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A Week In Montreal & Gatineau, QC, On A $110,000 CAD 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 penny.

Today: an IT architect working in transportation who makes $110,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a dress from Banana Republic.
Currency is written in CAD
Occupation: IT Architect
Industry: Transportation
Age: 40
Location: Montreal & Gatineau
Salary: $110,000
Net Worth: $355,000 (Defined contribution pensions plans and RRSP: $177,000; tax-free savings account: $28,000; savings account, stock, and crypto currencies: $35,000; home value: $325,000)
Debt: $210,000 (mortgage and credit line)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,600 (after $770 in deductions for my pension, RRSP, TFSA, stock, and charity)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage, Condos Fees & Municipal Taxes: $1,600 (I own a condo in Montreal, and my boyfriend, N., owns one in Gatineau, where he works. We split our time between them and have agreed not to pay each other rent and to pay for our own utilities.)
Credit Line: $175
Internet & Phone: $200
Electricity: $60
House & Life Insurance: $100
Patreon, Webnovel, Netflix, Apple Music, Amazon Prime, Viki & Crunchyroll: $100 (The shows I like are scattered across multiple platforms. I also love to read Chinese webnovels so I support a few translators' groups on Patreon.)

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. As first-gen immigrants, my parents were adamant that my brother and I each complete a degree. They helped subsidise my first year of uni, but I ended up paying for the rest of my studies with money I earned from part-time jobs. I was working full-time when I did my master's, and the company paid for half of it.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents used to say that we were poor and had to work hard and save money. Aside from that, we didn't really have conversations about money.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
During the summers, my parents and other groups of first-gen immigrants would pick fruits and vegetables on a farm. They couldn't afford a babysitter, so they would bring me, and I grew up helping them there. My first office job was as a clerk at a courier company. It was a formative experience and taught me a lot about office politics.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I grew up watching my parents hold multiple jobs at the same time in order to afford a somewhat comfortable life. We only bought clothes once or twice a year, never travelled, and didn't have luxuries, but this frugal life helped them purchase a car and property a few years after immigrating, so my brother and I never worried much about money. We had enough to eat and even had enough for after-school activities (badminton for me, hockey, basketball, and baseball for my brother). We were aware of the insane amount of work, sweat, and sacrifices that went into affording us this lifestyle.

Do you worry about money now?
ALL THE TIME. Rationally speaking, my finances are good and sound. But during my uni years, when I had my first career-related job, I went a bit crazy shopping and travelling. One day, I realised my credit card was maxed, interest charges were snowballing, and I was $15,000 in debt. After that, I took control of my finances, but this worry of ending up in debt and not having enough, has occupied space in my brain ever since.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 23. My mom had a stroke that left her paralysed, and I became the breadwinner for my family. My dad still contributed, but a lot was on my shoulders.
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Day One

10 a.m. — I wake up late. I overdid it last night and binge-read a new webnovel about a modern girl transmigrating back to ancient China in the body of a mistreated noble girl. It's a long novel with over 3,000 chapters, but it's intense and filled with face-slapping moments and revenge. After my morning ablutions, I can't resist and continue reading until noon.
12 p.m. — I make myself my favourite easy brunch: an egg baked on a tortilla with mushrooms, pepper slices, Tex-Mex cheese, and a big amount of arugula. While it's cooking in the toaster oven, I brew a decaf Nespresso coffee and make a berry smoothie. I end the brunch with a piece of dark chocolate with mint filling. So yummy!
1:30 p.m. — I haven't worked out in months, and my muscles have shrivelled up. I'm hoping to build the habit of exercising before work, and my ambition is to do Chloe Ting's two-week challenge on YouTube. I completed the it in the spring before having an operation, and it was absolutely gruelling! Today, I do 45 minutes of Ring Fit Adventure on the Nintendo Switch. It's a game where you have to conquer the world by doing squats, planks, mountain climbers, etc. It's so well made that I don't really realise I'm exercising; I'm too focused on trying to level up and defeat monsters. At the end of the workout, I'm red, panting, and exhausted. My Apple Watch notifies me that I've reached my exercise goal for the day. Yay! I hop in a warm shower to relax all my muscles. I feel amazing.
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3 p.m. — If you haven't realised yet, I'm quite the geekette. I love anime and playing video games. I find myself being a bit socially awkward because I'm an introvert. Being surrounded by people drains my energy and generates stress, so I usually unwind by playing games. Lately, I've been playing Mobile Legends on my iPhone. It's a team-vs-team fight game, and it's perfect for taking my mind off things. I always play with random people because the game can do the matching for you. Today is not a good day. I lose all of my games. The other teams are too skilled, and my iPhone is about to burn my hand. So I give up and go back to reading my webnovel until dinner.
6 p.m. — I'm craaaaaving for sushi, and my phone notifies me that I have a 30%-off coupon on Uber Eats. The universe is well aligned. The only drawback is that I'm in Gatineau this week and there aren't many choices for my location, so I order it from Sushi Shop. In Montreal, Sushi Shop is a stall in a food court — it's fast-food sushi. Still, N. and I devour it and watch Netflix until bedtime. $67.78
Daily Total: $67.78

Day Two

4 a.m. — I wake up super early to escape from a nightmare. It wasn't a scary nightmare, just a sad one, and I feel down and can't go back to sleep. I go to the living room and watch Mom with Anna Faris. It's about a former alcoholic daughter and mom and their ex-alcoholics friends. It's pretty entertaining and lifts my mood. I fall asleep watching it.
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9 a.m. — I wake up for the second time and am quite energetic this time. I do Ring Fit for the next 45 minutes. I'm still sore from yesterday's session, but I convince myself that feeling pain = being alive so I keep going.
10 a.m. — After a shower, I go to the office section in our home to do some admin stuff such as reading my 10,000 unread emails. I open a chocolate Soylent, which is a meal-replacement drink like Ensure or Boost, but less sweet than Ensure and apparently more complete. It's perfect for the lazy days when I don't feel like cooking. I spend the next hour sorting out my finances. It's so boring, but once every few months, I look at the state of my investments and see if my portfolio needs rebalancing or not. Looking at it makes me feel like I'm in control and alleviates my anxiety about not having enough money.
3:30 p.m. — I FaceTime my friends and catch up for two hours. Last year, I lost my mom to COVID-19 and went into a dark place where I wasn't interacting with anyone outside of work, my boyfriend, and family (in that order). I'm ashamed to say that I had really neglected my friends. I'm not sure it's great for my mental health. Anyway, I'm glad to reconnect with them. It feels great.
5:30 p.m. — N. cooks fried rice for dinner, and it's super yummy. We eat while watching Mom and spend the rest of the evening cuddling and watching Free Guy with Ryan Reynolds. N. got a subscription to Disney+ for all the superhero movies and series, and I'm so grateful he did. Free Guy is about a bank teller who discovers he's really an NPC (Non-Player Character) in a virtual game. It's cheesy but well made, and I absolutely adore the remake of Mariah Carey's song, "Fantasy," in the movie. N. and I fall asleep during the last part of the movie. We're both exhausted for some reason.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm. Victory! I get up and do Ring Fit. I sweat a bunch and take a shower before starting work. I have so much more time to enjoy life now that I'm working from home.
8:15 a.m. — Today is a big day full of meetings, but I manage to advance on a training session about negotiation. I'm not a good negotiator and really don't enjoy the process because I always feel like negotiation is a fight between two interests — and I don't like fighting. The session helps me see it as an exchange between two parties with a common objective, more like cooperation than a fight. I also review the last details for an event I'm organising for work. The ambiance has been difficult at work recently because of budget cuts and layoffs. Hopefully, this event will help boost morale.
5:30 p.m. — I'm finally done with work! I check my personal inbox and notice all the Black Friday emails from my favourite retailers. I do some window shopping and end up with a lot of items in different carts. Very bad idea! There is this beautiful lavender smocked dress at Banana Republic that I'm eyeing. It was originally $239 and now, with a 50% discount on top of the sale price, it's coming up at $95. I already purchased the yellow one, and it's FABULOUS. I also visit the Reitmans site wanting to buy warm leggings for the winter but get distracted by their hats and scarves. In the end, I exit all the websites without committing to a purchase. I keep telling myself it won't be too late tomorrow or the day after to make the purchases if I really want them. I pat myself on the back for resisting!
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6:30 p.m. — I make okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake) with a bunch of bonito flakes and mayo. On the side, I fry an egg that I eat with tomato and cucumber slices. It's one of my go-to meals: easy to prepare and still very nutritious because I overload my pancake with cabbage, green onions, and shredded carrot. I put in just enough flour to make everything stick together. N. and I eat the pancake with gusto while watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Love this show. It's hilarious!
8 p.m. — While N. is videoconferencing his parents, I read my translated webnovel. The female lead is now trying to take revenge on behalf of her body's original owner. It's so satisfying when she face slaps all the enemies. The only criticism I have is that most of her enemies are women triggered by jealousy, which perpetuates the myth that women can't be friends with women. Still, I read it until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — I went to bed at 1 a.m. last night so I wake up late this morning. I hop out of bed, rush to the kitchen to make a Nespresso coffee, and do my morning ablutions while it's brewing. I love working from home because I can get away with wearing joggers and sweatshirts. Since COVID-19, I've saved tons of money by not buying workwear. I have bought some because I gained weight and need a few business outfits ready for rare occasions, but I spend way less than I used to.
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8:30 a.m. — My coffee next to me, I join my first meeting of the day. I'm not hungry so I skip breakfast (not good, I know). The day goes by very quickly again: meeting, meeting, meeting, workshop, meeting, meeting. I barely have time to breathe in between. For lunch, I drink Soylent while doing some readings. I snack on nuts and berry compote.
5 p.m. — Drained by my day, I close my laptop and convince myself to do some Ring Fit. It's another intense session, but I'm reinvigorated! I get praised in the game and earn some titles. I feel proud of myself. God, this game is so good at gamifying exercise!
7 p.m. — N. makes stir-fry chicken with asparagus, onions, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and red peppers with rice. The dinner is super tasty and slightly spicy.
8 p.m. — I browse through the carts I saved on my iPhone. What am I going to do? I still want to buy everything! After long minutes of internal fighting, I close the Safari application and push my purchases to tomorrow. I look at my personal emails but decide against reading them. I'll be tempted into shopping again with all those Black Friday emails.
9 p.m. — I remember I'm about to run out of decaf Lavazza Nespresso pods. I order three boxes of 10 pods on Amazon. The price is lower than what I expected, and with my Prime subscription, I'll get them in two days. So convenient. Meanwhile, I'll drink instant decaf coffee. I'm beat so I go to bed. $20.72
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Daily Total: $20.72

Day Five

6 a.m. — I went to bed too early last night so I wake up early. I had a weird dream that I was on a trip with coworkers, and we travelled by bus to a building for lunch or dinner, but we left our purses and bags on the bus while we ate. By the time we were done with our meals, our stuff had been stolen, and I felt deep regret about not bringing my purse with me. That's how I woke up. I have no idea what the dream means. It's so weird. Anyway, I shake off the weird feeling, jump out of bed, and do some Ring Fit.
6:15 a.m. — Today, my workout seems more laborious. I increased the challenge and feel exhausted already. Maybe I'm going too hard at it? I complete the last exercise with great difficulty before hopping in the shower.
7:30 a.m. — There's still an hour before work, and I refuse to log in early. I lounge on the couch while shopping online. My willpower is weak. This is a lesson for me: Never shop while tired. Yep, I end up spending $194.28 at Banana Republic and $270.33 at Reitmans. I feel happy about my purchases but sad for my wallet. Oh well, no more beauty and clothes shopping for the rest of the year! $464.61
8:30 a.m. — I grab a bottle of Soylent, a banana, and two clementines and sit in front of my computer. I then realise I don't have my cup of coffee. I stand up and run to the kitchen to brew one. I go back to my office desk, about five steps away from the kitchen.
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10:30 a.m. — During a conference call, I grab Swiss cheese and crackers. I munch quickly and almost choke on my food when I'm unexpectedly asked a question and have to talk. I swallow, turn on my mic, and apologise for being on mute. I don't have time to drink water, and the crackers make my voice hoarse, but I make my point and turn off my mic. Almost flawless.
12:30 p.m. — I make a breakfast tortilla again and lather it with tomato sauce and sausage slices. For dessert, I eat pear yogurt, a surprisingly good flavour I recently discovered. Why haven't I tasted it before? It's great.
1:30 p.m. — I place a grocery order online at Metro. The delivery is free if you purchase three items in their recommended list. It happens I want to buy them anyway, so I take advantage of the promotion. I order cookies, beef bones to prepare bone broth, tortillas, Gardein vegan crispy tenders, more clementines, pasta sauce, lemon yogurt, cheese slices, pasta noodles, and pea soup. I love the classic pea soup; it's a staple in my pantry during winter. $158.39
1:45 p.m. — I'm back at work. I receive a phone notification that movement has been detected in my Montreal condo. I immediately click on it and watch the video. False alert! The play with shadows and light can simulate movement and my alarm can't distinguish between shadows and real movement. I'm still on the free trial with my alarm system, so I'm not paying anything for it. Once the trial ends, it will be about $6.99 per month, which is pretty affordable.
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6:30 p.m. — I work late to finish my deliverables. N. is out for a run. He'll be back, but I don't feel like cooking. Still, I kick my own a** off the office chair and go to the kitchen. Tonight, I'll make chicken-ginger stew. It's a Southeast Asian sour and salty soup that's quite refreshing and warming at the same time. I also add plenty of carrots, onions, broccoli, and radish and top it up with a lot, a lot, a lot of cilantro. I know for people, cilantro is a hit and miss, but for N. and I, cilantro is a big hit.
7:30 p.m. — N. comes home. He's pretty pleased to see I cooked and gives me a free pass to use for whatever and whenever. (A free pass is something one of us can ask the other to do within reason and the other person will do it without questioning or complaining. Our free passes are usually used to get out of chores, nothing very exciting. I think it's because we've been together for 10 years — we're an old couple.) The stew is quite tasty, and N. polishes off the whole pot. We eat while watching Parks and Recreation. I can't say it's really funny, but it's entertaining, and I do like the fact that the show promotes female leadership and empowerment.
8:30 p.m. — I play Mobile Legends on my iPhone while N. watches Sex Education. It's not my cup of tea, but Gillian Anderson is playing it. I lose almost all my matches on Mobile Legends so I rage-quit the game after my fifth defeat! Today is not my day. Before I know it, I've been on my phone for two hours. I go to bed while N. is still watching TV.
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Daily Total: $623

Day Six

7 a.m. — I wake up tired. No exercise for me this morning. I hug N. and sleep in.
8:30 a.m. — Now I wake up late and panic because I have a meeting at 8:30 a.m. I run to my laptop. False alarm: The meeting has been rescheduled! My morning just got better. I have a bit of time before my next meeting, so I hop into the kitchen and make a breakfast tortilla with a side of pear yogurt, a banana, and clementines. Love those cute mini oranges.
11:30 a.m. — My work morning is energising, so I feel in the mood to sweat. I go up to the living room for another Ring Fit session and do an extra exercise routine. I feel like an overachiever. I'll tackle Chloe Ting's challenge soon!
1 p.m. — Feeling like a champion, I have a quick lunch of reheated mushroom bao from T&T. I could make them myself but I'm horrible at doing anything pastry, so all my attempts at making bao have failed miserably. But then I can't make myself follow a recipe rigorously. I don't have a measuring cup or a kitchen scale, so I eyeball everything, which probably explains my failures. The bao is delicious.
2:30 p.m. — I take a coffee break. Decaf of course! Apparently, decaf provides the same benefits as regular coffee without the caffeine boost. I drink coffee mostly out of habit and for the taste, so I easily switched to decaf.
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5:30 p.m. — I'm done with work. Only one more day to go before the weekend. While N. goes for a run, I browse my fridge for dinner inspiration. It's fully stocked, and I decide on vegetarian pasta. I open a jar of pasta sauce and add onions, cilantro, tomatoes, mushrooms, red peppers, broccoli, tofu, and chilli flakes. I cook my pasta and voila: Dinner is ready in under 30 minutes.
7:30 p.m. — N. is back. We eat while watching the last season of Mom. I'll have to find a new sitcom soon. While I was cooking, I heard pings from my computer, so I go back to the office. I have an email with a last-minute request. I search for all the info I need, and before I know it, two hours go by.
11 p.m. — It's time to go to bed! I fall asleep immediately. I guess my body needs to repair itself.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I wake up happy and energised. I have no recollections of my dreams. After my morning ablutions, I go to the kitchen to make coffee. Today is an early start because I need to progress on last night's request and, as usual, my day is already fully booked with meetings.
8 a.m. — I have an hour before my first meeting and have to make every minute of that hour count. I'm preparing a PowerPoint presentation. Luckily, there are templates available for those. I'm savvy in a lot of things but I have to admit that PowerPoint subtleties are not my forte.
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9 a.m. — First meeting! While the host opens the call, I run to my fridge to grab a Soylent bottle and a glass of water. There are only two Soylent flavours: chocolate and original. Both have a roasted after-taste I quite enjoy. The rest of the day goes by smoothly.
5 p.m. — I'm off work and debating what to do. Today is a rest day (not really but I decide it is so), so no Ring Fit. I dress warmly and go on an evening walk with N. through a beautiful park. We discuss where we'll live permanently. N. is attached to the National Capital Region, but I'd rather live in Montreal. My company will go back to the hybrid work mode soon, which means I'll be in the office on a part-time basis. The details haven't been ironed out yet. N. doesn't need to go back to the office before next year, and it's unclear if he'll be able to work permanently from home.
6 p.m. — We come back from our walk still debating the location of our future residence but unable to come to a decision. We put the discussion on hold because N. still has work to do and goes back to his office desk. I also go to my desk, in the second bedroom, to make a to-do list for my Montreal condo. I have minor repairs and some bigger changes I hope to get done by the end of Q1 next year. One of the items on my list is changing the mini-split, so I research companies that provide turnkey service (purchase and installation).
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7:30 p.m. — I'm starving. We reheat yesterday's leftovers and eat them while watching the last episode of Mom. It's a great show, but the ending is disappointing, and I feel there's still enough material for additional seasons. After eating, I play Mobile Legends. All the partners I play with are fairly skilled, but this time, my win rate is insane.
11 p.m. — N. and I both go to bed. It has been a long and exhausting week.
Daily Total: $0
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.

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