A Week In Vancouver, BC, On A $42,000 Salary

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Today: an early childhood educator working in child care who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on chocolate.
Occupation: Early Childhood Educator
Industry: Child Care
Age: 31
Location: Vancouver, BC
Salary: $42,000
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,400
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $362 (I split rent with my partner and a roommate. I'm aware that this is an unbelievable price, particularly because I don't have to pay for any utilities.)
Transit Pass: $98
Phone: $56.67
BC Medical Services Plan: $32.50
Additional Disability Insurance: $9 (I already have long-term and short-term disability insurance, but, like the Little Mermaid, I want mooooore. My father suffered a stroke, and it seemed for a while that he wouldn't work again. I will never forget the stress and uncertainty my family went through during that time, which is why I purchase additional coverage for disability, injuries, and critical illnesses. I get anxiety thinking about who’s going to take care of everyone if something happened to me.)
RRSP: $600
TFSA: $500
Other Investments: $1,000 (I've watched my investments grow to $130,000 already. My mom gave me $5,000 in 2009, and I've tried to invest a minimum of $500 every month since then in a high-growth portfolio. I also managed to save, in part, because I never had to take out students loans — I was lucky enough to get bursaries and scholarships during my final year of high school, and I didn't complete an expensive degree.)
Annual Expenses
Granta Magazine Online Subscription: $16

Day One

6:45 a.m. — I'm up and awake, nibbling a handful of cashews and walnuts before I leave for work. This will horrify you, but I have never been a breakfast person.
8 a.m. — I arrive at work. In less than an hour, the children will be dropped off, so I make sure everything is ready. ECE is not what I imagined doing with my life, but, at my friend's suggestion, I tried assisting in a daycare and realized I had a knack for it. The pace is frantic, the resources limited, the environment a petri dish for infections no matter how much disinfectant glops on the surfaces. And the pay? Lousier than your first lover. But I love it, and the children deserve someone who cares.
12 p.m. — I'm supervising lunchtime and also scarfing down last night's salad: apples, celery, potatoes, and cheese. Nothing special, just something my dad used to make when I was little, which makes it the culinary equivalent of a comfort blanket.
12:30 p.m. — The children are very calm this afternoon, and I suspect that nap time will go smoothly, to be followed by a serene session of arts and crafts before everyone heads home.
1 p.m. — The calm was apparently of the “before the storm” variety.
3 p.m. — I take the SkyTrain to pick up dinner ingredients at the grocery store: broccoli, carrots, onions, apples, pasta sauce, and lamb ($18.96). I also buy pomegranate molasses ($7), something that I only knew about having eaten my friend's mom's wonderful Iranian stew. I've asked her for the recipe, but she says she just puts everything together in a pot sans measurement, so I'm going by an internet recipe for tonight's dish. $25.96
4 p.m. — I get home, soak the lentils, and give myself permission to languish on the sofa. I start reading Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado and accidentally end up reading for two hours when I should've been food prepping.
6 p.m. — Cue frantic veggie chopping.
7 p.m. — My boyfriend gets home, and we talk a lot over dinner because we don't message during the day. The stew is rich and flavourful and, having eaten two bowlfuls, all I want to do is slip inside a cave and hibernate.
8:30 p.m. — My boyfriend does the washing and tidying up, and we continue our conversation while I flop back on the couch and knit a scarf for my friend who moved to Montreal. I'm hoping to send it to her by the time it's scarf season there, which is what? Two weeks into September?
10:30 p.m. — I'm in bed, reading more of Her Body and Other Parties. I will probably have nightmares about headless women tonight.
Daily Total: $25.96

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — Today promises to be a particularly sunshiny day, so I spackle on sunblock (Sun Bum SPF 50 for high UV days and SPF 30 for regular use). I'd like a quarter of the confidence of the woman three houses down who carries a gigantic black umbrella to blot out the sun everywhere she goes.
12 p.m. — One of my coworkers brings in pizza, and I'm first in line to accept a slice, tossing aside my bagged lunch of apples and cheese. One of the parents also dropped off a box of doughnuts, and I take two: one Boston cream to eat now and one honey cruller for later.
3:30 p.m. — I head to the library to pick up a book I have on hold. The Vancouver Public Library used to only allow 50 holds a year, but I guess all my prayers to the Patron Saint of Financial Responsibility were heard and now we have unlimited holds. If we didn't have the library, I'd be substantially poorer and possibly huddled under my books for warmth in the winter.
5 p.m. — I prop a chair in the backyard and read. The landlord comes over and asks if I want to gather plums from the tree. Like he even needed to ask. The plums are summer-sweet and ripe to the point of bruising. I share them with our roommate.
7:30 p.m. — We eat more of the lentil-lamb stew, plus apples and plums. We're going to be featured in Colon Health Monthly any minute now.
10 p.m. — I wash my face twice with Cetaphil to take off the sunblock I pasted on this morning. I dab on Lancôme Absolue Cream and Estée Lauder Revitalizing Supreme Global Anti-Aging Eye Balm. If these products sound like something your great aunt Barb would use, well, I got these from my lovely aunt Barb as a gift. Otherwise, with my salary, my skincare routine would consist of whatever I've squirrelled away from the free samples basket at the drugstore.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and do burpees. For the record, I don't know why I'm doing this.
12 p.m. — I'm taking out the last of the leftover stew that I've packed for lunch when I remember the honey cruller I stowed in my purse yesterday. It's the most dejected pastry I've ever seen, but I have no shame and eat it.
3:30 p.m. — I have a dentist appointment, which happens every three months, all paid for by my work insurance. I have no cavities this visit, a small miracle given my consumption of sweets, which is truly prodigious.
4:15 p.m. — I visit a friend whose condo is downtown. I pop into one of those expensive markets to buy her a tiny piece of chocolate for $6.16 — downtown prices are a shock to the system. She has been feeling poorly, and we all know that a chocolate a day helps keep the dementors away. She offers me some leftover spring rolls, but the fluoride makes things taste funny, so she packs up the rest of the rolls for me to take home. I love her. $6.16
7 p.m. — I buy baby greens, mushrooms, cauliflower, and apples. My boyfriend is the opposite of a picky eater, which is great, because he's getting limp spring rolls and salad for dinner tonight. $11.10
8:30 p.m. — We're stuffed from the deep-fried goodness of the spring rolls and go for a walk to the library. I've finished Her Body And Other Stories and drop it down the returns chute. When I get home, I start reading Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon. I shouldn't be surprised, but it is indeed heavy.
Daily Total: $17.26

Day Four

8 a.m. — I arrive at work and make myself a rooibos tea. I go easy on the tea because the dentist said it stains my teeth. I bemoan the fact that I can’t eat and drink and do anything I want with no consequences.
12 p.m. — Salad for lunch: I want to apologize that this is not more exciting. My coworker has baked muffins to share, though. Coworkers bringing in homemade food is a huge contributing factor to my love of my job. That, and the fact that I only work six and half hours some days.
3:30 p.m. — I pick up a charcoal sketching art set that I'll need next week. My friends and I are going to a drop-in life drawing class that promises contortionists. $21.73.
5 p.m. — While waiting for the laundry to finish, I read the latest from various advice columns, including Ask Polly, Captain Awkward, and The Moneyist. Then I go down the rabbit hole of online mags. I have an intimate relationship with the “You have reached your article limit” paywall pop-up.
7 p.m. — I make good progress on my knitting, as if the warmth of my friend's neck rests solely on my fingers. Dinner is baked chicken marinated in garlic–black bean sauce with a side salad and sautéed mushrooms. You can guess what I'm having for lunch tomorrow.
9 p.m — My boyfriend asks me how this Money Diary project is going. I joke that I started dating him for his money, which we both know to be a lie because he was penniless and jobless when we met in college; he bought us Timbits on our first date. These days, he saves just as much as I do. I don't think I could date someone who was profligate in their spending.
Daily Total: $21.73

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I take the train everywhere every day, but summery Friday mornings are when it’s best: It’s like the city collectively agrees to take Fridays off, so my commute to work is five minutes on the Skytrain, 10 minutes on the bus, and 10 minutes of walking, which suits me just fine. I reserve the right to retract this statement once it starts raining again.
12 p.m. — While eating my lunch at work, I wonder what it would be to go back to school. I’ve been working since I was 18, part-time as a student, summer breaks in a warehouse, and now ECE. I can’t help but think: What if I didn’t focus on working and saving but committed to a degree that led to a higher paying job? What if, instead of the warehouse, I spent summers on internships that opened more doors for me? I love how I live my life — and that I’m able to save $2,000 a month — but my lifestyle is very bare. When my salary rose higher than minimum wage, I kept on living the minimum-wage lifestyle of my early 20s. I didn't do a lot of comparing in the past, because most of my friends spent their 20s finishing their degrees or going to grad school, which meant that they led lives as frugal as mine. But now that they’re entering high-paying professions, I wonder if their spending habits will change — and if that will influence how I spend, how I think about money, or even how I feel about my life and its trajectory?
3:30 p.m. — I'm home, and I really should use the pomegranate molasses I bought earlier this week. I take a pear and ginger upside-down cake recipe from Epicurious, which I've made before to great delight. I replace the ginger and pears with pomegranate molasses and plums. Voila, plum cake.
6:30 p.m. — My mom calls because she paid for repairs on the house my grandparents left me. The house is in the Prairies, and a relative who is fixing a few things billed my mom $300. The house is only worth maybe $200,000, and we're thinking of renting it out, since I won't be moving there anytime soon. I was there last December, and I didn't know how quickly the cold became painful. Can you tell I'm a BC girl through and through? I transfer the money to my mom. This is out of my budget, but it's not exactly a usual expense. I open a new category in my spending plan to track how much I spend on this house. $300
9 p.m. — My boyfriend and I can't decide on a movie or TV show and end up taking an entire hour just watching trailers before giving up and reading (me) and playing video games (him). It's all narrative anyway.
Daily Total: $300

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — My partner and I meet up with two friends and carpool to the North Shore. The four-hour hike from Park Royal to Cleveland Dam becomes a five-hour hike due to the number of people who, like us, try to squeeze in their nature time on the weekends. I packed apples, bread, and cheese in a knapsack. With my walking stick, I feel like a wizard in a fantasy novel.
3:30 p.m. — My boyfriend wants to go out for sushi, but I convince him that we have to finish the leftover baked chicken. His aversion to food waste wins me this argument. Besides, going out means we'd have to wait for food while staying in means we get to eat now.
8 p.m. — We go out for sushi, which he insists on paying for, so I don't look at the bill. I grab a carton of eggs and a gigantic bag of spinach on the way home. $6.24
11 p.m. — My boyfriend and I have a loose rule/inside joke that we can't talk about serious issues after 10 p.m., because we once made the mistake of reading up on global droughts and had trouble sleeping after discussing the implications of sweeping crop failures. Tonight, an anxious thought pops up: I have a tremendous fear of aging and disability, and I want to save up $2 million for retirement. But what if 2050 features a pre-Mad Max, post-global-warming societal collapse in which all fiat money is meaningless and the most popular forms of currency are memes/gifs/reacts? In that case, I should invest in more burpees, so I have the upper body strength of Furiosa. I hope the jellyfish remember us fondly when they take over and become the true and rightful heirs of the post-Anthropocene earth. Goodnight, world.
Daily Total: $6.24

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — To nobody’s surprise, I do not do any burpees. Instead, I finish the plum cake with tea, my lack of appetite in the mornings overridden by my sweet tooth.
11:30 a.m. — We visit my parents, who feed us, of course. I pick strawberries and tomatoes and the last of the leafy greens from my parents’ garden. If the flowers are any sign, they'll have a bumper crop of squash this year. They give me jars of their pickled beets, and I remind myself not to be alarmed when my pee turns red in the morning, like last time. I suspect most people’s relationships with their parents are complex, and mine are no different. I want to take my family and bubblewrap them and parent them, even though I know they’re capable, even though I know they managed to raise me and build a life.
3 p.m. — I soak some beans and food prep for the work week ahead, but mostly I lounge around. Tracking my money this week has made me realize I have no riches nor accomplishments to speak of, but have world enough and time.
Daily Total: $0
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