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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 21 January, 2020

How I Spend My Money: A civil servant on €34,000 doing a lot of late nights to study a part-time course

She shares a lot of expenses with her fiancé through their joint account.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on that runs on Wednesdays and Sundays and looks at what people in Ireland really do with their cash.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of how much they earn, how much they save, if anything, and what they spend their money on over the course of one week. Want to take part? Details on how to do it are at the bottom of the piece.

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.  

At the weekend, an entrepreneur living in Dublin talked about the hours she puts into her business and volunteering in her spare time. Today, a civil servant with a seven-year-old daughter talks about her spending in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 


Occupation: Civil servant
Age: 33
Location: Dublin suburbs and working in city centre
Salary: €34,000
Monthly pay (net): €2,400

Monthly expenses
Mortgage: €1,200 (split between myself and my fiancé)
Household bills: €200 (that covers gas, electricity, bins. Myself and my fiancé split the cost)
Transport: Train/bus (€150), parking (€80-€100), car insurance (€85), petrol (€30)
Phone bill: €60
Health insurance: €0 (cost to me is €0 as it’s benefit-in-kind for my fiancé)
Groceries: €400-€500 (split between myself and my fiancé). We usually do one ‘big shop’ every weekend which can be anything from €60 to €120, depending on what’s needed. Then we top up with a small shop or two during the week.
Life insurance: €28 (this comes from my own account and is something I set up a few years ago to provide for my daughter in case anything happens to me)
Subscriptions: Spotify (€9.99), ToucanBox (€13.80), Kindle Unlimited (€6.99), Microsoft Office (€7), Medium (€5), Irish Times (€16)
Childcare: €200 (split between myself and my fiancé)

I’m a civil servant living on the outskirts of Dublin with my fiancé and my seven-year-old daughter. We bought a house together about a year ago. It was a new build so some of the deposit came from the Help to Buy scheme.

We got engaged recently and have started planning our wedding. The bulk of savings for this is coming from a stock options scheme my fiancé has in his job.

He works for a US multinational and so his job comes with a lot of benefits – stock options, an annual bonus, health insurance, company phone and the option of working from home whenever he wants to. In comparison, I don’t get anything similar, but having been a single parent in the past, it’s much more important for me to have job security.

I get paid every fortnight and €550 from each paycheck goes into our joint account straight away. This helps cover any shared expenses like car parking and home insurance – which cropped up this week.



7:30am – Up and atom. Breakfast for me is porridge, which I’m sure would taste lovely but I’m too busy helping my daughter work through a meltdown to eat it. Thankfully, she calms down quickly and is happy to go into school. We’ve missed the train, but I park at the station anyway (€4.50) and get the bus into work, making it in shortly before 10:00am. I can start work anytime between 8:00am and 10:00am. Having a child with autism can make ordinary mornings unpredictable so the flexibility is invaluable. My throat and ear have been sore for the last few days, so on the way into work, I book a doctor’s appointment in a walk-in clinic around the corner from the office.

11:30am – I see the GP (€60) and visit the pharmacy (€15.90). On the way back to the office, I grab coffee and a muffin (€4).

1:30pm – I buy lunch in the local shop (€8.29) and bring it back to my desk, where I browse some of the news sites. Most days, I take a half-hour lunch so there’s not enough time to do much more than this.

5:00pm – I leave work. Normally I stay until 6:00pm every day, but I’ve a meeting to get to this evening. I top up my Leap Card on the way to the train (€20). I collect my daughter from my parents and we get home at about 6:30pm.

8:00pm – Back home after the meeting and have dinner (shepherd’s pie), which my fiancé cooked while I was out. I get my daughter to bed and then it’s time for some study. Under a refund of fees scheme, work is funding a part-time course for me. It’s online, so I’m able to study in my own time, but I’ve learned that if I slack off for even a couple of days, making it up can be quite stressful. I try and stay on top of it by doing some study nearly every day.

11:30pm – Study done and we watch some TV before heading to bed.

Today’s total: €108.19 (and €4.50 from joint account)


7:50am – Breakfast is porridge again, which I’m able to eat this morning (hooray). Parking at the train station is €4.50 again and by 9:30am I’m in work.

10:30am – I nip across the road and get a coffee (€2.50).

1:00pm – Lunchtime. I head to the nearest Boots and pick up a meal deal (€5), Strepsils, and some other toiletries (€15.02).

6:00pm – Time to leave work. My fiancé is out this evening, so I get the train to the car, drive to my parents, pick up my daughter and we’re home by 7:30pm. Dinner is leftover shepherd’s pie from yesterday. We usually meal plan at the start of the week, and because there’s only two of us eating at home Monday to Friday, we find it easiest during the week to cook a four-portion meal every second night.

8:00pm – I see an ad on Facebook for a Christmas event that I think my daughter would like. I order tickets for the three of us to go in mid-December (€15). By 9:00pm, she has settled down to sleep and I can start to get some study done.

Today’s total: €37.52 (and €4.50 from joint account)


7:20am – Breakfast is toast, Ibuprofen and tea. After the school run, it’s the usual – park at the train station (€4.50), get the train to work and I’m in at about 9:40am.

11:00am – Coffee and a muffin (€4).

1:30pm – I brought my lunch with me today, so I take half an hour to eat and browse the internet. Our home insurance is due for renewal, but the quote we got is nearly twice what we paid last year. I manage to find us a cheaper quote that’s for a better policy (€361).

6:00pm – Time to leave work. We get home about 7:15pm. My fiancé cooks while I catch up on some laundry.

9:00pm – By the time my daughter’s in bed, I’m exhausted. I sleep for an hour, but by 10:30pm, I’m awake again and at my desk. I spend about an hour and a half working before heading back to bed for the night.

Today’s total: €4 (and €365.50 from joint account)


7:45am – It’s my turn to head out this evening, so I leave the car at home. My fiancé is working from home today, so he brings the munchkin to school and I’m able to leave the house that bit earlier. I get the bus into work.

11:00am – I head to the canteen and buy a large americano, a small bar and a medium banana (€4). I usually tell myself that buying coffee every day is my only ‘treat’, but I think this money diary is proving the opposite.

12:00pm – Payday today so I check my online banking and start to move funds around. I put €100 into savings and clear off my credit card balance (€140.33) – this is made up of online shopping and subscriptions. Some of the online shopping was for Christmas/birthday presents for other people, but a good chunk of it was on a home testing DNA kit. It had been at the back of my mind to buy one for a while now, so when I saw one on sale with a discount during the Black Friday madness, I went for it.

1:00pm – I brought my lunch in again today, so I eat my sandwich and browse some news sites. The Irish Times has an article advising against buying home testing DNA kits because of ethical concerns. Oh.

6:30pm – I meet some friends for dinner (€31.95). None of us feel up to a late evening, so I’m on the bus by 9:30pm and home by 10:30pm.

Today’s total: €176.28 (Ouch!)


7:30am – The usual routine. I buy coffee on my way into the office (€2.10).

1:00pm – I have a lunchtime yoga class (€8). I brought my lunch in again today, so no cost.

6:00pm – Time to leave work. I need to top up my Leap Card again (€20). I collect my daughter and get home about 7:15pm. My fiancé is at another one of his hobbies this evening, so I cook dinner. Chicken, rice and veg – nothing too fancy.

9:15pm – Herself is in bed with the lights off. The Toy Show is on tonight, but letting her stay up to watch it wouldn’t be a good idea. She finds it much harder to handle her emotions when she’s tired, so one late night could badly affect the whole weekend. Instead, I settle down to study. 

Today’s total: €22.10 (and €4.50 from joint account)


8:00am – We’re woken by my daughter charging downstairs to see if the Elf on the Shelf has come back. It has.

10:30am – I head to the supermarket to do the weekly shop. It’s an expensive shop this week as we’re having people round to dinner tomorrow. The total comes to €123.34 but I have €11.50 in vouchers, so the actual spend is €111.84.

12:00pm – I get home to find that the pair of them have put up the Christmas tree while I was at the shops. The three of us spend an hour or two decorating it.

4:00pm – We have a nice afternoon watching the Toy Show and just generally taking it easy. I cook a prawn stir-fry and after dinner we start tidying the house. Even though we moved in nearly a year ago, there’s still a lot to do. We only bought bookshelves a few weeks ago, so the boxes of books are still being unpacked.

8:00pm – Bath and bedtime for one of us – unfortunately not me. By 9:30pm, my daughter has settled down to sleep and I’m back at my desk. The work is paying off though. I’m close to reaching the halfway-point of the assignment I’m working on so I’m pleased with how the evening goes.

12:00am – Bed.

12:05am – I remember there’s a pile of clothes in the washing machine that need to be thrown into the tumble dryer.

12:15am – Bed.

12:20am – I forgot the bloody Elf on the Shelf.

12:22am – Bed.

Today’s total: €0 (and €111.84 from joint account)


8:30am – I am blessed with a child who doesn’t wake at the crack of dawn. It’s after 8:30am when she wakes us up to see what the elf has been up to.

11:00am – I start preparing dinner, while himself gets stuck into cleaning the house. I realise that I forgot to buy carrots yesterday, so he’s dispatched to the local Dunnes to buy a bag of carrots and some pepper (€4.74).

6:00pm – Our guests leave and I sit down with my daughter to start on her letter to Santa. She keeps leaving the Smyths catalogue open on a certain page, and after much coaxing, she eventually tells me that she would like a particular PJ Masks toy. She carefully cuts it out of the catalogue and sticks the picture to her Santa letter.

8:15pm – Bedtime duty is handed over to the other adult in the house so I can start studying that bit earlier. Halfway through, I get distracted during a quick Facebook break when I see an ad for a personalised book. A couple of clicks later and I’ve ordered it. Plus another book from the same company that I think she’d like. The total is over €60 but I put these on my credit card, so it’ll be another week or two before I pay for them.

10:30pm – An early night, for a change. The weekend has gone by way too fast. 

Today’s total: €0 (and €4.74 from joint account)

Weekly subtotal: €348.09 (and €495.58 from joint account)

What I’ve learned:

  • I hadn’t realised how much I was spending on subscriptions until I wrote them all down. It’s easy to keep thinking that a fiver here or €7 there won’t matter, but they do add up. I’m going to review them to see which ones I’m still using and if any of them can be cancelled.
  • Online shopping is dangerous. I tend to think much more carefully about buying something if it’s in front of me, but when it’s online, it’s easy to buy without really thinking it through. 

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 

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