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What My Salary Gets Me: A 29-year-old primary school teacher on maternity leave.

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 29-year-old primary school teacher on maternity leave shares her daily money diary.

Age: 29.

Job: Primary school teacher currently on maternity leave.

Salary: It's a bit complicated as I worked as a coordinator in 2021 earning $112,000 per year. Usually, as a teacher, I earn $79,620 per year. 

My maternity leave [payment] is an average of those two figures and then halved, so I can be paid for a longer period while I take time to care for my baby. Long story short, it’s just shy of about $1,500 per fortnight.

Housing: My husband and I bought our first home in the middle of last year. 

Savings: About $25,000.

Watch: Five money lessons your parents told you that you should probably forget. Post continues after video.


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Monthly expenses: 

Mortgage: $2,150.

Health insurance: $80.25.

Phone: $65.

Petrol: $50.

Gym: $19 (I have a Keep It Cleaner subscription).

Groceries (including weekly Hello Fresh deliveries): $700.

Car loan: $600.

Bills: Not my problem, I assume they get paid...

Internet: $70.

Dog expenses: $120.

Netflix, Stan and Disney+: $10 – we only pay for Stan and share the login with my parents. They pay for the other two and give us their login. 

Monday.

We are settling back into our new normal now the holiday season is coming to an end. My husband is working from home while I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to get our baby to sleep. He’s three months old and it feels like a miracle when I can get five minutes to jot these reflections down! 

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Our morning starts at 7am when the baby wakes up and we feed while my husband makes me a coffee. Hello Fresh has arrived overnight and needs to be unpacked. I usually manage a piece of toast before we tackle nap one. Then I go in for a second breakfast of something a bit more substantial – eggs or muesli, fruit and yoghurt. 

We repeat this cycle twice more with a late morning nap and then the early arvo nap with lunch squeezed in between (leftover pasta from the night before). By mid-afternoon, I’m bored and need a change of scenery. 

Baby and I take a trip to Kmart and he screams the whole way. I buy a silicone scrubbing brush ($3) as we’re about to tackle cloth nappies when my order arrives next week. I also buy a photo album ($8) and a little embroidery kit ($5) to keep me busy when the baby actually sleeps without being held. 

My day takes a bit of a disastrous turn when we get into a car accident on the way home. Thankfully, only my ego is hurt (since I caused the crash!) and we are insured. We go to the police station to report the crash and then head home for dinner – a Hello Fresh recipe. 

Daily total: $16 + a raincheck on our $600 insurance excess.

Tuesday.

Our morning unfolds much the same as yesterday, but I manage to squeeze in a run using the Keep It Cleaner 0-5km program. Baby and I go for a drive to visit relatives. We eat lunch and spend a few hours there. 

We head home and take an afternoon nap while my husband works from home. Then we take a walk around the neighbourhood. My husband goes to pick up his mum from the airport and they pick up dinner on the way home (her shout – bonus!). We eat and put the baby to sleep before heading off to bed. No money spent!

Daily total: $0.

Wednesday.

Same start to the day – fruit and muesli for breakfast. My mother-in-law arrives at 10am - we are going to drive into the city as she has an appointment, and I am catching up with my cousins for a walk along the river. 

After our walk, we head to my mum’s house. She had bought some sushi, so I sneak in two of her rolls for my lunch. We go to the crash repairer to get a quote for my car and then stop in at a bakery on the way home to buy a cake ($26) for our friend as it’s her birthday tomorrow. We also treat ourselves to a piece of banana slice ($2.60). 

We go for a walk around the block again and start our usual evening routine. I cook another Hello Fresh recipe for dinner and somehow manage to get the baby in bed by 7pm. Completely blindsided by the freedom, we make absolutely no use of it and watch another episode of Dopesick before heading to bed at the same time we always would. 

Daily total: $28.60.

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Thursday.

We start our day with breakfast in our beautiful backyard before it gets too hot. Nap, feed, dressed and playing on the mat. Baby has learned to roll from his tummy to his back, so we practice that a few times. 

We head to my friend’s place for lunch as we’re avoiding going out to cafes because, you know, COVID. We take an extra-long route to squeeze in a decent nap and I notice I’m getting low on petrol. Not willing to fill up today though! We have a lovely lunch of zucchini slice and salad with my friend and then head home for another afternoon nap. 

I pick up some extra ingredients to add to our final Hello Fresh recipe for the week ($21) so my mother-in-law can join us. We eat and watch some tennis before going to bed. 

Daily total: $21.

Friday.

We have an earlier start than normal today and after I spent two-and-a-half hours unable to sleep from 3am, I’m not in a fabulous mood. My mother-in-law comes over to watch the baby so I can stay committed to my run program. I make breakfast at home before I go and have big regrets as I battle through a stitch for the entirety of my run! I persevere and feel good for it after. 

As we are playing at home, my husband emerges from his computer to tell me the issue with his car’s fuel pump that he’s been battling all week is a result of putting unleaded petrol in his diesel tank. I’m blissfully unaware of how disastrous that is until he tells me in no uncertain terms that we won’t be able to fulfill our (unrealistic) dream of living a caravan life on the road for the next five years AND keep the house now that this has happened. PLUS, I’m about to go get my COVID booster and my husband is now in a deeelightful mood. 

I go to get my booster and stop in at the chemist to pick up some paracetamol ($2.99), nappies ($24.99), breast pads ($5.49), shampoo and conditioner ($64.99) and I use the rare opportunity of not having the child in the car to fill up with UNLEADED as per my car’s requirements ($72). 

We have takeaway Thai for dinner with my mother-in-law (her shout again) and try to shake off a bit of a flat week by watching the tennis and finishing Dopesick.

Daily total: $170.46 + whatever dream-crushing amount it will cost to repair a $35k ute…

Saturday.

I’m not feeling too bad from my booster yet but keep onto the Panadol and we aim to have a day at home, which is awesome because it’s forecast to rain all day. We watch YouTube, have coffees, and then my husband takes the baby to visit a mate so I can have an hour alone. 

I reset the house, put a load of washing on and then flop on the couch for a bit before they get home as my muscle aches are starting to ramp up. We have chicken and chips for lunch ($17.60) and get some groceries for dinner ($28.80). 

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Other than my parents stopping in for an hour, we literally spend all day on the couch, and it is THE. BEST. We also end up eating the cake we bought earlier in the week because our friend never visited and, quite frankly, it would be rude to let it go stale. We cook pasta for dinner with the groceries we bought and have an early night. Hoping I don’t have a delayed onset of any more booster side effects so we can have a nice day tomorrow. 

Daily total: $46.40.

Sunday.

Feeling good this morning so I go for a run and then we take a walk to our local café for brunch with my in-laws (their shout – look, we don’t even bother arguing anymore – plus, they stuffed the housing market so they kinda owe us). 

A full tummy with coffee and breakfast burgers puts us in the mood for some jobs around the house while the baby naps. My husband does a trip to Bunnings and spends $50 on a few things and then stops in at the supermarket to get milk and stuff for breakfast to get us through until I do a proper grocery shop tomorrow ($12.20). We potter around for the afternoon and then get burritos for dinner ($28.80). 

Daily total: $91.

Reflection.

Aside from the car dramas, that was a pretty standard week for us. Usually, we’d include a decent grocery shop (~$150) on the weekend. We have a good coffee machine at home, so we rarely buy coffee out and with my husband working from home we are better at making lunch with leftovers rather than eating out. Coffee and lunch spending increases significantly when he is at work. Also, his New Year's resolution is to not drink beer on a weekday, so I no longer supplement his habits.

Our mortgage is relatively large for our age, income and location (yeah, I know, “it’s nothing like Sydney or Melbourne”), however we live in a small, well-renovated house with a big backyard and walking distance to the beach which suits us perfectly. Although preparing for the arrival of our baby was a huge financial shock (who knew prams were so expensive!), now that he is here we’re lucky breast milk is free and you can’t go anywhere or do anything with a newborn, so it kind of balances out.

Generally, we try to spend more money on higher quality products that will last for a few years, so we don’t regularly buy new clothes or anything like that. 

Our money arrangement works well for us and we rarely feel stressed by it, for which I am grateful but also proud because we know it’s a result of working hard, making sacrifices and smart decisions (except for choosing the wrong fuel bowser) about our purchases, and living within our means. 

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