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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019

How I Spend My Money: A teacher in Westmeath on €47,000 who wants to put an end to her costly commute

She commutes to the capital daily and spends nearly €30 a week on tolls.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on that 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.  

Previously, a marketing analyst in Dublin talked about how she plans to up her saving this year. Today, a teacher in Westmeath who moved away from Dublin writes about commuting costs and plans to buy a house. 


Occupation: Teacher
Age: 30
Location: Westmeath/Dublin
Salary: €47,000
Monthly pay (net): €2,700

Monthly expenses
Rent: €525
Household bills: Electricity (€100), Sky tv (€25) and broadband (€25)
Transport: Petrol (€450)
Phone bill: €45
Health insurance: €75
Gym membership: €24
Groceries: €250 (or €500 between myself and my husband)
Subscriptions: Netflix (€4.50)

I live in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. I currently rent a three-bedroom house with my husband for €1,050 per month. We were renting in Dublin until a year ago and were paying €1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment.

We moved to Mullingar because it’s where we both grew up and are currently trying to buy a house. I work as a primary school teacher in Dublin and drive to work daily. My husband works as an engineer in Athlone.

Our rent in Mullingar is cheaper, but my commuting costs are very high. So I don’t think I save much more than I did by living in Dublin. Commuting is very expensive and very tiring. 

I save €800 per month. We have enough saved for a house deposit and will hopefully buy in the next few months.



I wake up at 6:45am – I hate getting up so early. I quickly get ready and am out the door by 7:10am. I have a one-hour commute to work in Dublin. I go through the M4 toll twice a day, which costs €5.80 in total.

I exit the motorway at Leixlip and drive the back roads to where I work – if I stayed on the motorway it would take much longer due to traffic and I’d also have to pay the M50 toll – so this is handier.

I get to work at 8:10am and have breakfast in the staffroom. I bring in either porridge or eggs and make them in the microwave. Most staff commute at least 30 minutes to work and eat breakfast in the staffroom.

Work starts at 8:30am and I’m rushed off my feet all day. We have a 10-minute break at 10:30am – I just have a cup of coffee that’s provided in the staffroom. All staff have to pay €11 per month for tea, coffee, sugar and milk.

Lunch is at 12:30pm and since we’re not allowed leave the premises in case there was an emergency, everyone has a packed lunch. Today I have a chicken stir-fry with rice, which I made last night. I would love to be able to go out for lunch, but I suppose packed lunches are healthier and saves money.

Work is officially over at 3:00pm, but I stay for one-hour to correct copies and prepare work for the next day. I always leave by 4:00pm at the latest to beat the bad traffic. I have a one-hour drive home and stop for groceries in Mullingar.

I shop in Lidl and spend €40 on stuff for the next few days. This is quite cheap as we don’t need much – usually this would be €50-€60. I also get petrol (€64), which will last about four days. Once home, I watch some TV and then make dinner. Tonight it’s lasagne with salad, which I eat with my husband. After dinner, I go for a run and then relax for the evening at home.

Today’s total: €109.80


During the week, my life is very samey. I’m up again at 6.45am, drive to work and pay tolls of €2.90 each way (€5.80).

Breakfast is scrambled eggs with toast, which I make at work. Today I’m on yard duty and don’t get a lunch break, so I eat sandwiches quickly before I head out for yard duty. I finish at 3:00pm, correct copies and prepare work until 3:30pm.

I head to a café with some teachers for a coffee. I have a flat white (€3.20) and a scone (€2.40). I leave at 4:45pm and it takes a bit longer to get home at this later time.

At home, I do some more corrections while my husband makes dinner with the groceries bought yesterday. Today it’s chicken fajitas with guacamole. We have these with some wine, which my husband picked up at the corner shop. Afterwards, we bring our dog out for a long walk and call into my parents house for a cup of tea and chat before bed.

Today’s total: €11.40


Up at 6:45am and go through tolls on way to work (€5.80). I have a toll tag, so it’s all automatic which is handy.

Breakfast at work is porridge with banana. Lunch today is a sandwich again as I run a choir rehearsal during lunchtime. I really hate missing my lunch break two days a week because the day is so hectic.

After work, I correct until 3:50pm and drive home. Once home, I go straight to the gym. I have a yearly membership and go three times a week. I make beef curry and rice for dinner afterwards. We try to make all our food from scratch since it’s healthier and tastes better. After dinner, my husband and I walk the dog before watching some Netflix.

Today’s total: €5.80


Same midweek routine of commuting – so €5.80 for tolls – and breakfast at work. For lunch today, I have homemade soup and brown bread.

After work, I head home and go to the gym. My husband makes dinner – salmon with noodles. We go to the cinema after and tickets are €9.80 each. I buy a small popcorn (€4.50).

Today’s total: €20.10


It’s finally Friday. The traffic on Friday morning is always lighter – I think a lot of people avoid driving into Dublin because the traffic on Friday evening is horrendous. I always get a Friday cappuccino once I’m near work – it costs €3.45. Also, I’ve got the €2.90 toll – so €5.80 in total for the day.

At work, I drink my coffee with my porridge that I make in the staffroom. For lunch I have a chicken salad that I made at home. I try to leave straight after work on Fridays to avoid the bad traffic. As a teacher, luckily I finish early so I only have to deal with rush hour traffic in the mornings.

I get home early and pick up some groceries for the weekend (€50). That night, I meet my friends in the pub for a few drinks. I have three drinks, which costs €19. We get a taxi home and the split is €7 each. 

Today’s total: €85.25


I wake up early and go to the gym. On the way home, I get the Saturday paper €2.90 and petrol €63. At home, my husband cooks a fry, which we eat while reading the paper. After breakfast, we tidy up the house a bit and watch TV. Then we bring the dog for a walk over to my in-law’s house.

On Saturday evening we stay home, relax and we cook dinner together. Tonight we have steak and afterwards watch Netflix for the evening.

Today’s total: €65.90


Today I’m going to a dress fitting because I’m a bridesmaid for my friend in a few months. After the fitting, we go for lunch in Athlone (€15). When we’re finished I have a look around the shops in Athlone and buy a winter coat in Penneys for €24.

Today’s total: €39

Weekly subtotal: €337.25

What I’ve learned:

  • The first thing I learned is how much I spend on petrol and tolls – the amount is far too much. The petrol is crippling, so I need to buy a diesel or hybrid car soon. The tolls are also huge when I look at the price per week. We were living in Dublin until last year so commuting is still new to me.
  • We hope to buy a house soon and once we have the house I think I will try to find a new job closer to home. I would be paid the same, but have no commuting costs. However, it’s difficult to find a full-time job in teaching, so I’ll have to see how it goes.
  • I also think I have quite a boring diet. Apart from a few coffees, I make most of my food at home. This is partly due to my job. There’s no food places near my work, so I can’t grab a takeaway breakfast or lunch easily. It’s cheap to bring my own food though, and healthier too.
  • We love living in Mullingar and being close to family and friends. We loved living in Dublin too and thought we’d miss it a lot, but we really don’t miss it that much. The only thing I miss is the variety of restaurants in Dublin – there was always somewhere new to try. Mullingar has a lot less variety. 
  • This week I was fairly busy with a few things such as a dress fitting and drinks on Friday night. These would not be weekly events. Often at the weekend we might just relax around the house more.
  • My savings come out of my account on payday so I don’t get a chance to spend them. This helps me to save because if the money was in my account I’d probably spend it all. I could probably save more, but I want to have a life as well where I can afford to go for a coffee or some drinks if I want to.
  • We’re lucky that both my husband and myself earn decent money so we can afford to save – while still being able to live a bit. We have both been working for nine years full-time. We have a house deposit saved now, but it took us years and years to save up for it. Unfortunately house prices are so high, but we want to buy our own place rather than renting for a few more years.

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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