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Show Me the Money: Calgary on $56,000 a Year

We all cope with breakups differently. For some, copious amounts of ice cream and guilty-pleasure movies are the perfect antidote. For others, losing oneself in work provides the best escape. However, our next Show Me the Money source took her breakup as an impetus to pack up her life in Vancouver, return home to Calgary and save up for a five-week stay in Bali.

After moving out West to attend Capilano University for musical theatre, our source worked as a fine arts teacher and performer in Van City. “I moved back at the end of November of last year, I wasn’t very happy living in Vancouver anymore,” she says, adding that she moved back in with her parents to save up for her trip where she will be teaching English to preschool-aged children.

“My parents had been so wonderful about me coming home, dumping my stuff and then deciding to go travel,” she says. “My parents met travelling, so I think they would have a hard time justifying their kids not travelling.”

Earning and Expenses

Occupation: Server

Industry: Hospitality
Age: 24
Neighbourhood: Langdon, N.E. Calgary
Yearly Salary: $56,400
Total Monthly Income: $4,700
* $4,000 from serving, including tips
* $700 from babysitting, working as a production coordinator at her family’s farm, and assisting to build a new fine arts program

“I don’t think I know anyone my age who has [just] one job,” says our source. “Especially people in the arts, who tend to have two or three jobs or who does online stuff to make money.”


Savings: at minimum $1,000 a week
Mutual Fund: $100 a month

“I take all of my cash tips and they go in a jar,” explains our source. “I don’t put my tips in a bank account so I can’t spend them.” She adds that at the beginning of each month, she works out her budget in a handwritten diary. “I work out when all my payments are coming out, when my bills are coming out and when I am getting paid. I tally that up and the remainder goes towards groceries, student loans or travel. Wherever it can be allotted.”

Monthly Payments

Rent: $0

“My parents are very kind and let me live there for free. My mom, I think more than anything is excited to have her baby home instead of thinking of the extra costs it is incurring,” says our source, adding her two younger brothers also decided to move back home.

Utilities: $0
WiFi and Cable: $0
Car Insurance: $44

“My car is insured for fire and theft, it is parked right now,” says our source. “My sad Vancouver Yaris was not designed for rural Calgary winters.”

Car Loan: $258
Credit Card: at most $20 on top of paying off purchases

“I try to use my credit card as long as I have the funds in my debit account, it is a great way to get points,” she says. “I do like to use it, but I pay it off. So, if I have to pay interest or make a payment, it is very minimal.”

Student Loans (x 2): $180

Monthly Expenses

Gas: $60 to $80

“If I do take my mom’s car out, I fill it up. That is polite,” she says.

Phone: $40
Groceries: $100

“That is not consistent because I shop when we need something. So it’s a $20 here, $40 there kind of thing,” she says. “My parents handle big grocery shops.”

Eating Out: $120

“Especially if I work a shift, I will get food after, or I will pick up pizza on the way home. I am big fan of Boston Pizza and I like a Starbucks every once in a while.”

Netflix: $0
* Family plan
Spotify: $10
Fab Fit Fun Box: $75 every three months

“They are so much fun. It is a subscription box and they send lifestyle stuff, so you get eight to 10 things in the box and they will be anything from makeup, skin care, scarves or home decor, etcetera,” explains our source. “It is like a little present every few months.” She adds that the box is a good way for her to control her spending since she has a little gift to herself coming every three months.

Hair: $0

“I am lazy about my appearance because I would rather spend money on something else,” she says. “I could get my nails done or save that $40 and buy a plane ticket in a year. I am not a big shopper because I know there is so much more I would rather do.”

Swimming Lessons: $60

“I swam a lot when I was in school, and I loved it,” she says. “It is the perfect amount of cardio and strength.”

Tea: $20 a month

“I like to make it at home, so I can make it how I want it. I will get Starbucks or a tea elsewhere once every two weeks.”

Tattoos: Varies

“This is not a regular purchase, but since I will be travelling more, I want to get a tattoo everywhere I go,” she says. “It is something I am planning on splurging on.”

A Week in the Life


While Sunday may be the day of rest for nine-to-fivers, our source starts her day at 9 a.m. before heading to a brunch shift starting at 11 a.m. Upon getting out of bed, she heads to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and breakfast. After quickly getting ready for work — “I shower, blow dry my hair, apply makeup and pick whatever black serving outfit I will wear that day” — she spends her last few moments before her shift watching something on Netflix. Currently, her show of choice is New Girl.

After brunch, our source has a few hours until her next shift begins at 4 p.m. “I hang around in the area, run errands and pick up anything I need. Sometimes I will have a cup of tea at Timmy’s ($2) or run errands, have a meal at the restaurant or run errands ($20 average).

After her break, our source will either work until she hits eight hours or is sent home — usually around 9 p.m. Her nighttime routine includes another cup of tea, decaf, of course, a snack — “Depending on the shift, I might have ice cream,” she says laughing  — and either spend time with her family, watch Netflix, or read. Our source hits the hay around 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m.


“It is funny, it is so flexible,” says our source. “I do try to wake up between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day because for a while I was letting myself sleep and that was not good for me.” After waking up, and getting her much-needed cup of tea, our source answers emails concerning developing a fine arts program at a local school, before helping out at her family’s farm.

“This morning I spent three hours seeding pansies,” she says, noting she also helps keep the farm organized in her role as production coordinator.

“Then, if I have a shift that afternoon, I will get ready for it and head off, usually for about 4:30 p.m. and I will work until 9 p.m.”

Her evening routine is also similar, including a snack, hanging out with family, Netflix or turning the pages of Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites, with bedtime at 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m.

Tuesday through Friday

“That is typically my schedule throughout the week,” says our source, noting she works between four to five shifts a week — two weekend shifts and three weekday shifts.

When she isn’t working, our source will help her mother run errands, hang out with friends and indulge in her two favourite things: Boston Pizza ($30) and Starbucks ($5). Alternatively, she will go to a pub with friends ($35).

“I am still trying to discover the Calgary scene again; I haven’t been here so long so we are trying different places. I am trying new things and seeing what is new and good again.”

Friday Night

While her Friday morning follows the same weekly pattern, when our source does not work at the pub, she babysits at 5 p.m., generally returning home at 11:30 p.m.


“My Saturday I babysit from 8:30 am to 5 p.m.,” says our source. “So, I get up around 7 a.m., have a shower and have some breakfast and then I will head out.” Our source watches the kids all day, and then some Saturdays heads straight to a 5:30 p.m. shift.

“When I am working, I get home around 11 p.m. I like to wind down, stop and pick something up — maybe chips and dip ($10). It’s a nice little, ‘You survived!’ kind of treat.”

After getting home, our source wastes no time going to bed in preparation for her brunch shift on Sunday. If our source has Saturday night free, she gets home at 5:30 p.m. and has dinner with her family.

“My dad is the chef of the family, so my mom and I will sit there and offer to help until dinner is ready,” she says with a chuckle. “We eat dinner, watch movies or Big Bang Theory reruns, and then go to sleep — perhaps reading a little — between 10:30 and 11 p.m.

Illustration by Hyo Song.

Find out how this Calgarian balances a business and a young family on $48,000 a year.