A Week On Vancouver Island On A $147,000 Joint Income

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Today: an IT coordinator working in government who has a $147,000 joint income and spends some of her money this week on a SodaStream CO2 refill.
Occupation: IT Coordinator
Industry: Government
Age: 33
Location: Vancouver Island, B.C.
Joint Salary: $147,000 (I make $75,000, and my husband, T., makes $72,000.)
My Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,900
My Husband's Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,800–$2,500 (T.'s cheques vary depending on hours and overtime.)

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $400 (T. and I live in a one-bedroom cabin on my mom's rural property. We get cheap rent in exchange for working on the acreage and helping her out.)
Student Loan: $650 (My debt started at $51,000 in 2014. I've since got it down to $6,730 and plan to pay it off this year.)
Phone: $123.20 (This is for T.'s phone. Work covers mine.)
Internet: $95.20 (We share with my mom.)
Electricity: $75
Car Payments: $0 (I bought a used car five years ago, and T. paid off his car last year. We're hoping these vehicles will last us for a while.)
Car Insurance: $234 ($112 for mine, $122 for his)
Netflix: $13.99
Google Music & Storage:
$17.79
Pension: $454 (8% of my paycheque goes into a defined benefit pension plan.)
TFSAs: $1,000 (I put $400 a month into mine and have $18,000 invested. T. puts $600 a month into his own.)
Joint Savings: $2,400 (We have $35,000 saved for a down payment, travel and/or emergencies. We each put in $1,200 a month.)
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Annual Expenses
Disney+: $89.99

Day One

5:30 a.m. — T.'s alarm goes off, and I toss and turn. I'm not ready to get up.
6:15 a.m. — My alarm scares me. Apparently, I fell back asleep. I go downstairs for coffee with almond milk, which I sip while scrolling my phone. I tweeze my brows and muster energy for the day.
7 a.m. — I take out Dog. It's still dark, but at least it's not raining right now. We wander around the property and play with a stick. This isn't my idea of fun, but he loves it, and he has my heart, so we play for as long as he wants. Dog is a rescue mutt with the sweetest personality. Back inside, I shower, brush and floss my teeth, wash my face, moisturize, and put my hair in a ponytail. Work is casual, and I don't put much effort into my appearance, because I'm in front of a computer all day. I get dressed in black pants, a pink lace shirt, and a grey cardigan. I'm out the door around 8 a.m. for the drive into town.
8:20 a.m. — I arrive at work early, make tea, and settle in at my desk before anyone else arrives. I read the news and update my budget tracking spreadsheet with the weekend's expenses. My husband was a reckless spender in the past, but we're on the same page now, and he's happy to have me manage our money. As usual, it's a slow morning at work. I answer a couple of emails and eat chia pudding with banana and strawberries that I prepped on the weekend. A coworker brings in his new baby. She's very cute and a good excuse to get away from my desk for a few minutes!
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12:30 p.m. — I hop in my car and drive across town to a medical lab for a blood test. The waiting room is packed, but I only have to wait 15 minutes. My doctor referred me to get my iron levels and thyroid checked, because I've been shedding hair at an alarming rate and have had low energy levels for the last couple of months. I'm thankful to be Canadian and have access to medical services at no cost.
1:20 p.m. — I heat up some of the red lentil dal I made in my Instant Pot yesterday. I used to go out for lunch everyday and couldn't get the hang of meal prepping, but I've recently figured out a system that works for me: On Sunday, I make three or four lunches (usually lentil-based curries, soups, and salads). The afternoon drags on. I chat with my coworker/friend, L. He started six months ago, but I've known him for years, and it's been so nice to have a friend at work. My coworkers are nice people, but IT guys are not the most sociable bunch. A new project proposal comes in. It would be exciting if it gets off the ground, but this is government, so I don't hold my breath. Maple-apple herbal tea and dark chocolate get me through the rest of the work day.
4:15 p.m. — I sneak out early to look at a couple of houses. T. picks me up, and we head to a tiny community 20 minutes away to see the first one. We've been looking for a couple months, but low inventory and high prices haven't left us inspired. We're waiting for the right one while we continue to save, but we're both getting impatient. The first place has amazing ocean views and a great kitchen but no storage and a tiny yard. The second house is in a different area that's popular with young families and hipsters. It's a nice, standard rancher. I'm not sure either of these are exactly what we want, but at least they're viable options. It's exciting to see two decent houses in a row after seeing a few dumps in our price range recently.
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6:30 p.m. — We realize we're starving, and the dinner we had planned will take too long to prepare after we get home, so we pop into the grocery store and grab ready-to-eat roasted veggies, chicken wings, and pasta for T. I also get a birthday card for my nephew, so my mom can deliver it when she heads out of town tomorrow. T. drops me back at my car, and I drive home to the freezing house. T. quickly lights the wood stove, and we eat while cuddling pets and watching The Simpsons. $29.88
9 p.m. — I take the dog out one last time, then we all go to bed and fall asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.
Daily Total: $29.88

Day Two

4:30 a.m. — I wake up with a stomach ache and racing mind. Boy Cat is tucked in my arms and starts purring like a jet engine when he realizes I'm awake, so we snuggle until T.'s alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. We all get up together, and T. takes Dog out while I make coffee. I put ingredients for tonight's pulled pork dinner in the slow cooker, then throw a jacket over my pajamas and chase Dog around for half an hour.
7:30 a.m. — I do a quick morning routine while Girl Cat harasses me. I get dressed in olive-coloured jeans, a floral blouse, and my favourite brown ankle boots.
8:20 a.m. — After an uneventful commute, I'm at work and settled in with tea. I troubleshoot user issues over the phone and by email. My boss comes into my office and talks to me about an upcoming project — a rare event! Usually I'm on my own to figure out what I should be doing without any oversight or guidance. There's a lack of direction and management skills in this organization that frustrates me. I've been casually looking for a new job since last year, but it's hard to find a company that can compete with government benefits.
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10 a.m. — I have a breakfast of cheese strings and leftover sausage from the weekend while I read Ask A Manager and Money Diaries. After a few years of failing to figure out an early-morning breakfast that works for me, I realized I could just wait until I was hungry and eat later on.
12:30 p.m. — I go out into the dreary drizzle for a quick walk on my lunch break. I loop through a nearby residential neighbourhood and eye up the houses, then go back to my office and heat up lentil dal for lunch again. I eat while texting my sister-in-law, V., and reading Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong.
4:45 p.m. — After a slow afternoon, I'm home from work. Dog is very bouncy and excited to see me. I switch to rain boots and rush out to catch the last bit of daylight as we walk to the nature park down the road.
5:30 p.m. — I check on the chickens, feed my mom's cat, and go inside. Luckily, the chickens have a pretty self-sufficient set-up with an enclosed run and house, plus a feeder that lasts for a few days, because I don't have much time for them right now. In spring, they get to free range around the property, but it's too wet right now. T. has arrived home and is lighting the fire. He hops in the shower while I shred the pulled pork and get the pretzel buns, pickles, and coleslaw ready. We catch up while we eat dinner, then settle in to watch TV and share funny animal pictures from the internet.
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8 p.m. — T. goes to bed early. I make mint tea and watch a bit of Schitt's Creek and cuddle the pets before heading up around 9 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

5 a.m. — I'm awake too early again. I lie in bed until 5:45 a.m., then get up and have coffee with almond milk. I'm feeling extra-tired and slow this morning, which is usually a sign that I'm getting sick.
6 a.m. — Dog is going to daycare today, and it's pouring rain, so we skip the morning walk. I use the extra time to wash the pots and pans that have piled up in the sink, empty the dishwasher, and quickly clean the bathroom. I wash my face and brush and floss my teeth with all the pets crowded into the bathroom. The automatic cat feeder goes off at 7:30 a.m., and the animals finally leave me in peace. I get dressed in leggings, a flowy blue-and-white shirt, and a blue cardigan. As I'm gathering my stuff to go out the door, I hear the unmistakable sound of a cat barfing. I run over and find Girl Cat barfing right into the food dish. Ugh. I clean it up, then finish getting ready, grab the dog and hop in the car. It's dark and rainy and horrible for my 20-minute drive. The daycare is out of the way, but Dog loves the ladies who work there, and they tire him right out. $30
8 a.m. — I drive into town and get to work with enough time to grab an almond milk latte and a breakfast sandwich (breakfast sandwiches are one of my weaknesses). So much for not eating until 10 a.m. $9.50
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8:30 a.m. — I deal with a few emails, then watch a webinar for software that senior management has expressed interest in. It would require major changes to our entire system, so it's likely a no-go, but I'll take notes to make them happy.
12:30 p.m. — Oh my god, the sun is out. This is a big deal for January on the West Coast. I go for a walk along the river trail through town, admiring the snow-capped mountains, sparkling water, and all the dogs out with their owners. I feel like a different person when the sun comes out and am reminded that life is good. I find winter hard and have been feeling low about work and life in general lately. The walk takes up my full lunch hour, but no one else in my office is concerned about punctuality, so I take a few more minutes to eat (same lentil dal as previous days) and text T. before getting back to work. I mix in online house browsing with work all afternoon.
4:30 p.m. — I drive to the other side of town for a laser hair removal appointment. I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which means I'm a hairy person. Laser isn't a permanent solution, but if I get treatments a few times a year, it keeps growth mostly under control. My technician is super-nice, and I haven't seen her in almost a year, so we catch up about trips we've been on recently. The appointment goes quickly. $143.50
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5:30 p.m. — Home at last. I don't like driving and feel like I've been in the car more than usual lately. I feed the chickens and give them the chia pudding that sat on my desk all day as a treat. I feel less guilty about wasting food when I can pass it along to the chickens and turn it into fresh eggs. I feed and pet my mom's cat, and then the day's work is done. Dinner is the same as last night. It's delicious and there are no dishes, which is a win in my life! The evening proceeds as usual: Silly conversations with the husband, cuddles with the pets, and reading while T. plays on his phone.
Daily Total: $183

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — I make coffee with almond milk, laze on the couch, then take out Dog. I noticed last night that the chicken pen fence is falling down in one section and decide now is a good time to fix it — in my pajamas, in the dark, with a flashlight in one hand, and an energetic dog beside me. Unsurprisingly, I end up extremely frustrated and a little dirty but manage to wrangle a temporary post to hold it in place for the day. I fill up the chickens' feeder while I'm there.
7:30 a.m. — I shower off the dirt and get ready for work. I put gel and leave-in conditioner in my hair to coax out some curls. I have thick, curly hair and am long overdue for a cut, so good hair days are hard to come by right now. Today's outfit is black pants and a plum-coloured top with ruffled sleeves. I grab my grey cardigan, because my office is always cold.
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8:20 a.m. — I make tea and get right into work, solving a problem that was found yesterday afternoon, then helping a colleague talk through an issue. I eat my last chia pudding (with blueberries today) as I attend another webinar.
12:15 p.m. — The weather looks okay, so I head out for a walk. It turns out the wind is gusting and ice-cold, and my rain jacket isn't doing much to keep me warm. I decide on a short walk to the Starbucks in a nearby shopping centre, where I order a coconut milk latte using a gift card. With warm coffee in hand, I take a longer route back to the office. While walking, my phone keeps buzzing, so I look and see that my sister in law sent pictures of my dog at the beach. My mom usually lets him out at lunch, but since she's away, V. offered to take him out. He's a lucky dog, and I'm grateful for the help. I also have messages from my friend, K., about an upcoming trip we're taking to Belize. I heat up my last dal and spend the rest of my break replying to everyone. K. lives in a different province, and we haven't seen each other for eight months, so this trip will be a great catch-up while we escape winter.
4:30 p.m. — I'm out the door as soon as the clock hits 4:30 p.m. I'm home before T., so I grab a warm jacket and my boots to take Dog to the park. I throw a flashlight in my pocket, because it's already getting dark.
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5:30 p.m. — Wet and tired, we get home and T. still isn't home. I light the fire quickly, because it's only 14°C in the house. Wood heat is a pain. I change into ridiculously cozy pajamas covered in llamas. T. arrives around 6 p.m. and has picked up Chinese food for dinner. I proceed to eat way too much, but it's so good. T. regales me with stories from the construction site while we eat. His work environment is the complete opposite of mine, and some of the behaviour is hilariously unprofessional. $41.20
7 p.m. — I pop into my mom's house to check on the cat before I get too relaxed. I throw a load of laundry in while I'm over there, even though I know I'll probably forget about it. We spend the rest of the evening reading on the couch, and I end up finishing my book.
9 p.m. — I run over and put the laundry in the dryer, then head to bed.
Daily Total: $41.20

Day Five

5 a.m. — We wake up to Boy Cat serenading us, followed by Girl Cat batting my face. Our bedroom is an open loft, so there's no way to shut out the pets. I guess that means it's time to wake up. I feel well-rested but my hips and back are stiff, so I stretch for a few minutes. T. lets out the dog and starts the coffee. I bundle up to take the dog out in the rain. We play for a bit of extra time, because he'll be on his own until T. gets home this afternoon.
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7:45 a.m. — I rush through my morning routine and get dressed in leggings, a black floral wrap top with puffy sleeves, black ankle boots, and a pink velvet scrunchie to hold my hair back. My inner child is loving this outfit.
8:30 a.m. — I'm at work before everyone else. I say hello to L. when he arrives and give him eggs from my chickens. I haven't cooked with eggs for a few days, so I have too many. Luckily, everybody loves farm-fresh eggs! It's payday for T. and I, so I take 15 minutes to deal with the money. First up: bills. We put most purchases on a cash-back credit card, which is paid off every payday. I also transfer money into our separate TFSA accounts, which are invested for retirement, and put some into the down-payment savings fund. While I'm logged in, I transfer money to my mom for next month's rent.
9:15 a.m. — I realize I haven't even opened my email yet. Luckily, I haven't missed anything urgent. It's the start of a new month next week, so I fill out my desk calendar. Despite the digital nature of my job, I prefer having a paper calendar to keep track of things. Blocking off a week of vacation is very satisfying. I snack on a cheese string and tomato-basil tuna. The little can looks exactly like cat food, which makes me uncomfortable, but it's an easy and healthy snack. I can sense it's not going to be a productive day as I waste the morning reading the news and texting my friend about plans for tomorrow.
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12:30 p.m. — I had been planning to walk to the grocery store to pick up a salad for lunch, but the rain is coming down in buckets. I debate between driving to the store, or quickly running to the café around the corner. As I mentioned before, I hate driving, so the café wins. On my way, I go to Shoppers and get shampoo, moisturizer, cleansing wipes, and chocolate for my desk stash — all things I'm low on ($54.70). The total is higher than I expected; that seems to happen every time I come here. At the café, I get a wrap filled with egg, black beans, and yams, plus a small almond milk latte ($12.34). $67.04
1 p.m. — At my desk, I eat and scroll through Reddit at the same time. I've been spending a lot of time on the Personal Finance Canada subreddit, reading about mortgages. I tend to be obsessive about whatever my current life focus is, and right now it's buying a house. I balance out my online time by looking at baby elephant gifs and travel photos. There isn't any yam in my wrap, and it tastes bland.
4:30 p.m. — The work week is over! I love the feeling of freedom on Friday afternoons. T. and I are looking at a private-sale house today. It's only five minutes from work, so I meet him there. The location is great, and it has a huge yard. Fingers crossed that the inside of the house is decent. I walk through with the owner. It's small and dated, but the yard is amazing. It's definitely my top choice so far! T.'s mom lives nearby, so he goes to visit her, while I head home.
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5:30 p.m. — I heat up the leftover Chinese food for dinner. I steam broccoli and cabbage for extra nutrition and eat a much more reasonable amount tonight.
7 p.m. — T. gets home, and we discuss the house all evening. It's so close to being what we want, but it's missing a couple of key things, like a crawl space and a second bathroom, so I think we'll keep looking.
10 p.m. — I make mint tea and listen to The Daily Show podcast in bed.
Daily Total: $67.04

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — We're all used to early wake-ups, so sleeping in doesn't really happen on weekends. I take the dog out and feed him. T. is still in bed, so I head back upstairs and wake him up for some fun.
8 a.m. — Coffee and cartoons. T. is sharing his childhood favourites with me: Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers and Duck Tales.
9:30 a.m. — I realize we're running late to meet friends at the farmers' market, so I skip the shower and quickly get dressed in leggings and a sweatshirt. At the market, I get a cranberry-orange muffin from one stand ($3), T. buys a bunch of bison pepperoni from another ($25), and I buy a container of mixed sprouts ($10). Our friends have a dog as well, and we all go for a walk in a nearby park to catch up and laugh as the dogs play together. We got our dogs at the same time, about three years ago, and these Saturday walks have been a regular occurrence ever since. It's great to have good friends nearby, because all my other friends are spread out in different cities. Plus, we have similar lifestyles: We're all child-free, travel-focused dog owners, which makes the friendship comfortable. $38
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11:20 a.m. — The best part of Saturday is brunch! I have a shrimp Florentine eggs Benny, and T. has banana bread French toast. We keep the socializing going and head to our friends' house to play games. $46.27
3 p.m. — We go home and take care of chores. I get enough firewood for the next week from the shed and move it to the house, then clean out the chicken coop. Inside the cabin, T. has cleaned the kitchen and done the dishes. I take a few minutes to look at the grocery store flyer and make a shopping list for the week. Groceries are our biggest expense and, despite planning meals and taking advantage of sales, I'm struggling to reign in the cost. Do you have any tips, readers? Or is this just the price I pay for a tall husband?
4:30 p.m. — My mom arrived home this morning, so I go over to chat and hear about her trip. Despite having a good time, she puts a negative spin on everything, and I get frustrated and head home after a short visit. This happens constantly, and I'm working to stop her negativity from affecting me. These issues are part of the reason we are looking to buy a house.
5 p.m. — I realize my SodaStream is out of CO2, and I'm not sure I can survive without sparkling water. I convince T. to go to Canadian Tire with me for a refill. Luckily, it's never very hard to convince him to go there. We get the refill and toilet paper, plus I impulse-buy a barbecue lighter and a small cactus. $57.11
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6:30 p.m. — I make an easy dinner of spaghetti with lentil pasta and sauce from the freezer. I read, while T. researches a new phone online, then we cuddle until bedtime at 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $141.38

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I'm awake bright and early for another day. I manage to outlast T. laying in bed, so he takes the dog out and starts the coffee. Sunday mornings are my favourite. We take turns making a nice breakfast each week, and today T. makes homemade blueberry waffles.
8:30 a.m. — We get a surprise visit from my best friend and her three-year-old son. We grew up next door to each other and have been best friends my entire life. She lives a few hours away now, so it's a treat whenever we can get together. It's a short but sweet visit, because she has to catch a ferry.
9 a.m. — T. and I have a lazy morning drinking coffee and snacking on the mountain of waffles while watching Groundhog Day.
10:30 a.m. — The dog is getting antsy, so we go to the nature park for a long walk in the forest. We take a different route than usual and enjoy getting slightly lost. Once we make it home, we drive to the grocery store to get food for the week: chicken thighs, lettuce, spinach, mushrooms, lemons, cheese, oat milk, yogurt, red lentil pasta, jam, cookies, bread, avocados, and a few other bits. I'm pleasantly surprised that the total is lower than usual. That's probably because I'm planning to use up a few things we already have this week. $87.52
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1:30 p.m. — T. heads out to watch the Super Bowl with friends at a bar in town. I was invited but would rather have an afternoon all to myself. I have big plans to be productive, but I start a new book, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, while I'm cooking the chicken for the week and lose all motivation. Once the chicken is done, I soak in a bath with a cherry bath bomb and read my book until it's finished.
5:30 p.m. — I prep overnight oats with a sprinkle of chia seeds as snacks for the week, and salads with avocado and chicken for lunch. I make my own salad dressing with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, and a mix of spices. I put on a few episodes of Schitt's Creek in the background for entertainment. I've been snacking on cookies all afternoon, so I skip dinner tonight.
7 p.m. — T. comes home and tells me all about the game. He won a jersey and a gift card for the bar, so he's excited despite his team losing. I drink oat milk hot chocolate and eat more cookies while we talk, then head to bed around 9:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $87.52
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