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Balancing Family Life: Film and TV Professional Struggles to Ditch Big-City Income

Name, age: Carol, 50

Annual income: $95,000

Debt: \(4,000 in credit-card debt, \)152,145 mortgage

Savings: \(3,500 in savings account, \)9,687 in RRSP, $598 in cryptocurrency wallet

Occupation: technician in the film, television, and theatre industry

Location: Stratford, Ontario

Primary financial concern: Saving for her daughter’s education. “I didn’t go to university but I think she’ll want to.”

Carol, aged 50, relocated to Stratford seven years ago with the intention of purchasing a house and starting a family. She invested in a 1,800 square-foot, four-bedroom property in the heart of the small city for $285,000 and welcomed her daughter shortly thereafter.

Transitioning to life in Stratford posed some social challenges for Carol, akin to the adjustments required in motherhood. Despite these changes, she affirms that the decision was a positive one. Carol’s partner works as a contractor and is typically inactive during the winter months, making her the primary earner for a significant portion of the year. While there are opportunities in local theatre, Carol finds herself consistently drawn back to Toronto due to the higher earnings potential in the film and television sector.

Reflecting on the industry dynamics, Carol notes, “A lot of people moved out of Toronto… to smaller towns, but if they can’t work from home, they either have to commute or have to crash in the city.” She elaborates on the widespread presence of industry professionals stretching from Kingston to Guelph to Hamilton.

Currently, Carol is engrossed in a demanding contract in Toronto, necessitating her absence from home during the week with only weekends for family time. Originally slated to conclude in June, the project’s extension until the year’s end has prolonged her separation from her loved ones. Despite the challenges, Carol finds solace in the financial rewards the project offers.

With a six-year-old daughter, Carol’s focus has shifted towards securing funds for her education, a source of growing concern. Managing fluctuating income levels, ranging from over \(2,500 weekly during work periods to \)500 weekly while on employment insurance, presents a financial juggling act. She often taps into her savings to cover expenses during leaner times, highlighting the feast-or-famine nature of her income.

Expressing a desire to visit Japan, Carol aims to allocate a portion of her current earnings towards this goal. She rationalizes this decision as a personal reward for her dedication to work, foreseeing a future where she continues working until physical limitations intervene.

Carol’s monthly expenditure breakdown is as follows:

Investment and savings: $1,072

  • $200 to savings account.
  • $872 to RRSP. “A percentage of my paycheque goes to some Manulife thing.”

Debt repayment: $2,268

  • $750 to mortgage.
  • $1,000 to credit card. “I just spent like a drunken sailor around the holidays.”
  • $518 on car payment.

Household and transportation: $3,320

  • $200 to property insurance.
  • $342 on property tax. “It’s kind of a lot but it includes water.”
  • $500 on utilities. “Gas heat, gas stove, electricity.”
  • $833 on renovations. “A new front door and some new windows, and a heat pump.”
  • $300 on gas. “Driving to Toronto. I usually carpool once I’m there.”
  • $250 on parking space. “For when I’m working in Toronto.”
  • $315 on car insurance.
  • $100 on cellphone.
  • $80 on internet.
  • $400 on child care.

Food and beverages: $1,200

  • $1,000 on groceries. “Just eating healthy, oh my gosh, it’s expensive.”
  • $100 on dining out.
  • $100 on entertainment and outings. “I don’t drink anymore.”

Miscellaneous: $434

  • $19 on Netflix.
  • $15 on apps. “Apple storage, Audible and Google storage.”
  • $200 on clothing. “My biggest indulgence.”
  • $100 on dog food.
  • \(100 on contact lenses. “My benefits have \)650 for glasses every two years but when you wear contacts that doesn’t do much.”

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