A Week Quarantined In Ottawa, ON, On A $97,000 Salary


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Today: a brand strategist working in hospitality who makes $97,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on running shoes. (Editor's note: All totals in are in U.S. currency.)
Occupation: Brand Strategist
Industry: Hospitality
Age: 27
Location: Quarantined in Ottawa, ON (but I live and work in Brooklyn, NY)
Salary: $97,000 (plus a bonus of up to 15%)
Net Worth: $27,000 (I have $5,000 in an emergency fund and $22,000 in a Roth IRA for retirement.)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,160
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,750 (I share a one-bedroom in Park Slope with my boyfriend, T. It costs $3,200, and we split the rent proportionate to our incomes.)
Utilities: $80 (includes internet)
Phone: $72
One Medical Subscription: $99 (My employer used to pay but no longer does.)
AppleCare: $8.90
Misfits Market Product Box: $26.50
Roth IRA: $240

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 parents both have multiple degrees, and education is deeply valued in my family. I never spent much time thinking about that, because I was naturally academically inclined and the opportunity excited me. I do wonder what things would've looked like if I were less excited about formal education and whether or not my family would've supported an alternate path. I went to school in Canada, where the cost of higher education is significantly less than in the US. My degree at a top-ranked university in the country cost $6,000 a year in tuition, reduced from $7,000 because I received a small academic scholarship. My parents graciously paid my tuition, and I worked part-time through school to support my spending and expenses. I'm still in absolute shock at the extent of tuition and student debt in America.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents didn't formally educate me about finances but modelled good financial behaviour that I try to emulate. My mom is a teacher and my dad is a doctor, but he didn't start medical school until after I was born, so it did take some time for them to achieve the wealth they now possess. When we were kids, I saw a strong model for living within your means — while my dad was in school and then residency, we lived in a rented duplex. Our vacations were road trips to see family, and we were taught a lot about appreciating what we had. Our family's lifestyle changed as my parents became more established in their careers, and I was aware of it — they renovated the kitchen, and we went to Europe when I was in high school. From that point on, we were quite well off. I never got sat down and taught about taxes or retirement accounts or credit cards, but I was told that if I wanted anything I had to save for it and to avoid spending outside my means. I was lucky to have a strong example of financial stability, and I come at life with an immense amount of privilege.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I started working as a counsellor at a day camp when I was 16, making $9.50 an hour. I worked there every summer for the next five years, as well as working at an after-school program during the school year. During university, I worked at a call centre, at doctors' offices, as a tutor, and as a bartender. I enjoyed working, and there was an expectation that I would earn the money I wanted to spend.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I was lucky not to.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I struggle with anxiety and my sense of self-worth, and money is often part of that. I worry I'm going to somehow lose my money, or that I'm mismanaging it. This is something I've worked on in therapy.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself when I graduated from college and moved to New York at the age of 21. Despite being responsible for myself, my parents did support me in a few ways during that first year. I worked three part-time jobs, and they often sent gift cards to grocery stores and paid for my flights home. I had a lot of pride about taking care of myself, but they did provide me with a soft landing during that year. Once I got my first full-time job in 2016, I had the consistency I needed to be 100% financially independent. Even now, I'm lucky enough to say that my family and/or my boyfriend's family would help us in a heartbeat if we ever needed it.
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Day One

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and get my final belongings packed and ready to go. I'm flying home to Ottawa today to see my family for the first time in a year. I've been restricted from traveling home due to COVID, and this is by far the longest I've ever gone without seeing my family.
9:30 a.m. — I say bye to the dog, and T. drives me from our apartment in Brooklyn to Newark. I'll miss him lots. Entering Newark airport feels weird because I haven't flown since before COVID. I check my bag and head to the gate. $30
11 a.m. — My flight is leaving soon, but I'm craving coffee. I go to the café near my gate and buy a large iced coffee and a bag of SunChips, which is a very odd purchase for me, but I felt like they were staring at me from the register. $6.91
11:30 a.m. — My flight to Montreal takes off. It's a small plane, but I'm seated beside someone who is respectful and dutifully masked. I'm also given the seat with the most legroom on the entire plane and am thrilled and confused. Did I pay for this? Did I win an award?
12:20 p.m. — I land in Montreal and head through immigration. The process is smooth and I came prepared. The immigration guard asks about my quarantine plan — the address, whether I will have a separate entrance and bathroom removed from anyone else in the space, how old my parents are, etc. I chuckle about how poorly this level of government intervention would go over in America. I'm asked to show my electronic receipt confirming I'm set up in the government-run app that monitors all arrivals and quarantine plans under a federal law called the Quarantine Act.
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1 p.m. — I rush through security again to get to my connecting flight. I couldn't fly directly home to Ottawa because Canada is only accepting international travel via a handful of airports. I make the flight and this time I have the row to myself, the second row in the whole plane. AGAIN, I'm thrilled by my new first-class lifestyle (do note: there is no first-class in these small planes). The flight is only 28 minutes; I know this because that's how far I get into my podcast from wheels up to wheels down.
2 p.m. — I arrive in Ottawa, my hometown. Once I pick up my bag, I head outside to meet my parents. They've arranged an elaborate pickup because they aren't comfortable being inside the car with me. My mom drives one car and my dad drives another, then my mom furiously Lysol wipes her car and allows me to drive it back home. The reunion feels anticlimactic and a bit depressing because my parents won't hug me until after the 14-day quarantine. I threw a fit about this whole car thing yesterday because a) I think it's ridiculous and b) I haven't driven in six years, since before I moved to New York, and I don't trust myself behind the wheel. But once I start driving, it does come back easily, and I also just generally resign myself to my parents' processes and policies as the path of least resistance. It's hard to argue because they're taking the objectively correct approach, but it's a bit tricky emotionally nonetheless.
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3 p.m. — I arrive at home and get the lay of the land in my quarantine quarters (AKA my parents' basement). They've done a lot of work to make the basement comfortable for me, which I appreciate. They even put a mini-fridge (which is actually a vaccine fridge from my dad's clinic) and coffee maker in the space. There's a TV tray at the ready, on which I will be delivered my meals. There is also a basket with 14 wrapped gifts labelled by day, which is sweet. I open the first one, and it's a cozy pair of socks. I putter around and do little things to try and make myself feel settled. I make a small wish for my mental health to stay intact throughout these next 14 days of quarantine.
7 p.m. — My mom made her homemade stew, which she knows is my favourite. I eat on my TV tray at the bottom of the stairs, and my middle sister sits at the top of the stairs. We spend the first five minutes of the meal cackling about how ridiculous this is.
8 p.m. — It's time to take advantage of the fact that weed is legal here. I go to the Ontario Cannabis Store online and order three different types of gummies. It's remarkably cheap (only $16.72), so I think I may have botched the doses. My order will arrive via courier in the next one to three days. $16.72
9 p.m. — I realize I'm late to pay our dog guy, L., for last week. Our highly energetic dog goes to a playgroup twice a week wherein L. picks up all the neighbourhood dogs in an unmarked white van and runs them around Prospect Park for the day. It's a lifesaver and also never ceases to amuse me. T. and I trade off weeks that we pay ($50). I do a yoga flow on the Peloton App (our Peloton is arriving on December 15th, and I'm so sad I won't be there for its arrival). I'm usually inconsistent about working out but want to be regimented over the next couple of weeks for the sake of my mental health. $50
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11 p.m. — I start watching Broadchurch and then head to bed.
Daily Total: $103.63

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I wake up, make a coffee, and open my day two present, which is the latest issue of Vanity Fair. That's fun! I kind of feel like I'm in an airport gate, waiting for a flight that will take off in 14 days' time. I have a ton of work to do this morning, which is nice and distracting. I have one meeting at 10:30 a.m., but otherwise, my calendar is clear to tackle projects. I send a brief to our research firm and finalize a plan for executive review.
1 p.m. — My youngest sister makes lunch for my TV tray: a wrap with salami, cucumber, cheese, tomato, and sriracha. There are berries and carrots on the side. I'm definitely going to lose weight this month while home — my family is exceptionally healthy, whereas I usually "support local business” (AKA order a TON of takeout).
2 p.m. — I have a number of meetings this afternoon, including a design kickoff for a creative project (which I didn't realize I was leading so have to improvise), an internal team meeting that runs overtime, and then a sync with our public affairs leadership about our COVID comms (I'm running point from a brand perspective, and it's a nightmare of a project).
7 p.m. — I wrap up my work. I often work late at home but want to keep good boundaries here so I don't go crazy.
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7:30 p.m. — Dinnertime. It's so weird not to cook or clean. I'm served a tofu stir fry over rice and dine with my middle sister again.
8:30 p.m. — I do a workout from a Rachael's Good Eats ebook that someone shared with me. It's an upper-body workout and it's super-hard.
9 p.m. — I FaceTime T. I miss him. Apparently, the dog has been crying weirdly, and he thinks she misses me. We talk about all types of mundane things like the groceries he bought and my basement.
1 a.m. — I realize I've been watching Broadchurch for too many hours and go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8:45 a.m. — Wake up. Coffee. I get an alert from the ArriveCAN app asking me to report any symptoms for day two. I'm annoyed because I thought this was day three. Twelve. More. Daysssss.
9 a.m. — I have a daily standup with my team. They literally write a new agenda item as “Ensure [my name] is OK in basement and no psychological breaks.” It's comical but also appreciated. My youngest sister orders Starbucks and places an iced coffee on the basement stairs for me. It brings me joy. I also open my daily present, which is a Toblerone bar. I immediately eat half. I have a complicated creative meeting with our advertising agency, which is challenging in a good way. I then prepare for two major meetings I'm leading this afternoon with our legal team (scary) and our sales team (less scary). My youngest sister delivers my lunch, which is cheese and crackers, carrots, peppers, hummus, and apples. Again, this quarantine is a bit of a dietary cleanse. I feel remarkably good, though?
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4 p.m. — My meetings go well, and I somehow even manage to charm the lawyers. My youngest sister comes back home and has bought me a pair of running shoes from the neighborhood running store. I asked her to recommend a brand and buy me shoes because I forgot mine at home. I want to workout while I'm quarantined and my current shoes are over five years old, so it feels like a fine time to replace them. The ones I end up with are AMAZING but deeply expensive. They're a brand I've never heard of called On, and the receipt says they're $225 CAD!!! I try them on and love them but decide to sit on them for the night because of the price.
8 p.m. — Dinner time. I eat with my other sister tonight. We have my mom's mac and cheese, zucchini, and green beans. It's delicious.
9 p.m. — Talk to T. on FaceTime. We realize it's the dog's second birthday. That's cool.
10 p.m. — My weed arrives via courier! I have two gummies and give two to my middle sister. I hop in the shower, then turn on Broadchurch. The high sneaks up on me and is wonderful.
12 a.m. — I finish the first season of Broadchurch, and it's amazing. I truly have a hard time parsing out whether the ending is so good because I'm high or because I'm lonely or both or neither. I try Googling that but sadly nothing comes up.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up and have a coffee. My gift today is a personal massager thing. What an escalation! These daily gifts are so charming and thoughtful. I'm really lucky.
8:30 a.m. — I have a meeting with my dad's accountant and a credit agency. My taxes are incredibly complicated because I'm a dual citizen, and 2017 was the first full year that I had a salaried job, so I was lucky enough to have my Canadian and American taxes filed by an accountant who managed them as part of our family unit. There was an issue with my 2017 return, but the accountant charmed the creditor into putting a hold on the amount owed until we can refile. This is a good outcome but seems complicated, so I'm very grateful we have the resources for professional support. The accountant also recaps my income tax returns since I graduated and moved to NYC: I claimed an income of $37,000 in 2015, $42,000 in 2016, $48,000 in 2017, $70,000 in 2018, $85,000 in 2019, and now I'm making $97,000. I feel proud of how I've grown my career in a couple of short years.
9 a.m. — I have a meeting with our partnerships team about promotional pricing, then two impromptu meetings — one about a creative campaign brief and one about COVID messaging. I have so so so much work to do but keep getting caught in meetings.
12 p.m. — I have another meeting with our public affairs team, and then my middle sister delivers leftover mac and cheese with carrots and salami before I have a long, draining copywriting meeting. I get a call from the Canadian government as a quarantine reporting check-in.
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2 p.m. — I feel tired and distracted so I take a break to workout. I decide to keep the shoes, and I PayPal my youngest sister $180 USD for them. My decision to keep the shoes may be partly due to not wanting to burden her with returning them and partly due to feeling lenient with expenses this month because my spending is generally reduced because of quarantine. ANYWAYS, I pop on these golden shoes and do the full-body workout from the ebook, then shower. I have a snack of rice cakes, a Babybel, a clementine, and a coffee. $180
5 p.m. — Somehow it's 5 p.m., and I've barely worked despite having a ton to do. That midday break may not have been such a good idea. Of course, I also Slack a bunch of people and tell them I'll take on things or send them something by end of day because I have zero sense of time management or self-awareness. Cool.
6 p.m. — I'm doing damage on my Toblerone and a tricky product marketing matrix. I have a strategy brief due to our HR team for an internal ask, but I keep deprioritizing it. I fiddle with it for an hour or so but am not focused.
7:30 p.m. — I eat at the bottom of the stairs with my dad at the top of the stairs this time. My middle sister made cod, potatoes, and salad.
8:30 p.m. — After dinner, I try working on the strategy brief in front of the TV but can't focus. I end up just watching TV, trying to figure out whether I should get my haircut anytime soon, scrolling through social media, and generally feeling shitty. I wanted to read while I was home but feel like a lazy TV loaf.
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1 a.m. — I head to bed.
Daily Total: $180

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — Wake up, coffee. My gift today is a book of crosswords. I'm excited for this and hope it'll help me watch less TV? But also maybe watching mindless TV isn't the worst. I'm overthinking a bit without my regular routine. My youngest sister makes me a bagel with butter. Montreal-style bagels are so much better than New York bagels. Fight me on this one. I have 11 meetings today. I'm tired, and it's hard to actually get work done when I spend all my time talking to people about getting work done.
1 p.m. — For lunch, my youngest sister brings me another half of a bagel with avocado, tomato, and carrots on the side.
8 p.m. — I work through the afternoon, and it's dinner time before I know it. My middle sister made shakshuka for dinner, and I eat with my mom who is at the top of the stairs.
1:30 a.m. — I end up working late but at least I get that brief I'd been ignoring to a good place. I don't want to go straight to bed, so I take a gummy, have a shower, then do a 10-minute restorative yoga flow from the Peloton app.
2:30 a.m. — Fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — I wake up late and miss my team's daily standup. I anticipated this and declined the meeting invite late last night. I make myself a coffee and open my daily quarantine gift, which is a pack of scrunchies. My youngest sister brings me a flat white and a coconut cookie she brought back from a café. It gets me through some meetings.
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1 p.m. — I listen to music as I work and feel productive. My baby sister brings me crackers, apples, carrots, and a Babybel for lunch. I talk to my boss about how to approach the beast of a strategy brief I wrote last night. There's substance there, but I worry we'll have major creative resourcing constraints and budget issues. I'm getting conflicting messages from leadership about priorities. My boss doesn't have an answer but agrees to navigate it alongside me, so I'm not single-handedly thrown to the wolves as is often the case at our company.
8:30 p.m. — I'm finished with my work. For dinner, we're having chicken and dumplings made by my Nana (who lives next door). It's my ultimate comfort food.
9:30 p.m. — I watch a couple of episodes of Broadchurch, then do a leg workout that's soooo hard and turns me to Jell-O. I likely appear to be a consistent worker outer in this Money Diary, but that's far from reality. It's just easy to do when you're confined to a basement and stripped of all responsibilities. I take two gummies, have a lovely, long shower, and do my nightly skin-care routine of CeraVe cleanser, Cocokind rosewater toner, and CeraVe moisturizer. I put Not Your Mother's curl cream in my hair and let it air dry while I entertain myself immensely by reading the depths of Twitter while very high and doing a crossword.
2 a.m. — I go to bed.
Daily Total: $0
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Day Seven

11 a.m. — I wake up after a refreshing, long sleep-in. I can't believe I've been down here for seven days. It's honestly gone by super-quickly. My daily quarantine gift is a sheet mask. My dad brings me a coffee and a pastry. I'm so lucky to be well taken care of. I talk on the phone with T. for about an hour, then watch two episodes of The Flight Attendant, which we end up being pretty into.
2 p.m. — The weekend days go by a whole lot slower than weekdays. I'm feeling moody and spend way too long scrolling through Instagram.
6 p.m. — We're having an early dinner, which I'm happy about because I'm STARVING. My parents ordered from a local restaurant that does amazing burgers. I have one with bacon and cheese and fries.
1 a.m. — Not quite sure where the evening went. I puttered around in the basement, reading and watching TV. I'm officially halfway done with my quarantine and grateful that I have the means to have travelled, the space to quarantine, a job that accommodates it, and a family that takes such good care of me. One more week to go, then I'll be free to roam for a week, then it's back to Brooklyn I go.
Daily Total: $0
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