Money Diaries: A 34-year-old union worker on €52K in Dublin


This week, our reader navigates the changing restrictions and find that money is harder to manage now that eating out is back on the table.

WELCOME TO HOW I Spend My Money, a series on running weekly and looking at what people in Ireland really do with their cash.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of how much they earn, how much they save if anything, and what they spend their money on over the course of one week.

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.

If you’d like to document your spending, or lack thereof and any lifestyle changes during this Covid-19 period, we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to [email protected] and we’ll be in touch.

Last week, we met a 32-year-old SNA in Dublin, earning €25K. This week, a 34-year-old trade union worker on €52K.

I’m 34, single, and live in Dublin. I earn about €52k annually. I’m a homeowner and rent one of the rooms out to a friend of mine at mate’s rates. I work in a trade union and generally commute into town by bicycle or by car.

I would have used the bus pre-Covid but as my commute takes less than half an hour by bike and up to an hour by bus then cycling is the most efficient all round. It also means I’m fitting in some more exercise, as I find with a desk job I really have to make the effort to get some movement in – office biscuits are too tempting and I rarely refuse a lunch invitation!

My bills are low as it’s an A2 rated house. I’m paid fortnightly and have a direct debit set up that means I save about €800 a month. I have a reasonable rainy day fund built up (about €10k) and am now looking at investment opportunities for my monthly savings.

I split the household bills with my housemate. My other two biggest monthly outgoings are my car loan at €290 and my gym membership at €145.

Occupation: Work in trade union
Age: 34
Location: Dublin
Salary: €52k
Monthly pay (net): €2,700

Monthly expenses

Transport: This varies, about €100 on petrol on a month I stay in Dublin and don’t visit my folks in Cork, otherwise up to €200
Mortgage: €660
Household bills: €50-60 for gas and electricity monthly, €55 TV & BB
Phone bill: €30
Health insurance: €120 monthly
Groceries: €40-60 weekly, depending on whether it’s Aldi or Tesco
Medication: €22
Subscriptions: Patreon €25, Guardian €6, Irish Times €12, Dublin Inquirer €5 Spotify €4 (part of a family membership) eToll tag – varies, €25ish


8.30 am: I’m working from home, so it’s a quick coffee and protein porridge with fruit before I sit down to my desk/kitchen table. My work mainly involves getting back to members’ queries about their working terms and conditions by phone and email, and it’s very busy at the moment with a lot of Covid-related queries and the application of distancing guidelines to the member’s workplaces and concerns regarding health and safety. I have an online meeting with my colleagues in the morning, which takes over an hour. We work well together and it’s a productive meeting. New guidance is being issued and updated regularly and it’s important that our members get the most accurate and up to date advice.

11.00 am: My housemate’s sister calls over with her new baby and I take a break to make some coffee, chat, and enjoy the pastries my housemate brought earlier from Bread 41. Not much spending today as I’m at home. I do some internet banking and transfer €450.00 to pay off my credit card bill.

1.00 pm: I take my lunch break, and do some research on broadband and TV deals, as the current deal I have is set to expire in August. It’s a bit of a pain but I know it’s worth shopping around. I have a chat with my housemate about it and she says she’ll ring the current provider as the bill is under her name. I get back to work as there’s a lot to get through, and more and more queries keep flooding in.

5.00 pm: I finish up work and put away the laptop. I see a notification pop up on Revolut – I have a vault set up that puts away a euro a day towards getting my car valeted – a guilty treat as I know I could do it myself but the place I go to (5 Star Autovalet) works magic and makes the car look brand new. By putting away a euro a day it builds up without even noticing it and I also use the facility to send my spare change to the vault as well. Very handy!

7.00 pm: I ring my mum and we catch up – I was away in Donegal with my cousin at the weekend so I fill her in on what we got up to and find out how things are at home in Cork. I watch something on Netflix and then head to bed at around 10.30 pm.

                                    Today’s total: €451.00


8.30 am: I rise, have a shower, then head downstairs for a life-giving, caffeine-pushing, coffee injection. I just bought a new bag from Imbibe Coffee Roasters, which gives a percentage of it’s turnover to Women’s Aid, and projects in the regions they buy their coffee, as well as a percentage to their staff. It’s very good and exactly what I need for what again turns out to be a very busy day. It’s fine, as the day flies, but it’s intense and requires further regular caffeine injections, as well as frequent checking of latest Government health advice and the applications for the workplaces of our members. There are an awful lot of members to get back to, and some of them aren’t happy at waiting for a callback. There’s a huge amount of tension, frustration, and anxiety coming through via email and on the phone lines, and when I check in with my colleagues they are all experiencing the same thing. I consult with my colleagues about a number of complex issues and queries presenting and make note of some issues that keep arising or that we cannot advise specifically on yet.

1.00 pm: I take a brief break for lunch. I should really have gone to the shop for supplies, but I’m feeling lazy and don’t bother. I ate out a lot last week and should really do some damage control in terms of watching what I eat, but decide I might go tomorrow instead. My housemate has spoken to our BB provider, and they are happy to continue the contract at the same price we were paying, so we decide it’s worth staying with them. I ring my bank in connection with a chargeback I received. I had booked flights with Ryanair and after months of waiting for them to refund me, finally contacted my bank who had the money in my account within five working days. They need some documentation as proof the flights were booked and cancelled, which I resolve to sort out later.

5.20 pm: I knock off a bit later as calls ran over and I wanted to make sure some members got a response before a management meeting they have tomorrow at their workplace. I’m tired and have worked from my bed, which wasn’t a good idea as my back is sore and I feel like a crushed accordion.

6.00 pm: My housemate and her friend are getting McDonald’s and I don’t think twice when they ask me if I’d like to join them. Mine is a Big Mac meal – so much for damage control… I Revolut my housemate €7.00 for it and enjoy every bite. I sit down to watch the news and the press conference about the new restrictions coming into force. I was confident at one point that the Government was handling things well, but with the rise in new cases and the less than impressive showing by various ministers, I’m concerned about a second wave and the lack of leadership and poor communication. I decide to go for a walk in the local park and call a friend to catch up. It’s a lovely park which I should really make use of more. I have a great chat with my friend and while we are talking, I get a message from work to say that they are reviewing the new restrictions and that we may be working from home for another while. I have mixed feelings about this, on one hand, it suits me to work from home, but I really want normality to return. Looks like I’ll be waiting, along with the rest of the country.

10.00 pm: Bedtime

                            Today’s total: €7.00


9.00 am: I have a meeting at work later so I spend the morning prepping for that, making notes and going over them. There’s a knock on the door and I get a pleasant surprise as my Queen B leggings that I bought last week have arrived. They are a Cork business and the quality of their sportswear is excellent, and it’s always good to support Irish. They should also motivate me to go to the gym some more!

12.30 pm: I drive to work and park around the back – we have free car parking which is very handy, especially as it’s within walking distance of my gym. I’m in early so spend the few minutes before the meeting going over my notes. I feel the meeting goes well and am finished around 2 pm.

2.30 pm: I have another online meeting straight after, so once this is over I stay at work and make calls and reply to some emails. I have a new office space so I grab some bits from my old office to move down, and have some brief socially distanced chats with colleagues. I nab some office biscuits too! It’s weird to be back but it’s nice to work at a proper desk after all these months and type on a full-size keyboard. I see the warnings online about Storm Ellen and worry a little about the effect it’s going to have on my home town of Cork, particularly West Cork, which is still dealing with the after-effects of flooding and high levels of rainfall.

5.00 pm: I drive home, change, then my friend comes over and collects me and my housemate to go into town for dinner. I pay for parking as she doesn’t have the parking tag app and it’s easier for me to do it. We have a fabulous meal in Pickle on Camden St and two of us share a bottle of wine. I pay the bill and the others Revolut me what they owe. €60.00 for dinner including tip, €8.00 for parking. It’s a great night and good to support a local independent business. I’m back home for 11 pm, then head straight to bed.

                        Today’s total: €68.00


9.00 am: Back to work from my kitchen table. My housemate leaves to go back home to her folks and I work solidly until lunchtime.

1.00 pm: It’s payday, and I leave the house at lunchtime for some headspace and grab a coffee and a cookie as a treat at a local coffee pop-up. Coffee is only okay and cookie is nothing to write home about, it’s fairly disappointing for what I paid (€6.20). The gas bill arrives (€26.00) so I text my housemate and she Revoluts me her half. I head back to the grind and work until 5 pm. I reinvest/lend €120.00 on a peer-to-peer lending platform that I have some money in. My life insurance for the mortgage (€25.00) comes out of my account, and so does my phone bill, which for some reason is only €15.00.

6.00 pm: I’m living for Friday at this point and looking forward to the weekend. In the spirit of payday, I decide to order a takeaway (€15.00) which is fine and does the job. I scroll through Twitter and see a story breaking about a golf dinner in Clifden, and as more details emerge I see a Government minister attended along with a number of other politicians. You actually couldn’t make it up.

9.00 pm: The golf dinner is now the main story on the news and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is a massive political issue for the Government and the individuals that attended. I can barely keep up with the tweets and it’s clear this is going down like a lead balloon with the public on social media. People are RAGING. I go to bed annoyed and frustrated with the whole sorry saga.

                                      Today’s total: €194.20


8.00 am: I wake and straightaway pick my phone up to get the latest on #Golfgate on Twitter – it’s no surprise to see resignations. I get most of my news on Twitter, there are some great Irish journalists online keeping me up to date.

4.00 pm: I work for most of the day from home, but head into the office at 4 to pick up some papers I need for work, work for a while there, then on to a friend’s house who I haven’t met in a while. My car is running on fumes at this point so I get petrol (€40.19) We order takeaway, which seems to be forming a vital part of my daily nutrition at this point – I’m not normally like this I swear! We have a long and enjoyable catch-up. I brought her a lemon drizzle cake (€6.00) which we don’t get around to sampling.

11.30 pm: I say my goodbyes and leave. It’s only when I get home I realise I never paid her for my half of the takeaway (€25.00). She doesn’t have revolut so I make a mental note to pay her in cash next time I see her. It’s been a bumper week for takeaways and eating out but je ne regrette rien. Life is for living and I spent enough nights in during lockdown, so it averages out I’m sure. My subscription for the Hullomail app comes out of my account (€0.99) and that’s all my spending today. Hello weekend!

                                        Today’s total: €72.18


11.00 am: I sleep in and get up later than intended. I make a quick run to Aldi for a few bits (€6.73)

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12.10 pm: I come home, pack the car and head down the M8 to see my family. I stop at Barack Obama plaza and get coffee and a burger (€8.50) for lunch. I buy my brother an overdue birthday present online (€55.00) and get a birthday card (€2.75). I top up my Revolut account (€200.00) and transfer €18.00 I owe to my housemate.

5.00 pm: It takes five hours to drive down and when I arrive I’m tired and glad to have arrived. I catch up with family and watch rugby’s return as Munster play Leinster later on in the evening. It’s a good match but it’s not the same without a crowd and I don’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

9.00 pm: I head to bed early but find it hard to sleep. I listen to a few podcasts, including a financial advice podcast which is interesting and which I must remember to bookmark. I’m guessing some of the financial advice would be not to eat out so much, food for thought.

                                          Today’s total: €290.98


11.00 am: Today is a super lazy day where all I do is read the mountain of Sunday newspapers that have been bought and chill out. My friend has some good news so I ring her to have a chat. I haven’t seen her in person since March as she lives in another county and we have both been working from home. It’s lovely to hear her good news and it’s a great end to the week. I come close to spending nothing, but then realise I need a new charger for my phone, so I order two of the brand I want online.

4.30 pm: I watch Ulster v Connacht and try but fail to have a social media free day. I swear to myself that I am back on the wagon come tomorrow both financially and food-wise.

10.00 pm: I head to bed early and get a few things ready for the new work week tomorrow.

                                               Today’s total: €00.00

Weekly subtotal: €1,083.36

What I learned –

  • It was an interesting and insightful experience to keep this diary. If you had asked me how much would I spend this week I wouldn’t have guessed anywhere near that figure, but I had a couple of big bills, e.g. my credit card, and topping up my Revolut, which made up more than half of the subtotal. Realistically, the majority of the rest of my spending was discretionary.
  • I definitely ate out more than I would on an average week, but I think this is because I’m meeting people I haven’t seen in ages because of lockdown, and I want to support businesses and restaurants I like. Most of my discretionary spending went on Irish companies or businesses and I’m usually happy to pay a little premium to do that.
  • I’m also in the position that my mortgage is low and I rent a room out, which gives me another income source, and enables me to split the bills. I find it very frustrating that the Government isn’t doing enough to provide affordable housing for my generation, as some of my friends are finding it impossible to buy a house and are putting other life decisions on hold.
  • I am fortunate also in that I like my job and it gives me an income that means I can afford all the things I need. I am well aware of how lucky I am and very grateful for it.

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