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 [email protected] 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 financial employee on €60K living in the east of the country. This week, a 36-year-old working in pharmaceuticals living in the east of the country.
I have read these money diaries over the last year or two and it amazes me how people seem to have such a good handle on their finances, irrespective of how much or little they earn. I don’t recall reading someone who struggles with their own self-control when payday comes around. I have a very impulsive attitude to money and limited foresight unless there is a target in mind.
I don’t gamble or smoke or anything but I, unfortunately, work to €0.00 in my account every single month. It could be a hobby. Sometimes I insist I pick up the bill for something as opposed to splitting it or simply going somewhere just because I have money to spend on a day out. I have credit cards that I have gotten close to clearing, but then something shiny comes around and I see credit is available and put the bill on the card. I owe about €2000 on one and €800 on another.
On nights out I also never have set a budget or looked at prices and so looking at the bank balance after a night out can be scary! I used to insist on paying for all nights out with my wife myself and feeling obliged to buy the odd extra round when drinking in a group because I feel I earn well so share it in a way under the radar. I have no discipline and as such, no savings or rainy day fund. And because my wages have been quite good for the last five or six years in this or previous jobs, I have been able to absorb bad spending habits and not feel it as much.
We got a mortgage, but it was tough as our savings were actually atrocious. Our budgeting was the biggest source of our problems, we never put anything aside or thought ahead. We had lived at home up until that point and never had to fully budget bar housekeeping or discretionary things like top-up groceries or mobile phone bills. We had a joint account we put money into each month from our own private accounts and sort of hoped or thought that each month we would be covered but we’d forget that there was an electricity direct debit, or a higher Sky bill was due or simply forgot that we pay car insurance by the month. And then things like TV license or car tax or property management fees that all come around once a year caught us off guard as we had tunnel vision for one month at a time.
In 2021, we sought independent financial help to see if our shot in the dark finances and budgets had worked or advice on how to improve. What I had learned about myself was that if I treat things like projects I can focus and deliver. I think in the now, so while my attention is there I can plan and organise and truly immerse myself. If something is vague or there’s no goal in place, I lose interest. I’m wired like that. The project we set is to foresee the future commitments and cut them into tiny slices each month to build up to the goal. So instead of thinking that we have a nephew’s birthday in April, for instance, and panicking on 31 March that that birthday came out of nowhere, we took the approach of how many birthdays we need to buy for, wrote them down and a rough spend. Then who do we buy for at Christmas, and wrote that down too.
So we came up with a rough figure of €1,500 (thankfully a small family and lucky we have no kids) and then we divided it up per month so that cumulatively, throughout the year, we should have a fund built up and we pick from it. Same goes for the dog food, dog boarding kennels, holiday fund and socialising, car services, etc. Just wrote down a per year estimate based on looking at 2020 and 2021 bank statements, averaged the annual and then divided by 12 to get a starting point. This may seem stupid to most people, but that’s my visual goal in my budget now. We worked out a simple way to have all bills and savings for future months taken away on payday every month, so committing to one day to cover the month and all remaining money in my account is a bonus.
Our budget is on Excel. We both have joint access to it, and we do a proportionate split on the money each month too. It’s approx. a 2/3 – 1/3 split for our household budget and formula covers the splitting up so we know who pays what amount. We use Revolut as we can share equal access to vaults. It’s essentially a digital version of our mammy’s envelope system for savings years ago.
So a typical week for me is quite mundane as I take my money away from myself in order to have next to nothing to spend!
Salary: €95,000 (additional annual bonus – €8,000) plus wife’s €32,000, we share our budget for each month.
Monthly pay (net): €4,800
Transport: €80 – tolls, €180 – fuel, €110 – combined car insurance, €1,113 – consolidation loan. This includes my wife’s car (€275), household loan (€308) and my car (€530) rolled into one. It was a really low rate and we kept the original term of 30 remaining months of the other three loans as opposed to extending to 60 months like the company was looking for. We kept the same amount in our budget, so we’ll finish a few months earlier overall and save some money in the long term.
Mortgage: €1,930 – voluntary 10% overpayment included
TV & Internet: €141
Alarm monitoring: €30
House insurance: €26
Phone bill: €75 for two phones
Health insurance: Paid by our employer for both of us, BIK costs around 150e between us
Pension: €300 taken from source and company adds €500. My wife has no pension. Stopped AVCs to clear bills in short term, I was previously adding AVCs of about 150e extra. Have had a pension for years so I have a decent balance at the minute.
Groceries: Around €700
Dog food: Usually €150
Gas and electricity: €180 (level pay so predictable)
Subscriptions: €45 for Disney+, Netflix, Spotify, Google storage and Amazon Prime TV
We also set up Revolut Vaults to build up a fund for the stuff we do not remember or foresee.
- Socialising (the pub and restaurant fund or trip to the cinema)
- Gifts – Presents for family and friends to cover birthdays, special occasions and Christmas
- Vet Bills – expensive if all three dogs are sent to vet and also they have annual vaccinations, etc
- Holiday fund – building up a fund to go abroad, haven’t been in years
- Groceries – self-explanatory
- Management fees –bins, insurance, landscaping, parking etc
- Car Tax – it’s a predictable amount so monthly savings means we tax them quarterly
- Car Services – two cars needing services and anything that may arise
- TV licence – we forget it and it pops up as a €160 shock once a year
7.45 am: Get up, take meds, let dogs out and make a coffee. By 8 am, I go for a shower, iron my clothes and hop in the car to go to work by 8.45 am. One hour and out the door is as good as I can make it happen most days. I have started ironing clothes the night before sometimes and it does help.
09.15 am: Arrive at work. There is an on-site canteen – there’s nothing wrong with it, but I spend unreservedly and use the vending machine, so I avoid it. It’s partially subsidised but I keep going to it for snacks or cola or a can of monster, so I don’t top up my card and avoid the canteen in general.
1.00 pm: Lunch is brought from home, so included in the household grocery bill.
6.00 pm: Head home. Stop for petrol on the way. I have a fuel card to track our combined spending. Fuel card means 3c less per litre also.
6.30 pm: Wife has college so I’m on my own so go for a walk with a friend.
7.00 pm: Make dinner and lunch for tomorrow. Watch TV with wife afterwards.
Today’s total: €4.40
7.45 am: It’s payday. €4,800-ish lodged into account. That’s added to about €12 I had in there from the day before. Pension, Bike to Work and Healthcare all taken from source already. I’m working from home today. Make breakfast from the fridge.
8.30 am: I log in after putting the slow cooker on for dinner and tomorrow’s lunches from stuff I found in the fridge. Bread and milk from shop. (€4)
6.00 pm: Log off. Split money up and transfer into our joint account and Revolut. Today is an expensive day. €3,850 from my account goes into our joint account to cover direct debits. Wife makes her transfer too and tops up balance with her 1/3. From our joint account, I then transfer to our joint Revolut Vaults:
- €700 into groceries vault
- €130 into gifts vault.
- €265 into the socialising vault. We have some birthdays and it’s good to have some cash handy.
- €55 into TV license vault. It’s due next month – we usually only put in €10 or €15.
- €50 into car servicing vault
- €35 into MGMT fees vault
- €80 into holiday vault. We’ll be trying for €250 going forward, we just needed some extra cash for socialising vault, vet vault and tv licence this time around.
- €35 into car tax vault
- €210 into dog food vault
- €100 into vet vault. We usually put in €25, but wanted to top it up just in case this month.
7.00 pm: Head to Lidl and get a shop in, including fresh and freezer stuff. €249 taken from joint access Revolut Vault.
Today’s total: €3,850.00
7.30 am: In the office today. Morning is the same as Monday’s schedule.
9.15 am: Arrive in the office without stopping on way into work apart from paying the toll (€4.40 there and back). Straight to the computer and get started.
1.00 pm: Have lunch I made from home and bought cans of coke from groceries so not tempted to go to the vending machine. Both were included in yesterday’s grocery bill so no cost.
5.00 pm: Leave for home. Wife has college all evening so on my own. Walk the dogs and TV for the evening, at no cost.
7.00 pm: Need routine medication prescription. It needs to be monthly for the type of medicine it is. €50 prescription fee per month in 2021, reduced to €30 for 2022 (I won’t argue) and paid upfront so it’s €180 for the next six months. I’ll get €90 of this back soon in health insurance.
Today’s total: € 184.40
6.30 am: Working from home today, but have early calls to make. The usual routine of up, let dogs out to pee, take meds and have a coffee and contemplate how tired I feel.
7.30 am: Log in. Shower on my mid-morning break so fresh for the day.
1.45 pm: Lunch is from home, so no cost.
5.00 pm: Head out to my parents’ house, but I need petrol. It’s a hybrid, so the fuel tank is small. €55 per fill is about it for three weeks with the current WFH schedule. This is prepaid in Revolut.
7.00 pm: Pharmacy calls and says they have my month’s meds. I collect €75 for the month. The next five months prescriptions will be covered from the previous days prescription fee covering six months, but it will come to €75 per month each time I collect.
7.30 pm: Home and walk the dogs and watch tv. Quiet evening in.
Today’s total: €75.00
6.30 am: In the office again today, but a bit earlier than last time. Out the door for 7.20 am and in for 7.50 am. €4.40 on toll for the day again.
11.00 am: Logged on to PermTSB app on my morning break and can see direct debits taken from account as we have them set for the day or two after payday where possible.
- Car insurance – €110
- Mortgage – €1,900
- Life assurance – €30
- Car loan – €275
- €Avant Money loan – €840
- Bord Gáis electricity – €145
- Bord Gáis gas – €45
- Credit card payment – €250
- Sky TV and broadband – €141
- Circle K fuel Card for me and wife’s individual fuel – €115
This is all budgeted for in our joint current account and Revolut vaults so nothing we haven’t thought of! My Vodafone bill comes out of my account at €60.
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Today’s total: €64.40
10.00 am: Get up late and head to the shops as I need a small desk and lamp. (€100)
11.30 am: Meet my mother for a late breakfast. Have the chats and I pick up the bill. (€40)
4.00 pm: Get some stuff for breakfast for Sunday morning in the shop, along with some munchies and some wine for later on. Taken from Socialising and Groceries Vault on Revolut so €70 is accounted for.
9.00 pm: Rent a movie on Sky – it’s an early release, so €16. Transfer from Socialising vault to joint account so it carries over in there for next months’ bill as it is higher and we’re not surprised at €141 being €157 all of a sudden.
Today’s total: €140.00
12.00 pm: After an uneventful morning, we head to the pet shop to get dog food. We get two bags for €95. Should do for the next two or three weeks.
2.00 pm: Book dogs into boarding kennels for a wedding in the summer. I had €75 extra in Dogs Vault this month but not enough. I paid the €60 balance from my own account. It was €135 deposit to book them in for four days.
3.00 pm: Head out for a cycle. Costs nothing and clears the head.
Today’s total: €60.00
Weekly subtotal: €4,378
What I learned –
- What helped me hugely was the joint vaults on Revolut and the joint excel tracker. It meant if I take money out of the groceries vault to top up my revolut card I know my wife will see it and I need to be accountable for where that money went. Similarly, for socialising, we may not spend 200e a month, but it’s an option to go to a restaurant and get a nice meal and a taxi back once a month or a spontaneous lunch at the weekend. But if one of us takes from that fund without going out or renting movies or having a day out, we are accountable to explain where it is. I’m ok with that as it’s an honesty policy. Its self imposed honesty policy.
- Over the week I noticed that I do not do much in the evenings. I have started cycling a bit more and hope to keep it up. Now Covid restrictions are easing I hope to have more to do in the evenings or people to visit as I get bored.
- Having a holiday as a goal has helped us put focus into our savings and building up that Holidays Vault.
- I see that our budgeting does not suit most people, it may seem over the top, but someone will relate to it.
- I was right to chop up my current account card. It means everything we put in a joint account can only be taken by direct debit as we have no cards to be able to buy anything even accidentally so it’s somewhat more secure that way for monthly commitments.
- Lastly, the 4378 for the week off a 4800 monthly total looks bad, but I don’t need to put my hand in my pocket for anything for the rest of the month except discretionary stuff like lunch for my mam, or a desk I wanted. I don’t need to worry about fuel, utility bills, I’ve sown up my car in a lower cost reconciliation loan so I won’t stupidly trade it in I have pension and health insurance sorted and included in the direct debits are credit cards finally being chipped away.
- We have been good this last year with looking at rates we pay for things versus what we get. So we have the best deal on electricity and gas at the moment, got a better deal by consolidating at a better rate with no time added. I would sign up for something and not need it. So I am going to look at transferring the credit card balance over to a 0% offer for balances and try to clear it. Also, my phone is fine, so it’s out of contract soon and I think I’ll go sim only as opposed to the extortionate price of a new phone.
- We have also voluntarily overpaid our mortgage by the 10% allowed. We will continue this until we have to refix or change our mortgage provider.
- By the summer the cumulative nature of the vaults savings will have paid off and we will have balances in there to dip into and not clear the account to zero each time.