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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,000 Salary

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Today: a policy analyst working in government who makes $75,000 per year and spends some of it this week on a Doritos dog toy.
Occupation: Policy Analyst
Industry: Government
Age: 28
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,000
Net Worth: $46,500 (I have an emergency fund of about $12,000, which I built up during COVID. My partner, A., and I are saving for a downpayment, and I've always been fairly risk-averse, so most of my net worth is in liquid savings: $30,000 in a TFSA and $3,000 in an RRSP. I also have about $1,500 in a Wealthsimple fund, to dip my toes in investing.)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (bi/weekly): $1,965
Pronouns: She/Her/Elle

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,237 (This is for my half of our two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment and a storage locker. A. pays for the parking for his car.)
Renter's Insurance: $17
Phone: $25
Internet: $75
Hydro: $55–$70
Health & Dental Benefits: $0 (employer pays)
Netflix: $18.99 (split with my mum and brother)
Patreon: $3 (to the American Girls Podcast)
Peloton Subscription: $13.99
Spotify Student Subscription: $4.99
New York Times Student Subscription: $2.26
Charity: $40 (to the National Abortion Federation Canada and to a local food bank)
Savings: $300
TFSA: $400
Wealthsimple: $25
Communauto: $7

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?
Both my parents were raised blue-collar but ended up in white-collar jobs (one with a degree, one without), and they always expected me to go to university. I'm lucky to have paid for my undergrad through an RESP from my parents, scholarships, and working through my degree. During my MA, I took out loans as an emergency fund but was fortunate to receive full funding, along with a co-op job, so I paid off those loans soon after graduating.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents didn't talk about money much and didn't model great financial habits. Later on, they were fairly open about having debt, and they both love a good deal. I'm still trying to unlearn taking advantage of a sale or markdown instead of deciding what I need, looking for a better quality version, and buying one thing instead of multiple cheap ones.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I babysat and refereed soccer for a few summers in middle school, but my first real job was at a community centre when I was 15. I don't remember my parents forcing me to get a job, so I think it was for spending money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
When I was younger, my family was solidly middle-class. My parents split up when I was in elementary school, though, and with the divided households, I was much more aware of money and knew budgets were tight. My brother and I still participated in sports and activities, but our only vacations until I was in high school were road trips to visit family. This contributed to my overall conservative approach to spending, although my parents' approach to "retail therapy" has made me an impulsive spender with inexpensive things.

Do you worry about money now?
I don't really. I'm extremely concerned about the real estate market and overall costs in the long term, and the lifestyle creep has gotten very real since grad school. I know I'm in a relatively stable job with guaranteed income growth and a path to progression, so I'm definitely comfortable earmarking money for clothes, eating out, and other luxuries. That said, I've lived below my income for the most part and still can't fathom some of the mid-to-high-end prices, like full-price Lululemon or multihundred dollar bags.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was truly responsible for myself after I finished my undergrad, at age 21. I've consciously built a healthy emergency fund, and I know either of my parents would welcome me to live at home if something catastrophic happened, so I do have a safety net.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents contributed to an RESP that totalled $12,000. They also paid for my first year of university and residence.
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Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up before A. and scroll through social media and Reddit before reaching for the book I'm currently reading, Family Trust.
10:30 a.m. — Once we're both awake and showered, A. and I make coffee and omelettes (egg, Havarti, spinach, peppers, and onions) and eat on our patio while planning our day. It's gorgeous out, so we plot a bike route.
1 p.m. — I load up on SPF (I burn like no one's business) and get dressed for our bike ride (bike shorts with pockets and a Lululemon Swiftly, my favourite workout shirt). The route we take goes through trails and paths we haven't used before. All in all, we get in about 25 kms. Note: Please assume any time I'm leaving my apartment, I'm wearing a reusable mask indoors. I generally only wear one outdoors while waiting in a crowded area, meeting with people outside my household, or walking downtown.
4 p.m. — Usually, we bike to somewhere with a coffee or ice cream shop, but today's ride is more about the route, so we decide to make floats at home with Maple Coke, and they do not disappoint! A. does some gaming while I snack on cheese and crackers and watch YouTube videos. Then I take a shower, put away laundry, and scroll through TikTok.
7 p.m. — Starving, I make pasta and a quick blender sauce with avocado, basil, olive oil, and lemon juice. A. puts on the hockey game, and we crack open a bottle of wine. It's Sunday, but we've taken tomorrow off, so we're enjoying our extended weekend. I'm a born Sens fan, so I enjoy watching Toronto lose! After a couple of episodes of Halston on Netflix, A. and I head to bed around 12:30 a.m.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8 a.m. — A. is still fast asleep, but I'm both wired and cozy, so I scroll through Reddit and read my book until he wakes up. After cuddling and chatting, we get up and enjoy our vacation day. We'd originally booked a campsite to kick off the summer, but provincial parks are still closed. I toss on a black tank and my favourite cute-comfy Lululemon On the Fly shorts (in a fantastic dusty rose colour; I got them off Poshmark and love them so much). We make breakfast sandwiches and coffee and eat while watching Bob's Burgers. I sunscreen up, add Nikes and a jean jacket to my lewk, and we head out for a hike.
1 p.m. — The trail we pick is beautiful, but SUPER-buggy. Even after dousing ourselves in Deet, we're still surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes. We loop the outer trails, where the bugs aren't as bad, before admitting defeat and grabbing Blizzards at a nearby Dairy Queen (I get Reese's Peanut Butter Cup). $4.99
2 p.m. — We missed a few things in our last click-and-collect order, so we stop by a grocery store with an empty parking lot to stock up. We get milk, dish soap, gluten-free flour (I'm celiac), lemon juice, and potatoes to share, plus canned tuna and salmon for a recipe I want to try, and a folding chair for camping that's very reasonably priced. $43.11
4 p.m. — After putting away the groceries, A. tinkers with a computer monitor stand he found in our building's garbage room, and I put on The Office while I drink pre-workout water, eat toast with almond butter, and prepare myself for a long run. I'm a patently mediocre runner, but I sign up for a 10-km race at the end of every season to force myself to run with purpose. Today will be my first full 10-km run of 2021, and it's beautiful out, so I have no excuse. Finally, I change into biker shorts (Old Navy Powersoft) and another Swiftly shirt, put water in my running pack, and load up the last Princess Diana episode of the You're Wrong About podcast.
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6 p.m. — As usual, the run is nowhere near as bad as I was convinced it would be. I do the full 10 kms in just over an hour, which I'm happy with, and stretch outside. I receive a notification for a package and see it's part of a Gap order I placed last week. After sponging off, I try on a dress that I don't love and will return and a pair of biker shorts, which are keepers. Then I change into AE mom jean shorts and a black tank to drop off a skirt I'm trading for a pair of cute black shorts.
7 p.m. — Once again, it's dinnertime, and I'm starving. I make a lazy cross between poké and sushi bowls: rice, canned salmon in a sriracha/soy/mayo sauce, quick pickles, green onion, half an avocado, and Everything But The Bagel seasoning. They're so simple but tasty and filling! A. and I put on the Habs/Leafs game while we eat (we have fairly different diets, so we mostly cook our own meals and cook together once or twice a week). I take a shower during intermission, then my dad calls in the middle of the third period (he should know better, but here we are), but I still get to see Toronto lose game seven at home, which I do love.
9 p.m. — A. calls his parents for their weekly chat (they live across the country) while I scroll the web. We're going camping in a couple of weeks if things open up, and I need supplies, so I place a Shoppers order for micellar wipes, earplugs, and allergy meds, plus conditioner, baby oil, and body wash to hit the free shipping minimum. I head to bed around 11 p.m. and read until A. joins me. $62
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Daily Total: $110.10

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — Back to work. A. gets up to do a workout, and I read articles before throwing on leggings and a sports bra to do a Peloton stretching class on the patio. Then I get dressed for the day (a silky tank, high-waisted black jeans, and a chunky cardigan) and log in to find 70 unread emails that arrived on my day off. My team is in transition, and I'm now handling the work of two analysts, but they won't commit to promoting me until I succeed in a competitive process at-level, which is slow and typical of government. I'm salty about how much they're clearly relying on me.
8:30 a.m. — After deleting all the auto-sent emails and departmental updates, I identify what I actually need to address today. I make a French press of coffee, a gluten-free bagel thin with cream cheese, and a banana-chai-almond-milk smoothie to get me through the morning.
11:30 a.m. — I have a check-in with my boss (she acknowledges how much work I'm doing and asks about the promotion process), then I see an email that tickets for an immersive Van Gogh exhibit have gone live. The event isn't until later this summer, so I take a chance and buy a pair of tickets for my mum's birthday. We've both got our first vaccines and cases are dropping rapidly here, so I'm hopeful we'll be able to do this and go for brunch on a patio by mid-August. $103
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12:30 p.m. — I have a French class at 1 p.m., so I quickly make myself another sushi bowl with the remaining salmon. I'm fully bilingual and not due to be retested for work for a few years, but my department offers free maintenance courses, so I'm taking advantage!
5:15 p.m. — I mentioned I'm working above-level? Today is the fourth day in a row I've worked over an hour of unacknowledged/uncompensated overtime. I'm keeping track and will absolutely be using all of this to make my case for at least an acting position (especially since the pay is almost $15,000 higher at the next level). In the meantime, I keep myself logged in to keep an eye out for updates on the files I'm working on and send myself an email summary of what I need to focus on tomorrow.
6 p.m. — I'm hoping I'll get feedback on one of the urgent files I sent for management comment before logging off, so I stay near my computer. I clean up my desk and eventually leave the apartment to drop the Gap return package in the mail. Convinced I probably won't hear anything helpful tonight, I change into bike shorts and a sports bra to do a low-impact Peloton ride on the spin bike we bought during the winter lockdown, paired with a Peloton digital subscription (I hate how much I love it).
8 p.m. — After stretching and showering I'm extremely hungry. I reheat Thai leftovers from the weekend and eat on the patio with a peach Bubly and my book. Once A. is done watching gamer YouTube videos, and I've read a few chapters, I join him on the couch and we try out different Netflix reality series (none captivates us). I'm still hungry, so I microwave a chocolate muffin from the freezer for dessert. We head to bed around 11:30 p.m.
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Daily Total: $103

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — I drag myself out of bed, throw on high-waisted Zara skinny jeans with a Lululemon tank, and log in to see what came in overnight. Unfortunately, there's less management input than I was hoping for. I send a few gentle follow-up emails (ugh) and consult on another proposal that came overnight before making coffee and toast (one piece with almond butter, another with old cheddar). It's going to be a packed day.
1:30 p.m. — I sneak away for 15 minutes to make lunch (another sushi bowl, this time with a fresh batch of canned tuna instead of yesterday's salmon) and refill my water while fielding calls on a proposal that became way more complicated overnight. I enjoy my work, and contributing to files like this is fascinating, but a girl needs to eat, too, you know?
2:30 p.m. — After (finally) sending management comments on a file, I take a treat break and make an iced chai (with chai concentrate and oat milk) and grab a maple cookie.
4:15 p.m. — I'm logging off (almost) on time. I celebrate by scrolling through TikTok and changing into — say it with me — bike shorts and a Swiftly T-shirt, plus a Lululemon run hat I got off Poshmark. It's hot but breezy and not humid, so it's a perfect day for a light-ish run. Strava messes up my distance through part of downtown, but I end up doing 6.5 kms at a decent clip. After a recovery glass of chocolate milk, I'm a glutton for punishment and do a 10-minute Peloton core class to round out my workout. Then it's time to shower, dry my bangs, and take care of a giant blister that got aggravated on my run.
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8 p.m. — A. reminds me we have leftover Korean ground beef (ground beef cooked in a soy-orange sauce we make fairly regularly), so I make a bibimbap bowl with rice, the beef, quick pickles, carrot, kimchi, a fried egg, and Everything But The Bagel seasoning. I watch Superstore while eating (and while A. works out in the same room), then, after cleaning up, I switch over to play Sims on the couch. As usual, we head to bed around 11:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — Blergh. My legs are sore, so I force myself to get up, put on leggings and a Lululemon Power Y sports bra, and do a 20-minute yoga class on Peloton. Then I get dressed for the day (a black blouse and cute frayed-hem 7 For All Mankind jeans I thrifted) and scroll through social media until it's time to make coffee and log in to work. I'm greeted by an urgent request relating to legislation currently being drafted, so that's pretty much how my day will be going. I have vanilla Greek yogurt, a banana, raspberries, and granola while I read through the proposals.
12:30 p.m. — While waiting for a management decision on this morning's urgent file, I run downstairs to pick up a package, and it's a swimsuit I ordered from Aerie! I'm usually not at all risqué in my swimsuits, but I decided to try the cheekier cuts that are popular now and, wow, the bottoms look SO good! I got the ribbed version with the TikTok-famous crossover waistband, and I love it. I show A., and he seems on board as well. I ordered the bottoms in two sizes and two tops to try, so I initiate a return for the bottoms that don't fit and am debating whether to return one or both tops. I make another sushi bowl to eat at my desk while juggling calls.
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4 p.m. — Thursday is takeout night for A. and me, and we've been trying lots of new places through the pandemic. Tonight, we land on a newish Detroit-style pizza joint within walking distance. I preorder a pesto pizza and A. gets a meat-lovers ($31 for my half, including a 15% tip). $31
5 p.m. — After logging out, I, as usual, change into a pair of bike shorts and a longline sports bra and clip in for a Peloton ride to the Rent soundtrack. The instructor isn't my favourite, but I LOVED Rent as a teen (and saw the Broadway closing cast on tour, which was amazing) and couldn't miss this. It's emotional and super-powerful, and I get off the bike absolutely dripping in sweat.
7 p.m. — After a shower, A. and I head out to pick up dinner. We need a few things (chocolate milk, bananas, coffee beans, cheese, cucumber, and chicken for the curry we're making tomorrow), so A. goes to Farm Boy while I walk to get the pizza. He'll put it in our shared spreadsheet later but he says my half costs $40. $40
7:30 p.m. — We put away the groceries, then have our pizzas and the free hard seltzer the pizza place gave us as a promo. The food is DELICIOUS and filling, so we know we've found a winner. After eating, we move to the couch and finish Halston, then start a docuseries about a professional soccer team in the UK, Sunderland 'Til I Die, which is sort of a real-life Ted Lasso. We head to bed a bit after 11:30 p.m.
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Daily Total: $71

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — FRIDAY! I don't even pretend to get up early to work out today. I'll reset and try again next week. I throw on my black skinny jeans and an old floral blouse from H&M, then log in. There were developments overnight on yesterday's urgent file, so I guess that's what I'm doing this morning.
9:45 a.m. — While waiting for my boss to call me to discuss the file, I have a 10-minute window to make coffee and a fruit smoothie (banana, orange juice, frozen berries), plus a toasted freezer waffle with almond butter.
1:15 p.m. — My stomach is grumbling loudly, so I take a 15-minute lunch break to finish off the Thai leftovers from the other day. While scrolling Instagram, I see a local graphic artist dropped new stickers and cards, so I wind up ordering a couple of cards and a sticker from a provincial park I love to camp at. $20.33
4 p.m. — As A. finishes work, he reminds me that we're going to meet my dad's new dog (he's adopting a rescue!) this weekend, and we should pick up a dog treat or toy. Dog toys are not considered essential (which, fine, but barely), so I check the click-and-collect options for a pet store nearby. We end up choosing a fun, durable chew toy shaped like a bag of Doritos, plus two little treats. Part of the reason the dog was surrendered is that he gets anxious, so I try to pick a toy that will keep him occupied. We split the cost. $8.15
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5 p.m. — I change into Lululemon In Movement leggings and a sports bra, then stack a 15-minute upper-body and 15-minute core class on Peloton, which is enough to feel like I'm working hard and getting a sweat on but not too much after a frustrating week.
6 p.m. — I see an email confirming that the dog stuff is ready for pickup, so I change into a V-neck and AE curvy mom jean shorts. A. and I go on a longish walk and pick up the dog stuff, and it's adorable, as expected.
8 p.m. — I pour a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand and make a chicken curry for dinner. The curry turns out okay but isn't super-flavourful, so we'll have to try again with a better recipe. With our curry, we watch more Sunderland 'Til I Die and head to bed around 12 a.m.
Daily Total: $28.48

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up before A. and read. Once we're both up and ready, I take a shower and throw on leggings and a V-neck. I give my mum a quick call, then join A. for breakfast (a smoothie and a toaster waffle with almond butter). We decide to hit a couple of buckets of balls at a driving range before stopping in to see my dad and his new dog. I change into an activewear skort and a Nike Dri-Fit shirt for the course.
2 p.m. — A. pays for two buckets of balls using our shared card ($15 for my half). He's trying to teach me and doing a good job, but I get frustrated when I struggle (classic gifted kid/type A anxiety). There are two absolute bros talking loudly about politics, and I have an extra-hard time focusing, so it's a struggle today. It's super-satisfying when I get a decent shot in, though, and I'm always impressed by A.'s skills. $15
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4 p.m. — Once we finish up at the range, A. and I place a pickup order for Chinese food to bring to my dad's (my half with a 10% tip is $26.45). On our way, we stop at my mum's to get extra dog toys. She comes outside with her dog, so we can say hi. A. and I haven't been seeing anyone during this shutdown, but we have our first vaccine doses and so do my family members, plus my dad lives alone, so we've decided it's a reasonable risk for us to spend time with my dad indoors at this stage. $26.45
4:30 p.m. — The new dog is sweet and extremely friendly! The food is good as well, and it's nice to hang out with my dad. After eating, we all take the dog on a walk.
8:30 p.m. — A. and I share a two-pack of edibles from the Ontario Cannabis Store. We usually have a few drinks on Saturdays but decide to do this instead this week. They hit quickly, and we watch Superstore with a good buzz. While we're watching, I buy a golf skirt on Poshmark, and we end up in bed a bit after midnight. $32.54
Daily Total: $73.99
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