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Name: Melissa McPhee

Age: 22

Annual income: approximately $23,000

Savings: None

Debt: over $50,000 in student debt owed to her parents, plus $1,700 in credit card debt

What she does: Marketing and communications co-ordinator at a winery

Where she lives: Halifax

Melissa McPhee certainly can’t be accused of sitting around. The 22-year-old recent Mount St. Vincent University public relations grad spends two hours a day driving back and forth to her job in Wolfville, a communications position she enjoys but one that she concedes won’t help her pay back the huge student debt she owes her parents.

“I haven’t made enough money to support myself,” says Ms. McPhee. “My parents have really had to help me out and I have to pay them back. But it’s hard to find a job – young people are moving out of Nova Scotia because we just can’t get jobs.”

Ms. McPhee is currently looking for a better-paying full-time PR position in Halifax’s tough job market. “I simply wasn’t making enough money to live,” she says, adding she recently applied for a position that had “200 applicants.” She didn’t get it.

Ms. McPhee has recently started tracking her expenses to determine where she can cut back – and to ensure she pays her parents out of each paycheque. She’s also recently curbed her coffee addiction, started working out at home instead of at a gym and found a cheaper apartment that she shares with a roommate.

She recognizes that her wine spending, fast food habit and nail polish collection are putting a dent in her future plans, which include travelling across the U.K.

“I have problems with spending money in the wrong places. I’d love to get my credit card cleared up…and to be able to start saving.”

Top financial concern: “I want to get myself to a place where I can support myself fully without bleeding my parents dry. I just want to be independent with my money.”

Her typical monthly expenses:

$425 on rent ($850 split with a roommate)

$150 for hydro.

$172 on groceries. “That’s without raiding my parents’ fridge.”

$139 on eating out. “I spend a lot of money on fast food. I eat a lot of Subway, Pita Pit, Starbucks.”

$0 on take-out coffee. “I was buying two coffees a day. I switched to making my own coffee. I bought a French press from Winners and it’s the easiest thing ever.”

$115 for cell phone service.

$79 for Internet.

$4 for iTunes.

$0 on a gym membership. “I love yoga but I can’t afford it.”

$40 a year on Geocaching. “It’s kind of like a big scavenger hunt but you also get exercise because some are really hard to get to. It’s very addictive.”

$177 on alcohol. “Working at a winery, you just want to buy everything you see.”

$120 on gas. “I travel a lot. I fill it up for $30 once a week.”

$25 for parking.

$312 on car payments. “I have a 2015 Honda Fit. It was bought new – my parents put the down payment on it. I have tried to take over the car payments.”

$137 on car insurance. “In Halifax, the rates aren’t too high.”

$40 on laundry.

$61 on medical bills. “My benefits [plan] is very minimal. I actually had to come off one of my medications because it wasn’t covered by insurance. And I haven’t been to the dentist in a while because I can’t afford it.”

$100-150 on clothing, accessories. “We have a big Stitches outlet. I go there a lot for deals. Value Village. Winners is my favourite store. I could spend hours in Winners. I also have a pretty bad habit – nail polish. I have between 40 and 50 [bottles].”

$100 on pets. “I have a little female Tabby. She had to go [to the vet] a few times ($171 per visit). Her food costs $72 per month.”

$17 on haircuts (4 per year, $50 each)

$300 on holidays/trips. “I did go to Montreal last September. I am planning to go to the Adele concert in Toronto this October. How I’m going to pay for that I’m not sure. I hope I get a full-time job by then.”