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Money Diaries: A public sector manager on €96K grateful for remote working and time with family

This week, our reader is grateful for the ability to work from home and spend more quality time with family.

TheJournal.ie reader

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 24-year-old software developer in Dublin, earning €40K and this week, a public sector manager on €96K living in south Dublin with family.

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I live with my wife and two young kids in South Dublin. We bought in 2017 on a 23-year mortgage when prices were normal (whatever that is!).

We feel very fortunate given the challenges experienced by others in today’s market. We held on to our apartment where we lived and now rent it out. Rental income doesn’t cover the mortgage and it usually costs about €1000 per annum between tax and upkeep.

I moved to the public sector about four years ago after 20 years in private sector roles. It was a great move, the work I do now is challenging and diverse with lots of responsibility but I definitely have a better work-life balance. My wife works in IT with both of us working from home currently.

We budget as best we can and pool our earnings. We definitely could do more in the terms of savings but our outgoings are high at the moment between kids and mortgage. We hope to switch mortgages this year to get a lower rate and a potential cashback. In the next five to seven years we want to get an extension and need to get a plan in place to achieve this.

I tend to use Revolut for my discretionary spending. I use the vault function for spare change and set an automatic top-up of €75 each week which means I have about €300-400 at the end of each month. With this, I typically overpay my car loan, use for another purpose or let rollover.

Working from home has definitely changed our routine and reduced some of our expenses. The best thing is we get more time with the kids (and pets). We are both actively involved with running/athletics so we tend to prioritise running in our spare time.

Occupation: Public Sector/Manager
Age: 46
Location: South Dublin
Salary: €96,000
Monthly pay (net): €4,300 after bike to work (€100 pm); holiday fund (€250 pm); income protection (€40 per month)

Monthly expenses

We typically split the bills between us. I look after my own car loan /car insurance, subs for household (as I use them the most), my phone and health insurance. Everything else comes from our joint account and is the total for the household.

Transport: €40 petrol/ €75 car insurance
Mortgage: €2,000
Household bills: circa €300 (Sky: €110; Gas: €55; ESB €55; Rubbish: €25; Phonewatch €35)
Phone bill: €40
Health insurance: €132 (my wife’s is similar and this covers the kids).
Pet insurance: €30 (we have one dog and two cats ….insurance for the dog only!)
Groceries: circa: €1100
Subscriptions: €55 (Amazon Prime; Audible; Netflix; Spotify Duo; Disney; NYT; Strava)
Club/Kids Sports: €40
Montessori: €750 (will reduce in a few months’ time when our youngest starts school). At one stage this was the same as our mortgage!
Nespresso: €100 (through the roof since wfh)
Private pension: €250 (additional/separate from my public sector pension contributions)
Car loan: €310

Monday 

7.45 am:  Late start this morning as the kids went down to bed late yesterday evening. We are a bit behind so I drive my daughter to Montessori and my wife walks my son. I log on around 9.05 am spend most of the morning checking emails and working on a project. 

10.50 am: I take a 15 min break and enjoy a coffee in the sun while the puppy and the cats are in the garden.

1.25 pm: Lunchtime with my wife. Some leftover sausages from yesterday’s BBQ and bread. 

2.20 pm: I take the puppy out for a walk and pick up my son from school.

2.45 pm: Back to work as I’m on calls till 5 pm. 

5.15 pm: Drive over to pick up my daughter, spend the late afternoon playing a few games with her while my wife finishes some work. My son goes to athletics training with friends who we share the sports/camps picking up and dropping off.  

7.00 pm: Cook dinner of burgers (uncooked from yesterday’s BBQ) and greens.

8.00 pm: Start the nightly battle of winding the kids down and trying to get them settled for sleep. Always a challenge with my daughter but we succeed in getting her down after stories, etc. by 8.45 pm.

9.00 pm: Watch the news. My son stays up until 9.30 and it’s up to bed with him.

9.45 pm: We watch the first episode of Murder at the Cottage about the Sophie du Toscan murder. 

11.00 pm: Put the cats out into the sunroom for their bed and let the pup out to do his business before his bedtime. All locked up and up to bed.

11.10 pm: Read for about 20 minutes before lights out. I try to do this every night to unwind. I’m reading the Magpie Murders which is a murder mystery – not the type of book I would usually read. It’s average enough but I hate not finishing books so I’ve persevered with this.  

                              Today’s total: €55.00 €30 e-flow top-up and €25 for a Family Pass for the National Stud (special offer through work) 

Tuesday 

7.05 am: Both of us are up earlier this morning. The usual routine of letting the pets out and feeding begins, followed by prepping the kids’ breakfast and lunch. My wife meets a training group for an early morning hill session at 8 am so I get the kids ready for school. I grab a coffee and get to check my work email for about 15 minutes before they get up around 8.00 am.

08.35 am: It’s a beautiful morning for a walk this morning and the kids are in good form. We walk 1k to my daughter’s crèche and then on to my son’s school. 

09.05 am: At my desk with a coffee and some fruit and spend the morning in meetings. 

11.10 am: Take a break – again out in the garden with the pets. 

1.10 pm: Make a ham and cheese toasty and have a can of lemon. Read some news on my phone.

2.20 pm: Walk the dog to school to pick up my son and his friend who are having a play date. Have a mix of calls and content to draft in between keeping an eye on the boys who are easy enough to watch over. 

4.55 pm: Drive to crèche to pick up my daughter. Prep some salmon and veg for my wife to cook later and we can eat after I get back from training.

6.10 pm: Drive to go running training. Do some kilometre intervals which are tough but feel great when it’s done. 

8.40 pm: Get home after my daughter is gone down for the evening and we have something to eat with my son who is also back from GAA training since 8.15 pm.

9.15 pm: Watch the news and put my son to bed around 9.45 pm. 

10.40 pm: Watch about 20 minutes of Newsnight about NI and the DUP then after the pets are put to bed.

11.05 pm: It’s time for bed and around 30 minutes reading to unwind which can sometimes be long after a training session.     

                                 Today’s total: €7.00 Euro millions – I’m an infrequent player but happen to see it advertised and buy a ticket via the app (unfortunately didn’t win, if so this diary would have been more interesting!!)

Wednesday 

6.50 am:  The alarm woke us this morning as my wife has a medical appointment at 8.00 am. I get up make a coffee, listen to Morning Ireland while feeding the cats and dog, prepping the kids’ breakfast and lunch. My wife is heading to her parent’s home for the day to look after one of them so it’s home alone today. 

8.35 am: Kids are surprisingly compliant this morning so it’s easy enough to get them out. It’s raining this am so we drive to the crèche and school. I drop into Supervalu after school and pick up bread and ham for lunch (€3.69).

9.05 am: Log on and make another coffee – I have some breakfast at my desk as I prepare for a meeting at 10.00 am. Diary is relatively free after this so I’m looking forward to doing some drafting for a research report I’m preparing. 

11.00 am: Take a 10-minute break after my meeting to clean the cats’ litter tray and let the pup out for a poop. He joins me after in my office for a snooze while I work. Have another cup of coffee and a couple of biscuits.

1.10 pm: Debating to go out for a recovery run as I need to get it done before my son comes home. I’m feeling a little achy and tired from last night so decide against it and spend about 25 minutes doing some strength and conditioning work with some kettlebells and a resistance band. I’ll need to make up the miles during the remainder of the week. 

1:35 pm: Make a ham and cheese roll while reading Irish Times/Guardian and FT on my phone.

1:55 pm: catch up on some emails before walking to pick up son at school (with the pup) at 2:25 pm

3:00 pm: I have a few calls for the rest of the afternoon and prep some work for a couple of meetings. I let my son play Nintendo on a school day as a treat and he is thrilled. 

5:15 pm: Log off and drive to pick up my daughter from crèche. I prepare a breast of turkey and roast it in the oven.

5:30 pm: Manage to keep my daughter from falling to sleep by amusing them with jigsaws and colouring.

6:45 pm: We have dinner – Fish Fingers and pasta for kids; Turkey, pasta and sugar snap peas. I have a bottle of beer with dinner. Tidy up while the kids amuse themselves in the playroom.

7:25 pm: Shower the kids and get them into the pjs. My daughter is exhausted so I get her down to bed with some stories and she is lights out by 7:50 pm.

8.00 pm: Watch Portugal and France with my son – only my second match to watch in the tournament. He loses interest by 9:20 pm and heads to bed. 

10:00 pm: Watch some This Country on BB4 and flick channels for a while. Eat one of the kids Smarties ice-creams. Play with the puppy who is biting and chewing a bit. Distract him for a while so he doesn’t take it out on the furniture

11:00 pm: My wife returns home and we catch up on each other’s day. She’s had a long day and a 200-mile round trip. 

11:55 pm: Cats and pup put to bed. Head up to bed and read for about 15 minutes. 

                                 Today’s total: €3.69

Thursday 

6.35 am: Our daughter wakes us up early this morning. I get up with her and tend to the pets. She wants TV which we don’t allow before school. I relent and give her some Paw Patrol but she’s asleep again in 10 minutes. Make my wife a coffee and bring it up to her in bed.

7.00 am: I log on to work and do about an hour’s work on a presentation. I’m very productive early morning so enjoy getting ahead of the curve with some work. I have a coffee while working. 

7.50 am: My wife heads out for a run to wake herself up after a poor enough sleep. 

8.00 am: Fix the kids lunch and brekkie followed by getting them dressed for school. 

8:40 am: My wife returns so we all walk out of the house together to school. We bring the pup too. 

9:00 am: I log on and continue drafting and reworking content on my presentation. Let the pup out for a run around the garden for 10 minutes. I receive delivery at 10.20 am from a plant shop. I purchased a plant and two pots online last week. I’ve definitely cut back on my online shopping compared to this time last year but I like to buy something for the house or myself once a month. The plants are from a new business based in town and the owners were genuinely delighted with a returning customer. Happy to support local businesses when I’ve good service and value. While not part of this week’s spend the plant and pots come to €60.00. 

11:00 am: I have two hours of calls so grab a slice of toast and marmalade. 

1:10 pm: Make a turkey, cheese and mayo sandwich while scrolling mindlessly through TikTok. I got rid of all social media a couple of years ago as Facebook and Instagram were boring; Twitter makes you go down rabbit holes. I really enjoy TikTok – so much creativity and funny stuff on there.

1:45 pm: Back to work for a call free afternoon. My son is going to a friend’s house after school so no pick up today. Grab another coffee and two biscuits. 

5:25 pm: I log off and start prepping dinner for the kids and help sort out the house. 

6:20 pm: Drive to my running training.

7.00 pm: Training session – eight-mile run in the rain.

8.15 pm: Drive home.

8.55 pm: Late dinner of Chicken, Veg and bottle of beer. Have some yoghurt after.  

9:15 pm: Watch the news followed by another episode of Murder at the Cottage but I start nodding off to sleep after 30 minutes which drives the wife mad so we turn it off on the sofa. Get the pets sorted for the night.

11.05 pm: Read for about 15 minutes before I drifted off ….

                          Today’s total: €0.00

Friday 

6.40 am: Another early morning with our daughter waking us. I give her some TV and I log on for an hour to do some work after the pets and coffee routine is done. 

8.00 am: Both of us fix the kids lunch and brekkie followed by getting them dressed for school. 

8:40 am: We all walk out together to schools with me taking the pup and son to his school.

9:00 am: I log on and prepare for a workshop at 10.

11:00 am: Drive to the shop and pick up a couple of scones and some bread (€4.90). Have another coffee while the pets run around. 

1:20 pm: Make a sandwich and listen to a Guardian podcast on the DUP.

1:50 pm: Back to work, while my wife walks over to pick up my son.

4.25 pm: Log off for the weekend and meet a friend for a five-mile run.  

5.35 pm: After a shower, we head over to pick up my daughter and then on to do the weekly grocery shop in Dunnes. The total comes to €204.71 after we get €40 off in vouchers. It’s a big shop with a couple of extras like chocolates for the kid’s teachers and a plant pot. 

6.30 pm: After putting all the shopping away, I start prepping dinner. I roast a duck crown and then add to stir fry with noodles. I have a couple of beers while cooking and one with my dinner. 

8.30 pm: We get my daughter down to bed and watch a bit of the news with our son till he goes to bed around 9.45.

10:00: We watch Radiohead from Glastonbury in 1997 on BBC4 which is an incredible set. 

11.10 pm: Start the nighttime outline of the getting the pets sorted and everything locked up before heading to bed and reading. 

12:00 am: Lights out.   

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                       Today’s total: €209.61

Saturday 

7.15 am: Our daughter comes in our bed for 15 minutes before I get up and tend to the pets. Bring my wife a cup of coffee in bed. I enjoy my coffee while reading the news on my phone. 

8:50 am: My wife brings our son to athletics training and I head to the butchers and Tesco to pick up a few extras. I pick up some sausages and mince (€9.15) and the paper, bread and a couple of croissants (€6.39) in Tesco. I usually pick up some Oatly barista milk here but they are all out of stock so I stock up on a couple of weeks supply and buy 10 of them on Tesco online shop (€29.15). 

10.15 am: Grab a coffee and have a mid-morning snack with the kids. Start hoovering and cleaning out the sun room where the pets sleep. 

11.30 am: Drive my son to a GAA blitz, his sister and the pup join us and we spend a couple of hours there watching the games. My wife has taken of the empty house and starts cleaning and hoovering.  

2.30 pm: I drive my wife and daughter to her swimming lessons and my son to a friend’s house. I head over to a hardware store and spend €30.00 on a beach tent, buckets and spades for the kids for a planned trip to the beach tomorrow.

3.30 pm: Head out for a local seven mile run with a friend. 

5.00 pm: Chill out for a while reading paper and watching a bit of European football. 

6.00 pm: We order a takeaway for a treat for all. We usually do this once a month. Thai food is delish. Spend €50.35 for the four of us. I have a Weiss bier with my dinner.

8.30 pm: Daughter heads to bed…

9.45 pm: My son heads to bed and we start watch Yesterday on Netflix – it’s easygoing, inoffensive viewing that passes a couple of hours. 

11:00 pm: Pets, alarm, reading, lights out    

                       Today’s total: €125.04

Sunday

7.10 am: Daughter has me up so give her a bit of TV while I make the coffees and sort the pets out. I start packing the various bits and pieces for the beach and load up the car

9.30 am: We drive 50 minutes to a beach in Wicklow. Pay €4.00 for parking. It’s a bit windy but the forecast is good for around mid-day. The beach tent does its job and the kids enjoy playing. I read my book while my wife does a walk Spend €7.00 on coffees and €6.00 on ice-creams for the kids.  

2.30 pm: We drive home.

3.30 pm: My wife gets the kids showered and I give the puppy a bath to get rid of all the sand. 

4.30 pm: I meet a friend and we do our long Sunday run of 12 miles towards Sandymount and back. It’s a beautiful afternoon but the temperatures are just right for running. Happy to reach my 40-mile target for the week but I am wrecked afterwards.

6.30 pm: After showering I start getting the dinner together of some Lamb koftas on the BBQ and a salad. We have a couple of beers and enjoy a sunny evening in the garden. 

8.30 pm: Both the kids are exhausted so they go down early together after a story or two.

9.00 pm: I watch the remainder of the Belgium Portugal game and a bit of the news, we put on another episode of the Murder in the Cottage before I start nodding off on the sofa. 

11.00 pm: Head to bed and read a little before lights out. Exhausted tonight!  

                       Today’s total: €17.00

Weekly Subtotal: €417.34

***

What I learned –

  • We are fortunate to be in a position to be able to afford what we have. This was a typical week with a few additional discretionary spend items. I don’t think there are things that we do or spend that we should cut out or we overspend on as they are all used. The Oatly and coffee purchases are relatively large but we both would have spent €5.00-€6.00 each a day on coffees at work.  
  • Looking at the diary it’s amazing to see the amount of time we can be around the kids when we are working from home. We might look back on this time fondly in that it allowed us to be there for our kids more and under less stressful conditions of battling traffic or in a rush for pick up and drop-offs. 
  • I have limited my credit card spending and rarely use an overdraft. If we switch mortgage this year we can probably save a €100 depending on our LTV in the current environment. While I am paying interest on a car loan – I see it as medium-term debt to create short term liquidity. I overpay every month so it will be paid off 18 months earlier than planned at my current rate of paying down. 
  • We could improve our savings or money for a rainy day but we feel we have enough income protection to mitigate any financial shock. Pension and retirement is 20 years away so I like to put some extra cash there as it makes a lot of sense from a tax perspective.  
  • I never use cash anymore, everything is contactless or purchased via an app.

 

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