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A Week In Alberta, Canada, On A $187,800 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 penny.

Today: a marketing manager working in real estate who has a $187,800 joint income and spends some of her money this week on an automatic cat feeder.

Price is in Canadian dollars.
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Industry: Real Estate
Age: 36
Location: Calgary, AB
My Salary: $103,200 ($93,400 plus a $9,800 bonus)
My Partner, P.'s, Salary: $85,000
Net Worth: $197,800 (personal RRSP invested with Wealthsimple: $34,000; TFSA with WealthSimple: $17,000; work RRSP/DPSP: $18,500; other savings: $2,300; two cars: $50,000; home equity: $410,000)
Debt: $334,000 ($294,000 left on our mortgage and $40,000 owing on our cars)
My Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,580
P.'s Paycheque Amount: (2x/month): $2,200
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage, Property Taxes & Life Insurance: $2,591 (We've lived in our home for six years. We only put 5% down, which of course was a terrible idea. However, we've been happy with the security our home has given us.)
Car & House Insurance: $398.86
My Car Payment: $541.66
P.'s Car Payment: $409.50
Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, The New York Times & The Globe & Mail: $53.52
Gas & Electricity: $275
Both Our Phones: $105
Internet: $100
Donations: $95 (The Calgary Distress Centre, Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society, and Kids Cancer Care)
RRSP: $1,114 (deducted from my paycheque and matched by employer)
TFSA: $200
Savings: $1,025
Vacation Fund: $200
P.'s Savings: $1,000

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. My parents, and especially my mother, were adamant that my sister and I get university degrees. I didn't think university was important when I was younger, so my grades weren't great (also, I was rebelling against my mom). She died when I was almost 18, and it threw me for a loop. I graduated from high school late and had to take upgrading classes in college before doing a communications degree at university. I struggled in school not because it was difficult, but because I found it impractical. There were so many classes that you had to take as filler, and I felt like I didn't learn much that would help me in the real world. Looking back, my education did teach me to write well and think critically — both skills I use every day. I also got my first real job more than 10 years ago because I had a B.A., so you were right, Mom! My dad paid for school, other than $2,000 I had to contribute every year. I also had to maintain a 75% average or I had to contribute more. I'm incredibly thankful that my dad was so generous. Graduating debt-free is the most generous gift.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We didn't talk about finances when we were young. I knew both my parents worked for everything they had and didn't want us to struggle like they did. My mother talked a lot about making her own clothes and moving out on her own at 17. She even encouraged me to marry rich through my teenage years! However, my parents always liked nice things for themselves and were pretty upper-middle-class. My dad was quietly quite successful and was able to retire in his late 40s after my mother passed away. I had to figure out money in my mid-20s.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I steadily babysat from ages 12 to 18 but didn't get my first proper job until I was almost 20. Again, in retrospect, I realise how lucky I was! I was a hostess at a restaurant and quickly became a server. I loved it and served tables constantly until I started my current career.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No. My parents always seemed savvy with money. We didn't go on expensive trips but did do a couple of road trips every year as a family.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes. It feels like I started saving relatively late, and I worry we won't have enough to retire. However, with my mom dying so young, I know she didn't get to experience as much as she wanted, and it's important to me to have good experiences while I'm young enough to enjoy them, so I don't have the same regrets as her.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I was fully financially responsible for myself at 25. I moved across the country and haven't asked for a dime since. I know I could ask my dad, but he did so much for me when I was younger, especially after my mom died. I could never bring myself to ask him unless it was extremely necessary. He worked hard for his money, and I don't want to impact his retirement with my needs.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I inherited jewelry from both my grandmothers and my mother.

Day One

9 a.m. — I wake up and feed the cats, then catch up on the news. COVID numbers in Alberta are ridiculous, hospitals are overwhelmed, and the number of ICU patients has hit record highs. It's tragic. Alberta has asked other provinces, the federal government, and the Red Cross to help. The fourth wave was so preventable, so P. and I rant to each other for a little while. I have tea, eggs, and a cheese bun for breakfast, then text friends silly memes to cheer myself up.
1 p.m. — Lunch is leftover squash soup and half a roast beef sandwich. I clean up the kitchen and put in a load of laundry. P. is worried about ransomware after watching an episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver about it. He switches to a new antivirus/antitheft/VPN program for a 60-day trial. We rework a bunch of passwords.
2 p.m. — I do some thrift shopping. I'm not into the latest styles of paperbag pants because I have an hourglass figure. Instead, I find a great pair of dress pants and two dresses at the WINS (Women in Need Society) thrift shop. All funds support vulnerable women and children. I also go to Value Village and find three pairs of comfy pants (one Under Armour), a couple of long-sleeve workout shirts, a light blue button-down dress shirt with tiny bees (I love a little whimsy!), and a pair of new flats. $85.65
5 p.m. — I move on to the grocery store for grape tomatoes, cucumber, spinach, broccoli, shrimp, stir-fry beef, turkey cutlets, milk, eggs, shower spray, cereal, Greek yogurt, chips, butter, pitas, mustard, frozen fruit, and mangoes. I get to use some coupons. I legit love grocery shopping. P. helps me bring in the groceries. I try on all my thrift store finds and decide one pair of pants needs to go back. I throw everything else in the wash, and we settle in the backyard with a couple of beers to make the most of our amazing fall weather. $153.64
7 p.m. — I throw together a pizza with pesto, Parmesan, peeled shrimp, goat cheese, mozzarella, and a shake of chili peppers. We watch the last episode of Nine Perfect Strangers and eyeroll the ending. The book is an enjoyable, albeit dumb read, but the series drags and tries too hard to have a lesson. However, Melissa McCarthy's character wears caftans, swimming outfits, and big rings that give me life. We can't decide on a movie, so we binge Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I text a friend to arrange a hike for tomorrow, and I tinker on my phone until I'm sleepy, around 10:45 p.m.
Daily Total: $239.29

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I wake up in pain. I threw out my back a few weeks ago, and it's been recovering nicely (thanks, physio) until today. At least I have a good kitty snuggle. I get up and stretch and am not sure about hiking. I have a bowl of Mini-Wheats, feed the kitties, and text my friend to postpone our hike.
11 a.m. — I help P. finish his crossword; we're deeply in our 30s. I scroll the 'gram and find cute self-care Christmas presents for friends at a couple local stores. P. also orders guitar stuff from Amazon. $170.12
12:30 p.m. — I have a long shower and pop on a 24K gold eye mask I ordered on Amazon and a face mask from The Body Shop. I follow up with my usual daytime routine of Pixi Glow Tonic, The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10%, Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, The Ordinary B Oil, The Body Shop Drops of Youth Cream, and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face Sunscreen (SPF 60). While I'm doing this, P. picks up Dairy Queen chicken fingers for lunch. $24.97
3 p.m. — I gather items that are kicking around and post them on Facebook Marketplace. I get interest in a notebook and arrange a pickup for tomorrow. I post a picture of the kitties sleeping together on the 'gram. I've got an old-man cat and young-man cat, and snuggles like this are pretty rare.
6 p.m. — I throw together an easy dinner of beef stir-fry with broccoli and rice and have leftovers for lunch. Uh oh: One of my favourite consignment stores is having a 30% off online happy hour. I pick up a green Everlane sweater and a NWT white, long-sleeve Lululemon shirt. $89.67
7 p.m. — I stop at friend's house to borrow Indian Horse by Robert Wagamese for our book club. We have a nice visit on their back deck for a couple hours. I'm still marvelling at the 20°C weather in September. I get home and do quick snack prep for the week: homemade fruit cups, veggies cups, and fruit for yogurt. P. takes care of the kitties, and we roll into bed around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $284.76

Day Three

6 a.m. — The alarm goes off. I snuggle P. and fall back asleep. The alarm goes off again. P. gets up, and I fall asleep again. The alarm goes off for the last time. I groan and get out of bed. I couldn't sleep last night because of the Sunday scaries. Thankfully, my back is feeling better than yesterday. I stretch and get ready for the day: wash and moisturize face, brush teeth, and slap on primer, foundation, eyeliner, mascara, blush, and a hint of eyeshadow. I get dressed in a long-sleeve black dress and put on a new pair of tights.
7 a.m. — P. has made me tea, so I grab that, my breakfast, lunch, and my work notebook. I'm in the office three days a week and WFH for the other two. I love the hybrid schedule so much, but I don't think it will last once COVID restrictions are fully lifted. I walk into work with one of my coworkers, and we briefly chat about our weekends. She recently won tickets to a hockey game but can't go because she hasn't been vaxxed yet. She had COVID earlier this year and doesn't think she has to get a shot because of that. I hope missing out on the game finally convinces her to get the shot. It's going to be mandatory for all staff to get it soon, too.
8 a.m. — I sip my tea and settle into the groove of emails and prep for a meeting.
9 a.m. — Oops, better have breakfast: a yogurt bowl with granola and fruit. I let my boss know I'll be covering the presentation for my department at today's meeting. I slip off the tights I put on this morning because they smell kind of mouldy (barf) and stuff them in my bag when someone else is talking. When it's my turn, I present about a fun philanthropy project and send a couple of emails after with instructions.
12 p.m. — I go for a walk with my favourite coworker, L., because the weather is still amazing. We gripe about the usual work stuff and stop off at Value Village to return the pants I bought on Saturday. I walk away with a couple of new plant pots. $3.87
1 p.m. — I eat last night's stir-fry while having a quick call with a coworker, then log on to an almost two-and-a-half-hour meeting. I only have to pop in and out as I'm needed, so I work on a couple other items, including an urgent communications piece. I snack on my fruit cup and get my piece sent out with relatively little fuss. I also get a letter from my boss confirming my bonus amount to be paid out in a couple weeks. I'm very happy with the number, and it helps me justify my clothing spending. Most of it will go into my RRSP, some of it will go towards our house, and what's leftover will go into my every-day-fun-stuff fund, which usually includes clothes. Another coworker comes by to chat about the meeting we just had. They're new to their role and are struggling to get on top of things. I'm trying to be supportive but have a hard time. This coworker has no sense of urgency, and I'm ALL URGENCY ALL THE TIME!
5:15 p.m. — I get home, hang out on the back deck with P., and curl up and have a little snooze outside. This is probably the last time I'll be able to do this until next year! P. gets started on homemade burgers and fries on the barbecue. We eat outside and enjoy the breeze.
6:45 p.m. — I head out to do a couple of errands: I return a dress I bought last week at Nordstrom Rack ($52.47 goes back on my card) and meet the person who is buying the journal I posted on Facebook Marketplace for $5. P. and I also grab a lightbulb for the microwave from Home Depot ($6.48). It ends up being the wrong size, but P. makes it fit anyway. $6.48
9 p.m. — I realize I have a 15%-off Sephora coupon that expires today, so I order another bottle of The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10% along with The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane, The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, and a Drunk Elephant Mini Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer. Once all that's done, it's 10 p.m. and time for bed! $42.27
Daily Total: $52.62

Day Four

6 a.m. — Same as yesterday. P. gets up, and I lie in bed and putter on my phone. I finally throw on my new-to-me dress pants, a collared shirt, and a sweater, and swipe on quick makeup. I boot it out the door with premade tea, snacks, and lunch. Tuesdays often suck, so I stop at Cobs Bread for a cinnamon bun. Traffic is brutal. At work, I dive into my inbox. One of our projects doesn't look to be ready for the weekend, so I see what we can do to get it back on track. $3.48
12 p.m. — I grocery shop for a couple of seniors, N. and T., and I call them to see when they will need things. I do this every couple of weeks and have done a lot with this organization throughout COVID because so many seniors are immunocompromised and have been scared to leave the house. It's been so wonderful to meet all these people and give back. Neither of them have their list yet, so I'll wait until later this week. I also run out quickly to pick up the sweater and Lululemon shirt I ordered from the consignment store the other day.
4:30 p.m. — It's time for physio. My back is still pretty cranky, so my physiotherapist does extra acupuncture and says he's going to refer me to a sports specialist and see about getting X-rays. ($75 expensed)
5:30 p.m. — P.'s dad comes over for a belated birthday dinner. We walk over to the local brewery and have a nice visit. P.'s dad gets a burger with tater tots, P. gets a chicken sandwich with tater tots, and I get fish tacos with sweet potato fries. We each have a couple of beers ($128.14). P. runs across the street to get his dad lottery tickets and over buys ($32). We walk back home and P.'s dad leaves. We get ready for the next day and head to bed early. $160.14
Daily Total: $238.62

Day Five

6 a.m. — Same as yesterday. Snuggle, P. gets ready for the day, and I eventually drag my lazy self out of bed at 6:30 a.m. P. has a bit of a rant. Our old-man cat harasses him at night, and he's at his wits' end. I promise him I'll come up with solutions. I throw on makeup, brush my hair, and put on a pair of pants and sweater. On the way to work, I listen to the Bette Davis episode of You Must Remember This, the podcast about Hollywood's first century. At my desk, I settle in with tea, Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola.
9:30 a.m. — P. texts to apologize for being grumpy this morning. I don't blame him; the cat knows P.'s the easier target. I take a few minutes to research cat stuff, send a detailed plan to P, and order an automatic cat feeder from Amazon. $37.79
12 p.m. — I pop out to N.'s apartment to get their grocery list. I snuggle their dog while I go through the items. I'm off to grab a spicy capicollo, spicy calabrese, red pepper spread, and a provolone sandwich. I grab tea for me and a coffee for one of my team, too. $12.05
1:30 p.m. — I'm in a meeting about rough budgets for next year. I know other people hate budgeting, but I love planning, and we're launching a few big projects next year, so it should be fun!
3:30 p.m. — I have another quick meeting to ensure our project for this weekend will be ready. Nobody wants to commit to anything, but we get confirmation on one key piece, which is great. I check in to let my team know things will be proceeding as planned for the weekend, then head home around 4:30 p.m.
6 p.m. — I have a quick phone call with my doctor to discuss my wrist X-ray and ultrasound from last week. I hurt it on vacation in July and have been going to physio for that, too. It looks to be healing. P. and I make rice, chicken skewers, and a Greek salad. I also pop an edible, then P. heads to band practice. I settle in on the couch, order a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, and play Tetris all night. I save the second half of the ice cream for tomorrow. $5.99
Daily Total: $55.83

Day Six

6 a.m. — Usual snuggle-and-snooze routine. P. gets up but I stay in bed for longer because I work from home today.
7 a.m. — P. leaves for work, and I do a scaled-back morning routine. I throw on orange pants and my new Lululemon shirt. I have my usual cup of tea and breakfast of yogurt, fruit and granola.

7:30 a.m. — It's the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. We don't have the day off, but our office has been sharing information and resources all week. I listen to a podcast on the history of the Indian Act from the CBC and also read a CBC summary article of the 25 residential schools that were in Alberta.
9 a.m. — I have a good Zoom chat with my counterpart in one of our other offices. We schedule 45 minutes but end up talking for an hour and a half.
11:30 a.m. — I'm suddenly starving, so I have leftover chicken, rice, and Greek salad. I have an MRI this afternoon. My mother was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at 43 and unfortunately died at 47 after a mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. I've been going for mammograms and ultrasounds since I was 33. My doctor also put me on an annual MRI rotation starting last year, which I'm thankful for. I have a shower to make sure I don't have any deodorant on and take off all my jewelry. I let the team know I'm leaving at 3:30 p.m. today and set my out-of-office message.
3:50 p.m. — I park in the hospital parking lot ($9), check-in, and sit in the waiting room. T., the other senior I shop for, calls, and I grab their grocery list over the phone while I wait. The nurse brings me to the changing room, then into the MRI area to set up my IV for the contrast. It takes three different nurses four tries to get a vein. I feel like a pincushion. $9
5 p.m. — The nurse gives me earplugs for the noise in the MRI, and I disrobe my front half and get settled into the MRI face down. My breasts each have their own compartment and just kind of…dangle. The MRI takes about 20 minutes and is just as loud as I remember from last time.
6 p.m. — I get home from the hospital, and P. has started dinner: shrimp and broccoli alfredo. I'm feeling slightly woozy from the MRI, so I pop an edible. We settle in for the night with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and I putter around on my phone and finish the last of the ice cream. P. is extra-snuggly, and we fall asleep around 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $9

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Alarm goes off, and P. gets up. I fall back asleep until he leaves.
7 a.m. — I toss on comfy pants and a long sweater, then throw in a load of laundry and make myself a big pot of tea. I have a bagel with P.'s grandma's plum jelly on one half and peanut butter on the other. I'm off to the grocery store for my seniors. It's SO busy for a Friday morning. I'm doing a much bigger shop than usual, including bags of apples, oranges, cans of soup, and a club pack of popcorn, so it takes a few trips from the car to N.'s apartment. I snuggle their dog again when I drop everything off. N writes me a cheque for the grocery amount ($135.24).
10:30 a.m. — I do T.'s grocery shop at a Safeway on the other side of town. This shop is much smaller (bread, chocolate milk, vanilla yogurt, canned peaches, eggs) and only takes about 10 minutes ($50.70 reimbursed in cash). I also grab a couple of discount loaves of bread for us, then stop at a brewery to get beer for the weekend ($35.80). Before I drop off the groceries at T's., I stop for gas and use a coupon that gets me seven cents off per litre ($50.05). It helps take the edge off our crazy gas prices. $85.85
1 p.m. — I grab a quick burger and settle in on a bench at a park with my podcast. Soaking up the sun and people watching is the best. $5.25
2:30 p.m. — I get home, set up the newly delivered cat food dish, and promptly lie down for a two-hour nap! P. gets home around 4:30 p.m., and we each grab a beer and sit in the backyard.
6:30 p.m. — P. is hungry, so we order pizza for delivery. It's Friday after all! We settle in and watch Agatha Christie's Crooked House. I've read the book, so I'm surprised by the extremely clunky ending. We watch a few more episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and go to bed around 11 p.m. $26
Daily Total: $40.25
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