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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Money Diaries A pharmaceutical engineer living in Meath, commuting to work in Dublin in the shutdown
Our reader says he’s saving time on his journey now and saving money during the Covid-19 changes.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on running weekly and looking 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 and we’ll be in touch.

Last week, we met a woman who works in the charity sector who wrote about life in a busy household during the coronavirus changes. This week, a 29-year-old contract engineer in the pharmaceutical sector. He lives in Meath but is still commuting to work during the shutdown.


I’m 29 years old and recently purchased a new home with my girlfriend in a commuter town. We have a joint bank account, which covers all our bills and the mortgage. Pre-lockdown, we would normally save a combined total of €1000 after all expenses; now, it’s probably closer to €2500 a month. After getting a house, we are now saving toward the future, in anticipation of a potential wedding (no I haven’t proposed yet), children and a fast car for my mid-life crisis in 15 years time.

I initially had one week off whilst my employer figured out a decent enough excuse to bring us back to work. Luckily enough, I work in the pharmaceutical sector, which has experienced a less severe shock than other industries, and my girlfriend is still on her full salary working from home. 

In relation to spare time; during the week, not much has changed to be honest, although we now seem to be going on, even more, walks now than we did before. It’s during the weekend that we have felt this lockdown the most, every weekend, we would normally be on a night out or a weekend away.

Occupation: Contract engineer in the pharmaceutical industry
Age: 29
Location: Meath
Salary: Approx €115k / year (self-employed contractor on an hourly rate). Yes, I am aware that this is a very high rate for my age and experience level. This is due to there being a boom in Pharma at the minute for contractors, and the fact that the contracts can be ended at any moment, and my wage goes to zero. I always bear this in mind when I see my wages come in, and I am trying to plan appropriately for a potential downturn.
Monthly pay (net): Average of €5800 (again this will fluctuate depending on hours worked, expenses and applicable shift rates).

Monthly expenses

Mortgage: €600 each; €1200 in total (including €100 overpayment)
Transport: €125 (€80 for tolls and €45 for petrol)
Household bills: €180
Phone bill: €12
Health insurance: Never had it, although now reconsidering
Groceries: €370
Subscriptions: €30 (Netflix, Spotify, Audible)
Car Loan:
Accounting Fees:


Monday 27 April

6.20 am: I’m up and out of bed. I’ve recently discovered how to make my own frothed milk, and it’s a game-changer, so I start the morning with a cappuccino/flat white (not really sure which) and some overnight oats. I head to work.

8.30 am: I’ve just finished morning meetings and have my plan for the day. There have been a lot of drawbacks to Covid-19, but two of the positives are that my commute up the M50 has now been halved (time-wise) and breakfast and lunch are now supplied free at work in order to prevent ques at the canteen tills. I enjoy a free breakfast of poached eggs and a sausage on sourdough toast.

1.15 pm: Lunch may be free, but my girlfriend and house are not; in an attempt to stymie the boredom, she has taken to kitting out the house. A set of solar lights for the back garden set us back €35.

5.30 pm: I’m home, and there are the makings of an omelette waiting for me.

6.15 pm: Instead of driving up and down the town for supplies, we now walk everywhere. We stroll down for a couple of ice creams and tomorrow’s dinner, €15.

10:30 pm: After bingeing the latest series on Netflix and putting down a 1-hour shift on the PS4, it’s time for bed.

                   Today’s total: €50.00

Tuesday 28 April

7.00 am: A bit groggy this morning, sometimes it can be difficult to sleep after playing video games straight before bed; I haven’t really played the PS4 in years, but now with the lockdown, it seems like the responsible thing to do again (or at least that’s what I’ve been telling my girlfriend). No time for my morning coffee so I just head straight to work.

12.30 pm: I’ve already racked up 6000 steps by lunch and treat myself to a free chicken burger and chips to maintain the status quo.

7.00 pm: Today was a bit longer as I got caught up in some work. I stop on the way home for a fill of petrol, a yoghurt for tomorrow’s breakfast and a sneaky fudge bar as a reward for the extra hours worked. Total is €48.

9.45 pm: We spend the evening chilling out on the couch and watching a new Netflix documentary. I recently downloaded Twitter and find myself being a small bit addicted to it, trying to keep up with the latest on Covid-19. It’s an unhealthy habit that I plan on kicking.

10:30 pm: We head to bed and I browse YouTube videos for a half an hour before sleep.

                             Today’s total: €48

Wednesday 29 April

6.30 am: Weirdly enough, I bounce out of bed early today and am in work for 6.30. I spend the first few hours finishing off the paperwork from the previous evening and head for breakfast.

9.30 am: I lament that yet another concert we had bought tickets for has been cancelled, so I cheer myself up with a new audiobook (I had already spent my monthly credit) €8.99.

2.15 pm: I arrive late to the canteen for lunch and am horrified to see that all the food is gone, I have to actually pay for a Snickers out of the vending machine… the thoughts… €1.

6.30 pm: I’m still in work, but lately, I’ve found myself eagerly awaiting the daily coronavirus figures. I find a quiet place in work and log on to see the damage. It’s strange how this ritual has become part of my daily life and can literally affect how I feel for the rest of the day. The numbers are okay, but not great. I sit there wondering If I’ll ever see a creamy pint of Guinness pulled from a tap this side of Autumn.

7.15 pm: I stopped into the butchers on the way home and pick up a steak and some potato gratin. It’s actually another positive; queues outside supermarkets now mean that the smaller locally-owned outlets are more convenient. Total is €9.50.

12:00 pm: I’ve overdone it again on the PS4 and am struggling to sleep, so I go online and look at stocks and shares to bore me to sleep. I have a few hundred quid in an online trading account, I push small amounts of money around more for entertainment and education purposes. (Full disclosure, I’ve only ever lost money doing this).

                   Today’s total: €19.49

Thursday 30 April

9.00 am: After breakfast, I log onto my Irish Life trading site, (the €320 went in today, so I want to see how my money is doing) I’ve been saving regularly for a few months into a Mutual fund. One of the things I have learned from online trading is that professional fund managers can do a much better job with your money than you can. It’s a no brainer in my opinion, and I am surprised that more people don’t do it, it’s a much better option than a regular savings account (for long-term savings goals).

1.30 pm: I head off-site for lunch today as I really want a decent cup of coffee. The flat white and sandwich set me back €7.50.

4.30 pm: One of the joys of being a contractor is that typically the hours are quite flexible, so I head away at 4.30 pm to enjoy the fine weather we’ve been having. I come home to find my girlfriend halfway through a bottle of vodka. To be honest, I’m not surprised, if I had been working from home for five weeks, I definitely would have had a solo Thursday session by now. 

7.00 pm: I resist the temptation to join in with the impromptu session and my reward is that I am sent to the shop for a pepperoni pizza and some taco sauce, €5.00.

9:30 pm: After assisting my drunken girlfriend into bed, I sneak in a quick hour on the PS4 before following suit.

                Today’s total: €12.50

Friday 1 May

6.00 am: I always find it easy to get out of bed on a Friday as they tend to be short days anyway. I head straight to work without breakfast and realise I don’t have any fieldwork to do. I stick on an audiobook and get through some paperwork.

9.00 am: Doughnuts have been provided free of charge in the office, breakfast of champions, although I’m not sure how this fits in with social distancing. I push the thought to one side, sanitise my hands and pick up a nutella surprise.

2.30 pm: Friday is treat day (and my girlfriend’s hangover day). I skip lunch and head home early. I am eagerly anticipating the burger, loaded fries and wings that I’ve just picked up for dinner when I get home, €25.

6.00 pm: Feeling full and very content, I log online and purchase some new bits for the garden, setting me back €35.

9.45 pm: Another weekly ritual is watching the Late Late for some Covid-19 updates and some great music. I have a glass of wine (mandatory with the Late Late) and head to bed after the show.

                Today’s total: €60

Saturday 2 May

9.00 am: After a decent lie-in, we go for a long walk and try to clock up a decent 10,000 steps. This includes also stopping by the local café to pick up breakfast. It’s incredible and really worth the €20.

2.00  pm: We can’t help it any more, it’s an absolute scorcher, and it’s not long before me and the girlfriend exchange a sneaky glance. Within five minutes we’re pulled up outside the off-licence and are grabbing anything that looks summery off the shelf. I grab some German lagers while she goes for the Corona and lime (the cheek) – €35.

7.30 pm: The sun is starting to move out of the garden by now, and it suddenly reminds us that we never had dinner. Just Eat fixes that, and 35 mins later we have a couple of calzone pizzas plonked on the mat outside the front door (€30).

10.15 pm: At this stage, we’ve had way too much to drink, sleep comes easy and I conk out as soon as my head hits the pillow.

                Today’s total: €85.00

Sunday 3 May

8.20 am: Surprisingly fresh this morning, all things considered, we decide it’s time to tame the overgrown back lawn. We work up enough of a sweat before popping inside for the Sunday fry-up.

11.30 am: We check the fridge and realise it’s time for the weekly shop. The local SuperValu has decent social distancing practices in place, so we decide to head there. We grab all the essentials and head home (€60).

2.15 pm: The hangover kicks in a little so we decide to chill out and binge-watch a new TV series for the day.

8:00 pm: We had picked up the makings of a beef bourguignon earlier and it’s been stewing away nicely for the last few hours. Its pure comfort food and we love it; a nice meal to chill out with before heading to bed and getting ready to start the week again on Monday morning.

              Today’s total: €60

Weekly subtotal: €334.99

What I learned

  • I hate saying this, but I am actually way better off financially since the lockdown. We typically head out in Dublin once a week with a minimum spend of €200, I normally get takeaway coffees from petrol stations and would have previously bought my own lunches. Also, we would nearly always break up the week with a trip to a local restaurant. Although I am doing well, it worries me about how the rest of the economy is faring if I am literally struggling to find places to spend my money.
  • I pay a lot of tax, and by looking at my diary, I now see that I really should be directing some of my money toward a pension fund in order to offset this.

  • There are uncertain times ahead, I don’t know if the rates I am on now will be there next year; only time will tell. I feel like I should be paring back on some of the online shopping, but it’s really one of the highlights of the week to see a delivery coming.

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