Super contributions and a thickshake: What a student on $37,000 spends in a weekAugust 21, 2023
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This article originally appeared in Refinery29 Australia.
Welcome to Money Diaries, where we ask real people how they spend and save their money during a seven-day period, tracking every last dollar. Anyone can write a Money Diary! Want to see yours here? Here’s how.
Today: a law student and retail assistant who makes $37,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a thick shake from Five Guys, mochi donuts, and $1,472 towards student accommodation for her university exchange.
On Money Diaries, a law student and retail assistant who makes $37,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on a thick shake from Five Guys.Credit: Refinery29 Australia
Occupation: Student / Retail Assistant
Industry: Arts and Law / Retail
Location: Maroubra, Sydney
Net Worth: $1,000 ($25,000 in savings, $8,500 in super, and $500 in my spending account). I expect all of this to plummet in a year.
Debt: $33,000 in HECS debt. I’m currently in my third year of a six-year undergraduate double degree. Last time I checked, my degree was ~$14,500 a year, so this will go to $87,000 at the end of my degree, not including indexation and a $7,000 loan that I am expecting to take out to support my year studying abroad.
Paycheque Amount (Fortnightly): $1,300 to $1,800. I’m a casual so this varies.
Rent: I live at home with my parents and sister in South East Sydney. I don’t currently pay my parents for board but I definitely will when I eventually finish studying (if I haven’t moved out by then). We live in a three-bedroom house, situated in a quiet suburb with good public transport options.
Savings Contributions: $1,500 to $2,000
Netflix: I use my family’s Netflix.
Gym Membership: I don’t have a gym membership as I much prefer fitness classes with someone telling me what to do. At the moment, my favourites are Barry’s and Pilates. This is not exactly a monthly expense as I purchase another class pack when my current one runs out. Also, the company I work for gives me an extra amount of money each month to go towards fitness (which pays for most of it).
Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, I’m currently in my third year of a six-year undergraduate degree. I’m so glad that I have HECS/HELP (less glad about the indexation!), so it’s not something I’m worrying about too much as I don’t earn enough right now to pay repayments. I do pay for the student amenities fee each term as it’s the least I can do. I will also be going on a one-year-long exchange next term and am looking to take out the OS-HELP loan which will add around $7,000 to my rapidly growing HECS debt.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents have very different attitudes towards money which have definitely influenced my own. My mum is quite frugal and doesn’t make too many unnecessary purchases. When grocery shopping, she often only buys things on sale. However, my dad is quite the opposite. He often makes irrational and impulse purchases which result in small arguments between my parents.
My mum is quite knowledgeable about finances and often tries to educate me, but I don’t always listen (especially about investing, which just confuses me too much.). However, I have made personal contributions to my super, following my mum’s instructions. I feel like I have inherited my mum’s frugalness but I do make quite a few impulsive purchases, which you will see in this week’s diary.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was tutoring. I wanted to go on exchange to France at the end of Year 10 and the only way to convince my parents was if I paid for half of it. I definitely did not have enough money at the time, but slowly paid it off through tutoring and my first job after high school. I think I started tutoring at the beginning of Year 10 and got my students through posting a Gumtree ad. I tutored two primary students for an hour each at the library. My first proper job was at Kmart.
Did you worry about money growing up?
My parents migrated to Australia a few years before my sister and I were born and didn’t come from backgrounds with much money. They have always worked extremely hard and as a result, my sister and I have always had what we needed. My sister and I were always quite small growing up so we were always given hand-me-downs (including school uniforms) from family friends and I remember my mum always complaining about the prices of uniforms. My mum never bought us brand-name clothing or shoes so it was always a treat to get given a bag full of secondhand clothes each year.
Growing up, I didn’t worry too much about money but I remember often comparing myself to others. I went to primary school in an affluent area and towards the end of primary school, became more conscious of how wealthy some other families were (some had mansions). We were, however, also extremely fortunate and privileged to do many extracurriculars and go on an overseas holiday each year, which I am so grateful for.
Do you worry about money now?
In a sense. I am extremely privileged to still live at home without having to contribute financially, so I’m not too worried about money in that aspect. However, I am a little worried about exchange and living out of home for a year. I’m paying for it myself (with the exception of the loan) which means paying for flights, accommodation and living expenses. Whilst I am a little worried about spending responsibly and living alone, I do know that if I do need any help, my parents will be willing to give me a little loan as well. I have been saving up for a while and am currently working five days a week in order to support myself for a year of not working!
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I am nowhere near being financially responsible.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
7:00am — It’s Monday. I wake up with the help of my alarm. The first thing I do is check my socials, of course.
7:30am — I pick up my book and start reading from where I left off last night. I’m currently reading Yellowface by R F Kuang and it is so gripping, despite making me feel extremely uncomfortable at times. I finished another book of hers, Babel, two weeks ago and loved it so definitely had to read this.
8:00am — I check the time and make the decision to keep reading instead of starting to get ready to leave the house for a 9am lecture. It’s recorded anyway so I can always catch up on it later and watch it in 2x speed.
10:00am — After spending the past two hours swapping between Yellowface and scrolling on Tiktok, I get out of bed and head downstairs to have breakfast. I go in phases of eating/not eating breakfast but because it’s a slow morning, I have the time today to do so. I have a bowl of granola with milk and eat it while reading.
10:30am — I get back into bed and open my laptop. Every Sunday or Monday, I set myself up for the week and update my Notion and Google Calendar. I get the feeling I’m forgetting something so I check the Moodle boards of all my subjects and note down all my assessment deadlines. Oh no! I had mentally prepared for a fairly calm uni week but instead, I notice I have an assignment due on Friday! At least I still have a few days to do it but I’m feeling bugged that I didn’t know about it sooner. I normally organise all my due dates at the beginning of the term but because I’ve been working so much, I must have forgotten.
11:00am — I start watching a lecture from last week on 2x speed but stop 20 minutes in as I can’t focus (it doesn’t help that I’m lying in bed).
11:20am — I get out of bed (for the second time today) and head to the bathroom to get ready for uni. I jump in the shower, get dressed and do my skincare.
12:30pm — I’m driving to uni today as I’m going to my friend’s house in the evening and don’t want to deal with public transport late at night. Luckily, I only live 15 minutes away from uni by car.
1:00pm — After finding parking 10 minutes away from campus, I walk into the library and find an empty cubicle. I open my laptop to my law readings and try and complete them before my class. I’m currently doing Criminal Law and we’re learning about defences this week which is really interesting but sometimes the readings go on for far too long. Fortunately, I have less than 20 pages today! I also message my friend to check if we’re still on for our Barry’s class tomorrow. She replies that she can’t make it anymore so I cancel as well. It’s always more fun with a friend and I would love the extra time to prepare my pre-work for class tomorrow.
4:00pm — After finishing my readings and doing some modules, it’s time for class. It’s a two-hour class but fortunately it goes by quite quickly.
6:00pm — Class is finished! I leave the building and it’s dark and windy outside. I generally try to avoid 4pm to 6pm classes but this term, this was the only option if I wanted to limit my days on campus. Otherwise, I would have uni four days a week which would mean less availability to work! I’m trying to work as much as possible before I leave for exchange. I head to a food court and order some dinner. Tonight, I want to try a new place that opened up a few weeks ago. I order one of the deals they have — a box of chicken and chips with a soft drink ($13.14). Okay, it’s not great at all and I’m left hungry, wanting something more. I head back to the same store and want to give it another chance so I order a corn dog and mozzarella sticks ($14.97). They are better! But still expensive, so I’m not sure if I will go back again. $28.11
7:00pm — I walk to my car and drive to my friend’s house to catch up. Just as I lock my car, I get a notification saying I just got paid for tutoring last week. I haven’t seen my friend for ages and she recently started a pretty intense internship, so we catch up over snacks and hot chocolate. We also study for a little bit.
10:30pm — I say goodnight and head home. For the drive, I listen to the newest Scandal podcast episode by Shameless. I never thought I would be so interested about Sofia Vergara but wow, her story is engaging.
11:00pm — I realise it’s nearly the end of the financial year and I haven’t made a contribution to my super yet. My mum’s been telling me to do it for weeks but I’ve kept putting it off. I transfer $1,000 (the maximum in order to receive a government co-contribution) to my super fund. I head to the bathroom and do my skincare and brush my teeth before falling asleep to a random YouTube video. $1,000
Daily Total: $1,028.11
6:30am — I wake up before my alarm and as usual, check Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. I think about booking the Barry’s class that I cancelled yesterday but am really feeling too tired to run this morning.
8:00am — I head downstairs for breakfast (same thing as yesterday) and eat whilst watching YouTube.
9:00am — I head to my desk and do my readings for class. Today, they are case studies on different international companies. Two of my classes this term have class participation marks so I really try to prepare and contribute as this is the easiest way to get marks!
9:45am — I get changed and do my skincare before catching the bus to uni. I’m working after uni today so it’s more convenient to get public transport.
11:35am — Ahhhh! My bus is running late so I walk into class five minutes late. I try to be punctual, but sometimes public transport is unpredictable.
1:00pm — Class goes by so quickly and I still have two hours before I get to work so I head to a new cafe that opened recently. The food is pretty affordable so there are always long lines around peak times. I get a veggie bagel ($5). $5
1:15pm — I go to the light rail stop and top up my Opal card ($10). I don’t want to use my card as I know I have a big payment coming out of my account this week and don’t want to have to transfer from savings, so I use cash. I also notice that a few payments have come out of my account from using my card to tap off ($15.55). I misplaced my Opal card for a few days last week so had to use my debit card instead, which means I didn’t get concession fares). $25.55
2:00pm — I go into Chemist Warehouse as I know that La Roche Posay Cicaplast is currently on sale ($16.99). I’ve been wanting it for ages but have either been not bothered or waiting for it to go on sale before buying it. $16.99
2:10pm — I walk over to Hyde Park as I still have about 50 minutes before my shift starts. I sit on the grass and start reading Magnolia Parks.
2:50pm — 40 minutes goes by so fast, but I head over to work as my shift is starting soon.
8:00pm — Work is over. It was only a short shift but am so glad to head home now. I log into Zoom as I have a Q&A session run by my exchange uni talking about course registration and other administrative details. I listen to it on the bus home.
9:00pm — I get home, quickly eat dinner that my mum left out for me and message my group chat if they are ready to FaceTime. Three out of five of us are currently on exchange, so we make an effort to call every few weeks. We all catch up and even plan dates for all of us to meet up in Europe at the end of the year!
11:30pm — We end our call as it’s getting late here but I’m not tired yet, so I work a little on my assignment that’s due Friday. I get most of my research and scaffolding done!
1:00am — I do my nighttime routine and head to bed.
Daily Total: $47.54
7:00am — I wake up to my alarm and continue reading Magnolia Parks. At least I’m not scrolling on TikTok.
7:45am — I have a meeting at 9, so I start to get ready for the day.
8:15am — Oops. I take too long and accidentally miss my bus, meaning that I will be late for the meeting. Maybe I shouldn’t have read for that long. I get notifications from the chat that others will be late too so I should be fine, phew!
9:20am — I get to uni and head to my meeting. We go over each of our actionables but don’t get too much progress done as Taylor Swift tickets are about to release! There are a few diehard Swifties among the group so instead, we give up on our work and instead start waiting in the Ticketek queue whilst listening to Taylor out loud. I’m not buying any tickets as I’ll be on exchange at the time of the concerts, but it’s still so exciting seeing everyone so stressed about getting tickets.
11:00am — Ahh, none of my friends got through but hope is not lost as there is still Friday for the general sale! I meet up with another friend as we have a group project to work on. However, we barely get anything done as we’re both so tired.
12:00pm — I have work in an hour so I leave my friend and head to the same cafe as yesterday for a quick lunch. I generally pack lunch but I guess I spent too long reading this morning so didn’t prepare anything. I get the same bagel as yesterday ($5) and a matcha latte ($4.50). After ordering, I get the light rail to work. I drink my matcha on the light rail and eat my bagel when I get to work. The bagel is great but the matcha is so so average. I’ll stick to my usual spots on uni for matcha! $9.50
3:00pm — I’m halfway through my shift but the lack of sleep is catching up to me. My work friend is heading to Woolies to get something to eat for her break and asks if I need anything. I request some lollies as I am really feeling like I need a sugar hit. She comes back with sour worms and I pay her back ($5). $5
6:00pm — I finish work! I’m not heading home just yet as I have a dinner later tonight. I have a few hours before the dinner starts, so I head to Mecca to pick up my Beauty Loop box. I’m currently a Level 3 but will definitely drop down later this year as I haven’t bought much recently. I am often the organiser/purchaser of group presents so the points add up! I get an eye cream and a hydrogel eye mask in my box! Then I go to Myer as I have a gift card to spend. I try on a few pairs of Levi’s but realise I actually left my gift card at home, so I take a photo of the label to remember the style and size for next time.
6:45pm — I meet up with my friends who have also just finished work. We’re going to Korean Barbecue tonight but two of my friends don’t eat meat so they want to get something to eat before. We head to Five Guys and I get a thick shake and some chips to share ($14.90). I’ve never gotten a shake from here so I go mad with the toppings. I get Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Bacon, Oreo Cookies and Whipped Cream which makes for a strangely delicious combination. $14.90
8:00pm — We head over to the KBBQ restaurant and meet up with other friends. I’m so full from my shake (not the wisest decision) so let the others do the ordering. Bad mistake. Do not let the guys order as they will order way too much. The food keeps coming and we all laugh at how packed our table is.
10:15pm — We eat until we finally admit defeat. The bill comes to $51 each, which is not terrible considering how much we ordered, but it’s definitely more than I expected to spend. Oh well, it was fun and it feels like I will be full for days. $51
11:00pm — I get home and I go to bed as I’m so tired from today.
Daily Total: $80.40
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