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A Week In Kelowna, BC, On $16 An Hour

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 client-care worker who makes $16 an hour and spends some of her money this week on a Lord Huron album.
Occupation: Client Care Worker
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 26
Location: Kelowna, BC
Hourly Wage: $16
Net Worth: –$27,700
Debt: $34,200
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,152
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $625 (I live with R., my partner of three years, and we rent a basement suite. We split the rent that includes our utilities.)
Phone: $78
Patreon: $6.50 (An LGBTQ+ podcast called I Can Explain)
Spotify: $15
Car Insurance: $168
Savings: $300 (Savings are going towards moving cities, our future golden retriever girl, and an engagement ring.)
Plan International Sponsorship: $15

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?
My parents didn't emphasize any specific career or educational pathway, and they didn't focus on a piece of paper that would beget more fancy pieces of paper. That said, I do have one of those fancy pieces of paper. Was my creative writing degree practical? Not really. Was it the best way to spend five years? Damn, right it was. My parents never put away money for my university tuition. I paid for my education using loans. I also received grants and scholarships that helped with living expenses.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents split my allowance between three containers: savings, spending, and tithe. We were a very religious family during that time and giving back to the church was a big financial priority. I still employ the concept of giving 5% of my income to worthy causes. I wish I would have been told not to increase my credit limit and to only use my card for emergencies. I would say my parents took me about 45% of the way, and I've had to learn the rest of my lessons the hard way.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was filling donairs, till bursting, at a local eatery. I worked this job to eventually buy my freedom, AKA a 1996 Chevy Cavalier. This car would, eight months later, break down as I was climbing up a steep hill in winter.

Did you worry about money growing up?
My parents were tight-lipped about money. It was always spoken of in code. For example: “Dad's in his slow season” or “we're cutting extras.” When we were younger, we struggled for quite a few years between mental illness, starting a new business, and living in an expensive city. I've been lucky to worry very little since then. My parents are hard workers and entrepreneurs.

Do you worry about money now?
It's a pandemic. It's difficult to not constantly pull out your budget spreadsheet and shift things around. I'm working my first post-grad job and I have to employ discipline to manage each paycheque.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I've left my home city on and off over the last six years and have had to be financially independent both times. I moved out with my partner of three years in November 2019. She has taught me a lot about finances, saving, and what it means to be financially independent. I'm building a safety net, and as of right now, I have a month and a half of living expenses saved.
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Day One

5:30 a.m. — I accidentally wake up too early this morning, so I get 15 more minutes to savour my cup of coffee, toast, and crisp apple slices. I flip through The Autobiography of Malcolm X and halfheartedly browse Poshmark.
7:30 a.m. — The sun emerges into a gentle sorbet of colours as I listen to my queer woman romance audiobook Written In The Stars. I settle into my Monday morning, write my affirmation, and organize my usual two-hour work block scheduling system. I cancel appointments, squeeze people in, and make every single Monday joke one can make.
9 a.m. — I'm being vetted for a promotion to office manager after a month on the job. My email pings, and I have an appointment to talk with human resources. You bet my bottom dollar I will negotiate my wage. It's difficult to live on $16 an hour in an expensive city.
3:30 p.m. — I cruise over to the grocery store to get meat and specialty items because I'm gluten and dairy-free. I purchase kettle corn, olives, salmon, RX bars, a vegan southwest microwave dinner bowl, and a bag of dark chocolate macaroons. There's a lady in the bulk section who has the same energy as a crow I saw earlier in the 7-Eleven parking lot with a hot dog bun in its mouth. $25
5:30 p.m. — I snack like a bird all afternoon. Don't judge me, but I have a plate with a Vietnamese spring roll smeared in Kraft peanut butter, four olives, dark chocolate, and a Mallo candy. I promptly fall asleep while spooning R. for an hour and a half. Bliss.
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7 p.m. — R. bakes us ham-and-pineapple pizza and wakes me up to tell me she has a Zoom meeting in five minutes. We do the whole “Is the sound off? Is the camera? No, it's not... WAIT!”
8 p.m. — I get a call from my mom. My grandma is in palliative care. Rewind to last weekend when she was rushed to the hospital with a fever and other concerning symptoms. I'm frozen and don't know what to say. She's in Saskatoon, and I'm in British Columbia. I visited her last summer, and I hadn't seen her in fifteen years. It feels like I already had my goodbye.
8:30 p.m. — A friendly teen loads my car with groceries at Superstore. Oat milk, almond milk creamer (ESSENTIAL), coconut milk, pineapple, pears, mini cucumbers, frozen fruit, and gluten-free toaster waffles jostle around in my trunk. $40.50
9:30 p.m. — My girlfriend and I dish about our days. We talk about possibly moving up in our respective companies this month. We then, ahem,🔥🏳️‍🌈🍑 because what's hotter than knowing you can stay childless no matter what you do in bed. Apple crisp is cooling in the kitchen. We scoop some up and watch Below Deck Mediterranean.
Daily Total: $65.50

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — I wake up to a missed call notification from my doctor and a text from my mom telling me to call her. I know that Nana has passed away, but I can't bring myself to call my mom. I make a latte and fill up a bowl with apple crisp.
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10 a.m. — My head pounds, and I feel like I'm in a haze. I go to the doctor to get some moles checked out and get a note for massage therapy because of an old injury. I pick up my medication for the next three months ($25). I'm epileptic and I would be living a very different life if I didn't have my medication. I pick up too many books at the library and Bioderma micellar water ($15) at the drugstore. $40
11 a.m. — I have lunch with my girlfriend, and she lets me have the leftover tortilla soup. Needless to say, she is the best person I have in my life. I call my mom back, and I immediately ask her if Nana passed away. She confirms what I already know. I'm usually the person who always has something to say, but the words dry up in my throat. I tell my mom I love her and let her talk out some of her feelings. I promise to come over and give her a hug in the next few days. 
12:30 p.m. — At work, I close the break room door and speak with an HR rep about the promotion. She thinks I'm a perfect fit and suggests fast-tracking my training. I want to negotiate my salary, but I feel intimidated. This would be my first leadership role. I feel young and green and a lump in my throat forms. If I was talking to anyone else, I would tell them to be bold and just do it. When it's myself, I can think of a million reasons why I shouldn't just do it.
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2 p.m. — I'm overheating so much. I feel awful and can barely keep my eyes open. They burn so much. I put on two masks, try to keep my distance, and let my bosses know how I'm feeling. They send me home immediately.
3 p.m. — R. and I have determined that I get mean when I'm sick. I'm used to being in the caregiver role, so it always throws off our dynamic when I'm sick. I crawl into bed and sleep for three hours.
6:30 p.m. — Once again, R. is out in the kitchen making pizza for us.
8:30 p.m. — R. and I are getting pissy because we can't kiss each other and be close. I'm also very sensitive, and she's grumpy. We say our I love yous and good nights and hope tomorrow is a better day.
Daily Total: $40

Day Three

9 a.m. — I tossed and turned last night while having stress dreams about work. I hobble around the kitchen making coffee and serving up microwaved apple crisp. My boss wants me to stay home. R. and I patch things up after a rough night of acting from patterned responses (we've spent the last year deconstructing our communication styles). In the daylight, we now speak calmly and hug it out.
11 a.m. — I take this time to budget for next month. This is the first time I've made over $20,000 a year, and I'm determined to get rid of my credit card debt. I've paid off nearly $3,000 that accumulated from a vacation to San Francisco and using the card as an emergency fund. Don't even get me started on fighting off a 22% interest rate. I'm in the process of changing banks to get rid of unnecessary bank fees, and I opened a chequing and savings account with Tangerine recently. I'm a huge fan of KOHO to pay for my groceries and everyday spending.
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12:30 p.m. — I tune into R.'s virtual work conference on how to engage families in youth mental health treatment. R. and I walk to the park near our house and chill on a bench. We watch the lake flow underneath a sheet of ice as the sun recedes into a small cliff above us. On the lunch menu today are vegan nuggets, cantaloupe, and olives — cheap woman's charcuterie.
5:30 p.m. — I'm feeling well enough to peel back the covers after a nap and make salmon like a big girl. I chop potatoes, which I forget to spice, so dinner is naked potatoes and lemon-garlic salmon.
7:30 p.m. — Below Deck again. Is it a problem at this point? Probably just a winter coping mechanism. My mom calls me to discuss my brother's options for Grade 12 and post-secondary education. Both R. and I have fine arts degrees, and my 17-year-old brother wants to be a fashion designer.
9:30 p.m. — I walk into our bedroom and double over laughing. R. is working out and using a jug of oat milk as a weight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

8 a.m. — R. and I make lattes with our temperamental espresso machine and chill in bed. She attends her virtual conference in pyjamas, and I read, then I submit an article I've been working on about Taylor Swift's internalized misogyny to two publications. Three rejections and onward!
11 a.m. — Homemade matcha is all fun and games until our steamer explodes and gurgles everywhere. We've dubbed our espresso machine “Brenda the Brentwood.” It was a Christmas present for R. I got it for $50 from a third-party retailer, and the low price is reflected in the amount of steam that doesn't come out from the steam wand. It's not morning unless someone is cursing out Brenda.
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12 p.m. — My boss and I agree that I should get tested for COVID. I attend my staff meeting virtually. The clinic owner asks if I have anything to add. I mention something about pillows being too close to the heat pack station. A fire hazard maybe? I tried.
2 p.m. — All I want to do is collapse and nap, but I have a COVID test booked, so I suck it up and drive my achy body to the testing site. I watch a video about gargling and wonder why I don't trust myself to gargle properly? But then I feel a weird pride in how well I can gargle, like I'm doing it better than the person in the next stall. Can you tell I'm an Aries?
4:30 p.m. — Even though I'm tired, I resist a nap by scrolling and reading. Eventually, I conk out for another three hours. R. got a Skip the Dishes gift card from attending a virtual conference this week, and we use it to feast on red curry and pad see ew until our tummies protest.
8:30 p.m. — I play old Taylor Swift songs for R., and we croon to “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me." She leaves me to haphazardly strum HAIM, Bahamas, Troye Sivan, and Charlotte Cardin.
10 p.m. — I stretch out my hips as we talk about how I'll go about my salary negotiations. They've offered $18 an hour, but after watching many YouTube videos on salary negotiations, researching market trends, and considering the level of work that would be required, I've decided to ask for $21 an hour. If they don't offer me at least $19.50, I'll stay in my current position. All the patriarchal notions are telling me to stay in my lane, keep my head down, and just be thankful for this opportunity. I want to be a part of this generation of women who aren't afraid to ask for what they're worth.
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Daily Total: $0

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — I hit the snooze button twice in a row and am woken up by my girl's kisses. I check my phone and see a text declaring me to be COVID-free. BLESS! I'm super grateful for the Canadian Sickness Relief Benefit. I do believe that the pandemic is showing the government that sick days should be a mandatory right for workers. I get the grinder out and make my morning coffee. R. goes out to Starbucks because she's out of milk. Let me tell you, that girl cannot deal without milk for her lattes.
11:30 a.m. — I finally fold wrinkly laundry that has been sitting for four days. I compile a spreadsheet of local office manager salaries to back up my salary negotiation. I send off the spreadsheet with a respectful and forthright email. I don't know what I'm doing and maybe the spreadsheet is a nice smokescreen for that? HR doesn't move an inch and instead tries to convince me that my upcoming healthcare plan translates into a few dollars more in wage, which is not the same at all. I decide that the work is not fairly represented in the wage and turn down the position. I'm immediately at peace when I make the decision and feel like I dodged a sweaty, stressful bullet of a job. 
1 p.m. — R. and I have our leftover Thai food from the night before as we watch her conference seminar on how to support LGBTQ+ safety and inclusion in the healthcare sector. We feel like this is relevant to both of us, given that I work at a medical office and she works as a youth peer researcher.
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2 p.m. — Since I'm now COVID-negative, I do a contactless pickup for items off of Facebook Marketplace: a Lord Huron album ($20) and a pair of Lululemon pants for work ($35). $55
3 p.m. — We stop at a Mediterranean market and get lots of gluten-free goodies for an Italian meal. $12
6 p.m. — I cook gluten-free gnocchi and cover it with vegan pesto. R. opens up to me about her frustration with looking for a new job, and we hold hands, eat pasta, and watch TV. I sink into my bathtub with a San Pellegrino and read Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins.
9 p.m. — I offer R. a massage with a Lush massage bar we had leftover from a hot date night. I choke down a half-toasted waffle before bed and kiss my girl's belly because I cannot help it when I see it peeking out.
Daily Total: $67

Day Six

8 a.m. — R. and I tossed and turned last night until about 2 a.m. She asks “Are you still awake?” I reply “Sure am!” She's quiet and then asks, “Do babies sleep with a fitted sheet, or are they just laying on the mattress?” The fact that she asked made me swell with even more love for her. We've been together for almost three years, and I find new ways to fall in love with her every day.
10 a.m. — I read Malcolm X while listening to a vinyl album. We look at golden retriever breeders online, but most in BC are booked up for 2021. We agree to get on a list. Later, we discover that we both put on our lacey black bras this morning. We are sexy and in sync.
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1 p.m. — We drive to a new hiking spot and curve around agricultural backroads. R. plays Maroon 5 oldies, and we both cry to Olivia Rodrigo’s "Drivers License." This was our first time hearing it — that bridge is something else! We arrive at our hike, the sun is delicious, and we enjoy one of the first warm days here in a long time: 8°C!
1:30 p.m. — We go to our favourite brunch place, Diner Deluxe by Okanagan Lake, and have rosemary potatoes and pork farmer's sausage for two! $15
2:30 p.m. — I get petrol on the way home. $25
4:30 p.m. — I start on a puzzle with a picture of the Amalfi coast, then we cook a coconut-lime-turmeric rice dish. We're both hangry and make snippy comments, then make fun of each other for being little bitches.
7:30 p.m. — I visit my family, who are the only ones in my bubble. They can be overwhelming, and I'm learning to set emotional boundaries with them. I get home to dunk myself in a bath and watch Superstore. R. stress cleans the house and bravely kills a spider. It was a weird night for both of us, and we take turns spooning each other till we feel better.
Daily Total: $40

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — R. and I cuddle before we get up to make our lattes and crepes, then I vacuum our bedroom. The amount of hair I vacuum every week is always alarming and horrifying. I wipe down all of the cupboards and surfaces in the kitchen. Thankfully, the cleaning part of Sunday is over.
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12:30 p.m. — I go downtown to stop at the little library and drop off books I no longer want. I've been in the months-long process of paring down my bookshelf. I'm pretty sure I've gotten rid of almost 100 books. I stop at a curated vintage store. I love that second-hand clothing has become popular but I'm not stoked that it has become gentrified. Today, I try on a powder-pink blouse from the '80s that's missing a button. It's my lucky day, and I get $4 off and feel happy to include this in my work wardrobe. $21
2 p.m. — I visit my favourite coffee shop and order an Americano blanco. The barista gives me sass about my order. I usually stop going to coffee shops when the baristas become too cool to be nice. $4.30
3 p.m. — I make curry coconut rice noodle soup for lunch and save the leftovers for work tomorrow.
6:30 p.m. — I resist a nap because I have to be up at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow. I cook chicken, and R. cubes potatoes. We're roasted-potato hoes. I'm usually in charge of cooking meat because it freaks out R. We know our lanes.
8 p.m. — I lay out in the bath, put on my Lush Beauty Sleep mask, and then shower it all off. I get tucked into bed next to R. and watch YouTube videos, and we just do our usual thing. I see a slit of her belly and jump to kiss it.
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Daily Total: $25.30
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