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A Week In Ottawa, Ontario On A $83,801 Salary

Photo: Courtesy of Rael.
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.

This week: an advisor who makes $83,801 per year and spends some of her money this week on pimple patches.
Occupation: Advisor
Industry: Federal government
Age: 31
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Salary: $83,801
Assets: $50,634.65 (PSPP account: $45,008; checking account: $3,360.55; savings account: $2,266.10)
Debt: $14,700 (student loans)
Paycheck Amount (Every second Wednesday): It varies, but around $2,050
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: Rent: $1,710.41 (split with my partner, J.)
Hydro: ~$55
Internet: $56.50
Renter’s insurance: $27 (this is mandatory; J. pays). J. and I split household expenses but otherwise do not share finances.
Monthly Loan Payments: $700 in student loans (paid to my mom, who paid for schooling at the time).
All Other Monthly Expenses
Netflix: $27.66 (I pay for a family plan for my parents and siblings, and they in turn cover Amazon Prime, Disney+, AppleTV, and Crave)
Spotify: $12.42
Cellphone Plan: $62.15
Bank Account Fee: $10.95
Car Insurance: $138 (J. pays)

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. Both my parents attended higher education so it was only natural for myself and my three siblings to do the same. My mother, who is the breadwinner of the family, wanted us to focus on our studies, so she covered all our undergraduate programs at the time, with the expectation that we’d pay it back once we had secured a full-time job. My mother graciously took off $10,000 (twice!) once I showed I was reliably and responsibly paying her back through monthly e-transfers.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Growing up in a family of four kids, my parents made it clear that we did not have a lot of disposable income, so money was spent on needs rather than wants (barring special occasions and summers at a cottage). I only became interested in learning about finances after I graduated from university but I think my parents would have answered any questions I had, had I been more eager to learn about it.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I was a babysitter for one of our neighbour’s kids from 14 to 16 after my older sister could no longer babysit while she was at university. I took the job to help me indulge my desire to buy clothes, beauty products, and sweets.

Did you worry about money growing up?
I did, because I was under the impression that my parents did not have a lot of money. However, as I got older I realized my parents needed to put money into a savings account since my mother’s job, while high paying, did not have a pension plan. Additionally, I only understood as I got older that they were saving up to pay for all of their kids’ post-secondary schooling while we were in school, which included teachers college for two of my siblings, and up to a doctorate for my third sibling. I was a bit of brat in the sense that I did not understand how much of their money-saving efforts were for mine and my siblings’ benefit because they would not indulge my ever-changing interests and desires at the time.

Do you worry about money now?
A little. We pay very little for such a spacious apartment in downtown Ottawa. However, my partner and I dream of having a backyard and a parking space, and a place to eventually start a family, so we’re penny-pinching where we can to be able to afford to either rent a larger space or put a down payment on a house. Rent is exorbitant virtually everywhere in the National Capital Region (we both want to stay in the area) and the cost of living keeps going up, so that’s always in the back of my mind. Plus, we’re both paying off different debts so the idea of making a down payment seems like a pipe dream.

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 22, when I moved out of my parents’ house. I know my parents would step in in a heartbeat if I needed financial support and I am extremely grateful for that.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My siblings and I received $1,000 each when my grandmother passed away in 2017.

Day One

7:50 a.m. — The alarm on my watch goes off and I blearily open my eyes, groaning because I want more sleep. I slowly get out of bed, feed the cat, clean her litter box, and check on my partner, J., who got sick during the night and slept in the guest bedroom so he could cough up a storm in peace. He’s doing better but needs some sleep, so I gently close the door and sit down at my desk to start my work day.
9 a.m. — Breakfast time! I have a bowl of Life cereal, and half a grapefruit with a bit of salt sprinkled on it. I found out about this trick to cut out the bitterness only yesterday and I’m already obsessed. I wait to have my coffee until after I’ve been up for 90 minutes because I heard it’s more beneficial this way and also helps reduce/prevent acid reflux, which I often get, as I suffer from GERD.
10 a.m. — Since it’s a slow morning at work, I take the opportunity to participate in some mandatory training on Indigenous perspectives and cultural biases. While listening to a video about an elder speaking about the significance of the medicine wheel, I get a notification that last month’s hydro bill is due. I log into my account to pay this immediately (recorded in monthly expenses).
1:45 p.m. — I take a break from work to look up some recent wish list items on Amazon and contemplate whether I should pull the trigger. On my current wish list are probiotics, the novel Beartown (which I want to gift to J. as he is an avid hockey player and has been expressing an interest in getting back into reading), and a motion-activated laser toy for our cat. I place the order and am eager to show J. and our cat the gifts I bought them. $76.80
2:15 p.m. — Lunch break! I take out the exercise bike and put on The OC season 1 on Crave, and watch that while biking at a regular pace for 30 minutes. I’m trying to tone up because I am in my best friend’s wedding in May and let’s just say I found a best friend in food (both making and eating it) when COVID-19 came a-knocking. Once that’s done, I hop in the shower, then reheat some leftover buffalo chicken dip from Super Bowl Sunday and nosh on that with mostly crudités but not without a handful of tortilla chips (#balance).
4 p.m. — Done work for the day and drive over to my parents’ place to celebrate my older sister’s birthday. We’re going to Red Lobster later, and I am looking forward to eating some seafood. I always look at a menu before I go anywhere, so I already know what I will be ordering: the snow crab with crispy potatoes and a side of green beans. Can’t wait for that and to have one of those tasty cheddar bay biscuits!
9:30 p.m. — Back home after a delicious meal with the family. My meal came to $28 before tax but my parents generously paid for the group. We then drove back to their home to have cake and give my sister her presents. I got her one of my favourite candles as well as a pair of elegant cork earrings with a floral embroidered pattern on the front. Both of these items were bought a few days ago at a boutique near me that sells local Canadian-made goods, where I get most of my gifts for friends and family.
10 p.m. — I wind down by playing a little bit of Hogwarts Legacy on the Switch, then get ready for bed by brushing my teeth, washing my face with CeraVe, and slap on some Kleem Organics Retinol Cream. I read every night before bed, and I just started Yellowface yesterday, so I read several pages of that before it’s lights out.
Daily Total: $76.80

Day Two

8:20 a.m. — Staring at a wall this morning until I realize I should probably, you know, work. I’ve been working from home since the pandemic and I prefer it to working at the office, but I do find I take more liberties with this setup (e.g. staring at a wall without fear of being reprimanded? Not at all uncommon). The older I get, the less of a morning person I become, and this morning is no exception.
9 a.m. — J., who is feeling much better this morning, emerges from the guest bedroom, where he has his work desk. We were long-distance for three and a half years and finally closed the distance nine months ago. While we now live together, his job as a project manager for an environmental engineering firm still requires that he travel to remote areas in Northern Ontario for site assessments. We discuss plans for our Valentine’s dinner tonight — he’s making dinner and I’m making dessert — and then it’s back to work.
9:40 a.m. — Breakfast is half a buttered bagel and half a salted grapefruit. Bliss. I send some approvals and prepare to head to my pap test. I live downtown and the clinic is a 20-minute walk away, so I bundle up in my parka and walk over. It’s been unseasonably warm this winter in Ottawa but today feels like -21°C with the wind chill, so it’s a bit of a shock to the system.
1:30 p.m. — I’m part of the health and wellness committee at work, and we’ve organized an “art for the heart” therapy session for this afternoon. The committee chair has picked up paint supplies and we’re all meeting at the office, which thankfully for me is a 10-minute walk from my apartment. I walk over and say my hellos to those participating.
3 p.m. — That was SO much fun. I ended up painting my interpretation of a design I found on Google of two olives with heart-shaped pimentos, with “Olive You” as the caption. The painting is sub-par but it makes me laugh and I know J. will appreciate it. I’m done work earlier than usual today, and then walk over to the liquor store to grab some white wine for the chicken piccata recipe (and to drink, obviously) and some Kahlua for the chocolate mousse. I then head to the grocery store to grab some last-minute items for the mousse: whipping cream, Lindt chocolate, and strawberries. $88.60
4:30 p.m. — I give J. the painting when I get home — he’s pleasantly surprised and places it on top of our bar cart — then I proceed with making the mousse. J. has sneakily placed roses in a vase in our plant room while I was preparing the dessert, and is holding two dirty vodka martinis when I come up to hug him. We cheers to our love (aw), I giddily smell the flowers, and then we drink and sway to the sappy romantic music we put on for the occasion.
7 p.m. — Dinner is ready: chicken piccata, garlic butter spaghettini and a side of roasted asparagus. It is DIVINE and washed down with wine. Candles are lit, music is playing, and J. and I are tipsy and happy.
8:30 p.m. — We get into bed and put on 50 First Dates while eating the delectable chocolate mousse. We cuddle and laugh and it’s the perfect way to wind down for the evening. It’s lights out afterwards.
Daily Total: $88.60

Day Three

9 a.m. — Working. Feeling relieved I chugged water last night before bed so I could avoid a painful hangover this morning. I’m having strawberries, half a salted grapefruit and some cheese curds for breakfast this morning and still downing some water. I speak with my colleagues about the paint event yesterday and we all agree it should be turned into a series since it was not only very effective at relieving stress but also a great opportunity for catching up with colleagues face to face — a rarity since we’ve been working from home. Hopefully, our manager will agree with us.
12 p.m. — Eating lunch while working on approvals. I’m keeping it simple with a buttered bagel and some crudités on the side today. I make plans to meet my coworker-turned-friend after work today since we both live in the area and we haven’t had the chance to catch up in a while. There’s a new café/cocktail bar down the road so we decide to get a drink there once we’re done working. I’m eager to check the place out!
2 p.m. — Rolling out the exercise bike during my work break, and putting on The OC — you know the drill. Thirty minutes of sweating (is it the bike or is it Ben McKenzie? You tell me) and then it’s time for an everything shower. The soles of my feet need a cheese grater at this point but a pumice stone will suffice for now. I put some Drunk Elephant Silkamino Mega-Moisturizing Masker on the ends of my hair while I shear the hair on these legs (#winterwarmth) and, once out of the shower and in my bathrobe, have some leftover chicken piccata meal from yesterday, with extra capers this time, for obvious reasons. So darned delicious!
4 p.m. — 4 p.m. rolls around and my coworker and I spoke too soon — we’re both drained from the work day so we reschedule our plans to next week. I’m a little relieved since I’ve been socializing a lot this week and am craving some alone time. J. drove up north with a friend today to play in their hockey team back home’s finals, so I have the apartment to myself. I binge-watch The OC, eat gummy bears and stew some fruit — peaches, mango, strawberries, and pineapple. My meals were all over the place today so I don’t plan anything for dinner.
9 p.m. — I fold some laundry and tidy up the apartment before the weekend — J. is having some friends from home coming to stay with us so I am readying the guest bedroom before tomorrow. I do my nightly routine (CeraVe face wash and Kleem Organics retinol night cream) and read 20 or so pages of Yellowface. My bed is so cozy that I fall asleep around 10 p.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — There was a snowstorm last night so I woke up to a winter wonderland! The mild winter has been unsettling for me, especially since it means climate change is undeniable, so I welcome the cold and stay content in my delusion while it’s here. I have a bowl of Life cereal with strawberries and check my emails and any approvals I need to send out.
1 p.m. — Taking an early break today so I can attend the yoga session at work later today. I make some quick ramen noodles for lunch and walk over to the grocery store to grab some essentials for this weekend: cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, spinach, grapefruit, bananas, maple syrup, eggs, bacon, British-style baked beans, sparkling water, and ground espresso. The total comes to $63.20, which I split with J. Back home, I vacuum the apartment and get changed for yoga. $31.60
3 p.m. — Made myself a smoothie with Greek yogurt, banana, spinach, almond butter, almond milk, berries, and dates, and it’s not the best I’ve made but it does the trick and keeps me going while I wrap up my workday. Tonight, I’m going over to my friend’s house to watch Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins and eat Chinese takeout. J. and his friends are arriving later so I may join them once I’m back home, depending on how I’m feeling.
10 p.m. — Back at home and in bed after a very relaxing evening at my friend’s place. We ordered Chinese — egg rolls, General Tao’s chicken, beef and broccoli, almond guy ding, and chicken fried rice, and my friend’s boyfriend went to pick it up for us. The total came to around $60, but we split it three ways. Clearly we had lots to catch up on because the TV was not turned on once, and we spent the evening chatting, laughing, and drinking lots of tea. I told J. I wouldn’t be coming to join him and his friends at the bar down the street since I was too exhausted and had reached my social quota for the day. Do my nightly routine, read a few pages from my book and shut my eyes around 10:30 p.m. $20
Daily Total: $51.60

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — As a New Year’s resolution, I vowed to drink significantly less, and try to drink only on two or three days a week, so I’m chipper as can be this morning, while J. and his friends are hungover from the shenanigans the night before. I feel only slightly guilty that I’m in a much better head space than them. I put The OC on, and we all sit there for a while, drinking coffee and making fun of all the drama from this very entertaining teen soap opera.
11:30 a.m. — The first roommate I lived with in this apartment is in town for the week, so I invited her over this morning to catch up in the comfort of my home, rather than go outside for a walk, as was our original plan. It’s -20°C with the wind chill, so she happily accepts the offer to stay in, and accepts my second offer to make her a latte. Our mutual friend, who lives in the same building as me, joins us, and we spend the next couple hours getting each other up to speed on what’s been going on in our lives. I’m in a great mood since these friends are absolute rays of sunshine in my life and I always leave our interactions feeling uplifted.
1:30 p.m. — We have a reservation at one of our favourite seafood restaurants for happy hour, so I order us an Uber to get there on time. $11.75
2 p.m. — At the restaurant, we order oysters, calamari, and tuna tartare, and I order a few gin and sodas while J. orders some beers for himself and his friend. Today’s an alcohol-drinking day, so I am pacing myself over the few hours that we’re at the restaurant. It’s a great time with friends, and we split the food at the end. Mine and J.’s total comes to $155, and we split it. $77.50
8 p.m. — Since J.’s friends are rarely in Ottawa, they are in the mood to go out to another restaurant for food and some more drinks. At this point, I’m craving a pizza, so I order a chicken and pesto personal pizza and a couple of dirty vodka martinis. Our friends buy us shots and I make the error of accepting them both times. I quickly feel sick and ask for water from that point on. My total comes to $62 with tax and tip. I need to give my liver, and wallet, a break, so I head back to the apartment, where my friend from down the street stops in to say a quick hello. This is an extremely social week, and, interestingly enough, not a common one. I tend to not socialize for more than two to three days at a time per week, but then once in a blue moon I have one of those weeks where all the plans are lined up and I have to brace myself for being around people all the time. $62
11 p.m. — I chug water before bed in hopes that I’ll avoid a hangover tomorrow morning. J. and his friends decide to order shawarma and I’m tapped out in multiple ways by this point so I quickly do my night routine, crawl into bed, read two pages of Yellowface, and pass out shortly afterwards.
Daily Total: $151.25

Day Six

9:40 a.m. — I wake up to yet another snowstorm, and J.’s friends decide to stay another day to avoid driving in this weather. I make myself a latte to go with my banana and half a bagel with cream cheese and raspberry jam. I put on Jennifer’s Body so we can laugh at the ridiculous dialogue and marvel at Megan Fox’s beauty. J. heads back to bed for a snooze (I do not blame him), and I half-watch the movie while scrolling on my phone and eating my breakfast.
11:30 a.m. — I decide to go get us some Gatorade at the grocery store and realize we’re running out of milk, so I add that to the grocery list. When there, I grab a bag of Cheetos to satiate a craving I’ve had for the last week. I’m so relieved today’s an easy day, I have little energy for anything else. I also make a mental note to drink less on the days I do drink, or else what’s the point? $23
4 p.m. — I wake up from a much-needed nap and see our friends want to get sushi and ramen for dinner. I get a salmon and avocado roll and a dynamite roll (my favourites!). My total comes to $26, but our friend graciously pays for me since we hosted them this weekend. I cook some edamame to go on the side and we put on Barbie while chowing down on the delicious food.
8:30 p.m. — I’m frankly still exhausted from such a busy weekend, so I go to bed early to read. J. joins me after a while and puts on House MD to watch in the background while we doze off.
Daily Total: $23

Day Seven

9:00 a.m. — Feeling surprisingly rested this morning and ready to work. It’s a provincial holiday in Ottawa and I have to work but J. doesn’t, so he puts on the 2018 Mission: Impossible movie in the living room. Our friends are leaving this morning so they have coffee and breakfast (bacon, eggs and leftover garlic potatoes from the shawarma spot nearby) with us before they head out.
11:30 a.m. — I’m traveling to Nashville this weekend for my best friend’s bachelorette party, and need a couple of things for the trip, so I order those and a few other things off Amazon: a simple navy blue hoodie for the plane ride, antiperspirant (#hyperhidrosis), pimple patches, vitamin D tablets, and whey protein powder. Back to work! Thankfully, it’s not too busy at work, so I’m sipping on black tea while going over approvals, and listening to a soothing instrumentals playlist on Spotify. $102.47
2 p.m. — It’s a bright and sunny day, but a cold one, so I bundle up to get some sunshine and some groceries with J. on my work break. After a takeout-heavy weekend, we’re in the mood for veggies and protein, so we get ingredients to make a hearty pasta dish for tonight: crushed tomatoes, marinara, celery, green lentils, mushrooms, and yellow onions. We stock up on bread, and more sparkling water, and decide to grab some salsa and cheddar cheese since we’re planning on making black bean tacos tomorrow. Lately, I’ve been very interested in eating more plant-based food, so I’ve been dabbling with introducing more plants and less red meat into my diet. The total comes to $49.66, and J. and I split it. $24.83
5 p.m. — J. loves to cook, so he spends a while preparing dinner and letting the sauce simmer. I’m watching The OC in our living room, playing with the cat, and drooling at the smell of garlic and onions being cooked. We sit down to eat while watching The Bear season 2.
9 p.m. — Another early night, so I am in bed at 9 p.m. and read Yellowface for a while before passing out around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $127.30

The Breakdown

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