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A Week In Vancouver Island On A $92,000 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 dollar.

This week: a senior business analyst who makes $92,000 per year and who spends some of her money this week on pottery painting.
Editor’s Note: All language in this diary was included in the original submission and no substantive editorial alterations have been made to the submission by Refinery29. This has been confirmed with the diarist.
Editor’s Note: All amounts are in Canadian dollars.
Occupation: Senior business analyst
Industry: Tech
Age: 30
Location: Vancouver Island
Salary: $92,000
Assets: Our house is valued at $989,000 currently, we have a combined $150,000 in pension, and around $60,000 in various company stocks and GICs. My spouse M. and I have completely commingled finances; I will be tracking both as essentially I spend whatever he spends (M. makes $60,000, for a combined income of $152,000 before tax).
Debt: $3,000 on a zero-interest credit card for a 10-month period (we balanced transferred and pay $400/month); $480,000 in a mortgage. We refinanced in September 2023 for a five year fixed rate, however I don’t consider our mortgage debt due to the equity we are gaining, and that our mortgage for a five-bedroom, three-bath single family home is less than rent for a two-bedroom condo in Vancouver.
Paycheck Amount: My salary is $2,555 after taxes. M. makes $2,308 after taxes. Our pay periods are alternating.
Pronouns: She/her

Housing Costs: Our mortgage is $1,450, paid biweekly (we pay $100 extra to the principal).
Weekly Loan Payments: $100 to a credit card.
All Other Expenses:
Utilities: Around $200 (includes water, paid quarterly; hydro, paid bimonthly; gas; sewer and trash, paid quarterly; phone, highly discounted due to work plans for M. and myself; and car gas).
Car Insurance: $84
Life Insurance: $167 combined ($67 for me; $100 for M.)
Health & Dental Insurance: $60 deducted from pay (coverage for myself and M. from my employer. M. also has coverage for both of us deducted from his pay).
Retirement Contribution: $400 (Employee matches me. M. has a defined pension through work and contributes ~$200 month.)
Union Fees: $70 (for M.)
Subscriptions: Crave $22 per month (recent splurge for watching The Rookie); Playstation Plus $100 (annual, bought as a Black Friday deal); Amazon Prime $80 (annual); BCAA $120 (annual); gym $30 per month (we both have one so $15 per person).
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?
There was always the expectation. My father was very clear, we were very smart. There was no way we’d be wasting our potential. He wanted me to be a lawyer, but unlike with others’ immigrant parents, I got to choose my major and went into social sciences and got my master’s in history. I deferred my PhD too much so I got dropped by the program.
I chose my university by where I got a full first-year scholarship and then after that took about $15,000 in student loans for my undergraduate degree. My parents paid my rent and I got a part time job for food. For my master’s, I had a student line of credit of $10,000 and $5,000 in student loans, otherwise it was all savings and scholarships. With the line of credit, I had a total of $30,000 in student loans.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Save. We talked about how you get a dollar allowance and half of it goes into long-term saving with 25% in short term and 25% in spend. My family came from poor rural China, and has some generational trauma from Japan and World War II. You need enough money to be able to buy your way out. Investing came after I was 18.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
At an ice cream parlour. I was 12 and my parents made me get it for responsibility. I only lasted three weeks because I hated it.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I grew up thinking we were not rich because we didn’t get big plane vacations and I had only been to Disney twice. I didn’t count flying from Toronto to Vancouver every summer as a vacation since we were just seeing family (staying in a house my parents owned) — but we had a big new-build house in the rich end of town and my mom stayed home to raise all of us. We had to work for things (like going to see a movie on opening night or a new CD) but we always had money and got what we wanted. In retrospect, my family was/is fairly well off. Both my parents grew up poor, with parents working multiple jobs and different shifts to make ends meet. With the strive/drive for my father not to give us that childhood, and for him to be able to retire, his parents really impacted mine and my siblings’ and cousins’ lives. My father showed me the apartment he grew up in Chinatown a few years back. It’s light years away from the house my grandparents owned when I was a kid and how I grew up.
Do you worry about money now?
Of course. Inflation is real and we are actively planning a wedding for the next year, as well as a baby in the next few years. We also need to buy a second car, so we’re saving for that.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Fully financially responsible? 25. I lived in a family property in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, so even though I paid all my bills (food and phone), I didn’t have to pay rent. In fact, I made money, as I rented rooms out and used the income for house utilities, and paying my student loans back faster.
When I moved in with M., I just paid condo fees until two years ago when we bought our house, which gave me plenty of time to save. Our financial safety nets are family and our savings. I know my family would bail us out. M.’s father would as well. Conversely, we are M.’s mother’s safety net and, when we are making all of our plans, we have to keep in mind that we will be subsidising her.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, I received $50,000 from my parents once they sold my childhood home, as did both of my siblings. I have also received $10,000 from one set of grandparents which paid off my car and part of my student loans when I was 21. I will be receiving another inheritance when probate is done, of around $100,000. M. also has received inheritance which allowed him to buy his first condo in his early 20s when the market was much better. That condo, and the subsequent upgrading, helped us afford our house.

Day One

10 a.m. — I drive to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Not how I want to start my Sunday morning but y’know. Normally I’d walk since it’s about 20 minutes but I have a UTI. I’m “lucky” that, despite not having a doctor because of the healthcare shortage, my work pays for the Maple app so I could get a doctor to write the prescription and order the lab work at 1 a.m. I’ll do the lab work later this week when I can get an appointment, but will take the relief now. Insurance makes the antibiotics free, but I also buy hydrogen peroxide because we’re out and we have a dog that thinks everything is meant to be in her mouth. I also bought some oral wound mouthwash because we were out. I come home and M. has made us breakfast. I pay with debit. $15.90
1 p.m. — We do our taxes. I have a mini meltdown when I realize the part-time bakery job I had for a few months didn’t take off income tax last year, so I owe $800. Luckily, M. is getting a refund, so we net out positive with $400. The bakery took off income tax in 2022, so unsure why they didn’t in 2023. I make us lunch.
3 p.m. — We walk the dog, then watch The Rookie. A wedding venue emails us back and is surprisingly affordable at $3,000.
6:30 p.m. — I explain what lazy girl dinner is to M. and then make a lazy girl dinner. Aside from fresh vegetables, we haven’t really grocery shopped for a while. We need to do a big pantry shop and neither of us want that. We debate about buying a food saver and if we should wait for a sale before we do so. M. is more frugal than me and is determined we should. 
8 p.m. — We start season 3 of The Rookie. After two episodes, we go to bed.
Daily Total: $15.90

Day Two

5:45 a.m. — Wake up and start work. I get up to date with what’s happened on the weekend and check my automated reports. Sometime before 6:30 a.m., I get the kettle on for M.’s pour-over coffee before I go back to my meetings. There’s a 20-minute gap where I get changed and do my skincare and brush my teeth. I’d love to be a skincare person but honestly I’ve spent too much money on product that I don’t use and that just goes bad. Washing my face and using sunscreen is a win. I make sure that M.’s lunch is in his bag and I get our travel mugs ready. We recently splurged on a stupidly expensive espresso machine that we call his Engagement Espresso, as it cost the same as my stupidly expensive ring.
8 a.m. — We drive to work. Prior to buying our house, we were both working from home and lived in a city with amazing transit. We only needed one car. Since buying the house and moving to a city where public transit is a joke (the one bus running goes past our house every 90 minutes), M. changed jobs and is in the office every day and I have to go in three days a week. We need a second car or for the e-bike rebate to come through. I’m also done in the office by 1 p.m., but M. works normal hours, so I either have to take the bus home, or go to the gym for three hours. Today though I drop M. off as he has a half-day because of a dental appointment. I will pick him up later.
8:30 a.m. — I ask my boss how the work-from-home tax forms work, and he is going to find out. I run more meetings and work on a request for a dashboard and a business case for a new feature that I have to convince leadership to spend money on.
12 p.m. — I drive back to M. While I wait for him I am incredibly hungry. I don’t usually eat a proper meal until around 1 p.m. I go to the bakery by M.’s work and buy a cheese bun for me ($3.65), and an apple pie scone ($2.55) for M. as a snack. M. points out he won’t be able to eat until after his appointment. I pay with debit. $6.20
1 p.m. — I drop M. off, and the car stops working. The engine won’t catch. I try multiple times and then run into the dentist to dramatically announce to M. and the receptionists that the car won’t start. M. asks me what he wants me to do about this, since he’s about to go into an appointment. I go back to the car to FaceTime my father. He also asks what I think he can do to help since he lives 3,000km away. M. texts me to remind me we have BCAA. I finally get the engine to catch and drive home.
1:30 p.m. — I walk the dog, mail a (late) birthday card and then start researching what an alternator is. The car is over a decade old and, until the house, had been the most expensive thing I’d ever bought ($12,000 back in 2015). We have the funds for the cost, but it’s my first car and the fact it might be the end of its life is scary. Alternators can cost between $400 and $800 repair with labour, so that’s fun.
2:30 p.m. — We get an email back from a wedding venue saying they cost $75,000 minimum. The timing is hysterical because M. now owes the dentist $618, as they haven’t flipped it under my insurance. They split the payment in half, as he has a follow up in two weeks. After the next appointment they will flip the whole amount under me and we’ll get reimbursed for the whole amount. Pay $309 on credit card for now. $309
3 p.m. to 10 p.m. — We walk the dog, make dinner (M. makes white sauce pasta, with chicken and peas) and watch The Rookie. There are 13 episodes in season 3, but we will be busy every night this week besides Friday and Sunday, and I would like to finish season 3 so we can start season 4 next Monday. I don’t want to pay for more than one month of Crave.
Daily Total: $315.20

Day Three

1 a.m. — $100 is automatically transferred from our account to the credit card debit. We have an auto transfer of $100 every Tuesday to a Visa where we balance transferred both our cards. We have an offer for 0% interest for 10 months, so we used it for some bigger expenses (snow tires, brake replacement and general Christmas stuff) and are on track to pay it back within the next six months. $100 (Included in regular expenses)
5:45 a.m. — Work. Meetings, reports, trying to convince a colleague that a process does include them and that their refusal to follow it means that their requests won’t be done. M. has another half day, so I can go into the office at my leisure... If the car starts.
9 a.m. — The car starts. It takes longer to drive into work today because the tourists are starting to come and their vans or campers are not exactly highway speed and, with a two-lane highway, if you don’t merge over fast enough you’re stuck.
10 a.m. — Meeting done, car starts again and I drive home for more meetings. The least amount of time in the office is preferable for me. At home, I meet with my manager where we discuss my future salary and promotion. I am due for a promotion in the start of Q2, which would push me to six figures. I’ll believe it when I see it, but I’m really excited at that possibility for my family.
11:15 a.m. — Work runs late. There’s some issues with the data and we can’t figure it out. We call it a night, and I’ll record the video presentations tomorrow, once we fix the data.
1:30 p.m. — Nap time! It’s bad for me, but honestly I don’t sleep well during the night so naps are what keep me alive.
6:30 p.m. — M. comes home, we eat dinner. Groceries we bought earlier came to $96.83 for two pork loins, two packs of bacon, chicken nuggets, coffee, pop, an eight-pack of peppers, milk, tomato, pickles, rice, avocado, mushrooms, sour cream and lettuce. Not too bad — we average about $300 a month in groceries because we can buy bulk and have a second freezer. For the month of March we are currently at $123.61 for groceries and there are 12 days left in the month. We went on a small weekend away, so we ate out a fair bit, but even then our current food budget stands at $272.27 today. $96.83
7:30 p.m. — M. makes a coffee and plays video games with his friends. They do it every week. I have a shower, fold and put away laundry and then read in bed.
Daily Total: $96.83

Day Four

1 a.m. — Our biweekly accelerated mortgage payment of $1,450 comes out. I’m tracking it here to be honest on our spending but I tend not to think of it as money spent because in my head it’s already money gone.
5:45 a.m. — Work. I find out the limits of how many people I can invite to a Teams meeting. I also make us coffee and make sure M. has lunch packed (leftovers). M. has walked the dog and has put the recycling and compost out for pick up. I drop M. off at work and go to the office.
10 a.m. — I leave the office for home and more meetings. I walk the dog and go record training videos. I get an email that Amazon is doing its big spring sale. I send a link to a robot mop and vacuum that’s on a big discount to M. We want one, but I’m not in charge of the research on it.
11:45 a.m. — I shove lunch in my mouth, last night’s leftovers. I’m running late for my UTI lab work, and decide to get myself later by collecting all the random dishes and mugs that just show up places and starting the dishwasher. I actually get to the lab 10 minutes early but need to buy gas on the way home. I tell my team I’ll be MIA for a bit and leave the work phone in the car. I buy 15.6 litres of gas for $30 at $1.879 per litre on a credit card. It sucks. I don’t fill up because we’re going to my in-laws’ this weekend and there’s a Costco Gas Bar there. $30
12:30 p.m. — Work goes long again.
1:30 a.m. — Nap!
2:30 p.m. — Walk the dog and drive to the gym. I usually go three times a week but with last week’s weekend away and this week’s weird half days from M., today’s the only day. I make up for it by doing both upper and lower body and a 30-minute circuit.
4:30 p.m. — I pick up M. and we go to Costco. We get nachos, ham, cheese buns and some other items. We debate buying our friend’s kid a toddler set of clothes and decide no. We end up buying work pants for M., and a garden hose. It comes out to $116.90. I order our Costco date-night dinner of hot dogs and fries for a grand total of $6.41 and pay by credit card. $123.31
8 p.m. — Dance class! We bought a series of six lessons of introduction to ballroom back in December for a new date-night idea. We paid $60 per person and this is the fifth lesson tonight. 
9 p.m. — We’re home, and we let the dog out. M. spends an undetermined amount of time watching ballroom videos while I sleep.
Daily Total: $153.31

Day Five

5:45 a.m. — Work. All the meetings. Thursday is the meeting day. I debate with a friend what’s the earliest call we’ve had and 4:30 a.m. still wins. I pack lunch and coffee for M. and he leaves. I end up cleaning up cat puke as the cat decides to drink milk from M.’s cereal bowl and vomit it up on camera in a meeting.
9 a.m. — I make myself a matcha and walk the dog.
1 p.m. — Working; I treat myself to a lunch of a cheese bun and ham sandwich. We used to eat that every Sunday while growing up but the cost of ham has been outrageous. The deal at Costco yesterday was $1.50 for 100g, which is really good.
1:15 p.m. — I seal the wooden deer Christmas decoration we bought last year. It sits outside our front door and needs to be weather-proofed, and I’ve been putting it off for five months. But the weather is good and we have newspapers to do it. The dog and the cat don’t like my wooden deer.
1:30 p.m. — Nap!

5 p.m. —
M. comes home, we walk the dog and I make dinner (Kraft Dinner and nuggets — I swear we eat veggies, but today is not that day). We discuss the possibility of our dog at our wedding as a flower girl, and if she’ll be in a tutu or a cheongsam like me. I am now researching if they make dog cheongsams and if she can match us. The cat, despite all my heart wanting it, won’t physically be there because he will have an anxiety attack and probably die.
6:30 p.m. — Board game night! We go to a friend’s to repeat the usual scenario. We’ve lost two weeks in a row.
10:30 p.m. — I pack M.’s breakfast (oatmeal and frozen berries), lunch (spicy tuna and mayo) since he’s trying to go to the gym before work, and feed the animals before we go to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

5:45 a.m. — Work. I have a deep focus block which means I can get the script for the training I have to run. Public speaking is not my strong suit and it’s a group of a thousand people so I’m not looking forward to it.
9 a.m. — I walk the dog, make a matcha and make a to-do list for what we have to get done before we leave to go to my in-laws tomorrow. I text my mother-in-law happy birthday, and say I hope that she got the card in time. She did.
9:30 a.m. — My last meeting for the week ends and I’m debating calling it a day so I can nap. Instead I make lunch (cheese bun and ham), text my other mother-in-law our plan for Saturday, and unload and reload the dishwasher and go back to work for at least another hour.
12:30 p.m. — I shower and do skincare.
1 p.m. — Nap! Somewhere in this time FedEx comes and since I’m sleeping, we have to pick up on Monday. I’m not too sure what it is — I assume it’s our custom address stamp from Etsy because that’s the only thing I’ve bought recently.
3 p.m. — I prep dinner (nachos), unload the dishwasher, pack my overnight bag and confirm all our venue tours by email. I start a load of laundry and do a quick clean. I feel like this is not the best image of our diet. I swear we generally eat healthy but we both have been feeling really blah over the past two weeks. I do have three whole peppers and two whole avocados in the nachos though.
5 p.m. — M. comes home, we walk the dog, have dinner, and plan out next week. We have a big Wednesday next week (mechanic, nail appointment, dance class), and we are having our friends over for Easter so we need to prep for that. We pack the car so tomorrow is a very easy start. M. also gets paid today. We’re lucky that we’re on alternating pay periods — we used to be on the same and it always felt stressful. M. also lets me know his union has secured a 3% cost of living raise to start in Q3.
7:30 p.m. — We finish The Rookie and head to bed. Crave reminds me that I have 10 days until I’m charged again. Sadly, I think we’ll have to pay for two months.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — Wake up. No one (except the dog) slept well so we’re not in a morning mood. M. makes coffee and walks the dog while I finish packing the car and give the cat a lot of attention. Our first wedding venue tour is at 11 a.m. and the one that is the most expensive (between $8,000 and $10,000), but also the one we probably want the most.
10:40 a.m. — We visit our dream venue. We stay way longer than expected. Basically if the quote is under $10,000, we’ll take it.
1 p.m. — We get to my in-laws’ and have a lunch of egg salad sandwiches. We need to buy gas. My in-laws drive us to a pottery painting store.
2 p.m. — We paint pottery. My mother-in-law wanted to do this for her birthday. I paint a vase, M. paints an Easter egg, father-in-law paints a mug, and mother-in-law paints a plate. $143.36
4 p.m. — We see another venue. It’s an instant no. My in-laws decide they want to try Korean fried chicken. We call ahead for a take-out order of two fries and 16 pieces of half and half. It comes to $50.83 (my in-laws pay).
5 p.m. — We come back and see that our dog has pooped in my in-laws’ house and also has gotten into their pantry and eaten an entire bag of dog food. Not fun. We spend the rest of the night drinking wine, discussing the wedding and watching TV.
10 p.m. — We go to bed. That’s the end of this week, but tomorrow we will be buying gas and probably lunch for my other mother-in-law as we will be touring another venue.
Daily Total: $143.36

The Breakdown

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