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A Week In Hamilton, ON, On A $30,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: an administrative assistant who makes $30,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a sweater.
Occupation: Administrative Assistant
Age: 23
Location: Hamilton, ON
Salary: $30,000
Net Worth: -$500 (My dad gifted me his 13-year-old car three years ago, and it's worth about $3,500 now. I have about $5,000 in my TFSA and $3,000 in savings, plus $1,000 in my emergency fund.)
Debt: $13,000 (student loans)
Paycheque Amount (1x/month): $1,882.80 (after health insurance is deducted)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $500 (for a room in a house)
Phone: $52.24
Car Insurance: $208
Student Loan: $132.99
Netflix: $13.99
Apple Music: $11.29
iCloud Storage: $1.46
Audible Subscription: $14.95
Unicef Donation: $10
Health Insurance: $43.70 (deducted from my paycheque)

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
My family immigrated from Africa to Canada when I was a toddler. Being educated themselves, my parents always stressed the importance of education and how it's a necessity if you want to live at least an average lifestyle. I was expected to earn a bachelor's degree in a reputable field. I chose to study accounting at university and I plan to become a CPA (chartered professional accountant). My parents paid some of my university fees, and I received about $1,000 in scholarships. I also took out student loans over the years and currently owe about $13,000.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents did their best to educate my siblings and me about finances. They taught us the importance of saving and living below our means. Recently, my dad started teaching me about stocks, so I have a few in my TFSA now. Growing up, though, I never understood why I didn't get to wear the brands or have the devices other students at my school had, but those hard life lessons have helped me to save a decent amount of money as an adult.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first real job when I was 17. I worked at Canada's Wonderland.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about money until I became a teenager. My family lived an average life, and we always had what we needed. When I started high school, my parents gave me an allowance of $40 a month. I was ecstatic. That allowed me to buy lunch at school once a week and save about $10 every month. However, after a few months, they could no longer give me that amount, and I was limited to $20 (I was not given a reason). Buying lunch at school soon became a luxury, and I was determined to secure other sources of income. My parents didn't allow me to work because they felt it would distract me from school. As a result, I braided friends' hair for a small fee, and later sold Avon in my neighbourhood. I didn't make much but I learned that putting in effort can pay off — a lesson that has made me who I am now.

Do you worry about money now?
I do worry sometimes. However, I was in a co-op program at my university, which allowed me to secure internships and save money. I have about $9,000 saved, which is not bad considering I recently graduated. I also worked as an Uber Eats driver for extra cash, which helped me manage car expenses. I'm lucky to have parents who helped me pay for my undergraduate education and are helping me pay off my student loans. However, I'm currently taking courses for my CPA designation, and they're expensive given my current salary. This is the main worry I have regarding my finances currently.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at age 22 when I finished all my university courses. Since then, my parents have expected me to carry my own weight aside from my student loan debt. Sometimes I wish I had assistance but I think it's time I start living like an adult.

Day One

10 a.m. — It's Saturday, my favourite day of the week. I get to clean and cook myself a nice breakfast without rushing out the door. I clean my bathroom, then make eggs and toast with green tea (I drink tea instead of coffee on Saturdays because it keeps me calm). I do my laundry, call my mom to catch up on the week, watch a YouTube vlog, then head to the mall to pick up my roommate, O., from work. She has a Costco card, and we like to buy things like toilet paper and laundry detergent in bulk, then just split the bill in half.
2 p.m. — When we hop in line at Costco, we notice a little boy looking bothered and we don't see any adults with him. I ask him if he's lost, and he says he's not sure where his mom is. I ask him for his name, tell one of the store managers that the boy may be lost, and then hop back in the line. We go inside to pick up chicken nuggets, eggs, face masks, bread, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and soap. Eventually, I see the boy with his mom, and he looks happy. We go to the cash register, and our total comes to $102.41. My friend pays, and I transfer her my half. $52.21
4 p.m. — I go home and notice my roommates are watching Greenleaf. This is one of my favourite shows on Netflix, so I join them. For dinner, I make mashed potatoes, grilled tilapia, and mixed vegetables. Afterward, I paint my toenails red (I almost always paint them red). Did I mention I love Saturdays? I love having time for self-care.
Daily Total: $52.21

Day Two

10:30 a.m. — I think I'll go to church today. It's been a while since I attended in person. I get dressed, put on light makeup, grab my mask, and leave. When I get to the church, I sign in, use sanitizer, and find a socially distanced seat. I'm glad to see safety is a priority. The pastor announces that they're currently taking donations to help with renovations, and I sign in to the church's app and donate $10. The sermon is great, and it's nice to say hi to a few friends. $10
1 p.m. — At home, I make alfredo pasta with mixed vegetables and ground beef (pasta is one of my favourite dishes because there are so many ways you can make it).
4 p.m. — My friend, L., calls and asks if I want to go to the mall. I'm not doing much, so I go. We walk around and catch up, then stop at H&M, where I pick up two sweaters, and L. buys a purse and a pair of jeans. I go home and prepare for work tomorrow. Having bought new clothes, I feel like I should clean out my closet, so I do. In the process, I notice I have a few items I haven't worn in a while and put them aside to drop off at Goodwill. $52.81
Daily Total: $62.81

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — Today is super busy at work, and I only break at noon to have leftovers from last night's dinner.
4 p.m. — I finally get my inbox to zero and finish up the day with filing. I need to pick up pasta from Walmart, so I can make lunch for tomorrow. Once I'm there, I realize I forgot my mask, so I have to go home and grab it, then go back to the store. Finally inside, I pick up fruit juice, pasta, toothpaste, and hand soap. At home again, I eat Caesar salad and make more alfredo pasta for tomorrow's lunch. My friend, D., calls and we talk about life, his job search, and the growing pains that come with graduating and entering the workforce. $29.89
Daily Total: $29.89

Day Four

12 p.m. — I have an hour-long break from work, so I eat my lunch out on the deck and run to Walmart afterward. I need aloe vera (my skin is oily, and it works great as a moisturizer for me). I couldn't find it at the location I went to yesterday, but there's another one close by, so I go there. $7.31
12:45 p.m. — On the way back to work, I notice my gas tank is low, so I stop at Canadian Tire to buy gas. $40.84
2 p.m. — In contrast to yesterday, work today is slow. Once I clear my inbox, I take a quick break and read a Money Diary. This one is quite interesting: I've never heard of a married couple who live separately by choice. I think it's good to do what works for you. As an introvert, I definitely understand the importance of personal time. Now, it's time to get back to work.
5 p.m. — I've been into skin-care lately and wanting to try The Body Shop's Vitamin C line because I heard it works well for fading dark marks and hyperpigmentation. I hop into my car and drive to The Body Shop where I buy Vitamin C Glow Boosting Microdermabrasion as well as tea tree oil spot treatment. My total comes to $40.68. I'm hungry and tempted to buy food while I'm out, but I'm trying to reduce my spending. I go home instead and make stir-fry noodles. I know I eat a lot of carbs, but I add chicken, broccoli, and carrots for extra nutrients. I'm tired today, so I try out my new products and go to sleep early. $40.68
Daily Total: $88.83

Day Five

12 p.m. — It's lunchtime, and I eat leftover stir-fry while reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I'm not planning to stop working full-time, but there are practical tools listed that anyone can apply to business as well as personal productivity. For example, he talks about the 80/20 principle, which is all about working hard but doing so in a meaningful way.
5 p.m. — My acrylic nails have grown out a lot, so I go to the nail salon to have them taken off. While I'm there, the nail tech suggests I get another set, but I decide against it; my nails need time to breathe. I get home and take a nice long shower, then have chicken wings and potatoes for dinner. My mom calls to let me know that a store she likes is going out of business. She asks me to check out the online sale for her. She's not good at online shopping, so she often gets me to it. I scroll through the site, screenshot a couple of dresses that I think she would like, and send her the photos. Afterward, I watch a movie called Nigerian Prince on Netflix, then go to bed. $10
Daily Total: $10

Day Six

5:30 p.m. — Work is easygoing today. It's Thursday, and I'm feeling tired as the week comes to an end. I don't have the energy to cook tonight, so I stop at Subway and get a toasted footlong Cold Cut Combo with cheddar cheese, spinach, lettuce, green peppers, banana peppers, and hot and house sauces. I go home and eat my sandwich while scrolling through jobs on Indeed. I like my job, but it doesn't pay enough, so I'm currently looking for accounting-specific roles with higher pay. I've been passively searching for a few weeks now but have only gotten one interview so far. I think I need to buckle down and apply for more if I want to see results. After that, I binge watch travel vlogs on YouTube. I love travelling but I like to travel comfortably. I haven't left the country since 2017 when I went for a vacation in Mexico with my family but I hope to travel again soon. In the meantime, I'll keep watching vlogs.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8 a.m. — My alarm rings, I click snooze, and sleep for 10 more minutes before getting ready. It's Friday, so that's a good thing.
12 p.m. — It's lunchtime. I heat up my spaghetti and take it outside and call my friend, D. He updates me on the interview he had yesterday and lets me know that he's going to be a groomsman at his friend's wedding. He sounds excited. The interview went well, and he's been selected to move on to the next stage in the application process. Plus, this is his first time being part of a wedding party. We talk until my lunch break is over. When I get to my desk, I realize today is ice cream day at the office, so I select an ice cream popsicle from the freezer.
7 p.m. — My friend, B., invites me over so we can binge This Is Us together. Our other friends are coming as well, and everyone is supposed to bring a snack or drink. I stop by Tim Hortons on my way over and get a six-pack of assorted doughnuts. I also buy a BLT and peppermint tea because I haven't eaten dinner yet ($14.40). I get to her house and everyone is already there. While we get our snacks set up, my friend, T., goes on and on about her boyfriend and how she knows they're going to be together forever. I listen and nod in agreement. I've always been more of a listener than a talker. We get through about three episodes before I start to get sleepy and have to leave. I get home, do my night routine, and go to bed. Today was a good day. $14.40
Daily Total: $14.40
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