A Week In Montreal, QC, On A $92,000 Salary

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Today: a software developer working in tech who makes $92,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on cheese curds to make poutine.
Occupation: Software Developer
Industry: Tech
Age: 26
Location: Montreal, QC
Salary: $80,000 (I also get a $10,000 annual bonus, plus I made $2,000 by pet-sitting this year.)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,290
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $562.50 (I split a one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, M. The total is $1,125.)
Student Loans: $0 (My parents paid for my undergrad in India, and I paid for grad school through research and teaching assistant jobs.)
Phone: $34.40
Internet: $17.24 (for my half)
Electricity: $30–$50 (for my half)
Dental Benefits: $48.40 (taken out of my paycheque)
Health Benefits: $76.12 (taken out of my paycheque)
Netflix: $5.50 (I split the basic plan with M. and share my account with my family.)
Spotify: $3 (I share a family plan with four friends.)
High-Interest Savings Account: $2,000 (I try to put in at least $2,000. This month, I put in $2,640 after I got my paycheque, and I'll likely put in more after I pay rent and utilities.)
RRSP: $400 (I contribute 6% of my salary, which is matched by my company.)
Annual Expenses
Tax-Free Savings Account: $6,000 (At the beginning of the year, I put the maximum amount allowed into my TFSA.)
National Geographic Subscription: $36
Bixi Bike Membership: $80

Day One

6:45 a.m. — I don't usually get up this early, but I'm pet-sitting a puppy, so I bolt upright. I let her out of her crate and take her out for a walk as soon as she's finished her breakfast.
7:30 a.m. — I do my morning routine while the puppy gambols around the living room with M. I wash my face with Cetaphil and apply Pixi Glow Tonic followed by Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence sunscreen. My makeup is usually just a swipe of Maybelline Kajal on my lower waterline and Glossier's Generation G lipstick in Zip. My face is cratered with old acne scars, because my mother used to pick at my skin, so there's no point in applying foundation or concealer since it only makes the texture worse. I used to be ashamed of my skin, but now I've come to accept it. While the puppy is playing, she accidentally pees on the floor, and I clean it up.
8 a.m. — I put the puppy in her crate with her toys. I have the crate set up by the window, so she'll have a view of the street for entertainment. The owners told me she's comfortable in there for four to six hours, and she usually falls asleep once inside. I walk to my coworker's condo, and she calls an Uber ($30) to take us to a breakfast meeting at a French bakery that supposedly sells the butteriest croissants in Montreal. We split the Uber fare. $15
9 a.m. — Our coworkers arrive, their noses and ears various shades of red from the cold. The bakery has a '60s charm to it and would be utterly delightful on a snowy morning, were it not for a few disturbingly racist articles of decor (also in keeping with the '60s theme), like a yellow jug painted with an image of a black man made to resemble a monkey with a little red top hat on his head, like Abu in Aladdin.
9:10 a.m. — I order a coffee, a croissant with ham and cheese, and two pain au chocolates (one to take home to M.). My boss is impressed with my grasp of the French menu and asks me if I'm taking classes. I tell him no, I've just gotten good at parsing French words for food, because I love to eat. The croissants are undoubtedly the butteriest and rank among the top three croissants I've eaten in my life. This is a tough ranking, because I'm firm in my belief that Montreal has the best bakeries in North America. $13.62
9:45 a.m. — On the way to the office, my boss and I discuss Don Cherry and Quebec's immigration policies, which is always a salty topic for me. I moved to Montreal from India for school four years ago and, after I graduated university and got a job, I applied to stay here through a skilled workers program. This year, my application was tossed out, and I need to re-apply and take a French exam. I've tried to learn French, but I won't be able to pass the exam before my work permit expires. So I'll have to quit my job and leave the province within a few months in order to apply for permanent residence. I have no idea if I'll stay in Ontario or come back. It's a massive change to move, find a job in a new province, then repeat the same process to move back, so I'm conflicted about what to do. Never have I felt more strongly that I'm an unwanted immigrant than in the past few months.
10:30 a.m. — We arrive at the office and attend a meeting to discuss how to set up a new tool we're working on.
12 p.m. — I let my team know that I'll be working from home for the rest of the day and walk the 15 minutes back to my house. I let the puppy out of her crate and take her for a long walk downstairs.
1 p.m. — I eat a piece of shepherd's pie that I made last night and login remotely. While I'm working, the puppy pees on the floor near the windows. Her owners take her out to the balcony to pee, and I think she associates the area near my windows with her old balcony. Knowing the reason doesn't help my mood while I clean the area.
3 p.m. — I open the bedroom door to grab a Chapstick, and I'm not quick enough to shut it behind me, because the puppy darts through. An enthusiastic (on her side) game of chase follows as she slides under the bed and evades all attempts at capture. Even when I get a hold of her, she's as slippery as an otter. I pretend to walk away, and when she emerges from under the bed to see what's up, I pounce. Wedged under my arm, I march her out of the bedroom and corral her in the kitchen, behind an obstacle course of furniture.
4 p.m. — I take a 15-minute break to walk the pupper downstairs. She makes enemies with a pair of floofs attached to leases. I never understand how small dogs manage to have such big attitudes.
6 p.m. — The owners arrive to pick up the puppy and bring me a box of Turkish delights. Blood money I suppose, for all the poop and pee I've been cleaning off my floor this weekend. They tell me how guilty they feel, and I pretend I'm not annoyed that she was barely trained and assure them that she'll grow out of the puppy phase soon enough. Once they're gone, I immediately go on the pet-sitting app and raise my puppy rates sky-high: from $35 a day to $60.
7 p.m. — M. arrives late because he visited his parents after work. His mom is adorable and cooks for us whenever he visits, which leaves me alternately guilty and delighted. I bask in the glory of his mother's approval. My ex-boyfriend's mother hated me for the seven years we were dating, because I was from the wrong caste and, according to him, had a big nose.
7:30 p.m. — M. plays Risk on his phone and reminds me that I'm supposed to mention his existence to my parents. This is a point of contention, because we live together and plan to get married once my immigration issues have been resolved, but I haven't told my parents this yet. I video chat with them in India for an hour, and my dad jokes about when I'm going to get married. I tell him I have a boyfriend. He seems taken aback by my bluntness at first but okay with the news. My mom winces. She has a more hierarchical view of the universe and believes that I should marry a rich man from the same ethnic community as me, who has a PhD or an Ivy League degree.
9 p.m. — M. is happy that I mentioned him to my parents. We have the dinner his mom cooked for us — rice with daal and salmon — and watch cooking videos on YouTube. I apply for jobs in Toronto and Ottawa, like a maniac. I have LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster, and Neuvoo open in different tabs. In between applying, I polish my CV. I'm upset that I have to leave my comfortable job, my lovely coworkers, my wonderful home, and boyfriend in a few months because of some arbitrary immigration policies but c'est la vie.
10:30 p.m. — In bed, I read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I borrowed from the library. I have little glass bottles of retinoids and serums from The Ordinary lined up on my nightstand, but I always drift off to sleep before remembering to apply them. Tonight is no different.
Daily Total: $28.62

Day Two

7 a.m. — The streets are hillocked with snow, and no one on my team is going to bother showing up at the office (we take our work-from-home privileges very seriously). M. doesn't have his snow tires on yet and debates whether or not to drive to work. I suggest that we both work from home, and he counters that we wouldn't get any work done.
8:30 a.m. — M. finally leaves. I email my team that I'll be working from home and brew a cup of Hong Kong milk tea that I got from Chinatown. (I bought five large bags in one shot, because I used to be mildly addicted to it, and I was afraid they'd sell out. This turned out to be a stupid decision, because I've lost my taste for it and still have four bags to go through.) I also have a raisin bagel for breakfast.
10 a.m. — My colleagues and I have a call to discuss our priorities for the day. I work on an issue affecting code in production and get a quick fix out.
11 a.m. — I take a break to make lunch. I love cooking but only for other people. When left alone, my meals alternate between instant noodles, frozen dumplings, and charcuterie. Today, I butcher half a cauliflower, toss it with oil and salt, and pop it in the oven to crisp for an hour. I also grab a piece of Turkish delight and get back to work.
12 p.m. — I eat lunch at my desk, dipping crunchy bits of cauliflower into a viciously hot salsa that I bought from Jean-Talon market. It's called The 911, and even though I've grown up eating raw chilis with my food, it still makes my face sweat. The lady who sold it to me said I was very brave. I adore it even though it gives me indigestion. While eating, I indiscriminately apply for jobs on one screen. On the other screen, I play an episode of Little Things. It's a cute web series about a young Indian couple in Bombay that Netflix picked up this season, and it makes me feel a little closer to home.
5 p.m. — I take the Metro to the library to return my books. I pick up Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, and fill my Metro card with 10 passes. $29
6 p.m. — On my way home, I text with my brother, who started university in New York. I received $44.52 USD from a class action settlement a few days ago, but since I don't have an American bank account to deposit it into, I send it to my brother and tell him it's his Christmas present. I'm usually not this stingy, but I'm hoarding money right now, just in case I don't have a job lined up by the time I need to move out of Quebec. I might also need money to hire a lawyer and/or take a trip to India, so my plan is to live off my bonus, which I will get soon, and sit tight while my immigration application is processed.
7 p.m. — I start the robot vacuum and put in a load of laundry while I wait for M. to come home from the dentist. Once the robot vacuum is done, I Swiffer the floors. In between, I snack on leftover potatoes from the spicy pav bhaji I made this weekend. I do most of the household chores, because M.'s commute is almost three times longer than mine. M. buys groceries from Walmart on his way back home: oat milk, rice vinegar, chicken broth, ginger, onions, cucumber, minced beef, chicken thighs, shiitake mushrooms, frozen parathas, hummus, and bagels ($45.84 split). We add all our shared expenses (electricity, internet, rent, and groceries) on Splid and pay each other back at the end of the month. $22.92
9 p.m. — We watch Fleabag while eating dinner (naans and leftover daal). I receive $7.68 cash back from Rakuten. I put it on on my Starbucks card and add $2.32 to make it an even $10. $2.32
Daily Total: $54.24

Day Three

8:15 a.m. — I put on fleece-lined leggings, an oversized thermal sweatshirt from Aritzia (I have five in the same colour, which takes the hassle out of dressing for an Arctic winter), and shearling-lined Blundstones. I walk to work and treat myself to a gingerbread latte from Starbucks on the way (prepaid from my card). It's glorious taking creamy, sweet gulps of hot coffee in minus-12 weather. I'm slowly working through the list of Christmas-themed Starbucks drinks now that I have money to spare for frivolous little delights. Next on my list is a peppermint mocha.
12:30 p.m. — I have lunch (rice and chicken curry) with two of my work friends from a different department.
2 p.m. — While my code builds, I take a break to stretch, make tea, and eat a piece of saltwater taffy from my coworker's desk.
5 p.m. — I take a call about a job in Toronto before I head home. It pays less than I make now, but I'm so desperate for a job — any job — that I agree to take a coding test on Saturday evening. Downstairs, I find that the pajamas I ordered from Simons and this month's issue of National Geographic have arrived. I drink apple cider that I made in my Instant Pot and a slice of cake, made from a dollar-store mix that I enhanced with apple slices and oatmeal.
6:30 p.m. — I have a “doggy interview.” The owner brings his Puggle over. He wants me to sit her and his new cat over Christmas. She's chonky like a rolled-out sausage and seems like the best companion to watch TV with on a winter day. We discuss her daily routine and let her get comfortable around the apartment. He books with me after the interview. Success!
7:30 p.m. — I've been working my way through the recipes in Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. Today, I prepare seaweed salad and miso-roasted salmon, which I've left to marinate for a few days. This dinner would've been almost impossible to prepare in India, because the ingredients would've been too hard to come by. Though I suppose if I still lived in India, I would've hired a cook, like my friends do. M. and I watch Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj while eating dinner.
10 p.m. — I call my friend in Bangalore on WhatsApp. We discuss long-distance relationships, since she's been in one for almost a year now, and I'll be moving away from my boyfriend soon. She reminds me that the separation won't last forever and suggests that I'm trying too hard to ensure my life is picture-perfect. She's right. I've always felt that I could force life into the perfect configuration, if only I planned ahead and worked hard enough: perfect job, perfect education, perfect relationship. I feel like I'll shatter when things are in flux.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I get to work, brew tea, and eat a pear from M.'s mother's garden. The Metro is flooded at a key station, and half the Orange Line is down, so a lot of people are working from home today.
12 p.m. — Lunch is rice with chicken curry and seaweed salad. Someone brings in grainy-tasting brownies from the no-waste store. Only after we've all swallowed does he tell us there's ground crickets inside them. My coworker promptly retches into a tissue. I'm seized by the desire to buy pre-ground crickets and incorporate them into cakes and curries and see if anyone can guess what they are.
3 p.m. — I get an email reminding me to schedule my vacation days before mid-December. I still have eight days left, and I was saving them in case I needed them for interviews. I decide to take off half of December. My coworkers are going to sunny destinations, but I enjoy the idea of a snowy Christmas with M., the Puggle, and the cat. A third-party recruiter messages me on LinkedIn. He says he has a few opportunities available and asks me for my salary expectations. When I let him know, he says that he's never heard of anyone of my experience level making this much. He suggests a salary that's $10,000 to $15,000 lower, which is ridiculous, because I made that much two years ago, when I graduated with no job experience! I fume over text to M. about how much I hate being lowballed.
5 p.m. — I buy cream, tofu, clementines and Babybel cheese on my way home ($7.52 for my half). I stop at the pharmacy to check if flu shots are available and impulse-buy a bottle Essie Model Clicks nail polish ($16.09). $23.61
6:30 p.m. — I eat Babybel cheese (I adore peeling off the wax) and make a cup of tea. I practice for the English language exam I have to take this Saturday for my residency application. It seems so unnecessary since all 18 years of my education have been in English, and I've been working in English for two years on top of that. Sometimes I feel irrationally jealous of my boyfriend for being born in Canada. I would have so much energy left over if I wasn't always stressing out about my immigration status.
7:30 p.m. — I take a break to make dinner. I toss shiitake mushrooms, chicken thighs, and rice in the rice cooker with a bunch of sauces — another quick and delicious recipe from my Lucky Peach cookbook. I use the leftover chicken thighs to make butter chicken, because we're making butter chicken poutine tomorrow.
9 p.m. — M. and I stream the new season of Silicon Valley. He's received a job offer, but the salary is lower than he expected, so he's not sure what to do. He says he feels like he's letting me down by not aggressively hunting for jobs in Ontario, since I need to move there. I tell him to do what's best for his career, but I'm frustrated that he's so reluctant to leave Montreal. I know his whole life is here, but I moved across the world a few years ago, and now I have to move again, so it can't be that hard, right? My last relationship was a long-distance one, and we eventually broke up because we were never going to live in the same place. Is that going to happen to me again?
Daily Total: $23.61

Day Five

8 a.m. — The phone interview I was supposed to have is rescheduled, but I work from home anyway, because I have to take a written coding test this afternoon. I briefly call up my dad to fume and ask for job-hunting tips. He reminds me to have patience, something I'm notoriously short on. (I want things done now! Now! Now!)
9 a.m. — I toast a raisin bagel and make masala chai. I add grated ginger, pepper, star anise, oat milk, and Splenda to a saucepan of boiling black tea. The result is deliciously sweet and creamy but low-calorie.
11:30 a.m. — I browse Frank and Oak, which is having a pre–Black Friday sale, while having a quick lunch of leftover miso salmon and rice. The sweater dress that I want is sold out in my size, sadly. I then trudge to the testing centre.
1 p.m. — I finish the test and walk to work to take a call from my boss in the U.S. this afternoon, and I don't know how to take it from my mobile. I eat clementines at work.
3 p.m. — The call goes well. She wants to know what I'm up to and make sure that I'm happy with my projects. I am! I don't want to leave! I'm going to be gutted when I have to resign.
5 p.m. — On my way home, I buy cheese curds and frozen French fries for the butter chicken poutine ($7.69 split). $3.84
8 p.m. — I do my nails and watch YouTube videos while M. bakes the fries with cheese curds and adds the butter chicken gravy and spring onions. It's ridiculously delicious and obscenely unhealthy, and afterwards we beach ourselves like whales on the sofa while drinking cherry beers and watching Patriot Act. Cooking delicious food at home is a double-sided blessing — we save money and frequently end up creating delectable monstrosities.
Daily Total: $3.84

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up feeling anxious, because I have two tests today, and I don't feel prepared for any of them. Instead of reviewing for my English language test, I eat poached eggs in bed and finish reading Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. It wasn't as light and fluffy as I was expecting, and I put a hold on another book by the same author.
12 p.m. — M. drops me off at the testing centre for my English language exam, which takes about two hours.
3 p.m. — I finish much faster than the examiner expected, because I hate revising my answers, and I can't stand being in testing halls. Plus, the test was easy, and I'm confident I'll do well. I walk home to find that M. has baked me a pumpkin pie and made me hot chocolate. He massages my tense shoulders while I relax and watch YouTube videos, because I'm supposed to have a coding test in two hours.
5 p.m. — I log into the Google hangouts meeting for my interview but no one shows up. I email my recruiter and wait half an hour in frustration, but when no else joins, I log out. I cannot believe how flaky recruiters and interviewers can be. M. sympathizes as I stomp around and rant. All these tests are wearing me out.
6:30 p.m. — I put on a curve-hugging purple sweater-dress from Aritzia that I got off Poshmark, big gold hoops, and spicy red lipstick (MAC Chili) for date night. We usually try to eat out only twice a month and alternate who pays. Today is M.'s turn. We walk downtown to get soup dumplings at a very popular spot. Since we're so early, we don't have to wait in line outside, which is fantastic because it feels like January. I've never had soup dumplings before, and these are magical on a cold evening!
8 p.m. — We drive to M.'s friends' house to play Settlers of Catan. Board games are my favourite way to meet new people, since I'm naturally introverted and a little awkward. We usually switch between Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Ticket to Ride. We're planning to get Secret Hitler soon, too. M.'s friends make loaded nachos. They're only a little older than me, but they're already married and have a house together. I have serious relationship envy and wonder when I'll be in the same position, both financially and relationship-wise. I could've married M. for immigration purposes — he asked me — but I didn't want to make a rushed decision and marry for convenience. Sometimes I regret my decision, because it means that I'll have to move out instead. We drink wine and beer and end up playing and chatting till after midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

10 a.m. — We wake up late. I'm having Lucky Charms for breakfast for the first time ever! I didn't grow up eating cereal. My mom would make me either toast spread with butter and large crystals of sugar, or roti with vegetables. M. and I spent half an hour at Walmart last week debating what kind to buy for my introduction to breakfast cereal. So many colourful choices! Lucky Charms in oat milk ends up tasting like cake, and I feel super-hyper. We stream Mulan, because M. has never seen it before, and it's my favourite Disney movie of all time. I've watched it at least once a year since I was five. I sing aloud to "I'll Make a Man Out of You," and M. says he's surprised by how much he enjoyed it. He's never gotten into Disney movie music before.
1 p.m. — M. watches the Vikings game while I submit job applications. I have the leftover chicken with shiitake mushrooms and rice. Afterwards, I wrap myself up in my electric blanket and fall asleep on the couch while reading City of Girls. I'm a big fan of Sunday naps.
4 p.m. — M. wakes me up to say goodbye, because he's going to visit his parents. I make a cup of tea and start working on a 90-minute coding test that a company sent on Friday as a screening round. It's full of stupid IQ-style questions like finding patterns in a table of random numbers and the next number in a sequence.
7 p.m. — I finally have free time to relax and work on my fanfics. I've been on fanfiction.net for over 10 years now, and I have a lovely and supportive community over there and on AO3. Right now, I'm working on a what-if story set in the Song of Fire and Ice universe. An uncle from Toronto calls, and we chat about my dad. He had an angioplasty recently, which added to my feelings of stress and helplessness, but he's recovered. His doctor told him that he could even run a marathon if he wants!
8 p.m. — M. is home with bounty from his mom: tandoori chicken, chicken curry, chana masala, daal, and salmon. Our food bills are only this low because we're subsidized by his parents. We watch the new season of The Crown while having dinner, and I answer all of M.'s questions about the British royal family, because I love nerding out about them.
Daily Total: $0
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