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What My Salary Gets Me: A 34-year-old senior graphic designer with two kids on $125,000 a year.

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. In this series we discover what women are really spending their hard-earned cash on, and nothing is too outrageous or too sacred. This week, a 34-year-old senior graphic designer with two kids shares her daily money diary.

Age: 34

Job: Senior Graphic Designer.

Side hustle: Group fitness instructor.

Salary: $125,000-$145,000 per year working as a contract senior graphic designer four days a week. 

My side hustle income is working as a group fitness instructor, I work across multiple gyms and fill in for instructors on leave or sick. I get $50-$60 for an hour session depending on where I teach. Becoming a fitness instructor has always been a goal of mine, however, I never had the time to take it on. I decided whilst on mat leave recently that it was a good time to start.

Housing: Husband, two young kids and a dog, in a large family home with a pool living coastal regional, one hour from a main city.

Monthly expenses: 

Mortgage: nil (no debt at all).

Health insurance: $150 (for me alone, my husband has different insurance as he has other benefits to me).

Phone: $55 Telstra pre-paid.

Petrol: $200 roughly based on the current $2 a litre. This is with husband doing a drive back to the city and me going into work one day a week. We only have one car as we try to use it as little as possible.

Groceries: roughly $1,600, give or take. I do the main household shop for Monday to Thursday as those are my cooking days (my husband and I take it in turns he does Friday to Sunday).

My shop is usually $150-$200 per week which covers the week's main household things from breakfast, lunch, snacks, household miscellaneous items and four days of evening family meals. 

I get my shop delivered which cost $2-$8 depending on the time slot I choose. My husband cooks with the food left in the fridge from the week and will also head to the supermarket and buy things he needs for his nights. Maybe $100-$150 for Friday to Sunday, including some drinks from time to time.

Gym: I enjoy exercising and staying fit. My exercise used to cost me roughly $2,000 per year (so $166 a month). However, this is now an income for me. I also partake in a Monday group strength session with friends run at a local park. It’s about $13 a class, and I can take my kids.

Savings: My husband and I have joint accounts. Everything gets thrown in together, what’s his is mine and vice versa.

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Currently, we have $350,000 in our account - normally most of this money is in our managed fund but last year the market was going downhill with not much positivity in sight so I pulled it all out. I am the master of coin, my husband doesn’t get across our finances. 

I know you are meant to wait out the highs and lows but felt it was not worth the risk. Plus, I need $70,000 soon to put into my super and my husband is going to put in $50,000 to help bring our taxable income down this year. We are always looking for ways to make our money work harder for us.

Assets: Our home. Together with my husband we own our home mortgage free. We purchased our first house very young and paid it off quickly and then made substantial renovations and upgrades. When we sold it we made a really good return, moved to a regional area (thanks COVID) and was able to upgrade our living situation and quality of life substantially.

Subscriptions: Netflix, $10. Disney+, $12. Kayo, $15.

I also have an egg subscription ($84). Every week I get 30 fresh local free-range eggs delivered, between the family we eat eggs every way you can think of.

Education/childcare: Daycare $120 per day per child. All up my kids do a total of five sessions a week plus one kinder day (5 hours) plus a half day of care $50. All up, $2,800 a month. 

I don’t think I get the government CCS? If I do, it’s minimal. To me, whatever we pay daycare is worth every dollar they charge!

Weekly cleaner: $400-$600 per month, depending on the length of time.

Pool maintenance: $180.

Watch: Four money-saving hacks that don't cut out your daily cup of coffee. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Monday.

The household wakes at 7am. My husband does breakfast for the kids, pops tea and coffee on the stove. We both have home brews - I love a chai boiled for 10 minutes on the stove for deep flavour.

Monday is always hectic as it’s the start of a work week for hubby. It’s my 'day off' but I have both kids. As hubby works from home, I am constantly trying to keep the kids busy and out of the house apart from the midday nap for my 18-month-old. 

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I decide to put my eldest in an extra day of care this week ($120) so I can have some time to myself. After daycare drop, I go to my strength class ($13) where I meet a friend and her bub. 45 minutes of weights and sprints and we are done. I then head home, have a shower and get ready for lunch at a local winery with another girlfriend. She is due with her second child in four weeks so it’s a nice opportunity to spend some time together before she disappears into a baby bubble. 

This is a positive to hubby working from home, I can leave the baby in bed asleep and head out and live my best life. After two to three hours of some good food and wine ($55) we head home. My bub only did a two-hour nap, so hubby has been minding him for 50 minutes. My online grocery shop has arrived ($252) and hubby has unpacked and put it all away. I meal prep for tomorrow and freeze them as I use these meals for work days I go into the studio. 

Tonight’s dinner is healthy fried rice and takes me no more than 10 minutes. I collect my eldest from care, head home to do dinner, bath, book and bed routine. By 7.30-8pm, the kids are in bed and hubby and I sit on the couch to watch TV. Bed by 9.30pm for us.

Daily total: $440.

Tuesday.

Today is a workday. I wake at 6am before the family and go for a big walk with my dog and listen to Mamamia Out Loud. I'm home by 7am, drink a mug of chai while I get ready for work and I'm in the car by 8am dropping the kids at care ($240) as I am going into the studio.

I love going in to see people and be creative - I find it positive and productive talking ideas through with colleagues. It’s also an opportunity to put real clothes on and do my hair and makeup (not that work cares what I look like, I could wear activewear and that's fine, too). 

I have my remaining brewed chai with me in a jar so I finish that at my desk. Mid-morning I have some avo on toast, with ingredients I've brought from home. Lunch time comes around and I go for a stroll with a friend then finish off some leftover fried rice. I have a pre-packed chocolate snack which I enjoy in the afternoon. 

5pm and I’m out! I’m collecting my kids as it’s on my way home. Hubby is warming the ragu which I made the day before. Dinner is on the table when we walk in and the evening routine starts. Day ends much the same as the day prior.

Daily total: $240.

Wednesday.

We all wake after 7am and do the morning routine. I make my eldest a lunch box as he has kindy (they have a chef at the day care my youngest goes to). My husband drops our 18-month-old at daycare ($120) as he is heading to the city today for new business and some face time in his studio with his business partner and employee. 

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I take my eldest to kindy (I pay $150 a term and pay an extra $50 a session for afternoon care) on the bike as we only have one car. 9am and I’m back at home at my desk with my home brew chai tea. Mid-morning, I make a brekkie wrap. I work through my lunch break as it’s a busy day and I also need to allow time to step away and pick up my eldest up from kindy at 4pm. 

He falls asleep in the bike trailer on the ride home which lets me finish off my work in peace for the day. Husband collects our 18-month-old from daycare on the way back from the city. Dinner is low fuss chicken drumsticks with roast veg, then the bath, bed routine starts. After the kids are down, we debrief on the day then head to bed around 9.30pm.

Daily total: $200.

Thursday.

We are all up after 7am, and the morning routine begins! Both kids are off to daycare ($240), hubby is dropping them off. The cleaner arrives ($100) and I'm online at 8am as I am covering a fitness class at 9.15am and need to make up for that missed work time. 

I head off to the gym at about 9am to take my class (I also get my move goals completed for the day so my Apple Watch is happy). I'm back at my desk by 10.30am, a sweaty red faced mess but who cares cause I’m at home! I have my home brew chai, get into some work and then my phone pings, I’ve got a late payment reminder from the IVF clinic, my frozen embryo storage fee is overdue. I begrudgingly make the six-month $250 payment.

I choose to hold on to these four embryos just in case I feel like a third child late in life, and if not then maybe we will look at donating? We figure the $500 a year cost is worth it. I take a later lunch break as my morning has been busy - I walk up the street with my dog as I need to get nappies ($12.50) and more chai tea ($33). Nappies have gone up to $2.50! 

I buy Calmer Chai which is a wet sticky chai from the local health food shop. As I walk in I close my eyes as I pass all the ‘healthy’ tasty treats! I manage to get in and out with no additional spend. Maybe because I know I'll have to own up to it here.

I work for the rest of the arvo, finish up around 5pm and get dinner on, it’s vegan curry night! I collect my 18-month-old from daycare.

My eldest is at my in-laws on Thursdays so my husband and I enjoy a quieter evening with just one child at home. The evening routine begins - I have a bath with my 18-month-old, they lay on me with their head on my chest having a cuddle for much of the bath. 

These moments are so special and I feel so lucky to have this quiet one-on-one time with them. As the footy is on tonight, my husband and I watch separate TV. I start Life & Beth as Mia recommended it on Out Loud. After bingeing three episodes I agree, it’s a great easy entertaining watch. Bed by 9.30pm.

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Daily total: $633.50.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia's thrice-weekly podcast where Mia, Holly and Jessie discuss what women are talking about. Post continues after audio.

Friday.

I wake at about 6.30am and so does hubby. We chat in bed and listen to the waves crashing on the beach. At 7am, we hear our 18-month-old is up so hubby grabs him and we all have cuddles in bed. 

It’s my husband's day off (his work only works four days a week) so I head off for a big walk and leave hubby and our 18-month-old to do breakfast. Our 18-month-old gets collected by my father-in-law at about 9am. Fridays used to be dad day but now my in-laws have both kids.

Sometimes hubby does a few hours of work if he did fewer hours during the week, he’s very flexible and responds to our family's needs (and the surf). My work day is busy but nice and quiet with no calls, husband or kids around. It’s the usual home brew chai, mid morning brekkie wrap then a walk with my dog at midday. I am moodboarding and researching today but I get sidetracked when referencing Zara for work and before I know it I’m adding things to my cart. I minimize the window and leave it there. 

My husband collects kids at 3.30pm from his parents, but keeps them out the house till I finish at 5pm. As I close down the computer I find my Zara window, I still feel the love for the items I selected so I commit to purchase ($153). I use Afterpay as it’s a $600+ purchase and I have a few items that are double ups as I’m unsure about size or style. With Afterpay, I don’t have to fork out the total amount when I intend to return half the purchase (FYI, I do return half the order, so the total cost is $300). It means I am not without my money for weeks waiting for a refund. As I live regionally and purchase everything online, I use this payment method as a cash flow management strategy. 

Hubby is on dinner duty, he uses some veg in the fridge and defrosts some sausages, everyone gobbles it up, then it’s bath, book, bed for the kids, and we sit on the couch.

Daily total: $300.

Saturday.

Woke just after 7am. The kids got up a bit after and husband does the breakfast routine. I’m in the car at 8am as I’ve got a meet and greet at a new gym. I take half the class as part of my ‘interview’ and received some great feedback after which is always nice. 

Got home and kids are out in the bike trailer with husband at the local market and op shop ($2 fire engine and a $2 pirate flag from the op shop for my eldest), I get a picture message from hubby - it’s a pic of my favorite savoury croissant from the market ($20 for three)! I enjoy my chai tea whilst washing my hair in the shower (yes I take my tea in the shower). As I finish in the shower, my croissant arrives (along with my family). 

It’s now my time to be home with the kids while husband goes for a surf. I take the kids to the toy library then the rest of the day is spent at home. The neighbours and their three kids come over to play while the adults have a drink and crisps on the deck, which helps kill that hour and a half window before dinner. 

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My husband preps dinner - Mexican chicken burritos with sweet potato chips. We happened to have it all in the fridge/freezer so we avoided the supermarket! That evening in between the bedtime routine I finalise my weekly shop on my app. Bed by... you know it, 9.30pm

Daily total: $22.

Sunday.

I wake at 6am to my 18-month-old crying, but he goes back to sleep. I listen to podcasts in bed and get up at 7am - the morning is much the same as Saturday. 

I'm in the car at 8am as I’m covering a fitness class. I swing past my friends on the way as she is also coming along. After class, I head home, shower and get ready as it’s my eight-year wedding anniversary. My mother-in-law comes at midday to mind the children, and my husband and I head to a local ‘fancy’ restaurant and enjoy speaking to each other without interruptions. 

We don’t do gifts (obviously I would accept a gift should he surprise me) because we agree that experiences are more memorable and special. After lunch ($172) we go for a walk down the main street and pop into a kid's store as I need to get my 18-month-old cutlery and a new drink bottle. The cutlery set is $40! But it’s super cute and I can justify the cost per use. The drink bottle sets me back another $15. I also got some Soda stream canister refills ($60 for three). Hubby is on dinner duty and makes spag meatballs, then the bed routine begins, you know the drill...

Daily total: $287.

Reflection:

Overall, I feel content with our spending for the week - there was a balance of days with high spending followed by low spending. Obviously daycare is our highest expense, which can’t be avoided. I also notice that our food bill has increased this week. The increase in cost of living is starting to become more visible. 

I enjoyed this exercise, and it definitely made me more conscious when thinking about buying something just because (particularly in that health food store visit). Between my husband and I we share a like-minded approach to money. We enjoy a bit, invest a bit and save a bit. I also want to note that his salary is not mentioned and I may have missed one or two of his expenses but generally the above covers off 95 per cent of our expenses this week.

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Feature image: Mamamia/Canva.