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A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $32,386 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: a closed captioner and freelance translator working in communications who makes $32,386 per year and spends some of her money this week on flowers for her friend's engagement.
Editor’s note: This diary was submitted before Ontario’s latest stay-at-home order. Refinery29 in no way encourages social gatherings currently prohibited under provincial COVID-19 restrictions.
Occupation: Closed Captioner & Freelance Translator
Industry: Communications
Age: 24
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $31,200 (Plus whatever I make from freelance work. In 2020, I brought in $1,186)
Net Worth: $50,000 ($30,000 in investments and $20,000 in a personal savings account)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,077
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $0 (I live at home with my parents.)
Loans: $0
Phone: $60
Crave: $11.29
Disney+: $7.08
Apple Music: $5.64
Public Transit: $65 (I fill my PRESTO card monthly. This total would usually be higher, but I'm commuting far less because of the pandemic.)
Savings: $2,000–$3,000 (I aim to put away 90% of my paycheque. Since my parents subsidize so much of my living costs, I feel it's the least I can do.)

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?
Absolutely. My parents were immigrants who didn't attend university, so it was important to them that I did. They paid for everything in full, and I lived at home while completing my undergraduate degree. I also did a master's degree out of the province that my parents paid for, along with my rent. Needless to say, I'm extremely fortunate.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My father is an accountant, so I remember discussing money as early as eight years old. He would tell me about his clients who were retired and struggling to make ends meet because they didn't save money when they were working. He also set me up with a financial advisor when I was in my teens, and we picked high-yield dividend stocks for my portfolio and reinvested my dividends. When I was in university, he gave me a list of books to further my knowledge of investing, property management, and how to build generational wealth.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job when I was 13, working at a centre for tutoring math and English. I was previously a student there, and the woman who owned the centre thought I was a great student and asked if I would like to volunteer (to graduate high school, I needed 40 volunteer hours). Then, when I was 14, she started paying me in cash, under the table. I worked at the centre throughout high school and my undergraduate degree. During the summers, I worked two jobs (part-time tutoring and full-time at a summer camp, plus various internships). Luckily, I didn't have to help out with family bills. The only condition from my dad was that I save at least 85% of my paycheque, which something I still do.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. Overall, money wasn't an issue, and I assumed that if I followed my dad's advice, everything would be alright.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. Had my parents not pampered me financially, I wouldn't have the savings I have today, and I realize how privileged I am. Yet, considering I've been saving since I was 14, and I still put away most of my paycheque each month, I have very little money in the bank. It's difficult to secure a high-paying job without connections and saving money can be extremely difficult due to monthly expenses like rent, car payments, and food.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I wouldn't say that I'm currently financially responsible for myself. My parents subsidize most of my basic living expenses. Given my income, I don't believe I would be able to live independently and be comfortable. Thinking of my friends who don't have a financial safety net reminds me not to take my parents' generosity for granted.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
When I was in high school, I received $10 dollars a week as an allowance. My parents own three commercial properties, and their plan is to pass them down to my brother and me at some point in the future. My dad always said passive income is the best kind of income.

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up feeling groggy and not well-rested (a sad standard during these COVID days). However, I have pep in my step because I get to spend the whole day with my boyfriend, J. (the perks of working part-time). He lives downtown, so I gather my PRESTO card and mask up to ride on the red rocket. I also make sure to caffeinate before I leave.
11:07 a.m. — Le boyfriend and I are out for a stroll and decide to get a fruity seasonal drink from Starbucks. This one is bright pink and guava-flavoured. It looks like Pepto-Bismol but tastes like sweet nectar. We get a venti to split because we don't know what moderation is. We also swing by the LCBO to pick up a bottle of wine so we can be hooligans and get tipsy midday. We are very productive young adults. $17.62
3:32 p.m — Lunchtime! Burritos are on the menu today. J. already had most of the ingredients, and I brought canned beans, corn, and cheese from home. The burritos turn out super yummy. We also make homemade tortilla chips, and they are to die for. I could eat them non-stop. Chipotle who?
5 p.m. — Lunch is over, the kitchen is partially cleaned, and the shenanigans continue. Since COVID, we mostly veg on his couch and watch TV all day (no complaints here). We crack open the bottle of wine and mix it with Zevia because alcohol tastes bad by itself. We watch an episode of Big Brother Canada, a few episodes of American Dad, then a Korean film on Netflix called Burning. It's weird and definitely a slow burn (get it?), but Steven Yeun is in it, so that's cool.
10:03 p.m. — Another lovely day with J. comes to a close. Time to make the hour-long trek home. Considering it's a weekday, and I just spent the entire day goofing around, I don't have too much to complain about ; )
Daily Total: $17.62

Day Two

9:43 a.m. — I sit in my bed with the lights off scrolling through YouTube for a solid 25 minutes. I eventually muster the courage to pull down my blinds and FaceTime J. for a few minutes before going downstairs to make a coffee and start the day.
11:30 a.m. — I have a business call with a prospective client! Getting clients is super tricky when freelancing. After the call, I answer emails and do French exercises that I found online car je veux améliorer mon français écrit (translation: because I want to improve my written French).
2.p.m. — Exercise time! I head down to the basement to jump rope. I usually go for 15 minutes with a two-minute break at the halfway point, but most of the time I trip on the rope (like seven times during), so I try not to break at all because all that tripping adds to my rest time. After I jump rope, I YouTube a Pamela Reif video (is YouTube a verb?). I'm trying to get myself a peachier bum and a two-pack for the summer months. After that, I make avocado toast with a fried egg on top, plus berries and almonds on the side. I usually eat some variation of this every day because I'm a vanilla human being who thrives on repetition.
6:30 p.m. — My mom makes dinner for the family, so I have the privilege of not having to cook. Tonight is penne alla vodka, and I'm in heaven. There's nothing better than a massive plate of carbs. Sometimes I wonder if I'm a mama's girl because my mother cooks for me and still does my laundry. Maybe I'm Peter Pan. Who knows. I watch a murder mystery with my parents, then excuse myself to my room to have a solo dance party.
9:02 p.m — I Skype J., and we watch Modern Family. How that show went on for 11 seasons is a mystery to me. This episode is yet another misunderstanding between family members. We're on Season 9, and I marvel that we've made it this far. Jimmy Tatro is in this episode, though, and it's a blast from the past. I watched his YouTube videos religiously as a teen.
11:37 p.m. — I hop in the shower, then turn on my mood lighting (AKA turning off all the lights except the lamp next to my bed). I whip out my Lord of the Rings journal but am too tired to write anything. It's off to dreamland for me.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

4 a.m. — I'm violently awoken by my alarm because it's time to go to work. I'm a live closed captioner for a media company so I can't work remotely. I only work part-time (getting a job during COVID is hard), and my schedule is always changing. I start at 5 a.m. today, but my mom is an angel and drives me because the subway doesn't run at night, and if I took the night bus, it would take me centuries to get there (someone call the hyperbole police). I drink my coffee and hop in the passenger's side of my momma's ride.
9 a.m. — Lunchtime at work. When I'm feeling like I want to stink up my cubicle, I have a salad (with a mix of spinach, kale, olives, tuna or chicken, and a lemony dressing). Sometimes I make a PB&J and other times I have a sandwich with salami and a slice of cheddar or provolone with lettuce and pesto. As previously mentioned, I'm allergic to change and these three things are easy to make, plus I'm too lazy to try something else. Today, I'm not satisfied with my PB&J, so I saunter over to the vending machine. I've been eyeing a bag of Fritos for quite some time and decide to pull the trigger. It's $1.75 for 56 grams, which is so tragically expensive per gram that I almost shed a tear. $1.75
12 p.m. — Another workday complete! I TTC my way home and almost miss my stop as I snooze on the bus. I'm definitely not a morning owl, so these early morning shifts wipe me out for the rest of the day. I get home and become the most unproductive human in the world. I collapse on my bed and sleep for several hours, eat food that doesn't nourish my body, and binge watch TV.
Daily Total: $1.75

Day Four

10:33 a.m. — Whoever said you should wake up at the same time every day for the best sleep is probably a genius because my erratic sleep schedule may be one of the reasons I usually wake up tired. I chug the water on my bedside table and head downstairs for my jump rope/Pamela Reif YouTube video session. Nothing better than sweating in the morning! (I literally cannot type that with a straight face.)
10:47 a.m. — Tragedy strikes. As I swiftly, gracefully, skip over my $15 jump rope, the absolute worst possible thing that could happen happens. I trip on the rope so hard that I break it. Pop! The left side is pulled out completely from the handle. I gasp in pure shock. Why, oh why, Cruel World! It's almost like the world doesn't want me to have a two-pack of abs. I try my best to salvage the rope with tape, but my efforts are futile. I walk up to my room feeling defeated and order another jump rope from Amazon. It's a good deal even with an additional delivery fee, but I can't celebrate my thrifty find because I'm so torn up about my broken rope (RIP). I don't even bother to finish my routine. $14.44
11:16 a.m. — I make my coffee and eat. This time it's red berries, walnuts, and a hard-boiled egg. After I stuff my face, I'm bored so I go to the Reformation website and look at clothes that I will probably never buy, including a cute, beige cashmere tank top and cardigan set and a mid-length, forest green and white floral dress. This way, when I fantasize about future scenarios that will never happen, I can imagine myself in all the cute outfits I see online. Why buy clothes when you can just imagine you own them?
5 p.m. — Back at the good ol' vocation. I'm working the night shift (consistency? I don't know her), so I start at 7 p.m. This shift is usually light in terms of shows to caption, so I manage to watch a lot of TV on my phone. Sometimes it's Superstore on Netflix, and other times it's Family Guy on Disney+. Sometimes I wild out and watch YouTube videos (yes, all during work hours — shocker).
2:35 a.m. — Hollah, another shift done (yeet, yeet). My mother, who is very invested in my well-being, decides she would like to pick me up from work, and I'm definitely not opposed to this. We talk about my shift on the ride home, and I watch more YouTube before I crash.
Daily Total: $14.44

Day Five

12:30 p.m. — It's really hard to wake up the morning after a night shift. I could easily sleep for 12 hours and still nap shortly after waking. Oh body, the cruel tricks you play on me! I roll out of bed and make myself coffee and grab prosciutto, a hard-boiled egg, blueberries, frozen pineapple, and pistachios to nosh on. Ah, the joys of living at home and eating food I couldn't otherwise afford!
3:30 p.m. — I'm still so devastated by the loss of my jump rope that I forgo my usual exercise routine (I have problems letting things go). Instead, I opt for a three-minute plank and seven push-ups. After I collapse onto my yoga mat (why are push-ups SO hard), I climb back into bed and call J. We Skype and watch an episode of South Park (respect my authoritah) and talk sweet nothings. Life is good.
5 p.m. — Time to get my ass back to the office. Yes! Work! Can't wait to see what challenges the night has in store! Love it!
9:37 p.m. — I'm live-captioning the news, and I make some mistakes that get me down. I swear, mistakes aren't always the captioner's fault, and if you're annoyed when captions are bad, I totally get your frustration. Just know that sometimes the system makes awful mistakes that aren't the human's fault! Here's what was supposed to come out: snacking on Lay's and a big shout-out to my sister-in-law. Here's what the system put out instead: snacking on ladies and a big shut-up to my sister-in-law. I wince when I see the captions come on the screen and silently pray that not many people are watching.
2:35 a.m. — My mom picks me up again, and I tell her about the mistakes I made. She chuckles, and I feel a little better. We get home, and I try not to think about the news as I toss and turn.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

12:47 p.m. — Don't you just love it when you wake up and half of the day is over?
1:52 p.m. — I finally get started on my assignments for the day. This includes emailing, finishing up a translation for a client (but not that prospective client I spoke to earlier in the week), and again more French exercises. My goal is to be able to produce high-quality written work in French, which is a lofty goal, considering I can barely write in English, my first language. Dream big, they said. You'll find a high-paying job once you graduate, they said. Kidding but, like, not really?
4:26 p.m. — My good friend who lives in the neighbourhood texts me to go for a walk, and I immediately drop everything and head outside. I don't get to see her often, and it's always nice to catch up (while wearing masks and socially distancing, of course). She brings her puppy, and it's great to get kisses from the doggo (10/10 would recommend).
6:30 p.m. — Dinner is leftover meatballs and broccoli with some of that vodka pasta from earlier in the week. Delicious, can't complain!
9:38 p.m. — Another Skype session with le boyfriend. We watch the Britney Spears documentary on Crave, and I have mixed emotions. It's informative, but I feel like it glosses over pertinent issues. At only an hour and 12 minutes, it's short for a documentary. I also can't stop comparing it to Leaving Neverland, which I saw last week, because they're both documentaries about famous people and bad stuff. Anyways, I hope Britney finds her peace. (#freebritney).
12:03 p.m. — Another day comes to a close. After I turn on my mood lighting, shower, and moisturize, I hop into bed and journal. I put in my AirPods and play Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. This, along with my nonsensical journaling, makes me drowsy, and I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9:37 a.m. — Rise and grind, the proverb says. But today, sadly, I don't feel like grinding (not that I ever do). The existential malaise kicks in, and I just want to chill. I manage to repost my Kijiji ad for freelance work, but aside from that, my productivity levels are at an all-time low today.
11:52 a.m. — My group chat is going wild because one of my friends from high school got engaged! A couple of girlfriends decide to send flowers to her house (I pay $18 for my part). I can't believe engagements are starting already. It feels like just yesterday we were eating bagels and Frappuccinos every day for lunch and throwing up in strangers' toilets at parties. Good times. $18
2:47 p.m. — My new jump rope comes in the mail, and boy am I excited! I didn't think it would arrive so quickly because I don't have Prime. Also, I think my body could really use a surge of endorphins today to offset some of that malaise.
6:30 p.m. — Another day, another dinner. This time it's pizza, and I am living! It's also not just any pizza, but rather homemade pizza by my wonderful mother. We dip our crusts in olive oil and talk about how house prices are through the roof in Toronto and how sad I am because I can't afford one.
9:03 p.m. — I bid my parents a good night, make my PB&J sandwich for work tomorrow, chat with my boyfriend, and just stare at the wall. My mind drifts off to a state of relaxed nothingness as I try and think of more ways I can increase my income.
Daily Total: $18
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