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A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $135,000 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: an in-house consultant working in private equity who makes $135,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a hot pepper plant.
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Occupation: In-House Consultant
Industry: Private Equity
Age: 31
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $135,000 (base with potential bonus of up to 35%)
Net Worth: $171,500 ($30,000 in chequing and high-interest savings, $18,000 of which I earmark as my emergency fund, $96,000 in my TFSA, which is invested in index funds, $61,000 in an RRSP that's also invested in index funds, and $2,500 in a joint chequing account, minus the student line of credit noted below)
Debt: $18,000
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $3,959
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,300 (for my half — split equally with my boyfriend, E. )
Hydro: $75 (my half)
Internet: $56 (my half )
Student Line of Credit: $900
Monthly Bank Fee: $2.50
Phone: $0 (My work covers my bill, which usually amounts to $80.)
Netflix: $12
Spotify: $9.99
Savings: $1,200–$3,000 (I've maxed out my TFSA, so this is all going into a high-interest savings account for use on a house downpayment sometime this year.)
RRSP: $175 (Yes, I know as a percentage of my income, this is ridiculously low, but I'm saving to purchase a house this year, so I'm directing all funds to my savings. I will probably put in some lump sums in early 2022 for the tax break.)

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?
Definitely! My parents immigrated to Canada from communist Europe to give my brother and me a better life, and they viewed higher education as key to that. My brother is 12 years older and set an example by attending university. I was always scholastically inclined, and my mom was very involved in making sure I was doing well in school. I excelled at school, but one of the issues I'm unpacking in adulthood is that I learned to tie my self-worth to my academic and professional achievements. My ambition led me to complete four post-secondary degrees: a bachelor of science, a bachelor of science in nursing, and concurrent masters in science and business administration. I'm very lucky and privileged to have pursued so much higher education. My parents paid for my undergraduate degree (I lived at home rent-free for all four years), and I paid for all textbooks by working part-time. I then paid for my nursing degree from my savings and part-time work (I didn't take any loans and continued to live at home). For grad school, I used my savings, and I took out a $100,000 student line of credit, which my mom cosigned.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Early on, my parents instilled a “save, save, save” mentality. I opened my first bank account at seven, and any birthday or Christmas money I received went directly into my savings or GICs. I didn't have an allowance, but my parents would give me petty cash to go out with friends; they saw me diligently saving and were never worried about my spending habits. At 18, when I was eligible to get a credit card in my own name, my parents made me get one so I could start building credit. They encouraged me to make small, regular charges and to pay them off immediately. At the same time, my dad took me to open my TFSA. My parents invested their money in real estate (they own and have paid off their house) and conservative instruments like GICs and bonds, so they never had the knowledge to share about more risky investment instruments like stocks. When I got my first full-time nursing job at 24, my brother helped me set up my RRSP and pick out index funds for it as well as my TFSA (highly recommend Canadian Couch Potato as a guide to index investing).

What was your first job and why did you get it?
At 16, I got a cashier job at the local pharmacy to save for university. Then I worked in the baby department at Sears before landing a waitressing job, which I held for five years to pay for school. I still picked up shifts while I was working full-time as a nurse.

Did you worry about money growing up?
We never wanted for anything, and my parents encouraged me to pursue all the same experiences as my friends, but I knew we weren't as well off as some of my friends. I always held a part-time job and saved diligently because I wanted to have my own financial security.

Do you worry about money now?
I take my emergency fund very seriously, so I don't worry about my personal finances. I do, however, worry about the affordability of Toronto. I look at housing prices and feel baffled that, even at my salary, I feel priced out of the housing market (and, yes, I know I don't have to live in Toronto, but it's important for me to be close to my family and live in a walkable city with diversity).

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I'm going to start by acknowledging my immense privilege because I wasn't truly financially independent until I was 27. That's when I moved out of town for grad school. I lived with my parents through both my undergraduate degrees and for the two and years and change that I worked as a nurse. I didn't pay for rent or groceries, but I did pay for my cell phone and discretionary spending. My parents encouraged me to save my money for a downpayment (which later became school tuition).

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
In high school, I inherited $10,000 from a close family friend who was like a grandmother to me.
You're saving up for a condo or home. What's your budget?
The hard limit for our house/condo purchase is $1.2 million, though we would like to find something for $1 million. I've (conservatively) budgeted that we will need $285,000 for a 20% downpayment plus all ancillaries (legal fees, land transfer taxes, inspection fees, moving costs, etc.), and I anticipate an additional $35,000 for potential renovations and furniture.

Day One

8 a.m. — I'm normally the first one out of bed (E. is not a morning person), but he gets up with me today and makes the coffee and feeds our cat. I throw in a load of laundry before playing with the cat to get out some of his energy before we start our workdays. E. and I have been working from home for the past year and are tempting playmates for our one-year-old cat who only knows life with COVID and two stay-at-home pet parents.
11 a.m. — I'm about to head into a five-hour block of video calls, and E. has a packed day of client calls, so we quickly reheat quiche E. made the other day.
2 p.m. — I try to hold out until the end of the workday for an early dinner, but I'm starving. I'm not leading this call, so I sneak to the kitchen to grab a burger and potato salad from a meal kit I made last night. This is only possible because my office is the dining room table right beside the kitchen. E. is on a health kick and doing the carnivore diet (not something I would ever do myself), so I'm mostly on my own for meals these days. I order meal kits when I can get them discounted (they're overpriced) because buying produce for one person is very annoying, and I have a complex about wasting food. The key with this approach is to sign up through multiple providers and cancel your subscription when the discount ends. Every couple of months, one of the providers will hit you up with a discount to entice you back in.
4:30 p.m. — It's my friend's birthday this weekend, but we're in strict lockdown, so I won't get to celebrate with her. I buy her a prepaid dinner from Eataly, so she can have a nice dinner with her fiancé. I also buy one for E. and me. It's been hard to have date nights or do anything special during the lockdown, so I'm always on the lookout for ideas to break out of our routine. $175
5:30 p.m. — I've been having back pain, so I book a last-minute massage, and E. goes for a run. When we get home, I eat a leftover piece of fried chicken, and E. has a protein shake. $120 (expensed)
8 p.m. — We watch an episode of Grey's Anatomy (our current couple binge; we're on Season 10), then E. signs on to play video games with his buddies, and I take a bath. I prune in the bath for an hour listening to my audiobook Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World By David Epstein. The general premise is that by trying many different things, you're better able to find something you truly like and excel at. This resonates with me because I've switched careers a couple of times. I practiced nursing for just over two years, but I became frustrated with systemic issues and often felt like I was failing to really help my patients. That, coupled with the fact that I don't think nurses are fairly compensated, made me want to be in a management-level position in healthcare. In lieu of trying to work my way up (healthcare is a very hierarchical/seniority-based industry), I opted to do an MBA to help pivot my career. I have a lot of anxiety about finding the right path, and this book is helping me take the pressure off of myself.
11 p.m. — I brush my teeth and do my skin-care routine: whatever drugstore face wash I picked up last, Avène Gentle Toner, Niod Superoxide Dismutase Saccharide Mist, Drunk Elephant A -Passioni Retinol Cream (I alternate days I use retinol), Glossier Bubblewrap Eye and Lip Plumping Cream, a Glossier serum (one of three from their Super Pack), belif Peat Miracle Revital Eye Cream and Peat Miracle Revital Cream for face, and finally pure argan oil. Yes, I recognize I'm obsessed. E. tells me so every day. Nights when we go to bed together, I can sometimes convince him to do (half of) it with me. I set the alarm and go to bed.
Daily Total: $175

Day Two

8 a.m. — The cat snuggles me awake, and I get up to feed him and put on coffee. I play with him for 15 minutes before getting ready and checking to see if there are any announcements about pop-up vaccine clinics in our area (we are in one of the identified hot spots) but no luck.
9 a.m. — I have a company-wide meeting, after which I make a quick breakfast of yogurt, granola, and raspberries. I'm running a customer satisfaction survey for one of our portfolio companies and am currently cleaning up the data, which is the most tedious part of the project.
11:30 a.m. — Lunch is pan-fried shrimp, roasted potatoes, and a spinach salad from my meal kit. I eat at my desk and continue to work through my data. E. pops down to make himself a steak and chat.
5 p.m. — The day crawls by, and I break it up by intermittently checking for vaccines. I'm not in the mood to cook tonight, and I'm craving something with carbs, so I order fish and chips on Uber Eats. I'm so excited, I haven't ordered from this place for, like, half a year, and it's worth the wait. I watch Veronica Mars as I eat, and E. heads out for a socially distanced outdoor workout with his buddies. $27.30
7:30 p.m. — E. orders chicken wings when he gets home, and we watch one episode of Grey's together (while I sneak in some Häagan-Daz vanilla bean ice cream). After, E. plays video games, and I work on my paint-by-numbers painting and listen to my audiobook. I brush my teeth, do my nighttime skin-care routine, and am in bed by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $27.30

Day Three

8 a.m. — The day starts with my standard routine: wake up, feed the cat, put on coffee, play with the cat. I bring E. coffee and get into bed with him to cuddle and nudge him awake because he's slow-moving this morning.
9 a.m. — Before I can get started on work, I get distracted by an email. I signed up for the distribution list for a pre-build condo development close to where I grew up. I'm curious, so I check out the floor plans that are left. E. and I are considering buying a house, but we also want to start trying for a baby. I did some calculations to see what my salary would be like on mat leave, and it would basically be cut in half (I'm lucky to have a company top-up of 90% of my base salary for 16 weeks). After this revelation — and the general frenzy of the Toronto real estate market — I put a pause on earnestly pursuing buying anything. There are some nice floor plans still available, though, and I'm tempted by the neighbourhood. Before I reluctantly get back to work, I book a private appointment at the condo showroom this weekend.
11:30 a.m. — I realize that I skipped breakfast, so I eat shrimp salad leftovers while I work.
3:30 p.m. — It's my company's annual meeting for our investors, so I log in and try to continue working on my project, but I'm more interested in the meeting.
6 p.m. — I still have one more meal kit: pork chops with cauliflower bravas and aioli. I was the least excited about this meal, but it turns out to be my favourite one. While I'm cooking, E. leaves for another outdoor workout. He's really been making an effort to exercise, and I'm so proud of him.
7 p.m. — I put on Veronica Mars while I digest. After about an hour, I piggyback on E.'s motivation and do a 20-minute session on our rowing machine. E. gets back from his workout and makes a quick dinner of steak with tomatoes and avocado in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
9 p.m. — While I scroll social media on the couch, E. starts making a quiche with bacon, broccoli, and shallots but realizes we're out of pie crust, so the ingredients go back in the fridge (except for the bacon, which we eat). After the failed quiche attempt, E. logs on to play video games. Ontario is in full lockdown, so there isn't much for us to do these days — our nights are pretty mundane.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up and do my morning routine. In case you haven't noticed, I love a good routine. Pre-COVID, I used to wake up at 6:45 a.m. and make it into the office for 8 a.m. for uninterrupted quiet time at work, but there's less of a need for that now that there's no busy office to distract me. I'm not loving working from home full-time, though. When it's safe to go back to the office regularly, I hope my company adopts a more flexible culture.
9 a.m. — Most of today will be spent visualizing/graphing survey results on excel, which brings me a step closer to the exciting step of drawing insights and making recommendations.
11:30 a.m. — I'm excited about lunch because I get to finish off yesterday's leftover dinner. I scroll through Popsugar while I eat and also notice that my credit card is charged for my meal kit, which is coming on Monday. $51.35
4 p.m. — The day drags, and I'm sick of staring at this file, so I sign off early and take a screen break by doing paint by numbers.
5:30 p.m. — After a long day, I'm not in the mood to make dinner, so we order sushi on Uber Eats: edamame, miso soup, a spicy tuna roll, a green dragon roll, and a red dragon roll. E. pays, but we split all our shared expenses using Splitwise and settle at the end of every month. $35.35
8 p.m. — We go for an hour-long walk to get out of the house. I grill E. on his buddies' love lives because some of them are attempting to date during lockdown.
9 p.m. — When we get home, E. settles in to play video games, and I scroll through HouseSigma and send him listings. I eventually take a bath and scroll social media, do my skin-care routine, and say goodnight to E.
Daily Total: $86.70

Day Five

9 a.m. — It's Saturday, and the cat lets me sleep in. I eventually drag myself out of bed and make coffee and have yogurt, granola, and strawberries. E. stayed up until 2 a.m. last night (I vaguely remember him coming to bed), so I let him sleep in. I clean the downstairs powder room and tidy up and vacuum our living room and my office (the dining room table).
11 a.m. — E. wakes up and we have coffee and watch Grey's (it's Cristina Yang's last episode, and I ugly cry). E. makes bacon and eggs, which we pair with sourdough bread I made last weekend.
12 p.m. — We drive up to the suburbs to do a backyard visit with E.'s mom and stepdad. I need another coffee, so I make E. stop at Starbucks on the way. It's located in a Metro with a little garden centre, so I also pick up radicchio and radish seedlings for our patio garden. When we get to their house, we chat in the backyard and decide to check out the local plant nursery and do a backyard visit with E.'s godmother. $8.79
1 p.m. — I'm in heaven! I love plant shopping, and gardening is one of the hobbies E. and I picked up during COVID (in March and February, we started pepper and tomato plants from seeds). We pick up a mini hot pepper plant for E.'s godmother, and I pick out annuals for our patio planters. $110.64
2 p.m. — We spend about an hour with E.'s godmother (during which time he also mows her lawn) and then go back to have a late lunch at E.'s parents' house. We pick up Mediterranean food on the way home and treat E.'s parents. $36.87 (for my half)
8 p.m. — Back at home, we put on School of Rock and munch on shrimp cocktail that E.'s mom sent home with us. E. loves this movie and makes me rewatch the final performance scene three times.
10:45 p.m. — E. signs on to play video games, and I get ready and go to bed. Multiplayer video games have become a huge social outlet for E. who is extremely extroverted. He gets to socialize with his buddies every day while maintaining social distancing.
Daily Total: $156.30

Day Six

9 a.m. — I sleep in again, but the cat is fussy this morning. After I feed him, I have yogurt, granola, and strawberries for breakfast while E. sleeps in. The sleep-in is short, though, because we have our appointment at the condo showroom at 11:15 a.m. I throw on coffee, and we watch Grey's before E. hops into the shower.
11:15 a.m. — The salesperson at the showroom is lovely, and I'm impressed. The floor plan we're interested in is still available, and we learn more about our options (parking spot, storage unit) and also find out that all the finishes are premium, so there won't be surprise finish upgrades down the road. The deposit options appeal to me because they allow us to stretch out the downpayment ($10,000 on signing, 5% to 10% in the first 30 days, 5% at the 90-day mark, and then another 5% at the six-month mark, plus the remainder when we move in spring 2023). E. isn't convinced, though. He'd rather live in a house with a backyard. When we leave, we agree to mull it over and regroup in a couple of days.
12:30 p.m. — On the way home, we drive to NU Bügel in Kensington Market. E. orders a gluten-free everything bagel with butter, bacon, and eggs, and I order a gluten-free sesame bagel with goat cheese, arugula, house jelly, and bacon. We take the bagels to go and have them on our rooftop patio because the weather is nice. We let the cat wander around the patio while we eat. He's an indoor cat with outdoor dreams and loves his supervised outside time. E. heads down to work, and I take it upon myself to hang up our patio lights and listen to my audiobook. $17.93
2:30 p.m. — I've been thinking about the condo and the craziness of the housing market. My mom calls, and I tell her about it. The fact that it's in my parents' neighbourhood is a huge draw. They've offered to help us with a downpayment in the past, but I have major reservations about taking money from them. My mom still works full-time, even though she's eligible to retire (she likes to stay busy), and my dad took early retirement to avoid pension renegotiations. My dad's health hasn't been great these last years, and I want my parents to use the money they've offered me to renovate their house, so it's more senior-friendly. We agree to revisit the conversation closer to when we're actually ready to buy.
4:30 p.m. — E. and I clean out the fridge, which hasn't been done for a couple of weeks. We throw out spoilt vegetables and past-due leftovers. I take salmon out of the freezer for dinner. Then we walk to the grocery store. I have my meal kit coming tomorrow, and E. is set for meat, so we pick up strawberries, tomatoes, arugula, tortellini, mild Italian sausage, flour, yogurt, and pie crust (for quiche). I pay, and we split the cost. $26.35
6 p.m. — We put away the groceries and start making oven-baked salmon with lemon, garlic, and dill, plus tomatoes and avocado in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a side of mushrooms sautéed in butter, and homemade sourdough. We watch Grey's while we eat.
7 p.m. — After I've digested, I row for 20 minutes while E. plays video games. I take a bath after my row and scroll social media. The cat comes to hang out and make sure I'm okay in the tub. I do my skin-care routine and head back down to watch some more Grey's with E.
11:30 p.m. — After losing track of time, we go to bed.
Daily Total: $44.28

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — E. and I wake up early because the provincial vaccine booking system opens up to people aged 18 and over living in hot spots — that's us! Neither of us slept very well last night, so it takes us a couple of snoozes to get out of bed. I log in to the online queue, while we also frantically call the phone booking system, because E. has an old health card and can't book online. After 45 minutes on hold, I get through, and we're both able to book vaccines for two weeks from now. This makes my whole week!
8:30 a.m. — I make yogurt and granola with strawberries and get ready for work. I have morning meetings and am determined to wrap my survey project today.
11:30 a.m. — Lunch is sausage with cheese tortellini, blistered tomatoes, shallots, and garlic in olive oil. On my lunch break, I have my weekly volunteer session with an organization that teaches senior computer literacy skills over video conference. I chat with my senior learner about our weekends and how we're dealing with COVID, then we get to work on learning how to create and save a file in Microsoft Word.
6:30 p.m. — I spend most of the day finishing and polishing the presentation. Dinner for me is panko-crusted turkey breast with roasted potatoes and green beans from the meal kit box that arrived earlier today. E. and I watch Grey's while we eat, and then I hop on for an hour more of work before sending out the presentation.
8 p.m. — I wash the dishes and then watch Grey's mindlessly on the couch and have a Häagen-Daz mini bar while E. works on his résumé for a potential job. When he's done, I edit it for him. The company he's considering is a start-up, and we find a clip of the founders pitching on Dragon's Den. They get offers from five of seven of the dragons, so we're impressed. By 10:30 p.m., we do our skin-care routines together, take melatonin, and head off to bed. Hopefully, we both have a better sleep tonight.
Daily Total: $0
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