A Week In Waterloo, ON, On A $32,000 Salary

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
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 cashier and support worker who makes $32,000 a year and spends some of her money this week on birth control.

Occupation: Cashier & Support Worker
Industries: Retail & Social Services
Age: 22
Location: Waterloo, ON
Cashier Wage: $14/hour (10–30 hours a week)
Support Worker Wage: $21/hour (16 hours a week)
Net Worth: $27,201 (I have $10,314 in savings and $16,887 in a TFSA.)
Debt: $0
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $625 (I share a house with three other people.)
Hydro: $25–$70 (depending on the time of year)
Phone: $45.20
Netflix: $13.99
Laptop Protection: $28.40
Therapy: $340 (I do four sessions per month and pay $85 per session out of pocket. Insurance covers the rest.)
Health & Dental Insurance: $86.05
Transit Pass: $40

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?
Since I was six, my grandfather put aside money for me to attend university, though I didn't know that until I was older. From him, there was an expectation that I would do some sort of higher education. My parents didn't push me to attend university, but it was something I wanted, so I put more pressure on myself than they did.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents talked about their choices and encouraged me to make enough so that I wouldn't have to worry about money as they did at times. But I educated myself to a basic level: I track what I spend, keep funds in a high-interest savings account, and keep a reasonable amount in my savings.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job when I was 18, so I could have spending money. I worked long hours in the cold basement of a meat processing and packaging factory. The experience pushed me to do well in school and get a job that makes me happy, unlike that one.

Do you worry about money now?
I do worry about money a lot now. I just finished my degree, so I understand that I probably won't make an average salary for a while. Because of this, I try to limit unnecessary purchases and put as much as I can into savings to prepare for anything that might happen. But I've been trying to find a healthy balance between saving for the future and treating myself.

'At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became completely financially independent this year after I graduated. Until then, the money my grandfather put away — around $85,000 — paid for tuition, housing, and daily expenses. I'm so grateful that he had the means to support me, and I hope he would be proud of my accomplishments if he was still alive (he passed away in my third year of university). I wouldn't want to rely on anyone else if I ran into money issues, which is why I'm adamant about putting money away.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received the money from my grandfather. I have almost $17,000 of it left, and I put it in a TFSA. If I decide to do a masters degree, then I will use the rest of that money to cover those costs. If I don't do more schooling, then I'll split this money between my two younger siblings, and they can use it for higher education when they're older.

Day One

8 a.m. — I wake up and lay in bed, watching TikTok, which has become part of my morning routine lately. I feel bad because I always end up laughing so hard and wonder if my roommates can hear me.
9:30 a.m. — I pack leftover shawarma, crackers, blackberries, and mini peanut butter cups for lunch, then make my breakfast: a chocolate chip muffin with a spoonful of peanut butter on the side, blackberries, raspberries, and vanilla yogurt.
10:15 a.m. — I do very little in terms of a skin-care routine, but recently I've been using a Lubriderm moisturizer on my face in the mornings, and I've been liking how soft my skin feels and looks. I put on an all-black outfit for work and watch RuPaul's Drag Race until I have to leave.
2:30 p.m. — My manager asks to speak with me at the end of my shift. I immediately start worrying and prepare for the blow of being fired as my brain jumps to the worst-case scenario.
3 p.m. — I have an hour-long break today! I eat my lunch for the first half, then walk to a bookstore to return a book for store credit.
7:15 p.m. — Whew, I'm not getting fired! My manager just wanted to show me that when I did a return recently, a customer switched the tags with an item that we don't even sell in order to get free money from us.
7:30 p.m. — My boyfriend, G., is waiting for me outside to drive me home. Just to explain in terms of COVID: G. lives with one other person, and they don't see anyone else. So the two of them have become part of mine and my roommates' bubble, which means there are only six of us who are in close contact.
7:45 p.m. — On the way home, we pick up Freshii for dinner. I pay this time, because G. got takeout last time. We alternate paying for things like this, which I think is such a great thing! $26.92
9 p.m. — G. ends up staying after dinner to watch an episode of Breaking Bad. We started watching it over video call at the beginning of the pandemic when we had to do long distance. It's been so nice to watch it with him in person.
11 p.m. — I end up falling asleep. G. tidies up our snacks, and I groggily walk him downstairs to say goodbye and lock the door before going back to sleep.
Daily Total: $26.92

Day Two

8 a.m. — I wake up and go on TikTok, then pack the same lunch as yesterday, and have a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast.
9 a.m. — I hop in the shower and wash my hair with my favourite shampoo (cucumber-mint Dove Cool Moisture), and a hair mask (L'Oréal Paris Extraordinary Oil 1001 Uses Coconut Oil Mask), which I let sit while I shave. Oh no! While I'm shaving, I cut my finger, and it won't stop bleeding!
9:30 a.m. — I wear concealer and mascara to try to cover up and distract from the dark bags under my eyes. I was recently diagnosed with two anxiety disorders, which helps explain why I don't sleep well — my mind races the most at night. I'm on medication, but it hasn't been working as well to help me sleep as it did at first.
10 a.m. — I wear the same outfit that I wore yesterday for work: a Joe Fresh knitted sweater, an Old Navy T-shirt, Lululemon pants, and a pair of knee-high boots.
10:40 a.m. — I leave for work early, so I can stop at the bookstore and spend the store credit I got yesterday. I buy The Langoliers by Stephen King to add to my collection! Stephen King is my favourite author, and I'm trying to buy every single one of his books.
11:20 a.m. — I also stop by Tim Hortons to buy a bagel with change I have in my wallet, but when I get to the counter, I feel bad paying with cash because of COVID and use my debit card instead. I get upset with myself, because I panicked at the last minute and ended up spending money that I shouldn't have. $2.51
12 p.m. — I get to work with one of my favourite coworkers today, and the store is surprisingly busy! I can't wait for the day to be done; there hasn't been a moment to take a break or even clean up around our counter.
6 p.m. — All done for the day, I can finally relax! G. is outside waiting for me and asks if I want to come over for dinner. We stop by Walmart, and he picks up pho broth and rice noodles to make soup, and he gets a big bag of Swedish Berries for us to snack on (he pays).
8 p.m. — G. makes dinner while I watch a few episodes of Hell's Kitchen with his roommate. G and I tend to alternate cooking, so one person cooks and the other does the dishes. Again, this is something I really appreciate about our relationship.
9 p.m. — G. and I watch two episodes of Breaking Bad and have hot chocolate mixed with ice cream, marshmallows, and whipped cream.
11 p.m. — We go to bed and cuddle until we both fall asleep.
Daily Total: $2.51

Day Three

8:50 a.m. — I wake up next to G. It's so hard to get out of bed when we sleep together. He eventually gets up and dressed while I lay in his super-soft bed for just a few minutes longer.
9:30 a.m. — G. makes us everything bagels with cream cheese and glasses of orange juice. I ask him to finish off my juice because I'm a very slow drinker, and I know he has to start working soon. He does have a bit of flexibility because he works from home, but I always feel bad when he starts late because I'm over.
10 a.m. — G. drives me home, and I pack a lunch of leftover Freshii rice bowl and a chocolate chip muffin. I also catch up with my roommate.
11:30 a.m. — I wear essentially the same outfit as yesterday but put on a long-sleeve navy shirt under my knitted sweater and swap out my Lululemon pants for a pair of black leggings. I make my way to work.
3:15 p.m. — Customers are soooo rude today. One family is really mean to my coworker. I get so upset when people are unnecessarily rude when we're just trying to do our jobs and get through the day.
7:15 p.m. — Thank goodness the day is done. I don't feel good and want to go right home, but I ask G. if we can stop at the store for ingredients to make cupcakes. I pick up milk, butter, icing sugar, cake mix, and sprinkles, and G. drives me home. We say a long goodbye, like we always do. $17.47
8 p.m. — I prep the cake mix and make the icing. I'm so impressed with the consistency of the icing. I've always loved cake decorating and have been experimenting with different patterns and colours lately.
10 p.m. — The cupcakes turn out amazing! I tend to worry about things not being good enough, but even I'm impressed with them. I make a late dinner of chicken strips and French fries and eat while watching RuPaul's Drag Race.
Daily Total: $17.47

Day Four

7 a.m. — I wanted to sleep in, but doesn't that always seem to happen — you wake up early when you actually have the chance to sleep in? I scroll on TikTok and check my sleep patterns on my SleepWatch app. I recently bought an Apple Watch and use it to track my sleep habits, because it's rare I actually have a good night's sleep.
9 a.m. — It's time for my therapy appointment! I started seeing a therapist recently. Since then, I had a rough patch in which I spent the night in the hospital due to an anxiety attack, but my therapist has been great for helping me understand why that happened and identifying what contributes to my daily anxious feelings. She's truly amazing.
10 a.m. — I transfer money to my Starbucks card while eating a chocolate chip muffin. I've been treating myself to a Starbucks drink and snack after my sessions, because we tend to talk about a lot of heavy stuff. It's a nice thing to look forward to. $10
10:30 a.m. — I walk over to a nearby clinic to refill my birth control prescription for the next three months. G. and I are very safe in that regard, but when the doctor asks me to take a pregnancy test, just to make sure I'm not pregnant before prescribing me more pills, I, of course, panic and worry what could happen if I'm pregnant. The test comes back negative, which makes me breathe a sigh of relief. $79.71
11 a.m. — At home, I find that I got a call from a mental health organization that I interviewed with last week and… I GOT THE JOB! I'm so excited. This means I can quit working as a cashier and have two part-time jobs in my field. I'm so grateful that I'm even working during these stressful times, but to have two jobs that align with my values and put my psychology degree to good use?! I feel very lucky the universe (as my roommate says) is making such great things happen for me right now.
1 p.m. — I make a new batch of icing (I wanted to make blue, but it ends up green) and finish decorating the rest of the cupcakes from last night. While doing this, I periodically munch on leftover chicken strips and French fries.
2 p.m. — My new job requires a background check, so I walk over to the police station to pick up the forms. I come home and reach out to some previous employers for references. They all say yes!
5:30 p.m. — To celebrate my new job, I order bubble tea, and G. and I go to Kitchener for a short hike. Afterward, I show him around my old neighbourhood. $10.25
7:30 p.m. — Back at my place, I make us steak, rice, and vegetables for dinner, followed by cupcakes and chocolate. G. does the dishes while I help out and dance around the kitchen with my roommates.
9 p.m. — G. and I go to my room to watch an episode of Breaking Bad and cuddle.
Daily Total: $99.96

Day Five

8:50 a.m. — G. and I wake up and cuddle until he has to leave for work. I eat a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast and pack leftover veggies and rice for lunch. I put on a black, long-sleeve shirt, a black cardigan, and my Lululemon pants.
11:30 a.m. — I'm just about to leave for work when I get an email from another organization that wants to interview me for a job! I feel grateful that I seem to be on the right path in my career.
7:15 p.m. — G. drives me home, I talk with my roommate, and warm up leftovers from last night. I eat in my room and draft a resignation email to my current manager. I feel guilty about not giving a lot of notice, but I need to start training at my new job soon, and now I have another interview to prepare for.
9 p.m. — I still haven't sent this email. I'm feeling nostalgic about my time at my current job. But then I remember that I didn't want to do it forever, and these other options seem like they could make me really happy.
11:30 p.m. — I pack crackers and a granola bar, a book, a scarf that I'm knitting, and some markers. G. comes to pick me up and drop me off for my overnight shift at the group home.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

5 a.m. — Most night shifts tend to be quiet and calm, so I chat with my coworker, watch RuPaul's Drag Race, knit, read my horoscope, catch up on Money Diaries, and periodically stir a pasta sauce I'm making for the residents.
8 a.m. — The day-shift workers arrive, and I fill them in on the night, which consists of me telling them that most residents were asleep. G. comes to get me, and I go to bed as soon as I get home.
4 p.m. — Wow! An old supervisor just called me and wants to offer me an admin position in her organization. I'm in awe at all of the career opportunities that have been happening this week. I do have the two other positions, so I may not be able to fit in another job, but I agree to meet with my old supervisor to discuss details.
6 p.m. — After talking with my roommates about all this exciting news, I pick up Starbucks and pay using the money I added to my card previously. I also stop to get take-out poutine. $9.86
7 p.m. — It's Halloween, but we can't go out this year, so my roommates and I watch Silence of the Lambs and eat lots of snacks and candy. I honestly don't mind, though. I prefer a quiet night in with them over going to a club or party anyways.
9 p.m. — G. comes over to just rest and be with me. Ever since I heard from my old supervisor this afternoon, I've been feeling overwhelmed and anxious about all of these potential changes. As much as I'm grateful, I worry about being good enough and question if I'm the right person for these roles. It's nice to just sit with G. when things like this happen, because I feel safe and comforted by him.
12 a.m. — G. drives me to work another night shift at the group home. It's a quiet night and nothing eventful happens.
Daily Total: $9.86

Day Seven

2 a.m. — The clocks go back, which means I have to work an extra hour. It's not so bad, though, because we've done all the nightly chores already, and I make cupcakes for the residents.
8 a.m. — The workers that relieve my partner and me arrive. They're really nice, and it's always great to chat with them between shifts. G. drives me home, and I go right to bed.
5 p.m. — I finally wake up! I slept longer than I wanted, so I don't feel great. I talk with my roommates while eating pasta one of them made.
6:30 p.m. — I go back to my room and have a quiet night. I shower and putter around online while watching RuPaul's Drag Race. G. comes over, and we watch an episode of Breaking Bad until we fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0
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