A Week In Hamilton, Canada, On $5,000 A Month

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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.
Today: a business owner working in jewelry retail who makes $230,000 per year (together with her fiancé) and spends some of her money this week on milk. Below, we asked the OP some questions about her career. Editor's note: This diary was submitted in October 2018. All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
How did you get into your line of work?
I had originally wanted to get into forensic anthropology, so I got my undergraduate degree in that, but then found it hard to get work. I went back to school to get a Master's in Human Resources, and then still had trouble finding work. I decided I needed to work for myself out of necessity with my disability, and researched which products had the best profit margins, what I was interested in, and what I could find wholesalers for. So I landed on jewelry.
What are the challenges of owning a business?
Owning a business is probably the most challenging yet rewarding thing I’ve done. There are always so many little things to get done. Between working the actual venues, ordering stock, finding new suppliers, contacting factories about creating our own designs, bookkeeping, tax stuff, following up with customers, and keeping the website up-to-date, I easily clock at least 80-100 hours a week into the business. I’d say the biggest challenge is just keeping track of everything that needs to get done!
What advice would you give to someone starting out with their own business?
My advice to people looking to become business owners is to get extraordinarily organized and figure out what type of business will keep you interested and motivated — you really need to hold yourself accountable and get things done. Owning your own business is amazing because it’s truly one of those situations where you get out of it exactly how much effort you put into it.
And for anyone just starting their own business, don’t underestimate how important networking is. I had no idea what that meant when I started, but just talk to your customers like they're your friends, chat with other business owners in your area, and go to small business events and festivals. There are so many opportunities and people out there who want to help you, but you have to be there to get them. Just chatting with customers resulted in me befriending a woman who runs some gift shops around here, and now our products are in her stores selling a couple hundred dollars' worth a day on average.
Occupation: Business Owner
Industry: Jewelry
Age: 24
Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Joint Income: $230,000 (This is the total average yearly income between me and my fiancé.)
Paycheck Amount: With it being a sole proprietorship, I don’t pay myself per se, but our margins are roughly 25%, so I would say our average take-home per month is $5,000-$6,000 between me and my fiancé . That number is super variable per month, though — with Christmas being our busiest season, it would be closer to $15,000 for the month of December, and January is the least busy, generally around $4,000.
Also, we just got a mall location confirmed. We’ve been there for short shows before, and I estimate that will bring in another $20,000 a month in sales and $5,000 in profit monthly for us, so that’s something I’m looking forward to! My next big challenge is hiring people for that.
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,950
Trailer Loan: $100 (We paid for our car with cash.)
Student Loans: $0 (I finished paying them off this year — $12,000 total.)
Gym Membership: $52
Physio/Medical Appointments: $300 (I'm a wheelchair user. No insurance except what is covered provincially.)
Business Insurance: $110
Car/Trailer/Renters' Insurance: $150

Day One

8:30 a.m. — My fiancé, G., and I pull up to our first venue of the week, a college campus where we set up a kiosk to sell our jewelry. It takes us about an hour to set up the table, displays, and jewelry, not including the time it takes to drag our buckets of jewelry in from the parking lot. Luckily, I have accessible parking, which reduces the daily rate from $20 to $16. I put it on my card for business expenses, but since I'm the business owner, I'm the one who ends up paying for it anyways. $16
10 a.m. — After we're set up, I send G. down to get us some caffeine from the Tim Hortons in the cafeteria. He gets a coffee for himself and a tea for me for a total of $3.76. We take cash out of the till for small expenses like this so we can pretend it's not "real" money. My brother pops by, and I wish him good luck on his midterms. $3.76
12 p.m. — I head over to the vet where my service dog has just undergone a serious surgery. This is his fifth day there, and they're hoping that he's shown enough signs of improvement to go home with me. Between the initial intestinal blockage, fluid buildup in his stomach, pneumonia, and specialized drugs he has to use due to his breed, he has racked up quite the bill. I ask if they can take a payment plan, as I don't have that much readily available. They say no, and that I have to pay in full for my dog to be released. I briefly wonder if it's legal to hold someone's dog ransom for vet payment, but decide to just spread it out over my three cards. This is going to require some serious untangling. I pray that we do well at our upcoming venues. $3,496.52
5 p.m. — I head back to the college after spending some time with my seriously drugged-up dog to help G. pack up and pay for the day. Our total rent for the day comes out to $226, and I still have to pay the venue we were yesterday $150 for the booth cost there, too. I draw my business account into the negative to pay for them both. I was supposed to meet my maid of honor over dinner to go over wedding planning options tonight, but I text her to cancel. When she finds out how much the vet bill was, she sends me $1,280 — the amount I had loaned her last month to pay for a cruise we're going on for my bachelorette party. I immediately pay some of my highest-interest card down. G. and I get home around 7, make some dinner, and finally have a chance to relax. $376
Daily Total: $3,892.28

Day Two

11 a.m. — I wake up after a much-needed sleep-in. I've worked a show from basically 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day for the last 10 days, so today is my first day "off" in far too long. I was able to book another show for G. to work on his own today, and I notice the $17.50 charge for parking there went through this morning — he arrived safely. Despite it being my day off, I have plenty to do behind the scenes. I do some banking and fill several orders that were placed yesterday when word got around that we needed cash for the vet bill. There are a couple items ordered that are out of stock, so I work on three different wholesaler orders in the hopes that I'll get them in before my suppliers close for the day. This takes the rest of my afternoon. $17.50
5 p.m. — After sending in my orders, I check to make sure I haven't been charged for them — I asked each supplier to hold off on charging my account until I am able to pay the vet off so that I won't go over the limit on my cards. I notice a $12.81 charge on my account regardless. The debit and credit fees for yesterday's sales went through. Luckily, that still leaves me with some money in my account — a close call. After dealing with the bulk of real work that had to get done today, I sit and relax with my dog and drink a tea outside. It's getting chilly outside fast, and I know I'm going to be missing the warm sunshine soon. Once back inside, I start on a pot roast for dinner. $12.81
6 p.m. — G. has to pay for being at today's venue, which sets the business account back $180.80. It was supposed to be $40 less, so I make a mental note to follow up tomorrow and make sure it gets properly charged. When G. gets home we eat dinner and I realize how hungry I am, having only had a tea so far today. I browse the internet for the rest of the night, keeping an eye on my dog so he doesn't scratch his stitches out. I make nighttime teas for myself and G. and give my dog his medication before going to bed. $180.80
Daily Total: $211.11

Day Three

10 a.m. — I wake up, make a tea, give my dog his meds, and get to work. G. is at another venue today — the poor guy has been going nonstop lately, but we desperately need the money. I check our banking and see $8.61 in debit and credit fees went through from yesterday's venue. I start working on another jewelry order for a show we will be at in two weeks, but get interrupted by my dog hitting the doorstop — he wants to go out. I check the weather, get dressed, and throw on my winter coat. We take a walk just to the end of the block before the dog decides he's too tired to keep going. I coax him back home, which takes a solid half an hour. When we get back, I continue working on the order for the afternoon. $8.61
4 p.m. — I get a phone call from our web hosting client around 4 — "Wouldn't you like to upgrade to our premium service? It's only $40 a year more, and you get all these cool features." I listen to the sales pitch and after asking a few questions, decide that it is something I would get use out of and give him the okay to upgrade my account. I head to the gym straight after for boot camp. Having been cooped up all day today and yesterday, it feels great to get out and get moving. I can only do half of the session due to my disability, which I still get ashamed of because I have alternate exercises to accommodate my legs. When I get home, I find out G. won't be home until late due to the high volume of sales he's been able to get at the location today. Can't complain! I snack on some carrots and dip and browse the internet until he comes home. $40
10 p.m. — G. comes home with a pizza, and I snack on a slice while I hear about his day. I'm thankful it was so successful — this means I can pay off nearly half of the remaining vet bill on my cards. We take the dog for a nice long walk, and this time he's much more receptive. I make a mental note to take him on his morning walk tomorrow before giving him his medication. On our way home, we stop by the mailbox — one of my orders has come in. G. puts it in with the stock for tomorrow's show and loads up the van for an expo we start in the morning. Right before bed, I realize that I never heard back from the supplier I sent the order out to today. I check my email and see that they've sent a PayPal invoice for $2,260. I try to put it on my business account, but it comes back declined, so I send them an email explaining the situation and they confirm they're able to wait for payment but ship it out today. I turn my phone onto Do Not Disturb and hit the hay — big day tomorrow. $2,271.50
Daily Total: $2,320.11

Day Four

7 a.m. — We wake up early and hit the road, dropping the dog off at my mom's on the way. After lugging in the tables at the venue, we notice the spot isn't wheelchair accessible. I trudge to the show office to complain, since I had made it known we would need a bigger spot to accommodate the wheelchair. We're told that plenty of people would like bigger spaces and next year we will have to pay for what we want. Frustrated, I swing by the Tim Hortons and grab G. and myself some drinks to try to set the morning off on a bit of a better foot. When I get back, I see G. is talking to someone from show management, and we're being told we can't have our battery-operated lights at the show and instead have to purchase the show-provided hydro for $300 for the weekend. I step in and threaten to leave the show entirely if we aren't moved to an accessible location and allowed to use our own lights. Miraculously, a solution is found. $3.76
10 a.m. — After the morning rush, I'm glad to leave the show. First, I stop by Shoppers with our Save the Dates. Stamps cost $49.39, which I put on my business account because stamps are technically a business expense, anyway. Next, I pop by Dollarama for a few lint rollers. My coat has gotten covered in dog fur and looks less than professional ($5.65). On my way back, I stop by the gas station and fill up for $54.80 — I can't believe how cheap gas has gotten lately! Usually it's around $80 to fill up my mom-van. I stop at the Timmie's there and grab a donut and tea to tide me over until dinner ($3.72). $113.56
1 p.m. — I stop by a mall to sit and work on some more business stuff. G. texts to let me know he thinks he forgot to pay the lady at our show yesterday. I call, and she processes my credit card over the phone for $180.80 — the correct amount this time. While I have her on the line, I negotiate some more dates for next year and try to get on her good side a bit. I end with an awkward: "Hope you and your family are enjoying this season of giving thanks" and wonder how actual adults can end conversations without sounding like a Hallmark card. I breathe a sigh of relief that the rest of my work for today is mostly email-based. $180.80
2 p.m. — I go through the records from our last two weeks of venues, work out where I can afford to put which expenses, and pay off the rest of one of my credit cards with the money we made from yesterday's show. While working on my accounting spreadsheet, a $104.75 check goes through for a show we did last week. Once that's done, I call my mom to check on the dog. He's doing well and can't wait to see us, she says. I get back to answering emails until it's time to go back to the show. $104.75
5 p.m. — I get back to the venue and realize I forgot my exhibitor badge at my booth. I try to explain to the guy at the parking payment booth, but he insists if I don't have my badge I need to pay to get in. These guys are being sticklers about everything here. I pay the $13 and go in. $13
6 p.m. — I get back to our table, and G. tells me the day has been slow, unfortunately. I stand for a bit while G. eats the chicken bruschetta salad I packed for dinner. Once the show is over, we pack our valuables, cover up the table, load up the van, and head back in for the "afterparty." At the party, I grab a pretzel, and G. gets a hamburger and some ice cream. Everything is covered by the show's management, luckily. Someone familiar and professional-looking comes up and shakes my hand — he asks us a bit about what we do, so I return the question. Without hesitation he says: "Oh, I'm the Prime Minister!" Whoops. Knew I knew him from somewhere. I politely shake his hand again and walk away, internally screaming that I just asked the Prime Minister what he does for a living. We head back home shortly after, picking up the dog on the way. I have a quick shower, give the dog his medications, and then browse through my phone in bed until it's time to sleep.
Daily Total: $415.87

Day Five

10 a.m. — I wake up, get dressed, and take the dog out for a walk. G. is at the show again today, so the dog and I do a full circuit around the block before he seems too tuckered out. When we get home, I put on some tea and give him his medications. I check my banking — $6.17 went through in credit/debit fees from the show yesterday. I put the little money we did make at the show yesterday on my business credit card — all the suppliers I asked to wait before charging me are going to want to get their money soon, and it has to be put on that card. I browse the internet a bit while enjoying my tea and the quietness of the house. $6.17
11 a.m. — I work on more accounting things throughout the morning — payroll taxes are due soon, and I want to get them out of the way. I've already paid my employees for this month luckily, but the government wants their part of that too. I work it out to $334.30 and send it through their horribly outdated system. Once that's done, I call my mom up to help me look at "stag and doe" venue options. Before she picks me up, I make sure the dog's cone is secured properly, grab some money, and switch out the tattered shoelaces on my worn-but-working winter boots. $334.30
12 p.m. — Mom drives me to a legion hall where we talk to the volunteer who handles bookings. We're careful not to use the phrase "stag and doe," as it obligates them to request certain permits, so instead we use the phrase "engagement party," which tends to get us a lot further into conversations. This hall looks absolutely lovely, and has all the amenities we're looking for, including the ability to serve and sell our own alcohol. I put that on the top of my list for potential places to rent, and we pop by a small chocolate shop to chat. I spend $19.21 on a chocolate-covered apple and two London Fogs before we head out to see location #2. $19.21
2 p.m. — When we get to the next hall, I realize their rental space is up four flights of stairs. They don't have an elevator, so that solves that question quickly. We head over to the next hall, where we are told the hall is only rented to Portuguese people, because the lady who handles hall rentals can only speak Portuguese. 0/2 on this outing. We stop in at Fortinos for a few groceries before heading back to my place. I pick up basil, tomato, spaghetti, strawberries, rice cakes, and a box of Smarties to snack on later. My mom drops me off after giving the dog lots of hugs and kisses. $18.48
11 p.m. — G. gets home late and is still hungry after eating the pasta I made him, so he suggests we go to Symposium for some desserts. I say sure, and we head out. It's absolutely frigid out, I can see my breath and regret agreeing to walk there, but it's really close, so it's fine. I had planned on just sharing a slice of cake, but they're doing two for one cake slices tonight, so we each get what we want. I had planned on saving some for tomorrow, but before I realize it I've eaten the entire slice. The bill comes to $26.10, which I put on my business account since G. worked today. We head back home. After giving the dog his meds, we get to sleep. One more day of work for G. and then he gets a day off! $26.10
Daily Total: $404.26

Day Six

10 a.m. — Another routine morning of dog walking, tea, and sitting down to get some work done. Luckily there aren't many emails I need to respond to, and G. says the show is going just fine today, so that's a relief. I count up the cash from the deposits I have to make from this week and get ready to run a few errands. I call my mom to help me out, and she lets me know she'll be over soon.
11 a.m. — Before my mom comes, I realize I have to place an order for stainless steel. Luckily this is mostly just updating inventories of what we had ordered previously — the same styles tend to always be in style. It doesn't take too long, and I send them about $1,130 for the order to be tracked and shipped today. My mom pulls up soon after I finish, so I put the dog's cone back on, give him his medications, and head out. First we deposit the cash I had from this week — $4,200, of which $2,531.46 goes on my personal credit card to fully pay it off. We're almost back to where we were pre-emergency vet bill, which is such a relief. $1,130
12 p.m. — Today's errands are actually fun ones! G. and I are planning a Halloween party, so I go with my mom to Costco and spend $197.98 there on decor, candy, and party foods. And I eat a lunch's worth of free samples. Then we pop over to the Michaels for craft supplies — I just need some craft foam, which comes out to $11.29. Over to the Home Depot for spray paint next, which sets me back $58.93 for four colors. (I'm spray painting the pumpkins in fun designs instead of carving them.) I also give my mom $150 plus $58.48 for gas, and then we head home. $476.68
5 p.m. — G. is just about done at the show today and tells me he had two coffees today out of the float money ($3.76). When he comes home I make some frozen ravioli for dinner before going off to work on some new crafts. I spend the rest of the night getting things ready for the Halloween party, and then head to bed thoroughly exhausted. $3.76
Daily Total: $1,610.44

Day Seven

12 p.m. — G. and I wake up late, though admittedly he had a much better excuse than I did. I get up, make us both smoothies, and get to work. The sales from this weekend were good enough to cover the orders I made last week, so I call up my suppliers and tell them they can process the sale now, for a total of $2,155.53. Ouch. $2,155.53
1 p.m. — G. and I head to the mall, a favorite day off activity because it easily consolidates a lot of minor errand-running into a nice time to walk and chat. First we swing by Walmart for some more pumpkins — $8.58 for six of them. Next we hop into the grocery store to pick up my birth control ($79.10, since it's not covered by the drug plan), and some milk, potatoes, and lettuce ($7.50). We walk around the mall a bit before heading to the church to vote in the municipal election. $95.18
5 p.m. — G. and I head over to my mom's place to drop off some cash for her to get the house painted. My parents are trying to sell their house but money can be tight, so I bring $300 by to help them out. My dad assures me he can pay me back on his next payday, but I don't anticipate that. We stay for lasagna and then head home. A productive day. A productive week, really. G. and I walk the dog and then cuddle and watch TV for the rest of the night. It's nice that he's home. $300
Daily Total: $2,550.71
Note: This OP's weekly total includes both her business and personal expenses.
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