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Prepping lunch meal at home

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Name: Kassandra Sahdal
Age: 26
Annual income: $24,000
Savings: $2,000 in TFSAs
Debt: $0
What she does: Community youth program co-ordinator
Where she lives: Toronto

Top financial concern: "I want to build up my savings and my credit. I want to get a BA in child and youth care, and then my masters. My goal is to have my own business in counselling."
 

Kassandra Sahdal doesn't stop moving. The 26-year-old divides her days between overseeing youth programing at Toronto's community centres and working on a part-time contract as a youth leader at various community centres, a job that also includes customer service and administrative duties. At night, she watches her eight-year-old sister while her mother works the night shift.

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"By the time I get home it's really late," she says.

Ms. Sahdal, who is debt-free thanks in part to her grandparents paying her tuition, has a 2012 college degree in child and youth care. Her immediate goals are to upgrade her qualifications and get a new car.

But a $24,000 salary that doesn't offer overtime makes that challenging. "My TFSA used to have $15,000, but I drained it," she confesses. After spending the money on living expenses, she is now working on rebuilding her TFSA.

To keep her costs low, Ms. Sahdal shares a North York apartment with a friend and splits rent. She uses the fitness room in her building to avoid gym fees, as well as the weight rooms in the community centre. And she saves on groceries where possible by shopping around. "I meal prep a lot," she says. "My meals go for two, three days. And I don't do red meat."

She also skips big shopping trips for clothes, and uses prepaid cell phone cards to prevent high cellphone bills. And she's sworn off credit cards after using them liberally in college. "I ripped them up because I was going crazy with them," says Ms. Sahdal. "I mainly pay with cash or a Visa prepaid card. I load it up for the week."

Ms. Sahdal aims to buy a house in the future, hoping to purchase outside Toronto's overheated core in the "next five to 10 years." "Ideally, I would like to buy a home in Markham or Brampton, outside of the GTA," she says. But she realizes that's a long-term goal and will require her income to rise considerably. At the moment, she has $2,000 in savings.

Her typical monthly expenses:

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$750 on rent. "I live on my own and split rent with a friend. Everything is included in our rent."

$150 on groceries. "I like No Frills because they price match. Food Basics. Freshco is really good. I actually just got a Costco card. And I meal prep a lot too."

$250 for car insurance. "I own my own car. It's a 2005 Mazda3."

$80-100 on gas.

$90 on parking. "I have no transit pass."

$60-80 on eating out. "If I do go out, I go to Moxie's, Jack Astor's."

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$40 on alcohol. "I don't drink too much. It's usually just Moscato or ciders. Nothing too crazy."

$40 on nails. "I have to treat myself. I do [my nails] twice a month. I haven't done extensions in a while."

$50 on hair. "It's a wash and a blow-dry. I'll get a trim every three months."

$7.50 on movie night. "I go to the movie theatre every other month, so it's $15 every two months."

$0 on gym fees. "In my building we have a fitness room so I take advantage of that. Some community centres, they have a free weight room. So I try to drop in and go there."

$30 for internet. "I split it with my roommate."

$35 for cellphone. "I actually do prepaid."

$11 on Netflix.

$15 on tea. "I'm a tea drinker. Usually I make it at home. If I do go to Tim Horton's, it's $15 a month."

$40-60 on clothing. "I don't do too much shopping because I'm trying to save. I don't like to buy too much because I don't need it."

$500 a year on holidays/trips. "I try to go on vacation once a year. Typically, I go to the Caribbean: Trinidad or Jamaica or Barbados. I have family down there. I just have to pay for the flight. I am planning on going to the Dominican Republic and that will be $1,000's."

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