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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 16 December, 2019
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How I Spend My Money: A masters student on €12,000 trying to balance her work, college and social life

The masters student is hoping to help people better understand science.

TheJournal.ie reader

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’ve asked 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. 

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.

Last time, a 32-year-old HR manager in Sligo walked us through his week which involved saving for Christmas. This time, a 24-year-old masters student writes about how she balances work and college life.

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I'm a 24-year-old masters student currently renting in Dublin mid-week and working part-time in Galway at the weekends.

I graduated from college three years ago with a degree in communication studies. Towards the end of my degree I realised marketing and journalism were not where I saw myself in the future. Instead, I took a few years out after college to travel and figure out what direction I would like my career to take. I've always been interested in science and technology but when I was in school STEM industries were presented as a reclusive career where you spent the vast majority of your working life in a lab. I've since realised that isn’t the case and I've decided to try and merge my two loves of science and the media.

Early last year, I decided to take the plunge back to education and applied for a masters. I'm a people person and I see myself helping the public to better understand science and innovation. In the future, maybe a few people may not fall foul of the same misconception of science that I used to have. 

I used to be a decent saver when I worked full-time. Now I just take each week as it comes and I usually take around €350 per month from my savings to supplement my rent/bills but it depends on the month. I'm trying to spend as little as possible from my savings but they've taken a massive hit since I started college. It is not cheap to do a masters!

Occupation: Full-time masters student, part-time restaurant supervisor
Age: 24
Location: Dublin mid-week, Galway at weekends
Salary: €12,000
Monthly pay (net): €1,000 (I don’t get taxed as I earn so little)

Monthly expenses

Transport: €140 on diesel, €30 on Leap card
Rent: €520
Tolls: €55
Household bills: Included in rent
Phone bill: €42.99
Health insurance: n/a
Groceries: €160
Subscriptions: Spotify €4.99, iTunes €2.99

***

Monday

10:00am: My first alarm goes off and I’m slow to get out of bed. I work weekends so I treat Monday as a day to lie in.

12:10pm: I gather myself together and finally make it into college. I head straight for the bank as I’m in the middle of applying for a postgraduate loan and have to meet the manager (again) as there’s a hold-up with my application. My father (who is my loan guarantor) is self-employed so it makes it difficult to gather all the information needed - they always seem to require more and more documents every week. I have a decent amount of savings for someone my age but it is just enough to cover my college fees and a couple of months' rent. It definitely will not be enough to see me through until I finish my masters next September.

12:30pm: As I wait in the bank I’m starting to think I would have been better off financially if I just went on the Jobseekers' Allowance for a year before my masters as I could have been eligible for weekly maintenance when going back to education. Unfortunately, I have far too much pride for that sort of thing and could never dream of being intentionally unemployed as long as I was fit and able-bodied.

1:20pm: I leave the bank feeling dejected and head to the library to try and knuckle down for the day. I have two assignments due over the weekend and another one due next Monday. My entire week is going to be spent within these four walls.

4:15pm: After realising I just spent the last twenty minutes looking at my phone I decide to go for a lunch break and grab a tea (€1.50). I bring my own reusable cup (as college gives a 40c discount) and have brought a lunch with me that I cooked yesterday. Typically I spend a bit too much of my income on food and drink so I try and cut down where I can.

4:45pm: I'm back at my desk and I promise myself I will not leave the library until I have a decent start made on my assignment. Progress is slow today. 

5:45pm: I sprint down to the canteen and buy another tea (€1.50).

9:00pm: I lose the will to live and decide to give up on my assignment. I head home and pick up a few bits for my lunch tomorrow on the way (€6.45). I make dinner, have a chat with my mother over the phone for an hour and decide to watch Netflix (my sister's account) for a little bit.

Today's total: €9.45

Tuesday

8:45am: My first alarm goes off. I'm not the quickest person in the mornings so it takes a while to coax myself out of bed. Eventually I'm up, showered and preparing breakfast and lunch for the day.

12:30pm: I drop off a jumper to be dry cleaned (€7) and pick up some Blistex in the chemist (€4) as my lips are in ribbons with the changeable weather! I make my way to college and settle myself into another exciting library-filled day...

4:40pm: I decide to finally let myself take a lunch break. I’m a terrible procrastinator if I’m not careful with myself. I managed to make decent progress on my assignment this afternoon. I’d be delighted with myself if I manage to get the meat of it finished before the weekend. Here’s to wishful thinking! I eat my lunch from home and grab a tea and a large bottle of water (€3.75), as the boil water notice is still in place in my area.

5:10pm: I’m back at my desk and I find out the boil water notice has finally been lifted. Things like this always remind me how good we have it in Ireland compared to other countries and how we don’t often appreciate the small things day-to-day.

7:00pm: I take a quick 15-minute break and chat to my boyfriend on the phone. I hope I’m able to power through the evening slump and hash out at least another hour of work. 

8:40pm: I decide to call it quits for the day and head home. I’ve made pretty decent progress - another day or two like that and I should be sound. I decide to treat myself to a few bottles of beer (€21). A box usually lasts me a good few weeks so I don’t feel too guilty. 

9:30pm: I make a late dinner, chat to my housemate for an hour and decide to curl up with my book for the night.

Today's total: €35.75

Wednesday

8:45am: My first alarm goes off and I’m slow to get out of bed (no surprise there). I stayed up a little too late reading my book last night as I was reaching the climax. I decide to delay college for a little bit and finish my book. I’m reading Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry so it doesn’t take too long.

11:30am: I’m finally out the door and on my way into college. I had a mini millennial crisis the other day and I promised myself I would head straight to the career services to try and gather some information about my mandatory summer work placement. Turns out they won’t deal with me until after Christmas because my placement isn’t in the next few months. I know I was heading in early but I was so lackadaisical during my undergrad and I really don’t want the same thing to happen again. I really want to try and make full use of all the great services which are available here at college.

12:45pm: Back in the library again for a few hours before my classes in the afternoon. All of my classes are concentrated in two days. Sometimes I wish we had more in-class time but the out-of-class workload we have definitely makes up for it. With only two days in college I try to pick up an extra day of work when I can but it hasn’t been possible lately as I have too much college work to do. I’d rather live a little frugally for a couple of weeks than let my college work suffer.

2:30pm: By some stroke of luck I’m flying through my assignment. I also got a sudden wave of hunger and I end up eating all of my lunch which I brought from home at my desk. I’ll definitely regret that later.

6:30pm: My lecture ran over and it's absolutely disgusting outside. I decide against heading back to the library and go home instead. There’s nothing worse than trying to work in wet clothes.

7:00pm: I get home, shower and start to prepare dinner for myself. I feel guilty about heading home so I sit down and try and do another hour or so of college work.

9:00pm: I leave college work for the night, have a wee chat with my housemate, watch an episode of Mindhunter on Netflix and read my book for the night.

Today's total: €0

Thursday

8:30am: First alarm goes off and I somehow managed to hurt my neck in the middle of the night. I get up, shower and make breakfast.

11:30am: Normally I try and do as much work in college as possible but I decide to do an hour or so work before I head in for class as I'm feeling a small bit lazy today.

1:00pm: I head into college for the day and pick up my dry cleaning on the way. I underestimated the amount of food I needed for lunches this week so I pick up something in the canteen for later on (€2.50).

3:30pm: I have a quick 15-minute class break, so I grab a tea (€1.50) and head back. 

5:00pm: My classmates and I all sit down for a bit to discuss upcoming assignments. I'm glad I don’t feel completely over my head. I grab another tea (€1.50), get my lunch and head to my evening class.

8:00pm: Classes are finished for the day and I decide to try and stay for another hour or so and figure out how to use InDesign. It's software you can use to create and design documents.

9:30pm: My eyes start to hurt so I call it a day. I'm not in the mood to cook dinner so late so I make something small and relax for a while before bed.

Today's total: €5.50

Friday

9:30am: I ended up sleeping in a little later than usual today. The weekends are quite busy for me and it's usually where I do most of my socialising and spend the majority of my money. I scramble together a makeshift breakfast and get myself ready for the day ahead. I had planned to spend the morning doing college work at home but the wi-fi is acting up and my phone signal in this house is terrible (worse here than in rural Ireland) so I have to head into college for the afternoon. I want to get my work done as quickly as possible as I have to drive to Galway this evening and I want to head down before rush hour starts. 

11:45am: I really shouldn’t but I drive into college to save time. I forgot there was a secondary school open day today so it takes me a little longer than usual to find a space.­­

12:00pm: I grab a tea (€1.50) and settle myself for a few hours of work.

2:45pm: I’ve the best part of my work done and even have a little head start on next week’s so I decide to call it for the day. It's amazing the amount of work you can get done when your motivation is going out for pints later and you have to get it finished before you leave the library.

4:00pm: I'm ready, out the door and on the road. I thought I'd miss the worst of the traffic but seeing as it's a Friday things are still super slow on the M50. It takes me longer than usual to get down and I hit three tolls on the way (€6.90). I have an eFlow tag so it saves me a little time and money but not much. I know it doesn’t make any financial sense to keep my job in Galway but my boyfriend is based there, so it’s the only time we really see each other. I plan to return to the west once my masters is complete (if I manage to find a suitable job). I lived in Dublin for three years previously but I just find the quality of life in Galway is so much better. Everything in Dublin is so far away and expensive.

7:00pm: I arrive in Galway and eventually get a parking space. Things are a nightmare in the city centre as they're turning on the Christmas lights tonight. I have a parking permit so I can park on a few streets for free. 99% of the time it’s the best thing in the world but not today unfortunately. I head over to my boyfriend's and we chill for a bit and have dinner.

8:30pm: I'm heading out tonight with my work friends so I get ready quickly and have two beers I bought earlier in week. I'm working in the morning so I'll try to take it easy but that doesn't always go to plan.

2:30am: I end up staying out longer than planned and the cost of the night and a takeaway comes to €50. I don’t feel too guilty about going out as I’ve been a hermit the entire week.

Today's total: €58.40

Saturday

9:15am: I’m up and out the door, my head is a bit sore today but luckily I drank a few pints of water along the way last night. I feel a bit gammy stomach-wise so I forgo breakfast.

9:45am: I get into work and have tea and a quick slice of toast before I start. I'm the only supervisor on so I pray customers are tolerable and problems are kept to a minimum. After spending almost eight years of my life working in the service industry I've begun to feel burnt out and far too underappreciated. Working in the service industry is both physically and mentally taxing. You come into contact with all shapes and sizes, many of whom are completely ignorant to the fact that I too am a human being with feelings and a life. You'd be surprised the things customers get built up about. We once had a customer complain because one of my colleagues told her the kitchen would not cut each of her chips in half. Seriously? We don’t have time for this!

2:45pm: Things are absolutely mental and I take my lunch an hour later than expected. My stomach is a bit gammy so I don’t manage to eat much of my wrap.

3:15pm: Back to work, the entire place is swamped and our kitchen is having a difficult time getting food out on time. I have to shuffle things around and stem the crowd at the door to try and give the kitchen a little time to gather themselves.

8:15pm: I stay on a little late to help the girls start closing down the food side of things. I meet my friend for a catch-up afterwards and buy a bottle of beer each (€9).

10:30pm: I’m absolutely starving so I decide to be an utter pig and order takeaway pizza and cookies (€28.99). It's definitely way too much but I don’t care, after the mental day at work I tell myself I deserve it.

1:00am: My boyfriend gets home and realises he took an important set of keys home from work by accident. The bottle I had earlier is well out of my system so I decide to spin him over in the car.

Today's total: €37.99

Sunday

9:00am: I swear I’m nearly feeling worse off today than I did yesterday. It's my own fault for staying up so late the last two nights. I’m working the opening shift today. I'm thankful that I have a good working relationship with my manager and he gives me an early shift on a Sunday to allow me to drive back to Dublin after work without having to arrive back at a ridiculous hour at night.

9:45am: I’m in work and have my usual tea and toast before I start.

1:15pm: I’m actually able to take my lunch at a decent time today which I’m grateful for. We get one meal included with our wage in work during our half-hour break. I swear it's one of the only perks of the business. I don’t understand how some restaurants don’t feed their staff.

1:45pm: My half-hour is up so I’m back on the floor. Things are equally as busy today and the staff are already starting to get worn down from the busy October - Christmas period. I just pray the customers are nice again today, for everyone’s sake.

6:15pm: I manage to get out relatively on time and head straight back to my boyfriend’s house to collect my stuff and get on the road.

7:15pm: I finally get myself together and leave the house. On Sundays I usually fill the tank with diesel (€35) and do my big food shop for the week as it's all closer together down here. I do a huge shop this week as I ran out of food during the week and will not make the same mistake again! I stop off at Aldi (€37.65) and Tesco (€22.43).

8:10pm: My boyfriend landed back in town so I pick him up at the station, give him a lift and say goodbye until Friday. 

8:30pm: I'm finally on the road to Dublin. I hit three tolls again on the way back (€6.90). I have a catch up with my parents over the phone so the drive flies by.

10:55pm: I land home eventually, unpack all of my shopping and make a well-needed cup of tea.

11:30pm: I'm finally in bed and never want to leave again.

Today's total: €101.98

Weekly subtotal: €249.07

***

What I learned:

  • If I didn’t drink when I socialised I’d probably spend at least €40 less per week than I do at the moment. As of now I don’t mind too much as it’s the only time I really get to see my friends. In the future when I get back to a normal work routine this will definitely be a lot lower.
  • It's quite expensive for me to commute up and down from Galway every single weekend. It doesn’t make sense financially but it’s the only time I see my boyfriend. I plan to try and stick it out for as long as possible until it becomes unmanageable with my college workload.
  • I buy an awful lot of tea during the week but it only adds up to the cost of a pint or two. I bring in my own cup which makes it a bit better as I save €0.40 each time.

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