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Money Diaries: A youth worker in Dublin on €35K balancing income and high rents

This week, our reader says she finds Dublin very expensive to live in, so she’s having to watch her spending closely.

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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 warehouse worker on €21K living at home in the west of the country. This week, a youth worker in Dublin city centre on €35K, juggling her spending with high living costs.

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I’m 26-years-old and I live in an apartment in Dublin city centre with my partner. We moved into our apartment during the pandemic because it’s in a nice part of the city and close to where my partner works.

The housing rental market in Dublin is really expensive and so even though our place is small and without much storage I know I have seen people pay a lot more for a lot less. Living in Dublin means I’m not able to save as much but the trade off is getting to live with my partner and the social opportunities the capital provides. Our rent is €650 a month each.

Pre-pandemic, I played badminton twice a week with my club, and paid a monthly membership of €32. I went out for meals and drinks regularly enough with friends and work colleagues. I had only moved to Dublin the September before the pandemic hit so I was still very much getting to know the city. I volunteer with two separate organisations and that has continued online since Covid-19.

We recently adopted two five-month old kittens, so that has increased our expenditure but also provided us with the company of two playful and loving felines (if I’m honest, the loving part has yet to happen as when we got them they hadn’t been socialised much with humans so they are still very much in the ‘wary of us’ stage).

After college I worked in an area I loved for a few years and the job was very consuming, and also not very well paid. Although I was putting away money every month, I found myself unable to keep my savings steadily increasing.

I started as a youth worker in August and these last couple of months I have been saving rather obsessively, aiming to put away between €700-€900 a month. After taking away living expenses and bills I am usually left with a very small amount of discretionary income.

I have rationalised this by telling myself it makes sense to save as much as I can now, so that when things reopen I can go out for meals and drinks without feeling guilty. I have always saved and will always save without a specific purpose, but right now I’ve started looking at it with much more intent, knowing that we will be looking to buy a house in a few years.

My partner and I use a Revolut account for our groceries and other small miscellaneous joint purchases, and then we transfer normally to each other’s bank accounts for the bigger bills. I find Revolut works really well and saves us the headache of adding up expenses and dividing what we owe each other, which is what we used to do with far too much irregularly which proved time-consuming and stressful.

At the time of writing this money diary, we are already two and a half weeks since I have been paid, so a good portion of my expenses for the month have been paid and I will be trying to spend less. This has been an expensive enough month with Mothers’ Day, my sister’s birthday and my partner’s mother’s birthday.

We are also getting the cats neutered and these expenses have meant that I was only able to save €550 this month instead of my planned €700. It’s disappointing but I’m trying not to be too hard on myself and taking a look at how I budget and how I can be more realistic going forward.

Occupation: Youth worker
Age: 26
Location: Dublin city centre
Salary: €35,000
Monthly pay (net): €2,394

Monthly expenses

Transport: Next to nothing because youth work has gone mostly online since January (when I was leaving home after Christmas to come back to Dublin, I put €30 in the tank and it lasted me until the end of February). Now we are back doing outreach work in the community so I usually find myself putting in about €50-60 over the course of the month.
Rent: €650
Household bills: TV and internet (my half): €30
Phone bill: €30
Electricity/heat: €50 (roughly)
Groceries: We usually put between €150-200 each into the Revolut account per month, and give ourselves a budget of roughly €40-50 a week for groceries and €30-40 a week for one takeaway. I have tried in vain to get a takeaway for two in Dublin for under 25, as was possible in every other place I have lived, but if you want anything at all tasty as a proper treat, it is next to impossible. Separately, I usually buy a bottle of wine for our Friday night drinks, so that’s about €40 a month.
Car insurance: €180. This is expensive at the moment because I’m a first-time driver and my parents kindly arranged a family deal and switched their own insurance to make sure I wasn’t paying even more. I am hoping to get this down when I go to renew my policy.
Rainy day fund: €50

Monday

8.00 am: I am up to give my partner a lift to work (she walks most days but if she’s in a rush I give her a lift), then I go back to bed to soak up a few more minutes of rest before getting up at 9 am. I work late most evenings so I’m lucky to have time in the mornings to myself before I start the day’s work. I’m working from home these days except for outreach work. I’m lucky that my job is safe, as well as engaging and challenging work, and something I really enjoy.

3.30 pm: On my way to do some outreach work. I stop off at a pet shop and buy a pet carrier as well as some pet paper towels which we will need tomorrow when I bring the kittens to get neutered. I use the Revolut account and it costs €18.95 (my half €9.50).

6.00 pm: On my way home from outreach, I ring my partner and suggest that we have a veggie breakfast fry for dinner because I have a real craving for it and no desire to cook much. We have most of the ingredients but I stop at the shop to pick up the final few, costing €5.55, so €2.78 for me. My partner makes the dinner/breakfast while I am in meetings and we finish off the evening with TV and head to bed around 11 pm.

                                Today’s total: €12.28

Tuesday

7.30 am: I am up early to bring the cats to get neutered. The rescue people we adopted them from have kindly arranged it for us. It’s a good bit away so I pack a lunch and a coffee for the road, my partner helps me pack the car and I head off. I put €20.00 petrol in the car for the journey.

2.30 pm: There is no point in me driving home to drive out again so I hang around until I can pick them up. I do some work from my car, go for a long walk in the beautiful sunshine, and eat my lunch outside. On my way to pick them up, I stop for some snacks for the drive back; I buy a bag of popcorn and a brunch, for the day that’s in it, costing €2.30. The neutering of the two cats costs €100 (my half €50.00).

6.30 pm: I am making an aubergine lasagne for dinner and my partner picks up some garlic bread on the way home, as well as a bottle of wine each for us so we can start the St. Patrick’s day festivities. Costing me €6.50.

                                Today’s total: €78.80

Wednesday

It is St. Patrick’s day. We have a very lazy morning at home, I make a breakfast of banana oat pancakes and we watch a movie. In the afternoon we have a couple of drinks and take a late evening walk when the hunger grabs us and we end up picking up chipper on the way home for dinner. My order costs: €6.00

                                Today’s total: €6.00

Thursday

9.00 am: A busy day working from home for me. I have meetings with colleagues and online groups with young people starting at 11 am right through to 7 pm. At lunchtime, I make a big batch of pasta with homemade tomato sauce and veggie sausage to last for lunch for the next few days.

2.00 pm: I have to get in a walk every day in the daylight no matter how busy I am, even if it’s a quick 20 minutes, it’s something I always make time for. On the way home from today’s walk, I stop to pick up some wet cat food as we’ve run out, as well as some chicken (to help us win the kittens’ love), the cost is €8.19 (my half €4.09).

7:30 pm: For dinner, I have the leftover aubergine lasagne with some homemade wedges my partner makes. Our rent is due soon so I transfer the €1300.00 for the two of us, so I owe €650.00. We also got landed with a gas bill from Christmas that came out at €320.00, which has taught us the painful way that the gas fire in our apartment is way too expensive to use and we are now sticking to the normal heater. I transfer my partner the €160.00 to cover that.

                                   Today’s total: €814.09

Friday

10.00 am: My partner is working from home today and we both have a bit of time in the morning. We need to pick up cat litter so we drive to a retail park near us and get two big bags, costing €11.98 (€5.99 for my part).

While there we stop off at Tesco to pick up some veggie burgers for the weekend, as well as a bottle of wine each for our Friday night games with friends. The total cost is €21.77 (my half: €10.89).

                                    Today’s total: €16.88

Saturday

11.30 am: We are a bit delicate after last night’s zoom call with friends. We take a late morning walk to the shop to pick up some things we want for breakfast, costing €9.34, my half is €4.67. We stick on a Disney film and have a lovely lazy afternoon on the sofa.

6.00 pm: We get the idea of baking some cupcakes into our heads. I go on a long walk and have a call with my sister. On the way home I stop into the shop for the extra few bits and pieces we’ll need to bake the cupcakes. The cost is €6.03, my half €3.015.

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8.30 pm: After cooking dinner, feeding the cats and cleaning their litter, we are far too tired for any other activity so we stick on a movie and then head to bed.

                                    Today’s total: €7.69

Sunday

11.00 am: We have a slow Sunday morning and then go about cleaning the house and just generally resetting ahead of next week.

3.00 pm: I manage to drag my partner to the nearby park to play some football. She is great at it and plays for a local team while I am absolutely terrible (which probably explains her reluctance). The sun is out and plenty of people are out walking their dogs and having ice cream. We have a lovely time with her teaching me some drills. We decide to put off the weekly shop for a day or two as we have some meals I batch cooked earlier in the week.

5.00 pm: My partner heads to do some shopping for her parents, who live within our 5KM and our over 70, and I take part in my weekly family quiz. We have all created a round this week and we always like to challenge ourselves to come up with innovative ideas to base our rounds on.

8.00 pm: My mood has really dipped. It’s always nice to see my family but I am feeling desolate about the case numbers tonight, and just utterly beaten by lockdowns. The only thing I can think of that might marginally improve my mood is a Chinese takeaway. So we order in, instead of eating the veggie chilli I was defrosting, costing €32.00, so €16.00 for me. We watch some TV and I read for a bit and we head to bed as always a bit later than intended. I’m working late tomorrow so it doesn’t impact me much because I’m not starting work until 1 pm, but my partner is up at 6 am for work!

                            Today’s total: €16.00

                                  Weekly subtotal: €951.74

***

What I learned –

  • It was an expensive enough week so I’m not entirely surprised by the total, though I noticed we spent a little more on small purchases of food than usual. We didn’t properly plan out our meals before the shop as we usually do and therefore ended up making more impulsive decisions during the week and that can add up (though I absolutely do not regret having breakfast for dinner).
  • Dublin generally as a place to live is really expensive, and though I will be happy to live here for a few years when things return to normal to properly soak up living in the city, I would like to eventually move further away to more affordable places!
  • During the course of doing this money diary, my partner and I had a chat about the Revolut account and decided to switch up the way we use it. We have been transferring in bulk every month and topping up then as we went. If I’m honest probably because it suited me more to have my expenses accounted for as soon as I get paid. She suggested that to help us budget better we should trial transferring by the week, so it makes us have more of a look at how we’re spending each week.
  • Not surprising to me, but I have realised that I am spending a lot of time thinking about money, and that’s on any regular week, not just from doing this money diary. I think I use money management as a way to exercise control, given there is so little we have control over these days. Doing this diary has made me realise that I would like to spend more on things that bring me joy, instead of constantly going over bills and food costs in my head. So next month I have budgeted €100 just for me.

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