A Week In Vancouver, Canada, On A $26,023 Stipend

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Today: a PhD Student who makes $26,023 per year and spends some of her money this week on Mentos.
Occupation: PhD Student
Industry: Science
Age: 25
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Stipend: $26,023 stipend (tuition and fees are covered), plus an additional $3,820 if I TA six hours/week between September and April
Paycheck Amount: $8,674 every four months, plus ~$260 every two weeks for TA
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Monthly Expenses
Rent: $690 for a large, bright studio on the third floor of a walk-up about 20 minutes from campus
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I have ~$18,000 in student loans from my undergrad, but don't have to pay them off until I'm out of school.)
Health Insurance: $0 (Thanks, Canada!)
Utilities: $25 every two months
Phone: $30
Internet: $30
New York Times Digital Subscription: $3
Bus Pass: $0 (covered by my school fees)

Day One

7 a.m. — I wake up early even though I didn't go to bed until 1 a.m. last night. It's been unusually hot the last couple of days, and it's wrecking havoc on my sleeping schedule. I roll around in bed for another hour, playing with my phone and hoping to get sleepy again, but no luck.
8 a.m. — I reluctantly get out of bed and wash my face. For breakfast, I make ochazuke (Japanese rice soup) with leftover rice and prepackaged seasoning mix. I also slice up a peach to eat at work later. I eat, get dressed, brush my teeth, and head out for my 30-minute commute to work. I'm still feeling a bit groggy on the bus, so I grab an iced latte when I get off. $3.27
9:30 a.m. — I arrive at the office. Summers at work are usually pretty chill, but right now it's especially so since 1) the lab is getting rebuilt so nobody can take data, and 2) my advisor is out of town. These days I'm focusing on writing my first paper, and helping my labmate, G., with a second paper. I should mention that G. is also my boyfriend, and yes, working together gets to be too much sometimes, but we do our best. Today G. and I work on our paper together while eating my peach slices.
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12:30 p.m. — G. and I get lunch at the new Asian fusion place on campus. I get a pork belly bao and cauliflower tempura ($9.68), but regret the cauliflower almost immediately because I'm not actually that hungry. G. ends up eating half of it. Then we go back to work and loiter around the communal coffee table, where we do today's NYT crossword with our friends from another lab. $9.68
1:30 p.m. — Back at my desk, and I'm feeling a bit sleepy so I make myself a cup of tea from the stash in my drawer and browse flights to Germany. G.'s parents invited us to spend Christmas with them (it's July right now, but I guess German stereotypes are real here), but we also want to travel on the side, and I want to see my parents in Calgary. G. suggests spending New Year's Eve in Berlin, which gets me really excited, but we have to see what his parents' schedule looks like.
3 p.m. — There are free Krispy Kreme donuts at work today. I love Krispy Kreme, but I'm still full from lunch, so I only eat half a glazed donut.
4:30 p.m. — I snack on a handful of rosemary Marcona almonds from Trader Joe's. I love Trader Joe's. Vancouver used to have a store called Pirate Joe's that resold food from Trader Joe's, but they recently closed down after a lengthy legal battle. Fortunately, I convinced G. to drive me to the Trader Joe's in Bellingham last week, so I have a good stash of snacks for now.
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5 p.m. — G. asks if I want to go to the European deli near my place. I say yes, even though I just went grocery shopping yesterday, because I make poor decisions when I'm hungry. I end up buying prosciutto, black pepper salami, a small tub of taramasalata (Greek caviar spread), a can of sardines in olive oil, and an enormous sangak (Iranian flatbread) that is easily two feet long ($13.21). Then we stop by the supermarket, where I grab a pack of spaghetti and two ripe Roma tomatoes to go with the sardines ($2.63). $15.84
6:30 p.m. — Now we're practically on my doorstep, so I invite G. in for dinner. We eat half the sangak, toasted briefly in the oven, along with some salami, taramasalata, and all of the prosciutto. A perfect meal for a hot summer day. For dessert, we share a slice of IKEA's Daim almond cake from my freezer. I eat way too much of everything, but I'm happy.
7:30 p.m. — G. heads home with his groceries, promising me lunch tomorrow. I take a quick shower and then parade around the apartment in my underwear. I put lotion on my legs, drink coconut water, browse the news, and give my plants a little extra water for the hot weather.
9 p.m. — The sun finally sets, and the apartment gets cooler instantly. I wash the dishes left in the sink from last night and get ready for bed. I think about doing something productive, but decide that I'd rather go to sleep early instead. I sit in bed, text my friends, play games on my phone, and fall asleep at around 10:30.
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Daily Total: $28.79

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — The sun is up, so I'm awake. Fortunately, after some rolling around in bed, I'm able to fall back asleep for a bit longer.
8 a.m. — I wake up a second time, feeling much better rested. I stay in bed for a while anyway, checking my feeds, texting my friends, and playing games on my phone.
9 a.m. — I get up, wash my face, and toss a piece of yesterday's sangak into the oven for breakfast. While it's toasting, I get dressed and slice another peach to take to work. I eat the sangak with taramasalata and the rest of the salami. I also drink a caramel macchiato out of a bag, which I bought from the Korean supermarket out of sheer curiosity. It's a bit too sweet, but it's surprisingly good.
10:15 a.m. — I get into the office, chat with G. about the paper, and answer some emails. G. tells me that his parents have confirmed our travel plans, so we'll be in Berlin for New Year's Eve! Afterwards, I'll go see my parents in Calgary. It'll be an expensive set of flights, but oh well.
12 p.m. — G. and I walk over to his apartment on campus for lunch. Now we eat his sangak and prosciutto, as well as feta cheese and pressed yogurt. For dessert, he has a slice of toast with cocoa almond spread, and I eat my peach slices.
12:30 p.m. — G. and I buy our flights. My purchase goes through right away ($1,247.96), but G.'s card gets declined, even though he has plenty of credit available. We spend the next hour calling the bank and trying different cards, until we finally give up and use my credit card, which goes through after two tries ($897.01). Dear lord. I update our running tally of finances: we travel a lot and often owe each other hundreds of dollars, so it's good to keep track. $2,144.97
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2:30 p.m. — We finally get back to the office, but now we've missed a seminar I wanted to go to, and I'm so annoyed by the whole credit card thing that I don't feel like being productive anyway. I work half-heartedly while compiling a giant list of all the sights I want to see and foods I want to eat in Berlin. I get hungry thinking about food, so I dig around in my drawers, find a Mix Max chocolate sponge cake, and eat it.
6 p.m. — I leave the office. Now I'm really hungry and consider getting takeout on my way home, but I remember that I have pre-cooked pork belly in my fridge that needs eating, so I resist. I start the rice cooker right away when I get home, and pace around the apartment restlessly while it does its thing. The rice takes about 20 minutes, but I let it sit for a bit longer because I like my rice softer. Meanwhile, I warm up the pork belly slices in a pan, chop up some cucumber, scoop some kimchi out of my jar, and pile it all on top of a steaming bowl of rice. It looks pretty good, so I snap a picture and send it to my mom to reassure her that I'm eating well. (I've been living alone for over six years, but moms will be moms.) Then I eat it with a box of melon-flavored milk, which is kind of an odd partner to pork belly and kimchi, but whatever.
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7:30 p.m. — I put the leftover rice away for tomorrow's breakfast, wash the dishes, and take out the trash. The hummingbird feeder on my balcony is empty, so I make some nectar and fill it. Then I wash my hair and get ready for bed.
9 p.m. — I lie on my bed for a while and scroll through my phone. I plan to get up in a little bit to draw, but it's nice and cool and and I find myself getting sleepy, so I just go to sleep at 9:30 p.m. I'm getting old.
Daily Total: $2,144.97

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up and can smell the smoke from the wildfires. The sky is still blue, but it's visibly hazy. I stay in bed for a bit, alternatively dozing and texting my friends.
8 a.m. — I get out of bed and put on the kettle. While the water boils, I wash my face and get dressed. Then I make ochazuke and add a marinated egg from the fridge. I also make a cup of instant coffee. (Yes, I am a heathen.) No peach today, since I'm out. I'm feeling lazy and dragging my feet a little.
10 a.m. — I get into the office to find that the material I ordered for custom parts has arrived, so I get working on drawings for the machine shop right away.
12 p.m. — G. and I grab lunch at the poke place next door. I get ahi tuna, negitoro, avocado, peas, and seaweed salad on brown rice ($9.69). We eat at the communal coffee table and do the crossword. $9.69
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1 p.m. — Back at my desk. I send a couple of emails and G. and I work on figures for the paper.
4:30 p.m. — We've had a productive afternoon, so G. and I start our weekend a bit early. We go to his place, drop off our things, and go for a run. Usually we run a 10 kilometer loop around campus, but it's so hot today that I'm dying not even a quarter of the way in. G. gives me his keys so I can do a five kilometer loop and go home while he runs the full 10. I get back to G.'s in one piece, but standing still for longer than 30 seconds has sweat pouring down my face, so I walk across the street and grab a green tea frappuccino at Starbucks ($3.75). I sit outside and drink it while waiting for my body to get back to a normal temperature, and then go inside and shower. $3.75
5:30 p.m. — G. gets home and I accompany him on his grocery run, but don't buy anything myself. Back at home we browse hotels in Berlin, and G. books us a nice room near the train station for three nights ($400.06). He pays, since he still owes me for the flights.
8 p.m. — It's finally cooling down outside, so we eat a light dinner. Sangak, taramasalata, feta cheese, and sardines in olive oil. For dessert, we have vanilla ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream.
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9:30 p.m. — I was planning to go home since it's hot, but now it's late, and I'm sleepy, so I decide to stay the night. We lie around in bed watching comedy clips on YouTube while waiting for the apartment to cool down, and fall asleep shortly after 11.
Daily Total: $13.44

Day Four

8 a.m. — I wake up. G.'s apartment gets less light than mine, which means I sleep much better at his place in the summertime. He offers me some breakfast, but I say no because I'm saving space for dim sum later! What I really want is coffee, but G. isn't a coffee drinker, so I buy an iced latte on my way home from his place ($3.27). I also stop by the drugstore to buy a bottle of shampoo for him (he's out, and I use his all the time, $5.12) and a roll of Mentos ($0.68). $9.07
10:30 a.m. — I get home and take a quick shower. My friend is an illustrator who draws Toronto storefronts, and in light of the recent shooting in Toronto, where we both grew up, he is selling prints of his drawings and donating the proceeds to TorontoStrong. I buy a print from him for $23.06 including shipping. $23.06
11:30 a.m. — My friend, N., texts me to say that she's coming to pick me up for dim sum. Mostly I get by fine without a car, but when we need to get out of Vancouver proper, I really appreciate my driving friends. We drive to Richmond and eat dim sum. There are eight of us, and we order BBQ pork buns, shrimp dumplings, siu mai, chicken feet, rice rolls, egg custard buns, turnip cake, and all the good stuff. We divide the bill evenly, and I pay $17.68 for my share. $17.68
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3 p.m. — N. drives me back into the city and drops me off at a convenient bus stop. From there, I grab a bus to campus to go swimming with G. The water is nice and cool, and I feel refreshed.
6 p.m. — G. and I catch a bus downtown to eat at our favorite diner before the fireworks show tonight. Burger and fries for G., chicken and waffles for me. We also share an enormous milkshake. He's in the bathroom when the bill comes, so I pick it up. $34.54
7:30 p.m. — G. and I walk across downtown to English Bay for the fireworks. Along the way we pass my favorite Japanese grocery store, and I stop in to buy oden soup mix and instant coffee ($5.52). It's way too hot for oden right now, but this is the only place to buy it, and I don't come to this part of town often, so I stock up. $5.52
8:30 p.m. — We get to the beach and find ourselves a spot to watch the sunset and wait for the fireworks. While we wait, we listen to an episode of This American Life and eat Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies Penguins.
10 p.m. — Fireworks! Every summer, there are three shows where three countries compete against each other, and it's always a good time. It's one of my favorite summer activities in Vancouver.
10:30 p.m. — The fireworks end, and G. and I join the mass exodus from the beach. G. walks me home, which takes about an hour but is better than trying to squeeze onto a bus. I hop in the shower and wash my hair as quickly as I can, and then go to bed around midnight.
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Daily Total: $89.87

Day Five

10:30 a.m. — I wake up for real after several snoozing sessions. I still don't want to get up, so I stay in bed and play on my phone for another hour.
11:30 a.m. — I get out of bed and make a cup of instant coffee. Then I boil water for spaghetti. While the spaghetti cooks, I treat the dirt-stained clothes I wore hiking last weekend, then start the laundry. I eat the spaghetti with a diced tomato and my can of sardines in olive oil, plus a generous spoonful of parmesan on top. While I eat, I watch an episode of Hataraku Saibou, an anime about the work that cells do in the human body. It's vaguely educational and vastly entertaining.
12:30 p.m. — I dry and fold my laundry, vacuum, and wash dishes. In between chores, I chat with my friends and play games on my phone. Then I drink a box of melon milk and eat more Trader Joe's gummies.
5 p.m. — I call my parents in Calgary, and we chat while I make and eat dinner: Korean cold noodles with shredded cucumber, Asian pear slices, kimchi, and two marinated eggs. I also throw a few ice cubes into the broth for good measure.
6:30 p.m. — I get off the phone with my parents and laze around some more in the heat. Then I play games on my phone and eat the remainder of the pear I used for dinner.
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8:30 p.m. — I remember a book I've been meaning to read, Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott. It's about a postdoc in a biology lab, which is probably the closest description of my life that I'll ever find in a novel, but I'm apprehensive about how accurate it will be. I start reading it on my Kindle. The sun is setting, the apartment is cooling down, and I'm hungry again, so I eat the rest of my gummies, half a pack of Trader Joe's Sweet Sriracha Bacon Jerky, and a few Trader Joe's Soft-baked Snickerdoodles (from my recent international TJ's run with G.).
10:30 p.m. — I finish the book. It's okay, but I felt like it ended before it even began. I text my friends, shower, hunt down a mosquito, and go to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

10 a.m. — I woke up at 8 and thought I'd snooze a little longer, but somehow when I wake up again it's already 10. I get up, get dressed, and make instant coffee. I rummage around the fridge for breakfast and find what's left of my sangak and taramasalata. I'm too lazy to turn on the oven today, so I cut the sangak into toast-sized squares and toss them into the toaster. They come out more like crackers than flatbread, but I spread them thickly with taramasalata and they're still delicious.
12:30 p.m. — I work for an hour, and then G. and I go grab lunch at the school deli. I get a bowl of brown rice with butter chicken and shahi paneer ($7.67), and we take our food back to work to eat at the communal coffee table. We do the Sunday crossword, which is long and full of terrible puns. $7.67
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2:15 p.m. — I'm falling asleep at my desk, so I go to the coffee room and make myself a latte from the newly fixed espresso machine. Payment is by honor system tracked on index cards and I still have a few dollars in credit, so I subtract $1.15 from my total. I have the rest of my snickerdoodles and bacon jerky (a bit weird, I know) with my coffee.
6 p.m. — My officemate invites everyone to his place for leftover burgers and sausages from his birthday party on Saturday. I feel a bit bad because I turned down his invite for the party, so I offer to pick up some trimmings for the burgers: romaine lettuce, cheddar cheese slices, and mushrooms ($8.43). I also get two beers and two Radlers to share ($12.30). We eat on his patio and sit around chatting until well after dark. $20.73
11 p.m. — It's late when I leave and I'm too lazy to find a bus back home, so I stay at G.'s place on campus. We lie around watching YouTube for a while and go to sleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $28.40

Day Seven

8 a.m. — G. wakes me up to say goodbye and I get out of bed to lock up after him. I slept so deeply that I didn't even hear him getting ready. I snooze on and off for another hour, but I sleep a lot worse at his place when he isn't around, so I finally give up and get up.
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9:45 a.m. — I stop by Tim Horton's for breakfast on my way to work. I get a sausage and hash brown wrap with a large vanilla iced coffee ($5.71) and eat at my desk. $5.71
12 p.m. — G. and I go get lunch. I'm not super hungry after the large breakfast, so I get a small cup of salmon chowder and a grilled cheese sandwich. $5.96
6 p.m. — On my way home I stop by the grocery store to pick up a can of tuna for dinner, plus a liter of milk, a pound of blueberries, and two peaches ($7.51). The fruit is locally grown and perfectly ripe, so I can't resist. $7.51
6:45 p.m. — I get home and cook spaghetti with the tuna, my remaining tomato, and olive oil. I scarf it down and I'm still hungry, but I decide to wait a bit before I eat something else. I play with my phone and wash my hair, but I'm still hungry, so I eat a scoop of blueberries. Still hungry (maybe I'm about to turn into a butterfly?), so I toast a slice of sangak and eat it with the last of my taramasalata.
9 p.m. — I decide that I'd better brush my teeth before I get hungry again. Then I crawl into bed with my laptop and start tidying up this log, which turns out to be a lot more difficult than I expected. I give up and go to bed around 11.
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Daily Total: $19.18
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