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paycheque project

Natalie is finding ways to save, such as not driving her car for six months and biking or scootering to work, making simple meals and largely skipping vacations

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Paycheque Project is a non-judgmental look at how young adults in Canada are spending their money.

Person: Natalie, 29

Annual income: $50,600

Debt: $41,695 in student loans; $14,000 on credit cards

Savings: $2,150 in savings account; $475 in TFSA; $475 in RRSP

What she does: Human resources specialist

Where she lives: British Columbia

Top financial concern: “I think: ‘How are we going to afford to get married, buy a house and have kids?’ It’s just about saving a bit right now.”

With a master’s degree in sport management, Natalie was excited to begin working in her field. But she graduated in January, 2021 – at the height of the pandemic – when sports were on hiatus and social distancing measures in place.

Not surprisingly, employers weren’t hiring. “There weren’t a lot of jobs,” she says.

To make matters worse, she graduated with a pile of student debt. She secured several scholarships, but her tuition, rent and living expenses added up. She is now is paying off $41,695 in government student loans.

Natalie also racked up $14,000 in credit card debt during her studies. “I didn’t have the savings to pay for things.”

After graduation, Natalie moved to the B.C. Interior, where her partner lives and she has family. She found work in reception and got promoted to an HR position, where she makes more than $50,000. She’s focusing on paying off her debt, contributing $265 a month toward her student loans and $200 to her credit card debt. If she continues at that pace, it will take her roughly 13 years to eliminate her student loan and six years to pay off the credit card debt.

“It’s something I’m really working on,” she says. “I saw my parents be frugal. And some of that frugality is instilled in me.”

Natalie’s partner is currently paying for utilities on the couple’s two-bedroom apartment, internet, as well as dinners out. “I’m lucky that I have a partner who makes as much as he does and is understanding.”

She also is finding ways to save, such as not driving her car for six months and biking or scootering to work, making simple meals and largely skipping vacations. She also took on a few side gigs this year, earning $600 from bartending an event, working the municipal election and by selling her clothes in consignment shops.

Natalie’s debt focus means she doesn’t have much money to save or invest. She is currently putting $25 a month in her TFSA and $25 a month in her RRSP. She realizes it will be difficult for her to buy a home any time soon, given her debt levels and rising interest rates.

“I won’t be able to contribute to buying a house,” she says. “And I think: ‘How are we going to afford to get married, buy a house and have kids?’ ”

“It’s just about saving a bit right now.”

Her typical monthly expenses:

Investment and savings: $532

$265 to student loans.

$200 to credit card debt. “I did put some bills on my credit card that caused them to rack up.”

$25 to TFSA. “It’s just a savings account.”

$25 to RRSP. “I’m not in a rush.”

$17 to bank fee. “I’m with RBC.”

Household and transportation: $1,443

$107 to car insurance.

$200 to gas. “My partner has a good vehicle and we take his vehicle everywhere.”

$33 to car repairs. “I drive a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe. I’ve been really good at maintaining it.”

$25 on transit pass, e-bikes or scooters.

$1,000 to rent. “It’s two bedrooms. Parking is free. My partner pays for gas and electricity.”

$78 on cellphone.

$0 to Internet. “My partner pays for this.”

Food and drink: $610

$300 on groceries. “Cooking and baking are some of my hobbies. I like trying a lot for different things. We normally go to Save-On, but we also live next to an independent grocer so if we need anything quick we just go there. My dad has an executive membership at Costco so we shop there a few times a year.”

$250 on eating out. “We eat out once a week. We usually go for pub food and sometimes for a nice steak dinner.”

$50 on alcohol. “We live near wineries. Every once in a while I’ll get white or rosé. We seem to get lots of alcohol left at our house as presents.”

$10 on tea. “I’m a tea drinker and I usually get it free at work or make my own at home.”

Miscellaneous: $368.25

$75 on clothing. “I try to buy one quality piece of clothing per month. I’ve had fluctuating weight lately so I need some things that fit me better. I mainly shop online at American Eagle, the Gap or H&M.”

$25 on sports. “I had to pay $300 in indoor soccer fees this past month and buy some new gear. I’ve been playing since I was a kid.”

$6.25 on bike. “It’s for my yearly bike tune-up.”

$120 on dental. “Most is covered by benefits. I only go once a year.”

$20 on prescriptions.

$22 on contact lenses.

$14 on prescription sunglasses.

$21 on cosmetic services. “This includes eyebrow waxing, make-up, sunscreen and drugstore items.”

$30 on cannabis.

$0 to Netflix. “We use someone else’s.”

$10 on apps. “I have Apple Music.”

$25 ($300 a year) on vacations. “I went on a vacation recently. It was to Nelson, B.C. The accommodation was free.”

Total: $2,953.25

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the person profiled. We want to thank her for sharing her story. Are you a millennial or Gen Z who would like to participate in a Paycheque Project? Send us an e-mail.

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