A Week In Greater Vancouver, BC, On A $73,400 Salary

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Today: an assistant professor working in education who makes $73,400 per year and spends some of her money this week on Dom Pérignon–infused gummy bears.
Occupation: Assistant Professor
Industry: Education
Age: 40
Location: Greater Vancouver, BC
Salary: $73,400
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,459
Gender Identity: Woman
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Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,385
Home Insurance: $44
Strata Fees: $289
Utilities: $110
Phone: $53
TV & Internet: $124
Bus Pass: $98
Sponsored Child: $35
Canoe Club Membership & Boat Storage: $18
Netflix: $10
RRSP: $250 (This is automatically deducted from my paycheque and matched by my employer. I also make ad hoc contributions throughout the year. For example, I put in an extra $400 in December.)

Day One

12:30 p.m. — I take myself out for brunch at my favourite bakery, eventually settling on a lunch special of grilled cheese and tomato-basil soup. I resist the chocolate-Guinness cake but not the gingerbread latte. $19.95
1:45 p.m. — I go for a walk after lunch. While strolling, I chat with my family over text message and mention how good the soup was. My mom asks me to return to the bakery to pick some up for her. $4.99
2:10 p.m. — Soup in hand, I pop into the pharmacy to pick up three medications: two refills and a new prescription ($39.90). I have Crohn's disease, and both the illness and the treatment can cause issues that keep me on my toes. I try to treat managing my condition like a part-time job because, framed any other way, it's disruptive and frustrating. Having Crohn's strongly influences my work and financial decisions. For example, I stretched my budget to invest in a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse in a family-oriented neighbourhood with the aim of being able to quickly sell it and live off the equity if I have to stop working for a few years or retire early. My goal is to work until age 50 or 55 and retire to the east coast, where the cost of living is lower. So far, so good: My home is worth nearly double the $350,000 I paid four years ago. $39.90
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2:30 p.m. — My next stop is a sweet little shop with cosmetics, homewares, and gifts. I'm there on a mission: to replace my holiday treat (to myself!) of Dom Pérignon–infused gummy bears. I show my faculty card for a 10% discount. My university has this arrangement with a number of local businesses, and I take full advantage. $11.03
2:50 p.m. — At my local family-owned grocery store, I pick up chicken breast, ground beef, and mini marshmallows. (I plan to throw together my mom's favourite marshmallow squares for a Christmas treat.) I cook most meals from scratch, usually in a pressure cooker (before pressure cooking was cool?!). Tonight, I'm making stir-fried chicken and vegetables with peanut sauce. $30.46
3:15 — The soup, prescriptions, gummies, groceries and I make our way to the coffee roaster. It's pouring rain now and balancing my umbrella with the purchases is getting tricky. I recommend the Dark Angel blend to a tourist and pick up a pound of the holiday blend for myself. I show ID to get my — you guessed it — faculty discount. $14.40
3:30 p.m. — My last stop before heading to the bus is the liquor store for a bottle of Irish cream, three mini bottles of Brut Champagne, and one bottle of sparkling dessert wine for New Year's Eve at a friend's house. When I get home, I crash for a bit, play around with the sauce for my stir-fry, and eat in front of the TV. I signed up for Amazon Prime's free trial to ship Christmas presents to my honourary nieces and nephews and have since gotten hooked on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
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8 p.m. — I play a round of Scrabble with my mom, then read a few chapters of The Laughter of Dead Kings, a favourite mystery in the Vicky Bliss series by Elizabeth Peters. I can't tell you the number of times I've read through the series — the novels are as comfortable to me as a heavy duvet and a fire on a wintery morning. $49.34
Daily Total: $170.07

Day Two

9:45 a.m. — I do my near-daily morning ritual of toasting and buttering a bagel with a slice of Cows Creamery extra-old cheddar and making a cold-foam latte starring the holiday blend coffee, which I sip while I style my hair for church.
12 p.m. — Today is a rare day that I don't go out with friends following the service, because most of them have plans with family. I go home for leftover stir-fry for lunch and a nap. What are the holidays for if not naps? I applied for tenure this term and worked absolutely bonkers hours to pump out more papers and grant applications than usual, so this week off is basically 10% holiday and 90% mimicking my personal heroes, the sloths.
3 p.m. — As I make my bed following the most delicious nap, I decide that my beloved butterfly shams don't look good with the rest of the bedding. I visit the Hudson's Bay website and find Frette At Home shams on clearance for a fraction of the original price. The embroidery almost matches the Frette sheet set I picked up for 70% off earlier this fall. Done deal. I add a small bag of Godiva hazelnut cream coffee ($12) because I need to spend another $10 to qualify for free shipping, plus clearance polka dot socks from Hue because they feature a fox wearing a scarf ($6). $127.71
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5 p.m. — I remember my free trial Amazon Prime membership is ending soon, and I order a navy blue OPI Infinite Shine nail polish. I can't get manicures, because I'm immunocompromised. I used to apply glue-on nails from the drugstore myself, but they're destroying my natural nails, so I'm committed to learning how to paint my own. So far it's going...okay. I pour a sparkling water and finish up the stir-fry, peel a couple of mandarin oranges, and then go overboard on dessert while watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Fruitcake! Chocolates! Champagne gummies! Hot chocolate with Irish cream! And probably more, but let's not talk about it, okay? $12.85
Daily Total: $140.56

Day Three

9:45 a.m. — Following my bagel-and-latte ritual, I grab a mini tourtière (French-Canadian meat pie) from the freezer and go to campus, where I do a bunch of the fun parts of being an academic, like planning lecture schedules and figuring out measures for a new research study, and none of the less-fun parts. I also take my bike for a spin around the nearly empty campus paths.
7 p.m. — I open a couple of stocking stuffers from my sister (shhhh): a giant unicorn eraser (she kills me) and a beautiful round brush that is every bit as resistant to tangles as the packaging boasts. My sister and brother-in-law moved to the east coast a few months ago, and this will be our first Christmas apart in several years.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

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11 a.m. — It's Christmas Eve! I need to do my “part-time job” by taking my biologic medication to the pharmacist to be injected. A specialty pharmacy ships it to me, and I keep it in my cheese drawer in the fridge until injection day. I'm grateful to the drug company for providing the medication compassionately (i.e. at no cost). B.C. has PharmaCare, but the cost of the deduction — around $2,750 annually — would require a big lifestyle change, so I'm very, very thankful not to have to pay it. I also pick up a prescription refill that wasn't ready the other day (people with Crohn's often wind up taking lots and lots of medications). I give my pharmacist, who is wearing a "Go Jesus, It's Your Birthday" sweater, a bag of homemade granola and sprint to the bus stop. Most months, I feel fine after the injection, but it's a good idea to go home right away, just in case. $8.29
1 p.m. — The rest of the day I munch on pierogies and fruitcake that my friend made, play Scrabble with my mom, read, and chat over text with friends. I also make cranberry sauce in the pressure cooker, and the surprise marshmallow squares for tomorrow. After three episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I crawl into bed.
Daily Total: $8.29

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — Merry Christmas! My morning ritual is slightly altered: Irish cream and dulce de leche get stirred into the coffee, and chocolates are nibbled before and after the toasted bagel with cheese. I play a round of Scrabble with my mom before we get to work preparing Christmas dinner: scallops, sweet potato, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, with Christmas pudding (and more marshmallow squares) for dessert.
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4:30 p.m. — After Christmas dinner, I order one more treat for myself: new throws for my bedroom chair and for the family room. Scents & Feel has two different types on clearance, although once I add shipping and account for the U.S. exchange rate, the price is still splurge-y. Whatever, I'm going to love curling up with them! $154.45
4:45 p.m. — Christmas or not, I cannot justify the cost of adding hand towels to my Scents & Feel order. Instead, I check Amazon on a hunch and find four of the brand's fouta hand towels in blue, available as add-on items for just $5 each ($20). Yippee! I add orange OPI nail polish ($12.17) and a scalp massager I saw on a listicle ($2.50). My mom and I pass the rest of the day playing Scrabble and watching Silent Witness, an English mystery series. $34.67
Daily Total: $189.12

Day Six

10 a.m. — While I'm enjoying my morning ritual (again with added Irish cream and chocolates), my mom picks up milk and unsalted butter on my behalf, and I pay her back. $7.05
12:30 p.m. — A good friend, R., is in town for the holidays, and we have lunch plans! She's in grad school in another province, so we don't get to meet up often, although we keep in touch (mostly over Twitter). She wishes me merry Christmas, and I say happy Hanukkah, and we exchange small gifts: homemade granola for her and garlic from her aunt's garden for me. I pick up the tab for our lunch at an Italian restaurant that kindly extends my faculty discount to R. $44.83
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2 p.m. — We go for a walk after lunch, browsing shops and chatting about our collaborative research project and other things (mostly books).
12 a.m. — The charity I sponsor a child with withdraws $141 for her annual birthday gift. She'll work with her local branch to choose how the money is spent; she usually goes for clothing and groceries to share with her family. $141
7 p.m. — A lightbulb in one of the living room lamps burns out, and I order more. That's the extent of the evening excitement — that and leftover stuffing and sweet potatoes, marshmallow squares and Christmas pudding, and more English mysteries. I'm loving this quiet holiday! $18.07
Daily Total: $210.95

Day Seven

10:15 a.m. — I'll be spending the day in downtown Vancouver with a good friend, S., who is also a faculty colleague. To cut down on travel time, I take a taxi to the nearest bus depot. The fare is $11.85, and I tip $4. $15.85
12 p.m. — S. texts me her coffee order, an Americano, which I place while she dashes over from her dance class. It's a very, very Vancouver kind of class: a 30-minute warm-up, followed by a 20-minute dance free-for-all, with everyone doing their own thing, followed by a 20-minute cool down. God, I love this city. While she sips her coffee, she takes me on an art tour of a local historic hotel that has a gorgeous modern art collection. She's a professional artist as well as a professor of art and design, so her personal tour is really, really good. $3.30
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1:30 p.m. — We walk to Yaletown, where S. treats me to lunch at Tacofino. I have my favourite crunchy tofu taco, as well as a lemongrass chicken one that's loaded with fresh cilantro.
2:30 p.m.— Walking becomes walking and shopping as we browse the shops of Yaletown. At The Cross Decor & Design, I take advantage of Boxing Week sales to pick up two glass tree ornaments — an angel cake on a stand and a cream puff — to join my other food-themed glass ornaments. I also buy a Meri Meri paper craft advent calendar for next year. $37.35
3:15 p.m. — We take an Aquabus across to Granville Island, buying our return tickets at the same time. S. comments that she loves a city with something so cute as little boats that act as public transportation, and I totally agree. $9
3:30 p.m. — S. raves about her newest crafting interest, felting small animals and hats out of wool. She swears up and down that it's “so easy,” but she's an artist, and I'm a klutz. But I do secretly love trying new crafts, so I buy a sheep kit at the craft shop. I have low expectations for the finished product, but I'm sure it will be good for a laugh and a Twitter post or two. $37.24
4:30 p.m. — It's been all of a couple of hours since we ate, so of course we buy bagels at Siegel's in the Granville Island market. I choose a cheese-filled bagel that is lemony and a bit sweet, and S. opts for sesame seed with spinach-and-feta cream cheese. I also pick up a baker's dozen of pumpernickel and sesame seed to take home. $18.10
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5 p.m. — I pick up gnocchi and the house pesto from a deli stall at the market. I've had two bagels and two tacos today, so why not pasta for supper?! $13.25
5:15 p.m. — My last market purchase is both my favourite and a wildly poor choice for the sweets-filled Christmas season: sucre à la crème from the maple stand. It's the closest thing I've ever found to my francophone auntie's penuche (brown sugar fudge). I only visit the market two or three times a year, and I make sure to always stop at the maple stand. Of course, no one was forcing me to buy six large pieces. $20.60
11 a.m. — My bus pass covers one zone only, and my transit pass (a silicone bracelet) automatically purchases an add-on fare when I enter the SkyTrain station. $4.80
7:40 p.m. — After a ridiculously long delay waiting for a bus out of the SkyTrain station, I arrive back at my small city and hop into a cab that delivers me home in record time. I tip $5 on the $10.35 fare. I take a long shower to warm up after waiting an hour in the rain at a bus station. Then I cook the gnocchi and settle in to watch Vera, another English mystery.
9 p.m. — After it's over, I open the craft kit and discover two clumps of wool, two needles, some curly wool bits, a block of foam, and an instruction manual. I get started and — oh wow — it's wildly satisfying! And it really is easy enough for someone like me to manage. When I'm too tired to be able to see straight (which I know has happened because I keep stabbing my fingers), I set down my proto-sheep, drag myself upstairs, and climb into bed. The time between Christmas and New Year's may be a liminal space, but it's the best kind of liminal space. Real life can wait another day, thanks. $15.35
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Daily Total: $188.34
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