Money Diaries

A Week In Vancouver, BC, On A $108,000 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 software engineer working in tech who makes $108,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on vampire's teeth for Halloween.
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Occupation: Software Engineer
Industry: Tech
Age: 26
Location: Vancouver, BC
Salary: $108,000
Net Worth: $380,000 ($120,000 in a 401K from my former employer, $60,000 in the bank, and the rest in a mix of stocks from my former employer and a robo-advisor account, which invests in a mix of funds and bonds)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $3,059
Pronouns: They/them or She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,750 (This is half of the rent for a two-bedroom townhouse I share with my partner, D.)
Phone: $50 (I'm still on a US plan and dreading having to get a Canadian plan again. This one is a much better deal!)
Internet: $30 (It's subsidized by our building and split with my partner.)
Hydro: $25–$40 (for my half)
Apple Music: $10
Health & Dental Benefits: $0 (covered by my employer)
Nintendo Switch Online: $2.50
Netflix & Crunchyroll: $0 (My dad lets me sponge off his Netflix, and D. pays for Crunchyroll.)
App Subscriptions: $11 (I pay for a meditation app and a habit-tracking app to help with my productivity and mental health.)
Car Insurance: $20–$50 (Our insurance is charged by mile-of-usage. It's D.'s car, but we split the insurance because I use it, too. He also hasn't switched to BC Insurance yet. When he does, it will be a lot more expensive.)
Renter's Insurance: $7 (for my half)
Google Storage: $2.50 (I'll likely need to up this to a larger plan soon because I use it to back up all my photos.)

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, definitely. I always got good grades and loved math and science. My parents had an RESP for me that was worth around $20,000 when I graduated, and I had about $8,000 in savings from jobs I worked in high school. Tuition and fees were around $7,000 a year. I also took out $2,000 in loans and received about $3,000 in grants from the province. For the first year, I lived with my mom for free, but the commute from her house was 90 minutes each way, which was brutal. After that, I moved into a house with roommates closer to campus to cut my commute in half. After second year, I worked for 16 months as part of a co-op program. I worked in software development and saved up enough money to pay for tuition and living expenses for my third year ($15,000 to $20,000 if I remember correctly). The summer after third year, I got an internship at a big tech company in the US and made enough in USD to pay for my fourth year (around $15,000 to $20,000 again). I also worked as a teaching assistant for the computer science department, which was about 6 to 12 hours a week, and it pretty much paid for my tuition every semester. I had just about $0 left when I graduated.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents ran their own small business which was successful, but I don't think they ever invested in funds or bonds or anything like that. They did have some credit card debt. I remember my dad telling me never to miss a minimum payment. I also remember asking my parents how much money they had, and they explained that it was more about the flow of cash in versus cash out and that quoting a static figure wasn't as meaningful.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My very first job was working as an elf for a mall Santa when I was 13, I got the job because my friend was doing it as well. My first, more serious jobs were in food service. I wanted to save money for university and for fun things like concerts with my friends.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I was never worried about having food or a roof over my head, but I understood that my parents didn't have unlimited resources. I didn't ask them for money very often and I always chose the cheapest item on the restaurant menu because I felt bad about asking my parents to spend more. I had a fairly accurate picture of where we stood financially because I had friends that were better off than us and friends that were worse off. We couldn't afford to go on jet-setting holidays, but I knew that we owned our house and two cars, so we were lucky overall.

Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I would worry more if I wanted to have kids, but as it stands, my partner and I make enough to be comfortable and to indulge in fun hobbies, and that's all I really want out of life. I'm also not concerned about ever being able to own a house in Vancouver; I feel alright having my investments diversified instead of all thrown into one risky asset. The main downside of renting is not being able to customize our place and paint wacky murals on the walls, but that's not super important. I do sometimes worry about what would happen if I wanted to change career paths or go back to school, but I figure I could come up with a reasonable budget and stick to it.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became mostly responsible for myself when I moved out of my mom's house at 19. I did have some money in my bank account from the RESP and my high school savings at that point, which was definitely a safety net. I also borrowed $2,000 from my mom and $3,000 from my boyfriend for my apartment deposit and furniture when I moved to the US after university because I had absolutely no money left. So, I was never in danger of having to go into credit card debt or anything like that; I did have a support system.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received the $20,000 RESP mentioned above and another $20,000 from my grandparents when they passed away last year.

Day One

9 a.m. — I sleep in because I had a hard time falling asleep last night. I have the day off, but my partner, D., still has to work. I start a pot of coffee, take the dog, E., out for a pee, and make oatmeal with fruit. I take my medications and vitamins and then relax with my coffee.
11 a.m. — I suspect I couldn't fall asleep last night because I didn't exercise yesterday, so I lace up my running shoes and take E. for an hour-long walk with jogging intervals along the seawall. I haven't run in a while, so I ease back into it gently to avoid wrecking my knees. There's no one at the dog beach, so E. can take a quick dip in the ocean. When we get back, I have a shower and put on a black turtleneck, black skinny jeans, and some rather theatrical Fluevog dress shoes.
1 p.m. — For lunch, I fry up tempeh, broccoli, greens, and gyoza and play a bit of The Great Ace Attorney, which I just bought for our Nintendo Switch. Then I get down to cleaning. D.'s dad is in town this weekend, and our house is messy.
6:30 p.m. — We help D.'s dad and co. unload. They're staying at the guest suite in our building. They brought a sushi platter, but some of it fell on the floor in the car, so we order extra rolls to replace those, plus vegetarian sushi for me (two rolls, one inari nigiri, and a miso soup). D. pays for this one because his family has expensive taste. We all have a few glasses of Prosecco that they brought, and I open a bottle of red I had stashed in the pantry.
9:30 p.m. — D.'s family leaves. I practise guitar, clean up, and crash around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7 a.m. — I drag myself out of bed and start a pot of coffee. I make myself pumpkin oatmeal to celebrate fall, then walk around the block with the dog for a quick warm-up before grabbing my mask and going to the gym in my building. I slept much better after getting exercise yesterday, so I want to make sure to get some in today, too. I do a quick strength workout with squats and rows.
9 a.m. — I shower and get ready just in time for my first meeting. I feel like wearing something feminine today, so I throw on a black bodysuit, a green patterned skirt, and purple eyeshadow. After the meeting, I set up my workspace for the day and grab another coffee before the next round of meetings, which last all morning. At one point, I hop on Amazon to order elf ears and vampire teeth for spooky Halloween looks. I feel bad about ordering from Amazon, but the only ones I could find on Etsy look like they were dropshipped from Alibaba. $29.38
11:30 p.m. — I spend my lunch break on a call with some of my mom's coworkers. She does communications for a non-profit organization and wants me to offer advice on data analysis software. I'll be billing them $100 an hour for my time, but I'm going to recommend they hire someone else after this. I'm mostly doing this as a favour for my mom because she has no one else to ask for tech advice.
12:30 p.m. — Finally done with meetings, I'm HUNGRY. Running down to the kitchen, I realize with horror that our dish soap is full of dead ants. D. used it to clean out the gross compost bin on the patio, and I guess he must've left it out there for several hours. I throw it out and go back to making lunch, appetite reduced. Lunch ends up being coconut yogurt with fruit and hemp seeds, the rest of the gyoza from the freezer, and a piece of chocolate. I eat at my desk, desperately trying to get work done before the afternoon slump hits.
3 p.m. — I manage to gain momentum and finish a document I need to write, but my energy is drained after that. I half-heartedly try to reproduce some of the bugs I'm working on, but my brain feels fried, so I don't get very far. I snack on ice cream and crispy lentils for protein, but that doesn't help much, so I lie in bed watching TikToks and take a nap. Oops.
5 p.m. — I rally and fix some issues with my pull request to send it out for another round of review. I give up on work for the weekend at around 5:30 p.m. D.'s dad comes over, and we drive to pick up our car, which has been stranded at my mom's house with a dead battery for the past week. We install the new battery that his dad brought us from Costco.
7 p.m. — We all head to a great Middle Eastern restaurant and have an appetizer platter and a bottle of wine. I order extra cabbage rolls, and we split the bill four ways. $42.13
9:30 p.m. — D. goes to his dad's suite, but I stay in our house to relax on the couch with the dog. I watch a few episodes of Ouran High School Host Club and work on my knitting.
Daily Total: $71.51

Day Three

8 a.m. — I have a lazy start to the morning and lie in bed for a while. Eventually, I mix up a quick smoothie with greens, fruit, and vanilla protein powder. We're going for a long walk today, so I wear gym leggings, a T-shirt, and Adidas runners.
10 a.m. — D. mentions his dad is going to come over to cook breakfast. We're out of coffee, so I run to the grocery store to grab a bag of beans and strawberries ($13.48). There's no dishwashing liquid at the store, so I go to Shoppers to grab it ($4.99) and also pick up hot dogs to use for training E. ($3.02) $21.49
12 p.m. — We finish breakfast and hop on the water taxi to go to Granville Island ($4). The dog loves the water taxi. After that, we walk down the seawall to Kits Beach, and then all the way back home to downtown. $4
4 p.m. — D.'s family wants to go out for happy hour, so we walk to a nearby restaurant. They all get burgers, but there's no veggie option, so I just order fried mushrooms. They're $14, but D. pays because I ordered them at the behest of his family. After that, they borrow our car to go to Ikea, and I crash on the couch and snack on ice cream and lentils. They fill up the tank for us on the way back, which is nice of them.
6 p.m. — My guitar teacher sends me an invoice for the next four lessons, which are $35 each but cheaper as a bundle. I pay the invoice online, then take the dog out for a pee and pass by an entire Mariachi band walking down the sidewalk. $126
7 p.m. — D.'s family comes back to our apartment with cheese and snacks, but we want something healthier after the greasy food earlier, so we order from a nearby Japanese place. D. gets brown rice rolls, and I get a don and miso soup. $17.90
9:30 p.m. — D. and his family go out for a walk, but I stay behind and practise guitar before crashing around 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $169.39

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I have a slow start to the day again. My mom calls, and we have a long chat about the meeting I had with her organization. After that, I shower and throw on a thrifted wool argyle sweater and green pants, which I pair with brown Dr. Martens Oxfords. D. takes the dog out while I brew us coffee and make a big pot of pumpkin spice oatmeal.
2 p.m. — D.'s dad calls and makes plans to meet him in Mount Pleasant. I have laundry in the wash that I want to hang up, so I stay behind. It feels nice to have the day to myself to catch up on chores. In between loads of laundry, I watch YouTube videos (About Here and Strange Aeons) while working on my knitting. I also meal plan for the week.
3 p.m. — I forgot to eat lunch, so I make instant ramen, which isn't the healthiest, but I do at least throw in frozen edamame for protein. My elf ears from Amazon arrive, and I can't help trying them on and doing an elf-inspired makeup look with green eyeshadow.
5 p.m. — D. texts me that his family is hanging out at his sister's place, and I'm done with the laundry so I head over (after taking off the elf ears). We have a glass of wine and order Japanese food. I order mushroom ramen and an almond-tofu dessert (D. pays). It's super tasty, but I immediately regret wearing a dryclean-only wool sweater because I get ramen broth all over it. We play a few Jackbox games on the Switch until it gets kind of late.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — I drag myself out of bed for a shower just in time for my first meeting. D.'s dad is working downstairs in our place, so I hide in my office. D. takes the dog out and orders waffles for us and his family. I throw on a red turtleneck and jeans with my red Dr. Martens. The rest of my morning is mostly free from meetings, so I get to work on a design document I'm writing. I use the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused, which means setting a timer for a 25-minute block, and then taking a five-minute break to relax when the timer is up. During my break intervals, I knit a little and say goodbye to D.'s family, who leaves to drive home.
12 p.m. — I'm having a hard time focusing on work because I'm so tired. I take a break to foam roll my legs because they're still sore from the workout I did, plus all the walking around. After that, I work on a presentation, which means reading papers and summarizing algorithms. Why did I volunteer for this again?
1 p.m. — I take the dog for a quick walk. He's tired from all the walks with D.'s family on the weekend, so we just spend 20 minutes sniffing around the park. Next up: grocery shopping. First, I hit the produce aisle for an avocado, cilantro, corn, cauliflower, tomatoes, mixed greens, onions, red peppers, a lemon, and a lime. I also get beans, tofu, coconut milk, curry paste, soy yogurt, a pesto dish from the deli for D., and a vegan red lentil pastry for my lunch. Finally, I get baking supplies to make two vegan pumpkin pies. $42.55
3 p.m. — I spend an hour looking at various training courses because my company applied for a grant that requires them to spend $1,000 on a formal training program for me. I try to convince my manager to let me take a cool one, like quantum computing or convex optimization, but we decide on attending a conference instead because it would be more relevant to my actual job.
5:15 p.m. — I stop working for the day and quickly throw on a lazy curry dish, adding coconut milk, yellow curry paste, and frozen veggies. I don't have much time to eat it before I need to leave for my guitar lesson. While rushing to cook it, I drop a Pyrex measuring cup on the floor, shattering it. Ugh. I sweep up the glass and add a new measuring cup to my to-buy list.
6:20 p.m. — I grab my guitar case and head to the SkyTrain. On my way, I listen to an episode of the Maintenance Phase podcast about the Presidential Fitness Test. I grew up in Canada, so it's not like I ever had to do the Presidential Fitness Test specifically, but it definitely brought up memories of the 12-minute run and other fitness tests from high school. The podcast raises some great points, like why would anyone think shaming kids is a good way to build healthy habits?
8 p.m. — Back from my guitar lesson, I settle in to binge-watch Haikyu!! with D. I snack on ice cream while we're watching and keep knitting the dishcloth I'm working on. I only learned to knit a few months ago, so I'm still working on basic stuff. Afterward, I clean the kitchen and go to bed by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $42.55

Day Six

8 a.m. — It's starting to feel cold in the mornings, which makes it harder to get out of bed. I eventually get up and get dressed in my running clothes, aiming to go for a run on my lunch break. I take the dog out for a pee, put a bagel in the toaster, and start catching up with emails and Slack messages.
11 a.m. — I pour myself a second cup of coffee and add oat milk. I'm mostly done with my tasks, so I paint my nails black and work on my algorithm presentation. I realize my bagel is still in the toaster, so I add vegan cream cheese and eat a late breakfast.
12:30 p.m. — The bagel is sufficiently digested, so I head out for a slow 20-minute jog along the seawall with E. He loves to stop and sniff every bush, but I'm on a tight schedule. Afterward, I stretch and shower, then throw on comfy cords with a navy blue shirt and an unbuttoned Oxford shirt.
2 p.m. — I have a meeting with my boss. When I'm done, I go to my building's Canada Post box to pick up two books I ordered from Indigo. I try to buy most of my books from smaller stores, but these two are volumes in The Promised Neverland manga series, which has been out of stock for ages. When I discovered Indigo had the French version in stock, I jumped on the chance to order them.
5 p.m. — I wrap up my presentation just in time to run it by D. at 3x speed. I make a couple of notes, then we hop on the bus (I pay with my Compass card) and go to a diving store. I recently completed an open water diving course, which has always been a bucket-list item for me, and my sister got me a gift card that inspired me to take the plunge (sorry, I couldn't resist). I wanted to pass it on, so I got a gift card for D., so he could take the course as well. He signs up for the course while I browse dive computers and fins. I didn't buy any gear today, but I'll probably have to spend at least $700 on it soon. D. also tries on masks, but none of them is a great fit, so we'll have to come back later when they have more in stock. I do pick up a pair of drysuit gloves and liners so I can use them in my upcoming drysuit course. $20.05
6:30 p.m. — One of my favourite vegetarian restaurants is just across the street from the shop, so we pop over, and D. gets a beer and a burrito, and I get a tea and a veggie bowl. We split the bill. $22.13
8 p.m. — My office is doing a donation drive for winter clothes for a women's shelter, so I go through my closet. Unfortunately, I declutter regularly, so I don't have many extras, but I do find a couple of toques and a pair of gloves. I see that they're also in need of toiletries, so I go to Shoppers and get a few travel-sized things on sale: toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, and pads ($47.14). I also get lip balm for myself ($6.70). I'm immediately struck with anxiety: Are these donations really worth anything? Would it be better if I just gave the organization cash instead? Is this just a vanity donation for my own benefit? I see the organization also takes online donations, so I give $50. There, now I've covered both bases and can stop feeling guilty. $103.84
9 p.m. — D. points out that I forgot to fold the laundry from Sunday, so I put on a podcast and fold clothes on the bed. After that, I clean the kitchen and make it to bed by 11. p.m.
Daily Total: $146.02

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I get out of bed with more urgency than usual because I actually have to leave the house today. This will be my first day going into an office since before COVID started! I'll also be meeting a lot of my colleagues in person for the first time. I eat a bagel and take the dog out for a pee before getting dressed in a black skirt, green sweater, and black bodysuit, along with my red Dr. Martens. I do a winged eyeliner look as well and leave for my walk to the office.
10 a.m. — I have a programming session with another engineer who is working remotely. We poke around in some code and take notes on what we found. My boss gives me a tour of the office. To my shock and horror, there's no oat milk for coffee in the office fridge. After the tour, I go to a nearby coffee shop and grab a large coffee with oat milk and a muffin. I make a mental note to bring my own oat milk next time I come to the office. $7.68
12 p.m. — It's time for my presentation, which goes okay. Some people have good questions at the end, so I'm hoping it made sense. After the tech talk, the whole team goes out for lunch at a restaurant that I love and the company pays.
3 p.m. — We go out for a testing session of our app. On the way, my coworker stops to get coffee, and I grab a rooibos tea because it's chilly out. $4.15
5 p.m. — Back at the office, the party planning committee has ordered dinner, and I stay and chat with some of my new coworkers and drink a glass of wine.
7:45 p.m. — I'm finally home from the office. After I vegging out on the couch, I'm feeling energetic so I start the recommendation report I'm writing for my mom's non-profit.
9 p.m. — I get about half an hour of writing done, then give up for the night and take a bath. I wash my hair first and throw in Manic Panic to freshen up my purple hair colour (yes, I did go on Tumblr a lot between 2011 and 2015, why do you ask?). I relax in the bath while waiting for the hair dye to work and read A Confederacy of Dunces. Ignatius's shenanigans draw me in, and I keep reading in bed until 11 p.m. At that point, I wash the dye out of my hair and get ready to actually sleep.
Daily Total: $11.83
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