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A 23-year-old legal secretary on €36K living and working in Dublin


WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on The Journal that looks at how people in Ireland really handle their finances.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of how much they earn, what they save if anything, and what they’re spending their money on over the course of one week.

Are you a spender, a saver or a splurger? We’re looking for readers who will keep a money diary for a week. If you’re interested send a mail to money@thejournal.ie. We would love to hear from you.

Each money diary is submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that their situation will not be relatable for everyone, it is simply an account of a week in their shoes, so let’s be kind.

Last time around, we heard from a sales executive on €47K living with her husband in Dublin. This week, a 23-year-old legal secretary on €36K living and working in Dublin.

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I am a 23-year-old legal secretary living with my boyfriend and working in Dublin. Although I have a degree, a Master’s and a Diploma, I found it very hard to get a job in Dublin over the last two years. But thankfully, I landed on my feet in a solicitor’s firm a few months ago. I’m fairly new to commercial law, so I’m taking a course in professional legal studies to help me to move up the ranks, as I don’t like being at the ‘bottom of the pile’, so to speak. My goal is to hopefully one day work in human rights law (my master’s is in human rights) so I guess it all ended up ok.

With the housing market being the way it is, myself and my boyfriend are planning on emigrating to Australia in a few years. So, we are saving for that as well as hoping to get away a few times beforehand. I’m not too good at saving, as I am very much of the opinion that I’m young and I would rather see the world and experience things than have money sitting in my account. Maybe I’ll regret that in a few years when I’m trying to buy a house – but something tells me I won’t!

We are extremely lucky in that at the moment we are renting via a friend of mine who has moved to Mexico, so he is charging us very little rent and is just happy we are keeping the place clean for him! We are so lucky to be in this situation, as with the rental crisis, so many people are being forced into homelessness or moving back home and losing job opportunities. We definitely don’t take it for granted.

Occupation: Legal secretary
Age: 23
Location: Dublin
Salary: €36,000
Monthly income (net): €2,667

Monthly Expenses

Rent: €275 (my half)
Transport: Leap card – €100 
Insurance: I don’t have any
Mobile: €35
Groceries: €400 (including the odd takeaway)
Savings: €500 into savings account, €300 into credit union
Subscriptions: Amazon Prime – €10, 3fe coffee service – €24, my dad pays for our family Spotify account, my boyfriend pays for Netflix, my brother pays for Disney Plus and he scrounges off my Prime and my boyfriend’s Netflix!
Donations: Dogs Trust – €12, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre – €16

***

Monday

6.45 am: Alarm goes off. Another day, another dollar.

7.00 am: Manage to peel myself out of bed and quickly get ready for work. I pack up a lunch box of yoghurt, granola and fruit for breakfast so I can eat it once I get to the office. I’m not really a breakfast person so I find waiting until I’m at work to eat is usually easier. I’m out the door for the bus which is at 7.51 am. It only comes once every few hours, so I can’t miss it!

8.20 am: Arrive at work. I’m not supposed to start until 9 am every day, but seeing as there’s only one bus that gets me here, I have to deal with it. I sit at my desk and eat my breakfast while going through my emails.

1.00 pm: Such a fast morning. I had one too many beers last night and forgot to make lunch, so I head off to the café next door. I get a roll and a packet of crisps, and thanks to my staff discount, it comes to €6.20, which I still consider pretty expensive for lunch, but sure you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. We have a Nespresso machine at work so I have one of those with my lunch. My two direct debits to DRCC (€16) and Dogs Trust (€12) come out today.

5.15 pm: Another Monday done, straight out the door of work. I leave 15 minutes early every day to get the bus (which, again, only goes once every hour so I can’t miss it!). I tap on with my Leap card and then switch over to another bus which will bring me home.

6.30 pm: Finally home! Straight away I make lunch for tomorrow and dinner for tonight before the tiredness will inevitably hit. Veggie spag bol tonight and rice with Quorn chicken and avocado for lunch tomorrow (got all the ingredients in our Big Shop yesterday).

7.00 pm: Shower, quick clean of the kitchen and retire in front of the TV with the fella to binge watch Hell’s Kitchen. I do a little bit of study while I watch Gordon curse and scream away.

10.30 pm: After a nice relaxing evening, we head off to bed. I like to fall asleep to talking so we pop on a true crime podcast on Spotify and off to sleep.

Today’s total: €34.20

Tuesday

6.45 am: Exact same as yesterday. Up, get ready, make brekkie (granola, yoghurt and fruit), put a wash on, head out for the bus. Getting used to seeing the same people get on the bus every day – knitting girl, cool trousers girl, watches TikToks out loud girl. It’s become a nice morning routine waiting for them all to make an appearance.

8.20 am: Eat my brekkie at my desk. A couple of the solicitors are in court this morning so it’s a quiet morning in the office. I’m able to catch up on a lot of admin stuff that usually can’t get done when it’s busier in the office.

11.00 am: I go into my 11 am meeting that very easily could have been an email… anyway, I am four Nespresso coffees deep and I’m thanking the heavens that the office has free coffee.

1.00 pm: Lunchtime!! I cover my lunch I made yesterday in BBQ sauce and inhale it as I watch Criminal Minds on my phone at my desk. I often get bored having an hour-long lunch, but I’m not complaining… when I worked in service, I was lucky to have time to run to the bathroom, so it’s a nice change.

5.10 pm: Such a long day today, so I sprint out the door a few minutes early just because I can and start to prepare myself for my hour-long journey home. Some days I don’t mind it, as I can re-listen to my lectures from college on the bus and try to be productive, but other days it’s dreadful. It’s bizarre to me how by car it’s a 13-minute drive from where I live to where I work, but by bus, it’s over an hour. My boyfriend is learning to drive and hopefully will be able to help me out with getting home sometimes in the future, but until then, I just have to grin and bear it.

6.00 pm: I’ve been listening to a lecture about civil litigation and it has put me right to sleep on the bus (no surprises there) so I have missed my stop and had to walk for a while. I top up my Leap card while I stroll. (€10)

6.50 pm: In the door to a nice warm house (joy!) and my boyfriend making dinner, so I grab the biggest glass I can find and fill it with wine and plop myself in front of the TV. My boyfriend has made a veggie carbonara with bits from our Sunday shop. We eat away and chat while watching Hell’s Kitchen (notice a pattern here?). Afterwards, I make lunch for work tomorrow (rice, Quorn chicken fillets, and avocado) clean up a bit and have a shower.

9.30 pm: I head to bed nice and early. Little bit of watching YouTube with my boyfriend and I doze off.

Today’s total: €10.00

Wednesday

6.45 am: Yes, you guessed it: Up, dressed, get ready, make breakfast, run for the bus. I drift in and out of sleep on the bus this morning while listening to Dermot Kennedy, and so I’m a tad groggy starting my day.

8.20 am: Arrive at work. It’s a good day today, a big case we had gone the way we wanted, so everyone is in good spirits. One of the girls runs down to the café and gets a big plate of pastries for everyone. I have a pain au chocolat. Our office manager is organising a fundraiser for Ukraine this week and there is an envelope for cash in the kitchen, so I run to my purse and pop €50 into it. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but I’d like to think every little bit helps. It’s horrible watching everything going on in the world and feeling like you can’t help.

1.00 pm: I sit at my desk and eat my lunch I made last night. I do a bit of reading of legal articles to prepare for my lecture tonight. My boss has come in and brought everyone in the office a bunch of daffodils and a candle. Such a kind gesture. It’s been a hectic last few weeks preparing for trial which has been tough but it’s all wrapped up now, and we will all be happy when we see that overtime on our payslips.

3.00 pm: I’m about four coffees in today. I’m quite tired but it has been a nice day. We sit around for a bit and chat about maybe going out next week to celebrate. Think we all need a bit of a boogie.

5.15 pm: I’m straight out the door. Ever since I’ve started my college course, I’ve had to start getting taxis home on a Wednesday in order to make it home in time for lectures. When I get the bus, I tend to miss the first 15/20 minutes of my lectures. So, I hop in a taxi (€16.60) and I’m home by 5.30 pm. So quick! Me and the fella pop over to Tesco to get some mid-week top-ups. I love an evening Tesco stroll. It comes to €17.28.

6.00 pm: My lecture starts in half an hour, so I quickly pop on stuff for lunch tomorrow (rice, Quorn chicken fillets and avocado… I’m sorry I’m so predictable!) and get cosy on the sofa with my laptop.

6.30 pm: And here we go… three-hour lecture on judicial precedent. Although it is definitely really interesting, I find it so hard to concentrate after a long day’s work. I listen to my lecture with my earphones in while my boyfriend sits beside me watching the TV. He gets up periodically to make dinner and I scoff down a rice and veggie dish while trying to concentrate on what my lecturer is saying. I also down a freezing cold Diet Coke that was in the fridge. Nothing better.

8.45 pm: It’s the break from lecture. We get 20 minutes, so I minimise the screen and open up another program. On Wednesdays, I do the payroll for my dad’s company. I learned payroll years ago in a different company so when my dad needed a hand doing payroll, I offered. It’s pretty straightforward once you get the gist of it and only takes 20/30 minutes once a week. I try to decline his offer of payment, as he is my dad and it’s no hassle, but every few weeks he throws me some money to say thank you. I tend to keep that aside so I have a bit of spending money whenever I manage to get away. Plus, it’s handy to have some cash floating about for things like tips or charity donations. Once I’m done, I send the lads off their payslips and open up my lecture again.

9.35 pm: Lecture is finally finished. My eyes are stinging and I can’t wait to crawl into bed. I clean up from dinner a little bit and I’m off to bed. Pop on a podcast in the background, but it’s barely beginning and I’m KO’d.

Today’s total: €83.88

Thursday

6.45 am: Up, dressed, get ready, make breakfast blah blah blah blah. I swear my life is more interesting than it sounds. Run for the bus. Tap on. All the usual suspects get on at their stops.

8.15 am: Eat my breakfast at my desk, scroll through the obnoxious number of emails I have. I have a good bit of work to do today and a deadline at 3 pm, so I tip away at it all morning.

11.30 am: I’m trying to cut down on caffeine, but I am very much a coffee lover, so I bought a few boxes of herbal tea a few weeks ago that I keep in my desk drawers. I opt for a ‘relax’ tea this afternoon. It doesn’t exactly do the trick of instant relaxation, but it’s tasty and I suppose that’ll do.

1.00 pm: Lunchtime. I’ve had a bit of an intense day and I feel the need to get out of the office, so I go for a stroll in the freezing cold, and I grab a Diet Coke and a chocolate bar while I’m out (€5). The fresh air does the trick and I head back to work feeling better.

5.15 pm: Head out the door for the bus. Tap on again, ride a few stops before I have to swap over to another bus that’ll take me home. I’m swapping between music and listening to yesterday’s lecture again. Myself and my boyfriend have decided to go out tonight to our local to watch an open mic night, so I’m really looking forward to it. As much as I love relaxing and doing nothing in the evenings, making an effort to go out mid-week really makes me feel happy and like work isn’t my whole existence!

6.35 pm: In the door and a quick change later, I am back out. Me and the fella walk down to the pub and cosy ourselves at the bar. The night is great fun, it’s so nice to see the entertainment industry is back up and running and people can finally enjoy live music again. We buy a couple of rounds each – my lot for the night costs €54 including tips and everything. My boyfriend and I aren’t super strict when it comes to splitting costs 50/50. We split it down the middle when it comes to renting, but everything else we don’t mind. I figure somewhere along the line it probably evens out. We also make different money and he tends to fork out a couple of extra treats a month as he earns quite a bit more than me. We figure in the course of our relationship, they’ll always be differing salaries and we don’t want to always be stressing about splitting things evenly.

11.00 pm: We walk home, cold and a tad tipsy, but a great night was had. Down a few pints of water and off to bed.

Today’s total: €59.00

Friday

6.45 am: Up we get! Finally Friday – I feel like this week has really dragged on so I’m delighted to see the back of it. I get ready, put a wash on, make my brekkie (same as usual.. yoghurt, granola, fruit) and head out the door.

8.00 am: Bus is a bit late this morning and I’m now soaked from waiting in the rain.

8.40 am: Eat my brekkie at my desk and prepare myself for a (hopefully) lovely Friday. A lot of the people in the office work from home on Fridays, so it’s nice and relaxing and quiet most of the day.

1.00 pm: Lunchtime. I treat myself on a Friday so I bait over to the cafe and get myself a roll, a packet of crisps and a can of Diet Coke which comes to €5.55 after my staff discount. Scoff that down while watching Criminal Minds. It’s my fourth time rewatching it but I have a terrible memory so it’s as if every time is the first time… ideal.

3.30 pm: Myself and the office manager head out to Lidl. We have managed to raise over €500 in our office to buy supplies for Ukraine.

4.40 pm: Back from Lidl, we have dropped off all the supplies to the closest drop-off point. It’s at this point it’s not that busy, which is a relief.

5.15 pm: Out the door and onto the bus. As soon as I leave the office, I realise I have left my AirPods at my desk. Heartbreak.

7.30 pm: Myself and my boyfriend decide to go meet a few friends in town. We hop on the bus and off we go. We have a good few rounds and manage to stumble out of the pub around 12… (maybe?). My boyfriend orders us a taxi and I check my Revolut to see how much I’ve spent. €22… don’t know how I managed that, but sure look, I’m not complaining!

Today’s total: €27.55

Saturday

10.00 am: A slow start to the morning, that’s for sure. Shower and get ready and me and the fella head out for some brekkie. On our way for breakfast, we stop for coffee to help cure our sore heads. Two coffees and a caramel square to share come to €8.60.

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12.00 pm: Eggs on toast and apple juice is an instant hangover cure. I foot the bill. (€35.10)

2.30 pm: I have a dentist appointment this afternoon so I walk down, and thankfully it’s just a quick check-in for my Invisalign, so it doesn’t cost me anything.

3.00 pm: My boyfriend meets me from the dentist’s office and we walk home, and I grab a coffee on the way. (€3.10)

5.00 pm: We have a quiet night in and decide to order some Indian, I get a saag paneer and it is incredible, to say the least. The fella pays for the lot. We watch a bit of Hell’s Kitchen and then watch No Exit. Very good movie, 8/10.

11.00 pm: Off to bed. Nothing too exciting.

Today’s total: €46.80

Sunday

9.30 am: Up nice and early. We give the house a quick clean, pop on a few washes and hoover while we bop along to a few morning tunes. Although the weather is bad this morning, we decide to go for a walk up in Marley Park.

12.40 pm: On our way up to Marley Park, we stop to get coffee and we share a cheese toastie (€13.50). We walk for about two hours, stopping for ages to watch the dogs run around in the dog park.

3.30 pm: On our way back from the park we decide to run into Dundrum Shopping Centre, as I need a few bits for work. I hate shopping so I am determined to get in and out of there as fast as humanly possible. I spend €7.99 in Boots, and €47.98 in H&M.

6.00 pm: After putting away my new bits, me and my boyfriend walk over to Lidl to do our weekly shop. It comes to €72, which my boyfriend covers. There are a few bits that we can’t get in Lidl, so we zip over to Tesco and it comes to €15.84, which I pay for.

7.00 pm: We get home, put everything away, and start getting ready for the week ahead. Sunday dread, amirite? I make lunch for the two of us for tomorrow (rice, Quorn chicken fillets, avocado) and my boyfriend cooks dinner – mushroom risotto. Maybe we are learning something from watching all this Gordon Ramsay after all! I shower and then relax on the sofa and study a little bit before heading to bed.

11.30 pm: Podcast and bed. G’nite.

Today’s total: €85.31

Weekly subtotal: €346.74

***

What I learned –

  • Looking back over the week, I’m quite happy with my spending habits overall. I’m not much of a splurger, but I don’t restrict myself in terms of buying things that I like. As I said before, at my age, I would rather spend my money on travelling, socialising and experiencing things than have it sitting in my account.
  • Meal prepping is a great way to save money. While I did nip out to the café for a few bits a couple of times, taking the time to prepare lunch the day before means not spending a fiver and a tenner here and there, which all add up in the long run. A few people might want to switch up the meal itself every so often though!
  • I really enjoyed keeping the money diary. It was a great way to keep track of my spending and saving and I’m happy with how much I’m putting by each month.





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