A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $53,000 Salary

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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.
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Today: a law clerk who makes $53,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on underwear.

Occupation: Clerk
Industry: Law
Age: 25
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $53,000
Net Worth: $2,000 ($10,000 in a GIC and $5,000 in savings, minus the debt below)
Debt: $13,000 (student loans)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,460
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,150 (The total rent for my two-bedroom unit is $2,100, and my roommate pays $950.)
Student Loans: $238.90
Internet: $70
Hydro: $50
Phone: $65
Spotify: $14.99 (I pay for the family plan)
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crave, Disney+, Apple Music: $0 (covered by friends and family)
Wealthsimple Investment: $100

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?
Absolutely. I don't think my parents even thought for a second that I wouldn't attend university. It was a constant topic of conversation during dinners, and I definitely felt pressured to seek higher education. I moved away after high school to attend university on the other side of the country. My parents paid for tuition and living expenses for that first year, and I took out student loans to cover the other years. I plan to go to law school and take out student loans for that as well.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents taught me it's always better to save than to spend. I think it's the immigrant mentality my parents had, and I definitely resented them for it, especially when I would see my friends going on family vacations or eating out. My parents didn't have many conversations about money with me and my siblings — they thought money problems should be dealt with by the adults.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a paint-your-own-pottery place. I only wanted a job because my older sister had one, and it seemed like so much fun. I don't think I needed to get a job, but it gave me independence and something to do outside of school. I loved having a part-time job and controlling how I spent my money. I've also worked at a grocery store, bookstore, and cafe. I got my first full-time job, as a law clerk, right out of university.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I'm very grateful that I didn't have to worry about money growing up. We weren't necessarily rich, but I know we lived comfortably, and my siblings and I always got what we asked for. Knowing what I know now, I'm beyond impressed that my dad provided for a family of five (my mom's been a homemaker since day one).

Do you worry about money now?
Not until last year. COVID made me realize anyone can be laid off. Also, now that I'm 25, I should be buckling down to save for a permanent home AND law school. There's a lot to save for, and my salary is not where I want it to be.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I started paying for my rent and tuition at age 18. When I turned 20, my brother moved to Toronto for school, and we lived together. My parents helped support us for the next couple of years, then he moved back to Calgary, and I've been financially responsible for the last three years. My parents and my older sister are my safety net. I hope I never get to that point, though!
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Day One

7:30 a.m. — I've been trying to wake up an hour before work to give myself time to make my bed, make breakfast, drink coffee, and enjoy time to myself. I jump in the shower and do my skin-care routine (By Mi AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner, The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, and COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream). I make a breakfast burrito with a sundried tomato tortilla, eggs, avocado, salsa, and nutritional yeast, and make myself an iced oat milk latte to drink while I work. Before I sit down, I take my supplements (iron, vitamin D, collagen, ashwagandha, and calcium).
11:30 a.m. — Work's been slow today, so I browse online for a new office chair. The office chair that I've been using since before COVID finally gave up and broke last weekend (broke my heart and my confidence a little bit). I look for 45 minutes and give up. I answer a few emails and go to the kitchen to make fire noodles and boiled eggs. After voluntarily torturing my mouth with the noodles, I treat myself to a brown sugar ice cream bar.
2:30 p.m. — Work's even slower this afternoon, so I let myself fall into a pit of YouTube videos. I've been obsessed (seriously obsessed) with Leah's Fieldnotes, Lindseyrem, and O'won. YouTube is my only form of entertainment during work because I'm not on social media, aside from LinkedIn, which I use for work. I deleted Facebook in high school and just never bothered with the others. I feel like I'd be wasting time on something that doesn't get me anything in return (obviously an unpopular opinion), and it's so easy to fall into a negative space when you start comparing your life to others, which is impossible not to do on social media. But the biggest reason is that I can't keep up with it! I'm bad at checking my phone so I usually miss all my calls and respond to texts super-late. Social media would just feel like another chore. I'm in no way saying that it's evil or unnecessary. There are perks to having it that I constantly miss out on, but if I weigh out all the positives and the negatives, I always come to a conclusion that I can live without it.
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5 p.m. — As soon as the clock hits 5 p.m., I close my laptop and sit on the couch to soak up the sun (it's so rare these days) and read Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You. The title is self-explanatory, and I love applying what I learned in this book not only to my room but my friends' rooms. I respond to personal emails and blend my detox juice. Years ago, my mom told me about this juice that supposedly cleanses your liver and aids digestion. You boil cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes and chill the veggies in the fridge. Whenever you want to have the juice, you toss some in a blender with a banana. It sounds super-nasty but you mostly taste the banana, and it's pretty filling. I made a big batch over the weekend to drink throughout the week.
6:30 p.m. — I jump on the bike for a 35-minute workout. My roommate has a bike on a stand for indoor cycling, and it's my new year's resolution to work out five days a week. After the ride, I stretch and do a 10-minute arm and back workout by Blogilates, then hop in the shower, followed by a bath sprinkled with Dr Teal's Epsom salts. I zone out for 20 minutes, then moisturize my face and body with coconut oil. Dinner is a protein bar because I'm fullish from the detox juice.
8:30 p.m. — I sit down to study for my upcoming paralegal licensing exam. Back in 2018, I took a year-long paralegal program but never completed the licensing exam. During the holiday, I decided that I'll write it at the end of February, and there are over 700 pages of study material to go through. I'm regretting not ordering a chair earlier because sitting on a stool for eight-plus hours is killing my back.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — It's so hard to get out of bed, but the sound of my roommate showering motivates me to get up. I have a toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel with Tofutti cream cheese and fig jam on top, then take my extensive list of supplements, make my iced oat milk latte in a hurry, and log into work. I see that there are calls scheduled for today so that should keep me busy.
11 a.m. — After the calls, I don't have much to do, so I make rice for lunch. Before I know it, I'm doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen, drinking Kombucha, and sautéeing eggplants and green onions to go with my rice (I put the eggplant mixture on the rice and plug in the rice cooker as usual). My roommate shares my lunch, and we talk about his new job.
5 p.m. — I quickly blend up my detox juice and get ready to go to my friend's for dinner and drinks. My roommate wants to go on a walk, so we head out together, and I stop at a convenience store for cigarettes ($18.98). My friend and I eat roasted chicken and rice and drink beer (I've been obsessed with Sawdust City Viva La Stout). $18.98
11 p.m. — After hours of reminiscing about the pre-COVID days, I call an Uber because it's freezing out. My roommate is still awake when I get home, so we chat, and I do my skin-care routine, brush my teeth, hang up my clothes, and go to bed. $10.37
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Daily Total: $29.35

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I have a slight hangover so I chug water, skip breakfast, and make my iced oat milk latte. I listen to @lexie, one of my favourite podcasts, while I brush my teeth and do my skin-care routine before work.
10 a.m. — A craving for sweet potato fries suddenly hits me, so I pop some in the air fryer, which I got for my birthday last year. It truly is life-changing and saves so much time. I quickly make sriracha mayo for dipping.
1:30 p.m. — Work picked up, so I'm only taking a break now. I jump on the bike for my 35-minute ride, then take a quick shower, and whip up a taco/burrito wrap with ground beef I prepped last weekend, lettuce, avocado, and salsa. I've made it my mission to log everything I spend in a month, so I write my recent purchases in my notebook. I did this for the first time in January and was shook! I spent $250 over my projection, which made me realize I spend carelessly and often don't even check the cost of each transaction. That kind of behaviour needs to end because I'm trying to save as much as I can.
5:30 p.m. — I make rice, boil bean sprouts, and whip up a spicy soy sauce. I mix them all together with sesame oil for the most perfect meal. (I've been on a Korean food kick.) I take all of my supplements and to eat my meal while watching Midnight Diner on Netflix. The show is in Japanese, and I have to sit in front of the TV and read the subtitles to understand what's going on. Then my roommate convinces me to go on a walk with him to a cafe 20 minutes away, so we head out, and he treats me to a s'mores hot chocolate.
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7 p.m. — My roommate and I go to Whole Foods because he needs essentials, and I need to get outside. I'm determined not to get anything because I did my grocery shopping last weekend, but then I remember I need bananas. On my way to the cash register, I make the mistake of walking past the chocolate aisle and end up with peanut butter cups, too. $5.43
8:30 p.m. — I make black tea with oat milk so I can stay alert for my paralegal studying. I browse the web for an office chair and find one I sort of like. I'm not 100% convinced that it's the one for me. After hitting my reading goal for the day, I do my skin-care routine and head off to bed.
Daily Total: $5.43

Day Four

8 a.m. — I make my iced oat milk latte and read more of my book while listening to the new Mac Ayres album. I'm feeling grateful for everything I have and remember that I haven't called my parents in a while, mostly because of the time difference between Toronto and Seoul. Calling them always makes me feel grounded and happy. I FaceTime my dad and talk about the COVID situation where they live. Seoul never really had a lockdown. Instead, everyone was subject to COVID testing and contact tracing, which allowed the government to contain the spread. My dad's shocked that I'm still working from home (for almost a year now), and that we still can't dine indoors. Seoul does have restrictions on social gatherings, but compared to Toronto, it seems like they're able to do almost anything and everything.
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12 p.m. — I make bean sprout rice again and reply to my friend's texts. She wants me to join in on a charcuterie board delivery, so I agree and transfer her $20 for my share. I take my supplements and go back to my desk for a call at 1 p.m. $20
2:30 p.m. — I've finally had enough of sitting on a stool and order the chair I had my eye on last night. My friend has been looking for a new one as well, so I FaceTime her and share the link to the one I bought. I start watching an episode of a Korean reality show called I Live Alone and fantasize about living in Seoul with my parents. $237.29
5:30 p.m. — I jump on the bike and continue watching I Live Alone. Today's ride is especially hard, and I contemplate decreasing the resistance level but stick through it. I take a shower, moisturize with coconut oil, and put on a collagen sheet mask.
6:30 p.m. — Tonight's dinner is pasta with cherry tomatoes and bocconcini, plus sweet potato fries on the side. (I'm getting creative with what's left in the fridge.) I cover the pasta with nutritional yeast and inhale it while I wait for the sweet potatoes to finish in the air fryer. I feel super-full so I make an Aveda tea to help my stomach digest.
8 p.m. — I sit down for more readings and dream about sitting on a real chair to study. After I hit my reading goal, I do my skin-care routine and gua sha my face and neck before bed.
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Daily Total: $257.29

Day Five

8:15 a.m. — TGIF! And also payday! I get up and blend my detox juice for breakfast, then chat with my roommate while I make my iced oat milk latte. I clean my bathroom and the kitchen before sitting down for work.
11 a.m. — Lunch is bean sprout rice AGAIN. It's so easy and addictive. The less time I take to make food, the more time I have to watch YouTube during my lunch hour. I watch Chris Klemens and Moya Mawhinney videos while I eat.
2:30 p.m. — I'm planning to go to Nespresso to pick up coffee pods tomorrow so I put in an advance order. Being able to make espresso drinks at home has been such a blessing — and it's been saving me so much money. $39
5 p.m. — I close my laptop at 5 p.m. on the dot and jump on the bike. I'm in a great mood because it's payday! I breeze through the ride, finish the Blogilates arm workout as well, then take a shower and a bath with Epsom salts again. I mix jasmine essential oil in my coconut oil to moisturize my body.
7 p.m. — Dinner is more of the pasta I had last night but with shrimp. I've been making an effort to eat less meat for environmental reasons. I try to eat it only once a day and make the rest of my meals vegetarian or even vegan. My roommate and I watch Trailer Park Boys, then I go to bed.
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Daily Total: $39

Day Six

8 a.m. — My body is used to waking up around 8 a.m., so I can't sleep in even though it's the weekend. Since I have all the time in the world, I make pancakes and pop bananas in the air fryer to put on top.
9:30 a.m. — One thing I really want to work on this year is my LinkedIn profile. It's been missing a picture for a long time, so I put on makeup and a nice shirt to take professional-looking photos. The results aren't great, so I might ask my friend to take one for me.
1 p.m. — My roommate and I head out to pick up my Nespresso order and get groceries, but there's a huge line for the grocery store, so we decide to go another day and stop by our favourite cafe instead. I get a miso dark hot chocolate and tip the barista. I can only imagine how hard it is to be a barista during COVID and to have to wear a mask the entire time! $6.50
5:30 p.m. — My chair arrives two days before the delivery date! I put on some Sylo Nozra and Jeremy Zucker and assemble it. While I'm at it, I rearrange the entire room. I get into weird moods and move my furniture around every now and then.
7 p.m. — I order oat milk online, which comes with free shipping if I spend more than $35, so I add coffee syrup and cleaning spray to cross the $35 threshold. I jump on the bike for another 35-minute ride, then shower and have a protein bar and detox juice for dinner. $44.83
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9:30 p.m. — I've been meaning to get new underwear for weeks and keep putting it off. I find a good deal online and buy them right away. I feel slightly guilty for spending more than I planned to today, but all my purchases were necessary. My roommate makes a late-night snack of sweet potato fries, so I have a few and get ready for bed. $35.85
Daily Total: $87.18

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up in a strange mood and go on a cleaning rampage: I throw my laundry into the washer, tidy the living room, and clean the kitchen. Afterward, I make an iced oat milk latte and have fire noodles with boiled eggs.
1 p.m. — I walk to a Dollarama 30 minutes away. It feels nice to have alone time and weekend walks are such mood boosters. It's cold out but super-sunny, and I want to take advantage of the sunlight. I pick up a notebook, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, a six-foot extension cord, and coin wrappers, then walk to the grocery store. $9.04
2 p.m. — Thankfully, the grocery store isn't packed. Every time I come here, it's super-busy, so this is a pleasant surprise. I pick up tofu, tangerines, broccoli, Vietnamese instant coffee mix, rice cakes, fried tofu balls, and sweet potatoes. It's absolutely beautiful outside, so I walk home with my groceries. $21.93
3 p.m. — I do my workout on the bike, and I'm excited about food now that I've gotten some exercise in. I make a hot pot for one and add lotus root, Napa cabbage, fried tofu balls, and beef. My roommate and I chat about Superbowl Sunday (tonight) and our plans for next week.
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6 p.m. — I drink my detox juice and start making oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies for fun. Then I get some readings done; the exam date is coming up and I'm getting anxious. I can study in peace now that I have a proper office chair in my room.
8 p.m. — My roommate calls me out of my room just in time for the half-time show. I didn't think it would be as entertaining as last year's because, well, Shakira and J Lo. How can you compete? Still, the Weeknd's performance exceeds my expectations. I almost feel like it's too short. After the show, I clean the mess I made in the kitchen with the hot pot and the cookies. I don't feel like baking the cookies tonight, so I pop them in the fridge until tomorrow and do my skin-care routine before bed.
Daily Total: $30.97
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