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A Week In Calgary, AB, On A $78,000 Salary

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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 editor working in media who makes $78,000 per year and spends some of her money on second-hand rock climbing shoes.
Occupation: Editor
Industry: Media
Age: 29
Location: Calgary, AB
Salary: $78,000
Net Worth: $562,000 ($350,000 equity in my condo, $70,000 savings, $82,000 in my TFSA, and $60,000 in my RRSP)
Debt: $0 (When I moved out of my parents' place at 23, I had already saved about $100,000, which was more than enough for the downpayment on my $329,000 condo. My parents also offered to lend me the money to buy the condo in cash, and I paid them back monthly with interest until we settled up. Plus, I got in at a good time in the market.)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,758
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $0
Condo Fees: $315 (This also covers heat and water.)
Electricity: $50
Phone: $47.71
Internet: $89.75
Car Insurance: $128.91
Union Dues: $84.68
Pension: $505 (deducted from my paycheque)
Dental Plan: $15 (deducted from my paycheque)
Medications: $5 (This is the amount I pay after my health plan's coverage.)
Life Insurance: $16.80 (deducted from my paycheque)
Long-Term Disability Insurance: $95.20 (deducted from my paycheque)
Amazon Prime: $8.39
Savings: $2,000 (This is what I aim for.)
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Annual Expenses
Property Taxes: $2,155.38
House Insurance: $438

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?
Yes. My parents are both university-educated. They believed in education not only for career advancement but for the sake of education itself. They were happy to pay for my university degree and post-secondary certificate. To say I'm grateful for that privilege would be an understatement.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My mom has always believed that it's much easier to save a dollar than to earn a dollar, and she patently refuses to pay full retail price for anything. She's a bargain hunter to the core and taught me about the necessity of saving, the benefits of being resourceful, and occasionally going without.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked as a seasonal sales associate at Aritzia when I was 15. I wanted to buy my own clothes and snacks. My siblings and I didn't have allowances, but I'd get paid for every A on my report card, and I'd get $50 for Christmas, Lunar New Year, and my birthday. I tried to stretch that as far as I could (which wasn't very far), so getting a job seemed like a good idea.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. My parents were always incredibly (sometimes ridiculously) frugal, but I somehow understood that we were in a good financial position. We didn't drive nice cars, spend money on decor, or eat out often, but my parents didn't hold back on their kids' educations and the causes that were important to them: They sent all four of their children to private school, paid for private music lessons, and donated money regularly to charity.

Do you worry about money now?
Sometimes. I dream about owning a single-family home one day — one with a backyard and enough room to raise a family and maybe a dog. Typical, I know. I want to give my future kids the same quality of life my parents gave me and my siblings, but the millennial struggle to keep up is real. I'm just not sure that's possible on my current salary, even with all the savings I've accumulated.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I never asked my parents for money after I got my first job because I never stopped working after that. I had a variety of evening retail jobs as well as work-study positions at university and paid summer internships. That said, I still lived at home, which helped me save about 80% of my income. When I was 23, I got a new job and moved to a city where I had no family or friends. It was terrifying but also kickstarted my adulting journey. At that point, I became fully financially responsible for myself. If anything disastrous were to happen to me, my parents would be there, but I hope it doesn't ever come to that.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
If only.
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Day One

6:40 a.m. — I wake up early despite having the day off. I have a job interview at noon, and I'm filled with nervous excitement. I water the plants on my balcony and prep a pour-over Chemex coffee and my usual blueberry-banana oatmeal. Then I feed the cat.
8 a.m. — I have a blood test this morning. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a couple of months ago, and I've started new medications that could potentially harm my liver and kidneys. I have to go for monthly blood tests to make sure everything's fine.
8:40 a.m. — I gradually get myself into the right mindset for my interview. The hiring manager asked me to complete two assignments beforehand. One is a simple writing test, and the other is a 20-minute presentation on a business case they sent me. I look over my writing assignment and submit it. Then I start scrolling through my presentation, rehearsing and tweaking. I REALLY want this job. This past year has been an incredibly tough one in the journalism industry. Maybe I'm getting older and more cynical, but things seem to be more divisive than ever, misinformation is rampant, and I need to switch careers for the sake of my mental health.
10:30 a.m. — I adjust my setup for the virtual interview. I want to stand when I deliver my presentation because it feels more natural, so I stack a bunch of random boxes and books on my kitchen counter and place my laptop on top of it. I make sure the lighting and angle are good, and then I apply my makeup and get dressed.
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12 p.m. — Interview time!
1:01 p.m. — For the first time in my life, I actually feel good coming out of an interview. I'm not sure how my presentation went over because the panel didn't offer feedback, but the interview portion felt much more like a conversation than a typical awkward interrogation. The team seems awesome, and now I REALLY, REALLY want this job. I quickly text my sister and call my parents to let them all know how it went.
1:40 p.m. — I run out to buy a four-litre jug of milk. It's a lot for one person, but I use half of it to make homemade Greek yogurt. It's way cheaper. $5.54
3 p.m. — I get home and heat up milk in my Instant Pot for yogurt. I start a book I've been dying to get to since last week: Drums of Autumn (AKA the fourth Outlander book). I crushed the first three books in a week and a half but had to hold off on starting this one because I wanted to focus on my interview prep. Now, sweet bliss.
4:50 p.m. — My dentist's office calls. They're running ahead of schedule and can see me early for my 6 p.m. appointment. I'm super happy they can squeeze me in earlier.
6:30 p.m. — I leave the dentist's office with chapped lips but shiny teeth, slightly deflated by the cost, even with my benefits. $91.14
7 p.m. — Back home, I cook rice to eat with leftover saag paneer. It's my favourite homemade curry these days, and I've got it on a steady rotation. I load up Drums of Autumn on my Kindle and read until it's bedtime.
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Daily Total: $96.68

Day Two

6:40 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm. I had the toughest time falling asleep last night. I was pumped on adrenaline, replaying scenes from my interview and dreaming about how awesome it would be if I got the job. The hiring manager said they'd be in touch with next steps in the coming "days and weeks," whatever that means. I try to put it out of my mind and get on with my morning routine: cat, coffee, oatmeal, water plants, meditation.
8 a.m. — I like to take my time in the mornings because I hate feeling rushed. I apply light makeup and get dressed. After 15 months of working remotely, I'm back in the office full-time now. I thought I'd hate being back, but I've grown to appreciate the change in scenery. The office is much more ergonomic, I like the impromptu conversations with colleagues, and the clear separation between my personal life and work life is nice. My cat, on the other hand, has other opinions.
1:30 p.m. — I heat up my packed lunch of saag paneer and rice, then go outside to sit in my office's courtyard and call my sister for a quick chat while I eat. We live in different cities now, but we've been best friends for all of our adult lives, and I miss her terribly. She tells me about her toddler's adventures, and we moan about how difficult it's been for her to find a house in Vancouver.
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5:15 p.m. — I check out of the office for the weekend. It's been a stressful week, and I'm looking forward to downtime. I go home and strain my Instant Pot yogurt to make it thicker. I also take my sourdough starter out of the fridge and prep levain. I plan to bake a loaf tomorrow night.
7:30 p.m. — I get ready for a surprise birthday party for one of my friends. I'm still a bit antsy about groups of people gathering and sharing food, but my circle of friends is double-vaxxed, and we've missed each other so much this past year.
8 p.m. — We meet at a fantastic local brewery. I'm not supposed to drink alcohol because my new medications can wreak havoc on my liver, but my rheumatologist told me imbibing modestly on special occasions is absolutely fine. I try an ale and a wheat ale, both five-ounce glasses. I figure I'm allowed to have two-thirds of a beer with my doctor's blessing, and both are delicious. We sip and chat for hours. $6.20
10:50 p.m. — Back at home, it's time to put the fully strained yogurt in the fridge. I snuggle with my cat, wash up, and get ready for bed.
Daily Total: $6.20

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I wake up early and go through my morning routine. I combine my sourdough levain with enough flour and water to make a loaf, then set it aside and let it do its fermentation thing.
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8:30 a.m. — A grocery order I placed online last night is ready to pick up. I get crunchy peanut butter, cod, peppers, zucchini, bananas, cilantro, ground turkey, furikake seasoning, chips, and cat litter. All this comes to $39.51, but I redeem $10 in points. There are few things I love more than free groceries! $29.51
10 a.m. — I start a load of laundry and stretch and fold my sourdough dough a couple of times, then set it aside to continue proofing.
11:10 a.m. — I'm meeting a friend for coffee at a gorgeous bakery downtown. The weather is perfect, so I cycle there and snag us a table for two on the patio. We sip lattes and share a savoury scone as we catch up on life and relationships. He just had a baby with someone (they broke up before the baby arrived) and is navigating co-parenting, while I just got out of a two-year-long relationship a couple of months ago. He asks if I've started seeing anyone. I haven't because I think it's too soon and I've only just begun to realize how much simpler life is as a single person. I tell him I want to approach my next relationship from a place of confidence and strength, and I'm still figuring out who I am outside of the partnership that just ended. He pays, which I wasn't expecting.
12:30 p.m. — Neither of us is pressed for time, so we go for a walk by the river. We catch a street performer balancing on a plank on top of a cylinder, juggling knives. I want to tip him, but I don't have cash on me. We stop by a bubble tea shop, and my friend gets a mango-matcha something or other. We say goodbye with loose plans to grab pizza or dim sum soon. I'm 99% sure this isn't a date.
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3 p.m. — I'm starving. I heat up saag paneer and do a hair mask. I coloured my hair a few months ago for the first time in years, and it still feels a bit stringy. A colleague recommended Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector, and it's been a miracle worker. I'm starting to get some of that silky, smooth sheen back. I wet my hair, work the serum through it, and throw it up in a bun.
4:30 p.m. — I feel like the Olaplex has been there long enough, so I take a quick shower.
6 p.m. — I make turkey-zucchini burgers from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem: A Cookbook. It's one of my favourite cookbooks. Everything I've made from it is a hit, and these are a long-time favourite. They're flavour-packed thanks to the generous use of fresh herbs, and the zucchini keeps them moist.
8 p.m. — My sister calls, and we spend about two and a half hours catching up. Meanwhile, I shape and bake my sourdough. The house smells heavenly.
10:30 p.m. — My sister and I say goodnight, and I curl up in bed.
Daily Total: $29.51

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — The sun is streaming into my bedroom, and I couldn't stay asleep if I tried. It looks like it's going to be another gorgeous day. I water the plants and realize I need to harvest my yellow pear-shaped tomatoes. I only have two plants, but I'll probably have a couple hundred tomatoes this year. I make a mental note to incorporate as many tomatoes as possible into my diet. Today, that means a quick breakfast of pan-roasted tomatoes, bacon, half an avocado, and some of my fresh sourdough loaf.
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8:30 a.m. — I'm running low on specialty coffee and I have a coupon for a dozen eggs for $1.29. I zip out to a couple of different grocery stores for a two-pound bag of coffee, two dozen eggs, and a bar of dark chocolate with orange peel. $45.66
10:15 a.m. — My friend, K., comes to my place, and we walk to church in the beautiful weather. It's our Sunday routine.
11:30 a.m. — Church ends. K. and I grab a quick bite at a cute spot nearby. I order a turkey sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and honey-dijon. $10.40
12:30 p.m. — On our way home, we see a sign for a multi-family yard sale. It's a block away, so we take a detour and browse. There are puzzles, kids' clothing, beautiful ceramics, baked goods, and plants. There's a pair of climbing shoes in great condition that fit me perfectly — and they're only $5! I've been meaning to get back into bouldering, so I buy them. We begin walking to our separate homes and part ways with promises to see each other again later this week. $5
3 p.m. — I grab my Outlander book and a bowl of cherries and go out to my balcony to read.
5 p.m. — I'm hungry, so I cook mapo tofu for an early dinner. It's fragrant, spicy, and comforting. After eating, I read until it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $61.15

Day Five

6:40 a.m. — I wake up to the alarm and feel oddly tired. My rheumatoid arthritis is flaring up, and I hobble out of bed to start my morning routine.
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8:30 a.m. — Off to work. I pack leftover mapo tofu and snacks.
12:32 p.m. — I realize I'm starving but am in the middle of a good workflow. I'm feeling lightheaded, so I take a quick lunch break.
5:33 p.m. — My new glasses are ready for pickup five days ahead of schedule, but I'm not sure I can get to the optometrist's office by 6 p.m. when they close. I pray traffic is on my side. I get there, find parking, and dash into the store with two minutes to spare! The glasses fit well with a bit of tweaking, and I'm really happy with the way they look. I paid for them last week ($29 after insurance and a coupon), so today they almost feel free. Little victories.
6:30 p.m. — I make a dinner of yellow tomatoes (surprise), avocado, pan-seared hot salami, and scrambled eggs with sourdough toast. I never regret having breakfast for dinner.
7 p.m. — I call my parents to check in, then lie down and read more.
9 p.m. — My sister and I hop on the phone and make plans for all the things we'll do when I head back to Vancouver later this year. Timing is TBD, pending the whole COVID, Delta, Delta Plus situation, but I haven't been home in over a year and I miss sharing moments with my family. My sister's kid is turning two in a week, and I'm sad to realize I've missed more than half her life already.
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10:30 p.m. — It's time to go to sleep. I brush my teeth, floss, pop in my night guard, and read about 15 more pages before I call it a night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:40 a.m. — My body hurts again this morning. I've been sleeping with my wrists wrapped in tensor bandages because it helps with the swelling and discomfort in my sleep. I'm beginning to worry that my medication isn't doing what it's supposed to do. The pain could be an effect of elevated stress levels from last week when I was prepping for my interview. I have an appointment with my rheumatologist in a couple of weeks, and I'm both eager and nervous to update him. If these meds aren't working, we'll have to move to something stronger. I haven't experienced any negative side effects on my current regimen, and I'm grateful for that, but I'm not sure I've felt any positive effects either.
8:30 a.m. — Breakfast, plants, cat, and meditation have all been seen to. I'm off to work with a packed lunch of turkey-zucchini burgers and snacks.
10 a.m. — I snack on Goldfish crackers at my desk. I've seen my colleagues shoot me surprised glances, but they're one of my favourite things to eat.
12:10 p.m. — Lunchtime! I heat up my lunch and eat it in the staff kitchen while I read Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. I usually read more than one book at a time, and this blend of poetry, philosophy, and spirituality seems more appropriate for the office than the steamy historical fiction of Outlander.
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3:45 p.m. — I munch on an apple as I put finishing touches on my work for the day. I know it's only Tuesday, but I'm exhausted.
6 p.m. — I make a dinner of seared halloumi, yellow tomatoes, avocado, scrambled eggs, and sourdough. So delicious. After I'm done eating, I watch watercolour painting videos on YouTube. I've been thinking about trying my hand at watercolour painting for months now, and these YouTube artists are so inspiring.
7:30 p.m. — I read until 9:30 p.m. and then brush my teeth, floss, pop in my night guard, and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6:40 a.m. — I wake up and go through my morning routine. Then I spend (too much) time browsing art supplies before getting ready for work.
8:40 a.m. — I dash out the door behind schedule with a packed lunch of mapo tofu, an apple, and Goldfish crackers.
12:30 p.m. — Work is going well. I take a lunch break, heat up my mapo tofu, and eat it outside in the courtyard while I chat with my parents.
3 p.m. — I've been thinking about those art supplies all day, so I take a quick break to order them. I get two brushes, quality paper, and a plastic paint palette. I have watercolour tube paints that were gifted to me a while ago and I plan to fill the palette with them. The brushes are about $30 each, but I'd rather spend on quality than quantity. I figure this is what I'll need to get started, and if I like painting, I'll expand my supplies. $108.88
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3:45 p.m. — I get an email notification about a job that I applied for four months ago. It says I meet the criteria for an interview, and someone will be in touch shortly to set it up. I honestly thought I'd been screened out when I hadn't heard back.
5:15 p.m. — I dash home and polish off the last of the saag paneer for a quick dinner. Then I hop on my bike and ride over to K.'s house. We're headed to the Central Library to pick up a couple of holds. It looks like it's going to thunderstorm, but we brave the bike ride anyway. I haven't been very active since my RA diagnosis and I want to get moving again. I pick up a non-fiction book about Canada's war in Afghanistan and three watercolour painting books.
8 p.m. — We bike home in the storm and have to wait under a bridge to avoid most of the downpour, but it passes quickly. I get home only slightly damp and call my parents for a quick chat.
9:30 p.m. — I brush my teeth and crawl into bed to read for about an hour before turning out the light.
Daily Total: $108.88

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