This entrepreneur collected CERB during the pandemic. Did it alter her spending habits?

By Roxy Kirshenbaum| Photography by Ebti Nabag
This entrepreneur collected CERB during the pandemic. Did it alter her spending habits?

Who: Shanshan Wang, 24, with her domestic short-haired tabby, Tapioca What she does: Freelance event producer, founder of Eventa Experiences What she makes: An estimated 40,000 a year Where she lives: At her partner’s 600-square-foot condo—with one bedroom and bathroom—at Yonge and Sheppard. She also rents an apartment in Kensington market

Wang grew up in Toronto and studied theatre production at Ryerson University. After graduating in mid-2019, Wang interviewed for several entry-level insurance jobs with annual salaries between $32,000 and $42,000, but thought those wages would restrict her lifestyle in an expensive city like Toronto. After lots of interviews, nothing stuck, so she kept looking. When Covid-19 hit, Wang was forced to collect CERB, but the pandemic provided a silver lining—it gave Wang the opportunity to rethink her career. She signed up for an online youth entrepreneurship program this past May. That same month, Wang started her own business, Eventa Experiences, which helps companies with audience outreach through consultation, events and sponsorships. As she builds up her client base, Wang expects her income in 2020 to be roughly $40,000.

Wang is fairly frugal. She tends, however, to splurge when hanging out with friends, mainly at restaurants or bubble tea spots. Right now, her savings account is empty because most of her income goes toward OSAP repayments. “To be honest, I don’t think I’ve spent any less money during the pandemic. I’ve just spent on different things,” says Wang. “And any extra savings went toward paying back college loans.” In the short term, Wang hopes to save roughly $9,000 to purchase a used car—maybe a Honda with good mileage and no accident reports. Her lifelong goal is to buy a small hobby farm, where she could grow a corn maze and possibly raise alpacas.

Regular expenses:

Rent: $0 a month, when staying at her partner’s condo at Yonge and Sheppard. $700 a month, for a room in a three-bedroom apartment in Kensington Market. “The second apartment functions mostly as an office, where I keep filming equipment and other work-related stuff, but I have a bed in it as well and I plan to stay down there sometimes,” says Wang.

Phone Plan: $25 a month, for unlimited talk and text within Canada and the US, and $15 for three gigs of data, with Fido. “It’s an older plan from my high school days, so it’s maybe eight years old,” says Wang. “It’s not available anymore and I don’t plan to change anything because it’s a pretty good deal.”

Groceries: $150, for her half of the groceries when staying with her boyfriend, from Loblaws, Costco or Kaiwei Supermarket in Chinatown. “Since I was forced to cook more during lockdown, I bought a bunch of sauces and dried herbs to make tikka masala and tacos. It’s a bit of a gamble whether the dish tastes good or not,” says Wang. “I also like to bake, so I will usually buy butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and honey to make my cookies more interesting.”

Eating out: $100 a month, at Chipotle and the all-you-can-eat buffet at Aroma Fine Indian Cuisine in the financial district.

Transportation: $80 a month, for Ubers. “I take about four Ubers every month, when I’m late for meetings or need to carry a lot of groceries home from Costco,” says Wang. “During the pandemic, I only use Uber when I have to. I’m an introvert anyway, so why leave the house unless it’s completely necessary?"


 TTC: $50. “I used to take Line 1 to the downtown core for work, but I’ve taken the TTC much less recently,” says Wang. “Instead, I’ve been cycling a lot. I’ll take Christie or Bay Street to get downtown, because they’ve got good bike lanes and the roads have been pretty empty. Cycling helps me get to my destination without being in contact with a lot of people.”

OSAP payments: $1,000 a month, to pay back a $25,000 student loan. “I’m doing my best to pay off my student debt as soon as possible, forgoing savings and living paycheque to paycheque,” says Wang. “I graduated from Ryerson last year and now I only have about $4,000 left. I’m hoping to pay that off by the end of the year.”

Memberships: $0, at Goodlife. “The membership is valued at $600 a year, but my partner pays for it through his benefits.”

Sports: $600 a year, for equipment, race entry fees, bike tours and rock climbing. “I climb at the Rock Oasis and spend quite a bit on equipment, like harnesses, chalk and True North climbing shoes,” says Wang. “I also used to enter races, like Mountain Equipment Co-op’s 10-km. Or bike tours, like the 50-km Tour de Mississauga or the 100-km Gran Fondo in Milton.”

Subscriptions: $3 a month, for a shared Spotify membership. “I leech free Netflix, Disney+ and Crave off of my friend’s accounts,” says Wang.


Bubble tea: $85 a month, at the Alley, OneZo and Kung Fu Tea. “This deserves its own category because it’s just like coffee—some people need caffeine to wake up, whereas I feel like I need sugar for energy,” says Wang. “Part of me knows that it’s a dependency and that I could save money by quitting bubble tea. But spending $7 a few days a week probably won’t break my budget. Plus, the joy of consuming sugar and having that temporary energy spike far outweighs the cost.”

Pet supplies: $30 a month, for Performatrin cat food, from PetSmart near Yonge and Sheppard. “My partner and I have two cats, Tapioca and Zoey, and I like to buy them canned food and wet treats, which are better for their health since many cats are perpetually dehydrated,” says Wang. “I like to spoil them.”

Cosplay: $85 a month, for fabric down from the Queen Street fashion district, materials from Home Depot and makeup from a Korean distributor called Jolse. “I have an expensive costuming hobby where I purchase craft supplies, then make props and costumes from scratch,” says Wang. “Over the last 10 years, I’ve amassed quite an impressive amount of equipment—a sewing machine, a serger and an embroidery machine.”

Recent splurges

Computer repairs: $1,300, to fix the screen on her MacBook Pro. “I probably could have bought a new computer with that money, but I wanted the convenience of not having to spend days transferring and reinstalling applications,” says Wang. “Plus, I was in the middle of a project, so I decided on a repair due to time constraints.”

New designer sunglasses: $500, for polarized Fendi glasses, from Costco. “My last pair of Prada glasses broke because someone sat on them, so I bought a new pair.”


A rock wall: $2,000, including shipping, for a new rock wall from Megalith Climbing. “I couldn’t go rock climbing so I purchased a new rock wall from Megalith Climbing, which I used during lockdown,” says Wang. “I had to screw aluminum panels into the wall in our living room, then install the plastic rocks into the aluminum. The ceilings in the apartment are nine feet high so the mini climbing wall actually worked.”


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