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A marketing manager went from making $75,000 to collecting EI. Did Covid-19 change his financial philosophy?

By Jonathan Forani| Photography by Erin Leydon
A marketing manager went from making $75,000 to collecting EI. Did Covid-19 change his financial philosophy?

Who: Michael Robert, 28 What he does: Marketing and brand manager at a fast-fashion retailer Where he lives: A 500-square-foot studio apartment at CityPlace

Frattaroli grew up in Bradford, an hour’s drive north of Toronto. In 2010, at the age of 18, he came to the city to study fashion. Frattaroli moved into a house that his parents owned at Yonge and Sheppard, where he lived alone and rent free. From 2010 to 2015, Frattaroli earned a fashion management diploma from George Brown and completed the retail management program at Ryerson. During school, he worked a handful of jobs and internships at Gap, Roots, Holt Renfrew, Hugo Boss and Stuart Weitzman. In 2016, Frattaroli moved into a 500-square-foot studio apartment at CityPlace and accepted his current job at a fast-fashion retailer, making $75,000 a year before bonuses.

Before Covid-19, Frattaroli spent his money frivolously. “I was a bit foolish,” he says. “I treated money as if it were water, something free-flowing and limitless.” Frattaroli travelled frequently, splurged on fancy Airbnbs and shopped at luxury boutiques. He stocked his wardrobe with items by German designer Jil Sander, along with workout clothes from Lululemon and weekend leisurewear from Uniqlo. When it came to food, Frattaroli rarely cooked at home and chose to dine out at some of the city’s finest restaurants.

Pre-pandemic monthly income: $4,500-$6,500, depending on bonuses

Rent: $1,355 a month. “I’ll be renting for a while.” Utilities: $55 a month. Cellphone: $160 a month. “I’ve got the iPhone 11,” he says. “And I’m on the Rogers Infinite plan, which includes unlimited data.” Internet: $85 a month, from Rogers. Groceries: $500 a month, from Loblaws. “I didn’t necessarily like to cook,” Frattaroli says. “I bought pre-made pasta and salads.” Dining out: $700 a month, at Terroni, Gusto 101 and Bar Buca. Uber: $250 a month. “I took Uber at least once a day, whether going to meetings or out for dinner.” Public Transit: $140 a month, for a Presto Pass. “I took the streetcar from the west end to Union. Then I’d take Line 1 up to Yorkdale, which is near my office.” Coffee: $120 a month, from Starbucks. “I went once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and ordered a venti blonde roast with soy.” Line-of-credit repayment: $500 a month. “I have a $40,000 loan that I took out in my early 20s, which mostly went toward living expenses.” RRSP: $500 a month. “Eventually, I’d like to buy a home. I can’t imagine living in Toronto forever. I’d like to be in Milan.” Haircuts: $30 every other month, from House of Robert. Personal trainer: $200 a month. “My friend is a trainer, so I got a deal.” Music: $15 a month, from Apple Music. “I like dance music when I’m working out and more laid-back stuff when I’m at home.” News: $35 a month, for an online New York Times subscription. “I liked reading the economy stories.” Travel: $7,700, for trips to Scandinavia, southeast Asia, Bali and California.


On March 16, shortly after the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Frattaroli’s boss called him into a meeting and said everyone was getting laid off. Just like that, Frattaroli’s income had evaporated. “It was a shock to the system,” he says. “Covid-19 was a wall and I hit that wall head-on.” Frattaroli applied for EI and received his first payment in early April, for $3,500, which included back-pay to his final day of work in March. Since then, he’s received $1,000 every two weeks. The payments help cover rent, utilities and loan repayments, so Frattaroli can leave his savings untouched.

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Frattaroli’s cooking habits have changed drastically. He’s been making chicken, salmon, potatoes and Italian staples like risotto. Since cutting out unhealthy restaurant food, Frattaroli says he’s in great shape. But that doesn’t mean he’ll keeping cooking when restaurants reopen. “I don’t have the patience to cook. It’s annoying to me,” he says. “I think I will continue to cook as I get used to it, but maybe not to this extreme.”

Frattaroli also had to cancel his upcoming trips. After recouping the costs, he’s put over $7,000 back into his savings. Post-pandemic, Frattaroli plans to budget more cautiously. “I’m seeing more money in my account, and my credit card bill is very low, which is nice,” he says. “I still plan to travel in the future, but maybe I won’t buy as much clothing.”

Monthly income now: $2,000 from employment insurance

Rent $1,355 a month. “Even if my landlord had offered to reduce my rent I wouldn’t have taken it. It’s not fair to the landlord if you’re choosing not to pay your rent and you can afford to. That’s what the EI is for.” Utilities: $57 a month. “Even though I’ve started cooking at home, the bill has increased only slightly.” Cellphone: $160 a month. Internet $90 a month. “They increased the price by about $5.” Line-of-credit repayment $500 a month. “This automatically gets taken out of my account. That way, I’m slowly working toward paying it back.” Public Transit $0 a month. “I’m no longer commuting to work.” Music: $15 a month, for Apple Music. Uber: $0 a month. “I deleted Uber entirely,” he says. “I haven’t really felt a difference, because I can’t go anywhere anyway.” Eating out: $0 a month. “When everything reopens, I’m going to be pickier about where I eat and how often, mainly because I’ve lost weight since self-isolation started. I think a big reason is that I’m eating healthier.” Groceries: $200 a month. “This number went down. I’ve been buying very smart, and my parents have been dropping off groceries for me.” News: $0. “I cancelled all my subscriptions. I’m keeping up with the news, but all of the Covid-19 notifications were giving me anxiety.” RRSP: $0 a month. Haircuts: $0 a month. “My sideburns are getting out of control,” he says. “It’s fine, though. It’s just a new look.” Shoes: $500 for a pair of black Jil Sander sneakers from SSENSE. Gifts: $150 from Indigo. “I ordered a few things from their website to ship to friends.” Coffee machine: $300 for a Smeg Drip Coffee Machine. “I get the Starbucks True North Blend beans. It tastes okay, but it’s not quite the same as when I get it from the actual store.” Skincare: $200 for Kiehl’s face mask and cream. “I wanted to test it out. That was an at-home treat.” Speaker: $220 from Bang and Olufsen. “I got their portable speaker on sale. It was cute and I wanted it. I didn’t have a sound system at home.”

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Has Covid-19 drastically impacted your spending habits? 
Email us at costofliving@torontolife.com.

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