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What My Salary Gets Me: A 38-year-old social worker on $118,000 with two children.

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 38-year-old social worker shares her daily money diary.

Age: 38.

Job: Social worker (full time, middle management role, federal agency). My husband is in a senior business development role (full time, energy industry).

Salary: $118,500. My husband earns $200,000 (including commission).

Housing: New build; four-bedroom home in inner Brisbane, purchased for $1.1 million two and a half years ago. 

Dependants: Two children who attend local primary school, two four-month-old mini dachshund puppies and a three-year-old cat. 

Monthly expenses: 

Mortgage: $7,000 into offset account. 

House Insurance: $527.

Health insurance: $486.00 for the whole family. The biggest use is utilising local physio, massages and annual glasses prescriptions.

Income protection: $210 (combined), and additional critical illness cover: $150 (combined).

Phone: $220 (combined).

Internet: $65.

Car: $890.

Gym: $90 (combined). 

Streaming: Netflix, Stan, Binge, Amazon Prime, Apple - approximately $70 a month. 

Afterpay: $220. 

Pets: $20 to feed, plus additional costs for heartworm, tick/flea treatments and pet insurance.

Kids Activities:  

Chess: $300 per term (both children).

Auskick/AFL: $41 (both children).

Martial Arts: $256 (both children)

Donations: $80.

Monthly Prescriptions: $70.

Credit Card: We put all family payments on the shared credit card and pay back so we can gain extras like rewards points, frequent flyers, etc. Credit limit is $8,000, current owed is approximately $4,000. 

Savings: 

Assets: House was recently valued at approximately $1.35 million. We recently purchased a new car ($36,000) and paid with cash.   

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Kid’s investment account: $32,000.

Share portfolio: $95,000.

Superannuation balance: $380,000 (my husband) and $240,000 (me).

Mortgage offset balance: $165,000 cash in account. 

We recently sold our second property, which has given us access to substantial savings. We use an offset account so we get continuing benefit from these funds. We have made a plan to buy another investment soon-ish. 

In addition, I don’t claim the tax-free threshold and also have an automatic deduction of $200 per fortnight, which comes back to me in my tax cheque. This will equate to a tax return of approximately $12,000 or so in early August.  

Although, I don’t earn interest by withholding money in this way, the forced savings is outstanding for someone like me. I would like to replace my 2013 computer later this year, as well as contribute to the redesign of our backyard and put more money aside in the kid’s investment account.

Watch: Four money-saving hacks that don't cut out your daily cup of coffee. Post continues after video.


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Saturday.

I start my week walking the kids to their Saturday morning martial arts class down the road and grab a coffee on the way ($4.50).

We have just returned from a week on the Sunshine Coast in a self-contained unit. We holiday with kids on the premise that we prepare two meals in the unit, and have one meal dining out a day, so I need to go to the local shops to refresh the home fridge and pantry.   

I do the shopping at my local Woolworths. I am obsessed with the Everyday Rewards program, and remembered to boost my rewards while waiting for the kids.   

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When shopping, I always take a list but make allowances to bulk purchase meats or other items like cleaning items if they are on sale. I then cook the family meals based on the contents of our fridge/freezer to minimise waste. 

The reduced rack at Woolies is peaking today, with truffle pork sausages, grass fed beef and pork. I quietly high five myself and clean out the rack to add to my freezer stash (yes, I’m THAT person!). 

In addition, there is prepacked pet kangaroo mince at $4.25 a kilo and bags of chicken necks for the animals at $1.80. The animals are going to love me when I get home. 

I also buy some out of the ordinary items such as pet food containers, poppers and 'fun foods' for the kids like bake at home kits for the rest of school holidays ($240.50, which includes using a 10 per cent Everyday Rewards discount).

While at the shops, I also buy: 

  • My son left his lunchbox at school - gross, so I cut our losses and buy a new one for $15.
  • I buy a bottle of red for my husband and I to share in front of the TV, $16. 

I get home and prepare and bag all the groceries and veggies, so they last. I then spend the mid-morning preparing bulk lasagnes - one will be for dinner and two I will pop in the freezer for meals over the next couple of weeks. I then make the family tuna and salad wraps for lunch and make enough tuna mix for sandwiches the next day. 

We pick a family movie to watch, and chill on the couch post-lasagne. 

Daily total:  $276.

Sunday.

I have a quiet morning - I make breakfast for the fam then go upstairs and spend some time reshaping eyebrows, and use two at home kits to dye them (costs about $15 for about five applications) and bleach my top lip ($12 for about six applications).  

I invested in about $1,500 worth of IPL a few years ago, so due to the lightness of my hair, I only have to shave my legs once a fortnight and underarms once a week. I then have a loooong relaxing shower, scrub, moisturise and clean all of the things.

My husband and I have been talking about our backyard for years. We have now finally got to a point to really consider what we would best use and have decided to put in a pool. We take a drive and visit a company in the afternoon to check some out. We window shop and discuss what it might cost to crane in one versus build. 

We decide we need to spend more time considering this big purchase, so we go home with the kids - they are excited that they might be getting a pool. I feel bit hesitant; the crane costs alone are upwards of $6,000! We get the kids a Slurpee on the way home ($4).

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In the afternoon, we have our first puppy training class at the local Pet Barn. My husband has organised and paid prior to this week, and it cost about $150 for five weeks. 

We arrive 20 minutes early and there is a Sheridan outlet next door. My husband and I can’t remember the last time we bought new towels, and they are discounted, so we buy a set for the kids and two new towels for us ($225.17).

Post-puppy class, we buy more pet supplies ($115). I tell my husband this has to stop!

My husband tells me he has ordered the kids a choc fondue fountain for celebrations on the weekend ($55) and he also has to pay for his police check so he can volunteer to be the kid’s AFL coach this year ($70).

Daily total: $469.

Monday.

I work in the office three days a week; so today is an 'in office' day. The family gets ready early, so we have time for me to be driven to the office. A definite perk of moving close to the city. 

Before this, my husband and I would spend hours commuting back and forth from work to the Gold Coast - something we don’t take for granted and we get more time with our kids every day.

Before we go, I pack two home cooked frozen meals (chicken and veggie soup) from home to leave in the work freezer, so I have lunches available to quickly prepare or reheat when I can’t get out for lunch. I also grab some tuna tins/packs and soup packets from home to leave in my work drawer.   

I get to work and go for coffee with my team ($4.50) - we make the decision to go to Noosa Chocolates. I spend $23 on my husband on their delicious taster packs.  

I tell my colleagues I will meet them back at the office as I haven’t yet had breakfast. I buy a protein pot (boiled eggs) from Woolworths ($3.50) and a Mexican salad to eat with my prepacked tuna for lunch ($5). I buy a ten pack of Pepsi Max ($12) to pop in my work drawer (my kryptonite). 

While doing my makeup before work, I run out of my MCoBeauty Instant Brows Pencil (I bought as a beauty dupe because of Celeste Barber and it’s amazing!) so while I’m at the shops I check the price but it’s not on sale. I make a mental note to check prices later in the week.

I go down to the chemist to pick up prescriptions ($55), as well as my prescription retinol ($70) as part of my nightly skincare routine to treat lines and pigmentation. A little goes a long, long way. Being close to 40, I have chosen to really prioritise my skin over the last six months and I'm slowly noticing differences. 

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I get picked up from work because there are no after-school activities today. My husband has an afternoon appointment, so I make the kids and I baked potatoes with bacon, coleslaw, Greek yogurt and melty cheese. 

Daily total: $173.

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Tuesday.

It is my work from home day, but my husband is working from the office, so I repay the favour and drive him to work. Being school holidays, I pick up McDonalds for breakfast ($23).

At lunch, I make the kids toasted sandwiches and we spend time with our new little puppies. We have an at home picnic with lime cordial spritzers. 

I take the kids to martial arts and I realise I have forgotten/used up some items (like eggs and cheese!), so my husband ducks out to Aldi to pick up some additional items (he really just likes to go for the special buys, $40).

My husband doesn’t get to have lunch at work and feels like Thai for dinner, so we buy a green chicken curry and some basil pork via Uber Eats ($42). 

Daily total: $105.

Wednesday.

Another day in the office - husband is on phone calls early so I jump on the bus to work. It takes about 25 minutes ($3.40). When I arrive, the boss takes my colleague and I out for breakfast as a treat. The thick cut buttery vegemite sourdough hits the spot. No cost. 

While I'm working, I get a notification that my Tag Heuer watch is ready to be picked up. It’s an unexpected cost but would love to have it home as I have worn it nearly every day for almost seven years. I duck out at lunch to pick it up and it looks bright and shiny with a new battery ($165). 

On the weekend I noticed the drop in temperature, so on the way back to the office, I drop into Big W to pick up a jumper each for the kids. I buy a Bonds one for my girl and a Marvel one for my boy ($58). After work, I catch the quick bus home - 15 minutes ($3.40). 

When I get home, the kids get excited that they get new clothes and so I ride this wave. With my husband and children's help, we do the bi-annual clean out of kid clothes that are outgrown for the local donation bin. I usually try to do this before we buy anything new, so we don’t double up or buy stuff that won’t match, won’t get worn, etc.  

I log on to The Iconic and find most items the kids need on sale for 30 to 50 per cent off. I check the final purchases with them and order them ($250).

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I make Mexican for dinner at home. By about 8pm, I scratch my itch to have a glass of red wine and order home delivery from Jimmy Brings ($36.95).  

 Daily total: $516.75.

Thursday.

I wake up with a bit of a headache - the wine last night wasn’t the greatest idea. Thankfully, it’s my work from home day, so I prepare my coffee, some large waters, scramble eggs for the family and get stuck into the day early.   

I have back-to-back meetings all morning and finish the day with some complex participant matters. In my lunchtime I do the folding and I notice my work bras are looking a little discoloured and scrappy, read: holes and wearing away - I really hadn't noticed! 

After work, I go to Target and buy some bras at the mid-season sale, some Lego for my son, and one of those LOL Dolls for my daughter ($99.50). 

I buy some seafood for the weekend as well as a restock of fresh fruit and veggies, and cleaning supplies because I have loads of cleaning planned over the weekend ($275.76).

We take the dogs for an afternoon walk and have a chat to the neighbours in the park. I have time, so I roast a chook with lots of veggies for dinner. Leftovers FTW. 

Daily total: $375.26.

Friday.

It’s a public holiday today so we decide early to go and take the kids to the local cinema. My husband surprised us with Premium seats for the four of us. We also order food and drinks.  

This experience cost us a whopping $270. It was pretty lovely, but I hadn’t realised how much it cost and am a bit blown away. 

We go home for the rest of the afternoon, we clean and wash from the week that was. We also spend about three hours removing soil and debris from different parts of the garden, because every bit of labour we do, we don’t have to pay someone else! We wash up, then take a family walk around the local park.  

I find a recipe online, and make a fresh salmon and dill pasta for dinner. I don’t use all the seafood I bought, so into the freezer it goes. We take the puppies for a family night walk and then settle into bed. 

Daily spending total:  $270.

Reflection:

Yeah, wow. What an activity to see how much we spend!  

This was definitely a week where purchases like kid's clothing, movies and restocking our cupboards post holidays were not usual purchases and maybe happen twice a year. We also ate out a bit more this week. Through COVID though, it didn’t happen at all! 

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I am lucky that we scrimp in other areas of life week to week and month to month and this helps us to have experiences with our kids, we can always make sure they always have what they need at home and school to feel safe and secure. I realise selling our other property has given us a bit more financial freedom and less stress, but the lesson here is that we need to continue to be cautious so we can work towards our future savings goals like a completed backyard. 

On reflection, early life lessons teach long money lessons and these continue to impact me into my adult life. Things like food scarcity and knowing the 'haves' and the 'have nots' was a real social issue growing up for me. 

My husband and I have quite different financial experiences and so we have had to really work hard at continuing to be on the same page when it comes to scrimping versus spending. Honestly, week to week, I try to get our family dollars to stretch as far as they can, so we will never be without.  

We also spend, I’d say, an above average amount on insurance and income protection. It gives us ongoing assurance and comfort that we don’t have to worry where my next dollar is coming from if something happens to one or both of us. I am admittedly not always great at saving, so my 'tax hacks' and schemes like Afterpay work ridiculously well for me.  

This has helped me to project how I will spend money on spenny items that once upon a time would never have dreamed of owning. Recently, I bought a beautiful Furla handbag, and Afterpay helped me project how much the four payments would be and so I could pay for it outright out of my personal weekly allowance.   

Post this activity, my husband and I have reminded each other that we have to cut back a little, but upon review, I wouldn’t change the money spent and experiences had - well, maybe except for the extra money spoiling puppies at Pet Barn!

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

Feature Image: Canva/Mamamia.

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