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Name: Blake Gecse

Age: 23

Annual income: $75,000 (U.S.) plus bonus ($98,600 Canadian)

Savings: $15,000 in TFSAs

Debt: $0

What he does: Industrial engineer

Where he lives: Windsor, Ont.

Only 23, Blake Gecse has had to face some big decisions. A talented hockey player who played in the OHL, he made the choice to give up hockey and become an engineer. “I knew I wasn’t going to make the NHL, so I thought becoming an engineer was a solid backup plan.”

Mr. Gecse appears to have made the right decision: he graduated top of his class from the University of Windsor’s Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering program in 2015. Upon graduation, with a Windsor-based job in hand, Toronto beckoned. Having previously enjoyed living in the city as a co-op student, when Mr. Gecse was offered a full-time position with a Crown corporation in Toronto in the fall of 2015, he jumped at the chance to work there.

But within weeks, a position opened up at a car company in the U.S., offering the same salary as the Crown corporation – but in U.S. dollars.

“It’s basically 30 per cent more with the exchange rate,” says Mr. Gecse, who made the decision to live at home with his parents in Windsor and commute to Detroit daily where he works. “If I had moved to Toronto, I would have had to pay rent and utilities,” says Mr. Gecse, adding that gas is cheaper in Detroit.

But there were some regrets; the lure of the Toronto’s vibrant social scene was strong. “I fell in love with the city as it has so much to offer: High Park, the CNE, Toronto Blue Jays,” he says. “My last month in Toronto I was eating out almost constantly. It was a tough decision.”

Mr. Gecse says that save for the daily toll fee for crossing the border, eating out with friends, and his car, his expenses are dramatically lower in Windsor. He paid off his $8,000 student loan right after finishing school and is now building his TFSA. He’s able to savour some of the good life. He takes one big vacation per year – the last one was to Hungary in the summer of 2016; the next one is to Kamloops this March.

He also travels around the U.S. to car shows, a perk of a job in which he helps engineer and launch the next generation of vehicles. And he’s growing his whisky collection. “I probably have 15 to 20 whiskys right now,” he says.

But saving is still paramount. “I’m going to stay at home until I build up a good financial stepping stone to purchase a home,” he says, adding he plans to save for six or seven years before purchasing a property. “My goal would be to be mortgage-free. I want to start off without that $300,000 or $400,000 mortgage.”

In the meantime, he’s writing the GMAT in 2017 and plans to pursue an MBA in a few years to boost his earning ability. And he’s capitalizing on the manufacturing boom that’s occurring in Michigan. “I’m not worried about getting laid off – they need engineers.”

As for the dream of coming back to Toronto, Mr. Gecse won’t rule it out. “My goal was always to move back to Toronto. But the housing costs make that hard to do.”

Top financial concern: “I’m going to stay at home until I build up a good financial stepping stone to purchase a home. My goal would be to be mortgage-free. I want to start off without that $300,000 or $400,000 mortgage.”

His typical monthly expenses:

$1100 on car. “I have a 2015 Jeep Wrangler. It’s a $40,000 vehicle. I bought it new. There’s $10,000 left on it.”

$150 on car insurance.

$100 on tolls. “It’s $10 a day. But I do carpool – every other day, I drive with a colleague.”

$40 on cellphone. “I’m with Fido.”

$30 on bourbon or whisky. “Every month, I’ll buy a bottle of whisky or bourbon. I’ll always be loyal to Canadian whisky. I have quite the collection.”

$350 a year on gym membership. “I’m with Anytime Fitness – It’s a 24/7 gym. When I travel, I can find one.”

$50 on protein powder. “I do strength training.”

$2000 a year on vacations. “I try to go on one or two trips per year. This year I’m planning a trip to Kamloops. I’m going at the end of March.”

$150 on groceries. “I supplement the family fridge. And I cook. I make a pretty mean stir-fry. I try to eat as healthy as I can.”

$1500-2000 a year on appliances. “Every year I buy something for my parents – an unexpected purchase. Last year the dishwasher died. This year, I might purchase a new fridge.”

$300-400 on eating out. “I usually go out for lunch – Subway or to a market. I go out on weekends with friends for a few drinks and a nice dinner. I think food is one of the good things in life.”

$120 on gas. “[The U.S.] is a lot cheaper for gas.”

Editor's note: The original version of this story said that gym, appliance and vacation spending totals were monthly. This version has been corrected to show that these are annual figures.

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