A Week In Edmonton, Alberta, On A $32,600 Wage

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.

Today: a writer/server who makes $32,600 per year and spends some of her money this week on a pint of beer.

Editor’s Note: All currency has been converted to USD.

Occupation: Writer/Restaurant Server
Industries: Writing
Age: 28
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Salary: $32,600 (between two jobs)
net worth: ~-$11,000 (I have $5,788 in an RRSP (Canadian retirement account) from when I had an office job), minus debt
Debt: $17,000 (student loans and credit card debt)
Pay check amount: $1,398 from writing (1x/month), $272 from my restaurant job (2x/month)
pronouns: she/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $792
Student loans: $182.61
Crave/Amazon Prime/Spotify Premium: $31.08
Internet: $58.28
CellPhone: $34.97
Credit Cards: $66
Health Insurance: $34.97
Tenant Insurance: $19.43

What is the expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
There was some expectation that I would go on to higher education. I chose to attend the local public university and paid for my Bachelor of Arts with savings from my job in high school, scholarships, and loans. I also worked multiple jobs throughout high school and university to pay for my education.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
We talked about basic budgeting and why we couldn’t have everything we wanted all at once. We had fairly transparent conversations about money and I always paid for my own phone bill, clothing, movie tickets, and other luxuries.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job in junior high. I had a flyer route, babysitting jobs, and did my first paid freelance writing work for a local magazine. My proper first job was working retail in high school to start saving for university and to cover more of my own expenses.

Story continues

Did you worry about money growing up?
Occasionally. We always had a roof over our heads and food to eat, but I was aware that my dad had multiple jobs at times and we sometimes had to forgo things or ask the school for help to pay for field trips. Small things like that.

Do you worry about money now?
Absolutely! I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t. I have worried about money my whole adult life. Especially now that I have been working as a freelancer and restaurant server, I am acutely aware of how I spend and make money, and whether I have enough. Before I landed my current gig, I was living paycheck to paycheck for a few months. It is a stressful way to live.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became fully financially responsible when I was 22 and still in university. In some ways, I do have a financial safety net because I have friends who would help me and my parents would let any of us kids crash in their basement if we fell on hard times or had a housing issue. Any money I borrow from my parents has to be paid back because they are in a similar financial situation to me.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

day one

8:16 am — I wake up, brew some coffee, and then munch on an English muffin while reading a book. I shower and get dressed before starting my workday at the desk in the corner of my living room. I have a part-time writing job for a nonprofit and I freelance as well, so my days are mostly spent in front of my laptop. I pray every day that my six-year-old MacBook Air doesn’t bite the dust because I can’t afford to replace it. I answer emails, work on a couple of pitches, write an article, and make a phone call.

12:06 pm — I make some pasta for lunch but then get restless and go for a walk. I remember I’m almost out of coffee, jam, and paper towels, so I head to my local supermarket. Toilet paper is on sale, so I grab that, too. At home, I get more work done, then lay on the bed with my cat. $13.09

4:35 pm — I gobble down a snack so I don’t buy food at work, I kiss my cat goodbye and walk to my restaurant job. I work two or three shifts a week as a server/bartender — unless the staff gets COVID, in which case I work every day. I always work the weekly trivia event, which can be fun, especially if people order a lot of cocktails.

5:42 pm — I find some expired chocolate at work and eat it in the mop closet before the dinner rush.

9:18 pm — On my way home from work, I stop at the liquor store for a single tallboy to treat myself because, even though the shift is short, trivia night always wears me out. $3.08

9:31 pm — Once I’m home, I heat up some leftover curry and watch girls before bed.

Daily total: $16.17

day two

7:41 am — I wake up earlier than usual. While I make my morning coffee, I check my email on my phone and eat my breakfast, which I prepare at home. I work on a couple of articles, do an interview, and work on some article edits.

12:16 pm — I make pasta and a salad and listen to a podcast before diving back into work and goal setting (and intermittent Twitter scrolling). I text a friend and make plans for the evening. I’ve just started doing stand-up comedy and want to get to an open mic this week, so I invite my friend along.

1:52 pm — I often get antsy and unfocused in the early afternoon, so I go for a walk. I buy a coffee at my favorite coffee shop and wander around the park for a while before definitely going home and putting in a couple more hours of work and writing (this time from my bed with my cat by my side). $2.80

6:23 pm — More leftovers for dinner! I have some time before the open mic so I watch a movie on Tubi, the free streaming site.

9:47 pm — I walk to meet my friend at the comedy club. While we wait for the open mic to start, I order a beer and a grilled cheese sandwich. $15.18

11:41 pm — Having totally bombed my set, we leave before the open mic is over and I catch a bus home. $2.72

Daily total: $20.70

day three

8:32 am — I’m sleepy after tossing and turning post-bomb last night, but I wake up early-ish and make my usual coffee and English muffin. I read a bit of a new Joan Didion book I bought last week and start working on a pitch. I work on a bunch of housekeeping and administrative tasks related to my writing. Then, I fire off the pitch I’ve been working on.

12:19 pm — I make some pasta for lunch. Most days, I eat lunch at home and stick to easy meals. I try to save take-out and dining out for special occasions.

1:21 pm — I walk to the library to pick up some books and get caught in a MASSIVE downpour and have to bus back home. $2.72

2:27 pm — Home and in some dry sweatpants, I do a load of laundry. My building has laundry on every floor, so I at least don’t have to journey outside again. $4.08

4:34 pm — Still rainy, so I catch a bus to meet a guy at a cafe in another neighborhood. We met at a comedy show last week and this is our first date, so I’m looking forward to it! $2.72

5:24 pm — We eat cake and coffee at the cafe before heading to a bar for drinks and food. He grabs the bill at both spots and gives me a ride home afterwards.

Daily Total: $9.52

day four

8:25 am — I brew some coffee and eat an English muffin before hopping in the shower. I have an article to finish and a contributor application to work on for a publication I’ve always wanted to write for, so I buckle down after my shower.

11 am — The restaurant calls me in because someone no-showed the lunch shift, so I’m in for a few hours today. I almost always say yes to extra shifts because I could always use the cash. I drink some more coffee at work and I buy a sandwich for lunch. $8.56

4:01 pm — I pick up groceries on my way home from work. I buy bananas, apples, nectarines, spring mix, bell peppers, yogurt, pasta, canned tomatoes, chickpeas, and English muffins. $23.07

7:15 pm — Rather than going out for dinner, my best friend and I like to make dinner at home. Tonight we’re going to make burrito bowls. We sit on the floor and eat fruit and catch up after not seeing each other all week. After she leaves, I go to bed and fall asleep almost immediately.

Daily Total: $31.63

day five

8:22 am — I wake up early because, yay, I have the brunch shift at work today (can you hear the excitement in my voice?). I drink a coffee, pack some leftovers to eat at work, and read a book before I have to get ready to leave for work.

4:21 pm — After work, my friends invite me out for a beer at a local brewery. Since I’m meeting my mom for dinner later, I stick to a half-pint. $4.04

5:36 pm — The place my mom and I want to go for dinner is closed, so she comes and joins my friends on the patio at the brewery. It’s fun to show my mom the cool spot to hang out. My friends stop by for a chat and come and go. We eat burgers and I have another half pint. She pays for our dinner.

7:49 pm — Everyone has tricked away from our big table on the patio, so the remainder of us go up to my friend’s rooftop patio. Our friend buys four beers at the liquor store for us all to share. We huddle by the fire and chat for an hour before it gets too cold and we all walk home. Once I’m home, I take a bath and read a book.

Daily Total: $4.04

day six

8:43 am — I’m meeting up with my friends this morning, so I eat a quick breakfast at home before meeting them at the coffee shop. I pay for my coffee and a tea for my best friend. Then we walk to another neighborhood to go to a sale at the antique mall. $6.88

11:43 am — I pick up some vintage records and a cool TV tray to repurpose as a side table. We all walk away with some interesting vintage wares and decide to go for lunch. $19.43

1:03 pm — After the market, my friends and I head to a diner for lunch and I eat a sandwich and fries. We take an Uber back home (my friend pays for it) and hang out in the park before dinner. $17.34

8:31 pm — My best friend and I cook dinner together at my place and watch Twin Peaks before falling asleep on the couch.

Daily Total: $43.65

Day Seven

9:32 am — My bestie and I wake up early and drink coffee before heading out to the park to meet friends. I chop up some fruit and make popcorn to bring as a snack.

2:07 pm — We stop and buy some craft beer on the way to the park. We spend the entire afternoon outside eating snacks and drinking beer as friends come and join the group, and our patchwork of picnic blankets expands. $15.53

6:52 pm — I head home for the evening and eat some leftovers on the couch. My friend and I have plans to watch a movie together over the phone, and we decide on High Fidelity. After the movie is done, I go to sleep so I’m well-rested for all my morning meetings.

Daily Total: $15.53

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