A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $43,500 Salary

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Today: a hairstylist who makes $43,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on Cheetos.

Editor's note: This diary was submitted shortly before the latest lockdown temporarily closed salons and restaurants in Toronto.
Occupation: Hairstylist
Industry: Beauty
Age: 30
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $43,500
Net Worth: $38,819.46 (I have $5,174.05 in a high-interest savings account, $3,628.65 in an RRSP, and $27,016.76 in a TFSA. I also make a point to maintain at least $3,000 in my chequing account to avoid bank fees.)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount 2x/month: $1,200 on average (I also receive a monthly gratuity cheque that varies.)
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,175.25 (This includes utilities. I live with my partner, W. We split our rent equally and use Splitwise to keep track of expenses and bills.)
Car Insurance: $155.65
Phone: $0 (My mom has a great family plan that I've been on for YEARS.)
Internet: $42 (for my half)
Netflix, Crave & Amazon Prime: $0 (thanks to my dad and sister)
Hayu: $5.99
RRSP: $100
Biannual Expenses
Street Parking Permit: $113.97
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 parents were very encouraging of my hairstylist dreams, so there was no pressure to attend university. The hair school I went to was brand new at the time and only charged $7,000 for tuition in order to attract students. I worked as a salon assistant during summer breaks in high school and for a year after graduating, so I was able to save about $4,000 of my own money for tools and textbooks. My parents covered the rest, and their investment paid itself off long ago — they haven't had to spend money on their hair since.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never spoke to us about finances growing up other than to remind us that "money doesn't grow on trees!" Neither parent attended post-secondary school, but my mom did go back to school when my sister and I were young, and they've both done well for themselves. They come from immigrant families and have strong work ethics. However, they're polar opposites when it comes to their attitudes about money. My dad can be quite practical and tends to discourage frivolous spending, whereas my mom believes that if you work hard for your money, there's nothing wrong with spending it how you like.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked part-time as a cashier at a supermarket when I was 15. I earned about $100 a week and probably spent it all on CDs and junk food.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. I was lucky that my family always had everything we needed.

Do you worry about money now?
Due to COVID-19, it's hard not to worry. Earlier this year, I was out of work and collecting CERB for four months, and another lockdown seems likely. I'm grateful that I work in a trade where my skills will never become redundant, but people just don't need to get their hair done as often when there's a pandemic.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I lived with my parents until I moved in with W. when I was 28. I'm privileged to have had that time to save money and get off to a good start with a partner. I know my parents would help me out in every way they could if necessary, but I hope I never have to depend on them.

Day One

9:30 a.m. — I wake up feeling surprisingly good considering how much beer and candy I consumed last night. W. has been up for a few hours already and is looking hella rough. He's a soccer fanatic and wakes up early most weekends to catch the European games. Being a sports fan seems stressful. Breakfast is bacon and tomato sandwiches and broccoli-cheddar soup — random but the hangover wants what the hangover wants. After mindless TV and Insta scrolling, we panic when we realize it's changeover day. A lot of residential streets in Toronto change the side of the street you can park on at the beginning of each month and again halfway through it. We both totally forgot earlier this month and wound up with a $50 parking ticket each; hence, the panic.
1 p.m. — W. goes to sort out his laundry. Our building has coin-operated machines in the basement, and on his way back up he runs into our building manager who is showing vacant units to potential tenants. Nosy as I am, I search the listings on Viewit and notice that the rent for a unit similar to ours is listed for a significantly cheaper price than what we're paying now — like $600 a month cheaper! We're appalled. I've heard of people negotiating their rent since the pandemic began, so we make a plan to approach our landlord. W. is looking shaggy, so I give him a haircut, and it's a major relief for both of us.
6:30 p.m. — We have dinner plans with my sister and her boyfriend at a restaurant offering a backyard campfire experience. We made the reservation weeks ago, but tonight it's calling for major wind, negative temperatures, and SNOW. The restaurant is still open, and I don't blame the owners given the current situation they're dealing with. Rather than reschedule, we bundle up in our winter finest (they also encourage BYOB: bring your own blanket) and Uber over. It's not far, but W. and I split the fare. $7.12
7:30 p.m. — Dinner is a truly lovely experience! The restaurant has set up a giant tarp to block the wind and has multiple fires going. It feels downright cozy despite the weather. The prix fixe menu is made with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients that change weekly, and several dishes are cooked over the fire and served family-style in the pots they're made in. Between the four of us, we drink two bottles of wine. I haven't gone out to many restaurants since the pandemic began, so this feels like a real treat. It's a splurge and totally worth it. It's amazing to see the creative ways businesses are making it work, and I'm happy to help support a local restaurant. $152.56
9 p.m. — We Uber home. It's snowing hard now, and it feels good to be back inside where it's warm. We fall asleep on the couch with full, happy bellies, watching who knows what and smelling like campfire. $6.92
Daily Total: $166.60

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up, get ready for work, and go to my car, which is covered in snow and ice. Crap. I haven't had to deal with this in so long that I forgot what an effort it is. Looks like I'm going to be later than I intended.
9 a.m. — I get to work, and it's slow. The pandemic has changed a lot of things at the salon, and there are many (understandable) reasons for our client count being down. Our hours are different, and we can no longer double book, plus people just aren't getting their hair done or leaving the house as often. July and August were great months after the lockdown, and we were riding that high until recently when COVID cases took a major jump. As much as I know the circumstances are out of my control, and I'm grateful to have a job, it's hard not to feel discouraged when a big chunk of my workday is spent twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the phone to ring. To kill time before my first appointment, I set up a virtual product knowledge class with the hair-care company I'm an educator for. I also post a picture of a recent haircut I did on Insta. Woohoo, productivity!
1 p.m. — I heat up leftover soup for lunch and have a great chat with my boss regarding the situation in the salon. I've worked in toxic salon environments before, and I appreciate the fact that I can have such a transparent discussion with my current manager. I leave the conversation feeling more optimistic. Although business isn't what it used to be, I'm happy to still be working and making people feel good about themselves — and earning a real paycheque. W. messages me to settle up with him on Splitwise. We treat bill splitting like a game in which we never let the other person get too far ahead, but he somehow managed to pay for a lot last month, plus he's got his mom's and sister's birthdays coming up next week, so I transfer him the money ASAP. $92.86
5 p.m. — I leave work and drive to meet a seller from Facebook Marketplace to pick up a vintage mirror. I've been trying to make small, affordable home improvements and scrolling Marketplace feels like a healthy alternative to, ahem, other apps on my phone. The mirror will look great over my vanity. $40
8 p.m. — W. makes a quick pasta and salad for dinner and tells me he's been in contact with our landlord, who is willing to lower our rent but not as low as the price we saw listed. Upon checking Viewit again, I see the number has been updated, and it's much closer to what we're currently paying but still lower. I can only assume that the initial post was a mistake, or the landlord had some other unhappy tenants calling them out. We send another email with another number and hope to hear good things tomorrow, then settle in to watch American Murder: The Family Next Door.
Daily Total: $132.86

Day Three

8 a.m. — W. leaves for work, and the cat takes his place in the bed. She's only affectionate right after she's eaten breakfast, so I enjoy quality kitty cuddles before she's ready to avoid me again. I have cereal with almond milk and make tea for breakfast, then take my laundry downstairs. Our building's machines only take loonies, and I feel like I have to constantly hoard coins. I rarely ever use the dryer because oftentimes scrounging up four loonies is a serious effort. $2
9 a.m. — I'm scrolling and stressing over the constant pessimism that is the internet when W. forwards our landlord's latest communication, and they're willing to drop our rent to $2,100 a month! It's not as low as we'd hoped, but we'll be saving $250 a month, which works out a savings of $3,000 a year.
12 p.m. — I sign up for a Zoom yoga class using a prepaid pass. I bought a bunch of passes before the shutdown, and I'll likely end up buying more because yoga is SO GOOD for my battered hairdresser's body. After class, I have a quick shower and get ready for work. I make a tuna salad and pack almonds and rice cakes for snacks.
4 p.m. — Work is incredibly slow today. I call my mom to see if she's free to come in because she's been needing a haircut. I haven't seen much of my parents recently. I usually get together with them and my sister once a week, but Toronto's COVID cases have been super-high lately, and visiting isn't worth the risk. Luckily, my mom is able to come. It's funny to be catching up with her at work, wearing masks. I cut and tone her hair and, although she doesn't have to pay for the service, just the product, she leaves me a generous cash tip. Normally, I wouldn't accept it — she gave me life; the least I can do is give her a free haircut — but she insists. I feel sad that I can't give her a hug.
9 p.m. — W. has made corn fritters with salad for dinner. We watch US election news while eating. By 10:30 p.m., I can't take it anymore and head up to bed. I need to turn off my brain and sleep. Serenity now!
Daily Total: $2

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up and start getting ready for work, which includes applying makeup to the top half of my face. W. is working from home and brings my coffee to the bedroom. Bless him. I have PB and J on toast for breakfast, and I'm out the door. After my first few appointments, my boss hands me my tip cheque from last month. The generosity of my clients blows my mind sometimes! I deposit it right away and transfer $250 to my high-interest savings account.
12 p.m. — I'm feeling hungry. I have a gift card for Aroma, so I drive over and order a halloumi and sweet potato salad and a small oat milk latte. The weather is gorgeous, so I eat in my car with the windows down while listening to Whitney Cummings's podcast Good For You.
3 p.m. — Work is done, and I head to the grocery store to buy chicken breasts, green beans, frozen peas, soy sauce, rice, bananas, milk, and a few other things ($60.56, which I enter into Splitwise). After putting away the groceries, I chill on the couch and watch an old episode of Grey's Anatomy. $30.28
6:30 p.m. — I log into Zoom for another prepaid yoga class. I keep the apartment dark with a few candles lit, and W. is out for a run, so I enjoy having my zen den to myself.
8 p.m. — I make a chicken stir fry with veggies on rice, which W. and I eat on the couch in front of a few episodes of an old British comedy called Peep Show before going to bed.
Daily Total: $30.28

Day Five

8 a.m. — I wake up and make oatmeal and tea for breakfast. I eat on the couch and scroll through the news and socials. I've had enough and need a distraction from The News, so I do a workout on the Nike Training Club app. After a shower, I (finally) start watching Younger.
12 p.m. — I'm hooked. Must. Look. Away. From. TV. It looks like a beautiful day, so I go for a walk to get a falafel wrap ($6.50) and walk back home to eat on the couch. In front of the TV. I swear I read! I'm just in between books right now. $6.50
2 p.m. — I get ready for work. I plan my outfit around sneakers because I'm anticipating a busy day, and comfort is key. I order an iced coffee with coconut milk on the Starbucks app (prepaid) and walk over to pick it up before getting in my car.
9 p.m. — Damn, that was a busy shift. I don't know how I used to work back-to-back appointments every day for nine hours before the pandemic. Despite my comfy footwear choice, my feet are killing me. I help my team tidy up and sanitize everything before driving home. W. has made salmon and broccoli for dinner, which we eat at the table(!), but it's not long before we're in front of the TV again.
Daily Total: $6.50

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up and get dressed for work. Damn these early shifts! I eat cereal for breakfast and order an iced coffee on the Starbucks app again (prepaid).
12 p.m. — Clients, clients, clients. It's super-warm in the salon today and wearing a mask is feeling like a burden. I've gotten pretty used to this “new normal,” but some days are easier to get through than others. I feel nauseated, so I drink water and snack on tamari almonds.
2:30 p.m. — It's home time! I stop by a pet store for cat litter (thrilling) and treats for Kittycat. I debate buying her a new toy, because she's been very meow-y at night lately, but I decide against it because, really, she has plenty. Bedtime is her witching hour, and I think we're boring her with how early we've been going to sleep. $27.10
3:30 p.m. — I still feel a bit crap when I get home, so I make a grilled cheese and settle in (surprise, surprise) on the couch. I definitely think I'm dehydrated and blame the mask for forgetting to drink water. I binge Younger and chat with W., who is working from home at the kitchen table.
8 p.m. — Dinner is leftover salmon, sweet potato wedges, and frozen peas with dill. I'm feeling much better, and the weather is so weirdly warm, so we walk to our local for a few drinks and end up staying longer than intended. It's so nice to be out! There are lots of people milling about, and things feel somewhat normal? Plus, it feels good to be out hanging with W. instead of on our couch scrolling our phones. We each have a few pints, and I pay. ($40.68, added to Splitwise) $20.34
11 p.m. — We drink more beer while watching Hustlers on Netflix. W. is snoring beside me on the couch, and I've been debating ordering McDonald's on Uber Eats for the last half hour. Bed is probably a better idea. I leave W. on the couch and bring the cat to bed with me instead.
Daily Total: $47.44

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — W. is up to watch soccer. LOL, no. I go back to sleep, embracing all the bed real estate.
9 a.m. — The cat has joined me, but she's in attack mode, and it's hard to sleep when there's a small, furry killer attacking my toes. I scroll on my phone and pay for an outdoor yoga class I'm attending later this morning. I get up and make scrambled eggs and toast, which I eat while W. shouts at the TV. $10
10 a.m. — I walk to the park for yoga. I realize I've forgotten my water, so I stop in a convenience store for a bottle of Perrier. It's so nice out! I can already tell today is going to be great. $2.50
12 p.m. — Yoga is great, but a friend of mine who normally joins me at this class doesn't show up. I check my phone to make sure she's OK (she is; she was just running too late) and walk back through the off-leash area for quality pupper watching.
2 p.m. — W. has tidied the apartment. Bless his soul. After dropping off my yoga mat and changing, I go back out to buy snacks and drinks while he finishes vacuuming. I get cold cuts from the deli, ($6.28), bread, arugula, cheddar-jalapeño Cheetos, salt and vinegar Miss Vickie's, and sour gummy worms from the supermarket ($17.54), plus beers from the LCBO ($24, all added to Splitwise). I make sandwiches at home, pack a cooler and blanket, and go back to the park with W. who, after watching soccer all morning, wants to kick around a ball. My sister and her boyfriend meet up with us as well as a few other friends. Everyone sits on their own blankets apart from each other, and it feels like we're back in July when life was good and COVID cases were low. It's so nice to enjoy another day in the park even though it's nearly winter. We listen to music, eat, drink, and straight-up enjoy life. $20.77
6 p.m. — I wish it didn't get dark so early! I'm not ready to go home! The sunset is stunning, though, and many a picture is taken. Shortly after dark, a lit-up pumpkin carriage driven by what looks like a rat-shaped go-kart arrives (try to picture it), and we're treated to a live violin performance by the people inside! They draw a crowd and, though we don't go near, it looks pretty COVID-compliant. I haven't heard live music in AGES. What a way to end an amazing day.
9 p.m. — W. and I drink more beers and order pasta from a nearby Italian place ($43.38 after tip and fees, added to Splitwise). We watch sets from music festivals past on YouTube. It's our way of feeling like we're at a concert. We tend to do this every time we drink lately. $21.69
11:30 p.m. — I'm feeling drunk and sleepy but also happy. Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day, and I intend to spend it in a similar way.
Daily Total: $54.96
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