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A Week In Nunavut On A $118,000 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 public health specialist and bartender who makes $118,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Glossier set.

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Occupation: Public Health Specialist & Bartender
Industries: Health & Hospitality
Age: 33
Location: Nunavut
Public Health Salary: $86,000
Bartending Salary: $32,000 (I haven't been working this job for very long, but this is about how much I'll make including tips.)
Net Worth: -$8,000 ($10,000 in a TFSA, a car worth $8,000, $3,000 in liquid savings, $3,000 in an emergency fund, and $6,000 in a pension)
Debt: $38,000 (student loans)
Public Health Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,400
Bartending Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,320 (including tips)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,300 (I share an older, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with my partner. The total rent is $3,200, but we split it, and I also get a small rent subsidy through work.)
Student Loan Payment: $426
Car Payment: $315
Electricity: $30–$40
Phone: $100
Internet: $150–$200 (Internet prices are outrageous in the north.)
Health & Dental Benefits: $160 (taken off my paycheque)
Spotify Duo: $15
Netflix & Crave: $0 (I use family accounts.)
Amazon Prime: $8
Savings: $500
TFSA: $500
Pension: $330 (taken directly off my paycheque and matched by my employer)

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?
Yes. I come from a high-achieving family with two older siblings who are extremely intelligent and academically driven. My parents expected us all to attend university, and I definitely felt pressure to keep up with my brothers. I paid for my education with student loans and money from summer jobs. After my first degree, I ended up going back to get another bachelor's and then a master's. I spent most of my 20s in school, which is why I still have so much student debt.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
One of my parents was in the banking industry when I was younger, but I don't remember having conversations about money. My parents had a laissez-faire approach to parenting for the most part, which includes money management. They encouraged us to get jobs as teenagers and to use the money as we saw fit.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a bakery when I was 16. I got it so that I would have money for things like travel and concerts. I probably should've saved for university, but it wasn't until well into my 20s that I became money-conscious.

Did you worry about money growing up?
When I was young, my parents gave up their high-paying careers to start a new business and move our family to the West Coast, which meant sunshine tax. I knew that this change had an impact on our finances because we moved into a smaller house, but we remained middle class, and I never had to worry about having food, clothes, or shelter.

Do you worry about money now?
Looking back, I wish I had been better at managing money during my 20s because I had a real live-in-the-moment lifestyle. Most of my previous jobs have been in the non-profit sector, so there were times when I was living paycheque-to-paycheque. I also prioritized travel and often saved for trips instead of building my savings. I have a higher-paying job now, but I get stressed about my debt and lack of savings. I try to stay grounded in the fact that I'm now becoming more financially responsible and thinking about the future. Better late than never, right?

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
LOL 30? Just kidding, but I do feel like I'm only now becoming more financially responsible. I moved away from home for university at 18, which is when I started paying my own way for the most part, although my parents did provide some support. I became fully financially responsible for myself at 23. I'm working on building up my emergency fund so that I feel confident in my financial safety net. I also know that my family would try to help in an emergency.
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Day One

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I count how many times I can get away with hitting snooze (three). I finally roll out of bed, shower, and get ready for work. My makeup routine is pretty simple: BB cream, bronzer, blush, mascara, and Boy Brow. Is that simple? Maybe not, but it only takes me 10 minutes, and I'm out the door by 8:15 a.m. My favorite thing about living in a small town is my five-minute walk to work. It's nice to start the day without traffic or chaos, and living in the north can feel extremely peaceful. It takes me a little while to get into work mode, so I cruise Jezebel and CBC and at my desk. I'm frustrated to see the rising COVID cases in Alberta (not to mention the protests outside the hospitals) and feel empathy for all of my nurse friends on the frontline. Y'all are SO appreciated.
12 p.m. — On my lunch break, I head to yoga at the local gym. This is a great way to break up the day. All group fitness classes are included in my annual gym pass, which I paid for last year. I will also preface this diary with the fact that I wear a mask everywhere I go and that there are no current COVID cases in my community. I haven't worked out in a month, and my muscles are making that very clear. It's a great class, though, and I leave feeling glad I went. After yoga, I treat myself to a veggie wrap because it's been so long since I had one. I try to get one only once or twice per month because #northernprices. $14.50
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2 p.m. — I'm on a roll with one of my work projects, so I use the energy to get a bunch of things done. I recently moved off the frontlines into a new role with more responsibility. The change has been better for my mental health, but sitting at a desk all day has NOT been better for my lower back (I see you mid-30s). I need to get better at taking walks and doing stretches throughout the day.

5 p.m. — I'm done at the office and head to my other job, bartending at a local bar. I wanted a casual job that isn't in my field. After sitting at a computer all day, it's nice to be moving and be around people. I make about $100 in tips per shift, so it's nice to have the extra cash because I typically try to use it as my spending money.
10 p.m. — The bar is closed! One of my friends is in town, and I meet her and some other friends at a pub, even though it's past my bedtime. I have one glass of pinot grigio ($12) and take a cab home because it's too cold to walk ($8). My partner is still up when I get home so we cuddle, have sex, and fall asleep. $20
Daily Total: $34.50

Day Two

7 a.m. — I wake up anxious because I had dreams about getting chased by bears all night. Probably because one of my customers at the bar last night told me about polar bears walking through their town. Sleep is a challenge for me, and I'm working on strategies that help (meditation, melatonin, sleep drinks, 5-HTP).

8:30 a.m. — My boyfriend drops me off at work. I know, I know, I just bragged about my short commute, but it's on the way for him, and I won't say no to a ride when I'm sleepy. I get to work and catch up with colleagues. A coworker offers to do a coffee run (we all take turns), and I happily say yes. I gave up coffee for a few months recently to see if it helped with my sleep, anxiety, and energy levels. It didn't, so why continue to punish myself, right? The iced oat milk latte she brings me is divine.
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12 p.m. — I walk home for lunch and have leftover black bean and mango salad topped with avocado and tortilla chips. I watch Bachelor in Paradise while I eat. (Reality TV is good for my mental health, don't @ me.) After lunch, I head back to the office for a Zoom meeting about a health-promotion project I'm working on.
3 p.m. — I've avoided online shopping for the past couple of months, but an increase in tips over the last few weeks has me feeling a little treat yo'self. I cruise the internet on my phone and land on the Glossier website to order more Boy Brow. I end up buying a set that also includes a serum and a lip balm, so I can get the free shipping ($47). I know there are memes about people who justify buying more for the ol' free shipping, but shipping to the north is very expensive, so it's worth it. I also pull the trigger on a cheese-making set I've been eyeing forever. I love making my own milk (hazelnut, in particular, is quite delicious) and want to give this a try. Plus, cheese is expensive up here, so once I get the hang of it, maybe it'll be more cost-effective ($64). $111
5 p.m. — I go to yoga after work and see that a bunch of my friends are also taking the class, which is lovely. Afterward, I'm supposed to meet friends for wine, but I'm not feeling well, so I go home to veg out on the couch. I make gluten-free pasta with tomatoes, zucchini, and basil from my basil plant. Fresh herbs feel like such a luxury up here. I watch an episode of Nine Perfect Strangers and doomscroll Twitter. Alberta has just announced new restrictions because the fourth wave is out of control, and the health system can't support the numbers. So many of my friends work on the frontlines in healthcare, and I know that they're beyond burnt out. Another shout out to healthcare workers: You are SO appreciated!
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9:30 p.m. — My partner gets home from work, and we cuddle on the couch before I shower and get ready for bed. My nightly skincare routine consists of an oil-based cleanser from Pranic Forest, an amazing Calgary-based company, and The Ordinary Niacinamide and Buffet, followed by a face oil also from Pranic Forest. I eat half a gummy (half THC, half CBD) to help me sleep, and it's lights out by 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $111

Day Three

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I wonder how it's already morning, but I appreciate that I slept through the night. A few months ago, I was getting up at 6 a.m. to meditate, write in my gratitude journal, and take my time getting ready, but poor sleep has made that extra hour feel more important. I did love the slowness of my mornings, so I plan to get back to it once my sleep improves (fingers crossed the gummies help).
8:30 a.m. — I walk to work and it's so, so cold. Summer is definitely gone, and I see snow in the forecast for the weekend. I do some gratitude practice so as to not let the cold weather get me down. Work is busy as I get caught up on emails and cross tasks off my to-do list. My friend texts me that she's going to the cafe and ends up dropping off an iced Americano and breakfast sandwich at my office. What an angel. I feel grateful to have such kind friends and colleagues.
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11:55 a.m. — I sneak out early for lunch and go home instead of going to the gym because my body is telling me to take a break. I'm still full from the breakfast sandwich so I end up doing a load of laundry and going to the post office. Praise be! My wine shipment has arrived. I keep an eye out for wineries that offer free shipping, and this order is six bottles from a winery in BC. I'm no connoisseur, but my tastes have moved beyond Boone's Farm, and the wine selection in my town leaves much to be desired. I'm excited to try them!
1 p.m. — Back to work. I research a big health project I'm working on. We're trying to increase accessibility for mental health services in the north. Resources are limited, but one good thing coming from COVID times has been a larger acceptance of virtual support. I prefer working face-to-face with people, but this new online reality means better access for rural, remote, and northern communities. That said, access to things like computers and the internet is not so easy for many people, and universal and affordable internet is a big issue that needs to be addressed in Canada.
2:30 p.m. — I get an email saying that $1,053 has been deposited into my account from a consignment store in my old town. I used to be a very active consigner and would use the money I made as my clothing budget. I try to avoid fast fashion as much as I can and love to shop mostly from consignment stores. Living in the north, I miss hunting for awesome finds, but I save money by not shopping much. I use the majority of the cash for debt repayment and savings, and keep a little for fun money.
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3:40 p.m. — I see that produce boxes are ready through my local community food centre, so I order two for the month ($70 each). I get them every two weeks, and they're full of delicious fruits and veggies. Good produce can be pretty hit or miss here, so I'm grateful that this program exists. A box typically lasts us seven to 10 days, although I eat most of it because my partner tends to survive on meat. $140
5:10 p.m. — I head to the grocery store because I'm having friends over this evening and want to do up a charcuterie board and get supplemental groceries for the week. I pick up brie, aged gouda, baguette, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, spinach, pepperoni, rice cakes, cucumber, avocado, and bocconcini. The total is $87 (it hurts). The girls come over, and I prepare the board with two of my favorite additions: cherry tomatoes pan-fried with lots of garlic, and strawberries with balsamic vinegar, both topped with fresh basil from my basil plant. Baguette with brie + tomatoes = heaven. We drink wine, eat, and laugh a lot. It's a great evening, and I'm in bed by midnight. $87
Daily Total: $227

Day Four

7 a.m. — It's tough to get up this morning, but I pull myself out of bed for a quick shower and morning routine. I snack on leftover baguette with brie while I get ready and am out the door by 8:30 a.m. Work is slow this morning, and I make tea and try to get through my to-do list.
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1 p.m. — I go home for lunch and eat leftover charcuterie and raw vegetables. I also sneak in a quick power nap. This day is definitely dragging. I have a cup of tea and try to wake up because I feel unusually tired, not just because I went to bed later than usual. I'm going to blame the change in seasons for this one. That's a thing, right?
5 p.m. — The workday is over! I pick up my produce box and head home to put it away. We get corn cobs, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, lemons, oranges, limes, strawberries, green onions, Swiss chard, kale, honeydew, bananas, pears, and squash. I keep it simple for dinner and have a cherry tomato and bocconcini salad topped with cracked pepper, olive oil, and fresh basil. After dinner, I'm extremely sleepy and debate getting in bed at 8 p.m., knowing full well I won't actually fall asleep. Instead, I do restorative yoga and watch the last episode of Nine Perfect Strangers. I'm not sure how I feel about the series because I'm actually a proponent of psychedelic-assisted therapy in some cases (and obviously done in an ethical way). But TV is often about escapism for me, and it definitely provided that. I complete my nightly routine and get in bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

10 a.m. — A glorious, glorious sleep-in! Boy, do I love weekends. I get up and make green tea and a protein smoothie with frozen blueberries, spinach, chia seeds, and banana. I try to read on the couch but reading makes me sleepy, so I get up to have a shower and get ready for work at the bar.
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1 p.m. — Saturdays are usually pretty slow at work, so I keep busy by cleaning behind the bar and curating my Spotify playlist. The place gets busier toward the end of my shift, and it's nice to chat with folks all afternoon. After I'm done, I have a beer at the bar (free) and chat with the next bartender on shift. I head home to shower and get ready because my partner and I are going to our friends' place for dinner.
7 p.m. — Dinner is amazing! They make pho, dumplings, wontons, and sushi. It's a feast! We laugh a lot, drink too much wine, and play board games until midnight. Back at home, my partner and I have some cuddles and sex. I take a gummy to help me fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

10 a.m. — Having only one day off a week makes me appreciate sleeping in and taking my time in the morning. I lounge in bed enjoying the bliss of being still. Eventually, I roll out of bed to make tea and move to the couch to lounge even longer. I watch an episode of Ted Lasso, which I recently got into, and I now see what all the hype is about. Eventually, I make a smoothie and have a couple of oranges and a pear.
2 p.m. — I go to a yoga class so that I can get fresh air and leave the house. It's a chill class, which is exactly what I need on a lazy Sunday. Afterward, I go to the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner because I'm cooking tonight. My partner and I both work more than one job and have opposite schedules, so we don't actually get much time together. I pick up Parmesan cheese, spaghetti, and a couple of packs of halloumi, which are on sale ($29). Can you tell that I love cheese? I told you this cheese-making kit is going to be worth it! $29
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6 p.m. — I turn on music and get started on dinner. My inspiration comes from a Money Diary in which someone made the spaghetti limone from Frank's in New York. I've never been, but I can only assume it's delicious. Cheese, pasta, lemon? I mean, c'mon! I make bruschetta as a starter with the leftover baguette and tomatoes, olive oil, onions, garlic, and basil. I also roast broccoli, zucchini, peppers, and onions to go on the side because #balance. The spaghetti limone is yummy, and my partner's bowl is empty in five minutes. Success! Plus, the recipe made so much that I now have lunch leftovers for a few days.
9 p.m. — After dinner, we cuddle on the couch and try to find a movie on Netflix with no luck. Instead, we do an easy yoga class by candlelight, then cuddle in bed and have sex before drifting off to dreamland.
Daily Total: $29

Day Seven

7 a.m. — My partner gets up at the same time as me this morning, so we make smoothies, and I have green tea while getting ready. I stare at my closet, knowing full well I have many things to choose from, but nothing looks appealing. I decide on pleather leggings, a beige sweater, and a cream shacket. I love fall fashion, but it already feels like winter, and I pull out my warm coat for the walk to work.
10:30 a.m. — My friend wants to go to the cafe for our coffee break, so I agree and end up getting an oat milk latte. Getting back on coffee is a dangerous and slippery slope! We chat about what has been going on in our lives and agree that things have felt extra-stressful lately. Is it the season change? Full moon? Mercury retrograde? General existential crises? Who knows? I'm not a detective. In any case, it feels good to commiserate with someone. $6
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1 p.m. — I go home for lunch and have leftovers from last night. I put in a load of laundry and clean up the apartment while texting with my mom. After lunch, I go back to work for meetings with national organizations that are working to improve mental health services in the north. It's always a challenge to convey the realities of living up here with those who don't understand.
5 p.m. — All done for the day. I walk home and immediately change into my comfy clothes. I put on an episode of Ted Lasso and lounge on the couch. Eventually, I get up and open the fridge, hoping it will give me a dinner idea. I end up making pan-fried potatoes with peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, spinach, kale, and a couple of fried eggs on top. Is it breakfast? Is it dinner? Doesn't matter, it's delicious.
8 p.m. — I use my facial steamer and do a face mask while deep-conditioning my hair using an Olaplex treatment. I watch another episode of Ted Lasso while the beauty products do their thing and then take a hot shower. I make lavender-mint tea to wind down and try reading my book again. I'm finally starting All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (what a great title). I take a gummy and read until I'm feeling nice and sleepy.
Daily Total: $6
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