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How I Spend my Money: A law student working part time as a waiter in Cork on €20,400

This week, a student in UCC details a busy week studying, travelling and socialising.

TheJournal.ie reader

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.

Want to take part? If you do, send us an email to money@thejournal.ie. We’d love to hear your story. Tell us if your spending habits have changed this month.

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 week, we heard from a 55-year-old woman in Dublin who cares for her elderly mother and works part-time in a shop. This week, our reader is a law student and waiter in Cork, earning €20,400.

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I’m a 22-year-old first-year law student at University College Cork and I have a part-time job in a busy, high-end hotel in Cork city.

I really enjoy the sociable aspect of the job. I’m on a little above minimum wage (plus any tips I make on the floor), which I’m fine with – the smarter I work, the more tips I make.

I also get a mighty kick out of interacting with all sorts of clients. In my spare time, I like to catch up with my friends over coffee or a stroll, read and write short stories.

In the new year, I hope to take up some form of physical activity – it would be rude not to, as there is so much on offer in Cork!

Occupation: Waiter/Student 
Age: 22
Location: Cork
Salary: €20,400
Monthly pay (net): €1,700

Monthly expenses

Transport: €120 – € 86 on my Leap Card, €22 on return train tickets back to the west of Ireland
Rent: €460
Household bills: €70
Phone bill: €30
Health insurance: €0 (paid by parents) 
Groceries: €100
Subscriptions: €3.99 Spotify (thank heavens for Spotify student rates!), €5 Trade Union Dues, €2.50 Political party dues.

***

Monday

7.30am: My alarm goes off and I switch on my phone to check the various news apps, emails and my social media for some bits and bobs.

8am I slither out of bed and have a brief shower. Since the dawn of time itself, my dad has insisted on showers of no longer than two minutes for sustainability and all that. I dress and head downstairs to have breakfast with my housemates.

8.40am I get the bus to UCC. Traffic is totally mental past Douglas in Cork – we do not like to see it. However, the silver lining here is that I have additional time in the morning to read whichever novel I have on the go or listen to a podcast.

9.45am I nab a free coffee from one of the society stands on the grounds of the university and toss €3 into the collection basket – they are collecting for asylum seekers to be able to buy school stationery for their children and sanitary products for women. I down the coffee and head for my first lecture of the week.

12pm I use one of the Bikeshare Bikes to cycle into the city centre and meet a friend for a spot of lunch. I have left my pre-packed lunch at home by accident, so I fork-out €8 for a chicken wrap and €1.50 for a pot of tea (€0.20 discount for those who bring their reusable cups). 

2pm: I pick up another Bikeshire Bike to head back to the Mardyke Arena to use the gym (which is free-on-entry but comes under the eye-watering €3,000 university fees) and plan to work-out for 60 minutes or so.

3.30pm I’m on the bus and home by 5pm. I live in a decent private house with two of my friends that we were very lucky to find.

6.30pm I cook dinner and then, armed with my schoolbag, head upstairs to read in advance of tomorrow. 

9pm I finish the day with an episode of Rumpole of The Bailey which I borrowed from the local library (free membership and access to a nationwide network of books, films and CDs, score).

Today’s total: €12.50 

Tuesday

7.45am I wake up and ponder the idea of going for an early morning cycle. I opt to do so as a glorious sunrise is so rare, coupled with the Dawn Chorus!

8.10am I leave my house and realise I have left my Leapcard at home – if I go back now, I will be late for my 9am lecture. After dying a little inside, I hand a fist-full of coins (totalling €3.50 as I had arranged to meet one of my friends for lunch in FitzGerald Park) to the bus driver for a return ticket to get me into UCC.

9am I start work for the day and put my head down for the morning.  

12.30pm I arranged to meet one of my friends for lunch which costs €5.50.

5.30pm Lectures and study are finished for the day so I head home on the bus.

6pm Following some gentle persuasion from one of my friends who lives nearby, I scrap dinner plans and head to the local instead. I drop €20 here for two pints and the inevitable Chinese takeaway we have after.

10.30pm I head to bed and immediately fall asleep.

Today’s total: €29

Wednesday

9am I get up later today and make some instant coffee with an apple for breakfast. I buy enough groceries in the local shop to last me until the weekend, costing €25

10.30am I get the bus and head for work as I have swapped an afternoon shift with one of my friends to have the weekend off. On the journey to work, I listen to a politics podcast. 

10.50am As I walk to get off the bus stop, I see a €20 note on the ground. I look about to find no one nearby – finder’s keepers! What luck.

11am I start my eight-hour shift. 

9pm Work provides lunch and dinner, which I inhale during my break. I make €40 in tips tonight, mostly from a large party of 12 I waited on. I share €20 of it with the trainee-waitress who shadows me. I get the bus home and collapse into bed after a busy shift.

Today’s total: I’m up €15 because of tips

Thursday

10am I wake up late (surprise, surprise) and dash to the bus to get to college.

12pm – 7pm I am between lectures and the library for the whole day. 

7.30pm I head to the off licence to buy spirits (€18) and a mixer (€3)

10pm Everyone is making their way into pre-ordered taxis. Between four of us, we pay €4 each to get into town.

10.30pm We start the evening off in a pub which doesn’t charge entry. I spend €10 here on pints.

11.30pm We move onto one of Cork’s Clubs – it is €15 entry, as there is a world-renowned DJ playing tonight! I spend a further €15 on shots inside the club.

2.30am Having left the club and stocked up on takeaway (€8), we hail a taxi and head to a mate’s house to crash for the night. It costs €5 per person.

Today’s total: €78 

Friday

10am I wake up and begin heading towards college for an 11am lecture.  

1pm I have lunch out today (€6) and I book a return train ticket to head home for the weekend (€22).  

2.30pm I return to college for a two-hour lecture (the last of the week!).  

4.30pm I leave UCC and make for the bus to the train station. Along the way, I opt to take a Coca Cola Bike instead as the weather is suitable.   

5.10pm I arrive at the train station, 20 minutes faster than I would have by bus (I don’t even consider how long it would have taken by car in Cork’s rush hour traffic). I buy a large bottle of water and a sandwich (€10) at the train station.   

7.30pm I arrive home in the west of Ireland and walk home from the train station. I buy milk and tea bags (€6.80) on the way home.  

8pm We all go to the cinema. I pay for the whole family (€25), popcorn inclusive. 

10.30pm After the cinema, we call into a local pub for some traditional music. Fortunately, my parents sponsor my pint.   

1.30am I get to bed!    

Today’s Total: €69.80

Saturday

9.30am I wake up, shower, dress and go to town with Mam and Dad for breakfast. We meet family friends out and we eat with them. I pay for us all (€38).

11am We stroll about town and I pick up the Guardian and Irish Times Weekend editions (€7).

2pm We have lunch at home and I spend the afternoon reading the papers and my proscribed reading from UCC.

5pm I meet a friend from home for a walk and we have tea back at my house. Tea out (when it isn’t subsidised for students) is astronomically expensive!

8pm We retire for the evening with pizza (€18) and wine (€9) and watch Black ’47 on Netflix. 

Today’s total: €72

Sunday

10am I put €1 in the collection box at mass. Mam pretends she isn’t annoyed that I didn’t put in more. 

12.30pm We have a carvery lunch at a popular restaurant in town. I pay for mine which totals €12.

2.30pm On the way to visit our apiary, I buy milk and some biscuits (€5) for the people who own the house on the land we keep our bees. 

5pm On return from the bees, I put €15 diesel in mam’s car. I order €40 of beekeeping equipment as some of our current equipment is beyond its useful life. 

8pm We drive out to the coast to hear the sea in the dark and to watch the glimmer of moonlight dancing across an angry sea. We call into a pub on the way home for some trad music and I just have water with a dash of cordial. 

11pm We get home and I set my alarm early so I can make it to a 10am Lecture in UCC on Monday. I order my week’s groceries online and schedule delivery for when I’m back in Cork to collect them (€40).

Today’s total: €113

Weekly subtotal: €359.30

***

What I learned:

  • I am not surprised that my biggest expense, is that of a night out. As I ordinarily work 15 hours a week, I am happy that this money is ring-fenced for play. This week I definitely dipped into my savings though, tut tut. 
  • I typically travel home once per month, so it is not usual for me to incur the additional associated expenses of travelling, eating out and socialising. I certainly do not get my groceries delivered weekly – pure notions.

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