A Week In Vancouver, BC, On A $50,000 Salary

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.
We're now paying $150 for all future published Money Diaries! Read the details here and submit your diary here.

Today: a journalist working in media who makes $50,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on lavender sours.

Occupation: Journalist
Industry: Media
Age: 23
Location: Vancouver, BC
Salary: $50,000
Assets: $16,500 ($12,000 in my emergency fund, $1,000 in a slush fund for pricey months, $1,500 for travel, whenever that's a thing again, and $2,000 invested in a TFSA. I don't own property or a car.)
Debt: $8,400 (in federal and provincial loans I took to cover the last year of my degree)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,658
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $975 (This is for my half of a one-bedroom apartment I share with my partner, M. We have separate finances and use Splitwise to divide utilities, internet, rent, and car expenses.)
Internet, Hydro & Rental Insurance: $80 (for my share)
Parking: $62.50 (for my share of our parking spot)
Student Loans: $0 (My payments are on pause until next month due to the pandemic. I normally pay the monthly minimum of $146.)
Phone: $0 (covered by work)
Health & Dental Benefits: $0 (covered by work)
Spotify: $10
Netflix, Amazon Prime & Crave: $0 (Thanks, friends and family!)
The New York Times, NYT Cooking app, The 19th News & Patreon Subscriptions: $36.40
Black Lives Matter Donation: $100 (When I graduated from high school, I won a $1,000 award from a non-profit organization that has since taken a harmful and ignorant stance on Black Lives Matter, police in schools, and anti-Black racism in general. The organization clearly doesn't reflect basic decency or my values, so I've decided to pay the money forward to BLM in monthly instalments.)
Bank Fee: $16 (I miss being one of Leo's Young Savers. LOL)
Savings: $500 (to my travel and grad school fund)

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?
Going to university was never a question for me; it was where my interests lied. Both sets of my grandparents saved for my education since I was born, so I used that money to cover tuition and some rent until my last year, when I took out loans. I lived at home each summer and worked internships and part-time jobs. My parents helped me with living expenses, flights home to visit, and extended health benefits under their plans. My grandparents helped me with extras for my education twice: They covered my rent for three months while I was doing an unpaid internship and paid for a flight to China for an otherwise fully funded research program. They've also offered to pay my tuition if I pursue graduate studies as I plan to do before I'm 30. It's an extremely generous offer I never expected from them.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents gave my sister and I debit cards and small monthly allowances around age 10. The goal was to teach us how to spend, save, and donate. It was only later, in university, that they started talking with me about how to budget, build credit, and take out loans. When I was about 20, my discretionary spending got out of hand, and they stepped in to help me stick to a budget. I only just started learning the extent of the poverty my dad grew up in and how his experience contributes to the advice he gives me about being financially independent and investing in your future.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first real job was at age 15, working at the bakery in a local grocery store two days a week to save money for a six-week summer French program in Paris. I covered the trip completely on my own.

Did you worry about money growing up?
My parents made middle-class incomes when I was young, and we always had what we needed and more: taking short trips and doing soccer, dance, and art classes. My dad was promoted in my preteens, and suddenly we were travelling more and able to move into a nicer house. Certain things were still off limits, though, like expensive sleep-away camps in the summers when I could be working, and international travel as a family.

Do you worry about money now?
I moved home after graduation, which allowed me to save up, so I don't worry about money in the short-term. I also track and itemize my spending on Mint, so I feel in control, and I'm now starting to look at my strategy for paying back my debt and investing. I do worry about money in the long-run, though, because journalism is a low-paying, precarious industry, especially since it's been hit by the pandemic. I got an internship after graduating that set me on the journalism path, and it's the most rewarding work I've ever done, but I worry it won't pay enough for me to justify getting a master's degree — or allow me to support a family later on. Without a pension in my current role, I don't even know where to begin saving for retirement, or if that will even be possible for me. It breaks my heart to imagine leaving journalism for something less fulfilling that pays better, but I'm lucky that I have no major family responsibilities, so I can continue in the career I love for as long as the industry will have me.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I've been completely independent since moving in with M. six months ago. I have a safety net in that my parents have said I can always move back in with them for free. I wouldn't go to M. if I had a financial emergency, because he makes less than I do right now, but that will likely change when he finishes his PhD.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
At age 13, I inherited $300 from my dad's aunt, which I put toward my first laptop. My four grandparents together saved about $45,000 for my university education, and I will inherit a bit of money from them and my parents, but I don't know how much. I don't have a trust fund.

Day One

7:45 a.m. — Ten hours of sleep has made me a new woman. It's my first day back at work after 10 days of holidays and a long drive back from seeing family, so I snooze my alarm a couple of times (guess I'm not a totally new woman). I convince M. to come back to bed and cuddle before we have to face the world.
8:30 a.m. — I grab a blueberry muffin and grapes and login to Slack at my desk in the sunroom. I've been working from home since March. I miss human interaction, but it's nice to skip the commute and not get done up every day. The morning is spent going through a mountain of emails, checking my Twitter DMs for tips, and pitching my editor stories. It's nice to be back, but I really enjoyed my news cleanse. Being online all day is an adjustment. M. makes coffee and brings me mine with coconut creamer.
11 a.m. — My coffee is now cold, so I top it up and grab another muffin. I send interview requests, then have a quick newsroom meeting on Zoom. Afterwards, I take 30 minutes for lunch. We have zero fresh food in the house, so I make creamy braised white beans with toast using an NYT Cooking recipe. Sooo yummy, filling, and easy. M. heads to the lab, so I move to the couch to stretch my back, which is sore from yesterday's drive. I search for an expert for a series I'm planning.
3 p.m. — I grab my daily Coke Zero from the fridge and check personal emails. I submit a request for cash back on Rakuten. Using the site has been a fun way to earn a few extra bucks by doing my regular shopping. While I'm there, I order Bumble & bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer from Sephora and a few free samples ($56.30). I keep plugging away on preliminary research, then transfer a friend my share for a new Apple remote. It broke while a few of us were watching TV together over the weekend, but no one knows who did it, so we're all pitching in ($14). $70.30
4:30 p.m. — I'm done work and get sucked in by an ad for the Plenty warehouse sale. My go-to T-shirt is discounted, and I just stained my favourite white one. I order two in white, one in black, and one in mustard yellow for fall, and ship them to a nearby store for free. $60.58
5:45 p.m. — I go to IGA with my mask to grab Pizza Pops for M., bagels, eggs, Greek yogurt, a tomato, a cucumber, a bottle of ginger kombucha, and two small flatbreads to bake for an easy dinner. I genuinely love grocery shopping, so I do it for both of us, and we share the cooking. We're changing how we split groceries now that M. is going into work and packing his lunch more often, but I split this small haul down the middle, because it's all shared. $16.80
6:40 p.m. — I bake the flatbreads, put in laundry, and we have a good dinner talk about holidays and pandemic travel in the fall and winter. We've kept our bubble small and have been careful to always wear masks and distance, but BC's case numbers have been going up steadily, and we still really want to be able to see our families for Christmas. We don't decide anything, but it's nice to be on the same page about our shared exposure risks, even though we're both lucky we're not working on the frontlines.
7:15 p.m. — We drive over to see our bubble friends, O. and R., and watch the hockey game. I bring over cookies my grandma sent us, along with muffins I baked, and enjoy my kombucha instead of a beer to give my liver a break after a weekend of heavier-than-usual drinking. The pandemic has aged me many years already, and I've been trying to cut back on casual beers. With the constant flow of information I have to stay on top of for work, it's been hard to relax and log off social media, and I feel like I'm more mentally tired than I used to be. I've also had trouble carving out time to exercise, and I feel it impacting my energy levels and alcohol tolerance. Riding my bike has been a godsend, but I still feel like I don't have the energy I did even a year ago.
10 p.m. — When we get home, I do my skin-care routine: Éminence cleanser and moisturizer, prescription spot cream, and The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA, and Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG. I kiss M. goodnight. I usually go to sleep before him, which gives me ample opportunity to starfish across the bed.
Daily Total: $147.68

Day Two

7:25 a.m. — I wake up to pee and hit snooze a couple of times. M. brings me coffee in bed, and we cuddle for a couple of minutes before he goes to a meeting in the home office. I check my socials in bed, grab another muffin and Greek yogurt with strawberry jam on top, and sign on to work by 8:30 a.m.
11:10 a.m. — My student loan payments are restarting, so I update my Mint budget. I also make sure the rent was pulled from my account yesterday and check Poshmark to see if I've gotten any offers on an Aritzia skirt I listed. I've been trying to clear out my closet and save the proceeds. After my normal noon meeting, I have leftover beans with cheddar and extra chili flakes, and go back to my laptop for a couple hours of interviews. I peruse Tangerine's no-fee chequing account on my break because I'm getting tired of paying bank fees now that I'm not a student.
2:40 p.m. — Oops. I laid down in bed for five minutes after my last interview, M. came to say hi, and we got carried away with whatever euphemism Money Diaries readers can stand this week. This is a work-from-home first for us, and I'm not complaining. I grab a Coke Zero afterwards and resolve to work later to make up for the lost time.
5:10 p.m. — I file my story and sign off after edits are done, then set out on one of my regular bike rides to the Fraser River and back. The 15 kilometres feels like a slog after a week away from my bike, but Strava tells me I actually crushed my personal best by a couple of minutes. I also see some very good dogs, and wow, I miss my family dog!
6:30 p.m. — I get home and take a quick shower, then M. and I make BLTs for dinner with bacon we had leftover in the freezer, except I forgot the lettuce, so we have cucumber on the side. We spend the evening watching Trinkets and basketball while I do the Summer Fridays Overtime face mask and make us honey-ginger tea (and sneak a cookie bar M.'s mom gave us). This would've been an ideal night for a big grocery shop but, alas, I'm already chilling.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

2:25 a.m. — The tea is haunting me, and I wake up having to pee sooo badly.
7:45 a.m. — After some very vivid dreams and a few more wakeups, my alarm goes off, and I snooze. I've been trying to go to bed early during quarantine, because my days are much more tiring than before, even though I'm mostly in one place. Anyone else feel this way? Once a muffin is scarfed over the sink, I make coffee and am at my desk in my PJs, plugging away at a story.
9:40 a.m. — My Sephora order arrives, so I grab it, immediately use the hair oil, and hope my newfound goddess status is apparent over Zoom.
12 p.m. — I take a short lunch break to finish the beans (finally) with slices of tomato. Back at my desk, I suck on a popsicle and contemplate how little progress I've made on my story before my afternoon of meetings. Sometimes I wish I was in the office so my colleagues could hold me accountable, but I feel lucky to have work I can do safely at home. I blowdry my hair with a sample of Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Smoothing Anti-Frizz Blowout Butter, and I will definitely be buying this product — my usually frizzy, wavy mane is silky smooth!
3 p.m. — I make progress on my story and grab the last (shudder) Coke Zero to tide me over between meetings.
4:15 p.m. — I wrap work early on account of my short lunch and bike five minutes to get my nails done. It's the one personal grooming thing I've kept up with during the pandemic, because it stops me from biting my nails. The salon staff is masked, I wash my hands before and after, they take my temperature, and I feel very safe. I choose an iris colour with two iridescent lavender accent nails. I rebook for three weeks from now and leave a 25% tip. I have enough loyalty points to save $25 next time! $88.20
5:45 p.m. — My tire is flat when I get back to my bike, so I walk the 20 minutes home, then M. drives us over to O. and R.'s place for another hockey game. We order pizza for the four of us from Via Tevere and play Mario Kart between periods. We alternate paying for dinners, so M. and I pay for the order tonight. It's $37.44 for my share, which is steep for three pizzas, but they're yummy. $37.44
11 p.m. — I do my skin-care routine, brush my teeth, and turn out the lights after watching a few TikToks my Gen Z sister sent me today.
Daily Total: $125.64

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I snooze, cuddle M., then hop in the shower. I can't be bothered to shave my legs this early, so it's a quick one. My conditioner is almost out, so I make a note to hit Winners soon to replenish (they have the best deals on shampoo). I eat the last muffin as I check my emails, set my to-do list, and settle in for a morning of interviews. M. brings me coffee with coconut creamer. Such service, and the waiter is cute to boot! Between interviews, I sign up with Tangerine to catch a promo they have going with the Raptors.
11:45 a.m. — It's been a busy morning, and I break quickly to jazz up instant ramen with miso, an egg, and zucchini. Did I tell you I really need to go grocery shopping? My best friend texts to cancel a coffee date, which is a slight relief because I have a lot to do.
3:30 p.m. — I've filed both my stories and am waiting for edits, so I clean up my inbox, make my to-do list for next week, and call my aunt for advice on my debt payment and saving strategy. I decide to keep paying the minimum on my loan, so I can save more for graduate school.
4:45 p.m. — I swing by the post office to confirm my identity for my new Tangerine account and then grab an Evo car share to drive to the blood donation clinic. $6.83
5:45 p.m. — Donation is slower than normal but fine, and I feel safe with everyone wearing masks and distancing. I've been donating since I turned 17, and it's a nice routine that makes me feel like I'm helping even when I'm not working on the frontlines. M. picks me up outside while I'm eating my chips and a juice box, and we drive to O. and R.'s to watch the hockey game again. O. makes everyone pasta with tomato sauce, zucchini, bell peppers, and cheddar cheese. M. drives us home around 10 p.m., and I watch a bit of the new Netflix movie, Love, Guaranteed, before bed. It's so cheesy, but I love seeing Vancouver pretending to be Seattle.
Daily Total: $6.83

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — Why has age 23 ended my ability to sleep in on weekends? Why is the sun my personal enemy? I make a smoothie with frozen mango, yogurt, and almond milk, then hop in the shower. I get dressed in a black tank top and distressed black Levi's wedgie jeans with my Birks, blowdry my hair, and put on a bit of makeup: Neutrogena sunscreen, Garnier BB cream, The Ordinary primer, Smashbox concealer, Laura Mercier powder, and CoverGirl mascara. Then I mask up and go to IGA for groceries (finally). I get coffee, hotdogs, black beans, tomato paste, chicken thighs, bread, bagels, cheddar, hot dog buns, deli ham, spring mix, cucumber, a red pepper, garlic, an avocado, limes, red onion, coconut milk, broccoli, and chips. I only do IGA runs for smaller trips, because it's walkable. M. picks me up from No Frills or Safeway for bigger shops. $48.45 (for my half)
12:15 p.m. — M. gets back from the BC Liquor Store with beers ($14.94 for my lavender sours), and we pack everything up for a picnic with a few good friends. I bring hotdogs, the spring mix with sliced red pepper and cucumber, chips, and the beers. We pick up my best friend, who is essentially wearing my outfit. We have a laugh and drive to a park in Burnaby to set up our grill and have a relaxing afternoon of bocce and playing with our friend's new dog. This afternoon is the closest to retirement I'll ever get, and I love it. We're with my closest friends from undergrad, and it's so nice to be in the same city, spending time together with our partners, although I do miss our hype nights out together. $14.94
7 p.m. — We're too tired to cook, even though we just got groceries, so we make Kraft Dinner and have a relaxed evening. I finish season two of Trinkets (that photo display!), and M. watches basketball. I'm falling asleep at 9 p.m., so I brush my teeth, wash my face, and am out like a light by 9:30 p.m. Remember leaving for the bar at 11 p.m. and getting home at 3 a.m.? Me neither!
Daily Total: $63.39

Day Six

3:45 a.m. — Oh my god I have to pee.
8:20 a.m. — M. is up and comes back to bed to cuddle and fool around, then he makes us both coffee. I make a two-egg omelette with cheese, toast, and sriracha, while we chat. We're figuring out what to do today when our friend texts me. Her boyfriend is in town, and they want to go to Bowen Island for a hike. M. has chores and class prep to do, but I'm in. I get dressed in cycling shorts and a tank and pack sandwiches and freezer muffins for the day.
11:40 a.m. — I have a couple of scoops of leftover KD with extra cheddar grated on top. Can you tell I like cheese? My friends pick me up, and we go to the ferry, which is sadly full! Instead, we drive back into town to hang out on the beach. We spend a few hours suntanning and dipping our feet in the water, and I grab a gelato from the beach concession ($7.85). They drop me off at home, and I immediately take a body shower to rinse off the sand and salt. $7.85
6:30 p.m. — I make black bean tacos with pickled spicy onions from an NYT Cooking recipe, and they are delish! Then I watch a bit of New Girl but quickly switch to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on a belated 10th anniversary watch.
10:15 p.m. — Late night for me! I make ginger tea with honey, do my face mask, dye my eyebrows, and get into bed to read some of They Said This Would Be Fun by Eternity Martis.
Daily Total: $7.85

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — Why can't I sleep in?! M. is already up and gaming on the couch, so I start the first season of Selling Sunset in bed and have a slow morning. For brunch, I make toast with leftover beans from the tacos and an egg on top. Then I take a shower and shave.
12:30 p.m. — With a bit of elbow grease, I manage to fix the tube in my bike tire. I have leftover spring mix salad with miso dressing and a toasted tomato and mayo sandwich for lunch (truly the best late-summer sandwich; you can quote me on that).
1:30 p.m. — The bike is not actually fixed, dear reader. This I learn, luckily, before we leave on a ride to meet O. and R at the beach. We drive instead, and parking is a nightmare. Cars are circling like vultures around anyone walking to their vehicle. I'm in a bad mood, but we figure it out by booking an Evo car share parked nearby. We pull up right beside the Evo car, I move it, and M. pulls our car into the spot right behind me. Evos have designated parking nearby, so I drop the car there, and we walk back to the beach. $3.41
2 p.m. — We play frisbee, and I enjoy a lavender sour and chips. I also listen to one of my Patreon subscriptions, a podcast called Is This For Real? about police in schools in Canada. It's amazing how much my mood improved by being outside and seeing friends!
6:50 p.m. — We order Thai food for the four of us, because we have a great Uber Eats promo that expires today. We go back to our place to pick it up and eat while watching the hockey game ($22.50 for my share). O. and R. bike home afterwards, and I spend the evening watching more Selling Sunset (do these people hear themselves?!), while M. takes a long bath. I have to use the bathroom around 10 p.m., and I feel bad kicking him out, but we're just not at the peeing-in-front-of-each-other stage yet! My alarm is set early to start work before a physio appointment, so I kiss M. goodnight and fall asleep sprawled across the bed. $22.50
Daily Total: $25.91
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view.

For more money diaries, click here. Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money