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A Week In Toronto, ON, An $83,500 Joint Income

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 operations director working in environmental consulting who makes $62,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a tank top.
Editor's note: This diary was submitted before Ontario entered phase two of its reopening plan.
Occupation: Operations Director
Industry: Environmental Consulting
Age: 39
Location: Toronto, ON
My Salary: $62,000 (plus a tbd bonus)
My Husband's Annual Stipend: $21,500 (M. is a Ph.D. student.)
Net Worth: $779,969 combined ($94,276 in RRSP, $27,950 in TFSA, $193,000 work pension, $9,743 in non-registered investment accounts, $447,000 in home equity, and $8,000 estimated value of the car).
Debt: $253,000 (mortgage)
My Paycheque Amount (1x/month): $3,856.31
My Husband's Paycheque Amount (1x/month): $1,800
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,415 for (I purchased my condo before I married M. We now split the mortgage, condo fees. utilities, and household costs.)
Condo Fees: $380
Utilities: $85
Internet: $56
Home Insurance: $50
My Phone: $90
Car Insurance: $140 (I pay for all car-related expenses.)
Online Yoga: $30
Netflix: $19.99 (shared with both sets of parents)
Spotify: $9.99
iCloud: $15
Annual Expenses
Property Taxes: $2,100 (I pay 100% of property taxes.)
SWEAT App: $135

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?
My father is a first-generation Chinese-Canadian and completed a professional bachelor's degree, but my mother didn't attend post-secondary school. There was an implied expectation that I would attend university, but there was no discussion or guidance on what form of higher education I should pursue. Because of that, I ended up only applying to the local university in the city I grew up in. I (barely) finished my first year, then took a break to work (much to my parent's dismay) because I had no idea what I wanted to do and felt like I was wasting money. I worked full-time for two years before going back to university again, this time in a program that I was actually interested in. I worked hard to improve my GPA and finished my last year on the Dean's List. I am VERY fortunate that my parents paid for my tuition. I worked part-time during the school year and full-time during summers to cover books and personal spending while also living at home. Once I finished my bachelor's degree, I worked in oil and gas for a few years before applying to a master's program in a completely different field. Scholarships and grants mostly covered my grad-school tuition, and my parents helped with living expenses. I had about $10,000 in debt when I finished but received a gift from my grandmother that covered half of that. I paid the rest off myself over the next few years.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I don't remember many conversations. I had an allowance, and once I was 12 or 13, I used that to buy clothes, CDs, or do stuff with friends. My mother was all about sales and would buy things just because they were on sale and not necessarily because we needed them (something that took me a while to unlearn). There wasn't advice given, other than comments about me wasting money on certain items. Somehow, though, I became really focused on money and budgeting and even took accounting courses in high school for fun. Who does that?

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was babysitting, at age 13. My friend and I took a course and put up flyers around the neighbourhood. I only did this very sporadically until I was 16 and started doing office work for my dad's company in the summer.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. We grew up upper-middle class, but I didn't realize that until I was older. Until my parents paid off the mortgage, we were on a tight budget, but my dad always made sure we had the latest technologies. For example, we had a home PC, laser printer, and internet long before any of my friends. I remember the day my parents paid off their mortgage because the quality of the food in the house improved significantly. It wasn't until I was on my own that money became a constant worry.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes and no. I quit my job to travel at the very start of the 2008 recession. Once home, the job offer I thought I had waiting for me was rescinded because the economy was so bad. Luckily, I worked part-time in my old position and nannied part-time, but I couldn't get a full-time job. This is one reason I went to grad school. That period left me with some financial PTSD. I now have a decent base for retirement savings, and we have enough to cover all our necessities. But Toronto housing is insanely expensive, and being the sole salary-earner is stressful. I took a significant pay cut when I turned my side gig into my full-time job. I'm much happier now and feel challenged by the work I'm doing, but it's been a struggle to be at this age and feel like my quality of life isn't improving. I try to remind myself that this season will pass, and (hopefully) we'll have two incomes in a couple of years when M. completes his Ph.D.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at age 24 when I finished my undergrad and moved out of my parents' house. M. and I have decent savings and investments, plus we have a significant amount of equity in the condo (partly due to the insanity of the pandemic real estate market). Both of our parents are extremely generous, and I know they would help us out if we needed anything.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents gave me the downpayment for my condo and paid for my car when my mom inherited money from a relative ($125,000). This was about three years before I met M. When we got married a year and a half ago, we received about $20,000 from family and friends, which paid off the wedding. Both M. and I were fortunate to have our undergraduate and graduate degrees paid for. Without this generational wealth, we wouldn't be where we are today.

Day One

7 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm goes off. After news and Instagram scrolling, I drag myself out of bed to go for a "run," trying not to disturb M. and the cat in the process. I put "run" in quotations because I developed an injury from sitting too much during COVID and, despite being a runner, have had to start from scratch after a couple of months of physio. I start with a long walk and some one-minute intervals (I'm up to nine now). I stop at Starbucks and get an iced soy matcha latte. I'm lured by Double Star Day and, yes, I know I should be supporting local businesses. I don't buy anything for M. because he strongly dislikes the 'bucks. $7
9 a.m. — I fill my water bottle and start the workday. I've been working from home since the start of the pandemic, but a couple of months ago, I quit my safe and secure day job to go full-time at my side gig. Some former colleagues and I have been working at this for the past three years, so it's been gratifying to finally make it full-time. Although I definitely work longer hours, and there's more responsibility and stress, I'm much happier and have been enjoying the flexibility. I work on a research paper on affordable housing all morning. While working, I drink my breakfast smoothie consisting of a tropical fruit blend, almond milk, chia seeds, and pea protein powder. M., who has also been working from home, only interrupts me a couple of times. As any other couple working in a small space can attest, the last 18 months have been INTERESTING AND CHALLENGING. We're both looking forward to not being within 10 feet of each other 24/7.
12 p.m. — I have my biweekly team meeting, which always involves a review of current COVID case numbers and vaccination rates. Toronto has been in lockdown for pretty much six months straight, so we're all itching to return to normal — or at least get a haircut.
1 p.m. — Lunch is leftover Persian frittata from Eden Grinshpan's Eating Out Loud that I made last night. I've been making a concerted effort to drink more water, so I start on litre two for the day, then it's back to work on my research paper. I've been working on a quilt for my new niece who I've yet to meet (thanks, COVID), so I break to order quilting supplies for curbside pickup. $15
4 p.m. — I take a yoga break. One of my favourite teachers went out on her own during the pandemic, and I've signed up to take her weekly classes. While I'm yogaing, I send my husband out to pick up peonies I preordered.
6 p.m. — I put in an order for veggies. During the lockdown, this service has been super-helpful in reducing our grocery store trips. I order lots of greens and add rhubarb because there's nothing better than strawberry-rhubarb pie. $35
7:30 p.m. — M. made Molly Baz's Spicy Chicken Stir-Fry With Celery and Peanuts, and as usual, it's *chef's kiss.* I wrap up work for the day and put on a face mask (Origins Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay) before showering. Yes, I've been in sweaty workout clothes all day.
9:30 p.m. — I wind down for the day and do some reading and scrolling, with my cat on my lap. M.'s buying a few things from Everlane, so I get him to add a white tank to his cart ($26). Lights out around 11 p.m. $26
Daily Total: $83

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I'm not sure how many times I hit snooze. I drag myself out of bed and do my morning routine: brush teeth, dry brush face, then apply cleanser from Province Apothecary, moisturizer (I've been trying to use up my sample collection during COVID; today it's Laneige), and sunscreen. I found out last night that our local Starbucks is closing, so I head there to use up my stars on another matcha latte and a bacon-gouda breakfast sandwich. I had planned to walk to a local park to enjoy my treats, but my order takes longer than usual, so I head back home and get ready for a 9:30 a.m. call.
10 a.m. — The call is a bust. I was supposed to be speaking with a contact for my research paper, but it turns out the person has no direct experience with the subject. But they turned out to be a good contact to make for future projects, so the call wasn't a total waste of time. I catch up on emails and other small tasks until I have a webinar for a funding opportunity.
12:15 p.m. — Yoga time! I try out a new studio, and this is my first virtual class: lovely teacher and a great playlist. Because I'm a new student at the studio, I get a free week pass. After class, I have leftover Cheesy Roasted Broccoli & Chickpea Kale Salad from The Minimalist Baker that M. made the other night. I decide to keep the rest of the afternoon easy because it's the Friday before a long weekend. I listen to podcasts and do some chores.
3 p.m. — My curbside quilt supply order is ready for pickup, so I head out to get that, drop off a plant at a friend's house and stay and chat for a bit (outside and distanced), and stop to pick up vegan ice cream ($29.50) on my way home. $29.50
5 p.m. — I'm hot and hungry, so we have leftovers instead of making dinner. I FaceTime with my parents, chatting about vaccination rates, our respective lockdown restrictions (they live across the country), and various home improvement projects they've undertaken.
8 p.m. — We started the Oceans trilogy last week and are concluding it tonight with Ocean's Thirteen. Our movie treat consists of blueberry-yogurt vegan ice cream I picked up today, followed by social media scrolling and lights out around midnight.
Daily Total: $29.50

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — I didn't sleep well and have been up for hours already. I get ready to head to my acupuncture appointment in an hour (covered by insurance). I started acupuncture last October to help with stress and fertility. M. and I decided to try for a baby early in the pandemic. So far, I've been pregnant twice: I had a miscarriage last June, at about nine weeks, and then a few weeks ago, I had to terminate a pregnancy at 14 weeks, because we found out the baby had severe heart defects and Trisomy-18. It's been a rough go, but I'm trying to remain hopeful because I've been told it's just bad luck, and I'm otherwise healthy. My acupuncturist is amazing and an incredible caregiver.
9:30 a.m. — After my appointment, I stop at the bulk store to pick up a few staples ($10.43) and then head home. M. and I check out the farmer's market, but the line to get in is long due to COVID protocols, so we abort and go for a walk. I grab a smoothie from the raw food bar near our condo ($13), and we wander until the humidity gets us. $23.43
12 p.m. — Our veggie order arrives, and it's a good one with rhubarb, kale, rainbow chard, asparagus, potatoes, and carrots! After we put everything away, we have a lunch of random leftovers. I then tackle my gardening project (AKA our four-by-five balcony). I plant the seedlings I picked up off Marketplace last week (pok choi, peppers, fennel, shallots, and oregano) and also plant kale and lettuce. I usually plant flowers on our balcony, but last year I did a little pandemic veggie garden that brought me a lot of joy. While I'm outside, I also stain our patio set that's looking rough after being out all winter. Once I finish up, I do a SWEAT glutes and hamstrings workout.
7 p.m. — Dinner is chicken fajitas using random veggies we have in the freezer. They turn out really well, and I'll definitely make them again. After dinner, I have solo downtime: face mask (Province Apothecary clay, yogurt, honey, and avocado), shower, dry brush, and watch The Flight Attendant until around 11:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $23.43

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — I actually sleep in today and feel 1,000% better than yesterday. I put the balcony back together, which includes cleaning the windows and sweeping, then unrolling a new rug I bought a few weeks ago. It looks great, and I have a late breakfast of granola, berries, and coconut yogurt in our pristine balcony garden.
11:30 a.m. — We do a quick Costco run for olive oil, assorted crackers, and other unnecessary snacks. Maybe we just wanted an excuse to get cheap hot dogs. $73
12:30 p.m. — On the way home, we pick up litter and a new scratching pad for the cat ($62). This may be the longest outing we've had in months. Once we get home, we spend the afternoon cleaning the apartment. Since we live in a small space (600 square feet), M. and I are constantly looking for ways to maximize storage and minimize our possessions. It's an ongoing challenge, especially when one of us (not me) has strong hoarder tendencies. $62
3 p.m. — My in-laws call M., and we chat. They have a cottage about three hours east of the city, where they've been riding out the pandemic. They need to come back to the city for medical appointments, so the cottage is ours for the week if we want it! We're in need of space, so we jump at the chance and decide to head there on Tuesday afternoon to avoid the long weekend traffic tomorrow. We menu plan for the week, and I start cottage food prep, including hummus and sweet potato–quinoa fritters.
5 p.m. — M. has standing virtual plans on Sunday, so I walk to pick up a prescription and a couple of other things from the drugstore as well as strawberries ($25). On the way home, I take a detour to get additional steps in for the day. I have a solo dinner of leftovers and popcorn while watching more Flight Attendant, then do my bedtime routine. $25
Daily Total: $160

Day Five

8 a.m. — I force myself to do 25 minutes of running/walking. Once I'm home, I have over-easy eggs with a couple of sweet potato–quinoa fritters I made last night. Since it's a long weekend and I have the day off, I get to work on the quilt I'm making for my three-month-old niece. I pop on an audiobook and spend the next four hours finishing it.
3 p.m. — I take a break from quilting to make pie crust dough. It's rhubarb season, and we need strawberry-rhubarb pie! While the dough is resting, I take advantage of the cool weather and use the oven to make granola and breakfast cookies to take with us. I'm too tired to make dinner, so M. offers to treat us to pizza, and I cannot turn down this offer. After we eat, I assemble and bake the strawberry-rhubarb hand pies.
7 p.m. — I do a yin yoga class. Afterward, we have the hand pies with vegan strawberry frozen yogurt. I then shower, do my bedtime routine, and scroll. During my 'gram time, I see someone share a GoFundMe link for community-funded grants to help support basic needs, emergency expenses, and sick leave for people working in the hospitality industry. I donate $25. I read on my bed until lights out until around 11 p.m. $25
Daily Total: $25

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm and draft my to-do list for the week and day, then have breakfast before my team's weekly check-in at 9:30 a.m. We're heading out to the cottage later this afternoon, so I'm hoping the call is short so I can get through my to-do list.
11 a.m. — I jump on another impromptu call to follow up on a meeting my colleagues just had. Once it's over, I throw on appropriate outdoor clothes and head to the local organic market and apothecary to pick up supplements and bougie snacks for the cottage ($50). On my way back, I get complimented on my outfit (apparently, I'm still capable of dressing myself). I eat a quick lunch of leftover pizza and get back to work while M. packs the car. $50
2 p.m. — We're out the door on schedule — and with no cat accident to clean up! We hit the road and unfortunately still run into traffic, even though it's a Tuesday, we left early, and we've been in lockdown since April. Otherwise, it's a smooth drive with good tunes.
6 p.m. — We arrive, unload the car, get the cat's amenities set up, and start dinner. Luckily M. prepped pesto yesterday, so he boils water for pasta and has dinner on the table in about 15 minutes. For dessert, we have the last two hand pies. M. watches basketball, and I do my bedtime routine, then it's lights out around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $50

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I wake up to birds chirping and sun streaming through our window. I check the news, then do my usual morning routine. Since I'm not in my usual space, I set up my new/temporary WFH station at a table just off the cottage kitchen. I have a lovely view of the yard from here. After coffee and breakfast, I spend the morning researching a paper my team has been contracted to write.
1 p.m. — M. and I drive out to a gourmet fry stand in a town about 30 minutes west of us. We share a beef brisket poutine and regular fries and each have a rhubarb soda. $32
2:30 p.m. — On the way back to the cottage, we fill up the car. Once we get home, I get back to work. $32
6 p.m. — I stop work for the day and do a prerecorded Zoom yoga class from the new studio. It's a great class, and I feel super-relaxed. Once the class is finished, I get dinner ready: turkey-kale stew we brought from our freezer. After dinner, M. and I play a board game and I lose two rounds. Around 9 p.m., I head up to bed.
Daily Total: $64
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