A Week In Montreal, QC, On A $40,000 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: a social worker who makes $40,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on sneakers.
Occupation: Social Worker
Industry: Social Services
Age: 26
Location: Montreal, QC
Salary: $40,000
Net Worth: $110,000 ($30,000 in personal savings and $80,000 in a TFSA set up by my parents when I was a child)
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,244.34
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $900 (for a one-bedroom apartment in a walk-up)
Heat/Hydro: $52.97
Renter's Insurance: $27.69
Health Insurance: $30 (deducted from my paycheque)
Phone: $50 (my contribution to my phone on our family plan)
Internet: $48.29
Spotify: $2.65 (Yay for sharing a family plan with a group of friends!)
Amazon Prime: $1 (I split a student account with my sister and mom.)
Netflix, Crave & Disney+: $0 (Thank you, Mom!)
Gym: $14.95 (It was cheaper to pay out my membership than to cancel during the pandemic.)

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?
Absolutely. My family has always placed a focus on education, and most members of my extended family have a graduate degree, myself included. I have a bachelor's in psychology, a master's in counselling psychology, and I'm currently saving up to pursue a graduate degree in social work. My grandparents in particular always expected me to go to McGill University, where I did my undergrad. There's even a baby photo of me wearing a McGill Class of 20?? T-shirt. My grandpa set up an RESP for me and made annual contributions along with my parents. This money covered my education costs entirely, because I stayed in the province for one of my degrees and lived at home.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I honestly grew up thinking we had way less money than we did because of our lifestyle. I was raised having my needs met way above and beyond, but the value of a dollar was enmeshed in my upbringing. My parents chose to spend money on education and travel and less on frivolous things, which is how I try to live as an adult now.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job as a lifeguard when I was 17, because it was the thing to do. After that, I always worked part-time to have my own spending money, which I used to go out with friends and buy my own clothes.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Fortunately, never.

Do you worry about money now?
I don't worry about money, but I'm conscious of it. I'm a healthy mix between a spender and a saver. I don't deny myself things and have a cushion to do so. I've also spent a lot on travel in my life. Given my low-end salary, I make sure to live within my means — a paycheque-to-paycheque lifestyle is scary to me.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I lived with my parents after graduating, while I started working, and became fully financially independent at 26. Living with them helped me build a financial safety net so that I could live comfortably on my own. I know that they're in a position to help me financially if I ever needed assistance.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — I wake up an hour before my alarm to the sounds of my upstairs neighbour jumping excessively. I fight every urge to go up and knock on the door to complain. I hold back as images of Mr. Heckles from Friends come to mind. Also, COVID. I lay in bed and think angry thoughts before grabbing my phone and scrolling through my usuals: email, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook. My alarm actually goes off at 8:30 a.m., and I snooze until I'm officially late for work.
10 a.m. — I've been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic in March, and I keep a kind of morning routine that consists of sleepily checking emails and setting my to-do list for the day, all while slowly washing up and making coffee. I make my bed and put on clothes that I haven't just slept in, but a bra doesn't always make it. I'm so grateful to have been able to keep my job throughout COVID. I work with seniors to help provide them with financial and psychological support, as well as caregiving and cleaning services. The isolation has been difficult for them, and it breaks my heart. My clients are so vulnerable to this virus that all of my work is done by the phone. Bonus: They are mostly too old to understand Zoom, so no work clothes or makeup are required.
12:15 p.m. — I use my lunch break to go for a quick walk, despite the temperature hovering around zero (it's too soon for winter, IMO). It's election day in the US, and I'm an anxious wreck. I know there will be no results for a few days at least, and it takes everything to not pull out my own hair. I get home and am feeling so preoccupied that I'm unproductive at work. Thankfully, it's been a quiet day so far, and I take the time to make shakshuka, my favourite lunch! While I eat, I online window shop and end up with a new pair of Stan Smith sneakers. I fit into kids' sizes, so I save money! $72.43
4 p.m. — No work is getting done. I bring my laptop into the kitchen, blast the Mood Booster playlist on Spotify, and stress-bake gluten-free carrot cake muffins. I leave the muffins to cool and go out for another walk, listening to the latest episode of My Favorite Murder and laughing to myself on the street.
8:30 p.m. — I need to distract myself from the impending doom I feel about the election. I light a candle, turn on an episode of Gilmore Girls, my comfort show, and put my phone on the other side of the room to prevent myself from checking the news. I grab my knitting needles and yarn to keep busy, a hobby I took up during quarantine to channel my COVID anxiety. I'm almost done my ball of yarn and place an order for a few more on Amazon. After a while, I migrate to bed and pray I don't have nightmares of an Oompa Loompa in control of a nation. Oh wait… $23.14
Daily Total: $95.57

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Again, I'm woken up by jumping upstairs. I hope my neighbour is in a short-lived fitness phase, and I can resume my sleep schedule soon! I think of all the obscenities I would love to say to them before grabbing my phone to check the news. No election updates yet. It's going to be a long week. I get up and change my linens and already look forward to sleeping on fresh sheets tonight.
3 p.m. — It's been a crazy work day so far, including a client meeting on Zoom, so I had to make myself presentable. It's my first meeting with this client, and she tells me I look like I'm 10 years old. Thanks? I hang on at the end of the meeting to chat with a colleague. We gossip about celebrities and our respective friends who the other doesn't even know, and it almost feels like we're back to normal life for a few minutes. I make a smoothie and take some social media time as a mental break. I see a DM from a guy I met on Hinge and have been blowing off for a couple of months, because the COVID restrictions in Montreal haven't put me in the dating mood. I answer him with something cute but vague and make a mental note to set up a FaceTime date soon. Maybe he's a better talker than texter?
5 p.m. — I shut down my work computer the second it's 5 p.m. My work-life balance is fortunately very good, and my boss encourages this. I love her. I head out to meet up with a friend for a socially distanced walk. We try to do this once a week to stay social. I live alone and feel pretty isolated during the week. We talk about our respective jobs and her upcoming wedding in March. Her fiancé lives abroad, so they've been doing long distance for almost a year. I'm so excited for him to finally move here.
7:30 p.m. — I hop out of a long shower feeling physically and mentally drained from the day. I debate ordering from Uber Eats, but I don't have any good promos to use, so pasta and pesto it is. Eucalyptus oil in my diffuser, dinner on the couch, Netflix. It's self-care, OK?
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — Another early wake up from upstairs! I shoot off an angry rant to my best friend, knowing she's already up and on her way to work. She helps me draft a note to stick on my neighbour's door, and we bet there's a 50/50 chance of them either being nice or retaliating by being even louder. As pissed as I am, I secretly appreciate the early start and use the time to straighten my hair, listen to The Daily podcast, and make a very large pot of coffee.
12:30 p.m. — Work is crazy. I have back-to-back calls with clients. Sadly, I have to skip my lunchtime walk even though it's gorgeous outside. I hit refresh on CNN's election coverage: nothing. I put together a big salad for lunch, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, and it's delicious. Pro tip: one tablespoon of Dijon, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and three tablespoons of olive oil will change your life.
4:30 p.m. — I get off my last meeting of the day and pop an Advil. We had to do some crisis intervention for one of my clients and, thankfully, got it resolved by the end of the day. I'm feeling relieved but exhausted, and all of the screen time gives me such headaches. I run out to the SAQ to pick up my favourite cheap wine. One of my oldest friends, P., is in town, so she comes by with fancy cheeses from the Atwater Market for a cinq à sept. We wear masks for a hug, and keep a safe distance while we catch up about work, family drama, boys — the usual. We haven't lived in the same city for three years, but whenever we see each other, it's like no time has passed. $11.80
6:45 p.m. — P. heads off, and I feel anxiety setting in, probably as I process the heaviness of my work today. I grab a jacket and my AirPods (an impulsive, unnecessary purchase during early quarantine that I'm now obsessed with) and go for a walk to shake it off. I get back feeling way calmer but not hungry at all. Toast and peanut butter for dinner it is. With more wine.
10:50 p.m. — I shut off the TV after watching way too much of it. My new lockdown show is Mad Men. I'm still trying to get into it and am mostly watching for the '60s fashion. I've also developed a horrible bedtime habit in which I can't fall asleep unless I'm watching Friends. I set up my laptop, knowing full well that I'll be fast asleep before The Rembrandts declare that no one told me life was gonna be this way.
Daily Total: $11.80

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — God bless the sound of my iPhone alarm. Yesterday's note must have worked, because I don't wake up to the sound of someone hopping on my head. My faith in humanity is restored! It's going to be a good day.
11 a.m. — Good coffee accompanied by a quiet work day is exactly what I need after yesterday's insanity. I spend the afternoon calling clients that I haven't spoken with in a while and chat over FaceTime with my sister. My office closes early on Fridays, and the weekend can't come fast enough. Yes it's a cliché, but TGIF.
3:30 p.m. — I set out on the 25-minute walk to my parents' house to borrow their car for some errands. (I didn't plan to live so close to them, I swear.) I ordered dining chairs from Structube MONTHS ago, and they're finally ready for pick up. I paid for the chairs in full when I ordered them, so this feels like a gift. Not that I can have anyone over these days, but my space is now one step closer to completion. I moved into my first solo apartment this past spring and have been taking my time putting it all together as my budget allows for it. I've loved being able to figure out my style and design the place exactly how I like. I feel like such a grownup! I take advantage of the car and go grocery shopping, stocking up on heavy items that I procrastinate buying when I do my errands on foot. I feel like I'm preparing for the end of the world with all the canned and dry goods I get. Which I guess is not totally inaccurate these days. $46.10
6:30 p.m. — I throw together a quick dinner of tofu, broccoli, and rice noodles with teriyaki sauce while FaceTiming a friend, N. The COVID blues have been getting to her lately, and I haven't had time to be present and support her, so we talk about how she's doing and think of some things for her to try out to cope. I did my master's degree in counselling psychology and, though I'm not working as a psychotherapist right now, I'm the default therapist to all of my friends.
8 p.m. — Shower, quick hair styling, a bit of makeup, outfit change. Outfit change again. And again. An old fling is back in town, and we have plans to meet up for a walk. We were never serious, and it's been over a year since I've even seen him, but I'm still nervous. We meet at mine and walk to my favourite ice cream place. It's good to see him, but I remember why we never lasted. He doesn't even offer to pay for my ice cream. We go back to my apartment to hang out, and I keep talking about how bad the COVID situation has been in the city and how careful I've been lately, getting the impression that he's not on the same page. I feel uncomfortable by how nonchalant he is about COVID and very subtly move farther away on the couch and nudge open the window. Not that this is a date, but dating in the age of coronavirus sucks. We quickly hug goodbye, and I send him on his way, vaguely planning to hang out again soon. $6.90
Daily Total: $53

Day Five

12 p.m. — P. is still in town, so we meet for a walk, picking up oat milk lattes from our favourite coffee shop. We pay separately, and I add a solid tip. We're both in amazing moods because Biden has just been declared the new president. I get home after a couple of hours and spend the afternoon on Instagram, smiling at the posts of the world celebrating. $5.61
4:30 p.m. — I pick up Lysol wipes at the dollar store down the street, the only place that reliably stocks them, even this long into the pandemic. That store does something to me, and I wind up with a huge bag full of stuff I didn't know I needed. On my way home, I catch the (depressingly early) sunset showing off stellar pink hues. I take it as a sign that nature is celebrating today, too. $17.88
6 p.m. — Bestie lives two blocks away from me and plans to hang out at my apartment tonight. Another friend, D., who also lives in the area, messages to see if I want to order food tonight. I ask both D. and Bestie if they're comfortable hanging out together, and they agree. We meet at mine. D. brings a bottle of wine and Bestie brings gin. I'm friends with the two of them separately, but they get along well. This is the most people I've had at my place in a while, and it feels great to fill my space with friends. Bestie and I are in the same “bubble,” and D. gets weekly COVID tests at work, so we know we're safe. We order in Greek food and spend the night updating each other on our weeks, gossiping, and looking up pics of Joe Biden in his 20s (insert fire emoji). I order the food on my Skip The Dishes account and pay for Bestie's meal, because I owe her for an online shopping order we placed last week. D. pays me back for hers. $38.80
Daily Total: $62.29

Day Six

10 a.m. — I wake up ever so slightly hungover and grab my leftovers from dinner to eat in bed. My threshold for what's socially appropriate behaviour is way lower on Sundays.
12 p.m. — It's my dad's birthday, so I make brownies to bring over. While the treats are cooling, I go for a quick run. It's unseasonably warm, and I'm trying hard not to think of global warming and just enjoy it. COVID lockdown has made me incredibly out of shape, so it turns into more of a walk, but I definitely feel like I've earned those brownies.
3:30 p.m. — Bestie and I meet for a walk and end up at her mom's house. We sit on the steps outside and chat. She's like my second mom and treats me like it, too. She lovingly offers snacks and scolds me for my posture.
6:30 p.m. — Mom picks me up to take me to the house for dinner, and I bring along my laundry basket. My parents have an idea that COVID can be transmitted by shared appliances, like at the laundromat, and I don't argue with them. Free laundry? I'll take it. We have a little birthday celebration with my sister on FaceTime.
9:30 p.m. — I get back home in time for the Sunday Scaries to set in. I never have much happening on Monday mornings (I plan my schedule to avoid busy Mondays at all costs), but I still never sleep well on Sunday nights.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9:15 a.m. — I hate working from home, but I've become a fan of hitting snooze a couple of extra times and checking email from bed to make sure there are no emergencies. Fortunately, all is well, so I start my day in my PJs, taking my time getting through my to-do list and making coffee and breakfast along the way.
11:45 a.m. — I'm way more productive than I expected, so I start my lunch break early. It's absolutely gorgeous outside. I grab my sunnies and AirPods and head out for fresh air and vitamin D, picking up a bag of coffee from the grocery store on my way back. When I get in, I heat up leftovers from dinner last night and set up at my desk. $8.99
5:15 p.m. — Even though the sun has already set, it's still warm out, so I go out for another walk. I dislike working out at home and have no motivation to push myself. I started walking as a way to kill time when the pandemic started, and I've found it's been wonderful for my physical and mental health, without having to do workouts that I genuinely dislike. It's no fitness journey, but it has helped to keep off the quarantine fifteen. I pick up pho broth on my way home and make an embarrassingly inauthentic soup using tofu instead of beef. I was craving the saltiness without wanting to pay the delivery fee. $2.99
9:15 p.m. — I get a random FaceTime call from one of my good friends from high school. We haven't spoken in months, and I hold my breath, anticipating news that she's engaged. I'm at the age when unexpected calls from my friends in long-term relationships are usually about engagements. That ends up not being the case, but she laughs when I tell her, because she also thought I would think that. She's a surgeon, and her schedule is insane, plus living in different cities makes staying in touch harder. We shoot the shit about our old friends, wondering what everyone has been up to these days. We vow not to go so long before speaking again and hang up.
Daily Total: $11.98
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