What My Salary Gets Me: A 24-year-old mum who earns $35,000 doing a 'low-spend 2020'.

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 24-year-old high school teacher from Brisbane, Queensland. 

Age: 24

Occupation: High school teacher (part-time contract) and freelance writer

Annual earnings: Around $35,000 before tax

Housing: New homeowner in the outer suburbs of Brisbane

Monthly Expenses:

Housing (mortgage + council rates + home and contents insurance): $1645 (split with husband)

Utilities (electricity + gas + water): $250 (split with husband)

Transport: Car (fuel + insurance + rego): $279

Phone: $9.80 (I intentionally have a low-data plan so that I don’t spend too much time on my phone)

Internet: Free (Dad runs an internet company)

Groceries: $600 (split with husband)

Subscriptions: $0 (we use my Auntie’s Netflix)

Regular charitable donations: $240 (to my church)

Savings: $2,500

Assets: Home ($465,000 – own approx. 20 per cent with husband), savings and investments ($2,500) and car (own outright – value of $3,000)

Debts: $340,000 mortgage (split with husband), $34,000 HECS. I haven’t started paying my HECS back yet because I’ve never worked full time – we had our daughter the year after I graduated.

Long-term planning: We would like to knock down our current house and build our dream family home in 6-8 years time.

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

Video by Mamamia

My husband and I recently worked our butts off to buy our first home – which needed a significant amount of work – to live in with our 18-month-old daughter. We only moved in two days before Christmas after renovating the bathroom (completely by ourselves), and have been fixing up other parts of the house ever since. We’re also both high school teachers – so this time of year is holiday/family time for us.

I recently accepted a part-time contract, which has been a step up salary-wise from my infrequent supply teaching and freelance writing. However, I don’t get paid until school starts later this month. I have also been doing some freelance writing work over the holidays to give us a financial boost.

After reviewing our finances (and our new mortgage) at the end of 2019, my husband and I decided to commit to a ‘low-spend’ year – a concept where you only spend money on things you absolutely NEED (groceries, bills, mortgage repayments, medical needs etc). We’re doing pretty well, although it’s taking a bit to adjust to this new way of life.

Wednesday, January 1st – Day One

We’re on our final day on a trip up at Barbara, Bundaberg with a church group. We’re running a free pancake breakfast for the community at the local park at 8am, so after a late night on New Years, we do a much-needed coffee run ($15.50 – two flat whites plus a cappuccino for a friend). After pancakes for breakfast, we do another coffee run for two iced lattes ($12.50). We’re driving home tomorrow, so I fill up with fuel ($76.49).

Dinner is curry and rice back at the campsite.

Daily total: $104.49

Thursday – Day Two

Our home and contents insurance comes out today – $62.80. In hindsight, it would have been more cost-effective to just pay it outright rather than in monthly instalments, but here we are.

We spend another $10 on coffee before we pack up our tent and hit the road. On the way home to Brisbane we stop at a servo and spend $49 on lunch and coffee (we were tired, okay).

We stop by my parents’ place for dinner before heading home.

Daily total: $121.80

Friday – Day Three

Today, we unpack from our holiday, and then take a long look at our spending over the previous few months. I discover that in two and a half months, we have spent over $1600 on unnecessary ‘things’ (Christmas gifts not included) – and over $440 in coffee alone!

Something in me snaps (I love a good NY resolution) and after watching multiple videos on YouTube, I decide that we are going to do a NO SPEND 2020. Which, after some revision, turns into a ‘Low-Spend 2020’ (we have an 18-month-old, after all. She has needs).


My husband is on board, and the rules are set – no spending on anything other than bare necessities (and ‘bare necessities’ does not include coffee. Gulp.)

My dad (a raging sceptic) texts me that since Trump assassinated that Iranian leader, fuel is going to become very expensive (?!), so I race to the nearest BP and fill up again ($54.31). I also donate $15 to the bush fires. I will hopefully contribute more once our next credit card bill is dealt with.

Daily total: $69.31

Saturday – Day Four

Today the camping trip and travel catches up with me and I come down sick with a virus.

All of my time spent in bed reminds me that we need some new bedsheets (our other 11-year-old set had multiple rips in it), so I spent $38.95 on a new set from Groupon.

I also ordered our weekly groceries for my husband to collect – $179.79 (much higher than usual, because we’d been away and the fridge was completely empty).

Daily total: $218.74

Sunday – Day Five

Today I was still catching up from my bug, so I spent the morning at home with my daughter while my husband went to church. In the afternoon, my parents watch my daughter so I can sleep, and my husband finishes installing our laundry.

I realise I am out of shampoo and conditioner, so I order some more online ($45.81 – yes, expensive. But I have a sensitive scalp and some frighteningly brassy ends. And it’s a necessity. It IS.)

Daily total: $45.81

Monday – Day Six

I take my daughter to a play date at our local shopping centre this morning to escape the heat, and we go to a cafe afterwards. She gets a Babycino ($2.50 – steep!), and I enjoy my free tap water. I then buy $22 worth of household items from Coles, but I use my Flybuys dollars, so they are free!

Daily total: $2.50

Tuesday – Day Seven

Today I go for a long walk with my daughter in the morning, and then after lunch we go and visit a friend who’s recently had a baby.

I decline an invitation to go to a movie with my mum in the evening (would have only been $6, but still, it’s money, and I was exhausted), and head to bed early.

Daily total: $0 (!!) (My first proper no-spend day – and hopefully many more to come!)

Weekly total: $562.65


This week was a very unusual week for us financially – with both of us on holidays, our normal routine was completely out of whack (particularly being away and then completing our renovations).

We would normally spend around $200/month on coffee – both buying beans for our espresso machine at home, and the too-frequent takeaways either at work or at our local cafe. Cutting this out has already made a difference over the past couple of days.


I’m most excited about doing our low-spend challenge this year. We’ve finally fought our way into the housing market, and we have big plans to pay off our mortgage as quickly as we can in order to build our forever home.

Although I haven’t had too many temptations yet, I can see that being at home as often as I am as a mum could be difficult – online shopping is just too easy!

Already, restricting my spending to necessities-only has showed me how easy it is to spend money mindlessly. Several times I’ve picked up my phone to start online shopping, or browsed Facebook marketplace to find a good deal. And the number of marketing emails and ads I see doesn’t help.

By intentionally switching off my ‘consumer mindset’, I’ve started to see how companies use every trick in the book to get you to spend money on things you don’t really need.

We are also hoping to have another child in the near future (which will mean more time off work for me). Keeping our expenses to only necessities will help us stay on track with our financial goals.

If you’re interested in doing a low-spend challenge – even if it’s just a ‘no-spend’ weekend, or month – I highly recommend it! Wish me luck – hopefully I’ll be sitting pretty at the end of 2020 with a fat bank account (or even just less of a mortgage).

The feature image used is a stock photo. Image: Getty.

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]

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