She's smart. Look at all the books.

She’s smart. Look at all the books.

Meet Ashley.

Ashley is one of several young adults featured on the website for a Toronto based magazine called The Grid. Ashley lives in downtown Toronto, doesn’t make a whole lot of money, so the magazine ran a feature on how she and her other low earning peers manage to survive living in the middle of an expensive city. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.

Let’s take a look at Ashley’s situation. From the article:

Two years ago, Ashley Winnington-Ball was managing a boutique on Queen West near the eastern edge of Parkdale. Half a page of her resumé is taken up by everything she was responsible for (selling, training, bookkeeping, scheduling, marketing, recruiting, researching, writing, planning, tweeting)

I take it back. Well played Ashley. You’re gainfully employed, managing something. Look at all the stuff she did. That’s pretty impressive, and we all know I’m a grumpy bastard who’s about as easily impressed as Mr. Burns.

Why would I continue reading? Ashley has her crap together. Okay, I’ll keep going. If you insist.

[W]hat happened next is what often does when you work too hard for too long: She burned out. For a year, Winnington-Ball lived off employment insurance and what little she had saved for retirement


To review, she had a job, got burned out, and then quit that job. Well played, Ashley. Can I give you a tip on how to make ends meet? DON’T QUIT YOUR JOB WITHOUT HAVING ANOTHER JOB LINED UP. Not only that, but she quit to, what, bum around for a year? To find herself? To read all the books behind her?

I’m trying hard not to get too excited. Maybe this led to bigger and better things. What does she do now?

[A]nd then, when both ran out, she took a part-time, $11-an-hour job at a women’s-only spa. Now, in a good month, she earns some more money from the jewellery she makes in a corner of her basement apartment. In a bad month, no one buys a thing.

She works part time at a spa and has an Etsy store. Sweet Jesus. I know high school kids who have more on the go. That sure was a good decision, taking that year off, huh? I’m imagining this was the thought process.

Ashley: Hey, I should stop working for a year, spend my meagre savings, and then take some crappy part-time job at a spa. This is a terrific idea.

Ashley’s brain: (doesn’t exist)

“I really love Toronto,” she says. “I’m really happy to be rooted somewhere.” For six years, that’s been at her “miracle apartment,” the one she can’t afford to leave, not in a city where paying as much for something half the size is a steal.

She pays $800 a month for a one-bedroom basement suite in downtown Toronto. That’s a better deal than the time I got a $100 gift card in exchange for nine minutes of work. She should really appreciate the good fortune of having a landlord who is giving her below market rent.

“It does feel like I do want to live above ground, you know?” It’s a sentence she can’t finish without starting to cry. “I’d love to have windows, real windows, a little yard or a little balcony. It’s so impossible for me to imagine having what I have [now], and those things.”


She gets a smoking deal in rent, and she wants more. There’s a really easy solution to this too, and that’s to make more money. Or she could go live with someone else, splitting expenses. Or she could just complain about it to a website. Because hey, options one and two require work.

“But I think that if 17-year-old me met me now, she’d be really impressed, you know? And that sort of relieves me. I’m basically the person I want to be.”

She’s basically the person she wants to be. Except for her living situation. And her job. And her income. And her net worth. But hey, at least she’s a good person. A good person who quit her job and lived off the teat of the government for a year.

She’s 31 and she’s burnt out. Sister, you could not afford to burn out, you did anyway, and now you’ve got to live with the consequences. You made your own bed, now it’s time to sleep in it.

Hey Ashley, why don’t you just get a job in your field? What did you study in college again?

EDUCATION: Honours Bachelor of Arts (University of Toronto)

Of course. But hey, at least you graduated with honours. That counts for, uh, nothing at all.

Another example? Don’t mind if I do. This is Julian.

Nice couch. Too bad it's his mom's.

Nice couch. Too bad it’s his mom’s.

Just to get it out of the way first, what did Julian study in university?

EDUCATION: Honours Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor (both from U of T)

Wait. A law degree? That’s… actually… useful. Why exactly are you here, Jules?

Though Carrington never really wanted to be a lawyer, he’d long wanted the degree. Not sure what else to do after university, he went to law school, graduated, and passed the bar, only to throw a series of interviews for the well-paying articling jobs that typically come next.

Julian intentionally didn’t get a job in his chosen field, even though he spent years getting the education needed to obtain it. Congrats Julian, you are nailing this whole make-stupid-financial-decisions thing. Go and buy yourself another DVD, champ. You deserve it.

“I would be in interviews and I’d be worrying that I might get offered a position,” he admits. “It was just terrible and mutually unappealing, I’m sure.”

I’ll give him credit, that is an exceptionally efficient way to waste $100,000. It would take hours to flush all those bills down the toilet.

How terrifying, actually getting paid for something he dedicated most of his adult life towards achieving.

That was 2008. By 2012, he was working retail and looking for entry-level jobs in what he realized he’d wanted to do all along: film-festival programming.

This is good. I’m glad he figured all this out before he wasted 7 years in school and accumulated $23,000 in debt.

Oh, wait.

Also, film-festival programming? That’s his dream? I’m not one to crap on anyone’s dreams or anything but… Wait, yes I am. YOUR DREAMS ARE BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD.

LIVES: At his mom’s, at Parliament and Wellesley

See? The real world is trying to tell you something, Jules. Maybe you should listen.

At five, Carrington moved to Canada from Barbados with his mother… She’s paid off his $60,000 student line of credit and is helping pay off his $20,000 OSAP loan.

Or you could be a 30 year old man who sponges off his mother. Because everybody likes that guy.

“My mother—my family—has always been very willing to support me,” he says, sitting on a salmon-pink couch in an unmistakably mom-furnished living room. “I’m not one of those kids who get shoved out the door and it’s like, ‘Okay, now you’re on your own.’”

MY GOD MAN. You’re 30 years old and your mom supports your sorry ass. Wouldn’t that encourage you to, you know, let the lead out a little bit?

Also, what 30 year old man still refers to himself as a kid?

Let’s take a little look at Julian’s expenses.

EXPENSES: $1,237.81 (Incl. rent: $0; eating out: $289.33; Criterion Collection Blu-rays: $227.35; credit-card debt: $221.00)

Yep, that’s over 10% of his monthly income on Blu-rays. I guess he can afford it, considering HIS MOM PAYS HIS G.D. RENT.

Folks, a couple of takeaways:

1. Don’t go into debt for useless degrees. Julian spent 7(!) years in college so he can work at a video game store. That’s bad.

2. If you make very little money, maybe live somewhere cheaper than downtown Toronto.

Tell everyone, yo!