finance

What My Salary Gets Me: A house-sitter who works from home and has $60,000 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 42-year-old housesitter and former Sydney resident who now lives on the south coast of NSW shares her money diary.

Age: 42

Job: Instructional Designer/Housesitter

Salary: $65 per hour (including tax and super). I’m a contractor and only get paid for what I work.

Housing: House-sitting. My stuff lives in the garage at my parents’ house and my former home is now rented out to long term tenants as an investment property.

Regular expenses (monthly):

Rent: $0

Internet: $0

TV streaming apps: $38

Phone: $36

Utilities (electricity, water, gas): $0

Investment property (negatively geared): $400

Car expenses (petrol and costs): $150

Private health insurance $120

Savings: $60,000 in cash savings

Debt: $0 debt apart from the mortgage on my investment property

Assets: Car valued at approx. $17k and investment property valued at $1.1m

How to budget with the help of a banana. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Sunday – Day one

I’m house-sitting in the country. My friend, her fiancé and their three dogs are visiting this weekend. Having guests for the weekend in a home that isn’t your own is a little tricky. I’m extra cautious of the way my friends wash the pots and pans and what they use from the fridge. In this house-sit, I’m looking after two dogs, one timid cat and some chooks and ducks. We all tramp down the hill and my friend’s fiancé helps me to fix the water pump in the duck shed. After a big breakfast, playing with five dogs, my friends and their pets leave for the weekend and I begin the clean-up. I receive a beautiful candle as a gift from my friend.

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I pick at leftovers in the late afternoon and go to bed early.

Total spent: $0

Monday – Day Two

Before breakfast today, I take the dogs for a walk, feed the ducks and chooks, collect their eggs and water the garden. The house is on a few acres, but thankfully I’m not responsible for the fields, just the gardens. Breakfast is overnight oats and fruit, already prepped and ready in the fridge with a green tea.

Time to go to work. I’m working from the study which has great views over the treetops. The dogs curl up behind me and the day passes quickly. I order some vitamins online from the UK ($85) and plan my meals for the week. I’m not too far from town, but I find it easier to plan meals with what I have rather than shop too often. It helps me to conserve what I buy, so that I don’t end up with an oversupply at the end of a house sit. 

Lunch is leftover roast veg in a wrap eaten at my desk. In the evening, I make a stir fry with the snow peas and whatever veg is left in the fridge then settle down to watch some Netflix before an early night.

Daily total: $85

Tuesday – Day Three

Dog walkies, chook and duck care and garden harvesting again this morning. Today it’s a cabbage that I get from the garden and save the outer leaves for the birds. My regular breakfast of oats, fruit and tea and then off – up the stairs – to work.

Another workday in the study. My work is pretty solo, but today I have a video conference and it’s nice to see my colleagues for an hour on screen. A neighbour and her dog come by to pick up some eggs and we have a cuppa on the deck while the dogs play. It’s too late to worry about lunch.

Dinner is a marinated tofu burger and coleslaw. I have a long chat with a friend in Sydney, watch some shows and off to bed by 10pm.

Daily total: $0

Wednesday – Day Four

Regular morning routine, today I harvested a beetroot. I’m trying to leave things in the garden for the owners, so I only take one thing at a time that I will definitely use. The dogs spot some movement in the bush that borders the property and take off after it. I follow them for a while – an impromptu bushwalk.

I take a break in my work today and spend some time in the kitchen. I roast the beetroot and make hummus, slow roast some tomatoes that are near the end of their life and pickle the radishes and cabbage. The pickles will make nice gifts to leave for the homeowners and to give to my parents at the end of this sit. Lunch is roasted tomatoes and avocado on toast.

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I work late, to make up for the break in the day, skip dinner and enjoy the huge bathtub with a book that I borrowed from the bookshelf in the house. After my bath, I slip and drop my phone on the floor tiles. Smashed. That’ll cost a bit. I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

Daily total: $0

Thursday – Day Five

Regular morning routine and brekkie. I’m getting low on supplies by this time in the week, but I always have oats.

Payday! I invoice my clients monthly and a big payment has dropped., $7800 for my hours last month. This amount includes tax and I also make a super contribution from this too. I transfer those amounts to a separate account and leave myself $4800 of net salary. This goes straight to savings.

I take my phone into town, a 30-minute drive, to be fixed. While it’s being repaired, I do a small shop at Coles to get me through to the weekend ($23) and then work in the local library for an hour (free).  A new phone screen costs $360 (ouch!).

There is rain predicted and I’m unprepared for the muddy yard and chook shed. So, I come back via Bunnings and buy a pair of the exact same gumboots I have at home ($22).

Back at the house, I have leftovers for lunch and work the afternoon. I take the dogs for a big walk after work. We see two wombats, a wallaby, some lyrebirds and a gorgeous sunset over the mountains.

Daily total: $405

Friday – Day Six

I don’t work on Fridays and this is usually my favourite day of the week. But, as I was in town yesterday, I need to make up my hours, so I work half of Friday after the usual morning routine.

In the afternoon, I load up the dogs and drive to a nearby town to visit a farmers market. I’m a sucker for a good farmers market. It’s weird, country town markets aren’t as good as city ones. There isn’t the variety that I was used to in Sydney farmers markets. I still find things to buy! I buy strawberries, blueberries, balsamic vinegar, bread, and jam. We leave $58 poorer, but with delicious treats.

Dinner is bread and jam in front of the TV. The wind is blowing and the rain is heavy, so I put the fire on. Those gumboots will come in handy tomorrow morning.

Daily total: $58

Saturday – Day Seven

Cleaning day. The homeowners are back tomorrow. So I get the morning routine done in the mud and then get stuck into the inside clean. I wash everything – except my bed sheets – pack my things, return the owners items to their original places and generally get the house back in order. I like to leave a clean home for them to return to. Generally, I’d wash the dogs, but the weather is so bad that they will just have to stay dirty. I head out and buy some flowers ($47) and fresh items (milk, bread and fruit $18) to leave for the homeowners. I pack my car as much as possible, have Vegemite toast for dinner and enjoy a last evening of puppy dog cuddles.

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Daily total:$65

Weekly total:$613

Reflection

I left Sydney life 9 months ago. Previously, I would have spent over $1500 a week with a mortgage on my own, city work lunches and toll roads – none of which I miss. I’m enjoying the lifestyle change and I’m saving and waiting for inspiration to strike and help me decide what to do next. For now, housesitting is saving me so much money in housing costs. When I’m not housesitting, I stay with my folks.  

Without the broken phone screen, duplicate gumboots and the end-of-housesit expenses, this would have been a typical lean week. I enjoy making my meals from scratch and love that my food bill is so much lower since going vegan two years ago. I miss my friends in Sydney, but that’s all I miss about it. I don’t know if or when I’ll go back to ‘real life’, but this life suits me just fine right now. I love watching my savings grow. 

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 30-year-old lawyer on $92,000, who owns an investment property.

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.

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