Designer suits, Pilates: What a junior lawyer on $69,900 spends in a week

This article originally appeared in Refinery29 Australia.

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we ask real people how they spend and save their money during a seven-day period – tracking every last dollar. Anyone can write a Money Diary! Want to see yours here? Here’s how.

Today: a junior lawyer who makes $69,900 a year and spends some of her money this week on a $1500 custom suit for her legal admission ceremony.

Today: a junior lawyer who makes $69,900 a year and spends some of her money on a $1500 custom suit Credit:Refinery29 Australia

Occupation: Junior Lawyer
Industry: Legal
Age: 24
Location: Preston, Melbourne
Salary: $69,900
Net Worth: $13,000 ($7000 in savings, $22,000 worth of various Australian shares, $4000 in a separate bank account ready to be invested in shares, $7000 in a managed investment trust which invests in the health sector, and $30,000 in my super account ($7000 of which I plan to withdraw when I buy my first house as part of the First Home Super Saver Scheme).
Debt: $57,000 in HECS debt. I also have two credit cards that normally average about $2000 a month in spending, but I pay them off in full every month.
Pay cheque Amount (Fortnightly): $1929
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $815 (my share). I live in a two-bed, two-bath apartment in Preston with my boyfriend. Despite being a little small, the apartment is relatively new, has city views and gets the afternoon sun and best sunsets, so I feel very lucky to live here for a relative steal.
Bills: $90 for my half share of electricity and gas (hot water).
Internet: $45 for my share of unlimited high-speed home internet.
Phone: $13.25 – the monthly fraction of the $159 annual charge I pay for a 365-day mobile and data pack from Aldi mobile.
Netflix & Streaming: $16.99 for Netflix. I share my Netflix password with my boyfriend’s family, who in turn share their Binge details with us, which I have further shared with a friend in return for his Amazon+ login, while my boyfriend pays for Disney+. It’s a password-sharing merry-go-round!
ClassPass: $80 on average for on-demand, flexible reformer Pilates classes, which I religiously attend twice a week.
Petrol: $60 – our old Corolla has great fuel economy!
Car: Approx $100, covering basic third-party insurance, rego and twice-yearly servicing.
Salary Sacrifice: $1000 of my pre-tax salary is salary sacrificed each month and goes straight into my super to help me save for my first home. I can take out these savings in a lump sum once I’m ready to buy, thanks to the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS). I try to save an extra $500 to $600 per month in my personal savings account, but most months, this goes neglected in favour of paying off my credit cards. Sacrificing my savings before they even hit my account is the only way I can ensure I won’t dip into (read: destroy) my savings!
Medication: $100. I have a bunch of health issues so Chemist Warehouse is my best friend.
Therapy: $300 after Medicare rebates. Expensive, but worth it to stay sane!

Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?

Yes – I finished a double degree in law and arts in 2021. My study (and an overseas exchange) was funded by the HECS scheme, which I am slowly paying back now that I earn more than the minimum repayment threshold.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?

I was lucky to grow up solidly middle class, despite my parents coming from working class and immigrant backgrounds. My parents were both government workers, and my dad brought our family into relative wealth through share trading on the stock market. My parents did their best to instil value for money in me while making sure I never wanted any necessities. This meant being strongly encouraged to save half of my birthday money and pocket money, which would then be invested into the stock market on my behalf. This never amounted to more than a few thousand until I started contributing my own income from part-time jobs through uni, which brought my share trading balance to the $20,000 it is today. I am immensely privileged in having been taught financial literacy from a young age.

What was your first job and why did you get it?

I got my first job as a waitress at a local dessert cafe and bar at the age of 18, right after I graduated from high school. I got the job to finally get some work experience on my resume and to earn money to pay for things that my parents would never give me money for – fast food, booze, festivals and travel.

Did you worry about money growing up?

Yes, but mostly in a very spoilt, self-centred teenager sort of way. I couldn’t afford and wasn’t allowed to buy all the nice things my private school peers could (I was on a scholarship), so I had to budget to go to the movies or get Macca’s after school.

During the 2008 financial crisis, my parents got very close to losing our house and a bulk of their stock market investments. However, my parents did their best to shield me from this financial stress – I only noticed it in my dad’s depression and unchecked anger and my mum’s frantic stress. I was only told what really happened once I was an adult many years later.

Do you worry about money now?

All the time – probably because I salary sacrifice so much of my income into my super for the faraway goal of buying a home. I feel like I live pay cheque to pay cheque even though I really don’t, especially when you consider my savings and assets. With the cost of living crisis, it feels impossible for me to save any money in addition to the $1000 a month that automatically goes into my super – and $12,000 a year isn’t going to get me a house deposit in Melbourne any time soon! It is unfathomable to me that I am a lawyer and my salary is less than a duty manager at Woolies or a shift manager at Macca’s – and I have almost $60,000 in student debt to make the bargain even worse.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself, and do you have a financial safety net?

I first moved out of home without financial assistance at the age of 22, and have been financially responsible for myself ever since. I certainly have a financial safety net, though. I can always move back in with my parents if things get really tough.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

I received between $5 and $50 a week in pocket money from my parents as I grew up. My parents also gave me about $5000 to assist me with living costs while I went on a six-month study exchange in Europe, but this was a once-off.

Day 1

10:00am — It’s Sunday morning. I wake up and make myself instant coffee at home while I start on my chores for the day. I know it’s a sin to drink instant coffee in inner Melbourne, but I’m too lazy and cheap to drink anything but Nescafe 43 at home. As I check my emails, I see that I have just been sent the invoice for a made-to-measure suit I had made to wear for my admission as a lawyer this week. I have been wanting a standout suit for work for years, but haven’t been able to find a good women’s suit with all the necessary pieces, so I decided to have a jacket, pants and skirt made. The suit is expensive, costing almost $1500 all up, but for a made-to-measure suit ethically made in Australia, it’s worth it to me. Plus, it’s a one-off (for this decade, at least). I transfer the suitmaker, Isadora Nim, the remaining 50 per cent balance for the suit — $742.50.

1:00pm — I have a homemade protein smoothie and a Cheesymite scroll for lunch (from groceries I already had at home) while I get some chores and life admin done to set myself up for the busy work week ahead. I’m terrible at just relaxing when I have downtime – I always manage to find something to fill my time with, whether that’s washing or mindlessly scrolling on Instagram Reels (I refuse to download TikTok because I know it would take up even more of my time).

5:00pm — Some friends are having people over tonight for a casual catch-up over a movie at their place. To avoid ordering expensive takeaway food, I have some leftovers as an early pre-dinner from home. The leftovers are a delicious vegan duck egg noodle dish that my boyfriend made for dinner last night, which I scoff down, even though I’m not particularly hungry yet. I take the train to my friend’s place ($2.30), bringing over some snacks and a drink (a packet of chips and a beer that I bought last week). We put on a movie and I catch up with everyone there. My boyfriend is so kind and picks me up from my friend’s place. $2.30

11:00pm — After only having one or two drinks at my friend’s place, I am knackered from a busy week. I sleepily manage to brush my teeth and moisturise my face before passing out for the night.

Daily Total: $744.80

Day 2

9:00am — I am working from home today, so I roll out of bed and into the study to begin my day. I work at a small law firm, so usually, I’ll start the day catching up on some emails before getting stuck into some legal advice drafting. I grab another Cheesymite scroll from the kitchen for breakfast.

11:00am — I call my boss to catch her up on my workload and let her know what I’m up to. She lets me know that there’s a new matter that has popped up – as I work in litigation, she tells me that my involvement isn’t yet needed, as the matter hasn’t yet become litigious, but is rather in the early stages of a potential dispute. I take notes on the information she gives me and file it away so that I can refresh my memory when or if the matter does become litigious and requires me to draft any court documents. After the call, I continue on with the legal advice that I am drafting, which will probably take me a couple of days to complete. Then I make a quick salad for lunch (again, from groceries I already have at home).

1:00pm — During my lunch break, I pop into my local shopping centre, Northland, to get my eyebrows threaded ($8). For a milestone event like my legal admission that’s coming up tomorrow, I would have liked to also get my eyelashes and nails done, but I’ve been short on time lately and feel like I need to be frugal after dropping so much money on my suit yesterday. Then I head back home to work. $8

5:30pm — I clock off and attend a reformer Pilates class with a friend which I have booked with my monthly ClassPass credits through the app. After, we grab dinner at a nearby pub. I have a vegan seitan halal snack pack and a pot of beer ($25). Being vegetarian, I haven’t had an HSP in years, and it’s delicious! $25

8:30pm — After exercising and socialising over dinner, all I want to do when I’m home is head to bed, but I have my admission as an Australian lawyer tomorrow morning to look forward to. I try on my suit with every pair of shoes I own before settling on some beige ankle boots. The hem of my pants keeps getting accidentally tucked into the top of the ankle boot, which is really annoying, but I don’t seem to have a better pair of shoes to go with them! I tell myself that it’s no big deal and try to get my beauty sleep before tomorrow, but I’m so excited that I can’t actually fall asleep until around 11pm. Luckily, I can sleep in a little tomorrow!

Daily Total: $33

Day 3

8:00am — Today is my long-awaited admission as an Australian lawyer! I took the day off from work so I don’t have to feel guilty about not getting enough work done amid the celebrations. I get ready to meet my colleague from work who is “moving” my admission before the Court – basically, as a lawyer she has to vouch for me to become a lawyer in order for the Court to grant my admission. I take my time getting ready, including putting on my brand-new suit for the occasion and doing my hair and make-up.

10:00am — I train to the city ($2.30) and arrive at the office to see that my colleague has bought me a lovely admission present of some bottled cocktails. I thank her profusely and we walk down to the Supreme Court in Melbourne CBD, where we meet my parents who will be watching the ceremony as my guests. $2.30

12:00pm — I’m now a real lawyer! The admission ceremony was a great milestone, and I ran into some old acquaintances from law school who were also getting admitted as lawyers in the same ceremony as me. After the admission ceremony, my parents, colleague and I make our way to a local Chinese restaurant for a celebratory lunch, joined by my boyfriend and another one of my work mentors. I go to town on dumplings, wontons, dry shallot noodles and mushroom truffle fried rice. Everything is delicious! As always, my mother sneakily pays the bill before anyone has finished eating – no prizes for guessing her nationality. Mum also wants to get dessert at a fancy Japanese fusion cafe nearby. I order a sweet potato latte and try a bit of her matcha lava cake. I’m far too full to order anything myself! Again, Mum pays. I’m so grateful that I can always count on not spending anything when I’m with my family.

2:00pm — I take the train home ($2.30) with my boyfriend and we drink the bottled cocktails that my colleague gifted me to celebrate. Since I have the afternoon off work, I veg around the house all afternoon, doing some chores and life admin while listening to an episode of my favourite podcast at the moment, Behind the Bastards. $2.30

9:00pm — My boyfriend and I aren’t particularly hungry after our big lunch today, so I make some simple veggie noodles for dinner with some leftovers we had in the fridge. We watch some Peaky Blinders on Netflix in bed together before going to sleep.

Daily Total: $4.60

Read the rest on Refinery29 Australia here.

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