Bank Balance Confessions: The 33 Year Old On $775 A Week

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 first instalment in our series exploring the income and expenditure of young Australians.

I’m a 33 year old woman with no debt, no savings and a desire to get back on track in 2017.

I had $26 left in my bank account when my first pay check in seven months landed. That $26 was all the money I had in the world. In mid 2016 I’d quit my full time job as a radio journalist with the goal of diving headfirst into the world of freelance photography.

After a few months of travel – to Sweden, South Africa and Northern New South Wales to take care of my sick mum – I was pretty low on cash. All that time, I’d been paying $1260 per month for my studio apartment in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Paying for an empty flat for so long was soul destroying. Such a waste of (my very limited) money!

Paying for an empty flat for so long was soul destroying.

In January I was desperate for a job and had lost all interest in pursuing the freelance life. I started applying for any and every job – cafes, clothing stores, cleaning contracts – I needed cash fast. By the end of January I had landed a job as an educator at a before and after school care centre for primary school children.

Initially I saw it as a stop gap – a temporary position until I found something I really wanted. However, a week into the job I realised I loved it and wanted to stay and explore this completely new career path. I work at the centre 30 hours per week and earn approximately $775 after tax.


  • $775 shiny new dollars! How will I spend them? First I have to put aside $300 for rent, electricity and home internet. I live in a studio apartment (basically a glorified pool house at the back of a family’s actual house) in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and pay rent monthly.
  • My Opal travel card is down to a few cents so I add $50. I don’t have a car so it’s public transport all the way. The new job means a daily commute of about three hours which is far from ideal. Two busses in the morning and two in the evening means I easily burn through $50 a week.

= $350


  • This morning I buy a $4 soy cappuccino on my way to the suburb of Marrickville to visit my photographer friend Kate in her studio. We chat and sip tea and when I leave two hours later I’m starving!
  • I buy a choc chip cookie at a cafe for $3.50 and gobble it up in seconds. I know, I know,  I could have bought a whole box of choc chip cookies from supermarket for $3.50, right? The problem is I have no restraint – I would eat the whole box. So I end up spending more in an effort to eat less. I’m not sure about the logic in that.
  • I buy hommus and corn chips at a supermarket for $7.30 and combine them with a kale salad I’ve brought from home for a little picnic lunch in the park. On my way home I buy a punnet if raspberries and a punnet of blueberries from an independent grocery store for $3.40 each. I haven’t seen raspberries that cheap all summer!

I end up spending more in an effort to eat less. I’m not sure about the logic in that.

= $21.60


  • After my morning shift I buy a hot cross bun from the bakery ($1.40). Obviously it’s much more economical to buy a six pack from the supermarket but I can’t trust myself with six hot cross buns.
  • I spend $10 on a magazine because three of my arty friends are featured in this issue. A free back issue of the mag is included.
  • I meet friends at a cafe and sip my way through two soy cappuccinos ($8.60). My friends order lunch but I resist and eat the rice cakes and hommus in my bag instead.
  • On the way home I stop in at a supermarket and buy tampons, tomato relish, Tim Tams and laundry powder for $23.25. I throw four of the biscuits in the bin to stop myself eating the entire packet in one sitting. Wasting food and money – this has to change!
  • An automatic monthly payment of $6.50 is made to the online book keeping service I use. I remind myself to cancel it as I don’t require the level of service anymore.

= $49.75



  • It’s only 6.40am and nothing’s open so I risk a $1 brew from a convenience store. I’m pleasantly surprised – it’s not that bad at all! After my shift I do the $1.40 single hot cross bun thing again.
  • I’ve had a rough week health wise and feel like treating myself to lunch. I order mushrooms and peas on sourdough with harissa yoghurt on the side and it’s delicious and so worth $16.
  • I have dinner at the airport as I’m flying to Melbourne for a photography conference. $8 for a chicken and salad wrap is not too bad, right? But then I crave chocolate and spend $5 on a block that would cost half that at the supermarket.
  • My flight is delayed and I land in Melbourne close to midnight. I buy a $19 ticket and catch the airport bus to the city then Uber to my friend’s place in Fitzroy North. The receipt lands in my inbox and it was $15.

= $65.40 


  • I top up my Myki travel card. It has $6 left on it from my last Melbourne visit so I add another $6.
  • At the conference we get a one hour lunch break so I head to the supermarket and buy a salad, blueberries and corn chips for $12. Everyone else eats at a restaurant or cafe but I don’t even mind. I know I’m on a budget and I know I’ll enjoy my supermarket lunch/snack so I happily munch away.
  • After the conference we go to a pub and I buy a $5 cider. A bit later a friend buys me another one (thanks Dan!) plus hot chips for the table. I’m not that hungry so don’t even up buying a ‘proper’ dinner.

= $23 



  • I buy coffee for myself and my friend on our way to the conference ($7.50) and grab another supermarket salad and cashews for lunch ($10.50).
  • My friend Bee is driving me to the airport so when we meet for an early dinner, I pay for our burgers and fries ($24).
  • At the airport I buy a soy hot chocolate for $4.50. When I land in Sydney I add $20 to my Opal transport card.

= $66.50 


  • I go for a run then buy a coffee and a croissant ($7.50) thus cancelling all of my previous fat burning efforts.
  • At the supermarket I spend $33 on salad, rice cakes, blueberries, cream, nuts, oats, chia seeds, hot cross buns, hommus and face/hand wipes.

= $40.50 


  • I really want to see the film Moonlight so I find a session between shifts at work and buy a ticket for $21.50.
  • I order a coffee and pay $4.80 but it tastes terrible so after a few sips I drop it in the bin. After the film I go to a cafe with my work pal and order another coffee (also terrible…I drink one quarter) and some bruschetta for $12.

Weekly spend = $305

Money left in bank = $145. Straight to savings!

On the topic of savings, here’s a guide to start being better with your money.