A Week On Vancouver Island On An $83,878 Income

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Attention, Canadians! We're featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.
Today: a counsellor working in the non-profit sector who makes $54,600 ($83,878 when combined with Child Benefit and Child Support) per year and spends some of her money this week on a Shop-Vac.
Occupation: Counsellor
Industry: Non-Profit
Age: 31
Location: Vancouver Island
Salary: $54,600
Paycheque Amount (Biweekly): $1,639
Child Benefit: $1,209.87 (This amount is based on my income from last year, when I was finishing my degree. I recently started working full-time, so it will be less in the coming months.)
Child Support: $1,230 (from my children's dad)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,782.32
House Insurance: $87.32
Natural Gas: $15
Hydro: $100
Student Loans: $500 (The outstanding balance is just over $12,000.)
Phone: $85
Cable & Internet: $165
Car Insurance: $138.22
Day Care: $150 (Most of my daycare is covered by subsidy.)
Kids' Dance, Sports & Classes: $125
RESPs: $100 (I put $50 a month in each kid's RESP.)

Day One

6 a.m. — I wake up and wonder why I'm incapable of sleeping in on weekends. I grab a coffee (I set my maker to brew at 5:55 a.m.) and a Larabar and crawl back in bed to read my book.
7 a.m. — My four-and-a-half-year-old daughter is awake and asks to watch a show. I get out of bed and put one on. We're going camping later, so I pack our bags and tidy the house.
8:45 a.m. — My two-year-old son wakes up, and I'm eternally grateful he slept in. It made preparing for the camping trip that much easier. I quickly get him dressed, put him in the stroller with a piece of banana bread, and we all take the dog for a walk . There's construction near our house, which is a pain, but my kids love to look at the machinery.
10 a.m. — We're meeting friends at the movies to see Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups at 11 a.m. My son has never been to the theatre and my daughter has been maybe once, so they are both excited. Before going to the movies, we drop my dog off at my mom's house. This is the first time I have been brave enough to take both kids camping and I figured it would be less stressful without the dog. I pre-purchased movie tickets earlier in the week but I grab snacks for the kids. $20
12:45 p.m. — The movie is over, and the kids loved it! We hit the road for our two-hour drive. I stop for gas ($47.28) and the kids sleep for the first hour. The second hour is down a gravel logging road, and I'm convinced I'm lost, but by some miracle we arrive at my friend's campsite. $47.28
3 p.m. — The campsite is BEAUTIFUL and right on the ocean. My friends own the site and come here every weekend. The kids play at the beach, while the adults catch up and have a drink. We all wander to another campsite where our other friend is having pot luck birthday party. We eat, and I meet some super-fun people.
8 p.m. — My friend and I get our kids to sleep, then sit around the fire having a drink and chatting. She is a good friend from college, but our lives are so busy we never get time together. Her husband comes in from fishing and says he'll stay at the site with the kids if we want to go back to the birthday party. We do and we dance and laugh and have a great time.
12:15 a.m. — We go to sleep way past my bedtime.
Daily Total: $67.28

Day Two

6 a.m. — My daughter is awake, and I'm tired. Who did I think I was staying up that late? We tiptoe out of our friends' trailer so as not to wake anyone and go down to the beach. There are tons of people out fishing this morning, and I notice my friend's boat is gone. Her husband must be out there as well. My daughter plays on the beach, and I find a thermos of coffee in my car from the day before. It's cold but desperate times call for desperate measures.
9 a.m. — Everyone is awake and the kids are cranky. After breaking up 100 fights, I decide it's time to pack up and go home. My kids are tired but don't sleep in the car. I stop at Tim Hortons to get them a muffin each. I have celiac disease so I don't get anything for myself even though I'm starving. $6.75
11:45 a.m. — We stop at my mom's for what is intended to be a quick stop to pick up the dog, however I'm tired and she is happy entertaining my kids. I veg on the couch and eat a fried egg on gluten-free bread and drink a ton of coffee. My mom takes my daughter to the store, and I put my son down for a nap. I sit in silence, playing on my phone — a rare luxury.
3 p.m. — We leave my mom's and pick up a friend returning from vacation at the ferry. I missed her! We have a super-quick catch up in the car before I drop her off.
5 p.m. — We have a lazy evening. The kids have ham, cheese, crackers, and veggies and dip for dinner, and I eat some leftover cauliflower-crust pizza (not the best but not the worst). I also take the longest shower to get out the campfire smell.
7 p.m. — I put my kids to bed and decide to text the guy I've sort of, kind of been seeing. Let me tell you, dating in your 30s when you have kids is not the funnest experience. We had a discussion recently about our status, and he had stated he wanted to keep dating and getting to know each other, but he has been distant since then. I text him, and he responds but the conversation goes nowhere. I feel like it's time to cut the cord on this.
9:30 p.m. — I go to bed feeling disappointed but relieved I'm dodging another potentially emotionally unavailable guy.
Daily Total: $6.75

Day Three

5:45 a.m. — I wake up early because my anxiety is high. I have to go to court today to deal with some custody issues. My children's father and I have been separated for two-and-a-half years (yes, I left when I was pregnant with my son). He remains verbally abusive and is consistently harassing me. Recently, his harassment went far enough that I finally got a protection order. The order, by default, extends to my kids, so today is to sort out what will happen going forward. I get a coffee but I can't eat.
8:30 a.m. — I drop my kids off at their daycares with toaster waffles and apples in their hands. (They go to two separate daycares due to their ages, and it's a giant pain in the butt.) Court is not until 9:30 a.m., but I get there early. My best friend is coming for moral support, and I'm eternally grateful. I pay for parking and wait for her. $4.50
9:30 — She arrives with coffee, but my anxiety is too high to drink it. She recommends holding it because the warmth may calm me down. Being in the same room as my ex is difficult. I find us seats in the waiting area tucked away where we're unlikely to see each other. I find out we're number 24 on the list, so we'll be here all day. My friend tries hard to distract me the whole time. She is an angel.
12:30 — Court takes a break for lunch, so we wander down the street to one of our favourite restaurants. I know I need to eat something, so I order a gluten-free pulled pork wrap. My friend orders green curry, and I pay for both our lunches as a thank you for spending the whole day with me. We eat, people watch, and chat about mindless topics. $35.75
2 p.m. — We go back to court, and I pay for more parking. There are six groups left and my gut tells me we will be last.
4 p.m. — We're finally called in and, after some back and forth from our respective duty counsels (mine is pro bono), we settle on a parenting arrangement that I feel okay about. I leave court and have a break down in the parking lot with my friend. What an emotionally taxing day. The judge left the protection order in place for me, which is a slight relief, and all transitions for the kids will occur at daycare. I'm not sure how my life turned out this way, but I know that the shame I felt being in an abusive relationship and allowing the behaviour to happen is what prevented me from leaving earlier. If you are in this spot, reach out for help. $4.50
5 p.m. — I pick my kids up from daycare and race home. I play baseball tonight and have a babysitter coming. I quickly change as my babysitter arrives. She says she's cool to feed the kids dinner (leftovers), and I grab an apple for the road.
8 p.m. — My team can sometimes be too competitive and cranky, but tonight everyone is in a great mood, and we all have a lot of fun. We win both of our games, and I play half-decently. What a great way to top off my day.
9 p.m. — I pay my babysitter. I used to babysit her, so she is essentially family, and my kids adore her. I stir-fry frozen veggies and eat them with a club soda before passing out. $25
Daily Total: $69.75

Day Four

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and my head is heavy. Coffee, bed with my book, shower. A dog walker picks up my dog today for her weekly off-leash hike, so I stash a key under the mat and put her payment card by the door. I prepay for hikes, and it's $300 for 10. I have one left on my payment card. This is the best part of the week for my dog; it's money well spent.
8:30 a.m. — I drop off my kids at their daycares and go to work. My first client isn't until 11 a.m., so I anticipate a long, drawn-out morning of checking emails.
12 p.m. — I eat leftover chicken and green beans; it's not glamorous but it does the trick. I order a Shop-Vac off Amazon because my kids eat in the car and are generally messy humans, not to mention my furry dog. My car is a disaster, and I always use my mom's Shop-Vac. I've finally accepted it's time to clean my car more than once a month. $73.92
4:30 p.m. — I stop by the liquor store. My friend is coming for dinner, so I pick up a bottle of wine. I'm going away this weekend so I also pick up a 12-pack of Nude vodka sodas for the trip. Then I get the kids from daycare. $40.75
5 p.m. — My friend arrives and plays with my kids while I make dinner: fried cauliflower rice, one of my go-to meals. She has a great relationship with my kids, which is so nice. We eat on the patio and catch up about her recent vacation, my current situation with my kids' dad, and some random work gossip.
7 p.m. — She leaves, and I put my kids to bed before vegging on the couch with Breaking Bad.
9:30 p.m. — I have a long, hot shower. We currently have a billet living with us, and he is using my daughter's room, so she's asleep in my bed. I take my nightly melatonin and magnesium to fall asleep (I have brutal sleep anxiety) and crawl in next to her.
Daily Total: $114.67

Day Five

6 a.m. — Alarm, coffee, book. I'm reading The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand, which is engaging enough, but I mostly want to finish it so I can start something new. I read for a bit before checking my bank account. My kids' RESP contributions came out last night as well as my car insurance, so I enter those numbers into my EveryDollar budgeting app. I'm obsessed with budgeting and track every penny. I also realize I haven't been refunded for something I sent back to Amazon a month ago, so I shoot off an email to customer service. I then grab a coconut-milk yogurt and grain-free granola for breakfast. I avoid dairy because it typically gives me headaches. I've tried almost every dairy-free yogurt only to find them all gross. Recently, I found coconut-milk yogurt at Costco and it's SO good!
8:30 a.m. — I drop my kids off at their daycares and give them big, long goodbyes because they'll be spending the night at their dad's. They haven't seen him in almost a month and haven't spent the night in a much longer period of time, so I'm doing my best to make the transition exciting for them, despite my uneasy feelings about it. I realize at drop-off that my daughter has forgotten the stuffed animal she cannot sleep without. I'll find time in my day to pick it up and drop it off at the daycare.
10 a.m. — My first client of the day is over, and I'm starving. I eat a Larabar and drink my thermos of coffee. Summer is really slow, so I try to drag my work out to cover the whole day. I only have two more clients today.
12 p.m. — I bust out of work and run home to grab my daughter's stuffed animal, then rush to Costco. I get vitamins, melatonin, applesauce for the kids, granola bars, popcorn, dog food, razors, and a new mom calendar (it's huge, and I can't handle my life without it). I drop my daughter's stuffed animal off at daycare and get back to work. $148.73
4:30 p.m. — It feels super-strange to not pick up the kids. I quickly wash my car, which is still dirty from our camping trip, then take my dog for a walk. It's hot, and I come home sweaty so I ask a friend if she wants to meet at the beach.
6:30 p.m. — We go to the ocean, where we chat about work, life, and everything in between.
9 p.m. — I get home and, as I'm grabbing my purse from the trunk of my car, my neighbour, whom I was sort of seeing, drives by. He stops to talk, and it's impossible not to be awkward. He asks if everything is okay, and I blurt out "Why did you ghost me?!" Smooth. He jumps out of his truck and we chat. He seems truly oblivious about why I would be upset, despite the fact we went from hanging out every couple of days to not talking for the last two weeks. He apologizes and leaves. I'm even more confused than I was before.
10 p.m. — I text a couple friends an update on the neighbour situation, which also distracts me from the fact my kids aren't home. Logically, I know they're safe and probably even had a fun night, but that doesn't override the emotions I feel not having them with me for the first time in a month. I realize I didn't have dinner so I make two pieces of gluten-free toast with peanut butter and jam, then fall asleep.
Daily Total: $148.73

Day Six

6:05 a.m. — Coffee in bed with my book. At 6:30, I throw on shorts and a tank top (it's already cooking-hot out) and take my dog for a 40-minute trail walk. I'm happy that we didn't have any awkward run-ins. Recently, I've run into people on drugs and a cougar, so I'm on guard.
7:30 a.m. — I feed the dog and make myself a fried-egg sandwich. A friend gave me a maxi dress she bought and didn't like but missed the return period. I put it on, and it's so cute and comfortable. I shoot her a quick thank you text. My routine is short and simple and likely should consist of more: foundation, mascara, hair in a top knot, and voila.
9 a.m. — I get to work and chat with some of my co-workers. There are a lot of politics and drama at work, and I've committed to avoiding all of that and being kind to everyone. So far, the effort has made a huge impact on how much more I like my job. I know that sounds simple, but it's hard to do in a sometimes toxic work environment!
9:30 a.m. — I tackle the (non-work-related) task of calling the Canadian Revenue Agency. I'm being audited because, due to some technicalities after my ex moved out, the CRA apparently thinks he's still living at our home, even though he moved out two-and-half years ago. I have been audited THREE times and it's starting to feel like harassment. I have provided everything they've asked for, plus letters from my lawyer, daycare, boss, neighbours — anyone I can think of — and yet, they continually find reasons to audit me. I call and speak to a CRA guy who is a royal douchecanoe. He says he doesn't know what to tell me, while laughing. I ask to speak to someone above him, and he says he will request a call back for me. I get off the phone and have a little cry.
12 p.m. — I have a massive headache. I don't get them often, but when I do they feel debilitating. I'm unsure if it's due to stress, not enough water, or an impending flu. I check my phone and see I have a zillion text messages. One text is from my neighbour, and I realize I'm back on the roller-coaster with him because, although I'm still irritated, he makes me smile. Another is from my best friend offering to bring me a coffee, so we can plan the final details of the weekend trip we're taking tomorrow after work.
12:30 p.m. — She stops by with her baby. I'm grateful for my friend and this visit, as well as having a job that encourages breaks like this at the office. Flexibility is a pro to working for this organization; it's why I stay here instead of aiming for a higher-paying job. My headache rages on.
1:30 p.m. — My 1 p.m. client no-showed, and I cancel my next appointment because my head is killing me. I go home for Tylenol and a nap feeling thankful for a boss who encourages us to take care of ourselves.
5 p.m. — I continue to feel awful but I suck it up and get gas ($52.20) before picking up my kids from daycare. We go to my mom's house because I play ball tonight and she's watching the kids. My brother's family is there as well, so the cousins play, and I rest guilt-free before ball because of the many adults keeping an eye on the kiddos. $52.20
6 p.m. — I tell myself to push through feeling sick and play ball. Shockingly, I play well, and we win one game but lose the next. I pick up my kids and go directly to bed.
Daily Total: $52.20

Day Seven

6 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I feel it: I have the flu. Ughhhhh. I text a friend mostly to complain. Bless her sweet angel face, she comes over to help me with the kids. She arrives before they're awake, and I start crying. I'm frustrated because single parenting when sick is really hard and sometimes I want to have a breakdown because it isn't fair. My friend gives me a hug, wakes up my kids, and gets them dressed. I feel so lucky to have great friends.
8 a.m. — I call in sick to work and drop my kids off at daycare. I tell the staff I may pick them up early. We're supposed to go on vacation today, but I'm waiting to see how I feel.
10 a.m. — A friend messaged me, asking how I'm doing. We have a weird and somewhat tumultuous relationship. We're currently friends, however, his constant complaining about things he has full control over — yet refuses to change — drives me nuts. I seize the opportunity and invite him over for a catchup. I then have him help me load my car for the trip. He's thrilled to help (weird), and I'm mentally preparing myself to go on this vacation.
12 p.m. — I pick my kids up from daycare and drive to the ferry. We're sailing to a Gulf Island and wait times can be long. I'm feeling like garbage, but my kids are super-excited.
2 p.m. — The ferry waits are short, which is completely unheard of on a sunny Friday. I have a preloaded ferry card because it offers huge savings. The trip is regularly $65 for an adult and vehicle (kids are free), but with the card it's only $36.10. I have about $70 left over on my card from last year, so it feels like a free trip! My friends are behind me in the ferry line, so I put my kids in their van and they watch a movie while we wait. I take my dog down to the beach and try and breathe some fresh air. I also down two soda waters my friend gave me. She did all the shopping for the trip, and I'll e-transfer her my portion later.
5 p.m. — We arrive at my parents' cabin and let the kids run around. I drink a ton more soda water and sit down. I'm really struggling!
8 p.m. — I opt out of dinner (I've had nothing but soda water today), and go to bed at the same time as my kids. Fingers crossed my health improves for the rest of the weekend!
Daily Total: $0
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic abuse Interval House can be reached at 1-888-293-5516.
Thanks to KOHO, you can now experience Money Diaries IRL at 29Rooms in Toronto this September 26th through October 6th. Buy tickets here.
The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend. Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here. For more money diaries, click here.
Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:

More from Work & Money