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A Week In Toronto, ON, On An $80,000 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 rehabilitation specialist working in healthcare who makes $80,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on mochi doughnuts.
Editor’s note: This diary was submitted before Ontario’s latest stay-at-home order. Refinery29 in no way encourages social gatherings currently prohibited under provincial COVID-19 restrictions.  

Occupation: Rehabilitation Specialist
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 34
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $80,000
Net Worth: $130,000 (Our condo's estimated value is $620,000. This total reflects my half.)
Debt: $290,000 (mortgage and car)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,090
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,570 (My fiancé and I split monthly expenses, from our mortgage to Amazon Prime. These totals are for my half.)
Car Payments: $385
Hydro: $30–35
Phone: $38.42
Netflix: $9.50 (We have several streaming moochers to support.)
Amazon Prime: $4.50
Parking: $200
Savings: $325
Pension: $292 (automatically deducted from my paycheque)

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 parents always expected my siblings and me to find careers as professionals. University was inevitable, not an option. I did an undergraduate degree and post-graduate college program. I was lucky enough to be a part of a co-op program, so my co-op earnings combined with OSAP and an RESP from my parents helped pay for my education. It took me two years after I was done school to pay off $38,500 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 always had a "save, save, save" mentality. We immigrated to Canada when I was very young, but I don't feel like I was denied anything in my childhood because of our finances. Being (just a bit!) older now, I have a better understanding of the sacrifices they made to build a life for us here.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was a paper route when I was eight. It was something to do with my sisters rather than a job for money's sake. In high school, I had a job as a restaurant hostess so I could get work experience for my university applications.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I never felt like money was a major concern. Most of my interests didn't require a lot of money or could be accessed for free, and I would often put my allowance in my saving account and forget about it.

Do you worry about money now?
I do worry about money now, especially because I'd like to stay in Toronto and start a family of my own soon. COVID-19 hasn't affected my work situation significantly — I still go to work every day — and my fiancé is also fortunate that he hasn't been affected by the pandemic.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I completed my schooling, I was financially responsible for myself. I moved back in with my parents after university, but I would still pay some amount for rent and contribute to the utilities and groceries.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Other than my RESP and the heavy discounts on rent my parents gave me while I lived under their roof, I've never received passive or inherited income.
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How did you buy your condo?
I bought it pre-construction five years ago, which is why it was affordable! I lived with my parents for a few years in order to save up, and I’m incredibly lucky that they helped me with part of the downpayment. I don’t consider that a gift because I'm paying them back. When my fiancé and I got engaged a year ago, we decided to share the cost of the condo, so we're co-owners now.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm, but I'm still drowsy. I typically have a “soft wake” in which I laze around for 15 to 30 minutes, scrolling on my phone until I'm mentally ready to be upright. It's the weekend, but I like starting my day early.
9 a.m. — I do a workout with my team. I'm part of a dragon boat team that trained year-round in non-pandemic life. We've gotten used to doing virtual workouts now, but we're all looking forward to the summer when we might be able to see each other outdoors. The workout is demanding but fun.
10:30 a.m. — I head to SanRemo Bakery, an Etobicoke staple. If you live in the GTA and have never tried it, I highly recommend this place! The lineup is long, and I'm worried there won't be any fritters left. Once inside, I'm heartened to smell the amazing aromas and see the large trays of fresh apple fritters behind the counter. I pick up 18, some for friends we're seeing this afternoon, and some for L.'s family, who we'll see tomorrow. $35.98
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11 a.m. — Back at home, I attempt to make an omelette for lunch. The eggs have different plans once they hit the pan, so I end up with a mushroom, green pepper, cheese, and egg scramble instead. L. is happy he's not cooking and finds it delicious.
2 p.m. — Doughnuts in tow, we drive over to visit my friends. We haven't seen them in person for all of 2020, and during that time, they bought a house and got pregnant! We pull up and ooooh and ahhhh at their new place. It's so different to see my friend pregnant, but I'm very excited for her and her husband to start their journey as parents.
5 p.m. — On our way home, we pick up knick-knacks, crafting supplies, and treats for my niece. Last year, I made cardboard eggs for the Easter egg hunt at my sister's place, and she requested more this year. I'm happy to oblige because I miss playing with my nieces. The younger one can walk now and can actually participate in the hunt this time! $19.27
8 p.m. — Tonight is a solid dinner of mushrooms and steak. I'm lucky that L. has been doing all of the cooking since we moved in together. After dinner, we play Overcooked! 2 with L.'s sister and her fiancé. We love this game so much that we bought a controller for the laptop specifically to play it! It's frustratingly wonderful as we spend an hour trying to beat a single level. We get carried away and end up finishing at 1 a.m.
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Daily Total: $55.25

Day Two

9 a.m. — It's a quintessential lazy Sunday morning for me. I reset my skin-care routine recently and wanted to try products from The Ordinary. I'm using Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, plus a CosRx moisturizer. Hopefully, I'll see some results in a few months!
10 a.m. — After shaking off the drowsiness, I go for a short run and shower. We're meeting L.'s family at the memorial gardens to pay respects to his grandfather.
12:30 p.m. — We arrive at the memorial, and it's surprisingly populated despite the rainy weather. I witness L.'s parents and aunt and uncle perform the traditional Chinese ritual of offering food, pouring wine, and burning incense and paper goods. It's not my first time visiting but it is the first time I've been introduced as his fiancé, so everyone smiles as they announce that. Before we leave, we divide the SanRemo treats amongst the relatives and L.'s sister gifts us a cheesecake.
1 p.m. — L.'s sister is getting married, too, so we all decide to take a trip to Pacific Mall, the Asian retail mecca in Markham, to look for qipao (traditional Chinese dresses) for our weddings. I originally thought planning the wedding during COVID times would be a lot easier, but I was dead wrong! It's all the same details but on a smaller scale and with more restrictions. We find an appropriate dress shop, and I get to witness a masterclass in haggling from my future mother-in-law. In an hour, she manages to find two dresses that look great on her and convince the vendor to give her a 45% discount. L.'s sister doesn't buy anything, but I find a red dress with potential. I plan to return with my mom to try it out again.
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4 p.m. — We get home feeling tired but push through to do an exhausting HIIT workout online. L. and I started working out together this past January to hold each other accountable. It's been fun and brought us closer together.
7 p.m. — L. whips up a quick dinner as I turn on the Raptors game. It's been tough to watch them play this year, but we keep at it in hopes that they'll start winning. We're proven wrong tonight. Our evening winds down with YouTube cooking videos as we get ready for bed. They inspire L. for future meals, and I'm more than happy to indulge.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I wake up to get to work early today. Going through my morning routine, I'm expecting my skin to start reacting to the Vitamin C serum, but it hasn't happened so far. I examine all the maskne I've been cultivating since the pandemic started and I've had to wear a mask to work every day. I head out with a packed lunch and home-brewed coffee.
8 a.m. — The walk between the parking spot and I rent and work takes seven minutes, which eats into my lead time, and I arrive only slightly early. I wanted to get back into taking transit, but L. prefers that I keep taking the car to limit COVID-19 risks, so now I rent a parking space for $200 a month, which is better than the $16 a day I was paying to park at work.
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6:30 p.m. — I stay late to finish up tasks and give L. quiet time to get work done. He has a project deadline, and I know I would be disruptive. I'm thankful that I've been able to go to work all through this pandemic while he gets to stay home. It gives us both space, so we don't drive each other crazy.
7:15 p.m. — I pick up Popeyes on the way home ($13.30). It's a treat we don't have often and when there was a deal on UberEats, I can't resist. I shower, and we settle into dinner while watching the Raptors game. The Popeyes is satisfying; the Raptors game is not. $13.30
11 p.m. — Online, I look at several colour schemes for the wedding and settle on burgundy, navy blue, blush pink, and white. This opens up the floodgates, and I start researching wedding decor, which is a headache I'll save for another day. For my nightly routine, I apply retinol from The Ordinary along with my moisturizer. I experience tingling on my skin, so I think the product is working its magic. Come on, brighter skin.
Daily Total: $13.30

Day Four

7 a.m. — I have breakfast as I look up information about a potential venue for my wedding. We originally planned to do everything in my parents' backyard, but the moment we looked into the logistics of decorating the yard and getting a tent, I shut it down and went on a rampage to find a beautiful place to host our nuptials. My fiancé and I are paying for the wedding ourselves, and our goal is to spend under $10,000. COVID-19 restrictions have dramatically reduced the costs because we can't have all the friends and family we would've wanted. We've managed to find some affordable venues that offer all-inclusive packages for smaller gatherings. I'm going to visit one with my parents today that costs $3,500 with tax included. L. has to work so he can't come with us, but he's happy leaving it up to me to make a decision.
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10 a.m. — I pick up my parents on the way to the venue. It's a beautiful day, but I'll admit I'm a little sad when we get to the venue — the drab end-of-winter grey doesn't look great. Because of COVID, we don't have access inside the building, but there are plenty of photo options around it, including a delightful natural staircase. My parents are eager to have me married off, so they're happy with the venue. I quickly reach out to the event co-ordinator to ask about its availability. There's another couple who has a hold for the timeslot we want, but not all hope is lost! I press her to inform the couple that we want the venue and give them 48 hours to drop the hold or confirm it.
11:30 a.m. — My mom and I go back to Pacific Mall to check out the qipao again. We can't conventionally plan my wedding, so I want to involve her whenever there's an opportunity to share experiences. Witnessing one masterclass does not make me a great haggler, but I end up buying the dress at a decent discount. $150
1 p.m. — It's time for my dentist appointment. I've been feeling pain in a tooth recently, and my dentist confirms that I have a cavity. I end up getting a filling and a cleaning. It costs a pretty penny, but fortunately, my dental plan will cover it. $415 (expensed)
4 p.m. — On my way home, I pick up Chatime for L. and myself and use a coupon from a Lunar New Year promotion ($8.24). All my eating out has recently revolved around getting discounts. My freshly cleaned teeth keep me from drinking mine until I get home. $8.24
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5:30 p.m. — Right before dinner, we go for a run to earn our treat. The weather is so fantastic that the streets are more populated than I expected. I do my best to keep my distance and my mask on.
7:30 p.m. — Dinner is a simple affair of cabbage and leftover Popeyes. We spend the rest of the evening relaxing.
Daily Total: $158.24

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — It's back to work today. As I start my morning routine, I do feel that tingling on my face as I apply the vitamin C serum. I take it as a sign that the product is working and am encouraged!
1 p.m. — I'm very tempted to buy lunch with coworkers. When one of us forgets to pack lunch, the rest of us use it as an excuse to buy lunch in solidarity. It's easy when you have so many delicious options available to you in Toronto! I fight the urge to buy it and instead drink my protein smoothie. I'm so proud, I actually message L. to brag.
5 p.m. — I drive home in prime rush-hour traffic. After a lull early in the pandemic, cars have been back in full force, and they double my commute time to get home.
6 p.m. — I make it home just in time to do a HIIT workout with my team. It's a small virtual turnout, but the workout still kicks my butt.
7 p.m. — L. and I settle in with a dinner of quinoa, veggies, and BBQ pork to watch the Raptors game again. It's a disheartening performance as we watch them lose again. Our playoff hopes are disappearing into the ether. My poor fiancé is feeling sad about the Raps and his workload, so I try to comfort him before we go to bed.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — It's the day before the long weekend, and I'm nervous because I'm waiting for confirmation on the wedding venue. Otherwise, it doesn't feel very exciting to have a long weekend, especially because we've gotten word that the government would like to keep us in lockdown for the next four weeks again. The restrictions don't change my lifestyle much, but I can sense the growing dissatisfaction from friends and on social media. Everyone wants to get back into restaurants and hangouts, especially since the weather has been so nice.
3:30 p.m. — The day is winding down, and I'm feeling good about it. Thinking about how hard my fiancé has been working, I decide to surprise him with a treat! I go to Isabella's Mochi Donut Boutique to pick up a box because I have a good friend who has been raving about them. I get a few flavours — carrot cake, matcha, and chocolate dip — but I'm mostly interested in the sesame with salted duck egg. $20
4 p.m. — Still no word about the venue. I'm annoyed, especially because I know I won't get an answer until next week because of the holiday. I take advantage of Android Auto while I'm driving and leave the event co-ordinator a message for an update.
6 p.m. — It's a longer commute than usual, plus the lack of news about the venue leaves me deflated. I perk up when I'm greeted by my fiancé getting dinner ready (leftovers from yesterday). I show him our treats, which we end up having for dessert (consensus: pretty good but not our favourite). We rewatch Archer as we eat and laugh at all the ridiculous storylines. Binge mode kicks in, and we end up watching A TON of Archer. We go to bed at midnight.
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Daily Total: $20

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I get up, do my routine, and get ready for a virtual appointment with my therapist. I started seeing her to deal with anxiety and self-image issues. It's definitely hard to improve yourself, but the time and money are worth it. The appointment is an hour-long, and I'm fortunate to have coverage through work. $113 (expensed)
10 a.m. — I do laundry and clean the house. I like listening to money-related podcasts while I'm doing mundane tasks to learn more about personal finance and the economy. I particularly enjoy Planet Money and The Indicator. I'm interrupted by messages from an old coworker I haven't spoken to in ages. It's a nice start to my morning.
2 p.m. — Lunch is a simple grilled cheese sandwich and more Archer. We break up the couch-potato routine with a walk outside. We don't look at our phones and have silly, thoughtful, or deep conversations on our walks. Lately, we've been talking about principles for raising our future family. It feels great to know that he’ll have my back and I’ll have his. I'm glad we left our wallets at home because the local bakeries have tempting pastries on display.
6 p.m. — We return home to start prepping dinner, which is more quinoa, veggies, and BBQ pork. Despite the disappointing games we've been witnessing, we're ready to watch the Raptors tonight. Oh boy, did they make a statement! They have a decisive win, and the high feeling of victory carries into our conversation, and we end up talking until 1 a.m.
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Daily Total: $0
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