Devon Cownden has had a taste of big money. Having worked summers in Fort McMurray as a contamination remediation specialist while he was a student, he knows what it’s like to pull in $100,000 a year. “My Fort McMurray job paid for my schooling,” says Mr. Cownden, adding the position left him with no student debt – and a Lexus SE 430.
Mr. Cownden has since completed his degree in environmental science at Victoria’s Royal Roads University and now works in Victoria as a public servant in parking services. At $17 an hour, the days of big payouts seem far away. He shares a room with his brother, buys in bulk at Costco and does meal prep every Sunday for the week. He hasn’t bought clothes in three years, has scaled back eating out and often takes the bus instead of the Lexus. “It seems tough right now,” says Mr. Cownden. “I’m just breaking even. I’m just trying to find a job that covers my expenses.”
However, more expenses are on the horizon: Mr. Cownden plans to go back to school for a Masters in Environmental Policy next year, which will set him back $12,000 in tuition. The $15,000 in his TFSA will “help pay for my Masters,” he says.
When he graduates, Mr. Cownden hopes to secure a position that pays between $50,000 and $70,000 a year.
And he’s optimistic. “I’d at some point like to own a home,” he says, fully aware that Victoria’s housing market is heating up. But he might just get lucky in that respect: His brother is a realtor.
His typical monthly expenses:
$500 on rent. “My brother is rooming with me for the summer. When he leaves, it will be $750 plus utilities.”
$75 for utilities.
$300 on groceries. “I buy in bulk. I buy lots of big bags of frozen veggies and make lots of soups and chowders. I bake my own muffins. And every Sunday I do meal prep for my week.”
$100 on eating out. “I like Wing Wednesdays, A&W once a month, plus Earl’s or Moxie’s on Friday nights with friends.”
$16 on coffee. “I used to buy coffee on my breaks – that adds up to $150 a month. Now I make coffee at home.”
$42 on cell phone. “I got an iPhone 3 1/2 years ago. [Rogers] won’t let me get a new phone until I change the plan. I’m still on my family’s plan. I send my mom a cheque every couple of months.”
$0 for Internet. “My landlord pays that.”
$30 on video games. “I just bought a $60 game: Dark Souls 3.”
$60 for bus tickets.
$40 on a gym membership. “I work out three to four days a week.”
$30 on volleyball tournaments.
$50 on alcohol. “I’m going on a camping trip to Port Renfrew. That’ll be $30 in beer.”
$65 on gas. “I drive a 2005 Lexus SE 430. I bought it in Fort McMurray. My mom’s boyfriend sold it to me for $15,500.”
$200 a month on car insurance.
$50-75 on medical bills. “I fortunately have a medical plan with 80 per cent coverage, but I have Type 1 diabetes.”
$3 on clothing. “I haven’t bought a piece of clothing in three years – except underwear and socks. I try to get as much as possible on my birthday.”
$50 on holidays/trips. “Once every two to three months, I usually go camping. It’s hard to spend $500 to go somewhere. My last big trip was to China in 2012.”
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