A Week In Waterloo, ON, On A $163,500 Joint Income

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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.
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Today: a business analyst working in finance who has a $163,500 joint income and spends some of her money this week on nachos.
Occupation: Business Analyst
Industry: Finance
Age: 29
Location: Waterloo, ON
My Salary: $74,500
My Partner's Salary: $89,000
Net Worth: $443,000 ($155,000 between a TFSA, RRSP, Wealthsimple, and a company stock plan. Our house was $540,000 when I bought it, but it's valued at around $700,000 now, and my car is only a year old and valued at about $20,000.)
Debt: $432,000 (mortgage)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,857
My Partner's Paycheque Amount (1x/month): $7,416 (He's an independent contractor, so he puts $3,000 of this away for taxes.)
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,712.94 (split between us)
Car Payment: $301.54 (split between us)
Car & House Insurance: $142.32 (split between us)
Heat & Hydro: $150 (split between us)
My Phone: $51.85
Cable & Internet: $140.76 (split between us)
Therapy: $200 (after insurance)
Health & Dental Benefits: $276.64 (deducted from paycheque)
Pension: $112 (deducted from paycheque)
Company Stock Plan: $231 (deducted from paycheque)
Netflix: $14.99

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?
It was a given that I would go to university. I went for four years, then did one year of college. My family paid for my first two years, including dorm costs, then I paid the rest using savings.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents stressed the importance of saving: save for the future, save for big things you want, save for a rainy day, save, save, save. Once I got my first job, my mom said that I should put as much money as possible into my RRSP, which I did every year. I also remember my family saying that money can buy happiness in the form of stability and not having to worry about paying for things like rent. Honestly, my upbringing was pretty much my parents drilling into me the idea that being conservative with money early would set me up later in life for success.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My very first job was as a camp counselor, when I was 16, as a way to get experience before going to university. In the first summer of university, I was fortunate enough to get a job with the government through the Federal Student Work Experience Program. It's a lottery system, so landing that job really was winning the lottery.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Both my parents had desk jobs at a company where they've worked forever, and we had an average income, but with the constant message to save, I didn't understand how much things would cost and I developed a fear that that money could be lost at any time.

Do you worry about money now?
I'm not worried about money in the big sense — I own a house and have a healthy amount of savings — but I worry when it comes to small things. Like I might debate for days about whether I should buy a $20 shirt. Or I'll stand in a grocery store aisle wondering whether to spend the extra $0.30 on name-brand soup. For me, there's no such thing as an impulse purchase, and it's exhausting. I sweat the small things to the point where they consume my thoughts.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I moved out of my parents' house and in with my partner when I was 25. I have regular savings, a pension, a TFSA, and an RRSP as safety nets.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received $10,000 as a gift for my car and around $3,000 from family members as housewarming gifts.
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How did you buy your own home?
I started my first office job in 2010 and lived at home for a couple of years, which allowed me to save a lot. It's always been my goal to own a home, so my spending habits were conservative from an early age. People must think I live the most boring and uptight life because I try to only eat out once a week, I bring a sandwich every day to work, and I’ll almost always choose public transit over a Lyft. By having low monthly costs, rarely splurging, and taking full advantage of stock option programs at work, I’ve been able to dump the majority of my pay into savings. A. was in grad school while I saved, so I paid $112,000 for the downpayment on our house, and it's under my name.

Day One

8:50 a.m. — I don't want to calculate how many times I've pressed snooze this morning. I was supposed to start work 20 minutes ago, but I'm not too fussed about it. With working from home, I stay later than my normal working hours on most days, so I'm allowed to be late one day. I make myself tea, then type away until it's lunchtime.
11:30 a.m. — I'm so hungry, but A. is on a call in the kitchen, so I anxiously wait to eat.
12:18 p.m. — I finally rush into the kitchen and head straight for last night's homemade mulligatawny soup with fresh bread. After lunch, I settle back into my workspace with a bag of gummy worms to get me through my afternoon of meetings.
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3:35 p.m. — It's an unseasonably warm day, and I'm looking out the window thinking about patio season. I've worked from home every day through the pandemic and I go days without stepping outside of my house. I used to live in midtown Toronto, where I could walk to pick up something from a store if I wanted a break, but now that I'm out in Waterloo (for A.'s job), I feel trapped because of the reliance on a car. Screw it, I'm going to go grab the mail then. Congratulations to me for getting to experience this record-breaking warmth, even if only for three minutes.
4:45 p.m. — I see a big lightning strike and can feel the low, loud rumble of thunder. I'm suddenly very aware of how close my desk is to the window. Does anyone else have this fear that you're not supposed to be near a window during a thunderstorm?
6:30 p.m. — A. and I join forces to make dinner and end up with lamb, tabbouleh, and homemade tzatziki. I shovel food into my mouth and exclaim that it could pass for takeout.
9:20 p.m. — I draw a bath with my favourite eucalyptus bubble bath that foams right up to the edge of the tub. I relax and call home to catch up with my parents and grandparents for a full hour. The water cools down, so I rush a 10-minute face mask and hop out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

9:15 a.m. — I put on a yellow knit top with a cardigan over my sweatpants today. The colour is a refreshing change from my usual grey sweatpants and black T-shirt. I'm optimistic that I'll feel more motivated today.
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10:20 a.m. — Guess not. Wearing real clothes just makes me itch to go out, see people, and dress like I did pre-pandemic. I'm now distracted by these thoughts and unwilling to tackle my mountain of work.
12 p.m. — Lunch is a can of lemon-dill tuna, but I'm still hungry so I heat up a Jamaican patty in the microwave. It's exactly what I was craving.
3:30 p.m. — I video chat with a former coworker. Neither of us are 100% happy with our jobs, but we also have no idea what we would do instead. We see people who seem incredibly passionate about what they do and wonder if there’s a job out there that would get us closer to that kind of excitement. I end the call by saying we should do this more often and swear that I'll actually try harder. Hopefully, I mean it this time.
6 p.m. — I've been looking up a variety of recipes to try, but I'm feeling lazy and go with oven-roasted chicken, tomatoes on the vine, and pasta with arugula, Parmesan, and balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Minimal effort + carbs = a great way to end the week.
1:30 a.m. — I've been browsing the internet for hours trying to decide between a light peacoat or transitional puffer jacket for spring. My eyes are tired and I finally head to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

9:30 a.m. — I wake up still thinking about a jacket, so I roll over to grab my phone and browse a couple of sites until I finally get out of bed at 10 a.m.
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12:35 p.m. — On weekends, one lunch is always Korean-style noodle soup with tofu, beef, and dumplings. It's comfort in a bowl.
1:50 p.m. — Weekends are for special projects around the house. Today, I'm finishing building a bookshelf with A. I keep reminding myself that the end result will be good, but for now, it's just a lot of lifting, woodcutting, dust, and varnish.
5:20 p.m. — We pop out for poke bowls from a takeout counter in a small but busy plaza. As I wait for our order to be made, I chuckle at the old, pre-COVID restaurant architecture. I can see lights uniformly hanging above empty spaces where tables used to be. $38.48
8:30 p.m. — We watch the Raptors, and they're not doing too well tonight, so we turn on Schitt's Creek instead. I have a faint headache, but I find the sound of the TV soothing.
11:30 p.m. — We've come to the realization that we both have dull headaches from the varnish we used this afternoon. The wood is sitting at the other end of our house, but the fumes must be travelling through the rooms. We open all the windows and curl up under blankets. It's cold outside (and now in here), but being cold is better than inhaling toxic fumes. This isn't usually what people mean when they say that they get high on a Saturday night.
Daily Total: $38.48

Day Four

11:30 a.m. — It was daylight savings last night, and I stay in bed for an hour longer.
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12:20 p.m. — I pour soup from a can into a pot and leave it for (what I thought was) five minutes, but the bottom is burnt. I'm not going to have fun scraping burnt bits off the bottom of the pot.
1:30 p.m. — We're reorganizing the kitchen today! Stuff has been piling up in random cabinets, so we want a better system. We're rearranging based on easy access: dozens of tea boxes near the kettle, spices near the stove, low-use items in the top cabinets that I can't reach, and all cans on one shelf. Our kitchen feels so much more spacious now that shelves aren't cluttered, and we've purged items that are past their expiry date.
3:30 p.m. — I've been craving a date so we're off to the grocery store! No, seriously. In place of sitting at a restaurant or café, we've been going to a large Sobeys to spoil ourselves with treats. We hit the coffee aisle and pick up instant Nespresso cappuccino mix, then the freezers for a tub of lemon-basil gelato. Honestly, it's been such a highlight to shop for foods that we would normally go out for. We also grab a couple of essentials to get us through to our next big grocery trip, including bread, yogurt, lettuce, oatmeal, lunchmeat, and frozen fruit. This small grocery run is only $62.20, half of what we normally spend on a week's worth of groceries at our normal Zehrs store. $62.20
4:40 p.m. — We make a quick stop at Shoppers Drug Mart for Band-Aids and pads. A box of on-sale cookies catches my eye as I line up to pay. $14.37
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5:20 p.m. — A. says that he wants to make our own nachos, but I'm too lazy to cook on a post-daylight-savings day and I have a $15-off DoorDash coupon. I browse the app and find a great local pub offering a snack box filled with tacos, wings, fries, onion rings, garlic bread, and, of course, nachos. $59.14
10:30 p.m. — I put on my night creams right after showering and think about making a dermatologist appointment. I use Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Treatment Lotion, Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum, Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb, prescription Tretinoin cream, and Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Hydrating Mask with Avocado & Swiss Glacier Water. To top it off, I take 100 mg of Spironolactone that has been a lifesaver at controlling my oiliness. I'm SUPER DRY and sensitive now, though, so I need a more balanced solution.
12:15 a.m. — I have the Sephora site open with a couple of skin-care items in my cart, but I resist the urge and close the window. I'm so tempted to try new products, but I need real recommendations from a professional who knows my skin. I loathe that I have to ask my dermatologist about how to deal with oil, scarring, and fine lines. Boy, did I NOT win the skin lottery.
Daily Total: $135.71

Day Five

9 a.m. — Instant coffee/latte powders have been a little joy through this pandemic. I break open the new cappuccino mix. I'm overly excited, though, and burn my tongue. Why do I do this? I couldn't have waited another two minutes.
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11:10 a.m. — I heat up a healthy breakfast of leftover onion rings, garlic bread, a couple of fries, and a single chicken wing.
12 p.m. — I have therapy once a week at noon. I started doing it in December to learn how to cope with change and anxiety. The past few sessions have been about unfolding my relationship with money and the weight I put on making “the right” decisions, which is affecting how much time and energy I spend second-guessing (and twentieth-guessing!) myself. Even though I don’t have a full solution yet, it feels good to understand another piece of myself, which is a step towards progress. Going into a session, I'm always afraid that it's going to be one of those intense crying kind of days. Today, I shed a few tears but feel optimistic at the end of the hour. I transfer my therapist money right after the session is over. I've got several weeks' worth of receipts that I haven't submitted to insurance yet.
1:30 p.m. — Since my breakfast was just starters, I grab a leftover taco from the fridge. This is the best thing I've had for lunch in a while. I love when I don't have to think about what to make for lunch.
4:05 p.m. — Out of the blue, A.'s mother texts me with "Yes, open it!" Apparently, there's an Amazon package on the doorstep from her. I'll wait for A. to get home in an hour and open it together.
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6:15 p.m. — Tonight's dinner is lentils, sweet potato, arugula, cucumber, tomato, blueberries, and feta with balsamic drizzle as a sort of power bowl. I don't have any clean big bowls, though, so I put everything on a plate and call it a deconstructed bowl. A.'s still not home. I break into the package. It's fine, he said I could! Aaaaaand it's a gift basket of chocolate for Easter! It's adorable — so fun to get unexpected food in the mail!
9:05 p.m. — Exercise time. We've been doing a Fitness Boxing game on the Switch a couple of nights a week. I'm jamming out to the in-game "Sandstorm" by Darude mix as I land the punches (I'm a sucker for music that reminds me of high school). I'm always more tired than I expect after a video game workout.
1:30 a.m. — I'm so tired, but I'm on a MISSION to buy a new coat. I put a light puffer jacket into my cart and notice that I'm $1.02 away from free shipping. There's a peacoat for $39.99, down from $179, in the sale section, so I get both coats. I can't resist such a good sale! Plus, I can always return one later. I cannot believe I've agonized over this decision for DAYS. $81.32
Daily Total: $81.32

Day Six

9:30 a.m. — My coworker has just challenged me to communicate with him only through GIFs for the rest of the day. I instantly send one of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. He responds with a flurry of Brooklyn Nine-Nine reaction GIFs.
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11:45 a.m. — Still more pub food leftovers for lunch today. Two-day-old tacos aren't as soggy as I thought they would be. In fact, they're really, really good.
1:20 p.m. — I have super boring data entry to do, so I put on a Canadian 2000s throwback playlist to get me through. These two-hit wonders and autotune/synth songs smell like Axe body spray at a school dance and feel like people yelling "Let's get cruuuuunk!!!!" in first-year university, but they're also kind of comforting? I'm lookin' at you, Shawn Desman.
4:50 p.m. — I WANT TO BURY MYSELF FROM EMBARRASSMENT. I was screen-sharing in a meeting and forgot that I had this Money Diary document open on my work computer. I was loading up a new Word document when the screen froze. Did everyone just see my entry about Axe and getting crunk? YUP. UGH, WHYYYY?
6:05 p.m. — A. is in charge of dinner, while I work late and wallow in my embarrassment. I know people have screen-shared worse, but I feel so vulnerable that my coworkers probably saw my diary.
6:45 p.m. — We eat our Mediterranean-inspired dinner of roasted chickpeas and eggplant with an arugula salad while watching Masterchef Australia. We've binged six seasons of this show, and I still can't believe how much I love it. I've never been so obsessed with a show.
10:30 p.m. — A. is making March Madness picks while The Office is on in the background. I'm "helping" by telling him that he should pick the teams with fun names.
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11:15 p.m. — I toss one of the cookies I bought earlier this week into the toaster oven. The edges are crispy and the centre is gooey, and the kitchen smells like homemade cookies (life hack). I usually try not to snack so late, but I deserve this. The cookie makes me thirsty, so I have an herbal tea. I'm not sick, but David's Tea's Cold 911 hits the spot with all the minty goodness.
1 a.m. — I go to bed thinking I'll be able to sleep better now that I've settled on a coat purchase.
1:30 a.m. Nope. I'm still lying awake with random thoughts sputtering around.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm. I'm not sure if it's been sounding for the past half hour or whether I've pressed snooze multiple times.
10:30 a.m. — It's a REALLY slow start to the morning. I have no motivation to work, but emails are coming in with people following up on deadlines. C'mon, Past Me! You couldn't have done the work earlier?
12:05 p.m. — I heat up soup from a can, toss in macaroni, crack pepper, then bring it back to my desk. I put a coaster down and eat my soup straight out of the pot. What? I'm a believer in reducing dishes.
3:30 p.m. — I had a job interview last week for a position that would combine design and business, which would let me use all my skills at once (I started my career as a designer). The hiring manager just called to tell me that I've made it to the final interview tomorrow to meet with the VP. He also tells me that I should get more specific about why I want the job. I've never received feedback on an interview before, so I take it to heart.
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7 p.m. — I'm grumpy because I'm hungry and all I've made for dinner is oven-roasted chicken with beets, potatoes, and cucumber on the side. I want something tasty but I'm stuck with this food that is basically just sustenance, plus I'm freaked out about my upcoming interview. I feel better after watching an episode of Masterchef Australia.
8:30 p.m. — I'm up for Fitness Boxing tonight. Hopefully, it will alleviate some of my stress. "YMCA" is playing, but it's not the original song, so it sounds like a 2005 ringtone version.
10:20 p.m. — A. scoops me a bowl with lemon-basil gelato and salted caramel gelato to comfort me as I continue writing down possible interview answers to organize my thoughts. The Good Place is on in the background, and it's hard to concentrate, but I keep it on because it's such a warm and fuzzy show.
10:45 p.m. — As I shower, I'm practising my answers out loud. I know my material, but my stomach is still in absolute knots.
12 a.m. — I put down my laptop and focus on the discomfort in my stomach. I'm all clenched up, so I repeat in my head: "I am an expert at my own experiences" and "interviews are about fit; they're not a reflection of your value." Gradually, the stomach knots go away. I'm so encouraged that I used techniques I learned in therapy — this is the boost I need to ace the interview.
12:50 a.m. — Now that my anxiety has melted away, I'm super sleepy, so I crawl into bed and drift off almost instantly.
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Daily Total: $0
Update: The interview was the most relaxed that I’ve ever experienced. I was in control and coherent the whole time, with the help of a sticky note off to the side of my screen that says “SLOW DOWN AND BREATHE.” And… I GOT THE JOB! The secret to nailing an interview is to actually be interested in a job that matches your skillset. Plus therapy. Who would’ve thunk it? 
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