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Money Diaries: A primary school teacher on €45K living in Sligo

This week, our reader is enjoying life in Sligo during lockdown and watching her spending.

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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 civil servant in Dublin on €24K missing socialising with friends. This week, a primary school teacher living in Sligo is trying to curb her spending.

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I have lived in Sligo all my life. At the moment myself and my fiancé are renting in the town centre. We are very lucky as my parents own the house, so our rent is quite low. My fiancé takes care of the rent and I take care of household bills (ESB, Sky, groceries and bins). I am a primary school teacher and work in a rural school in which I teach the junior end (JI-2nd Class). I’ve been back working in class since the start of March and have loved being back with my kiddies. This is the first week of the Easter holidays.

Over the past 12 months, I have been able to become a more regular saver. I qualified six years ago however at the time it was mainly short-term contracts that were available so I was never paid for Christmas, Easter or Summer holidays. Any savings I had up until then tided me over those periods of no pay. This is my second teaching year in a permanent post and when I knew I had this stability I set up a direct debit to try to save more after Christmas last year.

I would have done so earlier but our dog had an accident so we were out the door with vets bills for a while. I had a nice bit saved but we got engaged early in December so my savings more or less halved with deposits I also had to dip into my savings to get a new iPhone as my phone died on me in January. 

Occupation: Primary school teacher
Age: 31
Location: Sligo
Salary: €45,834

Monthly pay (net): €2,422

Monthly expenses

Transport: Diesel €80 per month insurance (620) and tax (€180) have already been paid for the year. My NCT is due
Rent: €400 paid by my fiancé
Household bills: Sky (including wifi) €92, electricity €80 per month, bins €40 per month. We use oil to heat the house and usually get 500 litres twice a year (approx. €42 a month for my half)
Health insurance: I don’t have health insurance but I’ve signed up for the Hospital Saturday Fund (my sister told me about it). It offers cover for myself and my fiancé we have a basic package for €30.80 a month but we can upgrade to a more comprehensive package later
AVC Pension and Salary Protection Insurance: Deducted from wages
Groceries: I try to stay at about €280 for the month. I love my food and don’t mind spending on it
Dog food and medication: €100 – our dog has a chronic condition and has a very sensitive stomach so he can only eat certain foods. He is also on medication. We usually pay €30 for the prescription and it lasts us two months
Subscriptions: Netflix (€7.99), Kindle unlimited (€9.99) Audible (€9.99) Amazon Music (€3.99) Microsoft (€7.00) health tracker (€6.49)
Savings: Credit Union €4,500 I have a direct debit of €400 fortnightly 200 to my savings and 200 off my car loan. I’m down to my last €700 of my car loan and have set myself a target to clear my loan by the end of April after that I’ll transfer all to savings.

Monday

9.30 am: I’ve had a nice sleep in this morning. I scroll on my phone for a bit and then head downstairs for breakfast. I eat a Nature Valley nut butter bar and a banana and have a cup of green tea followed by an Actimel yoghurt drink. I bring my dog out for a quick walk. I meet my uncle when I’m walking. It was lovely to see him he lives close by but with Covid, I hardly see him these days and he just became a Grandad again over the weekend so it was nice to congratulate him in person.

10.30 am:  I leave my dog back home and head out for my 5k run I usually listen to an audiobook when running so don’t mind paying the subscription as it makes my runs more enjoyable. My legs are still a bit stiff from Saturday’s long run but I push through. When I get home I see a text from my sister wondering if I could watch my nephews for an hour  – I’ve bubbled up with her to help with childcare when her husband is away working. I watch the boys in the garden while she runs to Dunnes. I give her €3.00 to pick up bin bags for me.

1.00 pm: I make some lunch scrambled eggs on brown bread and have a Diet Coke and a Timeout bar after. I then prep potatoes and veg for this evenings dinner.

6.00 pm: My fiancé is home from work for a while now he’s doing forklift training beside us so he’s on a shorter day than usual. We get dinner sorted – roast chicken, mash, carrots and parsnips – I set aside the chicken we didn’t eat for a chicken curry tomorrow. I clean up and settle in to watch the soaps for the evening. I see a friend is fundraising for the Irish Pilgrimage Trust Fund. I donate €20.00. I walk the dog again and it’s the jammies and mindless telly for the rest of the evening.

                                Today’s Total: €23.00

Tuesday

10.00 am: I get up later than usual and have breakfast – honey yoghurt, strawberries and granola. I was up late reading ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ I couldn’t put it down so I’m quite groggy now but will feel guilty if I stay in bed much longer. 

11.00 am: I bring my dog out for a 15-minute walk and then head to the shop. My Mum mentioned Dad’s fairly wiped out from getting his vaccine yesterday so I pick up some of his favourite pastries – eclairs and can’t resist getting a crème egg for myself. I end up spending €6.40 as I get some chocolate marshmallows too (I have an awful sweet tooth) I drop the pastries at the door and head home for a run.

12.30 pm: I go for a run. It’s quite warm and heavy – I shouldn’t have worn a long-sleeved top. I struggled with it today. I come home shower and have lunch of a poached egg on brown bread.

3.30 pm: We bring our dog to a local wooded area for a walk. There are no other cars here so we can let him off the lead. 

6.30 pm: We sit down to our dinner of chicken curry which I prepped earlier. I get a text from a friend who lives within my 5k she’s wondering if I’m heading out for a walk. I meet her for a socially distanced walk and of course, my furry sidekick comes with me.

                               Today’s total: €6.40

Wednesday

9.00 am: I get up earlier today as I’m meeting my sister for a run. 

1.00 pm: Lunch is two sausages on brown bread. I then bring the dog out for his walk. I get home and do a few chores around the house.

6.30 pm: My fiancé is working a 12-hour shift today so we eat at separate times. I was planning to have spinach and ricotta tortellini but realise I’ve no pasta sauce. I don’t fancy heading to the supermarket today as I’ve to go to Aldi tomorrow for one of their special buys and don’t want to be in and out of the shops all the time. I settle for a chicken wrap.

9.30 pm: I top up the electricity €40.00 we’ve been using prepay power since we moved in over seven years ago at the time we were both working minimum wage jobs and it made more sense that we’d have a bit more control over our bills. I know some people say it’s more expensive but I find it reasonable at €80 to keep us on electricity for the month so never bothered changing to a different provider. I Revolut my Mum €30.00 I owe her and then order her a copy of Where the Crawdads Sing as I think she’ll really enjoy it. Easons has free delivery of over €10 and the book is on offer so I pick up a nice wee book to add to our class library €15.98.

10.00 pm: I watch the latest episode of Law and order SVU (I’ve been obsessed since my first year in college) and head to bed for the evening. I also ordered two new face masks off the Jessica Graaf website – €12.70 I find these masks very comfortable it was a bit of an impulse buy but there are worse things I could buy.

                                     Today’s total: €98.68   

Thursday

8.30 am: I planned to sleep in longer but I woke up and decided not to waste the morning in bed. I get up have breakfast- fruit, yoghurt and mixed berries and walk my dog.

10.30 am: I head out on a few messages. I go to a local pharmacy and get a few bits I have a voucher so the final bill is €22.49. I then head to a local health food shop and pick up some of their brown bread. It’s expensive but the nicest bread I’ve ever had! I also pick up some magnesium supplements and some green tea for €27.44. I planned to go to Aldi as they had mattress protectors on offer however the queue is very long. I head to Homestore + More instead and pick up the protector, a bin and a fibre optic duster as well €24.97. I head up to the local pet stop shop. Our dog’s lead broke yesterday and we live near a busy enough road – the last time he got off his lead it resulted in a broken leg so not taking any chances there, €29.40. I need to get a few groceries to tide us over until I do my big shop on Sunday or Monday (I don’t like to get lots of groceries before the weekend as I don’t eat as much fresh fruit yoghurt etc. at the weekend) The queue for Lidl is crazy as well I forgot how busy these places get over Easter weekend. I head to the Food centre beside me and pick up a tray of Diet Coke, a pack of water and some breakfast items, milk and a few other bits that’ll keep us going until the supermarkets calm down €43.55.

12.30 pm: I come home unpack my purchases and prepare my lunch – brown bread and a poached egg. I have a caramel egg and a Diet Coke after that I picked up in the food centre.

1.30 pm: I meet my sister and the boys for a walk. After I drop half of my brown bread at Mum and Dads doorstep. 

6.30 pm: I have my dinner – spinach and ricotta tortellini with garlic bread – I picked up the sauce and garlic bread in the food centre earlier. It’s been such a beautiful day today and my fiancé is on annual leave now since his shift finished at 6.00 so we decide to go to the shop for a few drinks – I pick up some wine and a Glenisk protein yoghurt for breakfast tomorrow, €15.49.

9.00 pm: I have two glasses of wine and catch up on the soaps. 

                                     Today’s total: €163.34 (Whoops!)

Friday

9.45 am: I sleep a bit later today. I get up and eat breakfast my yoghurt from yesterday and a slice of brown bread. I then walk our dog and when I get back I clean the oven – it had been soaking in oven pride overnight. 

12.00 pm: I head out for a 10km run it’s quite hot and my pace is slower but It’s the most enjoyable run I’ve had in a long time. The grass was freshly cut I don’t know why but it always puts me in a good mood. When I get home I shower and have lunch – a poached egg on brown bread. I then sit out the back reading my kindle.

3.00 pm: I collect an Easter treat box I ordered filled with brownies and cupcakes. It looks divine €20.00. I arrive home and eat a brownie outside. My fiancé joins me outside and we have a couple of drinks in the sunshine reminiscing on holidays that seem like a lifetime ago at this stage. 

6.30 pm: I bring the dog on a short walk and then order our weekend takeaway €32.00. We went a bit mad it’s a new takeaway so we wanted to sample some starters too. There’s so much leftover it will do us for dinner again tomorrow evening.

10.30 pm: I finish my bottle of wine while watching the Late Late Show.

                          Today’s total: €52.00

Saturday

10.00 am: I sleep late this morning. I bring our dog out for a quick loop around the block to do his business. I eat a banana and do some tidying around the house. After about an hour I make us brunch – I have a sausage and hash brown toasted sandwich. Once we’ve finished and tidied up after ourselves we head out with our dog to a nice wooded area for a longer walk.

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2.00 pm: I realise I’ve ran out of credit so top up by €20.00. This gives me free texts, unlimited internet and unlimited calls to the same network which all my family are, so it suits me perfectly. I realise most people my age are on bill pay but I prefer to have as much control as I can over my bills and I hear so many horror stories of unexpected bills of hundreds of euros so I’ve stuck to pay as you go. I had to pay €600 for a new phone at the start of the year but my phones usually last me 3-4 years so I don’t mind spending on that.

3.00 pm: I drop Easter eggs out to my nephews. The eldest isn’t to keen on eggs so I give him €10.00 towards a Playstation controller alongside a smaller egg. The youngest is more than happy with his kinder joy! I drop an Easter egg for my Dad at the door and head back to mine.

4.00 pm: My cousin had a baby recently so I order her a voucher for a local photographer so she can get newborn pictures (if possible it may be her first birthday before she can get anything like that done again) €50.00. We reheat our takeaway and again I have two glasses of wine and watch some television for the evening. 

                               Today’s total: €80.00

Sunday

9.00 am: We wake early and decide to bring our dog out for a walk. We decide against breakfast as I’ve to get diesel so my fiancé suggests we get some hot deli food and eat it at the park. I put €40.00 worth of diesel in my car and my fiancé picks us up some sausage rolls, hash browns and a few bottles of water. We head to Slishwood. We eat in the car and then head out for a long walk.

12.00 pm: I had planned to run today but decided the walk was enough. I hoover and do some laundry and then make us both some ham and cheese sandwiches. We spend the afternoon watching American pickers episodes we had recorded. 

3.00 pm: I walk our dog again.

6.00 pm: We have a lovely lamb dinner and I spend the evening catching up with family and friends on the phone. 

                              Today’s total: €40.00

Weekly subtotal: €463.42

What I’ve learned

  • I’m quite an impulsive buyer. Usually before each payday I do a list of expenses and see how much I can afford to put away. I did this for this week but still managed to spend an extra €100 I hadn’t accounted for and that was with me trying to be good.

  • I realise I spend quite a lot on groceries but this does include my Diet Coke and water. I cannot kick my Diet Coke habit and our tap water doesn’t taste nice so I think we’re better to buy crates of bottled water so that we at least keep drinking water.

  • I didn’t have a chance to do my proper shop but we had plenty left in the freezer to keep us going. I will do the shopping on Monday which will probably cost us between €60-€70 euro. My car is also in for NCT on Tuesday I’m hoping it goes through it was fully serviced at the end of January so there shouldn’t be anything big if it does fail.

  • I drank more wine than usual this weekend but it was a very sunny weekend and it was a bank holiday. 

  • We are planning to get married in February ’22 so I’m hoping to get much stricter with my savings. Once my loan is cleared (I paid an extra €100 off it this week) I’ll have a lot more going directly to my savings. If it is a case we cannot go ahead with a wedding by February (Who knows at this stage!) we will see about putting that money towards a house deposit.

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