A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $67,000 Salary

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Today: a financial analyst working in government who makes $67,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on ramen.
Occupation: Financial Analyst
Industry: Government
Age: 25
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $67,000
Paycheque Amount: $1,731
Gender Identity: Woman
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Monthly Expenses
Rent: $750 (I currently live alone.)
Student Loans: $0 (I'm debt-free: I lived at home during my undergrad, and my employer paid for grad school)
Utilities: $45
Phone: $30
Internet: $45
Bus Fares: $40
Netflix: $0 (Covered by my dad. I don't use it very often because YouTube is my vice of choice.)
Spotify Premium: $7.50
RRSP: $462 (This is automatically deducted and matched by my employer. I currently have around $15,000 in there.)

Day One

7:15 a.m. — My alarm clock simulates a sunrise, so I wake up to a soft glow of light. On weekdays, I have three alarms set at 15-minute intervals: after the light, loud seagulls cry, then my iPhone alarm goes off.
8 a.m. — I do my five-step skin-care routine and do my makeup, put on work clothes, pack my lunch, and power walk to the bus stop. I live close to work, so I have no excuse to take the bus ― except I can never wake up on time.
8:35 a.m. — At work, I slap blueberry jam onto my bagel and start checking my inbox. Outlook shows 32 unread emails ― Monday is going to be rough.
12:30 p.m. — I bump into an acquaintance and find out to my delight that she was transferred to my office. After showing her around, I retreat to my desk to eat my lunch. I'm having leftover spicy udon with lamb and veggies. I have a banana for dessert and dive right back into work.
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4:40 p.m. — I go to the post office/drugstore to pick up Amazon packages and stop at the skin-care counter, where I find a bottle of Avène emulsion that expires in three months and is aggressively marked down to under $7. I walk home with Amazon boxes stacked up to my chin. $6.75
6 p.m. — I brew an oolong tea (yes, I'm addicted) and open my packages. I got a humidifier and a lint shaver to remove fuzz from my clothes. Excited about my new purchases, I set about de-fuzzing all my leggings. They've been through too many cycles in my building's ancient washing machines. The lint remover breathes new life into them.
7:30 p.m. — I munch baby carrots and stuffed olives while I prepare pasta. I add diced onion to the marinara sauce and cook spinach on the side. While eating, I chat with my boyfriend W. He lives in Toronto, so we dedicate time to talk at the end of every day.
8:20 p.m. — I double cleanse my face (Clarins & Kosé) and hop into the shower. Tonight, I opt for a glycolic acid toner (Pixi), peptide serum (The Ordinary), my new emulsion (Avène), gentle moisturizer (The Ordinary) and eye cream (Innisfree). I've had terrible acne for most of my life and, even though it has improved, I still live in fear that new pimples will flare up at any moment.
9 p.m. — I nestle in bed and watch mukbang videos on YouTube (basically, a host eats a massive amount of food and narrates the meal into the camera). They awaken a strong craving for sashimi. I make a note to go to my favourite sushi restaurant tomorrow.
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11 p.m. — I share some light banter with W. over Messenger. He's planning a trip for us and he writes a silly impromptu French poem about the possible destinations. It's an affair shrouded in mystery as W. booked everything and won't reveal the destination to me until the departure day. I manage to coax out of him that the location is south of here and the people there speak Spanish.
Daily Total: $6.75

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off. The sky is overcast, making it feel like night time. My arm automatically extends to hit snooze.
7:55 a.m. — I crawl out of bed and do my morning routine on autopilot.
8:30 a.m. — At the office, I toast a bagel and make my favourite rooibos-vanilla tea. A colleague comes over to chat. We both lived in much bigger cities before starting our careers in Ottawa, and it didn't take long for us to grow bored of the city's monotony. I'm hoping to move to Toronto, with W., and have been looking into my career options there. Yes, I know I'm a typical millennial ― I can't wait to make my sweet escape.
12:30 p.m. — I eat the leftover pasta while finalizing a project.
5:10 p.m. — I walk over to a nearby ramen shop and order a bowl of tonkotsu. There's always a lineup trailing out the door during dinner hours. I couldn't bring myself to shell out the money for sushi, despite last night's craving, so this is a compromise. I savour my noodles and eavesdrop on the table of college girls next to me. My life lacks drama, so I like to listen to other people's. $12.26
5:45 p.m. — Walking into the art supply store, I grab a bottle of art masking fluid, a tube of Holbein's acrylic gouache, and a pack of blank cards with envelopes. $20.67
6 p.m. — I make my weekly grocery run and buy lemons, juice, a pomelo, beef bones (for broth), a pint of blackberries, brown sugar, baking soda, and toilet-cleaning gels. The total comes to $23.56, but I redeem my points and pay the (very small) balance. I trek home with my hefty purchases. Since I don't have a gym membership, I consider this my weekly arm workout. $0.91
7:30 p.m. — I prepare the next day's lunch. First, I grill a chicken breast coated in Mediterranean spice mix, then I pan-fry Napa cabbage with garlic. While I wait for the food to cool for the fridge, I snack on baby carrots and an orange. Lately, I've been collecting the peels of citrus fruits in a small container and freezing them for a DIY, eco-friendly fruit enzyme detergent I'm going to make.
11:15 p.m. — I go to bed but instead of sleeping I'm watching a 20-minute video of a guy grooming his Samoyed. It's oddly satisfying to see how much fur the pooch sheds. For a moment, I wonder if the dog is a sheep in disguise.
Daily Total: $33.84

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — The sunlight beaming from my alarm clock is more effective at waking me up this morning.
7:45 a.m. — Still, I get out of bed in a rush and throw on the first decent outfit I can find. I curse my lazy bum again for not waking up early enough to walk.
8:30 a.m. — At work, I check my bagel supply and have enough to last me until Friday. Fun fact: I like to eat the same breakfast every weekday morning until I get absolutely sick of it. I lost count, but I must've been eating bagels for the last six months.
12 p.m. — While eating a chicken breast, I browse Aritzia's online sales. In my head, I repeat the mantra If it's on sale and you don't need it, it's expensive. Aritzia is my Achilles' heel; half my wardrobe is from there. I put a couple of items into my shopping cart before forcing myself to exit the webpage. Having been an impulsive shopper for most of my life, I've learned to curb my bad habit by mulling over any discretionary purchases for a week. If I forget about them by the end of the week, I forgo them. For more expensive pieces, I sometimes mull them over for a year.
5 p.m. — I'm running dangerously low on clean socks so I make a trip to the laundromat in my building, then tidy my apartment while waiting for the load to finish. My hair has been shedding like a Samoyed and I have to clean my floor every other day to keep my apartment presentable. $1.75
7 p.m. — My evening is spent painting and hashing out weekend plans. A group of friends I met during my semester abroad in Beijing are organizing a get-together. Someone suggests meeting up in Toronto, and I jump onboard because it allows me to visit W. as well.
8 p.m. — In an act of laziness, I throw noodles and frozen veggies together for a hot pot and call it dinner.
10:30 p.m. — As always, I drink an inordinate amount of tea before bed and chat with W. He gives me an (overly) detailed rundown of the specs of a new car his parents are considering purchasing. I can feel myself drift off as he lists its awesome features and... incredible...horsepower…zzzzz.
Daily Total: $1.75

Day Four

6:45 a.m. — I tap into my hidden reservoir of willpower and get out of bed. I'm leaving work early this Friday, so I have to go in an hour early for two days this week.
7:30 a.m. — The office is serene this early. However, the peacefulness is shattered when I find an urgent email from my director waiting in my inbox and have to deal with it immediately.
12 p.m. — A former colleague comes to visit, so I abandon my sad lunch in the office fridge, and we walk to our favourite Thai-Vietnamese restaurant. Over spring rolls and noodles, she updates me on her dog's latest antics and her family drama. I was thinking about her the other day so I'm happy I get to this quality time with her, like the old days. $13.75
6 p.m. — I log this week's expenses into a budgeting app called Foreceipt. When I first entered the workforce, I was almost always broke at the end of the month despite living with roommates and earning a decent salary. I complained about it to my parents, who are very frugal, and they made me calculate my monthly expenses in a spreadsheet. I realized I was splurging on restaurant meals, shopping, and travelling like someone who makes six figures. After being lectured for several hours, I promised them I'll watch my spending and build my savings.
9 p.m. — The lunch portions at the Thai restaurant are huge and, even hours later, I'm barely hungry. So, instead of having dinner, I eat a pint of blackberries, an orange, and a banana. Then I pack my bags for the weekend while listening to the The Daily podcast from the New York Times.
Daily Total: $13.75

Day Five

6:45 a.m. — It takes all my willpower to leave my cocoon this morning. I get up and blend squalane oil into my morning moisturizer during my skin-care routine, then get ready for work.
11 a.m. — The morning has been super-productive. I feel an immense sense of gratification as I cross off big items on my to-do list. Now it's just a waiting game as people to reply to my emails. I'm already thinking about lunch and my craving for sashimi comes back with a vengeance. But I reheat my container of chicken breast, tofu, and bok choy from the previous day.
1:30 p.m. — I get a last-minute invite to a surprise baby shower for my colleague. She's one of the few laid-back people I can gossip and chill with during downtimes. The office is decorated in balloons, and our resident super-mom has brought sweets. I indulge in a few treats, and we all have fun cooing at the cute baby clothes and toys she receives.
2:30 p.m. — I set off to the Greyhound station ($56 for a one-way ticket to Toronto). It's at this inopportune time that my iPhone decides to go from 78% to 10% battery in the span of a minute. The bus attendant warns me that there will be no outlet on the bus, and I curse my luck. I quickly message W. before boarding while muttering under my breath that I'm so done with Apple. Now I have to spend five hours on a bus with no music or texting. If this isn't a first-world problem, I don't know what is. $56
6 p.m. — We stop at a gas station in Belleville, and I grab a bottle of water and a bag of All-Dressed Ruffles. I spend the rest of the trip munching and daydreaming. $3
7:50 p.m. — I arrive in Toronto and wait inside a nearby mall for W. The stores are still open and the mall is bustling with life, so I drop by Muji and browse the skin-care section. W. gets there a few minutes later and tries to sneak up behind me, but I notice him coming and hand him my items to carry. I buy a bottle of emulsion, face wash ($36 for both), and a handful of gel pens ($12). We browse a couple more shops, and I buy some cute socks ($12) for my ever-growing collection. $60
8:40 p.m. — We drive out to a Chinese restaurant where you can get unlimited noodle refills and customize your own dish. We grab a seat at the bar and start building our noodle combos. I order a mildly spicy beef brisket noodle, and W. orders a very spicy lamb noodle. We usually switch our plates halfway through to share our dishes, but I can't stomach W.'s extra-hot chili oil this time. We soon realize that the restaurant is a hot spot for Chinese international students and we enjoy people-watching in a sea of designer handbags and outfits. Wanting to get the best value out of the meal, we share an extra noodle refill. I grab the bill and we walk to a nearby bubble tea store for dessert. $30.15
11:30 p.m. — After arriving at W.'s place, we both take a long shower, and I unpack my stuff. We end the evening by watching episodes of South Park (the infamous Mormon and Scientology episodes) while snacking on longans.
Daily Total: $149.15

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — Even on the weekend, I still get blasted by a sunrise clock. W. has recently purchased his own at Costco, hence my current ordeal. He turns it off after I shake him awake, and we cuddle for an extra hour.
10:30 a.m. — Excited by the prospect of dim sum, I breeze through my skin-care routine and apply light makeup. We debate between a few locations and settle on Crown Prince. I've never been, but the place is known for its opulent European-inspired interior. We have trouble finding parking and end up hogging a spot at the adjoining bank. W. is concerned that his car might get towed, but I drag him into the restaurant, assuring him that I will pay for the fine. As expected, the decor is reminiscent of an old European Château, and the banquet hall features a dizzying number of chandeliers. The food is nothing spectacular, but I have fun snapping pictures of our porcelain tea set. W. gets the tab.
1:30 p.m. — We leave the car at a park-and-ride lot and take the subway downtown. After three stations, our subway line shuts down due to a security incident. We get off and walk to a food court to grab a drink and wait for service to be restored. We try out the new strawberry-guava Diet Coke that tastes nothing like actual Coke. $1.44
2 p.m. — Service is restored and W. suggests that we take a tour of the Steam Whistle brewery. Pilsner beer holds a special place in our hearts, so I agree and he books the tickets on his phone. The brewery is built inside an old railway roundhouse and gives off rustic vibes with exposed pipes and brick walls. The guide kicks off the tour by handing each of us a bottle of Pilsner. We walk through the production facility and learn about the history of the business. As the tour continues, we drink way more beer than anticipated, and I feel my cheeks flush. Afterwards, W. buys us a fresh pretzel to share, and we gulp the rest of our beers.
4:50 p.m. — We do some more shopping, and I spot a Uniqlo, where I buy an undershirt. $17
5:30 p.m. — W. drops me off at a restaurant to meet my friends for our reunion. He prefers not to dine with a group of rowdy strangers, so we part ways for dinner. I'm the second-last person to arrive and, after a great co-ordination effort from our waitress, the hot pots and ingredients are served. Even after three years — and a whole lot of career developments — our group dynamic still feels the same. Despite the fact that we all went to business school, our careers couldn't be more different. We catch up on our personal lives and reminisce about our trips around China, hiking the great mountains, and having misadventures with shady menu items. $30.08
9 p.m. — The more energetic folks in our group go for karaoke, while the rest of us call it a night. I'm incredibly stuffed, but I meet up with W. at a boba shop, and we share a milk tea in a container shaped like a light bulb. He pays for the treat.
Daily Total: $48.52

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — We love our lazy Sundays and lounge in bed.
10:30 a.m. — W. runs us a bath and we get in together. I bought him a rocket-shaped bath bomb from Lush last Valentine's Day, which he kept unused in a drawer. Since neither of us has ever used a bath bomb before, we drop it in the tub and see what happens. After the rocket fizzes out, it looks like we're sitting in a bathtub full of food dye and sparkles. Not impressed.
12 p.m. — For brunch, we try an all-you-can-eat Asian barbecue joint. The owner must have been conflicted about the place's identity because the menu only features Korean food, but the playlist is mostly Japanese pop, and the waitresses speak mainly Mandarin. We order a Diet Coke and a virgin lychee mojito to share. For the next hour, we alternate between grilling meat and seafood and stuffing our faces with lettuce-wrapped pork belly and short ribs. W. pays.
1:30 p.m. — After our hefty meal, we walk around Pacific Mall to burn calories. I buy us a cup of milk tea to share as we browse through the plethora of small boutiques. $3
2:30 p.m. — We drop by the largest Chinese grocery store in town, and I buy us snacks and a pack of new chopsticks for my mom. It's a Sunday afternoon, and the supermarket is a zoo, so we pay and leave immediately. $18
5:45 p.m. — I got lucky and found a cheap flight home so I don't have to take the bus ($83). On the way to airport, we stop at a McCafé, and I order a large black tea. W. gets his usual coffee with two creams and pays for the drinks. They cool down as we drive, and I chug the rest of my tea before entering security. $83
7:45 p.m. — There are no flight delays, so I'm back home already.
8 p.m. — I'm about to take an Uber, but my bus arrives right as I approach the waiting area. I feel exhausted and still have to transfer onto another bus, but the savings are worth the trouble. $2.65
9 p.m. — I unpack my bags and make myself a bowl of instant noodles for dinner. As I slurp the them, I mentally promise myself that I will detox with salads for the rest of the month. I tend over-indulge when I'm travelling. I don't know how to control my gluttony!
Daily Total: $106.65
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