What My Salary Gets Me: A single mum-of-two on $49,000 a year, with $10,000 in savings.

Mamamia’s What My Salary Gets Me asks Australians to record a week in their financial lives. Kind of like a sex diary but with money. So not like a sex diary at all. We still find out the best kept secrets though. We discover what women are really spending their hard-earned cash on. Nothing is too outrageous or too sacred. This week, a 37-year-old single mother of two from Brisbane, Qld, shares her story.

Age: 37

Occupation: Copywriter

Annual earnings: Around $37,000 after tax (plus approximately $12,000 in Family Tax Benefits)

Housing: New homeowner in the (very) outer suburbs of Brisbane

Child support: $0

Monthly Expenses:

Housing (mortgage + strata fees + council rates + home and contents insurance): $1546

Utilities (electricity + gas + water): $300

School costs (school fees + excursions + uniforms + stationery for one high school child and one primary school child): $500

Transport: Car (petrol + insurance + rego + maintenance) and public transport: $245

Mobile phones (mine and daughter’s): $43

Internet: $0 (no home internet connection – we use data from mobile phones)

After-school activities: $60

Groceries: $400 (this covers our meals – we rarely go out to eat)

Savings: $10,000

Debt: HECS – Around $20,000

Assets: Home ($380,000 – have paid off half) and car (own outright – approximate value of $7,000).

WATCH: Simple budgeting with a banana. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

I’ve been a good saver all my life, but brushes with unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence and associated legal costs have made me an extra good saver.

Fortunately I’ve had some well-paying jobs in the past (albeit part time) plus a few lucky investments. This has allowed me to put down a decent deposit on our new home.

Nonetheless, as a single parent with no financial support and earning much less than what I’m used to, I need to be as careful as possible.

Monday – Day One

Oops, forgot to bring lunch. Office is nowhere near any decent food source and it’s raining outside so I decide to skip lunch altogether.

Oh hello, what’s this? I spot some stale bread-ends at the back of the fridge, pop them into the toaster and slather on the communal margarine left over from the last office barbie. Yum!
During my lunchtime Facebook-stalking, I see my friend’s post. She had a scary brush with cancer recently so she is asking her friends to donate to a cancer organisation in lieu of getting her a birthday present. I donate $50.

Daily total: $50

Tuesday – Day Two

Join colleagues on a pub lunch for someone’s birthday. These things can be pricey so sometimes I give these lunches a miss. Not this time though as I’m becoming friends with the person having the birthday, plus I feel like I’ve said no to too many social work outings lately.

At the pub, I order one of the cheapest things on the menu (potato wedges) and hope that the place is happy to split bills. They are. Whew, awkwardness averted!

I also shout the birthday girl a cocktail while privately grateful that it’s happy hour.

Daily Total: $16.95

Wednesday – Day Three

Younger child has lost his school jumper yet again. Luckily the clothing pool happens to be open this afternoon. We pop in and score a half-decent, slightly-too-big second-hand jumper for $3.

The lady in the office informs me that I still owe money for my own present from the Father’s Day stall – which I definitely didn’t ask for. I start to protest that kids shouldn’t feel pressured to buy something from Mother’s or Father’s Day stalls. What if they don’t come from a typical nuclear family? However, I choose to keep my mouth shut, mindful that my son is standing right next to me and remembering how happy he was to give me that desk golf set (which by the way I much preferred over the Mother’s Day stall equivalent – soap in a mug – for which I got stung $10 in May. The joys of single parenting!)


In the afternoon, I meet up with a friend at a local café. He pays for my meal as a thank you for allowing him to store his stuff in my garage between moves.

My daughter roams around the nearby shops while I’m at the cafe. She returns and declares that she wants to spend her birthday money on Vans shoes. I balk at the cost and gently steer her towards some sensible Kmart options (“Look! These are also black! Exactly the same!”) but my efforts are rewarded with a withering stare.

For someone like me who’s a careful spender, it’s difficult to resist the urge to control the children’s finances. I also wonder whether my own frugality has made the kids rebel by spending like drunken kings as soon as any money passes their hands.

Daily Total: $8

Thursday – Day Four

Just got a phone call from a recruitment agency regarding a job I applied for. The organisation wants to interview me next Monday! But what to wear…? I haven’t been able to locate my one good suit jacket since moving house, and I really don’t feel like spending lots of money on a new one at the moment.

So I decide to visit Vinnies on my lunch break. Woohoo, I spy a black suit jacket for $1 in the super rejected rejects racks. It’s such a perfect fit that I overlook the loose button, the humongous shoulder pads (confirming its approximate birth year of 1985), and the slight whiff of wet dog.

A few other things in the store catch my eye, namely a pretty denim skirt, a box set of a TV series my son likes, and a small painting that would be perfect for the hallway. Together with the jacket, it costs $13. All for a good cause, right? It also somewhat assuages my guilt in getting a $1 jacket.

Back at the office now. I hold my breath as I snip off the shoulder pads and try the jacket on again. To my utter relief, the newly de-padded jacket doesn’t sit too oddly.

Race to the dry cleaners on the way home and pay 15 times the value of the jacket to dry clean it. I reason that it’s worth it not to smell like thrift shop around prospective employers. And as I haven’t had the best luck with job interviews lately, I might get many, many more wears out of it through many many more job interviews… (sob)

Daily total: $28

Friday – Day Five

My daughter reminds me that she has a birthday party to go to tonight and we haven’t gotten a present yet. I ignore her hints that her other friends will be giving the birthday kid $50 each (???), and she equally ignores my mutterings about how back in my day, all we got for our birthdays were crayons and a pair of socks.


We compromise on a $30 clothes store voucher from the supermarket. While we’re there, we also top up on milk and grab some elderly (but organic!) fruit, veg and eggs from the reduced price section.

On the way out of the shopping complex, I see this gorgeous skirt I’ve been eyeing for ages. It’s finally dropped its price! However, it’s still $50 which I’m not used to paying for a piece of clothing. When it comes to buying a luxury item, I have a policy of walking away from it and going back to buy it ONLY if the thought of not having it still nags at me the next day (or hour).

There’s not much on free-to-air telly tonight – our only consistent form of electronic entertainment – so we drop into the local library for some books and DVDs. The library is quiet so we all hop on the computers and do our things to save hotspot usage at home (we don’t have proper internet yet).

Daily Total: $35.76

Saturday – Day Six

Guess what I dreamt about last night? The skirt. DAMMIT! Guess I have to go buy it now. But first, how to entertain the kids?

One of those housing display villages is holding a free event, so I take the kids and one of their friends. It’s absolute heaven! While I engage in some serious house porn and take pics for a relative who’s interested, the kids are running around going on all the free rides.

There’s only about five different rides but the queuing eats up a decent amount of time, during which they can focus on knocking back the free slushies, fairy floss and popcorn. I only spend a bit of money getting us all sausage sizzles.

Daily Total: $10

Sunday – Day Seven

Relaxing day at home. The kids beg for fast food which I agree to because I’m too lazy to cook tonight. Plus we’ve run out of groceries.

I tell them that we will get Maccas on one condition – they fold up the huge pile of clean washing that has been accumulating for months.

It’s a mammoth task that takes them almost an hour to complete, so in exchange I am happy to buy them food that – get this – isn’t even on the ‘loose change’ menu.

My own food order comes entirely from the el cheapo section though – old habits die hard!

Daily Total: $18.45


Weekly Total: $167.16


There were a few extra expenses this week, but it’s definitely not the worst spending week we’ve had lately. That honour goes to a few weeks ago, with school holiday care and some temperamental plumbing. During a good week, we will spend almost nothing (after regular expenses of course).

And by the way: I got the job! Almost twice the pay, more super, plus enough flexibility that I may be able to pull off working full time hours.

To celebrate, we FINALLY sign up for home internet (a necessary evil if I’m to be able to work from home effectively, and also as the kids’ homework gets too complicated to rely on a mobile phone hotspot or convenient library opening hours). Oh and what the heck, let’s sign up for some streaming services too. We’ve put up with free-to-air long enough.

We’re also planning a small holiday and the kids are nagging me for a dog. Ruh roh. Not till I’ve at least passed probation, kids.

Oh and by the way, I went back and bought the skirt. Though I probably would’ve anyway because DREAM.

Watch this space for an updated ‘what I spend’ with my new income.

Please note: The feature image used is a stock photo.

Mamamia’s What My Salary Gets Me series drops every Thursday. Want to share a week in the life of your bank account with us (anonymously of course, no judgement here)? Send us your Money Diary to [email protected]

For more What My Salary Gets Me:

What My Salary Gets Me: A 29-year-old business analyst with a $100,000 salary.

What My Salary Gets Me: A 22-year-old disability worker who spends $1117.75 on pay day alone.

What My Salary Gets Me: A 24-year-old accountant on $70,000 a year, who spends $1500 a month on rent.

What My Salary Gets Me: A 29-year-old on $108,000 a year, with $455,000 in savings.

What My Salary Gets Me: The 36-year-old project manager who spent $3,795 in one week.

What My Salary Gets Me: A Sales Director on $120,000 a year, who refuses to cook.

What My Salary Gets Me: A 34-year-old on $21,400 a year, who has hardly any daily expenses.