Money

Bank Balance Confessions: The 29-Year-Old Founding A Start Up

Here at The Cusp, we believe that talking about money empowers us to make more informed choices – and that tracking your spending can be revelatory. Here’s the latest instalment in our series exploring the income and expenditure of young Australians. Want to get better with money? We can help you there, too.

I left my full-time gig at a food magazine earlier this year to launch a start-up content agency for the food industry. Going from an extremely well-paid full-time salary of $98,000 to working on a contract basis, all the while paying for things like new website design, office supplies and other new business expenses has been a definite swerve in terms of managing my own cash flow and things like tax, but I find it immensely satisfying and feel quite in control of my money now more than ever.

I found a retainer client almost immediately after leaving my full-time job, which brings in $2500 a month. That really helps take the edge off things like my rent and bills. My business partner and I pay ourselves around $4000 a month in contractor fees. Taking the step to set a sort of salary each month was a big one, especially in terms of business mindset. Before that we were just paying ourselves what we could afford each month, but having that goal really helps us prioritise finding new business.

To save for tax, I automatically place 30% of every dollar I personally earn into a savings account – I’m terrified of being caught out with a massive tax bill and not being able to pay it. Luckily, owning your own business and having a home office means a lot of my expenses such as my phone, car and internet are able to be claimed as a tax expense, which really helps. Having a home office also means I eat at home way more than I used to when I worked in the city. Back then I used to spend up to $20 a day just on lunch, now I make my lunch most days from home.

I live in a small house in inner Sydney with my partner, and we split all the bills and rent down the middle. We also share a cute little dog, whose biggest expense is food and pet insurance, which adds up to about $150-$200 a month.

Wednesday:

$3.50 – flat white in a Keep Cup. Some cafes discount you when you bring in a reusable coffee cup. The one closest to our house unfortunately doesn’t.

$86 – three bottles of wine, one to take to a friend’s dinner party that night ($17), one is a thank you gift for a new client, so I put that on our business card, and one is to drink at home. I really like to invest in good-quality, interesting wine, especially to keep at home.

$6.80 – on the way to dinner my girlfriend calls to ask if I can pick up some spinach and cherry tomatoes for the dinner party she’s throwing tonight, so I swing by the grocer on the way.

= $96.30

Thursday

$3.50 – Walk the dog down to the café for a flat white.

$100 – We buy our house electricity through Power Shop, which I really love because it’s so easy to use, and you know exactly how much power you’re using in real time, and you buy in advance. You can choose where you source your power from, and we try to mostly buy from green energy sources. We split the cost down the middle.

$19.30 – I pick up some groceries to get me through the rest of the week’s lunches, and some ingredients for the banana bread I’m baking to make the most of the blackened bananas sitting on the kitchen bench.

$22 – Barre class at Barre Body in Surry Hills with my sister. I buy a 10-pack of Barre classes usually, because I’m erratic with my exercise schedule and shudder at the thought of being locked into a gym contract.

$6.80 – After our class I treat my sister and I to a Pure Pop from About Life, the vanilla malt shake flavour is insanely good. Pure Pops are one of our clients, so I feel good about supporting their awesome small business.

= $151.60

Friday

$3.50 – daily flat white in a Keep Cup. I’m really predictable with my coffee order.

$39 – The bag of flour I bought yesterday from the dodgy corner store was filled with moths, erghhhh, that makes me so angry! I can’t be bothered returning it and complaining so I run to a different supermarket for more, plus moth traps, dishwashing detergent, garbage bags and new mascara.

$650 – we pay our rent fortnightly. I used to say once rent in Sydney hit $300 a week I’d be getting the hell out of this town but alas, here we are.

$50 – I manage most of the finances in our house, and each week my partner and I place $50 each into a joint account, so I don’t have to hassle him each time I buy something for the house or pay some bills. We should probably up it to $100 each to make sure we’re really covered, but haven’t yet.

= $742.50

Saturday

$3.50 – flat white in a Keep Cup from a different café on a walk with the dog. This café actually does discount your coffee by 50c if you take in a reusable cup, but their coffees are $4 to begin with, so it doesn’t really make a difference. They do have a loyalty card though, so one day it will pay off!

$22 – My partner and I walk down the road to have breakfast at Mecca Coffee. He’s a chef and has Saturday mornings off, so we always try to have breakfast together. I order a breakfast plate and an iced latte.

$18 – On the way home we stop by a local antique shop and go halves on a wine rack, which was on sale. We need more room for all our vinous hoardings.

$36 – The dog decides he needs more treats, so we stop by Petbarn to stock up on dried liver treats, peanut-butter filled pig’s skins and some extra dog poop bags. It shits me that there isn’t a more eco-friendly option than plastic poop bags here, I always feel guilty using so much plastic and try to cut down in other ways to make up for it. We usually split the cost of dog stuff, but I buy it this time.

$9 – We drink a bit of pour-over coffee at home which saves on going out every time, but we’ve run out of coffee filters, so I stop by Campos for a fresh pack.

$12 – I have the flu and so stay in on Saturday night. All I want is spaghetti carbonara and so buy a pack of good bacon, plus some tomatoes and juice for tomorrow’s breakfast.

$8.50 – Post carbonara fest, I slip into the bath and buy a new book on my Kindle – Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler. This is actually pretty cheap for an e-book, usually they’re around $14. The Kindle is my new favourite thing.

= $109

Sunday 

$3.50 – Flat white from the corner café.

$750 – My partner and I spontaneously decide to go to Hong Kong for a week next Easter, and manage to find cheap Qantas flights for only $650 return plus tax. I take some money out of my savings to pay for my flight. Cannot. Wait. To celebrate, he buys us a couple of burgers for dinner.

= $753.50

Monday

$3.50 – Flat white. Again.

$8 – While I’m at the café I pick up a load of fresh rye sourdough for lunch. I’m growing tomatoes and herbs at home, and eat a lot of bruschetta.

$5 – Return train ticket to the CBD for dinner. There’s an event on at the restaurant opposite my partner’s restaurant, so he shouts us tickets to support them. We leave so full we can barely talk.

= $16.50

Tuesday

$3.50 – Flat white.

$4.50 – My business partner and I are presenting at a conference tomorrow, so I buy a pack of system cards to help me memorise our presentation.

= $8

Total weekly spend: $1877.40

Aside from the spontaneous trip to Hong Kong, which I’ll be able to claim some of on tax if I manage to sell some content out of it, this was a pretty regular week of spending for me. Usually I eat out quite a bit more at night, which I have to for my work – though this week was more quiet than usual, probably due to my flu. My partner also shouted us dinner a couple of times, which was a really nice surprise.