A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $190,000 Salary

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.
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Today: a communications director working in natural resources who makes $190,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Kinetic Sand for her nephew.
Occupation: Communications Director
Industry: Natural Resources
Age: 37
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $190,000
Net Worth: $350,000 (This includes $230,000 in registered investments and retirement savings and $120,000 in a high-interest savings account that's earmarked for a downpayment.)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $5,029
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,300 (My partner, M., and I share a one-bedroom-plus-den that's $2,000 a month. We split the cost proportional to our incomes.)
Hydro: $50–60
Renter's Insurance: $50
Phone: $100
Streaming Services: $60
Internet: $0 (It's $55 but my partner pays for it.)
Donations: $150 ($75 to the Daily Bread Food Bank, $75 to Youth Without Shelter)
Health Benefits For My Partner: $10
Disability Insurance: $180
Life Insurance: $400
RRSP: $500 (My company contributes 9% of my gross income.)
Pension: $900
Savings: $2,000 (I aim for this each month, but the total varies significantly depending on my expenses and spending.)

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?
I grew up with the expectation that I would attend post-secondary school, although it was never clear what that meant. I went to university and earned a BA. My parents covered two and a half years' worth of tuition, and I covered the rest through bursaries, summer jobs, and $20,000 in student loans. I was fortunate enough to land a good job right out of school and live with my parents for a year, so I paid off my student loans within 18 months.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up, we had strained conversations about money. My father was the breadwinner and had an amazing career trajectory, so our lifestyle changed from working-class to upper-middle-class as I grew. Because my mother didn't work, there was a perception that she didn't have any money — that it was all my father's. He made the financial decisions, set the budget, and was the decider on whether or not we got new things. My mother had problems with credit card debt. She'd get into it pretty deep, she would hide it, then my father would find out and bail her out. It wasn't until much later in life that I saw my parents working and talking about their finances as a team. My dad taught me how to file my taxes as a teenager, and before university started each year, I had to prepare a budget and present it to him. We'd review it together before my tuition bill was due. He was big into investing but didn't pass on any of that knowledge or advice.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I did a bunch of regular young adult jobs, like delivering magazines, babysitting, and chores. I got my first real job in high school, at McDonald's, because I didn't receive an allowance and was tired of stretching $40 from the occasional babysitting job for months. It was an excellent first job and had a positive influence on my life.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Yes. My mother always felt constrained by the budget my father gave her, and it trickled down into a perception that we were poor. We had everything we needed, so this was not at all the case, but even simple wants were treated as giant extravagances. My hometown relied on one manufacturing company that had an end date for when it would cease operations, so there was anxiety in my social group about finances and whether or not someone's parent would have a job next month.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. I'm the primary earner in my relationship, and M. works in an unstable career, making a quarter of what I make. While we work to keep a balance in our spending, my financial situation is the reason we can afford our lifestyle. After growing up with the power imbalance between my parents based on who was earning more, I feel a certain sense of power in being the primary earner, but I feel anxiety about what would happen to both of us if my financial situation were to become unstable. That's why I'm such an aggressive saver.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My father's contributions ended in my third year of university, and I was responsible for making all monetary and budgetary decisions for myself. But I wasn't completely financially independent until I finished paying off my student loan and moved out into my own place at age 23. My safety net is my savings account. My parents left Canada, so I don't have the option of moving home should the need arise.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received a $40,000 inheritance from my grandfather, which is part of my nest egg for a downpayment on a home.
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Day One

6:45 a.m. — I get out of bed after silencing my alarm a few times. I creep around our condo in the semi-dark, getting ready for two video conference calls, feeding the cat, and making a latte with our Nespresso machine. (We bought the machine back in June when I was missing my daily takeout coffee while in lockdown. It has paid for itself a few times over by saving me money on coffee shop lattes.) By 7:30 a.m., I'm at my makeshift desk in our living room for the first of three back-to-back video calls. I wave goodbye to M. as he leaves for the day (his office is still open).
1 p.m. — I take a break from staring at my screen and feeling unproductive to duck out to the grocery store across the street. I buy beef, rice, and an avocado for dinner. $21.68
4 p.m. — A gift basket from my CEO arrives, so I take a few photos, let my cat play with the ribbon, unpack the goodies, and text M. the good news. I joined this company recently, so it's been an interesting time, becoming acquainted with the team and the corporate culture while working from home. I feel touched by the gesture and know that my CEO undoubtedly sent a similar basket to all of our Toronto employees.
6:30 p.m. — I sign off from work and tidy up the kitchen before starting our dinner, which is a beef and lentil dish served with rice and avocado. M. gets home, and I bounce off the walls peppering him with questions, desperate for human interaction. He's exhausted, so he naps while I finish dinner, and then we watch Scrubs and eat. (We're working through the series; it mostly holds up.)
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10 p.m. — I go through my nightly routine of washing my face, taking out my contacts, and moisturizing. We lay in bed, chatting and browsing social media, then call it a night.
Daily Total: $21.68

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — I crawl out of bed and jump in the shower. I do my full (pre-pandemic) beauty routine, including makeup and blowing out my hair. Today is the office's virtual holiday party, and I want to look nice. After I make lattes for myself and M., I settle down to work.
10:30 a.m. — I look at my spreadsheet that tracks my donations through the year and check my bank balance. I try to top up the two organizations I support monthly with a lump sum twice a year — once after receiving my bonus cheque and once around December. I've also been throwing in more incremental amounts whenever I can afford it this year. I decide on the amount of my top-up for December and go online to make the donations. $500
12 p.m. — It's time for our office celebration. There's virtual entertainment and a short awards ceremony recognizing people for outstanding contributions. It's been a rough year, and emotions are high, but the party is lovely overall. I loved the company I left at the beginning of the year, but it was only once I started working here that I realized how toxic my former corporate culture was, so I'm constantly charmed and amazed when these team members unabashedly express how much they enjoy working together.
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2 p.m. — We're given the rest of the day off, but I answer a few emails. Then I chat over Messenger with friends. We've planned a virtual wine tasting, so I jump on to Amazon and send them ironic 2020 ornaments to arrive in time for the event. $75
4:30 p.m. — We're making chicken tacos, so I run to the grocery store for ingredients, along with milk for tomorrow's lattes. To go with our tacos, I spontaneously bake M. almojábanas, a Colombian cheese bread made with cornmeal and an unholy amount of cheese. He always craves food from home around this time of the year, and this is the only recipe for which I've made a respectable effort. I'm dismayed by how messy the kitchen is when I'm finished cooking, but when he walks in and his eyes light up, I'm satisfied that I've made good use of my free afternoon. $58.42
6 p.m. — We eat our chicken tacos, have decaf espressos and goodies from the gift basket, then go to bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $633.42

Day Three

10 a.m. — It's the weekend, and our cat wants attention. I usually wake up earlier than M., and I love nothing more than to lie in bed and read while he's still sleeping (I'm currently reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah). Once he starts waking up, I make lattes. After negotiating getting out of bed (always a negotiation on weekends), he vacuums, mops, and cleans the bathroom, while I tackle the kitchen. After that, we both shower and get ready for the day.
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2:30 p.m. — I'm grumpy, because we had had plans to get out of the house early, but now it's after 2 p.m., and we're starving. We drive to St. Lawrence Market, M. pays for parking, and we get in line to enter. Once inside, we buy Atlantic salmon and gigantic scallops. Unable to resist the siren call of the glorious food stalls, we split up and go in search of lunch. $63.29
2:45 p.m. — I hit up Buster's Sea Cove for grilled shrimp, my favourite pre-pandemic lunch. I meet M., who has acquired Greek food and salad, and we head outside to eat. With all indoor dining closed, and the picnic tables stacked outside, we perch our meals on a railing and make the best of it. $19.72
3 p.m. — After lunch, we want to go back inside the market for coffee, but the line up to get in is all the way around the building, so we head to Balzac's instead. I get a caramel brûlée latte and a lemon tart; M. tries the oat milk cookie latte. He pays.
4:40 p.m. — We run a few errands, heading to Canadian Tire, where we buy dish towels, batteries, and cleaning supplies. $71.44
5 p.m. — I search for wine for my virtual tasting at the LCBO. I can only find one of the bottles I need, but I pick up Amaretto and one other bottle of wine. M. has discovered a new passion for making cocktails, so he stocks up on Frangelico and pays for it himself. $48.35
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5:20 p.m. — For our final stop of the day, we hit the grocery store for this evening's dinner: lemons, fresh dill, new potatoes, and asparagus. $20.43
6 p.m. — Once we're home, I make lattes spiked with Amaretto and turn on cheesy Christmas music, while M. plays with a new lighting set up (he's a photographer, and our living room is his studio). I curl up with a glass of wine and a book.
9:30 p.m. — After completely losing track of time, I roast the potatoes and asparagus, then sear the scallops in butter, rosemary, garlic, and lemon and finish them with a splash of white wine. I also have a glass of wine while we eat and watch another episode of Scrubs.
Daily Total: $223.23

Day Four

11 a.m. — Having not fallen asleep until after 2 a.m., we have a lazy morning before driving to a Latin bakery in the west end, where M. buys empanadas, buñuelos, and two soft drinks. They're hot and fresh, and we tear into them as soon as we get back to the car. I place an order on my Starbucks app for a créme brûlée latte for him and an eggnog latte for me, and we drive the 10 minutes to the store and pick them up. My latte is terrible — I tried a new thing, and it's NOT for me. $12.32
1 p.m. — We drive east back into the city, and M. wants to take photos, so we find an interesting spot, pay for parking, and get out to wander the neighbourhood, chasing sunlight and admiring the buildings, graffiti, and storefronts. $8
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3 p.m. — I'm about to pop into a Shoppers to buy us water when I realize I left my mask in the car. M. leaves me with his equipment on the sidewalk to go in but comes out two minutes later, sheepish because his wallet is in the car. I have cash on me, so he heads back in and buys two bottles of water for us. At this point, I'm cold and bored with the photo excursion, so we walk back to the car. $5
4:30 p.m. — On the way home, we stop for more lemons and dill (M. pays). Then we make cocktails, and I settle in to read and write, while M. edits the photos he took. Eventually, I get up and make us the salmon we bought yesterday, baking it with lemon, dill, and garlic. We eat it with rice and the last of our asparagus. I switch to wine, and we spend a nice evening watching more Scrubs and admiring the lights of our Christmas tree.
Daily Total: $25.32

Day Five

8 a.m. — Neither of us slept very well. I wake up M. after realizing the time, but he tells me that his stomach is upset, and he's going to stay home for the morning. I get out of bed, make myself a latte, and get to work as quietly as I can, while he tries to sleep in our bedroom a few feet away from my desk.
1 p.m. — I take a break to check on M. I offer to make him soup, but he says he's feeling better and will make it himself before going to work for the afternoon.
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4 p.m. — I have my weekly call with my boss and am both excited and dismayed by a few projects still to be completed before the end of the year. Working from home has not been good for me. I don't enjoy it and have trouble being productive, even though I don't have the same stressors as many others (I have the condo to myself most days and no children to care for). I find I'm constantly struggling to feel and act like the high performer I'm used to being at work.
7:30 p.m. — M. comes home, feeling much better than he was this morning. I make us sous vide chicken, which I finish on our cast-iron grill. It's another night of Scrubs and an early bedtime. Pandemic life is thrilling.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — Usual routine.
1 p.m. — I'm about to head to the grocery store when I get an urgent email from one of our executives. I need to prepare a press release to issue after market close, so I get to work. Luckily, my boss had given me a heads up about it a few days before, so I have most of it drafted. I make a few calls, check a few details, and circulate the draft to our executive team.
3 p.m. — The press release is in good shape, pending approval from the CEO, who is in a meeting, so I take a break and order lunch. I like saving money by eating at home, but I get bored and dissatisfied with making my lunch every day. When M. was home for over two months at the beginning of Ontario's first lockdown, it was nice — we'd make and eat lunch together — but now it's just one more chore for me. So I order my lunch every now and then. Today, I get pasta from a restaurant down the street and tip the delivery person 20%. $25.21
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5 p.m. — I watch the clock until 5 p.m. when I've scheduled our news release to go out. At that point, things happen quickly: I blast it out over our social media channels, prepare and send an employee note explaining the announcement, answer calls from equity analysts that cover our stock, and monitor for any news. Things quiet down around 6:30 p.m., and I sign off for the night.
6:30 p.m. — I run to the store and pick up thin steak, flour and corn tortillas, avocado, and fresh cilantro. I grill the steak and make guacamole to go with it. We eat on the couch and watch Scrubs. $32.89
Daily Total: $58.10

Day Seven

8:15 a.m. — After I make lattes, I straighten my hair and put on makeup, because I have a few video calls. I miss office fashion and feeling like I look my best, so I'm trying to put in more effort to feel normal again.
10 a.m. — I finish my first video call of the day, which has resulted in an enormous to-do list. At the last minute, I've been brought into a project that I didn't know anything about. I wasn't consulted on the form and content, and the project team is handing over responsibility and accountability to me — and this is the first I'm hearing about it.
12 p.m. — I take a break and text my brother. He lives in Alberta and just welcomed a baby girl with his wife. I'm gutted I can't see them for the holidays, and I channel my feelings into online shopping. I buy M.'s Christmas present (a pair of hockey skates) and gifts for my brother, his wife, and their kids. I find a beautiful black Staub Dutch oven for my brother, my sister-in-law gets an Amazon gift card and a set of bamboo kitchen utensils (that's all she asked for), and my nephew gets Kinetic Sand, a Play-Doh kit, and a vet pretend play set. I can't figure out what to get my niece, so that will have to wait another day. My brother was furloughed for six months, so I feel like spoiling them this Christmas. $997.67
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6 p.m. — I'm a volunteer for a non-profit organization, and we have a video meeting to plan our activities for the next six months. After the first hour, a consultant joins in to review the social media calendar she's proposed for the organization. One of her proposed posts is a bit too TERF-y, especially because diversity and inclusion are parts of our mandate, but she says that it's meant to cause controversy to drive engagement. I'm uncomfortable with that, and a heated debate breaks out. The call goes over by 45 minutes, and I'm exhausted by the end of it. M., in the meantime, has ordered pizza for him and roasted chicken and green beans for me. When it arrives, we finish the last season of Scrubs and call it a night, because I have three hours of video calls tomorrow morning.
Daily Total: $997.67
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