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Money Diaries follow-up An early years educator on €25K living in Leinster

This week, our reader is adjusting to being back at work after having her first child

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on The Journal 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 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 a public sector HR specialist on €94K living in Dublin. This week, an early years educator on €25K living in Leinster.


Having previously completed a Money Diary in May 2022, some things remain the same, but lots of things have changed for me. I’m still in the same job and so is my partner, but I’m working far less hours. We now rent out a room in our house to a friend for extra income and company in the evenings while my partner is at work. I completed a payroll course, so now I also do the books for the Montessori.

I passed my driving test in November 2022, so we have the cost of running a car. We converted our attic (bigger than expected job, which topped out at about €36,000) and managed to travel to four more countries (Luxembourg, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia) and, most significantly, I had a baby 12 weeks ago! We had to do IVF so again, that was a significant outlay (roughly €9,000). All those extra jobs served their purpose but I’m finally taking the time to enjoy what I was ultimately always aiming for: to have my own family.

This was only ever going to be possible with the stability of having the house first, given that neither of us are in particularly high-paying jobs, hence why we waited, but then that became an issue. It all took longer than expected, but we got there in the end. Given the significant expenditures that all fell relatively close together, we did take out a loan (€13,000) in August 2023 to get us past the finish line, but this will be finally paid back this month. (Current balance outstanding is €6,505, but have €4,805 in the credit union account which I can’t access because of the loan, so really just need to put €1,700 to it to pay it off fully.) I’m due a good chunk of tax back and hoping this comes this week.

I’m back at work since last Monday. I had thought I’d go back early as I’m constantly busy and was afraid I’d not be doing too well after little one was born just being at home, but in fact, I settled into home life quicker than I anticipated and was devastated leaving to go to work. I quickly changed to just three days rather than five. I’m literally around the corner from the house and it’s only 9am to 2pm so he’s mostly asleep when I am out at work with my partner minding him, but I still feel like I might be missing something. I need to remind myself it’s probably doing me good to be out of the house a bit – plus we will be glad of the extra income at the end of the month as our household income has taken a big knock with me not working as I used to.

There was a big funding boost to the childcare sector since I last wrote on here. However as I had previously mentioned, we were already well paid comparatively so this made no change to our wages. In fact, due to a few different factors, we went from running a Montessori and afterschool (full-time hours) to now only being open 9am to 2pm. I’m only doing three days until April so for the year that’s in it, I don’t mind, but this is definitely something that needs to be reevaluated at a later date.

We got our garden done as planned that summer (€10,000 – never did get around to the Hawaiian-themed garden party). I managed to achieve all the things I set out since last time, apart from starting a pension. It is once again a New Year’s resolution of mine but I seem to have a complete mental block on that one. I turn 30 in August and I’m having some sort of mini mid-life crisis (more on that later), so a pension really is a must this year.

Occupation: Early years educator

Age: 29

Location: Leinster

Salary: Approx. €25,000 (once I return to five days)

Monthly pay (net): While doing three days, it’ll be about €1,300 but will go back up to approx €1,800 once I go back five days

Room rental: €500 per month (includes all bills. This just goes to the joint account)

*My partner is now the higher earner, so we are more dependent on his income before anyone says figures don’t add up! I swear I’m a real person!

Monthly expenses

Petrol: €60 petrol per month (runs the tiny car for local runs only, really)

Car insurance: €436.27 paid in May last year in one chunk (hoping it’s cheaper this year)

Motor tax: €180 yearly

Property tax: €331 yearly (comes out of the joint account)

Home insurance: €361 paid in a yearly chunk last year, too. I knew I’d be out of work, so I prepaid as much as possible so our monthly funds were higher thereafter

Mortgage: €1,020.50 (split between two)

Household bills: Gas, electricity, life assurance – €200 per month (split between two -again this is a rough figure as the accounts currently have a good bit of credit on each of them so I’ve ignored bills- these were topped up with a good amount pre-baby)

Phone bill: €15 (finally switched phone provider and saving myself €25 each month)

Health insurance: N/a

Groceries: Usually about €250 per month (split between two)

Subscriptions: N/a

Child benefit: €140 per month. So far, the intention is for this to go straight into a savings account for him when he is older. I fully anticipate that won’t always be the case as more expenses creep in, but for as much as possible, I will continue this

Total = €810.25 personally 



4.30 am: The beast is awake! He’s on my side of the bed in his crib but my partner does the middle of the night feed because he’s usually not long in from work and it means I get a bit of a sleep. I hand him over and try to nod back off, but it’s never easily done.

8.30 am: Little man is awake again. I get up and make a warm bottle, feed him up in bed, and change him ready for the day. We go back downstairs and do tummy time, play on the mat, and have a chat with goos and gaas until he wears himself out. It’s amazing how fast four hours go by when you’re living life in four-hour intervals!

9.45 am: He’s finally asleep so I grab a bowl of cereal and get to work: I do the laundry and the dishes, sweep the floors and sweep the carpet on the stairs. We only just got carpet on the stairs: it’s the only carpet in the house and it’s already the bane of my existence.

10.45 am: My partner is awake now, so he takes the reins while I pop around to work to collect Henry (the hoover). I need to clean the car for Wednesday morning. I go around and have a quick catch-up on the weekend with the girls in work and then head home with Henry in tow.

11.15 am: I hoover the car and spritz it with vinegar (there’s mildew on the carpets in the car, and I can’t be bothered getting new ones – white vinegar does the trick!).

11.45 am: I have a shower quickly and then have time for a cup of tea at long last. I sit and have five minutes of peace. A package arrives from Amazon, and I quickly check it’s the correct wall decal this time. I’ll put it up later in the week.

12.30 pm: Baby’s back awake. Same as earlier: he has a bottle, does tummy time, and plays with his mirror for a few minutes. I give him a bath before he gets too tired again.

1.45 pm: He fought sleep for a good while, so only now settling down. My partner starts making us lunch of ham and cheese toasties and tea, but we quickly realise there’s no milk. He pops out to get some down the road. I find €3 in my purse to give him.

4.30 pm: Make a bottle to bring with me, drop my partner to work, and then head to my mom’s house. My mom and my partner’s mother have been absolute godsends since baby was born. They’ve helped us a lot! Get to my mam’s, feed baby, and he’s passed around while we have tea and a catch-up. I stay for dinner and watch a few episodes of Come Dine With Me. My brother is there for the evening too.

8.30 pm: Get a mad text off the Rose of Tralee coordinator. Sent in an application the year before last because I had read you can’t be over 30, so suddenly, I decided I needed to apply for my final eligible year in a moment of madness. It was really just for a laugh, but I never thought more about it. Obviously, nothing came of it last year. Text her back to say I’m 30 in August wondering would that be an issue. Apparently, I miss the cut-off point by two weeks. Raging! Last year’s prize was €25,000 travel prize. Could have done with that this year. Made my day all the same considering. I can’t remember the last time i brushed my hair and I always have a mild odour of baby vomit on my clothes these days – even the idea of it sounded quite glamorous! Also, realise the mini mid-life crisis started back around two years ago!

9.00 pm: Drop my brother home and head home myself. Give baby his last bottle before bed at 10.30pm and then set an alarm for the morning. I try to get some sleep.

Today’s total: €3.00


2.30 am: Hand baby over, listen to partner feeding him, and then have a full-blown conversation in the middle of the night. Give out about trying to teach the difference of day and night. (A nightly occurrence).

6.30 am: Run downstairs before baby wakes, make two bottles, one for the fridge for when I’m at work and one now so it cools while I have a quick shower. Feed baby, play a bit, and manage a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea. He’s full of smiles this morning! Makes going off to work harder. I want to stay and chat longer.

8.00 am: Eventually, he nods off. I put him back down, leave a note on the bedside locker with bottle times, etc, for partner. Head out the door for work. The second week back isn’t nearly as hard. Plus I’m finding little positives in going back: I get to listen to music on earphones again for the short walk to work and when I get in, the girl I work with has a coffee already bought from next door. We sit and chat before the madness of the day starts. I print off a label to send back the wrong wall decal from Amazon plus copies of birth certs, etc. for little one’s passport. The bloody thing has come back twice already with the online application. I’m doing a postal one now instead, so I will be refunded the €20. Driving me insane! Had all good intentions of him becoming a globe trotter early, but the idea of hauling around bottles, sterilising them, and worrying about safe water isn’t as appealing as it sounds. Not to mention, he doesn’t sleep through the night, so anywhere we go will be the same tiredness. I’m thinking when he is about one. Once he’s on ordinary milk and eating, he’ll be easier but still free to travel and will only need a small compact buggy then, too.

2.00 pm: Home time. One of the parents drops off three big packets of nappies for me to bring home when collecting their kid – very kind and much appreciated! I drop into the shop on the way home to post the Amazon package and passport documents. Passport ends up costing €39.50 and the package is €8. (Postage of €8 plus €15 should be refunded to me once they get the returned item.) Get home and have lunch and a catch-up on the day with my little buddy and partner. Have lunch, feed baby, etc.

4.30 pm: Heading out the door to do a few bits and remember Henry is still here, so drop him into the Montessori on the way. Go to Tesco to get dinner (we were lucky enough between the baby and Christmas bonuses from both mine and his work to get almost €1,000 in One4All vouchers. They’ve been covering the shopping lately where possible.)

5.00 pm: Go get the car washed for tomorrow (€12). Head home to make dinner.

6.00 pm: Put on the dinner, and while that’s cooking and baby is napping, I sort through photos on my phone from last year. I make a photo album each year of our travels, etc, so that I don’t end up losing them on a phone. I get my partner to send me any photos he has. Photo book and a few prints I order come to €33.50 with postage. I also order a free magnet that I won on a McDonald’s Monopoly Coke last year while I’m at it. The rest of the evening is pretty uneventful. It’s freezing out, so the fire is lit and we just take it easy until bedtime. Mid evening, I remember I need to find the cars log book and have a meltdown. Finally find it after tearing the house apart.

Today’s total: €93.00


6.30 am: Get up, feed baby and get us ready to go. Out the door by 7.40am.

8.30 am: Arrive at the NCT test centre and say a few Hail Marys before handing over the car. The car was serviced last week and the garage said it should pass but still, the anxiety levels are high this morning.

9.00 am: Car failed – needs all new tyres. At least the test itself was faster than I expected. Head home and drop partner off to work at 10am. He’s on the early shift today.

11.00 am: Go home and do more laundry. Story of my life these days! Play with the little one, wash bottles, measure out formula into the formula dispensers, etc. Didn’t get a chance to do any of the usual this morning.

12.00 pm: Head downtown to visit my sister and her husband at work. Little one is asleep so I just sit and have a tea and watch the world go by. I miss working down in the restaurant, but then when I think about potentially doing two jobs again, I quickly change my mind and remember I don’t like leaving little one too long. Life has become a constant struggle of wanting my old routine back but then remembering I really don’t want my old routine back. He has his next bottle there, so I consume copious amounts of tea in between times. They don’t charge me for the tea but I leave €5 tip anyway. I look in the bookshop and contemplate buying the second book of a series I started pre-baby. I decide now is not the time because who am I kidding, I forget to eat half the time these days never mind get time to read.

3.00 pm: Pop into the garage around the corner. Ask the lads about all new tyres, price, etc. Apparently they don’t do tyres anymore but he gives me a number for a mobile guy. He texts straight back – will cost €65 a tyre, balanced and fitted. Pop up to another garage. They offer the same at €95 a tyre. I text the first guy back. He is coming tomorrow!

4.00 pm: Back home and have a few minutes to spare so write in my planner. I used to use a planner religiously and then about 14 weeks ago, my whole life turned upside down and I haven’t gotten a proper chance to go back to it. I bought myself a particularly nice one as a present from my partner for Christmas so hoping to put it to good use. As silly as it sounds, I am far more productive if I write stuff down. A to do list is the only way I’m doing anything. It also has a budget planning section – very handy!

5.30 pm: Partner’s finished. Go collect him and head home for the evening. Make dinner and just chill out. Bed early tonight because I’m back in work tomorrow.

7.30 pm: Walk down to the corner shop to use the ATM. €260 is withdrawn from the joint account to pay the tyre man in the morning.

Today’s total: €265.00


6.30 am: Wake up, make bottles, feed and play with baby, shower, eat cereal, all that jazz.

8.00 am: Put baby back down, leave the cash for the tyre man, stick in earphones and head off to work.

2.00 pm: The day went quick enough. Back home I go. Feed and bathe baby, catch up on cuddles and chats before he nods off again. Spend an hour doing surveys on my phone. I do these every couple of days and make about €20 a week which I redeem in vouchers for food shopping. Doesn’t add up to loads but better than nothing and it passes the time when little one is asleep. Gets a days dinner or nappies and wipes for the week. Not to be sniffed at! Plus they’ve been building up while we work our way through the vouchers.

3.00 pm: Change the bed sheet and the baby’s bed. Get lost in a duvet cover for a few minutes. Unlike the ad where she’s changing the bedsheets and it’s like a dream land – I’m just tangled and annoyed!

4.30 pm: Drop partner to work. Go for a quick walk down the beach with baby in the carrier. It’s freezing! I can’t wait for brighter, warmer days.

5.30 pm: Come home and make soup and a sandwich for dinner and just stay put for the evening. I’m wrecked being back at work the past two weeks and with the cold weather.

9.30 pm: Bed early.

Today’s total: €0.00


12.30 am: Wake up when partner gets home from work. Chat to him a bit before I nod back off.

2.30 am: Wake up to pass little one over. Takes ages to fall back asleep.

5.00 am: Baby is stirring. I swear he knows the days I need to get up for work and picks them to have a bad night’s sleep. He’s only staying asleep with me holding him. Three failed attempts at putting him back to bed and I give up on the idea – he wins!

6.30 am: Up to make two bottles: one for now and one for while I’m at work. Play around on the mat, have the morning chats over a cup of tea, etc.

8.00 am: Put baby back down to sleep and wish I could go back for a nap too but it’s out the door to work for me in 20 minutes. Feeling a bit like a zombie. Coffee is a must this morning. Pick up two en route (€7). Fridays I do paperwork now as the girl who was covering my maternity leave still does a few hours. Makes getting the paperwork done less stressful and means it’s done within working hours and never at home like before.

2.10 pm: One of the parents arrive late so I rush home after to do the next bottle.

2.30 pm: Finally get an email from Revenue so quickly log in to see the balancing statement for 2023. I’m due €4,154.63 in taxback. I worked last year in the creche and restaurant and did the July provision with two families so that’s always taxed at a high rate. Plus with the IVF, I can claim back some of the medical costs. Log into my bank and pay off the credit union loan now that I know that other money is coming in the next few days. (€1,700). I look up a flying lesson and consider €180 purchase for 40 minutes lesson as a once-off in a helicopter. It’s on the 30 before 30 list. Park that idea until maybe next week and get distracted by more mundane things like dishes. At least it covers the loan and tyres. I’ll replace that money once it hits the account.

2.40 pm: Head around the corner to a 3rd birthday party we’ve been invited to. They’ve also just had a new baby. Stop off in the corner shop/post office. Buy two One4All vouchers and two cards. (€49.20). Stay for just a few minutes. Having slight imposter syndrome since having a baby. I don’t quite feel like I’m there yet. Wherever ‘there’ is!

4.30 pm: Walk back home, drop partner to work, pop into Aldi and pick up flowers for my mam (€9) and head to my hers again for the evening. I’ll watch the Late Late up there (mid-life crisis still looming- what happened to my once wild Friday nights?). My sister is up from Galway this weekend too so have a catch up with her. Home by about 11.30pm and head straight to bed.

Today’s total: €1,765.20


2.30 am: Hand baby over and konk out straight away.

6.30 am: Back up again, feed baby in bed and thankfully, he is just as tired as me and falls back asleep after his bottle.

10.00 am: I get up and make a bottle because little one will be screaming soon looking for it. Partner was supposed to be on late but swapped with someone else so he’s in early we drop him down. We realise one of the tyres is flat but can’t see what’s wrong. Text the man who done the tyres to have a look. Park up down the town and go to the bookshop to buy the book I was looking at (€14). No idea when I’ll read it but anyway at least it’s on hand.

10.30 am: Back home and baby is still sleeping so I put up the wall decal that arrived earlier in the week. It’s got quite a few little fiddly bits. This is to work in with a wall decal that’s already up. This will be little one’s room once he moves out of our room.

11.30 am: That took longer than expected. The next hour consists of multiple cups of tea and a bottle.

3.00 pm: I’m bored and baby is asleep. I decide to paint the drawers in his room. I got these for nothing on while I was pregnant. I quite like upcycling furniture. Might do it more often. Get a text off the tyre man – he’s already been to look and has fixed it up for me. I’ve been upstairs most of the day so didn’t hear him come and go.

6.00 pm: Partner is finished so I go pick him up. We visit his mam for a cup of tea and catch up so she can see baby.

7.00 pm: Head home and drop into Tesco on the way. Pick up a fire log for the evening. Partner pays. Get home and stick on two frozen pizzas which we got in the shopping last week. Too lazy for proper cooking. Chill out watching the series Fool Me Once on Netflix for the night.

Today’s total: €14.00


11.00 am: Nothing much happened this morning. Just chilled at home with baby. There’s a storm so we just watch telly and drink tea and bottles between naps

5.00 pm: Start getting ready to head out for the evening. My partner got me tickets to Foil Arms and Hog in Vicar Street for Christmas but didn’t fancy going himself so it’s me and my friend/housemate heading out for the night. It’s the first social outing I’ve had in about five months so quite looking forward to it.

6.00 pm: I make bottles to leave and then head to get the bus. I use his Leap card for the fare as I’ve no change.

7.30 pm: Get us a drink before heading into the show (€15). My friend buys the next drink.

10.30 pm: Show’s over and we head back home on the bus. Was a great night but I’m looking forward to my bed! It’s too hard to go out in January when it’s cold!

Today’s total: €15.00

Weekly subtotal: €2,155.20


What I learned –

  • This was the wrong week to pick to do this again because it’s not at all a true reflection of my usual spending. The loan, tyres, photo book, passport and birthday party are one-off occurrences. It’ll be interesting to see how my income stretches with the three-day week once the bills start coming in again and the shopping vouchers run out.
  • Becoming a mother has been life changing obviously in a massively positive way – it is absolute magic, it’s everything I wanted and more, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, day-to-day life has gone very routine (not that life was particularly more exciting before, but there’s a slight lack of spontaneity). After reading back over the week, I’m definitely going to book the helicopter flight and maybe a holiday. Nothing too mad, but somewhere long enough that I remind myself of a time I went outside my front door for things other than work or shopping. Just need to wait on little one’s passport to hopefully come back this time.
  • Going to utilise the gift vouchers as much as possible as it’s saving a small fortune in shopping. The rest of the tax refund went into the joint account as we are now working towards getting an extension on the house. There already is one, but needs to be slightly built on, reconfigured (move the bathroom back), re-roofed, and I want to wrap the house to make it warmer. That’s the next big saving goal – and, potentially, baby number two in a year or two’s time before I get too old (that’s not a judgement on anyone else – just my own hang up on age lately). I need to start up a new budget for these things. I’m feeling a bit lost with nothing to work towards as I always think if I’m not moving forward in what I’m doing, I’m wasting time.
  • I’m not nearly as afraid of taking out a loan as I was before and will absolutely be looking at doing so again this year for the extension. It’s easier to get it done before little one is more mobile and the house will be more suitable for that stage then too once it’s done.
  • Need to look into childcare options for when I’m back full time for a day or two a week so we can keep an evening together.
  • I’m still drinking too much tea, albeit cold half the time these days.
  • Still need to plan a Hawaiian party. We were out of our house for most of the summer with the attic being done, staying at my sister’s, so this year I’ll be in the garden more than ever.
  • I sleep probably more than ever before, but the fact that it’s broken sleep is slowly killing me with exhaustion. I can’t wait for a solid five hours sleep even, and brighter evenings to build back up my fitness.
  • Myself and the one of the girls from work are thinking of setting up a rival competition to the Rose of Tralee for the old folks – aptly named: “The Weed of Wicklow”.
  • Still need to set up a pension.
  • Renting the room out has been mutually beneficial to us and my friend and will continue for as long as she’s happy doing so.
  • Everyone should crack onto doing surveys – we’re already constantly giving away our information for nothing. Might as well get something out of it in return!

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