A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $90,000 Salary

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Today: a resident physician working in health care who makes $90,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on an artificial Christmas tree.

Occupation: Resident Physician
Industry: Health Care
Age: 31
Location: Toronto, ON
Salary: $90,000
Net Worth: -$94,000 (I have $6,000 in a TFSA.)
Debt: $100,000
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,700
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,450 (I live alone.)
Heat & Hydro: About $122
Loans: $200
Netflix: $0 (I'm on my family's plan.)
Phone: $120
Cable, TV & Internet: $130
Gym & Spinco: $250
Health & Dental Benefits: $17
Disability Insurance: $30
TFSA: $160
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. My parents are both immigrants to this country, and their mentality has always been that education is the key to success and improving your standing in life. I'm not totally sure if that's accurate, especially in 2020 when there seems to be such an expansion of job opportunities that don't require post-secondary education. Regardless, it was important for me to attend higher education. I was lucky that my parents paid for my undergraduate degree, and then I took out loans to pay for medical school.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Although I didn't know it when I was growing up, we struggled financially. My dad arrived with a medical degree that didn't translate to much here in Canada. He and my mom had to work many odd jobs while he studied to retake his exams and redo his residency training. We didn't openly discuss money in those early days, but I remember the stress that came around "bill day" and feeling like I never wanted to be in a situation like that.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was my residency. I'm lucky for this to be the case. I spent my summers in undergrad volunteering and trying to bolster my application for medical school. It makes me frustrated to speak about our education system, particularly with respect to medical school. People who need to work during their summer and can't spend this time doing free research or volunteer jobs are at such a disadvantage when applying to competitive spots at medical school. I'm not sure what the solution to this problem is, but I don't think my time spent directing patients to the correct hallway in a hospital has made me a better physician than someone who spent that time making money to support themselves or their family.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I didn't worry about money as a child, but I was very aware that we didn't have as much as other kids. As time went on, and my parents became more successful, I became more aware of our privilege.

Do you worry about money now?
I have a massive loan. Everyone thinks that doctors make a lot of money, but after taxes, overhead, and putting money away for retirement (I don't get a pension), it isn't as much as you'd think. I've spoken to senior physicians who say I should be able to pay my loan back in a few years, once I get a "real job," but I do feel anxiety about my debt.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
At the age of 20. My safety net would be my family, but I'm thankful I haven't had to go that route.

Day One

5:30 a.m. — I've been making more of an effort to drink coffee at home instead of splurging at Starbucks or some other coffee shop. I'm an absolute coffee addict and can't even imagine starting my day without one — or four — cups. I've been trying to do intermittent fasting, so I don't have breakfast. I usually get to work by about 6:30 a.m. so that I can round on patients who are admitted to our service. I'm finishing my training as an oncologist, and we have sick cancer patients that come in overnight. A lot of other specialties have had to pull back on their care due to COVID, so the hospital capacity isn't overwhelmed, but cancer care is considered urgent or essential, so our clinics and hospital admissions have been running at their usual tempo — maybe even a little busier.
2 p.m. — I'm swamped in the clinic today, and I don't have time for lunch. I run to the hospital cafeteria for chocolate–sea salt Rxbar, a coffee, and a pack of gum. I know, I know, it's not the most nutritious lunch, but I've convinced myself that it isn't a bad choice because the bar is mostly made from "real foods." I can't eat in the clinic while working because I don't want to remove my mask in a room with other people, so I scarf down the bar, quickly drink my coffee, and go back to work. $10.75
7 p.m. — Today has been a long day. I told myself that I would go grocery shopping, but I'm too exhausted. I cave and order a wrap from one of my favourite places called All Farms. They make healthy, high-quality food. I don't feel so guilty about ordering out because I'm supporting a small business. I also eat frozen grapes for dessert before falling asleep at 10 p.m. $18.78
Daily Total: $29.53

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — I have coffee at home again and hop on my spin bike. I used to love group fitness classes, and cardio gives me great endorphins. When COVID happened, one of my favourite spin studios switched to a spin-at-home program, and I was able to rent a bike and use an on-demand service for classes. Spinning at home isn't the same, but it's a good alternative for now.
1 p.m. — After doing spin this morning, I'm SO hungry and dying for a lunch break. I'm annoyed with myself for not going grocery shopping last night, and I have to buy lunch again today. I get a big chicken-pesto bowl from a restaurant that's near the hospital. It's expensive, but I'm starving, and it's worth it! $15.37
6 p.m. — Even though I feel tired and drained from the day, I drag myself home to change quickly (because I don't want to wear my scrubs out in public) and walk to the grocery store. I try to only buy small amounts of everything, because so many of my groceries go bad before I use them. I need to be better at organizing what to eat when, but it's hard when you live alone. I buy eggs, chicken breasts, two ginger kombuchas, frozen cauliflower rice, green onions, cilantro, frozen vegetables, avocados, premade salad packs (a waste of money, I know, but it saves me so much time), canned tuna (maybe this is polarizing, but I love canned tuna), bread, and sparkling water (my favourite is grapefruit LaCroix). $112.38
9 p.m. — After dinner (chicken breast with cauliflower rice and vegetable stir fry), I open up my Hinge dating app. Confession: I never thought I would still be totally single at 31. Dating is always hard but even more so during COVID. I see that I matched with a few guys, but the thought of starting a conversation with someone I can't even physically see until restrictions are lifted is exhausting — and a little depressing, honestly. Instead, I close the app and end up doing unnecessary online shopping. I haven't bought much clothing in the past few months because there isn't anywhere to go, but Aritzia is having a sale, and I see cute faux-leather pants, vegan-leather leggings, a sweater, two pairs of jeans, and a bodysuit, and I can't help myself. I'll probably regret this later, but it feels worth it in the moment! $322.77
Daily Total: $450.52

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — This morning is a hair washing day. I'm losing a lot of hair lately. I'm not sure if it's due to stress, or if I should be going to get blood work done. I think health-care providers are probably the worst patients. We always leave everything until the last minute. In the meantime, I've been using Nioxin shampoo and conditioner that a hairstylist recommended. I'm doubtful it's doing anything but at least it smells nice. I'm running late, so I take the subway to work. $3.20
8 a.m. — I finally cave and get a coffee at Starbucks (I always drink it black). We have an education hour this morning, so I take my coffee back to my desk to join in on my lecture via Zoom. I miss being able to sit in a room with my co-residents and hang out the way we did before COVID. Medicine, and especially oncology, can be emotionally draining. The camaraderie and support that I get from my peers are so important to my mental well being! At the beginning of the pandemic, I was feeling wiped out all the time, so I've tried to prioritize FaceTime calls and texts to keep me connected, especially because I live alone. $2.10
9 a.m. — I get to the clinic and see that a patient has bought us (individually wrapped) cupcakes from a local bakery! A red velvet cupcake is totally worth breaking my intermittent fasting rule for. She's one of my favourite patients, not just because of the cupcakes, but because she's one of the most positive and empathetic people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I've seen her once a week for almost a year and feel so blessed to treat her. Sometimes I think I'm more anxious than her on scan days, but thankfully today is a good one! We celebrate with air high fives and air hugs.
4 p.m. — It's raining, so I take the subway home. I didn't have time for lunch but at least I'm done early. I get home and have a snack of avocado on toast and then jump on my spin bike. It's crazy how much better I feel after a workout, but forcing myself to actually get on the bike is so difficult sometimes. $3.20
7 p.m. — I'm going to be on an overnight call shift tomorrow, so I treat myself to sushi through Uber Eats. I order a spicy tuna roll and edamame, which I eat while FaceTiming with my mom. My parents live a few hours away, but I haven't been able to see them much because of COVID, which is hard. I miss them a lot. My mom and I gossip and chat about our latest TV obsession (The Undoing on HBO). She then starts bothering me about why I'm not trying to meet anyone and how she's the only one in her friend group without grandchildren. That is officially my cue to say goodnight! $17.89
10 p.m. — I'm having trouble falling asleep so I look for Christmas gifts for friends. They live in the US, and I haven't seen them in such a long time. I settle on wine advent calendars, which will probably arrive late, but it's the thought that counts! $258.77
Daily Total: $285.16

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I get to sleep in a little because I don't have to be at the hospital until 8 a.m. for my 24-hour call shift. I enjoy my cup of coffee at home, then pack two premade salads and hard-boiled eggs. I also stop at the corner store for Veggie Straws and two packets of SmartSweets (the peach rings and the red fish are my favourites). I always find a good snack helps with a long shift. $10.13
9 a.m. — When I'm on call, it's my job to respond to any medical code or emergency in the hospital, stabilize the patient, and help triage them to the correct location. I arrive at the hospital and set up my on-call room. I'm so paranoid about the sheets that I always change them even if they look fresh. I go to the floor to see some of the patients that sounded unwell to make sure they're stable. After that's done, I decide to treat myself to the peach rings, but I only have time to open the bag before my pager goes off.
3 p.m. — It's already been such a busy day. You never know what you're going to get. I finally have time to grab a coffee and go back to my call room to eat my salad and eggs. $1.76
6 p.m. — The afternoon has been quiet. I eat SmartSweets and work on patient notes, doing phone calls to families, following up on patients I saw earlier, and checking blood work.
9:30 p.m. — I eat the second salad I brought from home, but it isn't satisfying, so I get myself a Reese's Pieces bar from the vending machine and feel much better. I try to take a nap but every time I close my eyes my pager goes off. I watch Netflix instead and cross my fingers for things to slow down! $2.75
Daily Total: $14.64

Day Five

5 a.m. — The night is so busy! I sleep for an hour, max. When I first started residency, these long call shifts felt overwhelming. Over the years, I've gotten used to them. Also, the night nursing staff is usually incredible. They try not to bother you unless you're really needed, and there's no way I would survive an overnight shift without them. I still have a few hours to go, so I buy a coffee and a raisin tea biscuit. $5.75
11 a.m. — I had a patient emergency near the end of my shift, so I end up having to stay late. I'm finally done and am ready to jump in the shower and get into bed. I'm way too tired to walk home, and I had one bad experience when I fell asleep on the subway and missed my stop, so I take an Uber. It usually takes time to fall asleep when I get home from a call shift, because my mind races. I use the Headspace app to do a guided meditation, and I'm out like a log. $12.75
4 p.m. — I finally wake up and go to Starbucks to get a peppermint tea. I also make myself an omelette and debate working out on my spin bike. I decide against it and spend the rest of the evening watching TV. I fall asleep again by 8:30 p.m. $3.65
Daily Total: $22.15

Day Six

6 a.m. — I finally have a day off! I have so much trouble sleeping in, even though I don't have anywhere to be this morning. I take time to drink coffee in bed and read on my Kindle. I'm currently reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. It's a great book, but I haven't picked it up in a while, so I'm lost as to what's going on. I eventually get out of bed and force myself onto my spin bike.
1 p.m. — I'm going to meet a friend for a socially distanced walk, and we stop at Balzac's. I get a ginger cookie and a matcha latte. (How unlike me! Who is she?) It's chilly, but the sun is shining, and it feels great to unwind and talk about something other than COVID or work. My friend recently got engaged, so she's filling me in on the details. We also chat about my lack of luck on the dating apps. Maybe I should just get a dog! $10.76
6 p.m. — I grab a Mediterranean bowl from Freshii, plus a bottle of Argentinian tempranillo. I love red wine, but so much of it goes to waste since the pandemic, because I can't drink an entire bottle alone. I go home to be a total slob and eat my dinner and drink my wine while watching trashy TV. Saturday nights have definitely changed! $39.99
Daily Total: $50.75

Day Seven

11 a.m. — I wake up, do a spin workout, and decide I NEED a Christmas tree. My building doesn't allow real trees (I guess they're fire hazards?), so I buy an artificial one on Amazon, along with ornaments. I would've loved to have bought them from Winners or somewhere like that, but the stores in Toronto are closed for indoor shopping. It's an expensive, spur-of-the-moment purchase, but it'll cheer me up, especially because I'm not able to go home for the holidays this year. $237
2 p.m. — I browse for gifts for my family. Mejuri is having a sale, so I get my mom and sister jewelry. So far, I've found that all of my Mejuri pieces have been great quality and well-priced. I'll save buying my dad's gift for my next paycheque. $329.97
4 p.m. — I go back to the grocery store. As expected, I didn't eat my second chicken breast before it went bad, so I have to throw it away. (I will learn one day.) I get more chicken, apples, salad packs, pesto, feta, mushrooms, and a wintergreen candle to fake the Christmas tree scent. I'm going to make another chicken stir fry for dinner tonight and enjoy the rest of the weekend. $66.88
Daily Total: $633.85
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