Money Diaries Logo

A Week In Vancouver, BC, On An $85,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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.
We're now paying $150 for all future published Money Diaries! Read the details here and submit your diary here.

Today: a technical writer working in technology and software who makes $85,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a kayak rental.
Occupation: Technical Writer
Industry: Technology & Software
Age: 28
Location: Vancouver, BC
Salary: $80,000 (plus $5,000 in freelance income)
Net Worth: $25,000 (including $2,000 in a TFSA, $9,000 in an RRSP, and $8,000 in savings)
Debt: $0 (Finally! I paid off my giant student loans in 2019.)
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,248
Pronouns: She/Her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,100 (This is for a one-bedroom in downtown Vancouver. My partner moved out in late 2020, so I'm trying to move to a cheaper apartment now.)
Internet: $100
Hydro: $25–$70 (Electric heating shoots way up in the winter.)
Tenant Insurance: $30
Phone: $65 (I got a sweet deal on my mom's corporate plan.)
Rock Climbing Gym: $100
Netflix: $0 (I mooch off my parents.)
Software Subscriptions: $75 (for my freelance gigs)
Savings: $1,000 (This is a goal that I don't always reach but aim for regardless.)
Advertisement
Annual Expenses
Evo Car Share: $2 (Evo only charges a $2 operator fee annually, then the cars are pay per use.)

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?
Yes. I originally wanted to study journalism, but my parents "suggested" that I study engineering instead, so I did that. I ended up back in writing anyways. My parents saved about $15,000 in an RESP for me to use during university, and I paid for the rest myself, which meant taking on about $60,000 in student loans and on a student line of credit. Luckily, I worked throughout university, including a year-long co-op job making about $50,000 a year. By the time I graduated, I had about $35,000 left on my loans.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents are very, very thrifty. Like, my mom would get extra packets of ketchup and mustard from fast food places to use at home. We mostly went camping for family holidays, and I didn't go on my first plane ride until I was 18. They were very smart with their money and investments and paid off their entire mortgage by the time I graduated university. They never wanted us to have to support them in their old age, which I really appreciate. They spoke a lot about the importance of having a budget and buying things you actually need versus things you want. That said, they never educated me about filing taxes, how to save using RRSPs/TFSAs, or the basics of finances. That was stuff I learned later on by myself. I wasn't very smart with money until about two years ago, once I paid off my loans and actually had savings.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was at Starbucks, when I was 16. It was a super-fun working environment for a teen. This was primarily for spending money but also because my parents wanted me to develop a good work ethic. I remember my mom had to drag my butt to the Starbucks to hand in my résumé because I was so nervous and didn't want to work at all. But I actually love working and being busy, and I haven't stopped since then!

Did you worry about money growing up?
No, we were solidly middle-class and comfortable. I didn't have the same lifestyle as some of my friends (a cottage with a boat or trips to Europe over March break), but my family was happy and we never had to worry about paying bills on time.

Do you worry about money now?
No. I'm very lucky to have a high-paying job and no debt at the moment.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Around 18, when I moved to university. But I've always known that if things go pear-shaped that I can move back home to my parents' place in Ontario.
Advertisement

Day One

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off optimistically at 8 a.m. I turn it off and set it for an hour later. Every night, I set my alarm for 8 a.m. and pretend I'm going to get up early and do adult things like reading the news. The one plus to COVID is working from home and spending zero time commuting. I get up at 9 a.m. and open my laptop to start work right away. After answering emails, I make myself coffee in a French press.
10:30 a.m. — I force myself to go for a four-km morning run, which is a new hobby I picked up when all the gyms closed down. Ten months later, I've started to enjoy it. I like to run before I eat because I find eating beforehand gives me cramps. I die a bit after my run and have to lie down for 10 minutes. Then I make myself a smoothie using frozen fruits, almond milk, and collagen (apparently it's good for finger joints for rock climbers?) and hop in the shower for a quick rinse before getting back to work.
5 p.m. — After finishing work, I'm starving. I don't like cooking, so I order UberEats and get my favourite vegan nacho poutine. (I'm not vegan, but this is one of my fave meals.) After the food arrives, I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix while I eat. At this stage, I've gone through almost every TV show and film on the platform. $18.33
Advertisement
6 p.m. — I meet a friend at the park for a socially distant hangout. He's my sister's ex-boyfriend and he moved to Vancouver at the start of COVID. My sister told me he's looking for new friends. Funny enough, we both live in the same neighbourhood. I bring a cup of my favourite tea with me to the park. We talk about how rough the pandemic has been, how little motivation we have at work, and how some days we go to sleep not because we're tired but because we want the day to be over.
11 p.m. — After watching more Netflix for a few more hours, I take melatonin and go to bed. I read my book club book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, for a half-hour before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $18.33

Day Two

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off at 8 a.m., and I reset it for an hour later. Am I living in Groundhog Day? I wake up at 9 a.m., open my laptop, and check my emails and texts. The person I've been dating for a couple of months, T., has asked if I want to go camping and rock climbing this weekend in Squamish. Uh, yeah I do! I get tingly feelings of happiness as I make my coffee for the morning.
11:30 a.m. — T. calls me, and we sort out food and camping supplies. I'm responsible for dinner tonight, which is a mishmash of random things I have around the house, including grass-fed steaks from the freezer. I also pack sweet potatoes, onions, corn on the cob, and various snack items. On my lunch break, I eat avocado on toast and gather my camping equipment from my condo's basement storage locker. There is stuff everywhere, and I make organized piles with food, sleeping gear, cookware, and miscellaneous camping gear. It sort of helps my anxiety.
Advertisement
4 p.m. — I finish work, and T. picks me up. We head out on the 45-minute drive to Squamish. I ask him what music I should play, and he says he doesn't care. I put on Phoebe Bridgers, and he says it's too depressing. I tell him not to comment since he allegedly doesn't care what music I play. We are smiles all around. He's covering the gas for the trip because I paid for groceries last weekend.
5 p.m. — We arrive at the campsite and find a nice spot near a river. I pay $20 in cash to cover our campground fees for the night. $20
7 p.m. — After setting up camp, we sling our bouldering pads on our backs (we each have one) and walk about 10 minutes to a bouldering spot. There are quite a few other climbers there, and they all say hello. The first boulder we try is a high ball (i.e. very high up), and I get scared halfway up. T. finishes it with no issue.
9 p.m. — We can't have campfires, so we set up a make-shift cooking area in the back of T.'s truck. We prepare the steaks and corn on the cob and sweet potato fries in a skillet and drink a few local beers from Brass Neck Brewery. We watch the sun go down as we eat, and once it does, we go into the tent to relax and cuddle.
Daily Total: $20

Day Three

7 a.m. — We wake up early so we can get to Murrin park and get a parking spot for climbing (the whole lot fills up by 8 a.m. on weekends). We plan to drive back to the city tonight, so we quickly pack up the tent, our sleeping gear, and throw it all in the truck.
Advertisement
8 a.m. — We find a spot at Murrin, and I call my friend who is supposed to meet us there. She's notoriously late. Like, if she's supposed to meet you Friday night, she might not show up until Saturday morning. I tell her the parking lot is already almost full and to get a move on. We set up our cooking/eating area in the back of T.'s truck and have a breakfast of toasted bagels (done on the barbecue), with smoked salmon, capers, shaved red onion, and cream cheese. It's my first time eating this combination, and it's delicious.
11 a.m. — My friend finally arrives as we are climbing in Murrin on a route called Zoe. It's a Top 100 climb according to the Squamish Select guidebook, meaning it's one of the best climbs in the area. This time, we're sport lead climbing with ropes (no bouldering pads). A guy on a climb next to us freaks out and can't finish it, and when his girlfriend does, he's kinda mean to her. He tells her she probably finished it because he already set up the route for her. She tells him that's bullshit, and I inwardly agree with her. We continue to climb until we get hungry. I'm scared basically the whole time I'm climbing. Experienced climbers say it gets easier, but it hasn't for me so far, and I've been doing it for five years.
2 p.m. — We go back to the truck and eat sandwiches. There are giant crows trying to steal our food.
Advertisement
5 p.m. — We finish out the day with bouldering, then drive my friend back to her apartment. We all take quick showers, and then T. and I go back out to spend another night at the same campground. On the way to Squamish, we hit up a grocery store, where T. grabs food for dinner, and I run into the liquor store for eight beers and a cider. $56
6 p.m. — We get back to the campsite and snag the exact same spot again. I pay another $20 for the campsite. We set up the tent and sleeping gear again, along with our makeshift cooking/eating area in the back of the truck. I give T. a massage to help with his lower back pain, and some nearby campers yell "HE'S LIVING THE GOOD LIFE." We laugh. T. makes short ribs, asparagus, and more potatoes. I watch him while he cooks. We've only been seeing each other a few months, but I wish the weekend would never end. $20
9:30 p.m. — The sun has gone down, and we tuck ourselves in.
Daily Total: $76

Day Four

9 a.m. — I'm wide awake, but T.'s still sleeping. Usually, it's the other way around. I wake him up and tell him I'm hungry. He says I can make my own breakfast, but I ask very nicely if he can make it instead, and he gets up. As he makes coffee and the cream cheese/bagel/caper/onion/smoked salmon combo that I love, I start packing up the truck.
Advertisement
12 p.m. — We arrive back in Vancouver and grab iced teas ($8) from a fancy coffee shop. I forget to ask for light ice, so our cups are full of ice, and it makes me angry. This is a trick I learned while working at Starbucks. I found a guy on Craigslist giving away a free dining table with funky chairs that are wood and mint velvet. T. doesn't have a dining room table yet, and I'm tired of eating on the floor, so I persuade him to pick them up. We grab them from a nice guy; his company is giving away all its furniture because it's moving to a new location. We're both impressed by the condition of the furniture, and I give myself a pat on the back for a great Craigslist find. I've inherited my parent's thriftiness (cheapness) and take great pride in finding a good deal. $8
1 p.m. — We drive to T.'s, and I help him unload his new furniture and all the camping gear. Then I drive home using the Evo car share app ($7). I love these things because you can basically park them anywhere in the city and there's a bunch of good parking spots right outside my building. $7
5 p.m. — After unpacking, eating, and napping, I go to Granville Island to join two friends for kayaking. It's my one friend's birthday, and she loves to kayak. The first time I kayaked, I almost died (insanely strong winds, big waves on the ocean, ran out of water), so it's not my favourite activity. We rent a single and a double kayak, and I go in the double with my friend ($70 in total, split in half). We actually have a lovely time on the water and see a Great Blue Heron. There are a ton of boats, Sea-Doos, and even a barbecue boat on the water. $35
Advertisement
8 p.m. — It's a beautiful walk along the ocean back to my place, and I take my time getting home. I'm obsessed with lox bagels and go to the supermarket on my way back to get cream cheese/smoked salmon/capers/ red onion. I get candy, too, because I have an insane sweet tooth. $45
Daily Total: $95

Day Five

9 a.m. — Back to the grind. This time I don't even bother setting my alarm for 8 a.m. I've given up on trying to be an early riser. I have a ton of meetings today, so I shower, get dressed, and generally try to look groomed. I make my morning French press coffee.
12 p.m. — I'm pretty pooped from the weekend, so I take a nap over my lunch break. After I wake up, I eat my salmon, cream cheese, onion, caper, and bagel combo. As I'm eating, I lurk T.'s Instagram. At the same time, he sends me an Among Us meme that makes me laugh.
5 p.m. — I go back and forth as to whether or not I should order takeout for dinner. I know I shouldn't because I get takeout way too much, but cooking is not my favourite activity. I end up eating the salmon/cream cheese/caper/onion/bagel combo again instead. After dinner, I go for a 40-minute walk along the water. Then I go home and watch more RuPaul’s Drag Race until it's time for bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9 a.m. — I wake up, make coffee, and start work. I have more meetings today so I actually get dressed and wash my face.
Advertisement
11 a.m. — I skip my run because I'm still tired from the weekend. I promise myself I'll run tomorrow. I make a smoothie for lunch and eat peanut butter and toast.
5 p.m. — I quickly fry tofu and eat it with barbecue sauce, one of my favourite guilty pleasures. I also roast old carrots with salt and olive oil. After I eat, I walk to the beach to meet two friends (old colleagues of mine) for a sunset hangout session. I stop by the pharmacy on the way and pick up acetaminophen because I see there's a good sale: $2.99 for 50 extra-strength pills! $3.13
8 p.m. — We have a great, socially distant catch-up. We talk about dating, work, and my friend's pregnancy. She's almost done her first trimester! We're all getting our COVID vaccines soon, and we talk about how excited we are. I'm getting my vaccine on my birthday and I almost cried when I got the appointment. It's a 30-minute walk back home. Once I get back, I look on Craigslist at apartments for rent in East Vancouver. I find a few good ones and send off some emails to set up viewings. I'm aiming for a one-bedroom for around $1,500 per month. I get a little sad when I realize this means I'll probably have to give up my ensuite laundry, which is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
Daily Total: $3.13

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Wake, coffee, emails.
Advertisement
11 a.m. — I'm really hungry, so I decide to run later this afternoon instead of this morning. I make myself eggs and avocado on toast with hot sauce. I eat this all the time, but it never gets old.
3 p.m. — My food is finally digested, so I go for a run. It's not a great one. I get cramps halfway through and feel out of breath the whole time. But I finish three kms. When I get home, I die on the couch for a bit. I go back to work while still lying on the couch.
6 p.m. — I'm meeting my friend, R., in North Vancouver for some bouldering. I book an Evo, and it takes some finagling to get my giant bouldering pad into the hatchback. It takes 25 minutes to drive to the park. Luckily, it's still within the Evo driving zone, so I don't have to pay for the rental while I'm climbing. We have a great time (as always). I'm scared (as always) and worry about falling and breaking my ankles. We work on some hard problems, and R. finishes them, but I don't. Once we're done, I check the Evo app and the same car is available for me to drive home. $34
10 p.m. — I'm hankering for sweets, so I go to the 7-Eleven across from my building and buy gummies ($2.13). Once I get home, I cozy up on the couch and watch adventure films from the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (tickets cost $15). I end up surfing Craigslist at the same time and find a few more potential rentals, including a 650-square-foot one-bedroom for only $1,300 in East Vancouver! I text T. to make plans, and we agree to spend most of the weekend together. I get butterflies. $17.13
Advertisement
Daily Total: $51.13
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.

For more money diaries, click here. Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money