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Money Diaries: A product manager on €85K living in Dublin with her partner and dog

This week, our reader is disciplined and organised in managing her finances.

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 language expert saving hard for a home with her partner. This week, a 31-year-old product manager living and working in Dublin.

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I’ve been living in Dublin since my mid-20s with my partner. We own a small apartment in the city centre. For my first few years living in Dublin and working full-time, I struggled to put savings aside each month after paying for rent. Once my salary got above €55K, I started saving a small bit on a monthly basis.

I’ve worked in the private sector since age 21 and started contributing to my pension soon after. I’m committed to maxing out my pension contributions each month and, now that I’m over 30, I’m delighted that I can get tax relief on contributions up to 20%.

We didn’t have much money growing up and I lived in a council house with my mum and siblings until going to college at 18. I received a full maintenance grant and now pay more tax in a single month than I would have received for an entire year in third-level education grants.

My family still wince at the price of a taxi so I keep a lot of my personal finance and spending habits to myself. About five years ago we were lucky enough to live rent-free for a six-month period and that is how we managed to save enough money for a downpayment.

I’d like to have kids at some point in the next few years so I’m also aiming to cut unnecessary subscriptions and save/invest as much of my income as possible so that I can afford to take additional maternity leave when the time comes and we can afford a bigger home and childcare.

Occupation: Product Manager
Age: 31
Location: Dublin
Salary: €85,000
Monthly pay (net): Approximately €3,000. This used to be about €3,200 until I recently got a salary increase of 5%. With the increase in salary, I decided to increase my investment in the ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plan) to 10% of my salary. This means ~€700 p/m is deducted after tax to buy company stock at a 15% discount. At the end of the year, this should translate to ~€10,000 of stock at a cost of only €8,500.

Monthly expenses

Transport: €0 due to working from home. Pre-pandemic would have been about €30pm as I tend to walk or cycle to work most of the time, taking the Luas only occasionally.
Mortgage: €350 (my half)
Electricity: €113 on average
Property Tax: €16
Property Management Fees: €77 on average (my half)
(Partner gets the internet, pet and home insurance and mortgage protection)
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: €282 for both me and my partner, paid as a benefit in kind by my employer
Groceries: €315
Subscriptions -
Google Drive: €3
Netflix: €12.99
Patreon: €3
Membership for two gyms: €60.50
Sports coach: €150
Savings: €1,000 (After my pension contributions and ESPP investments, I have automatic payments scheduled to go towards:
Trust funds for nieces and nephews €100 p/m)
Birthday presents: €100 p/m
Holiday fund: €100 p/m
Driving lessons: €90 p/m
Christmas shopping: €90 p/m
Wedding fund: €500

***

Monday

11.00 am: I had the day booked off work so that my partner and I can spend a few days away from Dublin. I’m getting up now to eat a quick breakfast and start packing up the car to go home.

12.30 pm: We’ve hit the road back to Dublin. He’s doing the driving so I pick up the motorway tolls since I have my wallet handy. (€1.90)

2.30 pm: We’re just home. I spend 10 minutes walking the dog while my partner returns the rental car. We avoided the port tunnel because it’s a tenner at this time of day and we weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. While the oven heats our lunch, I log on to eFlow to pay the M50 toll. (€3.10) I also start making a meal plan for the week so that I can pick up some groceries on my way back from the gym later on.

3.00 pm: My partner returns from filling the rental car and dropping it back to the depot. It was €31 to refill the tank and €133 to rent the car for two days plus insurance. We don’t own a car but have been spending about €300-€400 per month on rental cars, including fuel and insurance, since intercounty travel reopened (to make up for the many visits we missed over the last year). The cost definitely adds up but it’s nowhere close to what it would cost us to own a car year-round, so hiring a car whenever we need one is the most economical choice for us. (€82.00, my half — I pay for this out of my “holiday fund”.)

6.30 pm: I’m at the gym, hoping to be done with enough time to spare a run around Lidl on my way home.

8.30 pm: I’ve finished my training so I’m in the shop next to the gym buying a carton of Avonmore Protein Milk which I drink on my way to Lidl. (€1.47)

9.15 pm: Leaving Lidl after picking enough to do us lunch and dinner up to Thursday afternoon. Now that the gyms have reopened, I’m experimenting with doing two smaller grocery shops midweek while I’m passing through town in the evening. It’s my turn to do the shopping this week. My partner and I alternate getting the shopping every other week. (€27.18)

10.30 pm: I am home almost an hour, showered and into my pyjamas. I’m sitting down to a dinner of bacon, cheddar and leek omelette. Usually, I’d eat dinner at about 9.45-10 pm after a midweek training session so the late schedule tonight is a bit of an anomaly.

11.20 pm: Heading to bed after polishing off a cup of tea and slice of cake in front of the TV.

                      Today’s total: €115.65

Tuesday

9.30 am: I’ve been up since 9 am and cleaned the kitchen and made some coffee. I sit down to work with a bowl of Weetabix in hand while I pour over emails and instant messages before my first meeting at 10 am.

1.45 pm: It’s lashing rain out. I’ve walked the dog (much to his reluctance) and now I’m preparing some stuffed pasta with tomato sauce and cheese for lunch. I had three meetings this morning and have three more this afternoon.

2.15 pm: I’m back at my desk to get a few bits done before my next meetings.

4.45 pm: I’m taking a short break away from the computer to get a snack and some headspace before facing into an important task. For a snack, I’m making a smoothie with banana, frozen fruit, celery, orange juice and whey protein. The weather forecast for the evening is horrific so I’m contemplating ways to get to the gym without getting drenched.

6.20 pm: I’ve just finished work and the weather is so bad that I’ve resolved to get my training in tomorrow morning before work instead. The weather forecast is dry from 8am so fingers crossed.

8.45 pm: Just back from the shop to pick up some toilet roll, carton of eggs and a can of club orange (that one wasn’t on the list). (€5.18)

9.15 pm: We’ve finished a dinner of veggie burger with cheese, tomato and lettuce on a brioche bun. Now we are on the couch in front of the Italy vs Spain match. We turn it off knowing Italy are going to win. Instead, we throw on the Sunday Times Rich List on the RTÉ Player. It turns out to be a snorefest — the first two millionaires are in the business of selling sausage skins and microwaveable burgers. We switch it off after five minutes to watch some sitcoms on Netflix.

10.00 pm: Brewing the tea and getting some cake ready before watching a bit more TV and hitting the hay.

                             Today’s total: €5.18

Wednesday

10.20 am: I’ve just been to the gym followed by an appointment. I’ve stopped at Bread41 on Pearse Street for a coffee and some pastries. (€9.50)

10.45 am: Stopping at Coffee Angel on my way home for another coffee and one for my partner. I really need 2 coffees to get going in the morning. (€7.40)

2.00 pm: For lunch, I’ve just eaten a cheesy omelette with sautéed leek and peas. I’m now going for a 10 minute nap before my lunch break ends.

7.10 pm: I have just finished work and am astounded that I only had 1 meeting today. I have been engrossed in an exercise to analyse some user needs and articulate a business opportunity for the last 3-4 hours. Needing to switch off, I tried to go on Instagram but my browser and app blocker has kicked in to prevent me from browsing social media between 7-8pm. Going to sit down to an episode of Friends instead before making a start on dinner.

8.00 pm: I’m over the cooker making a Thai Green Curry with my headphones on and an episode of Friends on my phone. It’s the one where Ross gets introduced to Emily.

8.45 pm: We’ve just washed down our curry with Heineken Zero and the England vs Denmark match is at half-time so I decide to ring my grandparents.

9.15 pm: After half an hour chatting to my grandad, I try my granny but there is no answer. My partner is on the couch watching the match but I don’t care to watch it so just flick on Friends on my phone and hope that Denmark win.

10.30 pm: I can’t believe this match has been on for two and half hours and still isn’t over. I’ve just eaten a scone and am having a cup of tea. There are three minutes of time left on the match and England are running down the clock.

11.00 pm: We’ve just got back from walking the dog. He ate something which we’re sure was a dried leaf. We’re going to bed now. I have to be up early in the morning for my first vaccine dose.

                               Today’s total: €16.90

Thursday

7.30 am: I’ve had the worst night of interrupted sleep. The apartment is humid and I dreamt about missing my vaccine appointment and then getting it injected into my eye instead of my arm. I was rudely awoken half an hour ago by the dog baking at my partner returning from the gym.

9.00 am: I’ve just had my first dose of the Covid vaccine and am now waiting in the clinic for 15 minutes. I brought a notebook to prepare for my first meeting at 10am.

9.15 am: I’m at a coffee shop grabbing an Americano. Meanwhile, I’m consulting the gov.ie website to try and discern when I’ll be eligible for “the vaccine bonus”. (€3.00)

11.40 am: I’m taking a snack break after three meetings. One meeting was to plan for the transition of a new member into our team and the other two were to discuss work assignment options for a development team and avert a potential “hearts and minds” crisis. I haven’t eaten yet this morning so I’m prepping a bowl of Weetabix with Greek yogurt.

1.00 pm: Just got off the phone to Zurich about transferring an old pension pot into my new employer’s scheme. By my estimations, if I keep up my current rate of contributions and the growth rate of my investment fund grows at a consistent rate, the fund should be about €1.2 million at age 55.

1.40 pm: Just walked the dog and now I’m going back to work after lunch.

3.30 pm: After some team and product strategy meetings since lunchtime, my brother has arrived with his toddler son so I am distracted from working.

6.15 pm: I’ve just finished work and put away the laptop. I got as much done as possible with the small bursts of focus I could maintain knowing there were visitors in our home. Now I’m relaxing with a glass of water. #zen

7.15 pm: My partner has ordered a takeway on Deliveroo. We usually take turn to pick up the bill when eating out or ordering in. His turn this time — I’ll get the next one. I went to the local shop for beers, eggs, biscuits and milk. (€11.78)

8.00 pm: Eating burritos and sitting around just catching up with my brother. Had a brief face time with my mother.

10.30 pm: Heading to bed now after some tea and biscuits. Nothing exciting this evening just watching TV and browsing the internet.

                    Today’s total: €14.78

Friday

9.30 am: I’m finally getting out of bed after scrolling on my phone for half an hour.

10.00 am: I’ve made coffee and am sitting down at my desk to start working.

11.15 am: Taking the dog out for a walk. I’m listening to a podcast about how product teams can work around a leader that doesn’t have the organisational power to make the team successful. It inspires some ideas and I’ll jot down some notes as soon as I’m home.

1.00 pm: I am ordering lunch for collection from a nearby cafe online. My partner and I share a sandwich, soup, chilli dish and two coffees. (€30.15) I cancelled a therapy appointment that was scheduled for lunchtime because I want to cut my lunch short and get back to work. I was charged a cancellation fee which I feel very remorseful about. (€50.00)

6.30 pm: Putting the laptop to sleep for the weekend. I decided to skip training tonight and make up for it by training Saturday and Sunday instead. The partner and I set off with the dog to the park. When we got there we find a chewed up tennis ball and spend a good while playing fetch with the furbaby.

8.00 pm: On our way home from the park, we take a notion that we’ll have half a bottle of wine tonight and stop into a local Italian and order some pizzas.

8.15 pm: With fresh pizzas in our hands, we’re on our way home. My partner bought the pizzas since I bought us lunch.

8.30 pm: Wine poured and pizza boxes opened! We’ve already decided we’ll finish the bottle between us tonight… We stick on the first episode of Murder in West Cork.

11.30 pm: We actually finished the entire series of Murder in West Cork. Now we’re having a cup of tea and watching the latest sketch from Foil Arms & Hog — CSI dinner party.

12.00 am: We are off to bed. Thankfully it is much cooler tonight.

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                      Today’s total: €80.15

Saturday

10.10 am: I’m finally getting out of bed to walk the dog after scrolling on my phone for one hour. I was on The Journal reading about maternity care restrictions still in place in most hospitals.

11.10 am: The dog is being weird and ignoring his breakfast. He keeps bringing me his new toy to play with instead. I finish off a toasted bagel washed down with a coffee and leave for the gym.

11.25 am: At the local shop buying water and a can of Monster. (€4.05)

2.00 pm: After the gym I met a close friend for a coffee and pastry. (€8.00)

4.15 pm: I’ve just left Boots after browsing for an hour and picking up some sunscreen and other toileteries. (€33.97) Now I’m in M&S picking up an Indian takeaway box. (€17.25) When I get home I will make a Nutribullet smoothie with some whey protein to keep me going until dinnertime.

8.00 pm: After a relaxing bath, we are both sitting down with our M&S takeaway box and a Heineken Zero while watching Formula 1:Drive to Survive on Netflix. We end up watching two episodes even though I had no interest in sports car racing.

10.10 pm: My partner goes to bed early so I’m taking the dog out for a quick stroll. It is a lovely evening. When I get back, I watch the latest episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with a cup of tea.
11.30 pm: I’m heading off to bed now. I’ve had my phone switched off for the last 5 hours so I might have a look on Instagram to see what’s going on. #fomo

                     Today’s total: €63.27

Sunday

10.45 am: I’m just out of bed and giving the bathroom a quick clean.

12.00 pm: We had planned to have Sunday dinner in a restaurant in Clontarf today but, given the terrible weather, we are going to cancel it and eat at home. We’re waiting on some food shopping to be delivered and I’m browsing Daft.ie to see what homes are on offer down the country. The extent to which prices have risen in the last year is insane. We had budgeted €450K to spend on a four-bed in an urban centre outside of Leinster in the next two to three years. However, right now it looks like we’d have to spend as much as €650K to get something like that.

1.45 pm: After another hour or so of comparing mortgages and estimating the cost of living and commuter transport to Dublin, I decide to stop analysing and make tracks for the gym. First I quickly cook an omelette.

4.30 pm: We are both at our nearest gym getting some training done.

5.45 pm: We stop into Super Valu on the way home for some things related to dinner. (€8.58)

7.45 pm: Spend 30 minutes on the phone to my granny, who is delighted that I’ve had my first vaccine and that my partner’s first dose is also on the calendar. After about 20 minutes of food preparation, I just pop a Potato, Sausage and Pesto traybake into the oven and sit down with a cup of tea to send a few texts.

9.30 pm: We finish dinner and it was lovely!! The Euros final is on TV but I’m simultaneously watching skincare videos on YouTube about some of the products I was eyeing up yesterday in Boots.

                    Today’s total: €8.58

Weekly subtotal: €304.51

***

What I learned –

  • After keeping the money diary for a week, it really opened my eyes to how much TV I watch. This doesn’t cost much, as Netflix and RTE Player are our main ports of call. Pre-pandemic, we would often go to the cinema, so I expect that our entertainment costs will increase over the coming months as things reopen.
  • One thing that really surprised me was that I spent money every single day. During lockdowns, saving money on retail was something I really enjoyed. Being in town on Saturday led me into Boots and passed quite a few other shops on the way. I’m going to have to cut back my spending in some places to create some wiggle room to indulge in shopping and eating out — things we couldn’t do for most of the last 18 months.
  • I’m going to experiment with a “No Spending” day. Maybe on Mondays or Tuesdays, I will not allow myself to spend any money and manage with what we have in the fridge/cupboard, rather than parting with €30-40 on takeaways and trips to the local shop.
  • With my net pay coming out a bit lower than I expected after increasing my ESPP investment, I am locked into this for six months of payroll. Although I cancelled a lot of unnecessary subscriptions lately, I will need to watch my spending closely over the next five months to make sure I account for this €200-300 shortfall in net pay.
  • One tip I would give to readers is to read I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. I read this at age 23 while making only €19,000 per year. Since then, I’ve quadrupled my salary, kept my debt low and am on track to retire 10-15 years early. This was all thanks to implementing a few small habits learned in this book.

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