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Money Diaries: A primary teacher on €52K homeschooling and teaching remotely

This week, our reader is a primary school teacher documenting her spending while she juggles homeschooling of her own children and her pupils.

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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.   

Last time around, we heard from a 29-year-old woman on €46K who had moved out of the city. This time, we hear from a mother of three children living in the west of the country.

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I am a married mother of three children aged 6, 8 and 11 living in the West of Ireland. I wasn’t working for a few years when my children were small so my husband was covering the mortgage and bills from his account. He earns more than I do.

We don’t really have any money arrangements between us – we just pay for whatever, whenever. What’s mine is his and what’s his is mine. So as it happens, most bills and the mortgage come from his account and I cover day to day expenses.

We have a joint account somewhere but I don’t use it. There are a lot of outgoings directly from my salary – pension, union dues etc. I save €750 per month for the children’s “college fund” or whatever they might need when I’m nearing retirement age I suppose.

At the end of each month I transfer whatever is left to a deposit account that I can dip into then for big expenses like holidays or a new car. We don’t have any loans except our mortgage and we always buy our cars with cash, having saved for them. The same goes for holidays or big expenses on the house.

Occupation: Primary School Teacher
Age: 41
Location: West Coast of Ireland
Salary: €52,000
Monthly pay (net): €2,600

Monthly expenses

Transport: approx €60
Mortgage: €1,100 – paid by my husband
Household bills: approx €200 paid by my husband
Phone bill: €42
Health insurance: covered by my husband’s job
Groceries: €600
Childcare: €100 per week (My childminder usually has the children for an hour after school (the youngest for two hours) while I do my paperwork in school. She charges very little and has been minding them since they were babies. I am insisting on paying her still while the schools are closed because I appreciate her so much. She is reluctant to take it but it’s going to her anyway.)
Subscriptions: Netflix €7.86, Amazon Music €3.93
Child Sponsorship: €25
GAA Club Draw: €20

***

Monday 

8.00 am: I slowly wake everyone up and prepare porridge with fruit. As we are not in school at the moment, this is an hour later than usual. The kids can all dress themselves at this stage and they bring their dirty clothes to the laundry. It’s these simple things that give me pleasure nowadays. They brush teeth and argue with each other while I tidy away the breakfast dishes and prepare the kitchen table for schoolwork. My oldest goes to her room with her iPad and is fairly self-sufficient for the morning. The other two need encouragement and attention all day long so I try to set them up with independent work while I have my live Zoom lessons with my class from 9 am-10.30 am (The class is divided into three groups for these to give each child a chance to speak). Most of my pre-recorded videos for my own class are prepared after my husband gets home from work and on the weekends but I have to correct work that comes in from my students during the day. My children break at 10 am to watch “Home school hub” on RTÉ for an hour.

12.30 pm: We break for lunch. Tuna wraps and fruit salad. The youngest two have a little more school work to do and then we play with playdoh and jigsaws as I organise the laundry and a few jobs around the house.

4.00 pm: The older girl is only finishing her schoolwork now. Then we have a snack of cheese and crackers and all go out for a walk with the dog.

6.00 pm: Dinner is spare ribs with cabbage, carrots and mashed potatoes. We have brownies for dessert as we were baking over the weekend. My husband is home for dinner. The children have their screen time from 7-8 pm while I prepare tomorrow’s videos for my class on “Seesaw” – the online learning app. 

9.00 pm: I get the children ready for bed and lights out at 9.00 pm. More schoolwork prep until I go to bed at 11.30 pm. I come across a course in an education centre on the remote teaching of Irish and I sign up for it. It costs €10.00. This is one of the benefits of Covid that I have found in my job. CPD used to be very difficult for me with the children at home but now it is all available via online webinars. I hope they keep it like this.   

                  Today’s total: €10.00

Tuesday

8.00 am: The morning is the same as yesterday. The kids have porridge but I have a boiled egg and brown bread. They don’t eat eggs which disappoints me because they’re so versatile, cheap and nutritious. Schoolwork, housework and Home School Hub until lunchtime. 

12.30 pm: We break for lunch. Homemade vegetable soup and brown bread. I scroll Facebook while making the lunch and see an appeal for Dog’s Trust and donate €20.00. The weather is miserable so we don’t get out for a walk. Instead, the older two fight for the afternoon and do my head in until I make threats about no screen tonight. Then they wreck my house making dens. I do some more schoolwork in an effort to have some time off this evening. 

4.00 pm: We all do a home work out together in the kitchen. Then I prepare dinner.

6.00 pm: Dinner is roast lamb with potatoes, turnips, broccoli and cauliflower. The children have their screen-time after. I don’t know why I ever threaten to deprive them of it because it is the quietest time of the day and I love it more than they do. My husband walks the dog.

9.00 pm: We sit down with tea after the kids go to bed and we watch the recording of last week’s “How to be Good with Money”. We discuss our efforts at healthy eating and I order food scales online €29.00 including delivery. Then we watch a recorded Primetime documentary on homelessness which makes us so grateful for the life that we have and we donate €100.00 to Focus Ireland. It’s only the cost of a night out pre-covid. How privileged we are! Then it’s bed with my book and lights out around 11.30 pm.

                         Today’s total: €149.00

            (but I also gained €420 as the children’s allowance came in today!)

Wednesday

8.00 am: This morning is similar to the previous two days but my husband is working from home today so he joins us for breakfast at 9 am, having done two hours work in the home office already. The adults have scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and the kids have Weetabix and toast. I encourage the kids not to break for Home School Hub today so they work right through until lunch.

1.00 pm: We eat pitta pockets for lunch and my husband takes some time to go outside with the kids while I do some schoolwork. The older two have some work to finish and the youngest stays outside on the trampoline. We can watch from the window while we continue to work. 

3.00 pm: They all watch Home School Hub while I go for a run with the dog seeing as my husband is in the house. When I get home I bake brown bread with the help of my middle child and prepare a quick lamb curry using yesterday’s leftovers. I’ve developed a killer headache and ask my sister-in-law to stop by with panadol on her way home from work. She drops it to the door wearing a mask and I see her to the car and throw €10.00 in the window as she wouldn’t take the money for it at the door. We, Irish, are so awkward in situations involving money! If I didn’t get it to her I would be thinking about how to “pay her back” in some way.

6.00 pm: We eat and I tidy up, fold laundry, organise the kids and do another hour of schoolwork. 

9.00 pm: When the kids are in bed I sit down with my husband and watch Operation Transformation. I go to bed and try to read my book but my head still hurts. I settle in for sleep at around 11 pm. 

                         Today’s total: €10.00

Thursday

8.00 am: I woke up feeling really sad this morning. I had a terrible sleep last night, worrying about my parents, my children, the children in my school, the parents of children in my school, getting back to school, my friends, my children’s friends – you get the picture! I’m sure people are shouting at me. I have nothing to complain about. I get to be at home with my family and we are all well. It’s just so monotonous – the strain is starting to show in the children and they seem to be getting angry and withdrawn. Although they have never said it, I suppose they miss their routine, school, activities and their friends and extended family. We make pancakes for breakfast and I choose two items from each of their timetables for them to concentrate on while I do my own school work. 

11.00 am: I then make a decision to skip school for the rest of the day. This is something I have advised to parents of children in my own class who have reached out. I’m always saying “You don’t have to do everything. The most important thing is that the children are happy”, but I have not followed that advice myself. It’s a dry day so we wrap up warm, pack a picnic and walk to our local beach with the dog. It is therapeutic for everyone. We go to the local shop for treats en route home (€8.00)

3.00 pm: We rent a movie on Rakuten TV (€3.99) and I spend the time reaching out to some of the kids’ friends’ parents to try to set up a call for them to catch up this evening or tomorrow. When the calls are arranged, I ring my husband and ask him to pick up a takeaway on his way home from work. He tells me that he will be working late and won’t be home until after 7 pm so we pack into the car after the movie and go to pick up a takeaway from a lovely local restaurant (€43.00). I justify this once per week in my efforts to keep the local economy going. It used to be at the weekend but more recently it is on a random weekday when things just get on top of me. The weekends are easier because my husband is here and the kids aren’t under pressure with schoolwork.

7.00 pm: The price I pay for giving up on life today is that I must do a few hours of school work now while the kids have their screen/calls with their friends and my husband organises them for bed. I do feel re-energised though. I finish my schoolwork by 9 pm and sit down with my husband for tea and Netflix.

                      Today’s total: €54.99

Friday

8.00 am: Free-for-all breakfast this morning. The kids get their own cereal and I have an egg and toast. They go back to their rooms and read or play while I do my online lessons with my own class (9 am – 10.30 am). Then they watch Home School Hub. We don’t get started with their schoolwork until 11.30 am. They work until lunch and I dip in and out to help each of them while doing my own work.

1.00 pm: Toasted specials for lunch today with crisps on the side. We get straight back to work in the hope of getting out for a walk to the beach again today. We are all finished by 3 pm and take the dog for a walk to the beach. When we get home we bake carrot cake together while prepping dinner. The kids have their music lessons via Zoom tomorrow and I transfer the money via Revolut – €45.00 for all three. I have also ordered built-in shelves for the playroom and must pay the carpenter a deposit of €500.00 so I transfer that via online banking. The milkman’s money came out today €12.50.

6.00 pm: Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. Carrot cake for dessert. Screen for the kids and tea and TV for me. 

9.00 pm: Feeling exhausted but still manage to open a bottle of wine at 9 pm and enjoy a few glasses each with a movie on Netflix.

                         Today’s total: €557.50

Saturday

8.00 am: My husband makes a fry for breakfast and I lie in bed scrolling my phone. The kids are watching TV but we all come to the table to eat at 9 am. Their music lessons start at 10 am and I go for a run while my husband supervises. Home for a quick shower before grocery shopping. I spend €122.00 in the supermarket after all my coupons are taken off and €36.00 in the butchers. This is a typical week but since Covid arrived in March last year this is the only money we spend on groceries all week except for the milkman.

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1.00 pm: Fresh rolls for lunch. I put in my earphones after and do housework while listening to an audiobook on borrow box. 

4.00 pm: It’s my mother’s birthday next week and I order her present online €81.00 including delivery. My parents live in a different county and are in their 70s so we have been very careful about seeing them this year. It’s hard because I know they miss the company of the children. Previously we would have visited every second weekend almost.

6.00 pm: Pizza and salad for dinner. I buy the bases in the supermarket and the kids put on the toppings. We sit down for a family movie with popcorn and sweets. I’m distracted looking up ideas on my phone for next week’s lessons. 

9.00 pm: After the kids go to bed we treat ourselves to wine, cheese and Netflix and I go to bed at 11.30 pm. 

                           Today’s total: €239.00

Sunday

8.00 am: Early start for a run. My youngest comes on the bike. I make us a quick smoothie before we go. My husband has a fry on when we get back and we all go to the beach with the dog after. We stop for coffees and hot chocolates on the way home, €13.50.

1.00 pm: Sandwiches and fruit salad for lunch and then I’m back into making my pre-recorded videos for tomorrow until 3 pm. 

4.00 pm: I prepare a roast chicken for dinner, sort out the laundry and then sit down with my book.

6.00 pm: We eat chicken, potatoes, carrots, broccoli and turnip for dinner. Carrot cake for desert. Ireland’s Fittest Family is TV of choice tonight and I do some school-related admin on the computer while we watch. I have the dreaded fear of the week ahead tonight which disappoints me. I love my job and never feel like this on Sunday nights but this isn’t the same job I signed up for. I’m finding it all-consuming and stressful. But I’m also annoyed with myself for feeling like this because I do realise that people are genuinely struggling and I count my lucky stars every day.

9.00 pm: I relax in the bath with my book and finish the book in bed before turning out the lights at 11 pm.

                           Today’s total: €13.50

                                 Weekly subtotal: €1,033.99

***

What I learned –

  • Having kept the money diary for a week I am really surprised that I spent money every day. I thought that I would only spend a few days in the week.

  • My life seems pretty mundane but I would imagine that is the reality for a lot of homes these days.

  • There would regularly be a big expense like the carpenter – I will pay him over the course of a few months and then start another project or buy another large item for the house or the garden. Also there would be an oil fill every few months or a car expense.

  • I’m laughing at how quickly I ran out of steam this week – we would usually start strong with porridge every week day morning until Friday but I had enough by Wednesday this week!

  • I suppose the weekly/monthly outgoings aren’t typical at the moment because the children aren’t doing most of their extra-curricular activities. My salary would usually be fairly diminished with dancing, gymnastics, swimming and music fees.

  • I don’t really have any tips for people. I don’t think much about the money that I spend. I am careful to put away what I can with the bigger picture in mind (the children’s future/college fund) but at the same time I never deprive myself or the children. If we need (want) something, I usually just get it. I know that I am very lucky in that regard.

  • The past year I have had more disposable income because there are no nights out, no holidays, not many activities for the kids etc.

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