7 Days of Earl Grey: A Week of Confronting My Spending Habits

Graphic by Holly Jones

Age: 23
Pronouns: she/her
Living situation: 5 share house in Bruce, Canberra
Monthly expenses: rent and internet ($610); water, gas and electricity ($50); phone plan ($68.45); Spotify ($5.99)
Employment: Retail
Income: fortnightly Centrelink ($542.67); fortnightly pay ($382.08).

Day 1: Monday, April 30th

8:00 am I normally wake up at 6am for work on Mondays but I tore a few ligaments in my ankle last week and so I took the day off to recover and wake up later.

8:50 am I haven’t done groceries in a while so I steal my housemate’s bread and have toast and a banana smoothie for breakfast. I also have my first cup of tea.

9:00 am I make another cup of tea and slowly get ready.

10:00 am I try and start studying but feel a little trapped in my house (I haven’t been able to leave it since I hurt my ankle 5 days ago). So I decide to waddle into uni for a change of scenery.

10:53am I still can’t walk well so I wait for the number 3 bus that comes less often but leaves from my street and takes me directly into campus. I have no money on my MyWay card because I still have not figured out how direct debit works so I pay cash ($2.40).

11:20am I get off the bus right outside my favourite cafe and head in for a coffee and some cafe study ($3.50).

12:30pm For lunch head to the co-op to meet up with a friend after her honours seminar ($6).

2:20pm I meet some friends for coffee and ‘study’. My friend owes me a coffee and pays for my flat white. We sit outside the Art School cafe studying, talking and generally enjoying one of the last nice afternoons outside for a little while.

4:47pm My friend has a meeting at Woroni and so we get some food at the Pop-Up (my go to is a vegetarian burrito) and head to the Woroni office ($11.90).

7:40pm By 7:30 my essay is not done but I am, so I bus home. I forgot to top up my MyWay and so I pay cash again ($2.40).

9:30pm – Our housemate has their birthday next week and so I order her present hoping that it arrives in time before I go to bed ($36.98).

Daily Total: $63.18


Day 2: Tuesday, May 1st

7:30am My alarm goes off at 7:30 but…I get out of bed at 7:50.

7:50am I make a cup of tea to go and quickly consume some toast (promising myself that I will eventually replace my housemates bread).

8:10am I normally ride my bike but since both my bike and I are broken I catch the bus again today ($2.40). I’m not used to it. I miss my first bus and then my bus gets caught in peak hour traffic, it’s not the best start to my morning.

9:10am I am 10 minutes late to my physiotherapist appointment but I make it. I am lucky enough to still be on my parent’s health insurance which allows me to afford luxuries such as healthcare ($38.70).

10:09am Since I am in the city, I go to my favourite café, order a large coffee and prepare to finish an essay that has been hanging over my head. Since most of the café’s business is take-away they don’t seem to mind if I stay a while and study ($4).

12:50pm I give up on my essay and head into civic. I finally remember to top up my MyWay ($30).

1:25pm I love to cook and a few weeks ago I invited a group of friends around for a little dinner party. Although I am still struggling to walk I am determined that it will go ahead, so I go to Coles and buy all the ingredients ($59.85).

1:30pm I bus home ($1.37).

2:09pm I make a cup of tea and start cooking.

6:15pm People start arriving and I take the entrée out of the oven, tonight it is a four-cheese and caramelised onion cob loaf as a thank you to my friends who love cob loaves and who also drove me to the ER last week.

6:30pm I boil the fresh fettucine and finish cooking the lasagne, parmigiana, mac and cheese, sweet potato gnocchi and garlic bread out of the oven. By the time I drain the fettucine and mix in the pesto through it is time to eat!

10:00pm After dinner, dessert, banter, 3-ish bottles of wine and a savage game of articulate everyone goes home.

Daily Total: $136.32


Day 3: Wednesday, May 2nd

8:00am My alarm goes off but I pushed my foot too hard yesterday and am in a lot of pain so I pop some ibuprofen and stay in bed. This means I can’t make it to my lab so I email my lecturer about retaking my lab quiz next week instead.

11:20am Instead of the usual toast, I use my late start as an excuse to eat lasagne for breakfast.

12:00pm The rest of the day is a blur of earl grey, naps and Netflix.

Daily Total: $0


Day 4: Thursday, May 3rd

8:00am I actually get out of bed as planned this morning. I make scrambled eggs on toast (with my own bread!) and a cup of tea.

8:25am I don’t have time to finish my tea and pop it in my takeaway cup and head to the bus ($1.37).

8:57am I get to uni fully intending to go to my class but instead go to work on my eternally ‘almost finished’ essay at my favourite café with powerpoints because I forgot to charge my laptop last night ($3.70).

12:25pm For a lunch break I meet up with friends at the food co-op before going to Hancock to set up my home for the night ($6).

3:30pm I run into a friend at Hancock who is also trying to finish an essay. For a study break and a sense of solidarity we go for a walk and grab a coffee from Grounds ($3).

6:30pm Weeks ago I agreed to go to a Star Wars Trivia night with a friend. She is about to move to Darwin on a placement and so although I am stressed I want to see her and decide that showing up and seeing her is more important and could be a good study break. We split a pizza for dinner. I have to pay when I sneak out early and so she offers to buy me a drink later in the week ($37.50).

7:30pm On the way back I pick up some chips, salsa and chocolate for me and my friend who I left at the library ($6.50).

10:11pm Essay still not done I bus home and decide that I am a better me after getting some sleep. So, I’ll try again tomorrow ($1.37).

 Daily Total: $59.44


Day 5: Friday, May 5th

7:00am My alarm goes off. I think I snooze it at least four times. By the time I get up, I have two minutes to get dressed. I make a cup of tea to go and get out the door. I make my bus but it gets caught in traffic and I am still late ($1.37)!

8:55am I am 10 minutes late for my physiotherapy appointment but they are nice about it. Although, I make a note not to be late again ($38.70).

9:45am Starving and in the city, I treat myself to my favourite breakfast, a pastry and a coffee at Harvest ($9).

12:00pm I swear I never normally eat out this much but I have a lot of socialising to make up for this week, so I go out for lunch with a friend ($10.90).

2:05pm On Friday afternoons my friend tutors sociology and after her classes I pick her up and she buys me a coffee. It’s a great deal for me. Today her friend from Istanbul comes and we chill in the CBE café and talk for an hour until I panic about my essay and I go back to studying.

4:00pm Remembering I must ride to work tomorrow, I finally pick up my broken bike from the library and get it fixed on campus ($20).

6:00pm I decide to go home to finish another assessment and change for a dinner I have tonight ($1.37).

8:40pm My 7pm dinner with my friend gets postponed, and by the time she picks me up it’s 8:40 and we are starving. We grab Indian and order about twice what we need. I haven’t seen her in a while and by the time she drops me home it is almost 11pm ($21.20).

 10:50pm I want to go straight to bed but my housemates are playing vine compilations on the TV and I end up staying up until just after midnight. Whoops.

 Daily Total: $82.54


Day 6: Saturday, May 6th

6:00am Is when I should get up. Unsurprisingly I get out of bed at 6:20, giving me exactly 10 minutes to dress, eat and get out the door for work.

6:35am A little late I start making my way to work. I ride (cleared by the physiotherapist) because it is too early for buses and I can’t drive.

7:02am I am 2 minutes late but slide in and hope no one notices.

10:00am I have discovered that a guy at work will buy me a coffee if I just say “Hey, wanna buy me a coffee?” So, I get a free coffee.

11:00am I have my lunch a little early – the second last serve of leftovers from Tuesdays dinner. I feel better for not spending too much today. It’s been an expensive week.

3:00pm I knock off and ride home. My housemate is having her girlfriend over for dinner and so I help her prepare dinner and the room before making myself scarce.

5:30pm I head to Kmart to buy some flat black shoes to wear with my outfit for the night ($14).

6:15pm My friend has an ‘entertainment book’ full of coupons, and decides to take us all for some 50% off bowling ($15.90).

6:30pm Bowling is great but it’s even better when intoxicated. I grab a beer and a plate of fries to share as a thanks for the cheap activity ($15).

9:00pm I do a sneaky change at the bowling alley into a nice jumpsuit and my new flats and bus to my friend’s farewell drinks ($1.37).

9:20pm Most of the people at the drinks are public servants and each takes pity on my student self and buys me a drink. Starting with a whisky sour, then a tequila shot and finally an espresso martini.

2:20am We dance for a few hours and the only thing I pay for all night is my Uber home and a hash brown ($15.60). I have no regrets.

Daily Total: $62.77


Day 7: Sunday, May 7th

9:00am I wake up, inhale a banana smoothie and make it to work (on time!)

10:30am My friend from work is looking a little rough so instead of forcing him to buy me a coffee I splurge and get us both some caffeine from the café at work ($7.20).

1:30pm I managed to remember to bring the last of the left overs to work for lunch and I am pretty happy with that decision. Hungover lasagne is the best lasagne.

6:30pm I ride home from work feeling a little wrecked and so cave and order pizza with my housemates from Round pizzas. I get a large so it can become my lunch/ dinner tomorrow ($25).

Daily Total: $32.20


Total Weekly Income: $733.72

Total Weekly Expenses: $436.60


Looking back over my expenses I have realised that there is no ‘normal’ week of expenses for me, especially as my weeks vary so much with work rosters and assessments, and that is something I need to account for. Although it’s scary, writing down my spending forced me to confront my financial habits and made me realise that I need to stop making excuses and get on top of my finances. While I don’t think money makes people happy, as a financially independent woman I defiantly think it provides agency and a certain peace of mind that is essential and definitely something I should prioritise.