Money Diaries logo

A Week In Victoria, British Columbia, On A $43,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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.

Today: a freelance copywriter who makes $43,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on movie theater popcorn.

Editor’s Note: all currency has been converted from CAD to USD.
Occupation: Freelance copywriter and visual merchandiser
Industry: Fashion
Age: 31
Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Salary: $43,000
Net Worth: $51,900 in savings (about a third came from my husband, when we started our joint account after moving back to Canada. We previously lived in the UK, where we had separate accounts. I’m temporarily covering all of our expenses while we’re waiting for his permanent residency to come through, but before we used to split bills pretty evenly.)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,337 (this is made up of a bimonthly paycheck from a boutique and two monthly retainers for writing clients. I also will get one-off checks from additional freelance clients).
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,409 for a one-bedroom apartment
Apartment Utilities: $22.25
Phone: $64.79 (for my husband and me)
Internet: $65.62
Amazon Prime: $8.30
Disney+: $12.45
Spotify: $12.45
Adobe: $21.59 (We forgot to cancel our free one-month trial. As much as this annoys me, the cancellation fee is higher than the annual subscription cost so we figured we’d stick with it. Moral of the story: Always set a reminder in your phone the day before the trial ends.)
The Sports Network: $16.61
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?
Sort of. My parents come from cultures where education is important, and my dad is an academic. However, I didn’t attend a traditional university. I knew I wanted to work in fashion, so I went to a private fashion and beauty school. I had to take out a student loan for it, but I was able to pay it off in 2020.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents’ wealth fluctuated, especially after their divorce. My mom would tell me when we needed to cut back on certain expenses, but that was about it.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked part time at a gym in high school. I was never told I needed to work, but I wanted to have my own pocket money. Plus, I got to workout for free on the days I worked, so that was great!
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. My mom always made sure we were comfortable, so even if she was stressed, I never felt it.
Do you worry about money now?
A little bit. I’ve been the sole breadwinner of my household for around seven months now; my husband can’t work right now because we’re waiting for his permanent residence to come through after moving back to Canada from the UK. Opting for in-land immigration was a risky choice because it meant losing our double income status for an undetermined amount of time, but we both wanted to come back to Canada. I was worried that we would blow through our savings at first with only me working (my husband used to earn more than me), but I’ve found my new role as the breadwinner empowering. I’m proud of myself for being able to comfortably support my family with just my income — is this how men always feel? We’re not saving much these days, but at least we’re maintaining what we already have without having to make major lifestyle sacrifices. With that said, I am very much looking forward to the day my husband’s residency gets approved and we can be DINKWADs again!
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I officially moved out at 21. I was still on the family cell phone plan for a few years after that, but was responsible for all of my other expenses. My mom would help out as much as she could if anything were to happen, but she has her own expenses to worry about so I don’t think she’d be able to fully cover us if all our income sources were lost.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — It’s a writing day today! I have a slow morning and roll out of bed half an hour past my usual alarm. I always set one for 7 a.m., but I’ve been finding it hard to get up when it’s still dark out. The funny thing is, I consider myself a morning person and never have issues with getting up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. for conventional jobs with set shifts. Being my own boss and setting my own schedule is one of the best things about freelancing, but it takes discipline!
9 a.m. — After taking my dog out and having breakfast (almond butter toast and fruit salad), I check emails and do some light work before hopping on a client call. I receive some disappointing news: My client needs to reduce her monthly budget by a few hundred dollars and asks if we can cut back my hours a bit. This sucks because she’s one of my biggest clients, but as my husband reminded me, it might be a blessing in disguise. I know I need to do more client outreach (I’ve been using our big move as an excuse to put it off for too long), and this news is lighting the fire under my butt to do it.
1 p.m. — I break for lunch: plant-based tuna sandwiches. As a vegetarian, I’m not a big fan of fake meat (I prefer tofu/beans/lentils), but I don’t mind this one and it’s an easy lunch option. I spend my afternoon doing deeper work, including some time to research and pitch potential new clients.
5:30 p.m. — I like marking the end of my work days with an at-home yoga session, so I do that before showering and having dinner (it’s fajita night).
7 p.m. — My husband isn’t satisfied with our dessert selection, so he goes to the store to pick up some snacks. He brings back all my favorites: soft cookies, dark chocolate-covered almonds, and cheddar popcorn. One of our worst habits is buying mid-week snacks after doing a sensible weekly shop with mostly veggies and cupboard staples. $10.32
10 p.m. — I wind down for bed after watching a few episodes of One Tree Hill. I told my husband I never saw it as a teen, so he made me watch it. Those 2000s teen dramas were hilarious!
Daily Total: $10.32

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I wake up to the first snow of the year and feel very glad that I’m working from home today. My dog surprises me on her morning outing; she’s usually disoriented by snow (we’re in the one part of Canada where it isn’t around much), but she ignores it and goes to her regular spots. The snow seems to make her hyper and she gets mini zoomies through the park. Once we get back home, I give her breakfast and warm myself up with a big mug of jasmine green tea and oatmeal.
9 a.m. — I start my workday. Today I have to write a blog post, some product descriptions, and copy for promotional material that my client will be using at an upcoming event. I have to admit, watching the snowfall while I work is very peaceful. I'll forever be a summer/hot weather girl, but fresh snow does look pretty.
1 p.m. — My husband is craving perogies for lunch, so we make somewhat grandiose plans of a winter walk to the grocery store that’s further away. It’s a 15-20 minute walk, whereas our usual grocery store is just down the street. Our dog isn’t feeling the snow this time (back to regular programming), so I end up taking her home after walking just a block. I reheat the leftover fajitas for myself, then my husband comes back with perogies and some other things we were missing (granola, blueberries, avocados, cucumber, cheese, potatoes, bread, and dog treats). $37.48
2 p.m. — Back to work I go! I finish my projects earlier than expected, so I set aside some more time for client prospecting and outreach. I wish I could outsource this part of the business (fear of rejection, I guess), but I know it’s important for me to grow.
5 p.m. — I take my dog out for her pre-dinner outing, then roll out my yoga mat. Today is ab day; Lord help me! Afterward, I take a quick shower and get dinner going. I make a vermicelli soup with broccoli, mushrooms, and edamame. You’ve got to have something warm and cozy on a snow day.
7 p.m. — We kick back and watch our favorite guilty pleasure show, 90 Day Fiancé. We don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but 90 Day is relatable since we’re from different countries/cultures and have both moved across the world for each other. We like to joke that we could be a 90 Day couple, but in reality we don’t have enough drama and probably wouldn’t get cast.
10 p.m. — We head to bed. We both like to get in our Duolingo lessons and read before sleeping; he’s doing French and reading The Night Manager, I’m doing Spanish and reading one of The Witcher books.
Daily Total: $37.48

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I try to coax my dog out of bed, since I want to wash my hair this morning (but only after taking her out, of course — I can’t go out in the cold with wet hair!). She loves sleeping in now that she’s a senior. Eventually she gets up and we venture out into Narnia. The poor baby is still struggling with the snow, but she manages to do her business.
8:30 a.m. — After showering, I make myself green tea, a fruit salad, and peanut butter toast for breakfast. We’re out of almond butter now, sigh. After eating, I get to work.
1:30 p.m. — I take my dog out and break for lunch. I’m thankful for being able to have leftovers two days in a row. I find lunch the most challenging meal of the day; I don’t want to cook anything too elaborate, but I also don’t want to eat sandwiches every day. Leftovers make things so much easier.

2:30 p.m. — Head back to my laptop and am pleasantly surprised with a blogging request from a client I haven’t heard from in a while. The past few months have been a bit slower on the writing front, but they have been steady and this isn’t the first pleasant surprise of the month, so I feel optimistic.

5 p.m. — Realize we don’t have any tofu, which changes our dinner plans for the rest of the week. We don’t want to do yet another grocery run, so I improvise a roasted vegetable salad with chickpeas. I squeeze in a yoga session while the veg is in the oven.

6 p.m. — It’s another 90 Day Fiancé night. We can’t stay away from the drama! After watching a few episodes, we start our evening routines and head to bed.

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — Get up to my usual alarm because I’m working at the boutique today and I like having enough time to comfortably get ready. I do my morning skincare routine, brush my teeth, then make myself granola with blueberries. It’s always a gamble if my dog will wake up before I go on these days, but today she thankfully wakes up right after I finish breakfast — perfect timing.
8:15 a.m. — I sip on my green tea and check emails before getting dressed, then walk to work. The PNW’s signature rain has overtaken the snow, and the sidewalks are pretty clear (if not soaking wet). I encounter a family of deer on my walk. I’m mostly used to Victoria’s free-roaming wildlife (you can also spot seals, otters, and peacocks in the city), but it’s still exciting to see the animals up close.
1 p.m. — Lunch break! I have leftover salad and my boss treats us to cookies from one of my favorite local bakeries.
6 p.m. — Arrive home, catch up with my husband, and do some post-work yoga. He’s making creamy vegan pasta with coconut milk and vegetables. I guess it’s not very authentic, but I love this type of pasta.
8:30 p.m. — We’re both feeling sleepy, so we decide to head to bed early and treat ourselves to TV in bed. We move the TV from the living room into the bedroom so we can really snuggle up while watching. It feels like we’re in a private movie theater or a hotel.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — I’m at the boutique again today, so I get up with my alarm. My dog actually wakes up with me, so after taking her out we both have breakfast (chicken and veg for her, granola with blueberries for me).
8:45 a.m. — Head to work. Today’s walk is less eventful than yesterday’s, with no animal sightings.
1 p.m. — Have leftover pasta for lunch, and today my boss’ husband brought us fancy donuts. We don’t usually get this many treats, especially in a row, but I’m not mad about it.
5:30 p.m. — I call a friend on my way home from work and we end up talking for almost two hours. It was a long overdue catchup and I hang up feeling happy. She’s one of the few friends I have who still loves talking on the phone for hours rather than texting.
7:30 p.m. — I take advantage of having the apartment to myself for the first time in months. I do a quick yoga session, then decide to make avocado toast for dinner. My lunch was so filling that I don’t feel very hungry and I don’t feel like cooking anything elaborate for just me.
8 p.m. — My husband gets home, so my home alone time is pretty short-lived. We relax on the couch together before calling it a night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7 a.m. — My alarm goes off but I roll back into bed. I woke up during the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I’m feeling pretty tired. Eventually, my dog wakes me up. I want to wash my hair today, so I jump in the shower after taking her out and giving her breakfast. I feel much more energized after the shower.
9 a.m. — My husband is making oatmeal and tea. We eat breakfast together, which is a bit of a rarity. He’s usually not a breakfast person, but I’m always hungry as soon as I get up. I wish our breakfast schedules were more aligned because this was a sweet way to start the day.
9:30 a.m. — I have a client call and some writing to do today, so I begin my workday. My goal is to finish up before lunch because I’m going to the movies with my niece in the afternoon. I don’t have a lot of full days off, but I let myself take time off or have extended breaks whenever I want when I’m writing. Maybe I’m a workaholic, but I find writing at home relaxing so I don’t feel burned out or stressed with my schedule.
1 p.m. — My schedule is on track! My husband gets groceries in the meantime; our local store does 10% off the bill once a week, so we do our main shop on that day. He comes back with the usual: a bunch of veggies, tofu, beans, rice noodles, tortillas, walnuts, apples, Earl Grey tea, plant-based tuna, chocolate, and chicken for our dog. $65.68
2 p.m. — After helping put the groceries away, I have an afternoon yoga session because I feel like I won’t get the chance to do an evening one. Afterward, I join my husband for lunch; he’s making perogies. I also eat an orange and a kiwi to make up for the lack of vegetables in the perogies themselves, then I start getting ready to go out.
3 p.m. — It’s looking gloomy outside, so I decide to bus downtown. It takes less than 10 minutes; I’m really into this small city life! I use my prepaid bus pass to pay the $2.50 fare. I usually add about $10 a month to this card.
3:30 p.m. — Arrive at the theater and buy two tickets to Wonka. I’m pleasantly surprised that I still qualify for a matinee price this late in the afternoon. $17.06
3:45 p.m. — I grab popcorn and a drink to share. I’m usually a sneak-your-own-snacks-in kind of girl, but I can’t help treating my niece. Plus, I don’t go to the movies often (maybe once or twice a year), so I might as well get the full experience while I’m here. $11.87
6 p.m. — We leave the theater and head to my sister’s place. I loved the movie. Roald Dahl was my favorite childhood author, and I think it really captured his vibe. Oh, and I’m now officially a Timothée Chalamet fan. That man is charismatic.
6:30 p.m. — I stay at my sister’s for a bit to hang out and have a light dinner of rice and vegetables.
8 p.m. — Bus back to my place (another $2.50 is taken off my balance) and catch up with my husband. We make plans to watch Wonka together. The cast has a lot of his favorite British comedians, so I think he’ll also enjoy it.
Daily Total: $94.61

Day Seven

7 a.m. — Have a quick cuddle with my dog before getting out of bed. I’m back at the boutique today, so I need to get up quickly. I do my morning routine, then take my dog out before having a breakfast of passionfruit green tea and blueberry granola.
8:45 a.m. — Walk to work. The cold snap is definitely over.
12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime. There are no treats today, but my husband kindly made me a veggie stir-fry to bring in while I was out last night.
5:30 p.m. — I stop by the drug store on my way home. I get an eyebrow pencil, toilet paper, dark chocolate nut clusters, and peanut butter cookies. $21.78
6 p.m. — A delicious scent hits me when I walk through my front door. My husband made chili, yay! I do yoga and shower before sitting down for dinner.
7 p.m. — Tomorrow marks 10 years since I adopted my dog, so I order her a pupcake from a local organic dog treat company that does free delivery within the city. I’ll have to think of some other cute ways to celebrate, but this is a good start. $5.35
9 p.m. — I’m feeling sleepy, so I make my way to bed. Good night!
Daily Total: $27.03
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 behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more Money Diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series