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A Week In Victoria, BC, On A $70,000 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.

Today: a project coordinator working in environmental technology who makes $70,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

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Occupation: Project Coordinator
Industry: Environmental Technology
Age: 25
Location: Victoria, BC
Salary: $70,000
Net Worth: $53,000 ($36,000 in a TFSA, $4,000 in a chequing account, $2,000 in cryptos, and $11,000 in a high-interest savings account).
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,200
Pronouns: She/they

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $533 (Before COVID, I was living in a cold, dark basement suite by myself. Then I moved in with my partner, N., and their roommate. Our rent, which includes utilities, is an absolute steal of a deal given the cost of living in Victoria. And, wow, why didn't anyone tell me that when you live aboveground you actually get sunlight?)
Internet: $20 (We split the internet bill five ways between us and the people who live in the suite downstairs.)
Phone: $70
Health & Dental Benefits: $0 (I'm covered through work)
Crave: $10
Spotify: $8 (My partner and I split the $13 duo account.)
iCloud: $4 (I pay for a family account for N. and me.)
Netflix: $0 (I use my family's account.)
Gym: $40
Savings: $2,000 (I'm working on maxing out my TFSA currently. My workplace doesn't do RRSP matching.)
Vet Fund: $50 (for our two cats)
Fun Investments: $50 (I use this as speculative investment money for picking stocks or crypto without much expectation.)
Donations & Mutual Aid: $60
Annual Expenses
Car Insurance: $2,000
Google One: $40
Spending note: My partner, N., is working while also attending school (a multitasking icon). When we moved in together, we were both students earning around the same amount, so we split our expenses equally. Over the past year, though, as my income has increased, we've been making adjustments that are more equitable. We're still experimenting with the best ways to split expenses and so far that has looked like me covering gas and car insurance (we share my car), as well as the bulk of groceries and dining. We keep track of our shared expenses using Honeydue and transfer each other money at the end of the month.

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?
I come from an academic family and was absolutely expected to go to university. I completed an undergraduate degree, which I paid for using an RESP my parents set up for me and subsidized tuition (one of my parents works at the university I attended). I lived at home, so my only expenses were gas, my phone, and any personal entertainment costs. I worked part-time during the school year and full-time in the summers to cover these costs and also save money. After I finished my undergrad, I completed my master's in a different city. I funded that degree through grants and scholarships, a stipend from my supervisor, working as a teaching assistant, and receiving help with rent from my parents.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents taught me to be a conscientious spender and to take care of my money. They emphasized the value of education and how performing well in school would be a gateway to a successful and secure financial future. One of the best ways they supported my financial education was by encouraging me to be proactive with my money. When I was 10, I got a job delivering papers, and my parents took me to the bank to open my own savings account and apply for a debit card. If I wanted to buy video games or go to the mall with my friends, I was responsible for my expenses, and this taught me how to budget from a young age. When I turned 18, my parents also encouraged me to get a credit card and make investments in a TFSA, so that I would learn responsible credit-building and investment habits.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
Aside from delivering papers as a 10-year-old (did I get taxed for that?), I worked part-time in an ice cream shop during high school to earn spending money. The job paid juuust over minimum wage, which was somewhere around $10 at the time.

Did you worry about money growing up?
When I was younger, my parents, who immigrated to Canada as adults, were still attending school, and we lived frugally. They grew up in a country with a lot of political turmoil, and they wanted to provide the type of stable childhood that they didn't get to experience. So, even as students, they saved money so we could go camping and take weekend road trips. Once I was older and more financially aware, both of my parents had secure full-time jobs, so I grew up in an upper-middle-class setting.

Do you worry about money now?
Before I landed my current job, I was feeling worried about money. I was burnt out after finishing grad school and felt immense pressure to start my career. I was sending out job applications every day to positions that weren't even appealing to me just because I thought I needed to land any job and get experience. Reflecting on this time, I can see that I was internalizing my parents' and society's expectations for me as a recent grad. A lot of my friends were finishing up degrees in professional colleges and starting high-calibre careers, so I was also feeling insecure about my choice to pursue a less-traditional STEM field (both my degrees are in the environmental field). I wondered if I should've studied what was stereotypically expected of me — something like business, engineering, or medicine. I'm privileged that my parents funded my academic pursuits so I could finish school without debt. Their ongoing willingness to support me should've meant that I didn't need to worry about money, but I felt anxiety about not living up to their investment in me. This past summer, I worked in a remote position — not work-from-home remote but literal in-the-middle-of-the-woods remote — and had a lot of downtime. I filled it by reading books and listening to podcasts about financial independence, which helped replace a lot of my financial anxiety with motivation and enthusiasm. It was also during this time that I landed my current job, which is literally my dream job!

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself when I was 24 and started to work full-time. I know I can always count on my parents, but since I started working and aggressively saving and investing, I feel confident in my ability to take care of myself.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents bought me my current car when I started university. As mentioned earlier, they also supported me during university.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off. Two seconds later, N.'s alarm goes off. I snooze mine and fall back asleep.
8 a.m. — N. feeds the cats, and I finally drag myself out of bed. I do my morning skincare: COSRX cleanser, Thayers toner, The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum, CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion, and La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 50 face lotion. Then I make a grilled-cheese sandwich for breakfast because I'm an adult and why not? I check Slack and see a message that my new monitor and laptop have arrived at work. I just started my new job last week, which allows me to work asynchronously and from home, but since the office is a short commute from my house, I've asked for an in-person workstation as well. I let my manager know I'll be in later this afternoon to set up my desk, then hop on a meeting.
12:30 p.m. — I take a break for lunch and heat up a burrito on the stovetop. I've gotten into meal prepping burritos because they're filling, store well, and still taste good once reheated. This week, they're filled with refried beans, roasted peppers, ground beef, cheese, and salsa. I scroll through Reddit and finish my lunch break with a few mango jellies.
4 p.m. — I bike to the office and set up my desk, then take the seaside route home. I grew up landlocked, and the novelty of ocean views has yet to wear off. I turn on an episode of Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn. It's about neurodivergence and is hitting close to home. My partner has ADHD, and we're both pretty sure that I do, too. Everything that's talked about during the ADHD part of the episode resonates strongly with me, and it's strange to think I might finally have an explanation for what I've dismissed as laziness over the past few years.
5 p.m. — Back at home, I try to wrap up work for the day only to realize that I didn't save one of my spreadsheets correctly, and it was deleted when my computer automatically installed updates and restarted. I spend hours redoing the work. Ugh, rookie mistake.
7 p.m. — I finally log off my computer after triple-checking that everything is correctly saved. Satisfied that I won't come back to another tragic file loss tomorrow, I turn on another episode of Bad With Money and go out for a walk.
8 p.m. — I get home and am greeted by N. and a big bowl of buttery popcorn. They feed the cats and then I shower, do skin care, and pop a frozen pizza in the oven, because it's late, and we're both too hungry and tired to cook.
10 p.m. — N. and I brush our teeth and get ready for bed. My evening skin-care routine is almost the same as my morning routine, minus the sunscreen and with the addition of The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid. I've been wanting to up my skin-care game and get an eye cream but have yet to do the research on this. After I finish, I get into bed and grab my Nintendo 3DS. Over the past weekend, N. and I started the Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire remake together. The original games on Game Boy were the first ones I played as a kid, so it's been nostalgic and fun to play again. My starter is Treecko, and I've named him Big Ol' Tree. N. is a purist and never names their Pokémon, so they roll their eyes every time I choose a ridiculous name. We both fall asleep by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7 a.m. — N.'s alarm wakes me up, and I fall back asleep. I snooze for another 45 minutes and eventually get up to wash my face and do my morning skin care. N. feeds the cats and rushes off to school as I try to figure out my breakfast. There's half a mango leftover from poke bowls we made last weekend, so I eat that with yogurt before packing up my lunch (leftover pizza) and brushing my teeth.
9 a.m. — I toss on my rain jacket and bike to the office. Once I get there, I wish I'd worked from home. I've been working on transcribing interviews recently and hearing other people in the office is super-distracting.
12 p.m. — I eat my lunch at my desk during a team meeting. I've been eating at my desk or by myself at the park across the street. After the meeting, I go back to transcribing.
5 p.m. — I pack up my things and bike home in the rain. I'm so hungry! I heat up a burrito as soon as I get home and snuggle up with the cats on the couch to read. I've been slowly working through The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee. Asian people are so often seen as a monolith. As an East Asian person who very much fulfills the model minority stereotype, I know my experience is overstated and overrepresented in North America as the “typical” Asian narrative. Through reading this book, I'm hoping to expand my understanding of different Asian migration stories and histories.
7 p.m. — I head out for an evening walk and call home to chat with my dad. He's had the same phone for over five years and wants my advice on what to buy next. It's getting dark so early now, and it's nearly pitch black by the time I get home from my walk.
9 p.m. — I pick up N. from school and gas up my car on the way home. Gas prices are outrageously high again: $1.55 per litre. I preset the limit to $80 and am surprised when that doesn't even fill up the tank — ouch. Once we get home, N. showers while I clean the litter box. Then I make them a sandwich for dinner, shower, and brush my teeth. N. and I chat about our days before going to bed early. $80
Daily Total: $80

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — N.'s alarm goes off because they have to show up early for work today. No thanks. Bye.
8 a.m. — I wake up, do my morning skin-care routine, and make myself avocado toast with eggs over easy. I'm working from home today so I take my time eating, getting changed, feeding the cats, and brushing my teeth.
9 a.m. — I bring my water bottle and snacks to my desk before jumping onto a Zoom meeting that goes all morning. At noon, I stretch and heat up my burrito.
5:30 p.m. — I sign off from work, and N. and I drive to a new climbing gym. When we get there, the person at the front desk tells us we can climb for free because the power is out. I haven't been to a climbing gym since before the pandemic, and this is N.'s first time trying bouldering, so we take it easy. I usually feel anxious and perceived in climbing gyms, but it seems like there are a lot of other beginners here, so I feel more comfortable trying different problems.
7:30 p.m. — We leave the gym exhausted and hungry. We go grocery shopping on our way home and pick up fabric softener, a new mirror, ingredients for pasta and garlic bread (tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion, spinach, Parmesan, linguini, and ground beef), and snacks to pack for lunches (yogurt, cheddar cheese, apples, bananas, and ramen). I also grab a pack of Rice Krispies near the check-out aisle and pay the total on my card. $86
8:30 p.m. — While I drive, N. orders cheeseburgers and shakes for us and our roommate, M. We pick up our order on our way home, and I pay for all three of us. $43
9 p.m. — I've never seen Game of Thrones, and N. has been pestering me to watch it for the past six months, so I set it up on the TV while N. feeds the cats. The three of us gather in the living room to watch the first episode while we eat our burgers. I know a bunch of spoilers from reading social media and hearing my friends talk about the show over the years. I keep asking questions throughout the episode, but nobody answers because they don't want to spoil even more of the show for me. We're in bed by 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $129

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — For once, N. and I wake up at the same time. My forearms are NOT doing well. Every time I go climbing after a long hiatus, my forearms are stiff for at least two days. I sit in bed and complain while N. gets ready.
8:30 a.m. — After doing my routine, I grab a yogurt for breakfast and pack up my lunch and my pannier to leave for work. I ride my old steel mountain bike to the office instead of my touring bike because people at work have had issues with their bikes being tampered with recently. Biking with sore forearms is not particularly enjoyable.
12:30 p.m. — My morning flies by with transcriptions and meetings. I heat up my burrito and eat it quickly before I hop into my afternoon meetings.
5 p.m. — I meet with a friend, and we bike over to a farmer's market. I just got back in town from my summer job a couple of weeks ago, and we haven't seen each other since last spring, so we catch up on work and relationships. I order poutine from one of the food trucks at the market. $8
8 p.m. — I bike home and check my messages to see that N. finished grabbing drinks with their work friends. I drive over to pick them up, and we give one of their friends a ride home, too. When we get home, I FaceTime my mom, and we talk about the election and gossip about my friends who bought homes with help from their parents. I'm content with my current living situation and feel like I get a lot of house for not a lot of rent. I definitely have FOMO, though, about some of my friends who are buying houses. I'm still not set on where I'd like to live in the long-term and owning a condo (let alone a house) in our expensive city is almost unimaginable.
10 p.m. — I shower and get into bed. N. and I both play Pokémon before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $8

Day Five

8 a.m. — We both sleep in and make plans to grab breakfast together before getting ready and feeding the cats. We go out and share a big order of kimchi hash browns and congee before I drop off N. at school. $12
9 a.m. — I drive by the office on my way home to pick up my headphones, which I forgot to bring home yesterday. I park on the street and decide to risk not paying. I run into my office, say hi to my coworkers, and run back to the car as fast as possible. No ticket! Back at home, I pour myself a big glass of water and get settled at my desk.
12:30 p.m. — I'm still full from breakfast so I only eat a yogurt cup for lunch and read up on the vaccine passports, which are necessary for restaurants and the gym. I got both doses of my vaccine when I was out of the province so I figure out how to upload my documentation with my eHealth account.
5 p.m. — I log off and drive downtown to pick up N. who was at an appointment. It's a rainy evening, so we stay inside to do one of Chloe Ting's ab workouts, which ruins my life pretty much every time. Then I play Ring Fit on my Switch. It's honestly an alright workout if you set the difficulty high enough and choose the right exercises.
6:30 p.m. — N. showers while I cook us noodles with garlic-chili oil. I shower, too, and then we eat while rewatching Schitt's Creek. We watch shows for the rest of the night before heading to bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $12

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up to hangry cats stepping all over me, so I slip out of bed to feed them and make breakfast: rye toast with mashed avocado, over-easy eggs, and cheddar cheese. N. and I eat together and watch the last season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is finally on Netflix! It's a slow morning, and we spend most of it lounging on the couch.
12 p.m. — N.'s parents come over with Chinese takeout. This is my first time seeing them in months because I was away all summer, so we talk about my summer job and their recent camping trips. They live a few hours away, but we meet up once or twice a month. That's been nice for me because my parents live a few provinces away, and I haven't seen them very often since COVID.
2 p.m. — N.'s parents leave and N. and I head out shopping for the afternoon. Since moving in together, we've been sharing N.'s old double mattress, which has become progressively saggier, and both of us have recently been waking up with neck and back pain. With my new big-girl job and savings from the summer, I feel like I'm in a good place to buy us a quality mattress. Of course, this dream is immediately shattered once we arrive at the showroom and realize how expensive a nice mattress is. The memory foam one that we like is nearly $3,000 — excuse me?! We head to a couple of different furniture shops and don't find anything we both like.
4 p.m. — We're on our way to Costco to see if they sell cheaper beds. There aren't any available in the warehouse, but we do end up getting groceries and household items: eggs, kimchi, ground beef, milk, lint rollers, grapes, butter chicken, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (!!!), which I know is basically just sugar but I haven't had it in so long, and it's on sale. The total is $110, and I pay on my card. $110
6:30 p.m. — N. unloads groceries, and I do laundry. Afterward, I get changed and go for a run. When I get home, we eat leftover noodles, fold laundry, and play Pokémon for a couple of hours before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $110

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — I love no-alarm Sundays! N. and I both naturally wake up after 9 a.m. We laze in bed chatting about our plans for the day and scrolling on social media before the hungry, screeching cats finally convince us to get up. N. feeds them while I make kimchi fried rice. After eating, we watch Derry Girls in the living room. I read Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe, which was about The Troubles, so I fill in N. on the show's historical context while we're watching. All the characters are wickedly funny, but as of now (we just started Season 2), Clare is my favourite.
12 p.m. — We drive to a vintage game shop because N. is set on finding a copy of Pokémon HeartGold or SoulSilver. We stop to grab coffee (for N.) and a fritter (for me) along the way, which N. pays for. The price for SoulSilver is outrageously high at $120. (I believe it was around $50 when it came out in 2009.) We decide not to get it. N. buys a couple of Harvest Moon games for GameCube instead, and then we order banh mi from a place down the block. N. pays.
3 p.m. — At home, N. sets up their game while I scroll on my phone. After digesting for a while (AKA melting into a puddle on the couch with the cats), I get changed and pack up snacks and a couple of water bottles to go for a long bike ride. I load up an episode of the You're Wrong About podcast before heading out. There's a seaside route I haven't ridden in months, so I decide to do it today.
7 p.m. — I stop by Walmart on my way home to see if they have any Pokémon cards in stock. They do! Everywhere I've checked lately has been totally out of stock. I pick up two booster packs and then head home before it gets too dark. $15
8 p.m. — I take a shower, and then N. and I cook Korean ground beef. We eat our meal with kimchi and rice and spend the rest of the evening reading (me) and playing games (N.) on the couch before heading to bed around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $15
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