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paycheque project

Name: James Power

Age: 26

Annual income: $60,000

Savings: $300 in TFSA; $1,300 in RRSP; $300 in life insurance dividends

Debt: $20,600 in bank loan; $19,500 on credit card

What he does: Construction project manager/landscaper

Where he lives: Kanata, Ont.

Top financial concern: “I want to get out of debt, save a bit of money and have some disposable income. We want to do a tour of Asia − Thailand and Japan.”

James Power wants to put 2017 − and his past financial mistakes − behind him. Since graduating in 2014 from Algonquin College with a degree in civil engineering and $23,000 in student bank loans, Mr. Power has worked in construction and landscaping to pay off his debt.

But when his grandparents in the United Kingdom both passed away in 2017, he was forced to fork out $5,000 for last-minute airfares and travel costs. He also got laid off, leading him to reluctantly cash in $2,000 of his RRSPs. “It was a pretty big hit to take,” he says.

Then there was the credit-card debt he had accumulated as a student. “I unfortunately did not learn as a kid the importance of how to deal with credit cards – and that they rule your life if you don’t watch it,” says Mr. Power, who is paying off his debt each month, with $400 going to credit cards and $400 to the bank loan.

2018 has brought new opportunities. Mr. Power was hired full-time in February at a successful landscaping firm that works with the city of Ottawa to landscape parks. “I get to see this park, which is dilapidated − we do all the sodding and planting − and we come in to reinvent it,” he says. “It’s so rewarding. I love what I do.”

Mr. Power has been fortunate in his housing situation. He had been living with his girlfriend’s mother after being unable to find a rental that would take pets. He and his girlfriend recently moved out into a Barrhaven, Ont., home purchased by his uncle, who has agreed to sell the home to the couple at market value when they can raise enough funds to purchase it.

In the meantime, Mr. Power will pay a low rent and upgrade the home. “My uncle stepped in and said ‘I can buy a house for you,’ ” he says. “The deal is we’re going to do work on it.” Mr. Power is planning renovations over the summer.

For now, he is focused on living frugally, keeping his grocery bills to $100 a week, and forgoing travel this year. His goals include growing his savings, paying off his debt and hopefully travelling some day. He hints at wedding bells in the future.

“I want to get out of debt, save a bit of money and have some disposable income,” says Mr. Power. “If I can be at a point in my life when I don’t have to have to think about when payday is, that’s the goal. We also want to travel, we want to do a tour of Asia − Thailand and Japan.”

His typical monthly expenses:

$400 on bank loan. “I am paying it back consistently.”

$400 to credit-card payment.

$50 to RRSP. “I’ve already started topping it up.”

$100 to TFSA. “I just started it. It’s $50 every two weeks.”

$145 on life insurance. “It’s Term 25. Unfortunately, construction is a somewhat dangerous industry and I am the major income provider in the house.”

$1,350 on rent. “It’s a townhouse with a yard and garage in Barrhaven, Ont. It’s lovely.”

$60 for internet service.

$400 on groceries. “A lot of the time, we shop at Food Basics. Or Walmart. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper. We buy fresh produce, meat, fresh bread − we pay less tax and we’re eating better. We also meal plan like crazy – and price match. We buy enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day.”

$150 on eating out. “We love sushi. There’s a great place in Kanata that has fantastic sushi. Or Montana’s. The odd day I go to Mickey D’s for lunch.”

$20 on coffee/tea. “We usually make it at home. Once every couple of weeks, we’ll stop at Timmy’s or Starbucks. I always come to work with a travel mug of tea.”

$30 on alcohol. “We buy a case of beer a month, if that. Neither of us are big drinkers.”

$810 on car payments. “When you’re in this kind of role, you can’t really show up in a 1995 F150 that’s rotten. You have to show up in something that shows you’re professional. I have a new truck. It’s a 2018 Ford F150. I also bought a maintenance program.”

$242 on car insurance. “It’s through Aviva. It’s for me and my girlfriend.”

$50 on a gym membership. “We will likely get it back. We had one at the condo.”

$260 on gas. “The last time I filled a quarter tank, it cost me $150. That lasts two weeks.”

$25 on parent care. “It’s for fuel to visit my dad in Brockville.”

$20 on cellphone. “We’re with Rogers.”

$70 on pets. “We have a Siamese cross – he’s a year and two months and full of attitude. We also have a Burmese mountain dog. He’s five years old. The cat’s wet food is 70 cents a tin and the dog’s food we buy in bags at Costco.”

$42 on clothes. “It’s $500 for the year. I go to Mark’s Work Wearhouse Ltd. I buy work boots and shirts. I do wear a lot of plaid.”

$500 a year on trips and hobbies. “We’re gaming geeks. We recently bought a PS4 to add to our collection of seven consoles. [Our games include] Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda, racing games. We have gone to the Ottawa Comic-Con every year. We also go to Anime North in Toronto. We’ll get a hotel for almost the whole week. This year, we’re not going.”

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