Month-to-Month: How 2 Musicians (and Their Baby) Live on $3,000 a Month in Vancouver

Self-employment and parenthood can go hand-in-hand—with a little planning.

April 6, 2017

By Tessa Vikander

Names: Mike Brown and Annie Brown
Age: 38 and 36
Income Before Tax: $52,000 (but this year could be less because Annie is on unpaid maternity leave)

Mike and Annie are musicians who work a mix of contracts, self-employment and part-time gigs. Their first baby, Desmond, was born in January. Annie didn’t have enough employee hours to qualify for the government’s paid maternity leave but she took time off anyway. She’s anxious to get back to work but is enjoying the time with her new baby. Mike works about 30 hours a week teaching, doing arts administration and planning a summer camp he runs through UBC. He also goes to Kamloops a few days a month to perform with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra. The couple isn’t sure what they’ll do for childcare once Desmond is older, but because they set their own hours they figure they’ll coordinate their schedules and work it out. They keep a contingency of a couple hundred dollars in their chequing accounts to guard against irregular paycheques, and have access to a $5,000 line of credit.

The Monthly Bill

Gross income while Annie is off work: $3,153

One-bedroom basement suite in Mount Pleasant …… $1,250
(They were renovicted just before Desmond was born, but found a place that fits their piano, has a bath tub and has access to a washer and dryer—super necessary with a new baby.)

Transfer to savings account …… $100

RRSP…… $25

MSP for the whole family …… $112

Telus plan for 2 smart phones …… $107
(Mike has access to a UBC employee plan, each has 800 minutes and 4.5 gigabytes.)

Internet & Utilities …… $0
(“It’s included in the rent,”says Mike)

Modo Car Co-op Membership …… $5.50

Gas …… $40
(For Mike’s symphony trip to Kamloops.)

Bus …… $63

Alcohol & Bars …… $46
(Includes some business networking.)

Eating out …… $137
(Budgie’s Burritos, Duffin’s Donuts, Tandoori Fusion, Wok Box, White Spot,
Lion’s Den: $30 per visit, a few times per month. “It’s a real casual establishment,” says Annie, of the Lion’s Den.)

McDonalds …… $20
(Mike grabs breakfast there when he’s out of town for work and, most recently, “after being stuck on the Coquihala all night” while coming back from Kamloops in an epic snowstorm.)

Coffee Shops …… $19
(“We make a pot of chai usually at home every couple of days and bring that everywhere…we don’t drink coffee, most of the coffee shops would be hot chocolate,” says Mike.)

240 Diapers at Safeway …… $25
(Used a coupon from Mike’s grandmother.)  

Groceries …… $272
(“My mom has been coming over every week and buying groceries for us,” says Annie.)

Costco …… $100
(Pesto sauce, gluten-free bread, cheese, apple juice, PB, ice cream, toilet paper, honey, almond milk, gluten-free noodles, blueberries, laundry soap, and cat litter.)

Music Supplies…… $75

Cat food at Mr. Pet’s …… $62

Shoppers Drugmart …… $75

Wonder Weeks ebook about infant development …… $8.50
(“It’s been quite helpful,” says Annie.)

Total Spent: $2,542

The Remainder: $611
(“Remainder goes to TFSA invested in index ETFs, which we try to max out each year for a house someday if we move out of the lower mainland,” says Mike. Plus $100/month to Desmond’s RESP.)

View more in this series here >>>

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