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A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $92,000 Salary

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Today: a senior communications advisor and freelance writer working in corporate communications who makes $92,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on the third book in the Outlander series.
Occupation: Senior Communications Advisor & Freelance Writer
Industry: Corporate Communications
Age: 27
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $90,000 (plus about $2,000 from freelancing)
Net Worth: $17,000
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,200
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,775 (I rent a condo alone and negotiated the price down by $25. It was originally $1,800 a month. Pretty proud of myself!)
Hydro: $40
Internet: $50
Student Loans: $0 (I finished paying off $25,000 in student loans two years ago.)
Car Payments: $220
Car Insurance: $200
Phone: $85
Netflix: $0 (mooching off my sister)
Spotify: $10
TFSA: $25

Annual Expenses
Amazon Prime: $85
Actors Job Board Membership: $110 (I do sketch comedy and like to audition.)

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?
Both of my sisters went to college for diplomas in the arts (journalism and marketing), and while our South Asian parents had given up on having a doctor, lawyer, or engineer daughter, I think they were holding out hope that I'd attend university. For their pride and my own (distorted) belief that a university education was somehow "better" than a college program, an apprenticeship, or going straight into the workforce, I went to university and completed a bachelor of arts (with honours, wuddup) with a double major in English literature and communications and a minor in French literature. I'm grateful to have lived at home rent-free, but my degree was $40,000 plus books, transit, on-campus food, and social engagements, so closer to $50,000. I received scholarships and grants and took out $25,000 in student loans, which I paid off within three years of graduation by working my bum off at a series of full-time jobs right after grad. I've worked one to three jobs simultaneously (yes, even in school) at any given time since I was 19.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
For as long as I can remember, money was a problem at home. The subject was taboo, and I heard that we never had enough of it. My parents' philosophy was to keep your head down, work, work, work, and earn, earn, earn as much as possible. I was never educated about finances at home, so I was never taught where all of those earnings went or should go, and I'm not sure that my parents ever received that education when they lived in India or when they came to Canada in the 1980s. When I asked my dad last week about whether he had ever invested his salary, he shrugged and said he had more important bills to pay. My parents are retired now, and I've only recently taken the initiative to learn about finances and be more comfortable talking about saving, investing, earning, and spending. I barely even knew how taxes worked until now! I think it's very important to have these conversations and reduce the stigma around money, so everyone can learn from each other and live better, and we can pass this knowledge on to future generations.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job as a customer service representative at a furniture store the summer after I graduated high school. (Shout out to my mom who saw the job posting in the classifieds of our local newspaper. How retro, right?) I sought work because I knew I would have to pay my own way through university. I couldn't rely on my parents or sisters, who were already strapped for cash. I also wanted to have some pocket money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
On the rare occasion that my parents talked about money, it was to say that we were broke, borrowing money from family and friends, or declaring bankruptcy (which they did about a decade ago). I remember fielding calls from debt collectors, seeing my parents stressed, and feeling guilty because they would always say yes when I asked for something, like toys, fast food, or school day trips. My dad would even empty the change out of his pockets and keep it in a special tray for me to take for pizza slices or movies. My sisters took on the brunt of bills. As I grew older, I stopped asking for money. I wanted to be in the school band, but that cost money I didn't want to ask for. I wanted to enroll in the hot lunches program in middle school, but I wouldn't have asked for even those few dollars a day. I missed grad trips because we couldn't afford it. I grew up envious of my peers who seemed to have everything, so as soon as I had the chance, I started working.

Do you worry about money now?
I have a lot of residual anxiety about money from the way I grew up. Moving out on my own and taking full responsibility for my condo, car, phone, and groceries, etc. was a massive step in trusting myself and knowing that I could make things work financially (thank you, therapy). Sometimes, I feel irrationally afraid that I won't be able to pay my bills and I'll end up homeless and hungry, even though I'm financially stable, educated, have a job, and have loving friends and family to support me if all hell were to break loose. I'm also worried that I don't know enough about finances (ie. investing and saving) to take care of myself long-term. I squirrel away money when I can, stress over buying gifts for others or myself, and often feel guilty when I go out. Recently, I've been trying not to fuss over buying fancy coffee from time to time and just enjoy it!

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At 18, I became responsible for my education, phone, credit card, social, and transportation expenses. The responsibility expanded at 23 when I bought a car. And at 25, I became responsible for rent and groceries, too. Time flashed before my eyes and now, at 27, I'm entirely responsible for myself! If I lost my housing or source of income, I have a few trusted friends I could turn to, and, primarily, my eldest sister and her husband, who I know I can count on and vice versa. I also have about $15,000 in savings as a financial safety net.

Day One

9 a.m. — My alarm has been ringing since 7 a.m., but I've snoozed it for two hours for a Monday morning lie-in. I roll over, check my work email for anything urgent, and, seeing nothing that needs my immediate attention, snooze for an extra 20 minutes (shhh, don't tell my boss).
10 a.m. — I'm finally awake. I smear light cream cheese on a Montreal-style bagel, brew tea with a dollop of honey, and dive into work. After I clear my never-ending inbox (I can't leave anything unread; it drives me up a wall), I meet with a client about a new social media campaign.
12 p.m. — I complete a 45-minute HIIT session with one of my favourite fitness YouTubers, chug the entirety of my emotional support water bottle, hit the shower, make hard-boiled eggs and a salad for lunch, and continue my workday of answering emails, writing media releases, and creating social media posts.
2:30 p.m. — My usual afternoon coffee craving hits. I've been trying to stave it off, replace it with green tea, or nibble fruit for the past few weeks, but my willpower is weak today (it's a Monday). I stroll over to Timmies five minutes from my place and — cha-ching — make my first purchase for the week: a medium half coffee, half French vanilla. $2.35
5 p.m. — I head over to meet two friends at a park. My car's check engine light is on, so I can't drive over. After dawdling, I rent a bike from Bike Share Toronto to bike halfway and walk the rest of the way. $3.25
6 p.m. — One of my favourite things in the world is taking place at the park: a farmers' market! I have to explore. I snag a rhubarb-ginger lemonade and a chicken empanada. The ice in my lemonade melts in 10 minutes because it's so hot out. $11
7 p.m. — My friends are late, but I've had a blast exploring the market and the park. We set down a picnic blanket in a shaded corner of the park and enjoy a bottle of prosecco we bought last week but didn't get a chance to drink over a lengthy and laughter-filled catch-up.
10 p.m. — It's getting late, and I have an appointment to get my car serviced tomorrow morning. I rent another bike and half cycle, half walk my way home in the beautiful summer night. Oh, how I love living in the city. I fall asleep to a YouTube meditation around midnight. $3.25
Daily Total: $19.85

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up especially exhausted today. My body feels broken, and my head aches after a late night, intense exercise, and today's gloomy, stormy skies. I slide out of bed, stretch, and graze my emails. I make a bagel with cream cheese and a strong tea for the road.
8 a.m. — At the car dealership for my service appointment, I fork over my keys. The service manager is the best. She's incredibly kind, explains cars in a way I can understand, and ensures I get a fair price (I've been scammed by “good” and “trusted” independent mechanics before, my friends). It's going to be a few hours, so I make myself comfortable with my work laptop in the lobby, and I'm in meetings for the morning.
11 a.m. — The mechanics have given my car an oil change and a series of other services, and the check engine light is now off. The manager explains that there are parts she's ordering to fix the issue and leaves me with the receptionist and my bill. $240
12 p.m. — I avoid buying lunch because, like my mom says, there's food at home! I polish off a hunk of spaghetti carbonara I ordered on the weekend and continue working. We're streaming our first live event from our Instagram channel at work, and I'm in charge of the analytics and promotion.
4:30 p.m. — Finally turning off my laptop and having avoided my caffeine crash, my eyes hurt from the screen time, and my head throbs. But it's on to more screen time with a 50-minute FaceTime therapy session. I'm privileged to have found a good psychotherapist for the past year. $100
9 p.m. — I spend the evening decompressing and lazing around. I watch a few episodes of Outlander (and decide I need to go to Scotland and find myself a Jamie Fraser), have a long text conversation with my friend in Montreal, make a TikTok, and journal. I won't be seeing my therapist for two weeks, which is the longest I've gone in a year, so self-care is especially necessary.
11 p.m. — After a bowl of soup with leftover garlic bread, I slide gratefully into bed. I respond to a potential new freelancing client. (Do as I say, not as I do! Don't respond to emails after 5 p.m.!) I also review an old story pitch I sent to a financial publication a few months ago. It wasn't accepted, so I plan to pitch it elsewhere. Then, I'm out like a light.
Daily Total: $340

Day Three

9 a.m. — I'm a snoozy soul, having once again tried and failed to wake up at 7 a.m. Maybe I'm being too ambitious. I start the day with a bowl of oatmeal, peanut butter, raspberries, and honey with a side of black tea and emails.
12 p.m. — I've spent most of the morning writing a media release, which requires coordinating quotes and information with the project experts. I feel better than I did yesterday, so I change, complete a 30-minute YouTube workout with my 15-pound dumbbells, chug a protein shake, and take a leisurely shower.
1:30 p.m. — It's fried eggs on toast for lunch, courtesy of my stocked fridge. I wash that down with a mango-grapefruit sparkling water that I sip while I dive into a long afternoon of work. I spend hours creating strategic and engaging social media posts for my client groups and scheduling them across our channels.
6:30 p.m. — I barely know where the day went. I debate going outside but opt for my couch instead. I start a new show on Netflix called Bonding (can you tell I'm into smut right now?) and have a salad with chicken and falafel. I bought the falafel last week from a food subscription service with a half-off discount code. They're delicious!
8 p.m. — I complete work for a freelance client, write part of a new comedy sketch, and video call my mom. Her birthday's coming up, and I'm poking around for gift ideas.
10 p.m. — I browse Amazon. Bo Burnham's Jeffrey Bezos song from his latest Netflix special echoes in my brain, and I feel guilty. But it's just so easy to order off of Amazon! I place an order for two copies of the third Outlander novel: one for me and one for my sister because we're reading the series simultaneously. $27
11 p.m. — I haven't seen friends or family in real life for two days. These are the nuances of living alone. I cozy into bed with a new sleep meditation on YouTube.
Daily Total: $27

Day Four

12 p.m. — I have today off so I take full advantage and sleep way in! I get up, stretch, and have my current favourite breakfast: a Montreal-style sesame seed bagel with light cream cheese, plus black tea with honey and almond milk.
2 p.m. — I watch a few episodes of Bonding and feel like a bum. I want to create something today so I shower, put on makeup, grab my tripod, pack a book, a notebook, and a pen, and head outside. I'm not sure what I'll feel inclined to make but I'll go with the flow.
3 p.m. — I'm at Starbucks to treat myself to an iced matcha latte with almond milk and two pumps of vanilla while I stroll around my neighbourhood in the sun. Call me basic. Or cheugy? Am I using that right? #MillennialProblems. Crap, was that cheugy, too? I feel guilty for spending money on a fancy drink, but it's so darn tasty and gives me an energy boost, so I lean into that goodness. $6.50
5 p.m. — After lots of walking, sitting on the beach, taking pictures of Lake Ontario and the sky, and talking to strangers (such as one man at the beach who randomly starts talking to me about how Rochester, New York is straight across the lake, and he used to sail his boat there), I've chosen a cool spot at a nearby park to take photos of myself. I set up my tripod and iPhone camera, have a full-on photoshoot, and even take photos for a kind pair of older women who ask.
7 p.m. — Back at home, I post my favourite photo to Instagram and receive some validation via likes and comments. It's a cool shot of my head in the clouds. I hop in the shower, pop a frozen pizza in the oven, and settle in for an evening of writing and sparkling water.
11 p.m. — I've written two sketches, a couple of poems, and even a few jokes for stand-up routines for when I eventually get back on stage. I've had a creative, relaxing, and overall productive day, and I'm very content. I fall asleep with a warm smile.
Daily Total: $6.50

Day Five

8 a.m. — I get an early (my version of early) start to the day. Since I had yesterday off, I have a lot to do at work today. I pour a quick bowl of lean protein oat cereal with almond milk, top it off with raspberries, brew a cup of black tea, and settle in for the morning.
12 p.m. — My morning passes in a blur. I write a media release, schedule more than 50 social media posts across our channels, throw a quick Instagram post on our grid, start planning some short-form videos for TikTok and Instagram Reels, and so much more. I find it hard to remain focused while staring at a screen, so I shut the blinds and play lo-fi music to zone in. I scarf down a simple lunch of eggs and greens and brew green tea to get me through the afternoon.
2 p.m. — Ah, caffeine-crash hour. I take a break from work with...more screen time! I'm selling a few pieces of furniture because I'm moving at the end of the month, so I take photos of my couch and TV and price them on Facebook Marketplace.
4:30 p.m. — I scramble to send out a media release and wrap up work. I was in meetings all afternoon, so I have to finish my other tasks quickly to head out and meet a friend. It's the weekend!
6 p.m. — Ready for fun and gossip, I park near my friend's place and pay for overnight street parking. $9
6:15 p.m. — I clamber up his porch steps with two bottles of wine (one sparkling rosé and one white!) in hand. These were on me because he bought drinks at our last hangout. $30
8 p.m. — We chat and had a few drinks and decide to enjoy a patio meal for dinner tonight! We choose a delicious nearby Italian spot I've been wanting to try and order three dishes to share: a Caesar salad, rigatoni, and a huge mushroom pizza, alongside an Amaretto sour each, per our kind waitress's recommendation. Everything is SPECTACULAR! We split the bill. $60
12 a.m. — With full bellies and happy hearts, I stay over at his place because I'm not sober enough to drive. We fall asleep watching RuPaul's Drag Race, which I've never seen before.
Daily Total: $99

Day Six

10 a.m. — I wake up and immediately drive back to my place to pick up beach essentials — Toronto Island is our adventure today! I shower, get dressed, and have a sesame bagel with light cream cheese before heading out again to meet the same friend, equipped with sunscreen and a towel. I borrow a bike from the city bike-share dock near my place and ride it to the water taxi terminal. $3.25
12 p.m. — We board the water taxi with shawarmas in hand. He buys the shawarmas, and I just pay for my water taxi ticket. If I had brought cash it would have been $10, but I only have my debit card, so I shell out $11.13. $11.13
4 p.m. — After a long and leisurely afternoon of tanning, talking, and meeting other friends at the beach, I take the water taxi back alone and bike back to my place. It's my mom's birthday tonight, and I have to drive to the 'burbs. $14.38
6:30 p.m. — In the 'burbs, one of my sisters has ordered pizza for family dinner. My other sister brings cake. I bring my mom a lovely new plant and Indian sweets as a birthday present (and my amazing company, of course) because she loves to garden and snack. $30
9:30 p.m. — As much as I love my family, there's only so much time I can spend with them before I need to be on my own again. I hug my mom, bid everyone adieu, and drive back to the city.
10:30 p.m. — The same friend I was hanging out with yesterday and today texts me to say a few people from the beach earlier are hanging out, and I'm invited to join them. After some internal debate, I decide to go! You only live once, right? I take an Uber there. $20
1 a.m. — All socialized out, I catch a ride home with a friend, so I don't spend any more money. I thank them and head up to my condo and straight to bed.
Daily Total: $78.76

Day Seven

10 a.m. — I wake up exhausted from my busy and social weekend. I also feel like I've spent a ton of money, so I vow to never visit a patio, friends, or family again (just kidding)! I snooze and watch Outlander all morning, a blanket-rolled burrito on my couch. I have scrambled eggs and toast with jam for breakfast, along with my daily cup of black tea.
4 p.m. — I shower, heat up canned chicken noodle soup, and dig into a vanilla Greek yogurt cup for lunch while watching even more Outlander. I wonder if I'll go anywhere today?
5:30 p.m. — It's muggy and cloudy out, but I encourage myself to get physical activity and take a walk outside. It's nice to hear myself think, breath in the fresh air, and take in the lake views right outside my condo building. People are sprawled out on the grass despite the grey weather, and I smile as dogs yip past me with their owners. I sometimes wonder who's walking who.
7 p.m. — I'm having a wind-down and spending-free day. I draw a bath back at home and enjoy a quiet cup of green tea and meditative sounds before dinner.
8 p.m. — I write a few poems and have dinner, which is salad, rice, and chicken meatballs. I'm obsessed with this $10 frozen pack of meatballs I get from the grocery store — it's huge and gives me so much protein. I treat myself to one more episode of Outlander and an early bedtime. I'm sure my next week will be just as full of work, friends, and being more conscious of my spending habits!
Daily Total: $0
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