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Name: Bianca

Age: 25

Annual income: $56,000 before tax

Debt: $37,636 in student loans

What she does: Policy analyst

Where she lives: Brampton, Ont.

Top financial concern: “COVID-19 has allowed me to save more money. I would like to save for a down payment on an apartment."

Bianca knows she’s one of the lucky ones. The 25-year-old policy analyst found a job in April of this year at a time when fellow graduates of the University of Waterloo’s master of public service program saw their job hopes dashed as the global pandemic decimated the economy and labour market. While her position isn’t permanent, there’s hope for an extension at the conclusion of her contact.

“I’m super lucky right now that I’m in the position that I’m in,” she says. “My friends from grad school are still looking for jobs.”

COVID-19 has forced Bianca to rethink her lifestyle. As a co-op student, she worked in the GTA and enjoyed city life. “When I was in Toronto, I would go to the gym after work,” she says, and “I wouldn’t pack a lunch.”

And because the Eaton Centre was on the way to the subway after work, Bianca would often stop at Sephora, her favourite cosmetics store, or pop into Aritzia to shop for clothes. Like many urbanites, she and her friends would go out to dinner on weekends. “One purchase would turn into another,” she says.

Now, Bianca rents an apartment with her two sisters and grandmother in Brampton, paying $350 for rent as well as covering the home phone and Internet. Her grandmother, who stepped in as a caregiver when Bianca’s mother died eight years ago, helps with groceries and cooking.

Working from home, Bianca no longer has to pay almost $400 a month in transit costs to commute to Toronto, nor does she buy lunches or dinners. Her cousins who live nearby often drive her to run errands, since she doesn’t own a car.

She doesn’t go to the gym any more; she bought a few weights and a gym mat instead. “In quarantine, I’ve realized that you don’t need one,” she says of her membership. "COVID-19 has allowed me to save more money.

The city of Vancouver in British Columbia.

In early September, Bianca splurged on a vacation and flew to Vancouver for five days. “It was last-minute, and it was more than I should have paid,” she says of the trip, which cost $2,000. But she feels it was worth it, in part because of the mental health break it provided.

“I was getting a bit depressed,” Bianca says. Following the activities of her friends on social media, who don’t live nearby, also made her feel left out. “I had really bad FOMO,” she says. “But Vancouver, it was awesome.”

However, Bianca knows that this fall, her student loan payments will start, having been deferred since the spring. She owes $37,636 in student loans, which she estimates will lead to monthly payments of $800. She’s also saving, putting $50 a month into a registered retirement savings plan. In addition, she has amassed $3,000 in a tax-free savings account.

Once her student loan is gone, her goal is to buy a condo and a used car. “I’m very paranoid about money,” she says. “Very few people actually save enough. I would like to save for a down payment on an apartment."

When the pandemic ends, she’d also like to travel. “For seven years in school, I didn’t really do a lot of it,” she says. “When this is all over, I’d like to do some travelling. I’d like to prioritize that in my life.”

Her typical monthly expenses:

$350 on rent. “I live in Brampton. I live with my sisters and grandmother. My sisters and I split the rent.”

$87.50 on health benefits. “I’m on contract. So I had to get a private company. I’m with Blue Cross.”

$50 to RRSP. “I know I should be putting away 20 per cent of my income.”

$100 on Internet, since she covers that entire cost alone.

$40 on groceries. "My grandmother pays for groceries. [I pay] for the odd purchase here and there at Fresco or Metro. We cook lunches and dinners, though some of us have different diets. I like salads, pastas or roast chicken and veggies.”

$150 on eating out. “I’m pretty good. I usually get Indian or Popeyes. Or Royal Kebab. It depends on what I’m craving.”

$0 on a car. “I don’t have a car – a vehicle is not something I absolutely need right now. I’m very fortunate to have my cousins living nearby. They’re often willing to drive us around. I want to save for a used car – I would never buy new.”

$110 on a cellphone. “I’m with Rogers.”

$25 on a home phone. “I’m with Koodo. I think I’m going to change it.”

$9 on Disney+. “I love 27 Dresses.”

$0 on transit. “This was usually about $350-$400 per month. I used to take a local bus to the GO station and then the subway. But I am working from home.”

$25 on clothing. “I used to spend about $150 a month, at Aritzia. I really like Free People. Now, I buy the odd thing here or there.”

$200 on a fun fund. “I love Sephora, and I buy skincare products. Or a plant for my desk. This is all I’m giving myself right now.”

$12 on gym fees – she plans to cancel this soon. “I’ve got a membership with Planet Fitness. In quarantine, I’ve realized that I don’t need one. I bought some weights and a gym mat and I’m fine. I also love riding my bike.”

$1,100 to TFSA (starting in November). “I have it in a Wealthsimple TFSA. I want to put in a lot more in January.”

$800 on student loan. “My loan payments kick in in November.”

$2,000 on vacations a year. “I spent $2,000 a few weeks ago on a short trip to Vancouver. Like many people I was really disappointed not to do much this year. It was more than I should have paid. But it was awesome.”

The name and some details may have been changed to protect the privacy of the person profiled. We want to thank them for sharing their story.

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