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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 21 January, 2019
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How I Spend My Money: A Trinity PhD student on a €6,000 stipend who's having second thoughts about moving to Ireland

She gave up work and a good salary in London to study in Dublin.

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

In the last diary, a Sligo-based call centre worker shared how she spends her money. Today, a Trinity PhD student who came to the country earlier this year writes about having second thoughts on her big move. 

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Occupation: PhD student 
Age: 31
Location: Dublin 
Salary: €6,000
Monthly pay (net): €500

Monthly expenses
Rent: €700
Household bills: Included in rent
Transport: €24
Phone bill: £10 (so €11.27) 
Health insurance: None
Groceries: €40
Subscriptions: €0

I moved over from England in March 2018 to start my PhD at Trinity College Dublin and I’m currently renting near Drumcondra.

My PhD is funded and I get paid a small stipend of €500 a month. I’m currently living off savings and credit cards, so my money is quickly running out.

Every month I reconsider my decision to come to Dublin, give up work and a good salary. This makes me very sensitive to criticism and I’m always on the verge of chucking it all in and returning home. 

I’ve gone home for a few weeks over Christmas and will have a serious rethink of my choice and if all of these sacrifices are really worth it. Maybe I won’t come back.

***

Monday

I try to treat my studies like work, so I’m in complete control of my schedule. I have a desk at college and do six- or seven-hour days. I set my alarm for 7.45am, listen to the radio for the news at 8:00am and then make breakfast – tea and porridge. The porridge is fantastic because it keeps me full until at least 1:00pm.

I walk into college, which takes about 40 minutes. I can’t afford the bus every day, but that’s no harm because the walk is good exercise.

I get to my desk at 10:00am and sit for the rest of the day researching, writing essays and reading. Thankfully this week I don’t have a deadline, so I’m feeling less stressed than usual.

I’ll wait until I feel really hungry before eating lunch, which today is at 2:00pm.

I always bring my own lunch. Yesterday I roasted a chicken, which cost €2.99, and will last virtually all week. For today, I’ve made a chicken salad and brought an apple as well.

This evening I’ve got a free training course at college, which ends at 8:00pm. I walk home and am very hungry by this point. I make a chicken sandwich and go to bed before 10:00pm.

Today’s total: €0

Tuesday

I go through my usual morning routine and get to my desk at 10:30am. I work until lunch at 1:00pm and have a homemade chicken salad and another apple.

I bought biscuits in Dunnes for €0.35 and have a few of them with a cup of tea – tea and coffee is provided at college, thankfully.

I finish working by 7:00pm and walk home. It’s another chicken salad for dinner. My stipend of €500 is paid today.

Today’s total: €0.35

Wednesday

Same morning routine (again) and I arrive to college at 10:00am. Lunch today is a chicken sandwich and an apple, with a few biscuits.

This evening I have a meeting for my research at a coffee shop. A cappuccino costs €3.60, which feels extravagant. I haven’t had a takeaway coffee for so long and I swear they used to be €2.30.

I walk home for dinner and have a chicken stir-fry with the last of my vegetables and a €0.15 packet of noodles (already in the cupboard). I leave enough for lunch tomorrow.

Today’s total: €3.60

Thursday

Same old morning routine and then into college for 10am. Lunch is the leftover stir-fry from last night, two apples and biscuits. I meet a friend for a coffee and cake in KC Peaches. It costs €7.20, which is just ridiculous, but I need to see my friends!

I stay until 7.30pm because M&S reduces its fresh food before closing at 8:00pm. I get reduced potatoes, lettuce, cucumber, a cottage pie and treat myself to a bag of crisps. The total is €3.47.

I notice the woman behind me at the checkout look at my yellow stickers and then at me. I just stare straight back. I refuse to be embarrassed by my situation! I walk home not getting in until nearly 9:00pm. I have my dinner and go to bed, reading for a bit first.

Today’s total: €10.67

Friday

I didn’t make lunch last night so this morning I’m delayed making myself a salad. I don’t get in until 11:00am.

I have a date this evening, so I want to head home beforehand to get ready. At 4:00pm he cancels, which I don’t mind too much because it’ll save me the cost of drinks and a taxi home.

I can’t really afford nights out or dating – so going out with friends is difficult. It’s why I meet people for coffee instead.

Today’s total: €0

Saturday

Weekends are annoying because I can’t afford to go shopping for clothes even though I love fashion. I have a lot of nice outfits from when I worked in London, so I look smart, but if only people knew how little I had to live on!

I try on a gorgeous jumpsuit in Dunnes that’s €35. I can’t afford it and don’t have anywhere to wear it so I put it back. I get the bus home which is €2.15.

I go to a house party in the evening, which didn’t cost anything and get a taxi home for €20.

Today’s total: €22.15

Sunday

I go shopping for groceries today at Aldi. I mainly get fruit and vegetables – I’m careful not to buy anything I won’t eat.

It annoys me that bulk buying is cheaper – I can only carry a few bags home, which means I have to buy less. I can’t buy bags of potatoes, carrots and milk all in one go, for example. The total is €24.57, which will last me two weeks.

I make a chilli con carne, which will last me for three dinners and two lunches in the coming week. I’m asked out for a drink but have to say no – I have spent too much this weekend.

Today’s total: €24.57

Weekly subtotal: €61.34

What I’ve learned:

  • Going out costs so much money and is why I have to turn down invitations to pubs and restaurants. I make a point of meeting friends for coffee because it’s my only extravagance, but even this is becoming too expensive. A half pint of Guinness is cheaper than a cappuccino!
  • I’ve seen how economical I am with food, which is a good thing. I really enjoy cooking and hate waste, so I’m glad I’m able to eat everything I buy.
  • It feels like if I was left to my own devices I would spend very little and that it is socialising which costs a huge amount of money. But I need to see my friends, otherwise I’ll be here on my own and that would be just miserable.
  • There must be some determination in me to stay in Ireland as shown by my frugality towards myself. So I might see it through for another four 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 money@thejournal.ie. 

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