This Toronto DJ makes $1,500 a month. She has $30,000 in OSAP debt and lives with five others. Can she afford a place with fewer roommates?
Cherry is a 27-year-old millennial living with five members of her family in their Regent Park home. As a part-time retail worker and DJ, she doesn’t have a set income. Cherry estimates she makes anywhere from $1,300 to $1,900 a month — depending on how many gigs she books.Because of her circumstances, she thinks it’s very important to live a modest lifestyle. Besides paying $200 in rent to her parents monthly, she saves a lot on food costs. She’ll eat breakfast at home, while usually relying on meal prep for lunch and dinner (even at the club). To feed her caffeine cravings, she makes instant coffee and brings it everywhere in a to-go mug. In fact, there are several days in her average week when she doesn’t spend a single dollar.The problem is she still has $30,000 in student debt. “(The debt) is untouched since I completed school two years ago. I didn’t want to commit to pay monthly until I had a steady-ish job,” she says. Right now, she’s working part-time on a freelance basis so it’s been difficult to begin tackling her OSAP. But because she’s living in tight quarters, Cherry wants to eventually to move out, although she wants to continue living in Toronto. “I just want to live in the city without a ridiculous number of roommates,” she says.When she’s out DJing, it’s not rare for Cherry to buy a drink or two — but she will set her spending limit to $20. “It helps when you go out and your friends have bottles or drinks tickets.” In terms of other fun buys, she’ll dine out with friends once or twice a month.The one thing she’s sure of for now is that buying a home isn’t in her plans anytime soon. “It’s too expensive!” But she’s hoping that with advice from our financial experts, she can start paying off her OSAP and save enough to move out on her own.We asked her to record her weekly spending. This is what she bought:The advice: Janet Gray, a Certified Financial Planner with Money Coaches Canada, had this advice for Cherry to help her reach her goals.> She’s doing well by eating most of her meals at home. Yay!> She should assign an upper limit by category — groceries, dining out, adult beverages. For example, $50 per week for groceries, $100 per month for dining out.> Continue to live within the bottom limit of her expected pay of $1,300> She should use the money that’s left over to pay to make additional payments on her OSAP loan and transfer an amount to a savings account for first and last month’s rent so she can eventually rent her own place.> Slow and steady will get her there. Cherry should be persistent. Each payment or savings deposit gets her closer to her goal.Result: Failure! Cherry spent more in week two than in week one. Spending in week one: $156.14. Spending in week two: $305.35.What she thought: Even though the numbers came out to be more for week two, Cherry says that’s mainly because of her $200 rent. Without that expense, her weekly expense is closer to $105.00. “I’m proud of myself,” she says. Take-aways: The main thing that Cherry learned: “I spend a lot on things I don’t really need!” Now she feels that with any additional money she has, she can start putting more away in her TFSA, as per Gray’s advice. “I feel like I’m in more in control of my money.”After taking part in the #MillennialMoney challenge, she’s learned to be more vigilant about recording her spending. “I’ve been tracking my own spending over the last few months and trying to cut down on unnecessary things. I was a bit more aware of my everyday spending during this time, so hopefully it can inspire long-term change.”For now, just like Gray said, it’s all about patience.Are you a millennial living in Toronto or the GTA and need help with saving your money? Be a part of #MillennialMoney and email email@example.comDigital design by Cameron Tulk.Evelyn Kwong is a digital producer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @evystadium