A Week In Calgary, AB, On A $60,000 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.
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Today: an information manager working in healthcare who makes $60,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Klondike bars.
Editor's note: This diary was submitted before Alberta's recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Occupation: Information Manager
Industry: Health Care
Age: 28
Location: Calgary, AB
Salary: $60,000
Net Worth: $55,00 (TFSA: $24,000, RRSP: $20,000, Wealthsimple Investment: $1,000, Emergency Savings: $10,000)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,845
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $700 (I pay rent to my cousin who owns the house. I have a bedroom of my own, and the rest of the house is a shared space. This amount includes utilities, too.)
Phone: $31.50
iCloud Storage: $1.35
Transit Pass: $109
Life Insurance, Dental & Extended Health Benefits: $61.89 (deducted from my paycheque)
Microsoft Office: $6.50
TFSA: $100
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?
I'm the first generation in my family to graduate from college. I completed my undergraduate degree in India, where my parents and scholarships covered the cost of it. In Canada, where I did graduate schooling, I took a government student loan and paid it off completely using savings from my part-time job and a small amount of grant money.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never sat me down to teach me about money, but I did accompany them to banks and learned terms like "interest rates" and "fixed deposits" from my mother. I remember how she would withdraw only the money gained from interest and lock in the principal amount for another year. When I left for boarding school, my parents gave me pocket money, and that's when I learned to manage my finances. During Grade 6, I tracked all my expenses in a notepad and budgeted for the purchases I could and couldn't afford.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I didn't earn an income until I arrived in Canada at the age of 23. That's when I got my first job, at a fast food chain. I did it to become financially independent and support my education. The experience helped me recognize the freedom and confidence you can feel when you earn your own money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
We didn't have a lot of money, but my mom would stretch every rupee, and I never felt deprived of basic needs. I had some idea about my family's financial situation, so I never chose things that were beyond our means. For example, I picked an affordable university and program over my dream education. Sometimes I regret not fighting harder for my goals. Maybe if I had talked to my parents about the expenses, we could've sorted out a plan, but I was uncomfortable with the idea of my parents reaching out to relatives or banks for financial help.

Do you worry about money now?
I only worry about money when I compare my income and savings to other people's finances. I know that the only solution to fix that anxiety is to change my mindset. I try to be grateful for the things I have rather than wasting my time worrying about things I don't have. I do challenge myself to save more, set goals, and make better decisions.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My father supported me with living expenses when I first moved to Canada, but that ended when I got my first job out of school. At 25, I became fully self-reliant, and I don't have any expectations that others will support me. My emergency fund is my financial safety net.

Day One

6:15 a.m. — I wash and moisturize my face (Simple Kind To Skin Moisturizing Facial Wash, Caudalíe Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, and Vichy Idéal Soleil Cream sunscreen). I scarf two PB&Js on roti and put on dress pants and a full-sleeve top, both from Denver Hayes, then layer on a TNA coat, and slip on my Blundies. I'm out the door by 7:15 a.m. My commute consists of walking (10 mins), train (10 mins), and a bus ride (seven mins). I time out each leg, because if I mess up one part, there's a domino effect.
8 a.m. — I log into my work's COVID screening app and answer a bunch of health-related questions. Once at my desk, I update my COVID spreadsheet, which our manager tracks for protocol compliance, and settle in to start my work.
8:30 a.m. — A few weeks ago, I lost one of my school friends to a chronic illness. Every seventh day since her passing, our friends from across the world meet over Zoom for prayers, and this will go on until the 49th day. It's a Buddhist ritual. Today is the 21st day, and I call into the Zoom meeting to listen to the prayers while doing my work. This pandemic has made me reflect on so many things: the purpose of life, the real cause of suffering, and why I do the things I do everyday. There is so much to feel grateful for and so much to learn. 
12 p.m. — My work gets repetitive at times, so we're allowed to listen to music, podcasts, radio, etc. while we work. My love for podcasts started after listening to Asian-American womxn podcasters such as Asian Boss Girl and xoxoChristine. Today, I listen to the “Getting The Relationship You Want” episode of Perfectly Imperfect and relate to it so much. Being an only child and growing up with separated parents, I have very little knowledge in the relationship department. At 28 years old, I try to learn as much as possible from people who share their experiences and life lessons.
4:15 p.m. — On my way home, the friendly bus driver greets me with “You made it to Friday!” There's a stark contrast between my morning and evening drivers: one is always on time and super-friendly; the other is always late and grumpy.

5 p.m. — I stop by the grocery store to pick up a few items for my momo dish, paneer, mozzarella, Greek yogurt, and a pack of Klondike ice cream bars. I lug my groceries from the train station home, because the bus isn't coming for another 40 minutes. I spend the next four hours in the kitchen, cooking up a storm while streaming travel videos from Music Travel Love and Ronnie & Barty on YouTube. $14.46
12 a.m. — I try to finish reading Old Demons, New Deities: 21 Short Stories from Tibet. It's for my virtual book club, which meets at 8 a.m. tomorrow. I'm not much of a reader and was never a part of a book club before the pandemic, but this is our third book since March. The club is more of an accountability group, so we all read more. Yay for making better choices!
Daily Total: $14.46

Day Two

7 a.m. — It's the weekend, but I force myself out of bed, because I didn't finish the assigned chapters of the book. Today's breakfast is overnight oatmeal with blueberries and a banana.
8 a.m. — I hop on the virtual book club for 90 minutes. We discuss the stories, which are from the Tibetan Plateau, and I learn many new aspects about the place.
9:30 a.m. — I review my personal finance spreadsheet. I'm shopping for new investments. So far, Wealthsimple seems to be performing the best among my savings and investment accounts. I browse my CRA account to check my contribution limit for this year. My goal is to max out both my RRSP and TFSA. While browsing the internet, I research a mini food processor, but do I really need one?
12 p.m. — I shampoo my hair with Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Wild Kindness shampoo, then condition it with Jason Restorative Biotin Conditioner, and oil it with Live Clean Exotic Nectar Argan Oil Treatment. My curly, unruly hair feels soft and gentle after a wash. I wish it could stay this way, but once the moisture dries out, it transforms into a big, puffy mess similar to Merida's hair in Brave. My dream is to rock healthy, moisturized curls loud and proud.
1 p.m. — I'm doing a half-day hike with my cousin tomorrow, so I fill my water bladder and pop it in the freezer, then pack my backpack with bear spray, candies, dark chocolate, gloves, hiking poles, and my power bank. I also make a veggie wrap for the summit.
9 p.m. — I hop on my second Zoom call of the day. I moved to Canada when I was 23, so most of my friends are long-distance, and a bunch of my high-school friends from three different continents have been meeting every Saturday since the beginning of quarantine. We take turns presenting on things like film, personal finance, and journaling — basically, adulting topics we didn't learn at school. Of late, we've transitioned into Buddhist philosophy and meditation. I look forward to implementing the teachings into my daily life.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — I'm up early for my hike. I place a mobile order for two-for-five-dollar breakfast wraps at Timmies with a large Double Double. One wrap and the coffee are for my cousin. $7.27
8:30 a.m. — We're doing a moderate 4.67-mile trail in Kananaskis Country. I regret the breakfast wrap instantly and feel drained within a few minutes of walking (I'm choosing to blame the empty calories of fast food instead of my lack of strength). I can hear my heart pumping in my ears and feel light-headed for a brief moment. I reach for water, but my water bladder is still frozen. Life lesson: Don't follow tips from the internet, like freezing your water bladder, without considering your situation and needs. It's a chilly morning, and all I have for hydration is a block of ice in my backpack. Thankfully, my cousin is carrying an extra water bottle. The view at the summit is worth all the effort. We're looking out over layers and layers of mountains, and I forget that I almost hyperventilated on the way up.
11:30 a.m. — On the way home, we make a few stops at ponds and lakes we saw along the way. The closest rest stop has a Tim Hortons, so here I am in the line again. The person ahead of us orders a dozen doughnuts and eight Iced Capps that are taking forever. I would leave the queue if not for my cousin who has a serious caffeine addiction. He gets a large DD, and I get a toasted everything bagel with butter and a small raspberry lemonade ($5.64 for everything). We make a quick stop at A-Mart with no specific goal, and I end up buying frozen tteokbokki rice balls, cauliflower, and an onion ($14.72). $20.36
7 p.m. — For dinner, I have a healthy home-cooked meal of rice, dal, and mixed veggie curry, plus sooji halwa for dessert. I help my cousin with some of his paperwork and email the meeting minutes from yesterday's Zoom call. Why do I always end up being that person in the group who gets extra responsibilities? This is a personal revelation I've had during quarantine. I pack my lunch for tomorrow, take a shower, and do laundry. And just like that, my weekend has flown by!
Daily Total: $27.63

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — I got seven hours of sleep, but I'm still feeling groggy. I eat a few spoonfuls of plain oatmeal. I've been riding the oatmeal high these past few months. Plain instant oats soaked overnight in 3.25% milk seems to be kicking my spot. No sugar, no fancy flavouring, nothing. Is this a sign of aging?
7 a.m. — I do the usual walk-train-bus commute. It's payday, so I check my paystub before starting work.
1 p.m. — I'm reading Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life while eating my lunch. The book advises skipping dessert in order to be only 80% full and lead a healthier life. I happily chomp down my banana-tofu dessert as if I did not comprehend that part.
3:30 p.m. — I finally catch up with my coworkers about our weekend activities. I start my workday later than them, so I try not to disrupt their flow earlier in the day. After work, I finish reading Ikigai while waiting for the bus, then hop on the train, and start listening to the audiobook of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami. I've been loving the free Libby app from the Calgary Public Library. It's like having a mini library with you all the time.
5:30 p.m. — It's time to wind down with YouTube. This ritual actually helps me relax. I begin with an episode from The Financial Diet, and I'm sucked into the blackhole of YouTube.
8 p.m. — I'm car shopping on the internet. I got my driver's license at 27 years old, and I'm on the lookout for a car. With all the options — new versus used, lease versus finance, dealership versus direct seller — I'm experiencing choice paralysis right now. When I moved to Canada a few years back, I was so excited by the options I had when purchasing a single commodity. But now I find the shopping process a long ordeal. This is a reminder that materialistic happiness is not the ultimate happiness.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — My alarm rings. You know the drill!
10 a.m. — I'm craving potato chips, so I buy a $1.05 bag of Nosh & Co. BBQ chips. It's a big pack (130 grams) for the price. A huge part of my work involves reading patients' medical records. Those times when I'm feeling low about my job, I remind myself that what I get to do is similar to reading medical dramas — except that I have to build the story by reconciling the numerous paper and digital records. I get to peek into people's lives without ever meeting them, and I'm surprised by the things that go down in our community. A huge chunk of visits to the hospital are due to social issues, mental health issues, and drug addictions. Because of the confidential nature of the work, when I leave office, I also leave behind my work, so I'm able to enjoy a very well-balanced life. $1.05
5:30 p.m. — One of my schoolmates is visiting the city, and we make a plan to meet up tomorrow. I research a few must-see places to show him. I'm telling you: Adulting is an endless decision-making process and a lot of time spent on Google, educating yourself to make those decisions.
9 p.m. — Before going to bed, I call my mom and catch up on news from my hometown. My biggest achievement today is teaching her how to turn on the cellular data on her iPhone. She has Parkinson's disease, so this task isn't as easy for her as it is for you and me. I hate that I can't be there to help her during these little moments.
Daily Total: $1.05

Day Six

1 p.m. — It's a usual work day for me. I'm now coordinating with my friend to meet up.
4:15 p.m. — I'm the last person to leave the office, and I sanitize my workstation with wipes, switch off the lights, and put on my mask before leaving.
5:15 p.m. — I meet my friend at the City Hall train station. Our first stop is the Central Library. I love this place and always make sure to take visiting friends here. We walk along City Hall, Olympic Plaza, and then Stephen Avenue. From Third Street, we hop on a train to Sunnyside, explore the market, and make a quick stop at the Poppy Plaza. The final thing on the itinerary is Tibetan food. We order veggie chow mein and steamed momos. The chow mein exceeds my expectations. Being the older of the two of us, I take care of the bill ($32.76 with a 20% tip). We'd hoped to get boba, but we're too full, so we ditch that plan and head to the train. $32.76
Daily Total: $32.76

Day Seven

5:15 a.m. — I snooze my alarm to squeeze in an extra 15 minutes of sleep. My workday starts earlier than usual today.
7 a.m. — I'm zoning out within the first hour of sitting at my desk. I distract myself with my overnight oatmeal, blueberries, and banana.
10 a.m. — I'm happily munching potato chips from my stash.
1 p.m. — After lunch, I have a red bean bun with whipped topping from a cute Korean bakeshop. I'm feeling extra distracted and drained today. Moreover, my scalp is hurting, and I blame it on my tight bun. I will wash my hair tonight.
3:35 p.m. — I'm listening to What I Talk About When I Talk About Running again on my commute. I love how this book takes me to so many places, like Boston, New York, Hawaii, and Japan, while I'm stuck here in a pandemic.
4:15 p.m. — I'm planning a weekend getaway in Jasper with my cousins and their toddler. I reach out to a few home renters there, but it's very difficult to land a spot. I end up booking a private room in a hostel and buy a one-year membership to get a 10% discount on the booking. The total cost for two days and two nights is $480, and I'll be paying that on arrival. I had to cancel my month-long trip to India, but the upside is that I've been exploring more of what my province has to offer. $26.25
7:30 p.m. — I watch lots of YouTube and complete a survey from UserTesting. You get $10 USD per survey on average. Afterward, I have rice and mixed veggie curry for dinner. While air drying my hair, I put on a lo-fi track and journal.
Daily Total: $26.25
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