What My Salary Gets Me: A 47-year-old on $46,000 a year, with two teenage sons and a mortgage.

Mamamia’s What My Salary Gets Me series 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 47-year-old who works in building design shares her money diary.

Age: 47

Job: Building Designer, part-time self-employed.

Annual Income: $45,902 (Design fees including personal superannuation contributions) 

Income from investment property: $6,407 

Housing: Joint mortgage on a three-bedroom house with partner and two teenage sons, $595 per month.

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

Video via Mamamia

Regular Expenses (shared roughly 50/50 with my partner)

Internet and phone: $87 per month 

Electricity: $420 per month

Groceries: $800-900 per month plus the odd extra

Petrol: $200 per month

Subscriptions: Netflix $10 per month, Prime $7 per month.  (I mostly watch ABC iView and SBS On Demand, so I don’t directly pay for these)


Savings: $187,480 surplus in mortgage (I don’t know if you call it savings or just less debt). $13,600 in surplus in investment property loan. $12,650 in various sub accounts. 

Debt: Two mortgages.

Assets: We have a rented investment property which used to be our old home and we built a second (strata dual occupancy) house in the backyard which I designed, which we live in now.

Monday – Day One

For breakfast I eat smashed avo on toast that I picked at my parent’s farm last time I visited. Then, I do 40 mins of YouTube exercises.

I have worked from home for the last nine years, so COVID-19 has not made much difference to my working life, except that now my partner is sharing our studio space more and the teens were too when schools went online. 

On Mondays I automatically pay myself a weekly wage of $560 which is for personal and shared expenses, occasionally I need to top it up with more.

I eat a leftover lunch with my partner on the deck in the sunshine. I work some more and then help my youngest son make dahl and roti from scratch for dinner. A young friend eats with us, he has been staying a few days as he is living in his car/couch surfing between share houses.

Daily total: $0

Tuesday – Day Two

Again, the early morning meditation and homegrown avocado toast. My eldest son only has one early class today, so I pick him up. As it is a beautiful day, we go to the beach. Parking costs $5 for a little over an hour but is well worth it, it’s stunning. 


On Tuesdays, I have an auto-transfer set up from my sub account to other sub accounts for my share of our weekly expenses, this includes amounts for groceries, home loan/rates/water, electricity/phone/internet as well as savings for Christmas/summer holidays. We always pay extra on our mortgage, we pretend we’re paying rent, so we are on target to pay it off by the time my partner can retire.  

For lunch I eat a vegetable soup that I made to use up some lovely greens from my aunt’s garden. I squeeze in half an hour of YouTube exercise between work. I realise that the chicken and the beef in the fridge both need to be cooked tonight, so I cook beef and black bean with rice and vegetables which we eat tonight, as well as put the chicken in the slow cooker with some chokoes from a friend’s garden and make a Filipino dish for the next night. Phew!  But I hate to waste food.

Daily total: $5 (I haven’t counted the money I put aside yet for other expenses because we haven’t spent them yet)

Wednesday – Day Three

I sleep in and don’t do any exercise today. I have homemade toasted muesli with macadamias given to me by my sister, who works in a macadamia processing lab. I eat lunch at home, too.

My partner and I need to go to the bank and pick up a refurbished laptop for my son. My partner buys a new phone system as our old one is glitching and some KFC for his lunch. I steal his chips, $0.  We were going to do more shopping but must race back for a Zoom meeting.


I work a bit more and a neighbour comes over to borrow our photocopier to print some documents because they are selling their house (we are the unofficial office support shop for our mates), and we have a wine together to celebrate.

We have a late dinner after she leaves, which is the Filipino chicken dish I made the night before. It’s not too bad, lots of garlic, ginger and soy sauce and the choko reminds us of our grandmas (chokoes made sense in The Depression).

Daily total: $0

Thursday – Day Four

I get half an hour of YouTube exercise in after a breakfast of homemade toasted muesli and plunger soy decaf latte. 

I write a prioritised To-Do List and get heaps of design work done today, I am feeling more productive and motivated. For lunch, I eat more of my folk’s lush avocado on toast with a couple of baby Roma tomatoes that we grew ourselves. My To-Do List stops me giving into mid-afternoon cake cravings and spontaneously baking instead of working. 

The quarterly electricity bill gets direct debited from our utilities sub account, of which I pay a quarter, $125; my partner and our businesses pay the rest. The home mortgage payment is also set up to go in today, $325 (my weekly share).

My partner races off to do martial arts, so cooking dinner is left to me again. My son must have had the same sweet cravings and decides to whip up some mini chocolate puddings for dessert which take one and a half minutes in the microwave. The eggs are from a friend’s free-range chooks. I am a bit dubious about the microwave puddings, but they turn out delicious. Craving satisfied.


Daily total: $450 

Friday – Day Five

After breakfast I trim my partner’s hair, ready for a business trip coming up, then fit in a 45 minute YouTube yoga session. 

I head up to a hinterland café to meet my parents and sister for coffee, $4.50. We have a nice catch up and browse the pretty, expensive clothes and homeware boutiques. I try on two jumpers and a half price top neither of which fitted properly and drool over a divine silk dress but don’t buy anything. Willpower! 

I also avoid buying food out and come home a little lightheaded and eat leftovers for lunch. I work for the afternoon, going out to buy a sketchbook and some stationery for my son, $12 and a couple of packets of incense, $4 to make the house feel good from the local two dollar shop (a much cheaper option than the fancy boutique options earlier in the day).

My eldest son cooks tofu stir-fry noodles for dinner. I make herbal tea from fresh lemon balm, anise and honey, all gifted from our homeless friend who works for a beekeeper. I meditate before sleep.

Daily total: $20.50

Saturday – Day Five

Breakfast at home again with those lush smashed avos and I take my eldest son to do his driving Hazard Perception Test, which I paid for last week out of a sub account we have set up for his expenses. 


We eat lunch and dinner at home, but my partner pops out to get some snacks and some top up food for the house, he pays (he covers more things as he earns a bit more). Friends come for drinks, we have some whisky leftover from an artist rider from my husband’s (pre-COVID) event business and wine we bought from ALDI last week (we get the cheap bottles with gold medals on them and they are ok, such connoisseurs we are). 

Daily total: $0

Sunday – Day Five

I drop my partner off at the airport for his business trip, pay for parking, $2, so we can say goodbye properly and in case he has too much luggage (hand-me-down clothes for our nephews down south). Then go up to my parent’s farm for lunch, picking up a loaf of sourdough to share on the way, $6. 

They load me up with more of their avocados, heaps of limes from their friend’s orchard, which I'll share with our friends and some homemade cake for the teens. My mum and sister both give me a hand-me-down jumper each, so I feel like my wardrobe has had a little boost.

I visit the building site of a development I designed for 20 townhouses and units that is currently under construction and carry out an inspection while it is quiet and deserted.  On the way home I do the weekly shop for the meal plan I worked out earlier, my share $96.69. We have nachos loaded with guacamole that my son makes for dinner.

Daily total: $104.69

Weekly Total: $580.19


I have been on a long-term mission to get our finances in shape, as my partner and I are both self-employed and our income can vary widely each financial quarter, so it's very difficult to budget and plan.  


Being frugal, along with simple strategies like dividing our money up into categories (including savings) on a weekly basis, setting up direct debits for bills, and clearly dividing work and personal expenses has meant that managing money has gotten less stressful.  

It also helps that our local community has such a strong sharing economy embedded, so we give and receive a lot of fresh produce and resources which makes our life feel abundant and connected. You can have your smashed avocado and buy a house, even two (if the avos are in season and free).

We have no idea how the COVID economic crisis is going to affect us long term, my husband is an events manager and has lost nearly all his events planned for the year but has been fortunate enough to pick up part-time admin work until the end of the year for an arts organisation he does events for.  

Construction is always sensitive to economic strains so my building design work has slowed and may start to dry up too. But we have fortunately been given JobKeeper and some stimulus boosts and have been putting aside extra into our mortgage whenever we can for a while now, so we feel confident to ride out a recession without compromising our current lifestyle too much. 

You can catch up on our previous What My Salary Gets Me series here:

Feature image: Getty.