This elementary school teacher makes $66,000 a year. How does she spend it during lockdown?

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This elementary school teacher makes $66,000 a year. How does she spend it during lockdown?

Who Justine Owen-Garber, 31 
Where she lives With her husband in a two-bed, two-and-a-half-bath townhouse rental in Pickering
What she does Elementary school teacher with the TDSB; part-time opera singer with the Volcano Theatre Company; private music teacher
What she makes $68,000 a year


Between 2012 and 2015, Owen-Garber graduated from the fine arts program at York, received a master’s in musical performance from Western and got a teaching degree from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education.

Three years ago, she met Dele at a New Year’s Eve party. They got married in the summer of 2020, during a small socially distanced ceremony at Hope Lutheran Church in Scarborough. Unfortunately, they had to postpone their honeymoon.

Justine and her husband, Dele

During the pandemic, Justine shifted to teaching online classes from home, which allowed her to save money on commuting and eating out.

In the short term, she’d like to save $6,000 for a honeymoon to Bali when travel restrictions are lifted.

Her long-term goal is to purchase a home in Pickering with her husband—ideally, a three-bedroom detached with a backyard pool. Based on the current market, Justine thinks they would need to save $60,000 for a downpayment.


Regular Expenses

Rent $1,000 a month. “This covers my half of our rent. My husband covers the rest, about $1,250, including utilities.”

Phone $75 a month, for an unlimited call and text plan, with Rogers.

Groceries $400 a month, from Longos, Loblaws and Goodfood, a meal prep delivery service. I take care of the grocery shopping. I usually go to the Longos in Ajax, since it hasn’t been that busy during the pandemic. Otherwise, I order from Goodfood, which sends all the ingredients so you can prepare meals yourself. We really like the filet mignon with sauteed premium mushrooms.”

Takeout $100 a month, from Osmow’s or Mary Brown’s. “We used to eat out way more when we were dating. Ever since getting married, and especially during the pandemic, we’ve been having more meals at home. It definitely helps save some money.”

Car Payments $350 a month, for gas and insurance. This cost went down quite a bit when WFH started. But with TDSB schools opening up next week, I expect this number to increase, since I’ll be commuting to school in Regent Park.

Subscriptions $15 a month, for Netflix. My husband and I have been watching Bridgerton, The Sinner and Tiffany Haddish’s newest comedy special.

Savings $300 a month, with Tangerine. “I try to save 10 per cent of what I make each month.” 


Recent Splurges

Car $12,800, for a 2018 Toyota Corolla. I used to have to drive my husband’s Kia Optima, but with the money I’ve saved during lockdown, I decided to buy myself a car. It’s all black with Bluetooth and a good speaker system.

Cellphone $1,600, for a Samsung Galaxy Ultra, at a shop in Pickering Town Centre. I had to buy this because my old phone fell into the bathtub over the holidays.

Clothing $400, for a hat, sweatshirt and top from Beyoncé’s new clothing line, Ivy Park. “I got this stuff because Beyoncé is one of my favourite musical artists.”

Laptop $1,200, for a MacBook Air, from the Staples online store. I needed my own computer when online classes started. It’s better to teach virtually on a luxury computer.

Furniture $120, for a desk and chair, from Facebook Marketplace. My husband and I were both working in the same room. We bought an extra desk so we both had more space to work.