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VOICES

Money Diaries A small business owner in Leinster who has not taken a wage in 18 months

This week, our reader is out the door busy running her own business but sacrificing family and me time.

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 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 clinical nurse specialist on €58K but currently on maternity leave in Dublin. This week, a small business owner in Leinster who has had no income for 18 months.

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I’m a 32-year-old woman living in Leinster. I own and work in a hospitality business that has evolved over the past seven years. The last three years have been amazing for us, yet incredibly detrimental.

Having opened a new business as we came out of the Covid-19 lockdowns, we were all so excited to get going. However, within 18 months, we had to make the very hard decision to close portions of the business as they just weren’t financially viable and were causing so much stress.

But we are slowly getting back on track now, having paid off all creditors that were due and working with Revenue to clear the losses brought forward from Covid trading.

Occupation: SME worker in the hospitality sector

Age: 32

Location: Leinster

Salary: Haven’t taken a wage in 18 months

Monthly pay (net): €0

Rental income: €1,500 a month

Tips/service charge/little nixers: €500/€550 a month

Monthly expenses

Transport: €0 (my husband has a car that I’m insured on)

Mortgage: €0

Loan repayment: €1,000 – my dad loaned us a good sum of money to buy the business along with inheritance and personal and business savings. I’ve started to pay back his loan monthly with no interest over the next eight years

Household bills: €0 – my husband pays €300 every two months on electricity, and gas is plumbed from our boiler downstairs so whenever the lads have the heat on in the business, our radiators get a bit too. This is usually just an hour in the morning and an hour at night. We have a pellet stove though and it costs us about €60 a month to run

Phone bill: €0 – paid through my business

Health insurance: €118 

Groceries: Usually €100

Subscriptions: Spotify – €11, Canva – €23, Patreon – €5

Savings: €100

Runaway fund: €100 (something my dad instilled in us when we were younger was to always have a small cash amount called a “runaway fund” in case shit hits the fan and you’ve got to get out. I’ve religiously put at least €100 a month into it since I was 18. It’s been a saving grace in the last year when things got super tight in business. I was able to use a portion of it to pay suppliers off so I could still trade and kept the lights on more than once

Dog walker: €30 a week (I split this with my husband so €15)

***

Monday

7.30 am: Alarm goes off and I’m actually already awake thinking about the week ahead and dreading it to be honest… so I need to get out of the bed shower and just get on with it as it’s only going to be harder if I stay in bed any longer.

8.00 am: I head downstairs to work. I’m incredibly lucky that my commute to work only takes 30 seconds. We bought a disused pub during the height of Covid and converted the old nightclub that was upstairs into a little three-bed apartment for us to live in so that we could afford to pay for the building and not have two mortgages.

9.00 am: My service kitchen is set up and all my morning prep and pastries are done. I grab a coffee and head upstairs to the prep kitchen to check over the orders and make sure everything is going to go as smoothly as it can for the weekend. While I’m up there, I start making the brioche for the week this dough is used in our bread for French toast and for our cinnamon rolls.

11.00 am: Orders are coming in on service downstairs so I run back down and do the lunch service.

2.00 pm: Lunch is beginning to calm down, so I begin to clean.

3.30 pm: I get the prep bits ready for the morning and loose ends in the kitchen tied up.

4.10 pm: I’ve met the general manager in the office to count the safe and do lodgement and then divide the staff tips and pop them away for everyone.

5.00 pm: Head upstairs to shower and relax for the evening. I honestly don’t want to do anything as I’m just so worn out and tired from last week.

5.30 pm: Scan my bank account to see what hidden things I’ve been hit with this week. See Spotify has come out (€10.99) and my VHI (€118).

7.00 pm: I need to get washing done and stop being so lazy. Load in the washing machine and I suggest we get an Indian for tea as I just can’t bring myself to cook. It’s possibly the worst thing about being a chef – after the long hours, you really never want to cook at home, and if you do, it’s mostly beans, baked potatoes or sausage sandwiches. Ask any chef at home cooking, it just doesn’t happen unless they have more than two days off. I pay for dinner (€40).

8.00 pm: We pop on the new Grand Tour show as we are big Top Gear fans.

10.00 pm: Heading to bed, tired and becoming overwhelmed with emotion over just the sheer workload and pressure that myself and my husband are under at the moment. I can deal with it most of the time but we really want to start a family soon and I worry about how we would balance everything.

Today’s total: €168.99

Tuesday

8.00 am: Alarm goes off. I get up, shower and bring my dogs out for a run around the block to do their business. The dog walker is coming today so I don’t have to go too far. I leave €30 on the hall stand for the dog walker to pick up on their way out.

9.00 am: I head straight into work. I’ve got a lot of pastry work to try and get ahead in for the week, batching up cookie doughs, brownies, blondies and the cafe pastries. I try to condense this all into one-and-a-half day shifts so I can cover other sections throughout the week and be the cover if something goes wrong – as it always does!

1.00 pm: I nip down for my second coffee and to see how the cafe is doing. Busy, thank God.

5.30 pm: I’ve had enough for one day. I clean up and myself and the kitchen porter deck scrub the upstairs kitchen. All the other staff have left so I don’t have to worry about them standing on the clean floor.

6.00 pm: Home and bring the dogs out really quick. Once I’m home, I dish out their dinner and run for a shower.

7.00 pm: Finish some housework and ring my husband to see where he is with his work. He says he’ll cook. So happy as it’s the last thing I want to do!

9.30 pm: Dinner eaten and we are off to bed. Wrecked.

Today’s total: €30.00

Wednesday

7.30 am: Wake up. I’m not on shift until 1pm today so I bed rot with my two dogs for a while longer.

8.30 am: I get up, brush my teeth, get dressed and bring my dogs out for a 15-minute walk around the block to do their business. As I pass the front door of our cafe, I nip in to say good morning to all the staff and grab a coffee. I end up getting a gut feeling they’re going to be hammered and I know I’ve a few emails to reply to, so I run upstairs to our apartment (we live in a very big old pub, a portion of it is now converted into a house upstairs where we live and some offices which are rented out and the downstairs part has a cafe and a small pub) and get changed into my kitchen gear. Leave the dogs in the house with the TV on and head back downstairs. I open the laptop to finalise a menu for our pop-up at the weekend before I’m being called to help with service as it is getting busy.

11.30 am: I’m in kitchen mode now so I head upstairs to the prep kitchen to finish off yesterday’s baking and batching for the weekend.

12.30 pm: I’ve been snacking on cookie dough for the last ten minutes and need to stop so I grab another coffee (we don’t pay for these THANK GOD) and get straight back to the prep kitchen. Put away some orders and finish icing the little cakes for the coffee bar, do some baking for the weekend ahead.

5.00 pm: I’ve cleaned down my section upstairs and begun getting set up for my pizza shift. It’s Valentine’s, so I know it’ll be a busy one by myself.

6.00 pm: Fire is rippling and I’m set. Cheeky can of Diet Coke (€2 staff button on the till) and a few slices of pepperoni. I’ve recently given up smoking and I’m finding the long days in the kitchen the hardest as usually now I’d have a cigarette and five minutes’ peace and quiet. But instead, I just stand nibbling pepperoni and questioning why I’m doing this at all.

9.45 pm: I’m finished and cleaned down. As I’m calculating how many pizzas I did on a service by myself, I bump into a mate and end up having a pint with him. (€6)

10.30 pm: I call it a day and head upstairs for a shower. Watch some Great British Menu and eat some leftovers my husband left. I’m in bed and asleep by 11.15 pm.

Today’s total: €8.00

Thursday

9.30 am: It’s my only day off this week so I slept on until 9am. I shower and get out the door with the dogs for a little walk.

10.00 am: As I pass the door of the cafe, I pop in for a cheeky coffee and for a little cold sausage for the doggies for being good boys on their walk.

11.00 am: House is a bomb, so I start folding clothes and doing some washing when my husband gets in from work. He started at 4am. We agree to go for a sauna and burger as it’s our only time together this week.

1.00 pm: We drive to Dublin for a sauna (€12). Once that’s finished, we go to BuJo for a burger (€16).

4.00 pm: Back home and get a call from one of the chefs to come in for a chat about a dinner we are hosting together tomorrow night. End up doing a little prep to get myself out of the weeds for tomorrow.

6.00 pm: Husband offers to take me out for dinner as we haven’t seen much of each other this week with both our work schedules. He pays, thank God.

10.00 pm: Home and off to bed.

Today’s total: €28.00

Friday

7.30 am: Alarm goes off and I hop into the shower.

8.15 am: In to work. I go and grab a coffee straight away as I know it’s going to be a heavy day between prep and service. Coffee drank, I get straight into prepping.

5.30 pm: Finish prepping for the dinner service and run downstairs to set up. Guests are arriving from 6.30 pm so just finish everything that needs to be done.

6.00 pm: Quick staff meeting and service begins.

11.45 pm: I’m just mopping the kitchen floor and realise I haven’t drunk or eaten today with how much was on my plate and remind myself that I’ve got to stop doing double shifts. I have a half pint (€3.80) with the FOH manager and supervisor and go home to bed.

Today’s total: €3.80

Saturday

7.30 am: Alarm and straight up and get ready for work. The husband is off today so I leave the dogs in bed with him snoring away. Today is our busiest day on paper, but usually the easiest as everything is prepared and organised so well that there are never usually any hiccups.

9.00 am: First coffee is gulped and I’m asking for another. I think my saving grace is good coffee and the fact I get to drink it for free. All our staff get free coffee but pay for food and any other drink, including alcohol.

2.00 pm: I blink and the brunch service has come and gone nearly. It’s begun to quieten down so I decide to leave the other chef on service and I run upstairs to get a deep clean done on the prep kitchen.

5.00 pm: I’m clocking out and heading home. This week is beginning to catch up on me and I’m starting to feel really tired and fed up so hoping I can just chill on the couch for the evening.

5.45 pm: Get a phone call from one of the pizza chefs that the delivery driver isn’t coming in, so I run for a shower and head right back downstairs.

6.15 pm: I’m delivering the first round of pizzas.

9.00 pm: Done and dusted – and I managed to get upstairs halfway through for dinner too, which was a delicious roast pork belly from the village butchers in Ranelagh. Because we are so busy with work, we try to eat good quality, organic food, which is expensive, but thankfully there’s only two of us and due to work, we only get a meal a day at home. My biggest food issue is picking when I’m in the kitchens in work, so I always feel full, but never get to stop, sit and eat something proper.

10.00 pm: I am shattered and decide to go to bed. I’m out like a light.

Today’s total: €0.00

Sunday

7.30 am: Alarm starts ringing. It’s been such a long week that I snooze it and end up getting up at 8.15 am.

8.30 am: I end up regretting that lie-on as I’m now running late for work. I’m always late, even though I live upstairs. It’s comical, to be honest.

8.40 am: Grab a coffee and have a little whine and a moan to our barista that I’m super tired and about last night’s no show, and we joke about what will go wrong today.

9.00 am: Rushing around to set up for brunch service, and nab another coffee.

2.00 pm: Brunch was MANIC. Like crazy town, queues out the door. It was great, but it is quieting down now, so I run and grab the laptop to place our weekly orders and fill out the HACCP from today and look over some till reports.

3.00 pm: Barman hasn’t arrived for his shift and when contacted, seems to have taken the day off, so I’m now rushing to set up the bar and work that section for the evening.

8.00 pm: Really good service and sold out of pizzas in two hours. I also got to see what issues have been arising in the bar that need to be fixed. Husband makes burgers for dinner and drops one in to me in work. It was delish.

10.00 pm: I’m home going to shower and go to bed.

Today’s total: €0.00

Weekly subtotal: €238.79

***

What I learned –

  • Keeping this diary has opened my eyes as to how much I’m working at the moment and I’m beginning to realise it’s not healthy at all.
  • I’m prioritising working and trying to make my business work over my relationship with my husband, friends and family as I don’t ever leave myself with any time to see them.
  • I spend very little money from day-to-day because of the hours I’m working, and my husband really does support both of us at the moment. I know he finds it tough as he also has to save and pay for our lifestyle, and we are so lucky he has a full-time, well paid job in engineering. The old pub houses not only our food and business, but we live in the old nightclub that was upstairs. We converted that space with money he made on the profit of his first house. Without my husband’s help we would have lost the business by now and probably been forced to sell the business which is also our home.
  • It really is a struggle for small business owners at the moment, but life changes and I know it’s not forever. My goal for this year is either to take a wage from the business again or reduce my working hours. Hopefully that can be achieved.

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