This consultant makes $65,000 a year. She went on a bit of a spending streak during the pandemic

By Roxy Kirshenbaum| Photography by Ebti Nabag
This consultant makes $65,000 a year. She went on a bit of a spending streak during the pandemic

Who Vanessa Smithers, 32, with her three-year-old Maltese, named Girl Where she lives A four-bed apartment she shares with one roommate in Roncesvalles What she does Founder of Helllo, It’s Vee, a consultancy company What she makes $65,000 a year

Smithers was born in Toronto. Growing up, she lived in foster homes and experienced homelessness. But even without graduating high school, Smithers earned degrees from Ryerson, Humber and the University of Guelph.

In 2019, Smithers founded her own company, Helllo, It’s Vee, a consultancy that helps individuals and corporations with youth engagement, advocacy and professional development. She recently started an apparel line, too.

Shortly before Covid hit, she moved into a four-bedroom apartment in Roncesvalles with a friend, paying $1,650 a month.

In the past, Smithers was cautious when it came to spending. “I rarely bought things that were designer. I would only buy what I needed and eating out was considered a treat,” she says.

But recently, Smithers went on a bit of a spending streak, realizing that frugality can inhibit living in the moment. “Money comes and goes, so live your life,” she says. “As long as I have a roof over my head and food in my belly, I’m happy.”

Regular expenses

Rent $1,650 a month, including utilities. “I love the apartment. It’s bright and airy. My roommate and I each have our own bedrooms and separate home offices. Plus, the neighbourhood is extremely walkable, with lots of nice bakeries and cafés.”

Internet $60 a month, with Carrytel. “Since my roommate and I both work from home and rely on good Internet, our current provider just isn’t good enough. It’s really slow, constantly cutting out during Zoom calls. We’ll probably upgrade to Rogers or Bell soon, meaning this cost will likely increase.”


Phone $80, for unlimited call and text, with Rogers. “Depending on how my Internet is acting, I sometimes have to resort to hot-spotting my phone for data, which means I’m going beyond my initial eight gig allotment. Sometimes that costs an extra $100 a month. It’s getting super frustrating because it’s not like I can just go sit in Starbucks and use the Wi-Fi whenever I please, without having to mask up and spend money on coffee and baked goods.”

Groceries $450 a month, from Sobeys, Loblaws and grocery apps like Instacart. “This number went up recently because I’ve been relying on grocery delivery apps during the pandemic. That increases the price by about $65, depending on fees. But even when I get food from the grocery store, it usually ends up going bad in the fridge, because I find it easier to order from UberEats instead of cooking.”

Delivery $250 a month, for Veez Vegan, Ital Vital and A Cookie Called Quest, using UberEats. “I once shamefully ordered breakfast, lunch and dinner from UberEats. Why bother making food when it can just come to me? It also offers free delivery from Black-owned restaurants, which are super important to support right now.”

This consultant makes $65,000 a year. She went on a bit of a spending streak during the pandemic

Transportation $80 a month, for Uber. “I love to walk, so that’s been my main mode of transportation during the pandemic. But I’ll take Ubers if I’m going to a patio or if I’m out later than expected.”

Memberships $100 a month, at Snap Fitness and Planet Fitness. I was pretty stagnant during lockdown, so as soon as gyms reopened during Stage 3, I reinstated my memberships. Snap Fitness is close to my house, for when I feel lazy and I don’t want to walk that far. Planet Fitness is a good 45-minute walk—I’ll probably cancel it when winter hits.”


Pet-related expenses $80 a month, which covers food, grooming and toys, for her Maltese, Girl. “Her fur matts really easily, so every couple of months, I’ll take her to Ellen’s Grooming in Roncy. Then we get her food from Royal Canin and toys from PetSmart.

Savings $1,500 a month, into a savings account. “I’m trying to save a lot because once there are less restrictions on travel, I know I’ll try to get away more. The pandemic also taught me that you can’t predict the future, so it’s important to have more of a rainy day fund.”

Self-care $250 a month, for pedicures, facials and waxing, from Canvas Nails in Scarborough. “I’ve been getting a lot of aesthetic treatments lately because it makes me feel good during a time when I’m not allowed to see that many people.”

Recent Splurges

Air Fryer $300, for a double-basket Ninja fryer, from Amazon. “Initially, I bought a no-name fryer, just to see what all the hype was about. Then, as soon as I figured out how it worked, I purchased a nicer one. I make salmon, sweet potatoes and cauliflower. It even bakes cakes.”

Computer $1,600, for a MacBook Air laptop. “I had the same Acer laptop for years. It was slow and ancient. Since I’ve got my own business and a computer is essential to my work, I decided to upgrade.”


Couches $800, for a couple of couches, from Facebook Marketplace. “Since I just moved into a new apartment, I wanted to get a nice piece for the living room. It makes things more comfortable if people come over, or if I want to do photoshoots at the apartment, which is definitely a thing.”

Bed $1,500, for a queen-size mattress from Sleep Country. “This was another purchase for the new apartment. I do most things from my bed these days—work, watch shows, eat and hang out with Girl.”

This consultant makes $65,000 a year. She went on a bit of a spending streak during the pandemic

Home Office Equipment $1,000, for a desk, rug and chair from Amazon. “I set up a home office in my spare room. Even though I spent a lot to turn it into a professional workspace, I usually just work from my bed or couch.”

Books $500, for 15 books from Indigo. “I went there just to pick up a copy of Macleans, then ended up getting a bunch of books, everything from Black Writers Matter to The Color of Water. I already have so many books that I haven’t read—I think it’s a bit of an addiction.”

Foot Bath $200, from Amazon. “When pedicure places closed during the pandemic, I needed to maintain my self-care routine at home, especially because I walk a lot. Dipping my feet into it while reading a book after a long day of walking really helps me relax. It also has a massage feature.”


Accessories $1,100, for a bag and watch, from Marc Jacobs. “My birthday was coming up, so I felt like I should buy some designer goods. But I was honestly mad after, because the bag is pretty basic-looking and the watch came without a battery.”

Perfume $180, for Dahlia Divin by Givenchy. “I love perfume, so I have no issues spending money on it. It smells like a beignet with vanilla and floral scents mixed in.”


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