Money Diaries: An occupational therapist on €54K working through the pandemic in Dublin

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This week, our reader is busy working in a hospital and watching spending to save for a wedding.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on TheJournal.ie 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 charity shop manager in the south of the country struggling to make ends meet while receiving the PUP payment. This week, an occupational therapist working in Dublin.

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I am a 32-year-old occupational therapist working in a large acute hospital in Dublin. I graduated during the recession from an Irish university and believed all through my final year that I would need to emigrate to secure work.

In 2013 I moved to the East Midlands and spent 3.5 years working in the NHS and can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life; had it not been for the recession I don’t think I would have gone! I moved back to Dublin in mid-2016 mainly to spend more time with my two new nieces and to be around more for my parents as they got older; my parents and siblings live in the southeast so before the pandemic, I was able to quickly and easily get home.

I was lucky to meet my now fiancé when I moved home, after four years of renting we had big plans for 2020; to get married and buy a house. So many people said it was impossible to do both in one year, and we like to believe that were it not for Covid we would have done both. Incidentally, we are not yet married but the proud owners of a three-bed semi in south Dublin, although this nearly didn’t happen with the pandemic and banks’ reticence to lend, but thanks to a fantastic mortgage broker we managed to buy this house in October.

We had an offer accepted back in March on another house, but the sellers did not progress with the sale for reasons still unknown. My fiancé works away often staying in hotels which enabled us to save a large deposit so we were able to buy the house with a manageable mortgage, something we are very proud of.

Occupation:  Occupational therapist
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 32
Location: Leinster
Salary: €54,380 (My partner and I don’t share finances yet, we intend to open a joint bank account but at the moment we are very ad-hoc with how we split finances. He earns approx €65,000 per year but he has paid for most of the house renovations and big purchases since we moved in)
Pay (net):  €1,270 fortnightly.

Monthly Expenses (covered by me)

Mortgage: €1,379
Loan Payments: €0
Electricity and Gas: €60
Home and life insurance: €50
Health insurance: €65
Phone bill: €25
Spotify premium: €14.99
Netflix: €12.99
Counselling: €320
Car insurance: €511 per year
Savings approx: €12,000

Expenses (my partner covers)

Sky tv and internet: €60
Bins: €21

Monday

5:40 am: I am a real morning person and love getting home early most of the time, even at weekends I find it very hard to sleep In past 8 am. My partner bought me some resistance bands at the start of the second lockdown and I recently bought an online program through Natacha Oceans for €54. This takes me about 45 minutes and thankfully involves no jumping, as our house is a semidetached, I refuse to do any jumping or loud exercises which may disturb our neighbours. My partner gets up around 6 am and is gone by 6:30, he won’t be back until Friday evening. I have a shower, followed by a coffee and protein shake then leave for work about 7:15 to start at 8 am.

8.00 am: I arrive at work after a week off and feel relieved that nothing happened with anyone on my caseload during that time. While working through a pandemic has been incredibly challenging, I feel extremely lucky to have had the routine of getting to go into work, interacting with colleagues and feeling somewhat normal during a very abnormal time. After nearly a year of wearing PPE gear, it does take some adjustment to wear FFP 2 masks after a week off. I have my breakfast of porridge and banana at work; we have a staff kitchen, so I keep a big bag of porridge which I work away on.

9.00 am: I have a busy morning on the wards reviewing patients who would have been seen by my colleagues in the previous week, I complete cognitive assessment, functional transfer reviews and ring some families to provide updates and discuss discharge planning.

1.00 pm: I have an egg salad sandwich which I bring in with me. I am a fiend for chocolate and literally cannot have a meal without something sweet afterwards, this can at times even include chocolate after breakfast! My afternoon is spent documenting patient interventions, writing up reports and reviewing emails that I had flagged from the morning.

4:15 pm: Leave work and walk home to glorious sunshine, having had the week off I notice the grand stretch in the evening and feel more hopeful than I have since I received the vaccine back in December. I want to make shepherd’s pie for dinner and decide carrots would make a nice addition, so I stop in Tesco and come away with carrots and two packets of my favourite bagels which I struggle to always find so I pounce when I see them, €5.36.

6:30 pm: I make a huge batch of shepherd’s pie which should do me for most of the week and prep my lunch for the morning, egg salad sandwich. The night is spent in front of the TV watching season 3 of The Crown and ringing my partner for a quick catchup.

9.00 pm: I go to bed but spend end up watching YouTube videos on my phone until 9.30, (awful sleep hygiene I know).

                           Daily total: €5.36

Tuesday

5:40 am: I struggle to get out of the bed when my alarm goes off, this is extremely unlike me as I am that person that jumps out of the bed and pulls off the covers as soon as I wake. Do a 30-minute kettlebell workout and some stretching, the usual follows including a shower, coffee and protein shake before looking outside and realise there’s torrential rain so jump in my car. I spend 20 minutes trying to find parking on the side roads around the hospital. The stress of trying to find parking reaffirms for me the reasons why I so rarely drive and on discussing it with a colleague decide I will never drive again, if the weather is this bad again, I will get a taxi and take the hit on €10 to avoid this stress.

8.00 am: My job involves working the wards and also working with students; it’s a large teaching hospital so we support many students each year across different disciplines, so I attend a Zoom meeting with all of the other tutors. I enjoy my banana porridge afterwards, as you will see from my batch cooked dinner; I can happily eat the same thing over and over and over again.

10-1 pm: I am currently doing a post-graduate certificate; this is something I decided to start about 15 months ago and hope to finish in the next two months. As an adjunct staff member, it’s free and great to have an education qualification. I would love the idea of a masters degree but wonder with the wedding and other potential things in the next 2-3 years if this is really the right time, and of course the financial side of things.

2.00 pm: After another lunch of egg salad sandwich and a dime bar, I am up on the wards for the afternoon and get to work with a lady trialling different types of cutlery to support her independence with feeding and then I meet with two separate patients to provide falls education. I spend the morning working with some of the other tutors in other therapies who like me who are on placement, about two years ago I started into a new role where I spend half of my working week facilitating student placements. I originally dropped out of OT to become a teacher before coming back, so my current role is the perfect mix of the two and I feel incredibly lucky.

4:10 pm: I heard a lot of cars were clamped or towed today, while I am naturally a worrier, I knew I hadn’t illegally parked so wasn’t worried until I come out and see I am effectively blocked in by a double-parked car. After numerous failed attempts an older woman living opposite comes to her front door and directs me out, I drive a small car and am a reasonably good driver, but this was a tight squeeze!

5.00 pm: I attend an online counselling session, which is something I have been doing for nearly two years and while costly, it is worth every penny in my eyes as I have struggled with mental health difficulties since my early teens resulting in hospital admissions and dropping out of college – €80.00.

6:30 pm: Shepherd’s pie is definitely one of those dinners that taste better the day after, so enjoy it and a daily milk crunchie after. I initially have two squares then return and have six more, who was I thinking I would only have two.

10.00 pm: YouTube, a phone call to partner and asleep by 10.

                                Daily total: €80.00

Wednesday

5:30 am: The weather is mild this morning so I decide to take advantage and go for a run. I don’t normally track my runs but decide to this morning and feel like I was going at an almighty pace; 5:45 per km. I honestly can’t compute this in my head but put it down to being half asleep while running. Usual coffee and a protein shake.

8:00 am: We have our weekly team meeting, followed by a meeting of a committee I am a member of. I have an interesting day as I have a home visit, this involves me bringing a patient to their home as part of discharge planning. I had been a little nervous about this visit for various reasons, but it goes well which is great for the patient as it will hopefully mean they get home soon.

1.00 pm: A late lunch today of egg salad with some sliced turkey and fancy bread from the canteen to jazz it up, €0.50. The afternoon is spent writing up reports, emails and checking in with the MDT about the outcome of the visit.

4:00 pm: I am due to present at a conference in the next few weeks so decided to stay after work to do some reading and prep for it. I am generally very good at eating well during the week but if I am staying late at work or doing something that I find hard, I tend to treat myself with chocolate… a share bag of Maltesers, €2.00. I don’t finish them so there will be something nice for the team tomorrow!

6:30 pm: Reheat dinner in the microwave and proceed to watch more of The Crown season 3 while eating a fruit scone which my Mum bakes. I tend to stock up when I go home and now, with our new house, I have my own fridge (instead of sharing with two others) so I can freeze them and eat away so home doesn’t feel so far away.

9:00 pm: Ring partner, miss a call from my Mum but feel exhausted after the long day in work so fall asleep before 10.

                                Daily total: €2.50

Thursday

5:30 am: Up and a’tem! I do a 40-minute kettlebell workout, I am getting better with the kettlebells and don’t feel so scared of dropping them; I have recently found a new YouTube channel by an Irish woman; Caroline Girvan. Her videos are brilliant, something for everyone. I had been doing resistance bands but finding a new channel motivates me.

8:00 am: Coffee and protein shake before cycling to work, I am afraid I will get caught late this evening so if I have the bike, I can fly home in the evening!

9:00 am: I spend the morning on the wards reviewing patients, attend a falls review meeting and a family meeting, both via Zoom. I have a bowl of porridge in between meeting calls and try to remember to drink more water as can feel a headache coming on.

1.00 pm: We decide to order in sandwiches, this has become a bit of a lockdown weekly tradition; it’s the little things that get you through. We eat in separate rooms, but we all share in the joy of nice food! €10.00

6.00 pm: I cycle home; more recently I have started doing my food shopping on a Thursday so I can relax Friday evening and avoids the queues and crowds at weekends. In my haste to get out the door holding my bags for life, my lanyard with my bank card and my car keys I end up locking myself out. I panic for around two minutes, ring my partner to cry then gather myself and ring three different locksmiths; the third one answers and agrees to call over to help me after he drinks his tea! It is out of hours and I am literally desperate so thankfully it’s a nice evening, glorious even, so I sit in the front garden. My locksmith comes bearing tools and wearing a mask, I stand in the garden and he works away for 20 minutes trying to open the door. He initially quotes me €80 if he can get in without breaking the lock, €250 if he needs to break the lock. While watching him try to break into my front door, which he tells me rather reassuringly is a really well-built door; we get to chatting about his mum and mother-in-law who recently spend time in the rehab where I work. He can get in through the letterbox, I almost hug him but check myself. In what is possibly the kindest thing that’s ever happened to me; he refuses to charge me and instead thanks me for all the work I have done this past year. So of course, I stand at my front door and cry.

7:30 pm: I gather myself and head to LIDL to get chicken, mince beef, falafels, peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, garlic, baking ingredients for my homemade granola (the minimalist baker sea salt chocolate granola) juice, dark chocolate, eggs, frozen veg, frozen pizza, berries and yoghurt and a houseplant and some other bits I don’t remember. Have a picky dinner of falafel and other salad bits. The shop comes to €78.10.

9:00 am: Ring my mum after putting everything away, obviously tell her my story of the locksmith and briefly ring my partner, fall into bed around 9:30 drained from all the happy tears.

                                     Daily total: €88.10

Friday

6:30 am: I sleep in on a Friday morning usually, get up and do 20 minutes of yoga as my neck has been twinging a bit; this happens every so often and I attribute it to manual handling on a rehab ward, standing routinely at computers as there is no desk space but yoga keeps me well usually.

9:00 am: No coffee or protein shake on Fridays as don’t usually work out, so treat myself to a fruit bowl from the canteen to have with yoghurt and granola… realise I need to make more of my granola and have the ingredients from yesterday. €1.50.

12:30 pm: Busy morning on the wards including a personal care assessment. I bring two patients down to the kitchen to practice kitchen tasks and then complete a lengthy seating review with a specialist seating rep. Have drunk nothing all morning, so feel doubly hungry for my egg salad and nice bread which I bought yesterday. End up going for a walk as the weather is nice outside.

1:30 pm: I finish up writing notes from the morning then spend some time working on the presentation from earlier in the week as it’s due to be submitted next Tuesday. The afternoon flies as I get really into the zone and end up working until 4:30 which is very unlike me for a Friday.

4:30 pm: I’m feeling full of the Friday joys, so I take the long route home and end up walking 6 km instead of my usual 3 km. Cook fish paella for my partner and me, but realise I have no peas so run to the local shop and get frozen peas; get two for €2.50 on the deal, I am a sucker for a deal. Partner comes home bearing gifts of the chocolate variety; Reeses and Snickers.

9:00 pm: After two cups of tea and lots of chocolate, my inner rockstar accepts defeat and I go to bed while my partner stays up watching Game of thrones.

                           Daily total: €4.00

Saturday

8.00 am: I allow myself to wake up naturally without an alarm which is just bliss. I found at the start of lockdown that I was making myself get up at 6/7 am to feel productive and use my weekends as well as possible but I have gotten so much better at letting myself rest. I used to love going out drinking at weekends and can honestly say that it’s been so refreshing to not be hungover at weekends, although I wouldn’t mind a hangover day if I got to have a good night out.

9:30 am: After a slice of toast and coffee I go for a run, end up doing 15 km. I don’t usually track my runs so I have no idea of my pace but it felt enjoyable and I listen to a podcast from Síle Seoige, whom I love.

12:00 pm: A very late breakfast by the time I stretch, shower and get dressed – my partner did a workout and shorter run while I was out. We enjoy poached eggs, black pudding and smoked salmon – divine, and I won’t hear any different.

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2:00 pm: I watch the rugby for the afternoon and celebrate an Irish win, while weekends are hard I have to say having live sport makes such a difference. I love the GAA and rugby so I am dreading once the Six Nations are over – how we will fill our Saturdays? In the absence of so much normality, sports make weekends feel normal.

4:00 pm: I spend an hour working on the presentation. I feel happy as things seem to come back quickly from the reading/work I did last week so I look to next week with renewed confidence. Have a bagel with turkey and coleslaw while picking at cashew nuts.

6:00 pm: I drop bottles at the bottle bank and enjoy a late evening walk at sunset, the evening light gives me such a lift.

8:00 pm: We makes ourselves a chicken green Thai curry which is just divine. More recently we have been trying to push ourselves to try new recipes at the weekends to spice things up a little as it’s easy to get caught in a rut, especially with us being apart during the week, we both tend to bulk cook for the week. Have a bowl of jelly and ice cream after, because I am a child!

10:00 pm: I start watching The Fall and end up staying up until 2 am (the latest I have been up in 2021).

                           Today’s total: €0.00                       

Sunday

9:30 am: I wake up and feeling very energised and do a short run but track it and end up doing 5:15 pace over 9km which felt fast, so I feel very accomplished. Have fruit, yoghurt and granola… will have to bake more granola this week as I am literally at the bottom of the container at this stage.

12:00 pm: I drive to Homestore + More to buy some command strips as I have some prints I would like to stick up. I nearly fall over when she tells me they will cost €18.99 for one packet. I half consider just banging nails into the wall but remind myself of all of the energy and time spent filling the holes and repainting the house when we moved in.

2.00 pm: I make a ham and cheese toastie, break up Tayto cheese and onion into the sandwich before tasting – you can thank me later for the tip! End up going for a long walk along the canal and find a new park, feel very content sitting in the sunshine in this lovely park which is 2km from our house; I still cannot believe we bought a house!

4:00 pm: We watch more episodes of The Fall, decide on a lazy dinner of chicken strips with oven chips; the Dunnes Stores chilled breaded chicken strips are life. I end up spending too much time on my phone and buy myself a Tiffany lamp from DoneDeal for €100.00 and then come across this really cool shop in London called Minga and buy a polo-neck sweatshirt; €58.00 including express delivery. I have nowhere to go or nobody to see but find I am very compulsive and when I want something I want it now, or in 1-2 days through express delivery. 

8:00 pm: We spend some time reviewing the wedding spreadsheet for the first time in almost a year and work out how much it might cost, so hard to know with numbers changing depending on restrictions, but we both agree to put away €200 per month into my Revolut vault. Saving this amount won’t touch the wedding but we do have other savings, this is more to pay for things in the next few months!

Bed by 10 as 5:30 alarm is set.

                                Today’s total: €176.99

Weekly total €356.95

***

What I learned:

  • I think this is a fairly typical week. I know it might seem uneven with finances but my partner is extremely generous and would transfer me large amounts to cover costs, eg. the mortgage is just not something we have really sat down to discuss but he would always refer to our money and feels it doesn’t matter which account things come from as essentially it’s all our shared money.
  • I am very frugal with lunches and that and we rarely order in, but I tend to boredom-shop a bit and Sunday is a clear example of this. I know I needed the lamp, well I need to furnish the house but the jumper wasn’t needed. I am a fiend for clothes and need to look at this, I would buy one item of clothing every single week, averaging probably €50-60 per week. I wouldn’t mind but I live in gym gear!
  • We hope to set up a joint bank account and save for the wedding. My car is 12 years old so might need replacing as I forecast she will struggle to get through the NCT in October. I think overall I am in a better position financially from Covid as I have not been able to go out and socialise, but I should be in a far better position were it not for all of the spending on clothes.
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