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How I Spend My Money: A secondary school teacher in Meath on €41,000 who saved up to buy her mother an apartment back home

She balances her saving plans with a healthy social life.

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.  

During the week, an Irish man working for a multinational company in Paris talked about how living abroad helps him save. Today, a teacher commuting between Dublin and Meath talks about how she balances saving money with her social life. 


Occupation: Secondary school teacher
Age: 31
Location: Dublin (I commute to work in Meath)
Salary: €41,367
Monthly pay (net): €2,374.44

Monthly expenses
Rent and internet: €500 (€1,000 in total and split evenly with my flatmate)
Personal loan: €418.02 (until December 2019)
Household bills: Electricity (€35)
Transport: €150 to €200 (my weekly Leap Card top up costs €50)
Phone bill: €20
Health insurance: €0 (No private health insurance)
Groceries: €100
Gym membership: €80
Subscriptions: None
Belly dance classes: €65
Savings: €300

I’ve been living in Ireland for seven years and share a two-bedroom apartment in the city centre with one flatmate. I finished a PhD few months ago and am happy to be graduating soon. At the moment I’m quite fed up with academia, so not sure whether I will continue with it or not.

Over the last five years while studying, I have been teaching in a secondary school in Meath and commuting to work by bus. I’ve been renting the same apartment in Dublin city centre for six years and very lucky to have it at this price. Having said that, I’m constantly in fear my landlord might increase the rent. It’s a small apartment in one of the Georgian houses in Dublin 1 and it’s quite old and cold.

I know I will not be able to find anything else for this price, and the city centre location is perfect for me. Commuting to work is expensive and frustrating since the bus is frequently delayed/cancelled, on the bright side, it gives me the opportunity to read. Despite my work being far from town, I would not consider moving out from the city centre as I enjoy going out and having the kind of social life one can have in Dublin. I just passed the driver theory test though, so hopefully I can get a car and start driving to work soon.

Last year I spent all my savings to buy an apartment in my home country where my mum lives. It cost €30,000. Considering the prices here, it would not even be enough for the deposit. I had €20,000 in savings and took a €10,000 personal loan to add to my savings and get an apartment there because I don’t want my mum to worry about having to pay rent as she gets older. And buying a property at home was a smart move as the prices are currently really low. I know most people think their mums are the best, but mine actually is. She is the most amazing person who has sacrificed her life for her children and getting her a small apartment is the least I could do for her.

I’m planning to change job in the next few years, but for now I’m quite happy with it. It’s a very small school and I teach small groups of students, so I don’t spend hours planning, correcting exam papers, etc.

I love travelling and try to go on small trips during the school holidays and on one bigger trip outside Europe once a year. This year I’m heading to Peru for two weeks and am very excited about it!



6:30am – My alarm goes off and I get up to quickly get ready and leave for the bus stop. Lessons in the school where I work start one hour earlier in comparison to most other schools, but I usually finish early too, so no complaints. On Mondays, I’m at work till 2:50pm. I usually have breakfast at 9:30am on my first break and lunch at 1:00pm.

3:00pm – On my way to Dublin, I go to Lidl for my weekly shopping. It costs me €19.66 since I already have few things at home. Every time I go there, I keep telling myself I need to find a local market and get my fruit and veg from there instead, but have not done so yet.

5:40pm – I have dinner quite early today and go to gym for a boxing class and then to the belly dance lesson. Since I won’t be able to go to gym tomorrow, I decided to do it today even though it’s quite tiring to go to both classes in one evening.

8:30pm – I head home after the dance class, watch a film and buy travel insurance (€25.47) for my upcoming trip to Peru. I usually don’t bother with insurance, but this trip is more of a hiking trip and since the insurance is not too dear I decide to get it.

11:00 pm – I head to bed.

Today’s total: €45.13


6:30am – Alarm goes off. I’m at work at 8:10am to start with my lessons at 8:30am. I have breakfast at 9:30am again and finish work at 12:45pm.

2:00pm – I arrive home, have lunch and relax for about two hours.

4:00pm – I leave home to go get a face cream which costs €24.60, but when looking for my card I realise I have a gift voucher and use it to pay for the cream. I also go to the library to borrow a book.

4:30pm – After leaving the library, I meet up with two friends. We’re going to watch a Peruvian film that is on for free in the Spanish language centre today at 6:00pm. Before it we go for dinner in a new Chinese restaurant – one of them pays for our meal.

9:00pm – I get home and Skype with a friend.

11:00pm – Bedtime.

Today’s total: €0


6:30am – I get up at the same time today as well and reach work at 8:15am. Some Wednesdays we have teacher meetings after school, so I stay at work till 3:00pm – luckily today there are no meetings. I love teaching but really hate the meetings. Most of the time I feel like I’m just wasting my time. I have breakfast during my 15-minute break again and feel so happy about my job since I had some great conversations with my students today.

12:45pm – I leave work to go get the bus to Dublin. On my way home, I go to a key cutting shop and buy a door lock for the bathroom door I broke last week when I got locked in. It was a bit of a thriller with a good ending for me, but not so much for the beetroot burgers that got burnt while I was trying to get out. The part of the lock that broke costs me €9.95.

2:30pm – I arrive home, have lunch, replace the door lock and cook dinner for later.

5:00pm – I meet up with a friend in my neighbourhood café where I have a chai latte, which costs €4.45.

6:30pm – After chatting with my friend, I get home and eat quickly before my language exchange class starts.

7:00pm – A friend gets to my place for a two-hour weekly language exchange class we are doing. I think it’s a great way to learn a language.

9:30pm – After the lesson, my plan is to go to bed early, but another friend – who is going through a lot lately – needs some company. So I go to her place and since she had no dinner, on my way to her place I pick up her favourite takeaway, which costs €24.

12.30am – I return home a bit after midnight and go to bed at 1:00am.

Today’s total: €38.40


6:30am – Waking up this morning was a bit tricky. I’m at work till 1:40pm, but one of my lessons gets cancelled. So I do some planning work I need to get done for the next week’s classes. Breakfast is at 9:30am as usual and I also manage to have a quick lunch at 1:00pm.

1:40pm – I leave work and head to the hairdresser. It costs me €45, but it’s totally worth it! I find it more relaxing to go to the hairdresser near where I work since I don’t need to book an appointment and it’s a bit cheaper than Dublin.

3:40pm – I get home and take a nap for 30 minutes, tidy up a bit and have dinner I made yesterday.

5:30pm – I leave home to meet up with a friend and we head to the National Gallery to attend an event we bought tickets for last week. We run into friends there and decide to have some Moroccan snacks and tea at a nearby Moroccan restaurant. We each pay €12 for the bill.

1:00am – I come home shortly after the midnight and go to bed at 1:00am. 

Today’s total: €57


6:30am – I get up early again and think how nice it would be to start work an hour later. My usual breakfast is at 9:30am and then lessons till 12:45pm.

12:45pm – I leave work to get the bus to Dublin. On my way home I stop at a newsagent to buy something sweet. After fighting with myself, I end up buying strawberries and not chocolate, which is what I really wanted. I also top up my leap card by €40 (I still have €10 on it). So I pay €44 for both the strawberries and the Leap Card top up.

2:45pm – I get home, have lunch and clean the house. With my flatmate we have agreed to take turns with cleaning and this week it’s my turn.

5:30pm – I leave home to attend a film premiere at IFI with a friend. She absolutely adores the director of this film, and today he is attending the Q&A. So I bought us two tickets last week, which was a great idea, and my friend was delighted!

9:00pm – After the film, we go to an Italian restaurant for some pizza and beer and pay €20 each.

12:30am – I get home shortly after midnight and go to bed.

Today’s total: €64


8:30am – I wake up without the alarm today, which is fantastic.

11:00am – I make myself some breakfast and head to my belly dance class – it’s so enjoyable!

1:00pm – I head to the gym after to attend a boxing class and when it’s done, I relax in the gym’s Jacuzzi.

3:30pm – On my way home, I stop by Lidl to get few things I need for a dish I’m bringing to a friend’s place tomorrow. Since I’m already there, I decide to do my weekly shopping that will cover me until next Friday. I’m on my holidays for a week after that and will be away. I pay €24.71 for it and then come home to have lunch, cook the dish I’m bringing to my friends place tomorrow, work on an academic article I’m planning to publish and relax a bit.

7:00pm – I leave home. First I buy a bottle of wine which costs €14.99 and then I head to the theatre to attend a dystopian play with some friends. Our friend is doing marketing for this theatre so she got us free tickets. The play was interesting, but there was a disturbing death scene in it which I won’t be able to forget for few weeks.

9:20pm – After the play, we go to a social centre – where I do some volunteering work – to attend a BYOB party and I share my bottle of wine with some friends.

2:30am – I come home and sleep. 

Today’s total: €39.70


10:00am – I wake up and have breakfast while I Skype with my cousin. I do a bit of planning for the coming week for school and some organising for a group that I’m volunteering for.

12:30pm – I go to gym for the usual boxing class. After the boxing class I decide to attend an aerobics class too so I can feel less guilty about the tons of food I’m gonna eat later on today.

3:30pm – I collect the aubergine dish I cooked to bring to my friend’s place and head over for dinner.

8:30pm – After eating loads, I get back home with a full belly thinking it cannot be a coincidence that all my friends are great cooks. I watch a travel show about food in Peru as well and chat with my mum.

10:00pm – I go to bed early today to be ready for the last week before the midterm break.

Today’s total: €0

Weekly subtotal: €244.23

What I’ve learned:

  • I’m quite disciplined when it comes to eating healthy the last few weeks, hopefully I can keep it up.
  • I noticed that on weekdays I ate super quickly every day and I guess I do the same all other weeks. I think I should try to change this.
  • I go out a lot during the weekdays, but I’m not going out to pubs to get drunk. I really enjoy attending different cultural events and meeting up with my friends. Do I want to change this? Not really. 
  • At the moment I put away €300 per month. After I pay off the €418 personal loan in December 2019, I would like to start saving more and ideally get a mortgage before I turn 35. I know it will be difficult, especially if I have to move out and pay more rent, so I might have to say no to several things I love – like travelling often. Or perhaps I will be lucky to find a partner who is sound and wants to live with me and share the mortgage with him, who knows.
  • At some point I guess it would be sensible to start paying for a private health insurance, even though I really don’t want to.
  • In general I’m very happy with my life, I just wish the housing situation in the country would improve.

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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