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A Week In Montreal, QC, On A $119,000 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 senior software developer working in finance who makes $119,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a coffee grinder.

Editor's Note: This is a follow-up to a previous Money Diary entitled "A Week In Montreal, QC, On A $92,000 Salary." You'll want to read that first, here.
Occupation: Senior Software Developer
Industry: Finance
Age: 28
Location: Montreal, QC
Salary: $119,000 (base salary: $102,000; RRSP matching: 6% of my salary; bonus: $10,000; side hustles: $1,000)
Net Worth: $191,477 ($80,732 in savings for a wedding, house, and emergencies, $59,457 in a TFSA, $50,108 in an RRSP, and $1,180 in cryptocurrency)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,526
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $725 (For my half of an apartment I share with my fiancé, A.)
Hydro: $30
Internet: $22.97
Phone: $41.39
Renter's Insurance: $11.94
Netflix: $5.49 (split with A.)
Prime Video & YouTube Premium: $0 (I use my parents' accounts.)
Couples Therapy: $14 (A. and I do two sessions a month. Our copay is $14 per session, and we split it.)
Spotify: $3.78 (I split a Spotify Family membership with four friends.)
RRSP: $510 (I pay $255 per paycheque, and my employer matches it.)
Savings: $1,100 ($500 goes into my TFSA, $300 into a wedding fund, and $300 into a travel fund. Whatever is left goes into my downpayment fund.)
Annual Expenses
Crave: $50.84 (split with A. and two friends)

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 both have master's degrees, and it was expected that I would at least go to graduate school. They funded my undergraduate degree in India, which was cheap because I went to a government institution where tuition is subsidized. When I came to Canada for my master's degree, my father paid for my tuition, and I paid for living expenses by working as a teaching and research assistant.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up, my father made me paper trade stocks from the newspaper and taught me the basics of investing. My mother, who ran the household, has always been frugal and encouraged me to save when I started working.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
Middle- and upper-class children in India are expected to study and do well academically, and working is considered a distraction. My first paid job was as a research assistant when I was 19. I took the position to build up my resume. The pay was minimal, and I put most of it into savings because I was living at home.

Did you worry about money growing up?
We lived in the US for five years when I was a child. I remember worrying about money, because my father was the only working member of our family, and we lived in a small apartment, whereas everyone I knew seemed to live in huge and lavish houses. I was always told we couldn't afford the things I wanted because one day we would move back to India. After we moved back to India, I was vaguely aware that my parents were “comfortable,” but it was obvious that they chose to raise me cheaply (in terms of extra-curricular activities, clothes, and toys) while spending a lot more on my younger brother. In hindsight, I realize that my parents are upper-middle-class in India. My father was an early employee and owned stock in a startup that later became one of the largest multinational companies in India. He made enough to retire early and is a safety net for his large, extended family, many of whom are very poor.

Do you worry about money now?
Abstractly, because while I have a lot of savings, big expenses are coming up (buying a house, a wedding) that make me anxious. I'm confident that I'll always make enough to survive, even if I don't have my friends and family to rely on.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 24 when I started my first salaried job in Canada. I have a financial safety net in my own savings, my fiancé and his family, and my parents, plus the excellent social security net in Canada. I'm very aware of my privilege and, realistically, know that it's unlikely that I would ever fall through the cracks. In turn, I'll always step in if my family or my fiancé's family needs money or housing.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My father paid for my undergraduate education in India, tuition fees in Canada and gave me $26,500 when I got my first salaried job in Canada to start my TFSA. He also gave me $5,000 for lawyer's fees when my first immigration application was rejected, and I had to file a second. A. and I are planning to hold two wedding ceremonies, one in India and one in Canada. My father wants to pay for our Indian wedding ceremony and reception. I have a complicated relationship with my father, who has always used money to control our family and bully my mother because she was a homemaker. He cut me off for a few months both when I was 19 and 23 because he was angry at me. I'm equally likely to inherit a million dollars or to receive nothing, depending on how I behave.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up to the whir of A. grinding coffee beans. By the time he's done brewing coffee in the French press, I'm at my desk ready, if not enthusiastic, for a two-hour conference call. A. and I have been working from home since last March, with no foreseeable plans to return to the office.
11 a.m. — After my call, I eat my mid-morning snack of two clementines, shower, and check the mail downstairs. My permanent residency card is waiting in the mail! My immigration journey has taken 934 days and given me white hairs. I almost start crying in the lobby because I'm so happy! I immediately text all my friends and family and have an impromptu dance party with A.
1 p.m. — Lunch is Vietnamese pizza with leftover rice paper, eggs, chili sauce, and green onions that I make from one of Beryl Shereshewsky's YouTube videos (I'm a big fan of her recipes from around the world). I can't focus on work at all; I have a big smile on my face, and my feet won't keep still. I keep admiring my card and savouring congratulations.
6 p.m. — A. and I celebrate by cooking a fancy dinner this weekend. Our first stop is the SAQ where he buys Champagne. Then we go to Costco and get steak, a salad kit, clementines, dishwasher pods, naan, salmon, basa, croissants, cheese, dumplings, chicken nuggets, macarons, and a gyro pita meal. We split the cost. $93.77
8:30 p.m. — At home, we pop Champagne and drink it with our gyros (an odd choice, but I feel like celebrating). We watch the last episode of Love Life on Crave. Does anyone else enjoy Marcus's season more than Darby's?
10 p.m. — I end the night by calling my family to celebrate, but my mother ends the call with a hurtful comment about my fiancé's family. My mother is proudly classist and looks down on my fiancé for “only” having a bachelor's degree and making less than me. I feel conflicted because my family often causes me pain, but I still miss being home.
Daily Total: $93.77

Day Two

10 a.m. — I wake up mildly hungover. A. and I make stuffed breakfast croissant sandwiches and coffee and watch Alexandra Gater's new home-reno video and CBC Marketplace on YouTube (this has become a weekend breakfast routine during the pandemic).
12 p.m. — I scan flight prices to India for December. Due to my immigration situation and COVID-19, I haven't been home in three years. I'm looking forward to going because I have a cousin's wedding coming up in January, and my brother will be home in December, but the prices almost cause me physical pain. I remind myself that I would rather have the memories than the money and book a ticket. $2,267.65
1 p.m. — Since I'm still full from breakfast, I have two clementines and tea for lunch. I read A Million Things by Emily Spurr for my book club while A. does his half of the weekly cleaning. After he's done, I take over and then have a stress nap.
6 p.m. — A. cooks the steak while I prepare the sides (salad and mashed potatoes). We're not supposed to eat cows for religious reasons, which makes steak decadently delicious to me.
8 p.m. — We watch the first episode of the live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop, followed by the anime. The remake is just as disappointing as we were afraid it would be, but we're now committed to seeing it through. Jet and Ein are the best parts of the show.
Daily Total: $2,267.65

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I wake up, shower, and drink a cup of coffee that A. makes. I'm going for brunch with two coworkers turned real friends. I put on La Roche Posay sunscreen (my holy grail), Charlotte Tilbury lip liner in M.I. Kiss, and tinted lip balm. I wear silver croissant hoop earrings from Mejuri, a white crop top, an oversized violet cardigan from Aritzia, and mom jeans under my forest-green Kanuk parka. I like to coordinate my masks with my outfits, so today I'm wearing a silver silk mask that A.'s mother sewed for me. I put my water bottle and wallet in my crossbody bag from Lululemon.
11 a.m. — Using my preloaded OPUS card, I take the Metro and a bus to a Turkish brunch spot in Mile End. My friends, who are both immigrants, are as excited as I am about my permanent residency card. I want to order in French (I've been practicing with A.), but lose my nerve at the last minute, because my accent embarrasses me. Maybe next time! We order Turkish coffees, menemen, Mihlama, Anatolian eggs Benedict, and babka to share. $29.31
1 p.m. — It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so we walk three miles from Mile End to downtown Montreal. We browse at a pop-up bazaar where I buy stickers and earrings for my friends in India ($22). I'm gutted to see that a lot of small stores in the Plateau have gone out of business, and condos are coming up in their place. My friends buy handmade soap at a new small business and porcelain cups at the Christmas market in Place des Arts. We stop at the mall to test fragrances at The Bay and Sephora and are liberally sprayed by enthusiastic salespeople. $22
4 p.m. — I take the Metro home and get cozy in my woolliest pajamas. A. is visiting his parents, so I put on a Korean face mask, light a mimosa-scented candle from Mala Candles, and rewatch Insecure while sipping tea. The crackle of the wood wick makes the space extra cozy. At sunset, our Christmas lights, which we put up on the balcony for Diwali, begin to glow.
8 p.m. — A. comes home, loaded with food. His mom makes us huge batches of food every week. We've tried asking her not to, but it only hurt her feelings. I feel uncomfortable because I enjoy cooking for myself and like to feel independent, but I suppose it evens out because A. pays for his parents' phones and internet. We eat chicken curry with rice for dinner while watching The Great Canadian Baking Show on CBC.
9 p.m. — A. watches football on his computer while I watch A Suitable Boy on CBC and check work emails. I like to start Mondays with an empty inbox.
Daily Total: $51.31

Day Four

8:45 a.m. — I wake up 15 minutes before my daily standup meeting and sip coffee that A. makes for me.
11 a.m. — I break to eat my two clementines and check Black Friday promotions in my inbox. It seems like they begin weeks before the actual date these days. As a combined birthday and Christmas present for A., I buy a Fellow Ode Coffee Grinder. I feel bad that he hand grinds coffee for us every morning, and I know that even though he's had his eye on it for a while, he would never buy anything so expensive for himself. It's on sale for 25% off at SSENSE, and we only buy each other gifts twice a year, so I justify it as a reasonable expense. $362.17
1 p.m. — Since American Thanksgiving is coming up, my week is pretty light. I keep my eye on my laptop while I soak chickpeas for dinner tomorrow, start the dishwasher, and throw our laundry in the wash.
5 p.m. — A. and I go through our non-perishables and realize that we have bags of microwavable popcorn that expired in 2019. We munch on long-expired yet still buttery popcorn while watching Arcane on Netflix.
6 p.m. — I go to the gym downstairs and listen to The Daily covering the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.
8 p.m. — We have chicken curry with rice for dinner, while watching Cowboy Bebop. Afterward, I Google and then email psychologists in Montreal who conduct ADHD diagnostic evaluations for adults. My brother was diagnosed as a child, but now I'm beginning to suspect that my mother and I both suffer from undiagnosed ADHD. Even with insurance, testing is expensive, and I feel anxious and bitter that my parents never had me tested as a child.
Daily Total: $362.17

Day Five

8:45 a.m. — I wake up to coffee and loaded croissant breakfast sandwiches. A. is such a sweetheart! I call my manager and ask permission to WFH from India in January. They're completely fine with it, which is a relief.
12 p.m. — I drain the soaked chickpeas and cook ghugni (chickpea curry with potatoes) for dinner. I'm cooking early so that it will cool by the time my friend comes over to pick up some for her dinner. She's in the last few weeks of writing her PhD dissertation, and I like being able to help her out by making dinner.
2 p.m. — I make hot chocolate with marshmallows for A. and me before joining a panel hosted by the diversity committee at work. The organizer announces that work will cater lunch for our next meeting. While I'm not excited to eat on Zoom, I'll do it for free lunch! I order a pair of black joggers on sale from Duer Performance. I'm hoping they'll keep me comfortable during my flight to India. $103.95
5 p.m. — Gym and podcast time. I'm so grateful to have a gym downstairs. There's something about a sedate jog that clears my mind. I would rather walk outside, but I don't enjoy the cold. When I'm done, my friend comes to pick up the ghugni.
9 p.m. — After dinner and Cowboy Bebop, A. and I have our weekly catch-up, which our therapist recommended. We each share one criticism and one compliment for the other person and try to “lean in,” which is a struggle because we're both so independent. I share my anxiety about wedding planning. My parents want a big wedding in India, his mother wants a big wedding in Canada, there are restrictions about the right astrological date, and all sides are negotiation-averse. I'm so burned out from COVID and immigration that spending so much time and money on a wedding makes me want to throw up. Talking it out helps me declutter my mind, and I feel a lot better afterward.
Daily Total: $103.95

Day Six

8:45 a.m. — I call my dad to check on the home-office situation in India. He promises to upgrade his internet package when I'm working from home in January and to get me a desk and chair. Work will let me expense a second monitor. As a Christmas gift for my parents, I buy a Kobo Nia with a lemon yellow cover. I still have access to the Toronto Public Library because I lived in Toronto last year, so my plan is to teach them how to borrow books on the Nia with my account because they love to read. $160.94
12 p.m. — I make fried rice with zucchini and frozen seafood for lunch, doused with soy sauce and sambal oelek.
3 p.m. — I have an Uber Eats promo and look longingly at cheesecakes from Rockaberry, but I'm not ready to spend almost fifty dollars. Instead, I stuff a croissant with chocolate chips, nuke it in the microwave and call it a day. Still in a dessert state of mind, I peruse Bûches de Noëls from a local ice cream store and debate flavours with A. Will it be baklava, coconut-mango, or dulce de leche this year?
5 p.m. — I've been embroidering a cat portrait for a friend in India whose cat recently died. I plonk down on the sofa with my embroidery for the new season of Selling Sunset. I don't move for three hours.
8 p.m. — Dinner is leftover chickpeas and rice, and dessert is a macaron. I persist with Selling Sunset until bedtime, despite A.'s commentary. I'm forced to point out that manufactured drama is the allure of reality shows.
Daily Total: $160.94

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. — I wake up and brew coffee just for myself in the moka pot before joining a two-hour-long conference call.
9 a.m. — My neighbour (who I met through Bumble BFF in the spring and became great friends with) drops off her cat. She's going on vacation for the week. My brother, who lives in the US, texts me Happy Thanksgiving. I don't have the heart to remind him that we don't celebrate it in Canada.
11 a.m. — I have nothing new to work on, so I log on to a mentoring platform for programmers, which has been my side hustle since this summer. When my real job is light, I can make $60 an hour helping people with their code. I spend 45 minutes with a student who is struggling with an R script.
12 p.m. — Lunch is salmon, made by A.'s mom, and clementines. I check out Lululemon's Black Friday sale but thanks to supply-chain issues, my wallet emerges unscathed. I double down on discounts on Old Navy and buy a few sundresses that I know my cousins and mother in India will love. $60.29
3 p.m. — I make us matcha lattes and log off work because I started so early today. I play with kitty and start on a new book, The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli. Historical fiction is my favourite genre, and according to my spreadsheets, makes up 30% of all the books I've read this year.
6 p.m. — I put on gold chandbali earrings that A.'s mom gave me, jeans, and an embroidered white kurti with a black-and-red silk dupatta spangled with mirrorwork. I have so few occasions to wear my Indian outfits that I make the most of every opportunity. We drive to dinner at a South Indian restaurant with A.'s family for his dad's birthday. We order dollar idlis, paneer 65, and dosas. Dessert is mango rasmalai and carrot halwa, and everything is delicious! A. pays.
9 p.m. — At home, we roll straight into bed, bloated with food. The cat is meowing plaintively, so I give him a little extra food and let him into our bedroom — just for the first night.
Daily Total: $60.29
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566 at any time or text 45645 between 4 p.m. and 12 a.m. ET. Residents of Quebec, please call 1-866-277-3553.

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