5 Millennial Women on How Much They Make and How They Spend It

How much money are millennials really taking home and where does their $$$ go? FLARE talked to five women about how they manage to pay down mortgages, pay off debt and save for the future

Laura Hensley

It’s as if everyone is obsessed with millennials’ finances.

One minute, our age group is being accused of spending too much money on lattes and avocado toast. The next, we’re being told we can’t afford homes because of said avocado toast (and when we live at home to save, we’re faced with backlash, too). To make matters even more confusing, a recent government study based on years of wealth surveys said millennials are actually wealthier than previous generations of people aged between 28 to 34. Pulling your hair out yet? Us, too.

So how are millennials *really* doing, money-wise? We asked five women how much they make each month, and how they spend it. From paying off student debt to balancing multiple part-time jobs, here’s what they had to say.

On juggling multiple side-hustles and managing a mortgage

Jacklyn Marwah-Chow posing with long dark hair and smiling
(Photo: Courtesy of Jacklyn Marwah-Chow)

Jacklyn Marwah-Chow, 25, lives in Toronto and works as a project and social media manager, as well as a fitness instructor. She also runs her own business, Ponytail Mail

Monthly budget
Income: Anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000
Mortgage payments: $850, for my half of the mortgage and maintenance fees; my fiancé and I recently bought a one-bedroom condo
Groceries: $150-$200
Bills: $545
Entertainment and personal spending: 

“Ugh, budgeting. I’m good at it in theory, but bad at it in practice. I was living (mostly) rent-free since moving back home from university in 2013, so I’m lucky to not have any debt and was able to save up to buy a condo. But I’m not compensated on a salary basis; everything I do for work is hourly pay. It’s ultimately a game of time management: how to balance the things I love with the things I get paid the most for, while still carving out time for myself—which is hard when your ‘job’ is a series of side-hustles.

I feel like I’m doing well on my current income. It definitely depends on the month, and prior to June this year, that number was a whole lot lower. I’m starting to cut back on unnecessary expenses (I have more than enough clothing, and do not need to eat out as much), but that quickly backfills with other expenses (new furniture, upgrades to our condo). The only thing I struggle with right now is taking time off. Because I’m not a full-time salaried employee, taking vacation means no money coming in. I’ve really had a hard time taking time off because I’m worried about how that will impact my income.

One thing I could never give up regardless of my financial situation is running my own business, Ponytail Mail [a hair-tie subscription business]. It definitely takes time (that I can’t yet pay myself for) and effort that could be used more effectively—but it’s such an amazing creative outlet and I couldn’t imagine my life without it! I sometimes end up working 60 hours a week because of it, but I’m having fun.”

On saving for the future 

Rebecca Alkerton posing in a red blouse
(Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca Alkerton)

Rebecca Alkerton, 27, lives in Ottawa and works as a bank resource officer

Monthly budget
Income: $2,700
Rent: $650
Groceries: up to $200—I eat out a fair bit
Bills: $240
Entertainment and personal spending: $500-$1,000
Student loan payments: $250 or more
Other monthly expenses: $100-$300 on Uber

“I currently have around $3,500 to $4,000 in savings using a TFSA mutual fund and employer savings. I find that it is easiest to save if I view it as a bill payment to myself, so I make automatic contributions when I get paid. The biggest challenge with saving is balancing the idea of saving more now, or repaying debt more quickly in order to save more—and faster—in the future. I have my savings strategically set up so they aren’t as easily accessible as my day-to-day personal accounts, which makes it easier to keep those funds in place.

I don’t hold to a strict monthly budget, but I know I make more than I need based on my expenses and am uncomfortable if I have less than $500 in my chequing account. I’m fairly conscious of my intake verses expenditures.”

On splitting everything 50/50 with a partner

Finance blogger Desirae Odjick posing in a grey sweater holding a book
(Photo: Courtesy of Desirae Odjick)

Desirae Odjick, 28, lives in Ottawa and works as a content marketer and freelance personal finance writer

Monthly budget
Income: between $4,400 and $5,500
Mortgage payments: $984
Groceries: $300
Bills: $454.50
Entertainment and personal spending: $500

“My fiancé and I recently bought a house in an Ottawa suburb, where you can get a lot of house for a reasonable-enough price. We have a 4-bedroom place we bought for $425,000, and my half of the monthly mortgage and tax payments is $984. We’re lucky that we make similar incomes, so our default is to split expenses right down the middle for anything we consider a joint expense.

Since the first day we lived together we’ve always split groceries 50/50, even though we eat and like different types of food! Our monthly food budget is $600, and about half the time, we actually stick to that. It turns out, buying a house comes with a significant uptick in the bills you pay every month, so this line item in my budget has jumped significantly in the past few months. [Editor’s note: Odjick wrote a kickass column for FLARE about how to talk money with your S.O.]

With everything from hydro to internet, my half of the house-related bill payments comes to $166.50 every month. I also pay $158 for my half of our home, car and life insurance, $53 for half of our ‘web services’ (things like Netflix and Medium) and contribute $77 towards our shared transportation expenses.

We’ve also got budget categories for the dog (because man, dogs are not cheap) and a shared dining-out budget for meals we eat out together. We have a $200 alcohol budget between the two of us for the month, because we both really enjoy craft beer. I also have regular expenses to run my freelancing business, but those come out of the money I earn, so I treat it as a totally separate budget.”

On paying back student loans while wanting to travel 

Catherine Crowe posing with dark long hair
(Photo: Courtesy of Catherine Crowe)

Catherine Crowe, 28, lives in Peace River, Alta., and works as a full-time speech-language pathologist, with her own private clients on the side 

Monthly budget
Income: $5,500-$6,000
Rent: $500, including utilities and internet. I live with my boyfriend and my best friend in a three-bedroom apartment
Groceries: $200
Bills: $830
Entertainment and personal spending: $500-$1,000
Student loan payments: Minimum would be $400 a month, but I usually put in $1,500-$2,000
Other monthly expenses: I try to put at least $500 towards savings

“I took out about $40,000 in student loans during my master’s degree, and I want it paid off as quickly as possible. Right now I am about halfway there! I usually pay back around $1,500 to $2,000 if I don’t have any other big financial plans that month, like a trip.

I feel like I am pretty good with budgeting for my salary and making sure that I put enough back towards my savings and my student loans. I definitely have my areas that I like to splurge—like travel—but generally, my boyfriend and I live pretty simply and our expenses are kept fairly low. Once my loans are paid off this may change drastically, as we will look into buying a house.

One thing I couldn’t give up regardless of my financial situation is mini-vacations/road trips. We live in a pretty remote small town, and there is not always lots to do. Whenever my boyfriend and I have a weekend off together, we like to take trips to the mountains in B.C. or southern Alberta, and go camping or skiing, depending on the season. If our financial situation were different, these trips would look different (read: cheaper hotels, closer destinations, less eating out), but we would still need that opportunity to explore and get away.

Last October I bought myself a brand-new Jeep. I agonized over the decision—I didn’t want to make any big purchases until my student loans were paid off—but I drive a ton for work and wanted something safe and reliable. I still love it and have zero regrets. If I were given $1,000 right now, I would probably put it back towards my loans. BUT, if not that, I would put it towards our next big purchase: we are on the lookout for a fixer-upper camper van to take us on our adventures!”

On investing in yourself 

Katherine Borsato posing in a dark tank top
(Photo: Courtesy of Katherine Borsato)

Katherine Borsato, 25, lives in Toronto and works as a project manager at an architectural visualization studio

Monthly budget
Income: $3,600
Rent: $1,275 for a bachelor apartment (utilities and internet are included)
Groceries: $300—including toiletries and cleaning supplies
Bills: $340
Entertainment and personal spending: $400
Student loan payments: $170

“I feel like I would definitely be better off with a higher salary, but I’m comfortable. Toronto is a big (and very expensive) city. I have to decide what is most important to me and spend my money there. Going to pilates regularly—I pay $175 a month for unlimited classes at Misfit Studio—and having experiences with friends is more important than say, shopping (a year ago I would not be saying these words). When it comes to eating well, I’ve recently started working with a nutritionist and I’ve learned that being healthy is NOT cheap.

Regardless of my financial situation, one thing I couldn’t give up is my pilates pass. It’s super important for my physical and mental health. Shout out to Misfit Studio for making me love physical activity again and getting me to take some time out of my busy schedule for me. As a bonus, they play incredible music, have the best instructors and treat the studio as a real community. It’s invaluable in my mind. 

If I was given $1,000 cash right now, I’d put it towards debt. The faster I can pay it off, the faster my monthly income can go to what I want. The freedom to do what I want with my money is more important to me than anything right now.”

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