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Money Diaries: A 29-year-old woman on €46K having moved from Dublin to the country

This week, our reader enjoys a better quality of life and stretches her income further now she’s out of Dublin.

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.   

Last time around, we heard from a 27-year-old woman on €34K who had just bought her own home. This week, a 29-year-old earning on €46K who has moved out of Dublin for more affordability.

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I’m from Dublin originally but moved to the Southeast after college for a job. I realised then that I’d been missing a trick – the cost of living and work/life balance here is so much more manageable than Dublin.

My partner and I were able to buy our own place in 2019, a fixer-upper by the beach. It’s a labour of love, and thankfully we do love it. While saving for the house, I knew I needed more income to make it happen faster – so I took on a load of little paid side gigs doing writing, drama and other hobbies. Some of these I really enjoyed and ended up keeping on.

I’ve worked in the disability sector since graduating and eventually worked my way up to a management position. I’ve been feeling the need for a new challenge for a long time, and after much soul-searching, I have decided to change careers and take a new job in the community development sector.

I start next month and it will be a bit of a pay cut at first, as the starting salary is €40,000 euro. In preparation for this, I’ve been very conscious of my spending lately.

Occupation: Disability Services Manager
Age: 29
Location: Southeast
Salary: €46,000
Monthly pay (net): €2,700

Monthly expenses

Transport: €60 euro approx on diesel
Mortgage: €450 euro (my half)
Household bills: €70 euro approx (my half)
Phone bill: €30 euro
Groceries: €120 euro approx (my half)
Subscriptions: Spotify – €10 euro, Audible – €8 euro

***

Monday

7.00 am: My first expense is my most embarrassing – my dog goes to doggy daycare. He absolutely loves it, and it costs ten euro a day which I split with my partner, so I pay €5.00 euro when I drop him first thing every morning. We’re lucky that we can still avail of this service during lockdown because we’re both essential workers – we’d be stuck without it as neither of us have family in the county, and the dog is too young and lively to be left alone for a full day. From there, I head on towards work.

1.00 pm: I’m generally good at bringing leftovers into work for lunch – today it’s homemade fish and chips.

5.00 pm: Work is finished, I meet my partner for a walk on the beach which is lovely. We’d love to bring the dog on these walks but due to Level 5 rules, we are only allowed to collect him from 6 pm. My partner has already sorted the grocery shop for the week, so I transfer him my half (€30.00). When we were saving for our house deposit we had our grocery shop down to nearly nothing by cutting out meat – we’ve added fish back in these days so it’s not as cheap, but comforting to know we could cut down this cost again if we ever needed to and still eat very well.

6.00 pm: We collect the dog together and make a stir fry for dinner, then relax and watch reruns of The Office. I know every episode by heart but I still laugh every time. Not much else you can do during lockdown!

                             Today’s total: €35.00

Tuesday

7.00 am: Up, dressed, drop the dog before work, €5.00.

1.00 pm: Leftover stir fry for lunch today, delish.

5.00 pm: Walk on the beach and then get the dog – are you noticing a pattern here?! Joking aside, I find the little bit of fresh air after work every day has been really key for me over lockdown. Working in a healthcare setting, your head is just filled with worries about infection control constantly – if I don’t walk, it stays full and I don’t sleep.

6.00 pm: Veggie bolognese for dinner, and plenty of it. We’ll use what we can for lunches, and once we’re sick of it we’ll freeze it for future dinners.

7.00 pm: We settle down for the evening, watch It’s A Sin on 4OD (absolutely incredible). On Tuesday nights pre-Covid I ran an open mic night with my friend in the local pub. This wasn’t a big earner for us, we just got whatever was left of the entrance fees after we paid the venue, but it was a lot of fun and I’m finding I really miss it recently. I have a bit of a sulk before bedtime but quickly snap myself out of it.

                                 Today’s total: €5.00

Wednesday

7.00 am: My partner is able to work from home today, so the dog can stay home too. I have a bit of a lazier morning before heading into work.

1.00 pm: Bolognese for lunch.

5.00 pm: It’s absolutely lashing rain and looks to be down for the evening, meaning a walk is out of the question for a softie like me. My partner has made a lovely hake dish for dinner which we eat together and catch up about the day.

6.00 pm: I do some writing, which is another way to clear my head. I write a blog for an English website which pays £50, and an American website which pays $60 – converted, that’s €106.00 euro. This money is put into a separate account until the end of the year when I can work out what tax is owed on it.

8.00 pm: I suddenly remember that it’s my friend’s birthday in the UK this weekend. I do some quick Instagram research and find a lovely restaurant near her house doing really elaborate dine-at-home meals. I order her an e-voucher for £100, which converts to €113.00 euro. I’m conscious that I probably won’t be able to give as generously in my new job, so I want to enjoy it while I can.

                  Today’s total: €113.00 euro, but I earned €106.00 extra before tax

Thursday

7.00 am: Up, dressed, dog off on his adventures – €5.00 euro.

1.00 pm: Bolognese for lunch.

5.00 pm: Nice long beach walk before heading out to collect the dog.

7.00 pm: After a scrumptious dinner of honey glazed salmon and lemon potatoes (big pat on the back to myself for that one), I sit down and read a book on the couch. It’s so gripping I don’t even feel the hours going and suddenly it’s bedtime. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by the way, if anyone’s looking for a recommendation.

                         Today’s total: €5.00

Friday

7.00 am: Up, dressed, the little prince is in situ – €5.00 euro.

8.00 am: I have a dirty Friday secret that I’m only sharing because this is anonymous. My end of the week treat is breakfast from the McDonald’s drive-thru. Look, it’s not the worst thing I could be doing. Egg McMuffin meal comes to €3.80, I enjoy it in my car before driving sheepishly into work.

1.00 pm: Leftover salmon for lunch. There’s a special place in hell for people who heat fish in communal microwaves so I just have it cold. Still gorgeous.

4.00pm: I’m out of work a bit earlier on a Friday, so I go for a run. It’s honestly more like a very brisk walk. I used to be quite a good runner – which is in no way relevant to this money diary, but I want everyone to know it anyway. Meet my partner for a little beach walk before collecting the dog.

6.00pm: On weekend nights, we’re a little bit lazier about cooking so often end up getting takeaways. We cleverly renamed this “supporting local business” so we don’t feel guilty about it. Tonight we’re supporting the local Chinese, and my order comes in at €10.00.

                               Today’s total: €18.80

Saturday

8.00 am: My partner is up early training for an Ironman competition. I’m snuggling the dog on the couch and watching trash TV. There are two types of people in the world…

9.00 am: I head out to the local bakery for some fresh bread and baked goodies. It comes to €9.00  – definitely more expensive than the supermarket, but if you tasted them you’d understand.

10.00 am: We’ve developed this Saturday lockdown tradition of cooking a massive brunch and devouring it with an episode of Location Location Location and copious amounts of coffee. I’m aware this makes us sound like the biggest pair of losers on earth, but I don’t really care. It’s a definite highlight of the week.

12.00pm: I’m about to make you roll your eyes. I’ve booked onto a virtual retreat, which is all about living life in line with your values and overall vision. I’m naturally quite a risk averse person, so events like this force me to challenge myself to make decisions based on joy rather than just logic (hence the upcoming pay cut). In normal times, I’d go to at least one physical retreat every year – this one lasts three hours and costs £35, or €42.00. I consider that a bargain based on what I get out of it.

7.00 pm: I do a virtual interview for an online event. A youth theatre competition that I was a mentor on are releasing videos of the final projects, so it’s part of the promo for that. I’m paid an overall fee for all my involvement including interviews, so it’s hard to break down exactly what I’m earning for this particular part – I would say roughly €20.00 euro for the half hour chat.

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7.30 pm: My partner has made a gorgeous black bean burrito bowl. I can practically feel myself turning into a yoga goddess while eating it. Unfortunately the bakery goodies I eat straight away after kind of undo the effect.

      Today’s total: €51.00 euro, but I earned an extra €20.00 euro approx

Sunday

9.00 am: We’re up bright and early because my partner has spotted a gem on our local Buy & Sell page. We’d been pricing a sideboard for the sitting room, and the style we liked was coming in at best €700 euro. Someone moving house was selling theirs for €80.00, so obviously we were in there like a shot. And the good news was it was down the road, with our restricted zone. We drive over to collect it and it could definitely use some TLC, but we’re kind of a deft hand at the upcycling game at this stage. Some sandpaper, bright paint, new handles and wallpaper (if we’re feeling confident) will have it completely transformed. We split the cost so it’s €40.00 each for something we’ll hopefully have for years to come. Very happy start to the day.

11.00 am: We decide that instead of a takeaway, we’ll pick up food for the day in the posh food shop near us. Ingredients to make a very decadent breakfast, lunch and dinner come to €15.00 each – you couldn’t shop there every day but it’s a brilliant treat.

12.00 pm: Unfortunately, I start to spike a fever and feel generally unwell. Because I’m a healthcare worker I need to act on this right away, and I know the drill inside out at this stage. I call an out of hours doctor and they arrange an urgent Covid test for me. I’m not sure what the experience of people in other counties is like, but I have found the efficiency of testing to be absolutely astounding.

3.00 pm: My test is done and I head home to isolate until I hear back about my result. Very, very strange times.

                             Today’s total: €55.00

       Weekly subtotal: €282.80, but €126.00 earned before tax

***

What I learned –

  • I’m actually kind of surprised at how high the total is, considering I have no social life at present! Saying that, there are so many things here I could cut. I could cut takeaways, I could cut back the food bills, I could cut the extra treats – right now, I don’t want to, but I like seeing that I could do it if God forbid something bad happened.
  • I’m financially quite healthy, but it’s not because I’m particularly great at budgeting. The biggest difference in my financial life is geography. I know from talking to my friends in Dublin that I could make the same wage there and be barely scraping by month to month, with virtually no hope of ever owning my own place. That doesn’t seem fair on those who have to live in big urban areas because of their personal circumstances.
  • I am a good saver – one thing I didn’t mention is that anything that’s leftover from my paycheque when the next one comes in is automatically saved right away. Now that a lot of the bigger jobs on the house are complete, I can save more and more. I’d like to talk to a financial advisor about investing some of the money because I don’t have a clue what that even means but know I should probably be doing it.

 

Update, 10 February – Thankfully, my test showed I didn’t have Covid – I’m likely just a bit rundown. This is the second scare I’ve personally had since the beginning of the pandemic and it really brings it very close to home.

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