What My Salary Gets Me: A 30-year-old working in agriculture on $960 a week.

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 30-year-old working in agriculture shares her weekly money diary.

Age: 30.

Job: Leading hand pen rider (agriculture).

Income: Fortnightly take home pay at base rate is $,1920 for 76 hours, including regional and horse care allowances; however, extra days are paid more.

Housing: Boarding in regional NSW.

Monthly expenses: 

Rent: $880.

Health insurance: $28.

Loan repayment: $584.

Car insurance: $127.

Groceries: $380.

Fuel: $414.

Phone: $40 Telstra prepaid.

Spotify: $11.

The New York Times subscription: $4.

Shoeing for horses: $100.

Savings: $1,200.

Assets: Car, horse float, horses, and tack.

Watch: Men and women negotiating their salary. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I live in regional NSW and work in agriculture. I love my job but my work requires me to provide all my own horses and gear. This was a big career change for me and it’s taken me a while to build up to owning everything I need. 

I really knuckled down last year to repay my debt. However, in November my car engine blew up unexpectedly, and it wasn’t covered by insurance, meaning my $20,000 4x4 had to be sold to the wreckers for $,2000. Thank goodness I owned it outright, but I was forced to replace it and needed a suitable vehicle that could tow my horse float in case I ever needed to move my horses in an emergency.

This came at the end of an expensive year after a bad breakup, moving towns, and trips back to WA to see my family after COVID prevented it for so long, and as a result my savings took a significant hit. I’m now trying to claw my way back to some sort of financial security.


I’m lucky enough to work eight days on and six days off each fortnight, although I usually do at least one extra day for the overtime pay. Today I am still on my off swing and I’m conscious of staying home and keeping my expenses to a minimum these days off. 


I’m an ex-journalist and still do some freelance work for extra cash, so I start to work on a couple of articles that I’ll submit within the next fortnight. I only do this as a hobby and don’t charge very much, and I try not to factor in the money when it comes to budgeting so I can put it straight back into savings.

I’ve been doing a lot of extra days over the last three months so I spend today resting and listening to audiobooks, going for a walk, and cleaning the house. I live in a small town of about 300 people and I find being off shift a bit of a struggle as my friends from work are on the opposite shift to me. I would like to take advantage of my consecutive days off and travel but I know this can wait until I have a bit more money behind me. 

I’m running low on food until payday and my town only has a small servo or general store to buy the essentials, so I wander down to pick up sour cream and wraps to tide me over. 

Unfortunately, they’re out of wraps so I instead quell my sugar addiction with a packet of mint slice biscuits. My Telstra pre-paid service ($40) is debited today as well, but apart from that I make do with what I have.  

Daily total: $49.15.


It’s my last day off and I’m planning on working ten days this fortnight so I try and plan ahead to be as organised as possible. I ask my colleagues to catch my horse from the paddock at work so he’s ready for me in the stable when I start back early tomorrow morning. 


They find him with a cut leg and tell me he is too sore to be ridden. I have had a bad run with my horses being hurt lately and this feels like yet another blow.

I own three horses and lease a fourth so they are always on rotation and able to rest when needed, but I can’t help but feel like I’m letting them down. Luckily the vet is carrying out his monthly visit tomorrow and he will be able to check him over.

I’ve been waiting nearly six months for a company to pay me for some freelance work and after despairing about my finances I decide to look for another regular source of income. My life really has felt like it’s all about work and saving money lately but I think I have checked off all my major expenses for the next few months now… touch wood!

I make a chickpea and potato curry with rice for dinner and cook enough to get two lunches out of it. I know I’ll probably get takeaway for dinner tomorrow night so at least I won’t have to think about Thursday’s lunch.

My pay goes in late in the evening ($2,128). It’s a bit less than usual - I only did nine days for the fortnight instead of ten - and $292 for my car loan is debited soon after that. I also do my fortnightly click-and-collect order which I will pick up tomorrow from the small city that’s about 40 minutes away. 

I buy a few extras to bring my total up to $180 so I can use a promo code to get a $10 discount, so my order comes to $170 and I should have nearly enough food for the whole fortnight. My monthly digital subscription to The New York Times also comes out today ($4). I’m charged an international transaction fee for the pleasure but this is refunded by ING.


Daily total: $466.


Back to the daily grind! I always sleep terribly before my first day back and I feel woeful hearing my alarm at 4.45am. I get ready a bit faster than usual because rain overnight means I’ll have to take the longer route to work instead of the gravel road, which is dry weather only. I note that this will have an impact on my fuel consumption across the fortnight and then instantly cringe because I sound exactly like my dad. 

I make my own coffee and eat some cereal for breakfast with long-life milk since I’ve run out of everything else. Until recently I was drinking Dare iced coffees every day but I couldn’t justify the habit. My work day goes from 6am to 4pm and I have my leftover curry for lunch. My job is quite physical and I usually work up an appetite. It’s true what they say - you don’t need a menu when you’re hungry.

It’s a frustrating day at work. The vet checks my horse early in the morning and warns me that the puncture wound - likely from a sharp stick or something similar - may have buried deep into the joint. My horse is extremely sore and miserable and I spend the next few hours trying not to cry. 

By the end of the day the painkillers and antibiotics have thankfully kicked in, and after a more thorough examination, the vet informs me the wound isn’t as bad as first thought. Even so, my gloomy mood sees me give in to temptation and buy a chocolate bar from the vending machine at an exorbitant $2.70.


Overnight my money gets divvied up into various accounts to try and help me save. I’ve been following the Barefoot Investor for a while and it really helped me get my act together after nearly a decade of being something of a vagabond. I like having everything automated and my goal at the moment is to get my emergency fund back up to something useful and also to pay off my car loan.

I finish work late and drive the 50kms to pick up my click-and-collect grocery order. I also visit the cheapest service station as part of my routine straight after payday. It’s significantly cheaper diesel than the servo in my town so I fill up a 20L jerry can as well to hopefully cover me for the whole pay cycle.

 Sitting at home on days off has helped as I still have another 20L stored from last fortnight so I’m pleased to save a little bit this time around. I buy a spare phone charger at the same time bringing the total to $158. I treat myself to takeaway on the way home ($22) and my health insurance also comes out of my account ($14). I also pick up takeaway for my friends ($38.90)

I get home at 7pm feeling drained and waste no time showering before jumping into bed. I briefly scroll through a dating app - always a good way to make a despondent mood even worse - before coming to my senses and focusing instead on getting some sleep.


Daily total: $235.60.


Another day, another dollar. I wake up to see an email from Facebook and sigh. A week ago I discovered a scammer was using all my public profile photos to create a fake account under a different name. It’s disturbing to say the least but Facebook maintains it doesn’t violate its community standards. I’m left at a total loss as to what to do about it.

I stick to my usual routine of making coffee and a breakfast wrap with an egg, a hash brown and a tinned bean mix before work and taking lunch from home. Work passes quickly and I stop on the way home to collect my mail. My parcel consists of a one-litre bottle of moisturiser that I bought on sale last week for $105. Skincare is something I’ve never had much interest in, but since spending everyday out in the elements it’s now something I take a lot more seriously and I’m fussy about what I use.  

I race home to make lunch for the following day (jacket potato with bacon, cheese, pineapple, sour cream, and sweet chilli sauce) before my friends and I head into the small city to an Italian restaurant for dinner. It’s a delicious meal and my friends shout my dinner since I picked up their takeaway the night before. I feel a little bad as I managed to also down three glasses of wine so I offer to pay for our obligatory ice cream run at the end of the night ($12.95).

On the way home I withdraw my rent money for the fortnight ($440). I’m lucky enough to board with a colleague who owns my house but is also provided with accommodation on-site as part of his salary package. We get on well and the arrangement works for both of us - I essentially rent a room but have the house to myself for the majority of the time. 


I’m extremely grateful as there is a severe shortage of affordable rentals in so many regional towns and last year I was beginning to worry that I would have to change jobs simply because I couldn’t find anywhere to stay.

Daily total: $452.95.

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It’s starting to feel like a long week and I’m only on day three of my 10-day stint. I manage to forget my lunch even after putting the effort into making it the night before but luckily the general store delivers a few meals to work twice a week. 

I know full well I can’t manage a ten-hour day without eating so I order a pie and a soft drink for $13. It seems like a silly purchase when I have so much food at home but I remind myself that it is budgeted for already as part of my fortnightly ‘spending’ allowance. 

After work I head around to my friends’ house. They’re going away for the weekend so I’ll be looking after their four dogs and three cats. I go through the feeding routine with them and end up taking notes as I’m starting to stress that I’ll forget something important. I’m pedantic to a fault when it comes to my horses and therefore I take looking after anyone else’s animals seriously too. 


I make the fatal mistake of finishing my audiobook when I should already be in bed and then immediately starting a new novel. I only recently joined the library in the nearby city and I’ve made the most of the ebooks and audiobooks on offer. This has, however, presented a new challenge for me. 

I do know better than to start reading a crime novel before bed but unfortunately I convince myself I’ll only read a handful of pages. A couple of hours later I have to force myself to go to sleep with only a quarter of the book remaining. 

Daily total: $13.


I’ve had two relatively late nights in a row and I wake up feeling sluggish. Again I eat breakfast at home and this time I remember to pack the lunch I forgot the day before. Work goes well and although my horse with the puncture wound has improved a lot, he is starting to resemble a pin cushion after being injected with antibiotics twice a day. He spends each day with his head over the stable door begging for sympathy to anyone who walks by.

I nearly make it all the way home from work before remembering I have to vote in the state election. When I worked in media I was always across the candidates and what they stood for but I’m ashamed to say I’m nowhere near as astute now that I've moved interstate and no longer work in the industry. I do some hasty research as I make my way to the polling station. 

I have been agonising over whether to apply for a full-time, work from home journalist position that’s caught my eye, and after thinking it through I decide it can’t hurt to throw my hat in the ring. I like to keep an eye on jobs going and the sheer number of vacant roles is somewhat bewildering. I love my current position but the salary falls short given the amount of hours I work in a fortnight. 


I spend some time on my application before going over to pet-sit. The dogs are exuberant and the 13-week-old border collie pup is particularly excited. I try to keep some sort of order as they get fed and I wait around to give them all plenty of attention before I head back home. 

It’s later than I expected, nearly 9pm, and I feel a little bad as I was invited to see a band tonight as part of a free event put on by the local council. I know it’s important to support these sorts of initiatives in small towns so that they keep running. However, I can’t muster up the energy for another late night and I instead get organised for bed. 

I cook up a store-bought quiche for dinner and pack some for tomorrow’s lunch. Despite my best efforts, it’s still later than I’d like and I tell myself I may need to try and nap during my lunch break tomorrow. 

Daily total: $0.


My alarm goes off at 4.15am to give myself enough time to feed my friends’ pets before work. I wake up feeling like I have a cold brewing but I really don’t have time to be sick at the moment. Work is slow and I feel flat. I buy a soft drink from the vending machine ($2.50) to try and give myself an energy boost and manage to get through the rest of the day.


My friends are back and invite me to go for takeaway but I’m disciplined and eat at home instead. I was forced to scrutinise my spending last year following a very sudden break-up and it’s really made me consider what I value when it comes to money. 

The $150 that automatically transfers into my spending account each fortnight is for takeaway, drinks, and non-essential purchases, and I try very hard to stick to it. I also transfer $200 a fortnight into an emergency fund, $100 into longer-term purchases, and $200 into long-term savings. 

Most of my expenses are covered for the rest of the pay cycle now, save for perhaps a fuel top-up or some more groceries. I have a freelance article that I need to complete by Wednesday which will bring in another $100. 

I finish off my job application and add several more articles to my ‘read later’ list. Although I watched TV growing up it was never something that was prioritised in my family and over the last ten years I’ve never made it a habit. I spend most evenings reading novels or news articles and although I sometimes am too engaged to easily fall asleep, I believe it’s a good use of my time. I organise my lunch for the following day and finally manage to get an early night.  

Daily total: $2.50.


This has been a fairly typical week for me. I like to cover all my essential spending early on in the pay cycle so next week I won’t have to spend very much at all if I don’t want to. There are a lot of things I’ve considered buying lately but have decided to wait until I have built up my savings a little bit more - if this means going without, then so be it. 


I used to be very frivolous with money but the last year has seen me do a complete 180 and I’m glad it’s something that I have a better handle on now. My weaknesses are buying lunch or dinner when I’m feeling particularly tired or flat but I try to counter this by always having a few very easy meals at home and this helps to reduce the temptation. I do have the odd big (and therefore expensive) night at our local pub with my friends, but this is also why I allocate money into a spending account and I try not to beat myself up about it. 

I think I’m on track to make some real headway with saving this year and I’m pleased with how much more disciplined I’ve become. This job pays less than others I’ve had but remarkably I’ve actually saved quite a lot more but evaluating where I can cut costs. I had a couple of scares when it comes to money and it has made me understand the importance of having a safety net.

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Feature Image: Canva/Mamamia.

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