A Week In Toronto, ON, On A $164,000 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.
We're now paying $150 for all future published Money Diaries! Read the details here and submit your diary here.

Today: a marketing manager working in technology who has a $164,000 joint income and spends some of her money this week on a butter dish.

Occupation: Marketing Manager
Industry: Technology
Age: 28
Location: Toronto, ON
My Salary: $85,000
My Husband's Salary: $79,000
Our Net Worth: -$77,000 (We used up all our savings to come to Canada a few years ago, so we had to start fresh. Since then, we've built tiny savings and investments, but my huge student loan offsets all of them.)
Debt: $87,000 (I took out a line of credit for my MBA.)
My Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,059 (after my employer-matched contributions)
My Husband's Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,989 (after his employer-matched contributions)
Pronouns: She/Her

Note: My husband, T., and I pool money in a joint checking account that we use for all of our essential expenses like rent, our joint phone bill, groceries, dining out, etc. And we each get our own cut of the budget to use for whatever we want.

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,650
Renter's Insurance: $18.97
Both Of Our Phones: $120 (I get a discounted rate on our household plan thanks to work.)
Hydro: $100 (It fluctuates between $50 and $100, but we've been using the AC a lot this summer, so it's been close to the upper limit these past few months.)
Pet Insurance: $91 (for both our dogs)
Netflix & Spotify Duo: $25.99
Student Loans: $200 (I'm in the grace period until December 2021, meaning I only get charged interest payments.)
My RRSP & Employee Shares: $358.47 (My employer matches this dollar for dollar.)
My Husband's RRSP & Employee Shares: $270 (also matched)
Joint Savings: $2,000 (We divide this between our emergency fund, our trip fund, our down-payment fund, and our dog fund for all of the dog-related expenses! We really want to avoid using credit for expenses we know are bound to happen.)
Advertisement

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?
Absolutely. My family is from the Philippines, and I spent most of my life there. I grew up privileged and never had to worry about paying for school. It's very much the norm for kids to have a linear progression through life: You go to grade school, then high school, then you do your undergrad in one of the four top universities if you can afford it. Otherwise, it's very challenging to find a job, regardless of the field you want to pursue. Education is viewed as an investment to help you get ahead, so the idea of pursuing a master's degree was instilled in me from a very early age. Both my parents did their MBAs, which was the key to them exponentially increasing their earning potential.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were very good about educating my sisters and I about finances. They're both self-made, and because I'm the oldest, I got to witness their evolution from simpler beginnings to true success. They taught me the value of saving, of being careful with credit card debt, of investing for the future. They made sure to teach us the value of delayed gratification, so when we were younger, we had to work for new toys or clothes even though they could afford to buy them for us. They only ever believed in investing in two things for us kids: experiences and education.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was editing photos for my mom's consulting business when I was in high school. I got an allowance during the school year, but it went away in the summer. The only way for me to make spending money was to work for my mom, so that's what I did!

Did you worry about money growing up?
Fortunately, I never did. My parents definitely became more successful when I got older, and I could see that reflected in our lifestyle, but even at our simplest, I knew all of our needs would be taken care of.

Do you worry about money now?
I've never been in debt, so now that I owe close to $100,000, I feel suffocated. Luckily, I've got an amazing husband who sees my debt as our debt, and I've been able to land a great job after my MBA, which was my motivation for doing the degree. Still, $87,000 is a lot to owe. We also hope to buy a house in the next few years, so that adds more financial pressure. It would be great to make more money, for sure, especially considering how much work I'm doing.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for my expenses as soon as I got my first job after university, so even though I lived at home (the norm in the Philippines), I contributed money to help cover food and the electricity bill. I paid for my car, my day-to-day bills, and even my share of family travel expenses, because I wanted to show that I could do it.
Advertisement

Day One

10:45 a.m. — I wake up to a tiny foot nudging my side. It's our rescue dog, B. I'm pleasantly surprised at the absence of a headache. T. and I were out late last night at a friend's birthday gathering. It wasn't a rager by any stretch — we kept it to a small group of six — but we had quite a few drinks. Damn you, body, for not bouncing back like a 21-year-old anymore! I make our morning coffees as T. takes the dogs out.
1 p.m. — After a few hours of lazing on the couch, I get up to make a recovery meal of instant ramen with a runny egg. Is it the healthiest thing? Definitely not. Is it comforting? Absolutely. After slurping it down while watching Binging With Babish on YouTube, I take a nap on the couch and cuddle our other dog, P.
4 p.m. — I'm itching to do something productive, so we venture out for our monthly grocery run. We've been trying to cut our food budget because we're serial over-spenders (very bad, we know). As part of the effort, we've reduced the number of trips to the supermarket. It's worked for us so far, and it has freed up weekend time as well. We go to Dollarama to pick up cleaning supplies and snacks ($59.63), then we stop by our favourite fruit stand for produce ($53.86). The quality is so much better than at the big grocery store chains, and I love supporting a local business. Lastly, we stop by the supermarket in our building to stock up on protein for the next few weeks ($144.49). It's a lot of money to spend on a single supply trip, but we'll be eating this for at least three weeks. $257.98
Advertisement
6:30 p.m. — After lugging a very full trolley home, T. and I feed the dogs and clean and prep our groceries. I'm still trying to figure out the most efficient system, but this week I'm washing and cutting all my produce in advance and storing it in containers. Hopefully this cuts down my cooking time, but even if it fails, I love how the inside of the fridge looks with all of the prepped vegetables. I also pre-portion the meat for the freezer.
8 p.m. — It's time to make dinner. I love experimenting with cuisines and recreating restaurant experiences at home. I'm making Korean barbecue from scratch with beef short ribs and leftover chicken breast. I experiment with the marinade and prep the sides, then we grill everything using our patio barbecue. Surprisingly enough, this meal is fairly easy for how rewarding it is. We also share what's left of a bottle of pinot and chat over dinner.
11 p.m. — I end the day by snuggling with the dogs and reading Beach Read by Emily Henry. It's the perfect summer book and makes me feel like I'm holed up in a quaint town instead of in downtown Toronto.
Daily Total: $257.98

Day Two

8 a.m. — It's Monday, but today is a civic holiday, so I can afford to get up a little late. T. is already leaving for his outdoor workout with a few of our friends before they come over for lunch. He's one of the few people who found fitness during quarantine. In just a few short months, he's dropped 35 pounds and discovered a passion for calisthenics! Seeing him so passionate keeps me motivated to stay active, though I don't share his passion for hanging upside down (I'm a klutz).
Advertisement
10 a.m. — While T. is out, I bake shortbread with chocolate and dulce de leche for a business I'm starting. I want our friends to taste test over lunch. I ran a small, fairly successful home bakery back in the Philippines, but that all stopped when I moved to Toronto for my MBA. I'm in the process of refining the selection and coming up with the pricing model. I get a FaceTime call from my mom and sisters, so we chat for an hour as I bake and make lunch.
12 p.m. — T. and our friends arrive, and we dig into a classic Filipino feast of adobo, lechon belly, and garlic rice. I didn't cook much Filipino food back home, but moving away has made me appreciate it so much more, and T. loves it! Our friends are also Filipinos and were a year ahead of me in the MBA program. They finish every last grain of rice as we catch up about what they've been doing since quarantine started. They also give me feedback on my baking and say they'd be willing to pay $18 for six bars, which is in the range I had in mind.
3 p.m. — Ugh, I remember it's back to work tomorrow. I switch my laptop on and pound out decks for the week.
6 p.m. — This weekend has been all indulgence, so I do a 30-minute workout video with resistance bands, which is totally negated when I gobble two pieces of sourdough immediately after. Damn you, PMS cravings! I skip dinner and get back to work.
Advertisement
10 p.m. — I'm feeling peckish, so I make popcorn seasoned with truffle oil and nutritional yeast. Not my proudest moment, but hey, I didn't spend any money today! I give myself a mental covenant to eat healthier for the rest of the week, then call it a night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

8 a.m. — I slept through my alarm! The first day back from a long weekend is always hard. I have morning meetings today, so I make coffee, feed the dogs, and immediately sit myself down on my makeshift workstation to prep for my calls. Thank god T. is on dog duty most days.
9:30 a.m. — I fill up my Swell bottle and get ready to face the music. If there's one thing I constantly complain about, job-wise, it's the never-ending meetings. I work for a company that has a strong meeting culture, and it's been a pain with this work-from-home situation because less time is available during the day for actual work. It's definitely been insanely busy, but I'm thankful I've had the comfort of a steady job during an unstable period.
12:45 p.m. — Lunch time! I crack the fridge open and see leftovers from our Korean barbecue night, so I repurpose them into Korean bibimbap brown rice bowls with kimchi and a soy egg that is just *chef's kiss.*
5 p.m. — I'm finally done work! I've been sitting all day, so I do a quick workout on YouTube.
7:30 p.m. — Winner, winner Asian dinner. We make homemade vermicelli bowls, which we wash down with a nice bottle of white wine. I've been keeping my drinking to the weekends, but every once in a while, we'll share a bottle on a weeknight. I watch T. play his video game before I retreat to the bedroom to read.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — Another day, another meeting. Sigh. Eight in the morning is early, but at least it's not 6:45 a.m. like last week! I'm working on a project with a U.K.-based team, so timing has been tricky. T. brings me a surprise breakfast sandwich from Tim Hortons when he comes back from walking the pups, and it makes my day. He's the best.
12 p.m. — No other time makes me happier than meal time. My early afternoon looks pretty reasonable, so I make bruschetta and a side of grilled salmon for some good, clean eats (we try to eat healthy during the week). Bonus: the pups get a tiny share of the salmon skin!
3:05 p.m. — I know I've got an intense workout scheduled for this evening, so I take a quick coffee break and snack on rice crackers while watching YouTube. I've been obsessed with personal finance videos for the last year or so, and while there's a ton of quality content, I've found very little that's relevant to Canadians. Last week, though, I stumbled upon the Toronto-based YouTubers Steph and Den, and I've been making my way through all their videos. Such good content! I watch two or three until I have to take the rest of my work calls.
7:30 p.m. — I use existing credits to take my first spin class since my studio reopened to the public last week. I used to be a regular before the pandemic, but I've been struggling with maintaining a solid work-life balance while working from home. My duties pretty much doubled with the sudden need to shift strategies, so I've been working 10 to 12 hours a day, which makes it hard to find time for exercise. When I do get a break, I'm usually so exhausted that I just want to rest. I lost a ton of weight eight years ago, and I'm afraid it's slowly creeping back, first because of the long MBA hours, and now because of work.
Advertisement
8:30 p.m. — One spin class later, and I feel reborn. There's no feeling quite like sweating it out in a room full of strangers. New safety measures have been introduced, like plexiglass panels between the bikes, and everyone wears masks when not on their bikes. The studio is less of a social hub now, but I'm just so stinking happy I get to work out with my favourite instructor again! I smile all through dinner and call it an early night at 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5:45 a.m. — I get up way before my alarm for some reason, and I'm not complaining. I relish the slow morning with a lemon coffee and water on the balcony while watching the sunrise. Usually T. is on dog duty, but I treat him this morning and bond with the girls before I start my 8:30 a.m. meeting.
11 a.m. — I receive the most sobering email from my manager. The decks I submitted earlier this week were nowhere near as polished as he'd expected them to be. I thought he needed an outline, but he needed something closer to a finished product, technical concepts, animations, scripts and all. After screaming internally, I brace myself for a long day, pausing briefly to heat up leftovers for lunch. Thank god I have another spin class this evening to distract me!
5:58 p.m. — I'm a hot mess. I thought my spin class started at 6:30 p.m., but I realize it starts at 6 p.m. Whoops, clearly my brain is not working. I get charged a no-show fee, which hurts, because I need the spin class for a sanity break, but I use the extra time to roast chicken a la Zuni Café from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook and go back to working. $11.50
Advertisement
4 a.m. — Deck one is mostly done, so I can finally sleep! On most days, I feel grateful for the chance to have such an interesting, impactful role marketing a product I believe in, but on days like this, the job feels excruciating. It also doesn't help that I was blindsided by just how much work the position would entail, because I'm now basically a one-woman marketing team. I definitely want to ask for a promotion and a raise at the end of the year, because the work I'm doing now is too much for my rank. I've never asked for a raise before and thinking about it gives me anxiety.
Daily Total: $11.50

Day Six

10 a.m. — I'm already on meeting number two of the day. I got up at 7 a.m. to finish the presentation from last night, then transitioned to meeting mode at 9 a.m. The meetings continue until noon, so I power through the morning and have leftover salad and roasted chicken from last night.
1 p.m. — Whew, what a morning. Since yesterday was extra-long, I call it an early weekend and pick up a few baking supplies at Bulk Barn. My friend, R., invited me for wine on her patio tonight, and I'm making dip and dessert. I get a substantial amount of supplies, so I can tweak my recipes over the next week ($38.51), and I make a pit stop at West Elm to browse. We've been looking for a ceramic butter dish, and I see one on sale, so I grab it and leave before I'm tempted to buy anything else ($16.94). On the way home, T. texts essentials we need, so I drop by the supermarket in our condo complex for coffee, eggs, cream, and yogurt ($35.52). $90.97
Advertisement
3:30 p.m. — I arrive home with my small haul of groceries and see a package. I have a wine Instagram account where I document my learnings and review bottles. I enjoy blogging and used to review books when I was still in high school, so one of my pandemic goals has been to dive back into blogging with a new passion: wine! Last week, a wine rep asked to send me some products to try, and they're finally here!
5 p.m. — After I make dip and brownies to bring over to R.'s, I squeeze in a 40-minute workout. Fitness Blender is a favourite, so I do one of the no-equipment workouts. Other online workout staples have been POPSUGAR Fitness, Blogilates, and Tone It Up.
6:15 p.m. — R. picks me up, and we drive across the city to her place. I met her just a few months ago, on Instagram of all places. She has a wine account as well, and since following each other we've been talking constantly and splitting some cases of wine. We grew to be actual friends, which has been a pleasant surprise. Who knew you could find kindred spirits on Instagram?
2 a.m. — I make my way back home in an Uber after three bottles of wine and an entire spread of cheese, bread, and olives. I'm always so bad at monitoring time when the conversation is going well, and I was shocked to see that it was 1:45 a.m. when I checked my phone — waaay past my bedtime. I get home, get changed, and crawl into bed with a silent prayer asking for protection from future headaches. $25.44
Advertisement
Daily Total: $116.41

Day Seven

11 a.m. — Everything. Hurts. On most days, I feel healthy and active, but there's no time that reminds me that I'm no longer 21 more than the morning after a night out. Looking back, it probably wasn't smart to go through three bottles of wine, but I rarely get the chance to drink with fellow wine geeks, so I took full advantage. I fight the urge to lie down by taking the dogs out and tidying while T. is at the gym.
1 p.m. — The pain is getting worse, and I've got the biggest craving for dim sum and fried rice. We order in dim sum and congee because our go-to restaurant doesn't have fried rice, and I'm disappointed to see that the order came sans congee, even though I was charged for it. I make a mental note to sort that out later and gobble lunch while we watch Selling Sunset, then I pass out. $58.56
4:30 p.m. — We venture across town to Riverdale Park, where we're meeting our friends and their toddler. I don't think I would've made it out if it weren't for my nap, so I'm grateful for the two-hour rest. I grab iced teas from Starbucks for us with the balance on an old gift card before we hop on the streetcar with our dogs in tow. We have preloaded Presto cards, so we don't pay for transportation this time around.
8 p.m. — We head back across town, and instead of going home with T. and the pups, I go to a neighbouring building to do a cat-sitting gig. I started cat-sitting on Rover last year when I was taking a break between graduation and looking for a job, and it was a nice way to earn extra money while getting a much-needed break. Since starting my day job, I've kept my profile up and accepted gigs that are convenient. This weekend, I'm cat-sitting for someone who literally lives three minutes away from me, and I'm getting paid $20 for half an hour of playing with animals. Not a bad deal at all.
Advertisement
9 p.m. — This week has felt like a marathon, and I'm not gonna lie, the craving for fried rice is still here. T. and I debate ordering in again, which we barely do twice in one week, but we just go for it. We order Kung Pao chicken, black pepper beef, and a heaping serving of shrimp-fried rice. We'll definitely get at least another two meals out of this order. We eat our dinner while finishing the rest of Selling Sunset and call it a night. $63.67
Daily Total: $122.23
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.

For more money diaries, click here. Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money