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A Week In Edmonton, AB, On A $61,000 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.

Today: a policy advisor working in government who makes $61,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on pierogies.
Editor's note: This diary was submitted before the latest COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta.
Occupation: Policy Advisor
Industry: Government
Age: 24
Location: Edmonton, AB
Salary: $61,000
Net Worth: $26,735 (I have $12,580 in my chequing account and $17,805 in savings. There's more in my chequing account than usual because I'm preparing a lump-sum payment for my student loan once my sweet three-paycheque-month money comes in.)
Debt: $3,650
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,561
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,164 (for a bachelor that includes utilities)
Student Loan: $275
Internet: $52.45
Phone: $80
Renter's Insurance: $15.19
Union Dues: $30 (deducted from my paycheque)
EI Premiums: $37.78 (deducted from my paycheque)
Pension: $374.54 (deducted from my paycheque)
Medical & Dental Benefits: $47.07 (deducted from my paycheque)
Amazon Prime: $9.03
Spotify: $9.99
Netflix: $0 Netflix (mooched off family)

Annual Expense
Disney+: $89.99 (shared with my family)

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 dad went to college and works in the trades, and my mom stopped at high school and was a stay-at-home mom for a good portion of my life, so I never felt there was an expectation for me to attend higher education. However, out of my siblings, I was always the more scholastic one, so it didn't surprise anyone when I went to university. My parents contributed some money to my tuition, but I paid for most of my schooling through student loans and scholarships. I graduated with just under $35,000 in student debt.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents adopted a "don't worry about it/don't ask about it" attitude when it came to our finances, but they loved to speculate about other people's money. So no, I didn't get much of an education on finances from my family — or even from school. I've had to figure it out myself, and I'm still learning.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was babysitting, which I got by networking while volunteering at the local library's after-school program. (Go, preteen me! Although, TBH, I hated working with kids.) After that, I was a cashier at my university's bookstore, which was appealing because I could get discounted textbooks (which were still overpriced even with the discount).

Did you worry about money growing up?
I always knew I would have a roof over my head, food, clothes, and whatever else I needed. My parents wanted the best for us and didn't want us to miss out, which often meant they would live beyond their means. Even now, they don't seem to be fazed by large purchases or late payments, which tend to freak me out. I'm thankful for everything my parents have provided, but I don't think they helped foster the healthiest relationship with money.

Do you worry about money now?
Constantly. Even now that I have a steady income, there's a part of me that feels like a paranoid squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter (nuts = money, winter = fear of layoffs). Any large purchases, no matter how essential, fill me with dread and make my skin itch. I worked from home on a barstool at my kitchen island for a full two months before I caved and bought a chair and computer stand because my back was hurting so much. I've been trying to give myself permission to enjoy life and accept the expenses that come with that.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved into my first apartment at age 18. From there, I was fully financially responsible for myself. I have a financial safety net in my parents, who are incredibly supportive. If I needed their help, they would provide it, no questions asked.

Day One

8:25 a.m. — Normally, I would be up and working at this time, but I took today off for a dentist appointment. Even with the extra time to sleep in, I still don't want to get up yet, so I lounge and scroll on social media. Okay, that's enough. First things first: a shower. Or not. I forgot that plumbing work is being done in my building, and the hot water is turned off. Great planning. Dry shampoo it is.
11:30 a.m. — I've been dreaming about my mom's chocolate-zucchini loaf, but I don't have a loaf pan so I convert the recipe to muffins. I'd rate my cooking skills somewhere between idiot sandwich and master chef. Today, I'm leaning sandwich. I should've halved the recipe because now I have 18 kinda dry muffins, which is a lot for one person. I also make potato hash with vegetables, a fried egg, green onions, and hot sauce. I eat while watching Queer Eye.
2:30 p.m. — Obviously, no one enjoys the dentist, but I do kinda like hearing that I'm doing a good job with my oral hygiene. Also, the free toothbrush. The appointment is fully covered by benefits and my health spending account at work. I grab a chai latte on the way home. $4.65
5:30 p.m. — My meal kit box arrives! Meal kit boxes are not cheap — they're definitely a luxury — but I typically only order a box if I have a credit or discount. This week I have 20% off, making the box $63.14 (paid when I ordered previously). I make the hot honey chicken with corn and snap peas kit. With that, I'm having a Belgian white ale and watching TV to end the day.
Daily Total: $4.65

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Time to get up for work. These days I'm working from home, so there's not much getting ready to do. Full disclosure: I'm going to wear pajama bottoms all day. For breakfast, I have zucchini muffins warmed up with butter. This will be a common theme this week. Also coffee.
12 p.m. — Work has been full speed since I signed in. For lunch, I'm having leftover hot honey chicken followed by mint tea while watching a home tour and a couple of thrifting hauls on YouTube.
7:30 p.m. — Dinner is leftover potato hash from yesterday's brunch. I don't feel like frying an egg, so I top it with Greek yogurt and, of course, hot sauce. To keep me company, I put on Pokémon Detective Pikachu. I'm not sure about this movie going in, but it's pretty good, and I like seeing what our world would look like with Pokémon in it. Also, do you remember the summer Pokémon GO came out? The vibe of that summer is the polar opposite of quarantine summer.
10:30 p.m. — Ugh, I over-snacked on chips and cheese and now I feel gross. Before bed, I update my spending tracker. I'm not good at setting a budget, but I like to track my monthly income and expenses in an Excel spreadsheet. I haven't updated it in a while so I fill in January and February. January looks scary with $7,258 in total spending, but that includes a $5,000 lump-sum payment I put toward my student loan. February looks more reasonable with $2,136 (including all fixed costs). I tend to only spend about $150 a week, mostly on food, above and beyond fixed costs. I could definitely be more aggressive with saving if I prioritized it. Before bed, I run the dishwasher and pretend it's the sound of the ocean (DIY white noise).
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I waste way too much time lying in bed listening to the radio. Once I do get up, I get dressed, put in my contacts, and do basic makeup (Aveeno moisturizer with SPF, Maybelline concealer for my dark circles, NYX eyeliner, and Clarins mascara). I make a blueberry green tea, grab a muffin, and start my work computer.
12 p.m. — I have a BOGO code for Starbucks so I'm meeting up with a friend to treat her to coffee (is it considered treating if her drink is free?) and to give her some of the muffins I made. We both get the new Iced Brown Sugar Oat Shaken Espresso (wow, such a long name), which is actually quite good ($6.25). We still have time in our lunch breaks so we stop by the grocery store. I pick up bananas, dark chocolate almonds, and frozen Buffalo cauliflower ($13.55). $19.80
6:30 p.m. — One of my friends from back home in Ontario calls. We usually watch The Bachelor together, but it's the off-season now, so we mostly complain about work and adulting. For dinner, I'm making steak and potato salad from one of my meal kits. Yes, I prefer my steak on the well-done side, and no I'm not currently taking criticism. While I eat, I watch The Masked Singer (the Russian doll is my favourite).
10:30 p.m. — I jam out to '00s rock anthems while I shower and remove my makeup using Garnier micellar water and reusable cotton pads I got from Simons. My face feels dry, so I also use serum by Way Of Will. I don't know much about the brand because I got the serum in a subscription box, but it's Canadian and usually costs $45.
Daily Total: $19.80

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I didn't sleep well. Breakfast is more muffins and a cup of white tea (cookie dough flavour from DavidsTea, which might be discontinued).
12:15 p.m. — I'm debating taking a nap during lunch, but I need to eat and can't turn off my brain. Lunch is leftover steak from yesterday. My meal kit recipes are supposed to make two servings, but I can usually stretch that to three meals. This one is only enough for two, which kinda sucks.
1:30 p.m. — I'm feeling anxious because I have a presentation for work this afternoon. I've made mint tea to help calm me and soothe my stomach. To distract myself, I call my optometrist and ask about ordering new glasses... And now the fire alarm in my building is being tested, which is annoying, but at least it's going off before my presentation instead of during it.
5:15 p.m. — Work was exhausting today, and I have more public speaking tomorrow, too. I don't have the energy to do anything interesting or productive tonight. I zone out watching comforting movies (Wall-E and Anastasia). For dinner, I'm having cauliflower wings, chocolate almonds, and beer. Very balanced and healthy, I know.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — It's Friday! I make a smoothie with Greek yogurt, a banana, frozen spinach, frozen blueberries, and cinnamon honey. I also drink tea while I work.
2 p.m. — I waste my lunch break scrolling on Instagram. It's scary to think about how much time I've probably spent on social media. I have a very sad, late lunch of muffins. I'm as invested in work as you would expect right before the weekend.
5:30 p.m. — I want tacos for dinner, but I still have pork and apple burgers from my meal kit box. This might be a bit weird, but I will often spend a full hour looking at food delivery options, thinking about all the tasty things that I could get, and then just eat something I already have at home. Other times, I'll browse and then consult my Magic 8-Ball about whether or not it's worth the money. And, of course, there are days when I just say eff it and order what I want. Today, I'm negotiating with myself: You have tacos in a meal kit box that's arriving in a couple of days, so at least you won't have to wait long. And burgers are good. You like apples, especially Granny Smith. Pork and apple burgers are what you want. Relax, there is no war in Ba Sing Se... Wow, my burgers are so good and exactly what I wanted!
12 a.m. — I make it halfway through The Devil Wears Prada before my sister calls. We spend the next couple of hours swapping theories about The Masked Singer and trying to name every CD-ROM game we played as kids.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

10 a.m. — I don't remember the last time I slept in this long. The weather looks bad, so I plan on having no plans today. I make a Tim Hortons French Vanilla, light a nice candle, and play Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing on my Switch.
12:30 p.m. — My parents call to chat. I haven't seen them in person since Christmas. I was fortunate to have had the flexibility and time off from work to quarantine before and after both flights, so I could safely visit. They really want me to fly home again for my mom's 50th birthday, but I wouldn't be able to take the same precautions and can't justify the risk to my family or anyone else. It sucks, and I know pretty much everyone at this point can empathize with the disappointment of missing out on important life events. I've been doing the virtual thing since I moved to Edmonton, and I know moving here was the right decision for my professional development and finances, but I can't help feeling lonely because of the distance. At least with COVID, we're all lonely together.
6 p.m. — Today has been an exceptionally lazy day. Despite all of my best efforts, I order beef brisket pierogies and a root beer ($27.14). In other questionable decisions, I watch Twilight while I eat. The awkwardness and moody angst of this movie are hilarious — everyone looks like they're in constant pain. $27.14
Daily Total: $27.14

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up early to shower and put my laundry in before the Sunday rush. I do two wash loads and one dryer, which uses up $6.75 from my prepaid laundry card. I try to help out future me and add $25 to my card, but the machine is out of order. Have I complained about my building enough yet? I also make oatmeal with blueberries and lemon curd for breakfast. I wish I made cold brew before I went to bed last night. I settle for iced coffee instead, which I'm drinking black because I'm out of milk, and sip it while doing some Sudoku and looking at the grocery flyer.
3 p.m. — I prepare and decorate next month's pages in my bullet journal. I got my journal as a part of a New Year's resolution to practise more mindfulness. Every day, I track how I'm feeling and write down one thing that I'm grateful for, which has been helpful, especially for recognizing my bad-day patterns. For example, I've noticed that on days when I'm feeling sad or anxious, the thing that I'm usually grateful for is related to food, which makes sense, because I often turn to food for comfort. I've also found that I'm more likely to have a happy day after a bad day. I'm not sure if this is because I'm comparing the day to the one before or if I end up compensating for the bad day, but it's an interesting trend I wouldn't have noticed without writing everything down. For this upcoming month, I try a splatter technique with watercolour paints that my sister got me for Christmas. I now have more paint splattered around my kitchen than on the actual paper. Despite the mess, the pages turned out pretty good, and it was a fun, creative outlet. My meal kit box arrives while I'm painting (this box is fully covered by credits).
7 p.m. — I hope to make tacos from my meal kit box for dinner, but my avocado isn't ripe yet. Instead, I have cheese quesadillas dipped in mango salsa with a salad and later snack on popcorn drizzled with sriracha. I've been passing the time by reading an ebook from the library, The Song of Achilles, but I soon switch to reading webcomics on Webtoons. Some of my favourite comics are Cursed Princess Club, Brimstone and Roses, and Lore Olympus. Honestly, these stories have made me laugh, cry, and feel joy. I'm amazed that such quality content is freely available. Finally, I clean up and prepare for work tomorrow, then go to bed.
Daily Total: $0
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