing is simply existing.
  • P.S. If anybody is hiring a mid-twenties male actor with blue eyes then HMU.

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