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A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $203,000 Joint Income

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 software engineer working in online dating who has a $203,000 joint income and spends some of her money this week on a bucket hat.
Occupation: Software Engineer
Industry: Online Dating
Age: 26
Location: Toronto, ON
My Salary: $88,000 ($80,000 base salary plus an $8,000 bonus)
My Spouse, R.'s, Salary: $115,000
Net Worth: $234,100 (The estimated value of our condo is $600,000, our car is worth $10,000, we have $8,100 in an RRSP/RSP, $85,000 in a high-yield savings account, and $6,000 in a tax-free savings account. R. and I have joint accounts and we share all our expenses.)
Debt: $390,000 (condo mortgage)
My Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,350 (after my RRSP deduction),
R.'s Paycheque (1x/month): $5,700
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage & Condo Fees: $2,500
Car & Condo Insurance: $340 (We bundled them for a lower price. It's ridiculous how expensive car insurance is for newcomers to Canada.)
Phone: $84 (We only pay for mine. R.'s is deducted as a business expense.)
Internet: $39 (R. deducts this as a business expense)
Hydro: $55
Amazon Prime: $13
Contribution To My Family's Rent: $800 (My family is in Ukraine and, sadly, they had to flee their homes because of the Donbas war.)
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Annual Expenses
Duolingo Plus: $60
Ontario Parks Summer Pass: $84
Transponder For Ontario Highway 407: $24.99
Crunchyroll: $72
Costco Membership: $120 (But we get enough cash back to cover the membership cost.)

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?
That was not even a question in my family — everyone has their degree. But here's the kicker: My parents and grandparents got their higher education in ancient times when it was free for everyone in my country of origin. So when it became apparent that my local SAT equivalent would probably get me into some universities, there was the most embarrassing oops moment in the history of oops moments and my parents realized Oh, people actually pay for higher education these days. Luckily for me, I managed to secure a merit scholarship for a computer science program that covered 90% of the fees. My parents helped me with the remaining 10% for the first two years, and I covered the rest by working summer jobs. Needless to say, having a merit scholarship put a ton of pressure on me to get good grades because I had to maintain my marks to keep the funding. In hindsight, dealing with that pressure was better than graduating with student debt.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Conversations? More like they unintentionally scared me to death with this subject. You see, my parents lived through a lot as young adults: The Soviet empire fell, the money their parents were saving all their lives turned into nothing, and hyper-inflation ran rampant — basically, the whole economic system just collapsed. So money kinda became a scary and unpredictable thing for them, a kind of leprechaun gold that may evaporate any time. And my ma and pa coped with this reality in different ways. My father was always more of a spender, not to any extremes, but he had a spend-it-while-you-have-it mentality. My mother, on the contrary, became even more frugal than before, saving every penny she could and stashing it around our home because who trusts the banks, duh? And I fluctuated between these approaches. There's a funny family story about the money for my senior prom outfit. I really wanted a dress, so I managed to earn money working my summer job, and Mom stashed the cash away in an empty shoebox somewhere in the den because she thought I would be too tempted to spend it before the prom, plus she had a pathological fear of burglary. Then my grandma was spring cleaning and threw the freaking box away. Diving into our apartment's dumpster is not how I imagined my prom preparation. Thank god we were able to retrieve it. But yeah, the relationship with money in my family was weird at best.

What was your first job and why did you get it?

My first job was at age 14, helping mom with one of her side hustles: converting text with occasional images into HTML for a website. Thousands of pages. Boring as heck. But the job helped pay for new clothes and shoes. My first official job was at age 16 (you can't legally work until that age in Ukraine), selling stationery in a small shop owned by a family friend. The proceeds from this venture funded additional schooling for university entrance exam preparation, plus I stashed a bit for the prom outfit. (Yes, the money that ended up in the dumpster.)

Did you worry about money growing up?
I was worried we wouldn't have enough for basic needs. As I understand our situation now, it was never actually as dramatic as it seemed to my mom. Things were definitely tight, but not a half-step from starvation or eviction. Welp, what can I say? Anxiety from past traumatic experiences sucks and having it as a hand-me-down from my mom is no fun either. On the bright side, living well below my means and saving aggressively was ingrained into me, and I don't see that as a bad thing. And I don't take nice things for granted, which is an added bonus.

Do you worry about money now?
My upbringing made it almost impossible not to worry about money. I can guarantee that even if/when I hit well over my saving targets, I'll find something to be worried about. It has gotten better over time and having an emergency fund helps. Having a spouse who feels the same about money as me is also a blessing. Sharing a budget with someone whose views are the polar opposite of yours, which is the case for my parents, seems like the stuff of nightmares to me.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I have always tried to contribute to my family's income, or, at the very least, minimize their spending on me. But becoming fully financially responsible happened at 22, when I graduated and started living with R. I envy all the folks who can rely on their parents as a safety net, but it is what it is.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
R. receives dividends every six months. He's an early employee of a company that was later bought by the industry's behemoth, so that has its perks. I also kinda inherited half of my grandpa's condo (the other half is my mom's), but it's located in a war-torn region, which is more of a pain in the bottom than a real asset. Maybe there will come a glorious day when I can cash in on it, but I have my doubts.
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Day One

7:45 a.m. — The alarm clock goes off. Snooze, be gone, vile creature. Half an hour later, I try to get up and, to my utter horror, I can't. My Achilles tendons hurt so much that I almost cry while I limp into the bathroom. Yesterday, we rollerbladed with friends for the first time in a while, and I probably overdid it, plus me staying in the rollerblades while we drove from one park to another (and struggled to find parking for 40 minutes straight) was not the brightest idea.
8:30 a.m. — R. gets up and, seeing my misery, springs into action: He makes coffee and brings me the folding table and my laptop so I don't need to limp into the living room. By the time my first daily standup begins, I feel better sitting on my bed with coffee and a piece of chocolate (yay for WFH). R. starts with morning work meetings as well.
10 a.m. — I have a call with my family doctor. I can feel her disapproving gaze even without actually seeing her. Fair enough, I guess. After receiving recommendations from the doctor, R. goes to the pharmacy. There goes $34.60 for the ankle sleeves, ibuprofen, and a small pack of Brookside dark chocolate with blueberries to cheer me up (no, the doc didn't advise the latter, but R. is such a sweet person). $34.60
12 p.m. — I'm in no condition to cook today, so brunch is on R. We're having sandwiches made with hard-boiled eggs, pesto, and homemade baba ganoush, plus cured salmon (also homemade) and tomato and cucumber salad.
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1:30 p.m. — I call my mom via Telegram. I try to talk to her every day. Being an only child has massive benefits, but it's certainly not without pitfalls.
6 p.m. — The workday, heavy on meetings, is over for today. R. has a driving exam for his full G licence tomorrow, so we go to the driving centre in Oakville to see the exam routes. Feeling slightly better from ibuprofen, I wear the ankle sleeves (they really help!) and very slowly get to the elevators and underground parking.
8 p.m. — We're back home after having a pleasant drive, and R. has somewhat less anxiety because the routes don't seem too tricky. We fix a quick dinner: a pound of salt-and-pepper wings from the freezer and a salad of mixed greens and beefsteak tomatoes. I quickly shower while the wings are cooking.
10 p.m. — As per our evening routine, R. is completing dailies in Arknights before bedtime, and I do a couple of French lessons in Duolingo. French lulls me to sleep like no other. As usual, I'm complaining about the weirdness of some language constructions to R., who, as someone who tried to learn Japanese, isn't too impressed.
10:30 p.m. — We go to bed early because R.'s exam is in the morning, and the driving centre is a one-hour drive even without traffic.
Daily Total: $34.60

Day Two

7:20 a.m. — We wake up earlier than usual. R. is too nervous to eat but agrees to take a tumbler of coffee and a bag of Finn Crisps after some nagging.
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8 a.m. — With R. out of the door, I'm all alone, but it's too late to go back to sleep before the meetings begin, so I fix myself a cup of coffee and couscous salad with bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and canned tuna for protein. (My colleagues would probably hate me for the smelly fish. Yay for WFH once again!)
10 a.m. — After the first round of the morning meetings winds down, my phone rings. R. has just passed the exam. Hurrah! This will lower our insane car insurance bill, so I'm super happy. R. wants to pick up celebratory food on the way back, but we quickly realize that most of our favorite places aren't open yet. So instead of some nice Korean food or Popeyes, we end up with a freaking Starbucks. R. gets a fancy purple summer drink (dragon fruit?) and brings me the only thing I kinda like from the franchise: an iced matcha latte. $13
12:30 p.m. — It's calling mom time. She doesn't seem to understand completely why R. needed to get another driver's license after getting one in March 2020 (there's only one type of driving license in Ukraine), but she's happy that I'm happy.
1 p.m. — I make us fried rice with eggs, a handful of flash-frozen veggies, and sweet Chinese sausage from T&T.
6 p.m. — We wrap up our respective work tasks for today. After some mulling, we get the Korean food we wanted in the morning. It's from a nice mom-and-pop place, the kind where they remember your name and usual order. I place the order for takeout via Ritual, one of the few delivery apps out there that doesn't rip off poor food industry owners. We are getting a short ribs platter for R. and barbecue beef salad for me, plus two sets of bansang and two portions of rice. $48
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8 p.m. — We are happily munching on our food and drinking two cans of Asahi beer that were sitting in our fridge for like forever, and catching up on all the anime R. missed while preparing for his exam. The Odd Taxi is nice, others not so much. On a particularly boring piece, I go take a bath.
11:30 p.m. — When I return, R. is soundly asleep accompanied by an episode of the endless One Piece saga. I do a couple of Duolingo lessons, but without the speaking part so I don't wake up R.
Daily Total: $61

Day Three

7:40 a.m. — Alarm goes off, but we snooze it and laze around.
8 a.m. — Shoooot, R. forgot about an early meeting, so some panic laptop booting ensues. I make us coffee, and I feel extra-fancy today so I froth our milk with a milk frother.
9:15 a.m. — My first of two standup meetings for the day begins. Meetings will eat up a decent chunk of the day. Our team lead presents the proof of concept for the new version of our application, and I really like what I see.
11:15 a.m. — I have a very short window for lunch and errands today. So sorry, Mom, but we'll only text. I call our car insurance company to inform them about R. successfully passing his license exam, so they recalculate our premium. It goes down from $340 to $311. It's not a big difference, but every small bit matters.
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11:45 a.m. — After being done with insurance, I quickly prepare us the laziest lunch ever, warming up a can of halibut and French pea soup, adding smoked kielbasa shock-fried in the wok and topping it with homemade croutons (sometimes I raid our grocery store downstairs in our building after 8 p.m. for discounted bread from the bakery, which makes for perfect croutons and bread crumbs).
12:30 p.m. — I'm back to my meetings that seem to stretch forever.
4 p.m. — Almost every Costco has unique goodies in addition to the staple ones, so we drive to the one relatively far away. We get milk, eggs, sockeye salmon, tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, rambutans, Portobello mushrooms, grated Parmesan, sparkling water, a gigantic pack of frozen meatballs, an equally gigantic pack of toilet paper, a T-shirt for R., toothbrushes on sale, and a famous Costco chicken. A couple of crazy Costco buys: four jars of salmon oil (Omega 3,6,9 supplement) on sale and a kimono. Honestly, the fish oil isn't that weird considering that we send parcels to our family from time to time, and supplements are crazy expensive in Ukraine. Fish oil is not as popular among my relatives as Reese's cups, but I like to think I contribute to their health, if only a little. $206
7 p.m. — We're home again, and I make a quick salad of beefsteak tomatoes with olive oil and herbs, and we eat about half the Costco chicken.
8 a.m. — My friend, T., calls, and the first thing he screams is "I got us a school bus!" Well, "school bus" is an exaggeration, but instead of his usual work car that's being serviced, he picked a sizable SUV with three rows of seats that will comfortably fit his family of four plus R. and me. We chat excitedly about all the provincial parks we want to visit.
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9 p.m. — R. goes to play some early-access indie game with friends, and I notice a new message on the Vaccine Hunters discord: Someone needs to translate a poster about an upcoming vaccine pop-up into as many languages as possible. I join the group and offer to help as my personal FU in the face of the pandemic. I help them with Ukrainian and Russian versions and start with Polish, but someone's already done it, so I click to approve the Polish and French because they look good to me.
11 p.m. — Time to catch some Zs.
Daily Total: $206

Day Four

7:40 a.m. — It's almost Friday, so even the alarm can't get me down ; )
9:15 a.m. — Let the meetings begin.
12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime. One more lazy AF dish: I bring chicken broth to boil, put in riso (or other small pasta) and frozen meatballs, wait five minutes so the pasta and meatballs are cooked, add frozen veggies (corn, mixed peas, and cubed carrots), wait another two minutes, and you have decent soup with meat, veggies, and all.
1:30 p.m. — Time to call mom.
6 p.m. — My feet are much better, but I notice that they still hurt when I'm wearing shoes. A closer inspection shows that my loafers sag quite a bit under the heel, so we're going shoe shopping. We try Foot Locker, which looks like a battlefield, and then Winners, but it seems like the horde of barbarians trashed it on their way to Rome. I almost give up on the entire thing, but there's a Mark's next to Winners, and we give it a go. To my surprise, the hiking/utility shoes feel really good, and my walk in them is painless. Plus, they're on sale! I also pick up a bucket hat, which is theoretically on sale, but, in fact, is not. I'm thinking of returning it right away, but R. convinces me to keep it. $140
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8 p.m. — We're back. Dinner is yesterday's chicken leftovers stir-fried with store-bought Teriyaki and frozen veggies served on rice noodles.
9 p.m. — I'm buying an adjustable desk online. I've been putting off this purchase for a long time, but R. insists that I buy a desk instead of occupying our dinner table and mounting my laptop on top of three packs of A4 paper when I want to stand instead of sitting. Also, yesterday I learned that we're not going back to the office until the situation with COVID becomes more stable, so I don't have the excuse of "but we might be heading to the office soon" anymore. There's a $100-off deal on a desk at Costco, and the return policy is generous, so I go for it. I spent so much money today that I have an urge to take off my new bucket hat to pay respect to the fallen dollars. $373
10 p.m. — We're watching season 2 of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, the only anime I picked up this season. I kinda relate to the protagonist —  she's a young female software developer after all — but R. insists that I have more of a chaos dragon personality (thank you, dear).
Daily Total: $513

Day Five

7:40 a.m. — It's Friday! Alarm goes off, and R. gets up, but I happily sleep in because it's a no-meetings day for me.
9:30 a.m. — I finally get up and start making us coffee. I check my work email and Slack, answer a couple of questions from our quality assurance person, and I'm ready for breakfast.
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10:15 a.m. — I leave to get us brunch from a new Mexican place nearby. I order one rancheros breakfast to go, which consists of eggs, peameal bacon, toast, home fries, and awesome salsa on top. I also order one portion of churros and coffee with milk to sip while I sit at a patio table, waiting for our food and chatting with my dad via Telegram. $32
11:45 a.m. — North American portions are ridiculous, so R. and I share the one-person breakfast I brought home, and we both feel full.
12:30 p.m. — It's time to call my mom. She travelled to another city to visit a friend and is a bit tired, so we quickly wrap up the conversation.
1:30 p.m. — R.'s parents call us as they do once a week (not being the only child has some perks).
2:30 p.m. — I have work I want to finish this week, so I do just that. Writing unit tests is not my favourite thing, but they save you a lot of pain in the bottom if done right.
5:30 p.m. — Splash time! I book a spot at our building's pool and head for a swim.
7 p.m. — I'm back home. R. put pork ribs into the Instant Pot while I was swimming, so I release the pressure from the pot and start rice as a side dish, along with a tomato-cucumber salad.
8:30 p.m. — I go to the Metro to get food for tomorrow. We're going to Lake Erie, so my friends will be picking us up in the morning. I'm tasked with getting us burger and hotdog buns, mustard, lettuce, Portobello mushrooms, and foil to wrap them. I also get bell peppers because they're on sale and delicious on the grill. $38
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10:30 p.m. — Early to bed because we're heading out early tomorrow.
Daily Total: $70

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — We're driving south in T.'s "school bus." It really is a huge car. We stop at Wendy's because T.'s kids want ice cream, and I end up buying R. and I ice creams as well. The kiddos swear it's oh so good, but I'm not impressed. What would you expect for $0.99? $2.26
11 a.m. — We arrive at Long Point Provincial Park and use our summer provincial parks pass to park behind the sand dunes. Our friend gushes about how the dunes remind her of her native Baltic beaches, and I'm starting to think that the similarity is not only in the looks — the Baltic is pretty cold, even in the summer, and the wind here is chilly. It seems that even my friend's Samoyed sled dog feels a bit chilly. We light the grill and start cooking burgers. The food turns out good, but I'm getting the migraine of a lifetime from the wind. Even T.'s Canadian-born kiddos, who are basically never cold, come sit with us instead of swimming. Luckily, we remember that there is another park with a beach nearby, and judging from the direction of the wind, Long Point should shield it.
3:30 p.m. — We arrive at Turkey Point beach and are amazed by the contrast with the previous one: It's so quiet, the water is warm, and the temperature is actually pleasant without the hellish wind. We happily swim and eat watermelon.
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10 p.m. — We're back. I half-heartedly shove the griddle from our portable barbecue into the sink with soapy water in hopes all the stuck particles will loosen overnight. Then I fall into bed and am happily snoring in seconds.
Daily Total: $2.26

Day Seven

9:45 a.m. — Sleeping in and snuggling is my favourite part of Sunday. R. gets out of bed first and makes us coffee.
11 a.m. — In a fit of creativity, I make hollandaise sauce for the first time ever. I was wondering how to use a leftover half-cup of whipping cream, and this is a perfect match. I use a microwave recipe because I'm no good at standing near the burner and constantly stirring stuff. I use up all our butter in this culinary endeavour, but our scrambled eggs with toasted bread and salmon are royally delicious.
12 p.m. — Calling parents time. We talk about our trip to the beach yesterday and share photos.
1 p.m. — R. prepares to clean up, and I head out because I have a whole freaking bouquet of allergies, including dust and most of the cleaning solutions, so my poor SO bears the brunt of the housework. Funnily enough, I'm not allergic to Windex, but R. becomes nauseated at the faintest hint of it, so window cleaning is on me. I go for a walk around the neighbourhood while on a Skype call with my friend across the pond. Poor gal lost her job (again!) due to COVID, so she's on a full-blown crusade to find a new one. After some time, R. calls to tell me the apartment is all clear, and I return home.
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5 p.m. — Splash time! I get into Gus Ryder municipal pool without a reservation (btw, the City of Toronto reservation system sucks big time). Not being a huge fan of swimming, R. rents a bike ($8) at the bike share next to the pool and explores the Martin Goodman Trail while I happily splash away. $8
6 p.m. — R. cycles past our favourite Italian spot and sees that there's no lineup for the patio, so he makes us a reservation. After my swim, I walk to meet him, happily joining the public on the Humber Bay waterfront. The patios are booming, families are heading home after a long day on the beach, and people are sitting on the grass enjoying the warm summer night. Both literal and proverbial storms are on the horizon: There's gonna be a thunderstorm tonight, and COVID cases are nowhere near the mark we all want them to be. But for right now, life is good.
7 p.m. — We are at Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar. We order fried calamari and a glass of wine each, and of course, I'm tempted by the triple-cheese charity bread (proceeds go to community causes). Doing good has never tasted so good. I end up taking most of the bread home, though, because the calamari platter is so big. $56
9 p.m. — We're back home. I'm so relaxed after swimming and our dinner with wine that I almost fall asleep in the bathtub. But R. also wants to shower, so I'm heading to bed.
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Daily Total: $64
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