Skip to main content
paycheque project

Name: Will and Jenn

Age: 31 and 30

Combined annual income: $160,000

Debt: $255,000 mortgage

What they do: Army officer and mechanical engineer

Where they live: Ottawa

Top financial concern: “We just doubled our mortgage payments .... We are aiming to be debt-free.”

“There’s an old story about a guy taking a smoke break with his non-smoking friend,” says Will, an Ottawa-based military officer. “He tells the guy that if he didn’t smoke, he could invest that money and have a Ferrari when he retires.”

Though neither is a smoker, it’s a story Will and his wife Jenn have taken to heart. “We put $144 aside a month – the equivalent of 14 packs of cigarettes,” he says, in a “Ferrari” fund. “When we retire we will have enough money for a Ferrari.”

Will and Jenn’s regimented savings approach extends to all facets of their life. They have adopted the envelope method, diligently setting aside a sum either in an actual envelope an e-savings account dedicated to each expense: an account for car repairs, one for donations to the church, another yet for vacations.

“For example, we have an envelope at home for a sports fund,” says Will. The $1,000 in that envelope will go toward paying for anything sports-related, be it a new pair of running shoes, curling fees, ultimate-frisbee costs or triathlon registrations.

“When you’re in debt, you’re a slave to the lender,” says Will. “When I need money, the money is always there.”

It wasn’t always this way. Will confesses that after he and his wife graduated from the University of Ottawa and got married in 2014, they moved around for military training to New Brunswick, Quebec and Alberta without really worrying about finances.

“Money came in and money came out – we actually didn’t know where our money was,” he says. But family members got the couple hooked on budgeting guru Dave Ramsey, and that changed their mindset. The couple were able to pay off $45,000 in student loans – from the Ontario Student Assistance Program, a private loan and a line of credit – as well as a new car, in two years.

Since then, budgeting has been a big part of their lives. Will gets access to an investment adviser through his military benefits package, investing his tax-free savings account funds, around $32,000, and his registered retirement savings plan money, around $37,000, in a pooled fund.

He has $17,000 sitting in a variety of e-savings accounts or envelopes, and $7,000 in sinking funds, which he tops up as he depletes them. Unlike an emergency fund, which is used to cover unforeseen expenses such as those caused by a job loss, a sinking fund pays for things you buy all of the time, such as gardening supplies or new tires.

Since they rarely eat at restaurants, the pandemic hasn’t had a big impact on their finances, says Will. The couple spend $350 on groceries a month and almost nothing on alcohol. “We make our own wine and beer,” he says.

In fact, for the past year, he and his wife have spent their Friday nights driving for food-delivery service Skip the Dishes, an extra job that has allowed them to earn money for their own takeout meals.

In a few years, the couple plans to have a family. They want to pay off the $255,000 remaining on their mortgage. In 2019, they purchased a 1,200-square-foot bungalow on the outskirts of Ottawa for $394,000 and recently doubled their mortgage payments to $3,030 a month.

They would also like to travel to Hawaii – a trip that was derailed by the pandemic. And they plan to continue giving to their church.

Down the road, they’re weighing purchasing another property. “We’d also like to buy a cottage, but not before the primary residence is paid off,” says Will. “We are aiming to be debt-free.”

Their typical monthly expenses:

$3,030 on a mortgage. “We bought our home in 2019. It’s a detached 1,200 sq.-ft. bungalow. We just doubled our mortgage payments on it.”

$200 on utilities.

$300 on gas.

$358 on home/car insurance. “We’re with Johnson Insurance – it’s a bundle of the home and two vehicles.”

$144 to Ferrari fund. “The plan would be to get a used one, for sure, [around] the $100,000 mark. We invest the money, so $144 a month at an annualized 6 per cent – relatively modest compared to what investments we actually have – would result in pretty much exactly $100,000 in 25 years.”

$1,150 to a TFSA. “Right now, all of our retirement savings are going to the TFSA.”

$860 tithed to their church.

$82 to charity. “We sponsor children through the Compassion International program,” which supports children in developing countries.

$400 on a car fund. “We use this fund for car repairs. I commute, but my wife works from home. We have two cars – both are paid off. I have a 2008 Acura RDX. We bought the second car – a 2015 Sonata – on March 12 of last year, so we would have a newer, fuel-efficient car. Then the pandemic hit.”

$280 on property tax.

$50 on home fund.

$200 on renovation fund.

$350 on groceries. “We eat well. We shop at Superstore for generic groceries. We like the classics: pork chops and potatoes.”

$25 on wine/beer. “We make our own beer and wine. I’ll spend $50 on a wine kit and get 25 bottles out of it. I may also buy a couple of tall boys a couple of times a month.”

$350 on gas.

$150 on sports. “I’m at the gym five days a week. We like biking, running, ultimate frisbee, curling. We do two or three runs a year – some are winter triathlons or Ottawa Winterlude.”

$50 on eating out. “We started driving for Skip the Dishes – if we want to eat out, we have to earn it. We do a shift a week. It’s $100 on a Friday night for four hours. In terms of takeout, it’s mostly ordering pizza or going out for wings.”

$50 on cellphone. “We’re with Cityfone. We had to buy our own phones.”

$125 on Internet.

$11 on Netflix.

$23 on apps. “We have Sirius XM.”

$60 on clothing. “We take this out of cash sitting in an envelope – if we need socks or a coat. We don’t spend too much on it. We have a pretty big outlet 20 minutes away. We’ve also got quite a few things at Costco.”

$150 on miscellaneous items. “This might be a beer kit or a coffee at McDonald’s.”

$25 on their pet, a mixed-breed mutt. “Sandy’s almost seven, a rescue dog from Saskatchewan. The $25 we set aside each month covers her food and her shots when those come due. She also has her own envelope.”

$50 on gifts.

$250 on vacations. “We went skiing three weeks ago – that was $150. We had plane tickets booked for March 17 last year for Hawaii. We were able to get refunds.”

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

Are you a millennial who would like to participate in a paycheque profile? Send us an e-mail.


Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct